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About re:CONNECT

Something Wicked This Way Comes

a new Fan-Digimon & Digidestined fic from glitchgoat, the dude who brought you Digimon re:GENESIS

Fifteen years ago, the Digital World's connection to the real world was severed in order to quarantine the spread of an all-consuming corruption.

Fifteen years ago, a handful of digimon emerged in the human world with no memory of who they were, only the knowledge that they couldn't go back.

When the connection begins to open again, the refugee digimon may not know where they fit in this puzzle, but they don't really get a choice in whether or not they're going to find out.

[CONNECT]



About

Digimon re:CONNECT is a fanseries set in an original universe with a cast of young adults. It is welcoming to both franchise veterans and total digi-newbies, no prior experience required.

Digimon re:CONNECT (ideally) updates with a new chapter twice a month, on the first and the fifteenth. This group is a central hub for all art, the dA mirrors of all episodes, and updates, but the series is best experienced on its website.



Roster: Main
:bulletpurple: Natalie Green: The de facto leader, a proactive problem-solver with a stubborn streak, partnered to Raumon, a crow-like digimon with a face like a plague doctor's mask and a mediating personality.

:bulletblue: Alexander 'Xander' Neal: Blunt, abrasive, and confrontational but fiercely loyal, a punk-rocker partnered to Desmon, a manically-cheerful loudmouthed bat digimon.

:bulletwhite: Peter Logan: A reserved and perpetually straight-faced hipster with a morbid bend, partnered to Banmon, a cripplingly-shy bandaged-up ghost digimon.

:bulletorange: Meghan 'Meg' Abbott: Always putting on a show of being cheerful and sunny, the emotional core of the group, partnered to Oremon, a gruff and grumpy goat digimon.

:bulletgreen: Samuel 'Sam' Xiao: A sarcastic, self-depreciating, and outrageously anxious hacker and tinkerer, partnered to Gelermon, a confrontational and independent hound digimon.

:bulletblack: Lily Marquis: The outlier and the mysterious icy badger. Nobody's quite sure...



Roster: Vital Side Characters
:bulletred: Ryan Jesse: Confident, driven, and douchey enough to wear sunglasses at night, a brash young man partnered to the mysterious angelic digimon Shitomon.

:bulletyellow: Jennifer 'Jen' Walker: A girl who's blunt and forgetful but clever and observant, partnered to the calm and grounded red panda digimon Lurumon.

Bulletcyan by Wooded-WolfEli Spencer: Laid-back, cynical, and apathetic, a practically unflappable young man partnered to the noh-mask-faced fox digimon, Hulimon.

:bulletpink: Ratamon: The helpful but mysterious dragon-squirrel digimon who operates according to his own schedule and his own goals.



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A digimon fanseries fic project
ideally updating the 1st and the 15th of every month

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[re:CON] spinning infinity by glitchgoat
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Episodes
Digimon re:CONNECT Ep. 38Episode 38: Afraid of HeightsIt had been four days since the fire and their encounter with Vicimon. That made eighteen days in total since they had arrived in this world. Following Gelermon's little field trip (the details of which she was reticent to share), they were doing a great job of not splitting the party, even by night. Everyone stayed well within eyeshot of each other as they traveled northward, even if they sometimes staggered themselves out a little to be a little less conspicuous. It was a pain, and it was not making for an entirely pleasant time as fatigue and stress dug deeper into them-- but it was safer, and that took precedence. The further north they went, the more villages and towns they stumbled across. Many of them were abandoned, but more than once, they had flirted with danger, skirting too close to a village they thought was uninhabited and that turned out to be nothing of the sort. But even with these incidents, the villages they found were empty more often than they weren't. On one hand, it was a relief; on the other hand, it was more than a little unnerving. When they had talked to her, Martyamon had said the Digital World had felt like it was dying, and it was hard to argue that. It had been one thing to see that in action out in the barrens. For the most part, there was nothing there; there were no reminders of the past out in the sand. It had been disquieting, for sure, but it was all just bare sand and stone. There was nothing to signify that it had ever been alive. It was different, wandering through the ruins of a world that had been inhabited once-- or that was still inhabited, but only by sheer stubbornness, clinging by tooth and nail with a fading grip. Plants that did not grow, and had not grown in decades; the crumbled remains of villages that had burned, or been buried. By point of comparison: the surface of the moon and a post-apocalyptic city are unnerving for different reasons. It wasn't merely that nothing was alive, but that there were ample signs of former life now trapped in undeath. Of course, this didn't do much to make it any more fun when they did encounter signs of life. "Red Thorn!" The RedVeggiemon roared, its voice a glitchy gurgle, and as it spoke, its vines stretched like elastic. The thorny clubs that tipped its vines smacked directly into Banshemon and Doctorimon, even as they went in different directions, and both ghost and plague doctor were sent tumbling into the trees that surrounded them. They'd already seen those vines break tree trunks with ease, so the pain wasn't a surprise. They were ready and willing to take the hits and braced for them; they were just trying to give their allies a chance to get in, themselves. "Arctic Impact!" Melemon roared, ice swirling around his paws. With heavy loping bounds, he raced into melee range with RedVeggiemon and tore into its botanical flesh. The icy energy surrounding his claws began to freeze the point of impact, helping to slightly dull the noxious smell that filled the air as the vegetable digimon bounced backwards away from the badger-bear's attack. Only slightly, though. "I swear, nothing is going to smell bad in comparison to this after we get home," Lily said in deadpan, grimacing as she pulled her shirt over her nose. "Thanks for the optimism," Peter drawled in a tone of voice that would be dripping with sarcasm, if not for how bone-dry it was. "No problem!" Lily chirped back as though the comment were sincere. When they had stumbled upon it by accident, they had initially thought that the RedVeggiemon had been in a bad mood, simply irate at having been disturbed. These woods were dark and quiet, after all, with the trees towering over them so high they couldn't see the sky through the uppermost branches, and only half the fast-fading sunlight reached the ground. Any small disturbance would feel much bigger than it was when you're accustomed to quiet. It had quickly become apparent, however, that RedVeggiemon was in a mood to show off some apparently quite newfound power. "New Moon Fire!" Frekimon roared, a blast of emerald flames singeing RedVeggiemon's back. RedVeggiemon gurgled and roared, whipping around to face Frekimon-- just in time for Ibexmon to smash into its now-turned back, horns-first. It gritted its teeth in its beaklike mouth and furrowed its brow in pain, quick to lash out."Red Thorn!" RedVeggiemon's clublike extremities stretched out to incredible length and it swung wildly, without even the presence of mind to aim for anyone in particular. It snapped thick boughs and crashed straight through brittle tree trunks, sending a flurry of pebbles, dirt, and splintered wood into the air. "Hurricane Blitz!" Corymon descended out of the tall trees above them like a cannonball, wind whipping around her. She pulled out of her dive right before she would have impacted RedVeggiemon; the orb of wind that surrounded her cleared the debris out of the air with a mighty gust as it burst against the plant digimon's body. By the time RedVeggiemon caught sight of what had hit it, Corymon had risen with a set of powerful wingbeats back up into the darkness above them. "Any time you guys wanna get this over with!" Xander yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth and wincing as he ducked an errant rock the size of a golf ball that had gone flying. With a loud thunk, the rock smashed into the tree trunk behind him, embedding itself in the wood like a bullet. He didn't care to think what would have happened had he not moved away in time. "Yeah, we're working on it!" Frekimon yelled back, and she growled as she turned back to RedVeggiemon as it began to right itself. Its body was distorting more powerfully with every jerky movement, and the rotten smell was getting worse in turn. "Hey! Bird boy! Can we kill this overgrown salad or what!?" she snapped. "I think it's pretty clear it's taken up the whisper shit!" She indicated the side of her head with one claw, as if to indicate a literal being touched in the head. Doctorimon grimaced, but raised his staff at RedVeggiemon. "Face of Judgment!" Doctorimon called, and the others knew well that whatever color fire he created was their signal. If out spilled white flames, they would turn and run; if it was instead the burning black ones, they would go for broke and keep fighting. In order to curb circular arguments about if they could have handled something, or if a digimon were truly Whisper-corrupted beyond help, he had started to take this decision into his own hands-- if only because he was the only one willing to shoulder the blame for a potential error in judgment. At the last moment, Doctorimon wrenched his staff backwards, and a stream of white flame signalling retreat spilled into the air above his head. The direction of the flames' arc indicated which direction to go, and that was all the instruction they needed. "Goddammit!" Frekimon snarled, baring her teeth as she dodged under a swinging vine-club aimed right at her head, but even through her frustration, she immediately scanned around for where Sam was crouching behind a tree for shelter. The sudden movement was a boon; RedVeggiemon only had one pair of eyes, and it was focused mostly on Doctorimon. The humans rushed for their partners; Corymon swooped out of the sky and Xander practically leapt for her, while Ibexmon and Frekimon barely had to stop to toss their partners over their heads and onto their backs. Melemon barrelled forward straight through a half-snapped tree and Lily helped to pull Natalie onto his back, while Banshemon grabbed Peter in her arms and rose into the air alongside Corymon. "Red Thorn!" RedVeggiemon roared, thrashing a vine out in a wild swipe, and Doctorimon only barely avoided it with a backwards leap. He leapt backwards again, and again, turning around midair on one of the leaps with a mighty twist of his body, and only then took off at a full-tilt run. Ignoring their wounds, they ran at a tear, tearing a streak across the uneven ground and through the darkening sky. Despite its best efforts, RedVeggiemon could not move as quickly as they could; it was less agile, and they could far more easily duck and weave through the trees than it could. RedVeggiemon (and, thankfully, its rotten stench) soon faded away behind them, a cacophany of snapping branches and horrible gurgling roars, but they couldn't risk stopping too soon. Only once it faded from their hearing did they slow. They would have kept going for quite a ways further, under ideal circumstances, but they hadn't had the chance to recuperate from their fight. They had been running on borrowed time from the moment they had turned tail. This fatigue caught up to Ibexmon first, and he was not helped by his insistence on keeping to the front of the pack. Stepping wrong on an injured leg, he stumbled, and his speed carried him into a full-on tumble. Meghan -- already in an awkward position from how quickly she had been tossed onto her partner's back -- dug her hands into his mane and held on for dear life as they hit the ground, and she cried out (albeit more from surprise than from pain). "Hold the fuck up!" Xander yelled from somewhere up above, but nobody really needed the instruction. Only Frekimon had been keeping pace with Ibexmon, and though for a moment it seemed like she was about to keep running, she too came to a stop to look over her shoulder as the rest of the group slowed, and those in the air descended to the ground. "I'm fine," Ibexmon growled before anybody had actually asked, and tried to push himself up, but he struggled; Meghan quickly clambered off of his back to kneel beside him, her hand on his side. As Frekimon backtracked to join them at Sam's insistence, it seemed that the decision had been made for them to stop. "Let me," Doctorimon said, kneeling on Ibexmon's other side, his staff gripped in hand. Ibexmon narrowed his eyes, but said nothing. As Doctorimon's white flames spilled over his wounds, he closed his eyes instead, exhaling on a sigh as the pain left his body. "You got any more of that woogie magic?" Corymon said, spreading her wings out dramatically. "I could use a bit of freshening up." "... give me a moment," Doctorimon said, shaking his head somberly. "Yeah," Frekimon said, glancing derisively at Corymon, "first priority goes to those of us who actually have to stay in this form outside of fights." Corymon let the thinly veiled insult roll off her back and she stuck her tongue out in return; Banshemon, who had not been addressed but who was being implicated in this as well, shrunk in on herself and murmured a quiet apology to nobody in particular. Natalie frowned. "If you guys are tired," she said, disembarking from Melemon's back, "we can take a break." Before she'd even finished speaking, though, she knew the offer was going to go over poorly. "We're fine," Ibexmon said gruffly, getting to his feet with purpose and intention this time. "... I think Natalie is right," Banshemon began. She set Peter down on the ground and then looked between Frekimon, Melemon, and Ibexmon in turn. "If you need to take a break, I'm sure..." she tried to continue, but Ibexmon turned to regard her, and she immediately fell silent, as though his eyes had rendered her mute. "She's just trying to be considerate," Peter said, folding his arms. "Cut her a break. Frekimon was just complaining about having to stay evolved." "Probably a bit late for that," Sam said, idly poking at his D-Rive rather than making eye contact, "considering she's been getting free rides courtesy of Frekimon this entire time." "She weighs less than a pound," Peter shot right back, narrowing his eyes, "and you don't have a lot of room to talk about--" "Hey, guys? Can we not do this right now? Or, maybe, like, ever?" Meghan said, her voice a little desperate. Sam and Peter glanced at each other and the fight quickly fell out of them. It was trading barbs for the sake of it, and the argument -- they knew -- was a stupid one. "That said, I would err on the side of caution," Doctorimon said as he set himself to the task of administering healing to the other digimon. "I would rather be prepared for anything. We're going to be at our destination," he said, vaguely, refusing to say it by name, as though saying Dinmon would summon eyes on them that they'd rather not have, "sooner than later." Melemon nodded his agreement. "It should only be a couple more days," he said. "But that means that idleness is even more dangerous, as close as we are. We don't want to make sitting ducks of ourselves." "If we're actually where you say we are," Ibexmon muttered, and Melemon glanced at him with narrowed eyes. "What was that?" "Nothing," Meghan cut in on her partner's behalf, and she cast a worried, pleading look at Ibexmon. He snorted, but glanced away instead of pressing the issue. "Want me to pop up and take a look around to check?" Corymon offered, once again stretching her wings out proudly. "See if I can't spot any-- what is it we're looking for? Ancient temples? Giant trees? Death-spires? Point us in the right direction, maybe?" "And give away our position on a silver platter?" Peter said, raising an eyebrow. "Hey, just offering, since I'm sooo useless as a beast of burden," Corymon said, shrugging and flicking her tail dismissively. "We're going the right way," Lily said, patting Melemon on the side. "Just trust him on this one, yeah?" "Bit of a big ask, isn't it," Xander muttered, and Melemon stared at him like he had stared at Ibexmon a moment prior. "Is there something you'd like to say?" Xander, unafraid, held his hands up palms out in a whoa-there motion. "Not at all," he said faux innocently. "I'm sure we're just miles away from showing up without a plan on the doorstep of a god who doesn't like us, and I for one am thrilled about it." "Can you give it a rest?" Peter muttered. Xander's reaction came immediately and was thoroughly unsurprising. "Nah." Natalie frowned and folded her arms. "I think we're all a little bit tired," she said. "I think maybe we should call it." She did an admirable job of ignoring the way that Xander and Peter both rolled their eyes in exasperation, as though she were a nagging parent reminding them to pick up their rooms. "There's not nearly enough distance between us and RedVeggiemon for my tastes," Sam said, shaking his head, "or for my sense of smell." "How about," Lily said, putting her hands on her hips, "we just keep going a little further on foot? All feet, I mean. Everyone on foot. Just until it gets too dark to keep going safely, yeah?" Nobody argued the point -- in fact, they all seemed to come to their senses as soon as Lily spoke -- and so a few flashes of light later, they had consigned themselves to the task of walking by themselves. This had the benefit of allowing them to put some distance between themselves. This not only kept any more petty arguments from breaking out-- it also saved them all from facing the embarrassment of those petty arguments. The sun had already sunk below the jagged hills that surrounded them, but it hadn't completely fallen below the horizon beyond them. The last vestiges of light were fading fast. Of course, even having said that they would stop when it got too dark, they all knew that whether they were travelling fast or slow, they wouldn't stop traveling until well into the night. They had been making great time in their push to the north-- and all at the meagre cost of very little sleep! ... it wasn't as though they were going to be getting a lot of sleep either way. With that, they oriented themselves by the fading sun, and resumed their trek to the north. With the sole exception of the humans and their digimon partners, none of them spoke to one another for the rest of the night, lost in their own thoughts, most of them negative. ***The next morning broke after a too-late night. As the sun's first tentative rays were poking over the craggy mountains and spindly trees that surrounded them, Xander and Desmon were on the watch shift. Xander sat against a tree trunk, while Desmon reclined in a similar position on a thick branch a short distance above him. "Hey," Lily's voice came from behind, and though it gave Xander a start, Desmon had of course heard her and Brockmon well before now. He turned half-around to face her, eyebrow raised. It was too late in the morning to bother doing a shift-change, but he couldn't imagine what she would want otherwise, and he bristled. Turned out, she had no ulterior motives. "We're awake, so do you guys want to try to get a bit of sleep?" Lily said, putting her hands in her pocket. "Or should we just start banging pots and pans together? You know, a if I'm awake we all gotta be awake sort of deal?" "I'm down with pots and pans," Desmon said with a wolfish grin, putting her hands behind her head. "You would be," Xander muttered with a glance up at her, shaking his head. He addressed Lily then. "Nah. Let 'em sleep. Longer everyone's asleep, the less bitching and moaning I have to hear." "Bitching and moaning's better than sitting alone, but hey, to each his own," Lily reasoned, and Xander shook his head derisively. "Mind if I take a seat?" "You're certainly in a good mood," Xander said, which wasn't an answer. Lily hummed, and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Am I?" Xander snorted and shook his head derisively. While she wasn't being cheerful per se, there was still something unfettered about her manner that struck him as discordant. Why couldn't she at least be as pissy as the rest of them? Was she hiding something from them too? After all, they only had Brockmon's word to go on that they were going the right way at all, and she was so buddy-buddy with-- He paused-- where had that train of thought come from? He shook his head to dismiss it, and though it nagged at the back of his mind, he overrode it with the time-honored tradition of telling that part of his brain to shut the fuck up. When he looked again, Brockmon was giving him a curious, intense look. "What," Xander said flatly. He hadn't thought he was pulling any kind of face, but his poker face had never been strong; he attempted to train his face into a neutral expression, only to find that he hadn't been making any kind of unconscious expression at all. Whatever Brockmon was looking at him for, it wasn't showing on his face. "Nothing," Brockmon said, and then Lily nudged him with the side of her leg. "Come on, Brockmon, don't be weird," Lily said, "let's leave them to think their deep thoughts." "Deep as a kiddie pool," Desmon chimed in with a chirp, "and as salty as the sea!" Xander grabbed a clod of dirt off of the ground and threw it upwards at Desmon. "Not so loud, dingbat," he hissed, and Desmon snickered as the dirt disintigrated in the air well before it reached her. Lily shook her head in amusement and began to turn around to return to where the others were sleeping. Brockmon continued to stare at Xander for a moment longer, and then he cast a look up at Desmon. He said nothing, but waited for her to make eye contact with him and he pointedly flickered his gaze between her and Xander before he turned away to follow his partner. "The hell was that about," Xander muttered to himself, narrowing his eyes. He was expecting a follow-up comment from Desmon, but she didn't have one. He glanced up at her, and for a split second he caught her giving him a curious look. She, too, was trying to puzzle out what Brockmon had meant-- but once his eyes were on her, she quickly pretended she hadn't been, and looked away. "Bear-boy being bear-boy, I suppose," she said, tapping the side of her snout with one claw. "Who knows what's going on in his noggin." Xander clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, and shook his head. Desmon looked back at him and furrowed her brow, tilting her head curiously. ***RedVeggiemon was feeling quite proud of its newfound power, and once it was content that it had chased off the intruders in its territory, had decided to celebrate with a brief nap. It covered itself in vegetation and dug down into the ground, covering itself and settling in for a quick snooze to recuperate its strength after its scuffle. What was intended to be a brief nap instead concluded just after the break of dawn, when the sound of felled branches and brush being crushed underfoot nearby caused it to stir. It cracked one eye open but did not move, feeling quite irked that it had been disturbed twice in so brief a period of time. Maybe the intruders that it had fought yesterday were coming back for more? It didn't hate the idea. As far as it was concerned, if it laid low, it would have the advantage of surprise. The whispers it had heard were right. Things were only going to get worse; it had been quite clever indeed to accept the help. After a few moments, what appeared to be a pale humanoid with long arms riding on the back of a dragon strode on deceptively soft footsteps into the makeshift clearing. Something about the rider seated on the dragon's back seemed odd, swaying with every movement in a way that didn't seem quite natural. Though it was hard to tell immediately from this low vantage point, RedVeggiemon quickly realized what was awry: the humanoid was not a rider at all. It was simply a long-armed torso grafted between the dragon's shoulderblades. It was hardly the oddest digimon RedVeggiemon had ever seen, so it didn't think much of it. The dragon's head -- that is to say, the dragon's head, not the humanoid head -- looked around, swaying oddly like a charmed snake. It had only one gleaming yellow eye in the center of its forehead, but its gaze was piercing and it scanned the clearing in one pass. For a moment -- if only a moment -- the single yellow eye met RedVeggiemon's. For the sake of being cautious, RedVeggiemon squeezed its own eye shut for a moment. When it opened it again, the dragon was no longer looking at it. It was walking around the clearing, inspecting the broken trees and sniffing at the ground that had been left undisturbed. RedVeggiemon held its breath, preparing for the moment to strike. It was a large digimon, but it was scrawny and thin, almost spindly; one good strike with its clublike arms would likely take out its leg, if not more. But as quick as RedVeggiemon could blink, the dragon reared down and jumped into the air, its leathery wings beating effortlessly. The humanoid torso and its long trailing arms lolling with the movement was almost enough to distract from the mouth opening up on the dragon's chest. At the point where its long neck met its sternum, instead of a collarbone, there was a gnarled maw. The flesh parted, lips curling to reveal a too-wide mouth full of razor-sharp, wicked teeth and a long, dripping tongue spilled out. A discordantly casual, feminine voice (that did not match the monstrous mouth from which it came) said, "Starvation Swarm," and then opened wide. A torrential river of massive chittering jet-black locusts began to spill out, more than enough to cover every inch of the ground in the clearing-- and that was the last thing RedVeggiemon saw. Moments later, there was nothing but coarse rocky soil on the ground in the clearing. Not only the debris left behind by the fight of the previous night and every trace of the RedVeggiemon who'd thought its half-buried disguise was flawless, but every blade of grass and every half-decomposed leaf as well might as well have not been there at all. As one, the locusts surged back up towards the dragon and flew in a stream back into her mouth. The dragon landed again, and she clawed at the ground. Jahannamon had seen all she needed to, and she had been feeling a little peckish. ***Desmon pricked her ears up. She could have sworn she heard something, but even to her, it had been so faint and so distant as to be cast into doubt. It had been maybe thirty minutes since their odd not-conversation with Lily and Brockmon, and that entire time, she had been a little uneasy. It wasn't out of the question that her mind was playing tricks on her. "Hey, Xander," she said, with an uncharacteristic lack of joviality, "I think we should wake everyone up." "You hear something?" Xander said, sitting up and looking up at her quizzically. "I think," she said, twitching her ears; she heard nothing. "I think we should get a move on either way." "I'd say you should take a look around to double check, but then who knows, someone might snap at you for giving us away," Xander muttered with surprising bitterness. Desmon looked at Xander, then blinked and rubbed at her eyes. She thought she had seen something, but again, she saw nothing. She shook her head, deciding that it had probably been her imagination; she probably just needed a nap, which meant she needed a ticket for the Ibexmon express ride. She hopped down from the branch, and they headed back over to where the rest of the group were asleep. Nobody was thrilled to be woken up. "Can't we just have one night where we don't wake up at the asscrack of dawn," Sam murmured sourly, squeezing his eyes shut harder in defiance. "Nope. Up and at 'em," Lily said, stretching her arms above her head. (She hadn't been asleep; she had merely laying down with Brockmon as a pillow.) "What I wouldn't give for a bed," Meghan said miserably as she got to her feet. "So are we getting a move on after five hours of sleep just for shits and giggles," Peter said with a dry acidity, "or did Desmon actually hear something?" "I'm sure she heard something," Natalie said, but she didn't sound entirely convinced. Xander picked up on this more than Desmon did, and he bit back a comment. Any doubt on Desmon was cast aside quickly. As if on cue, a noise cut through the morning. It was somewhere far in the distance and coming from the south, but it was hard to miss. Something thrummed with a low buzzing noise, almost like the hum of an old television. It rang out for a couple solid seconds and then faded away, but it was unmistakably something. "See?" Desmon said, sticking her tongue out. "Told you." One would think that would put any doubts to bed, but the atmosphere was still tense-- or, rather, none of the tension was dispelled, so it was now tense on top of tense. "What is it, do you think?" Banmon said, looking apprehensively in the direction from which the sound had come. "Something prepared to kill us, in all likelihood," Sam said dully. "Very optimistic," Meghan said, frowning. "I'm just saying," Sam said, shrugging one shoulder ruefully, "we're not popular, and wandering up to the door of someone who by all accounts hate us, and there are digimon the likes of the skull face cat freak who can powderize us. It's just a matter of what's likely at this point." Gelermon glanced at him but said nothing. "Yeah, but you don't have to say it like that," Meghan retorted, sounding a little wounded. "We know. We already know." "Never hurts to get reminded of what's at stake," Peter said, shaking his head. "Yeah, especially so nobody decides they want to go galavanting off to see what it is and try to fight it," Xander said, casting a pointed look at Natalie, who was looking with a concerned expression in the direction from which the noise had come. She blinked and turned to meet his eyes. "I wasn't," she said defensively, but it was profoundly unconvincing. "I know. ... I know," she said, sounding less sure of herself each time. What she said next, she said with an unrestrained bitterness. "We couldn't do anything even if we did, right?" Lily frowned and glanced at Brockmon, who gave her a meaningful look right back. Raumon, too, was giving a curious look to Natalie, though she did not look back at him. "Hey, I know everyone's having a real good time biting each other's heads off," Desmon said, and as she spoke, everyone felt the aggression fade away as quickly as it had come, "but I for one am not in the mood to figure out what's going on with that noise, so shall we get a move on sooner than later?" ***They rode for a while in silence, and by the second time they heard the noise, it had been perhaps an hour since the first. The bad news was that it was definitely closer this time. It lasted for a few long seconds, reverberating through the air and into their bodies with a droning hum, and then it faded away without an echo. The third came sooner, and closer; and so too did the fourth. They picked up the pace after each refrain. The ground began to grow uneven as they began to slowly ascend in elevation, and they ducked between the sparsely-placed trees across craggy hills in attempts to put distance between themselves and whatever was making that noise. Before they heard it a fifth time, they heard something much smaller-- as though the buzzing of a large housefly had come from something the size of a small bird. It was nothing near the all-consuming drone that was driving them forward, but it was comparatively high-pitched and pulled the eyes of everyone who wasn't focusing on the path ahead of them up to the sky through the trees. It wasn't immediately obvious what was making the noise, but it didn't take long to see them through the tree branches. Perhaps a half-dozen specks of black, each perhaps the size of a softball, flittered erratically some twenty feet above the canopy of the trees. And then the buzzing began to increase in volume, and... well, let's see. If a handful of them buzzed like that, then what would it mean if the buzzing were getting louder? Or, for instance, if it were loud enough to hear from miles away? The sky behind them was beginning to darken, despite it being quite early in the morning. "We should probably run," Natalie said quietly, more to herself than anything, but luckily, she was not the only one who had this thought. "RUN!" Melemon roared, breaking into a full-out bounding run. Neither Frekimon nor Ibexmon needed the instruction, and their passengers didn't need the warning to hold tight. The trees around them began to fade into a blur. Those riding on the backs of the digimon held on for dear life; those doing the running put their all into running, not helped by the fact that their uphill slope was growing steeper, and fast. The buzzing began to grow louder and louder, and more of the black things buzzed overhead. There were two saving graces: first, the black insects (for that's what it seemed to be) didn't seem to be terribly interested in them. Second, they were able to outrun them for the time being. But there's this funny, unfortunate thing that happens when you're running. Sometimes, you don't look where you're going. And sometimes that happens when you're running up a steep hill, and you reach what you think is the point where the slope will start going downhill again. And, in a way, that expectation would be correct! It just happened far more abruptly than expected. Ibexmon, Melemon, and Frekimon -- all running full tilt in close formation, concerned only with getting away from what was behind them -- experienced the sensation of taking one too many steps on a dark staircase. Now imagine that feeling, multiplied times a million, and you have an idea of a fraction of what they felt in that moment. One minute they were stepping on solid ground, and the next, they weren't. They tried to stop themselves, but by the time they realized what was going on, they were already too far into putting their weight forward into the next frantic bound, and they began to tumble down. The entire group quite understandably began to cry out in surprise and in fear, human and digimon alike, and their voices were drowned out by the growing-ever-louder droning buzz. Desmon and Banmon clung to their partners; even if they remembered they could fly, they wouldn't be able to move fast enough to do anything. By the time anyone realized what was going on, they were already falling. In front of them was a valley, miles wide. It was carpeted in a shade of emerald green so deep that it almost looked blue, and at first cursory glance -- say, if you were falling when you first saw it -- you might mistakable for the surface of a lake. That is, right up until you noticed that it was was the top of a thick forest canopy, the upper reaches of which soared high above the ground so far below them as to be invisible even through what few gaps there were. Behind them, the buzzing was growing louder and louder. And directly below them, a thousand feet straight down a sheer cliff wall, was solid ground. A correction: a thousand feet down, and getting closer as they began to fall. They didn't notice the netting -- they had no time to, and what remained of their minds was focused elsewhere -- but it is probably best to mention it now. Stretching across the cliff wall, maybe fifty feet down from the ledge, was a tightly-knit cargo net woven of sturdy vines, held up on a series of angled stakes each too thick to reach your arms around. The net was practically camouflaged against the color of the forest canopy that was still far below, and angled in such a way to send anything it caught rolling towards the cliff wall and onto a narrow shelf of flat stone perhaps ten feet wide. Anything it caught, in a few seconds, encompassed the six digimon and their six human partners. It took their weight, even at speed, without a problem, stretching and then springing back into shape as it sent them tumbling for the wall. It does not take long to fall a hundred feet. It takes much longer to realize what's going on when you suddenly stop falling, even if you are terribly relieved for this change of state. "Shitshitfuckshitfuck!" Whether that was one person's exclamation or just the sound that resulted from everybody swearing at once was kind of a moot point. As soon as they hit the net, any attempt at composure was out the window. The evolved digimon lost their passengers as they careened towards the rock path, and everyone was tossed and tumbled like thrown dice. With hearts pounding in their ears to a one, the group realized that they were not, in fact, dead, even if they felt quite bruised and battered as they came to a rolling stop on the cliff shelf. They could not yet relax even if they'd wanted to; the buzzing that had been behind them was still going strong. What -- if anything -- was happening up there was impossible to tell from here, as this shelf was carved out under a slight overhang, meaning they were hidden from the cliff above. This part was an unalloyed blessing; the buzzing insects, if they had ever had any concern for the fleeing group at all, did not seem interested in pursuing them now that they were out of sight. After a long, long minute, the buzzing faded away. "Is everyone alright?" Raumon began, casting a cursory glance around as they began to right themselves, pulling themselves into sitting positions and inspecting to see if they were hurt. Nobody seemed to be injured, thankfully, outside of being scared and shaking with adrenaline. Ibexmon was first to devolve, electing to save energy while they regrouped at the very least least; Melemon and Frekimon were quick to follow. And now, they could take a look at what they had just stumbled upon. The ledge had been deliberately created, and was not natural. If there was any doubt of that, the fact that the wall was decorated with carvings would put it to rest. They were almost identical to those they had seen at the Shrine of the Norns, depicting the same images. They could be forgiven for not staring at the wall, though. Before them was miles and miles of green, greener than anything they had ever seen, not just in this world (something of a low bar to clear) but ever, even in scenic photos. After the miles and miles sparse, greying hills and aging forests they had been travelling through, it almost didn't feel real. The cliff wall (with its guard-rail of netting) continued infinitely to their left and their right, but it was less of a cliff wall and more of a massive overhang, encircling the entire valley like a dome with an open top. Smack in the center of the valley, was... it was hard to decide at first shy what to call it. The immediate instinct was to say it was a tree, whose branches and leaves formed a dome-shaped island atop the sea of emerald green, but that wasn't quite it. Its trunk and branches were interwoven with stone and crystal, monumental towers and spires that completely defied all sense of scale. Nine smaller towers, in clusters of three, encircled the main tree-temple in a circle, just barely poking their crystalline heads over the top of the forest canopy-- or maybe it just felt like it was "only barely" because they were so dwarfed by the main event. It was arresting to look at, and awesome in the traditional sense-- inspiring awe. It seemed too large to be real. It also seemed too sudden to be real, because there was no question at all what it was or where they had arrived. "I'm gonna guess," Raumon said, after a long moment that might as well have been three hours for as long as it felt as their perception of time slowed back down to normal, "we're not the first people to do that." "You don't say," Gelermon said, sniffing at the net, and then she peered down. It was dizzyingly far down, and as the wall went backwards beneath them, it was almost like they were floating in the air; but if she strained her eyes, she could see what looked like fire-light from somewhere below the trees. At first, she assumed it was a campfire; then she reconsidered, remembering how far above it they were, and realized it was likely much larger in scale. She looked back up at the group. "Presumably, whoever lives at the bottom isn't a fan of screaming digimon falling out of the sky." "Wouldn't you?" Sam said, running a hand backwards through his hair. "It's raining m--" Desmon began in a singsong voice. Xander reached over and wrapped a hand around her muzzle before she could finish. "How are we getting down?" he said instead. "We need a minute to regroup," Meghan said, still working on getting herself to her feet on shaky legs. "Which we probably don't have," Peter pointed out. "If something lives down there, it's probably got a way up, a--" "And we're on everyone's shitlist, yes, we know!" Meghan snapped, her voice tight. "I know! Just give me a second! I'm still trying to process the swarm of bugs the size of birds!" "I'm just saying--" Peter began defensively. "And I'm just saying I'll shove you off this ledge if you keep talking," Xander said before he even had the chance to finish, rounding on Peter and crossing over to get into his face. "Oh, god, don't start punching each other again--" Meghan said, putting her head in her hands as she sunk with her back against the rock wall. "I'm not," Xander muttered bitterly, though obviously a little soft, "he's just being a dick, yet a-fucking-g--" "Can you two stop being children!?" Natalie yelled. "I swear, I feel like I'm trying to mother a bunch of kindergardeners!" "Nobody asked you to, you know," Sam said, which was focused much more nobdy asked more than a reassurance. "No, Raumon and I just have to or nobody else will!" Natalie snapped back and jabbed a finger accusingly into the air to make her point. Lily was the only one who said nothing. The digimon all stared at Natalie for a moment, furrowing their brows in consternation. Though the digimon had something to say, and the humans would gladly have continued this argument, both of these plans were cut short when the wall behind them began to shake violently. They had not noticed there was a seam in the wall, distracted as they had been with staring out into the valley-- and then with arguing with each other. That seam began to split apart with a great rumbling roar, like a sliding door made of stone, opening up into a pitch black tunnel, wide enough for a bus to pass through. Whip-like vines, glowing with energy, shot out of the darkness before the door had even finished opening, ensnaring all twelve of the group in an instant. With thorns digging into their bodies and vines thick as ropes gripping them tight with no regard for their need to do things like breathe, they could not have run even if there was anywhere to run to. Even Banmon could not escape by phasing through, and she certainly tried. For a split second, those who looked saw a half-dozen vaguely humanoid digimon whose bodies looked to be made of coiled vines, with the thick tentacle vines growing out of the backs of their wood-masked heads now wrapping themselves around their capturees. Three had grabbed humans; the other three grabbed the digimon. Standing behind them was a large digimon whose body looked to be made of stone. They were yanked into the darkness with a hard jerk, and the rock door rumbled shut behind them, and they could see nothing else. They moved blazing fast through the dark, moving downhill fast. The plant digimon carrying them apparently did not need to see to navigate. The speed would have been nauseating even were they not being bound in the vines of digimon who did not seem particularly bothered with their comfort, and even if they could see. The rock-like digimon bounded ahead of them. It had apparently been much more concerned with stealth on the approach; it was too loud to hear anything even if they yelled aloud. Which, of course, they were doing. Soon, the roaring gallop of the stone digimon took a turn and veered away, down another tunnel. Three of the plant digimon -- the three holding the digimon -- followed it. The ones holding the humans carried on the way they had been going. The humans only realized that they had been separated once they realized they could hear their own voices crying out-- but their partners were not responding. "Oi! Let GO!" "Hey! Wait! Wait!" "Bastards!" The digimon could not hear them, both for the rumble of the stone digimon and for the growing distance between them. The plant-like digimon carrying the humans did not pay their complaints any mind. ***The humans came to a stop first. Even dull light can be blinding when your eyes had begun to adjust to pitch blackness, and it was a dull light that the humans were greeted with as they were thrown, unceremoniously, into what they could only assume was a large, empty holding cell. The room was illuminated by a faint blue glow, just enough to see by and no more. The source of the light was unclear, and also the very last of their concerns. Before anyone could rise to their feet and get any bright ideas about rushing the door, the doorway filled with thorny vines even thicker than those that had carried them here. Aside from what seemed to be a thick column of twisted tree roots taking up space of the corners of the room, and long stone benches set onto opposite walls, there was nothing else to speak of in the room, and certainly no other apparent ways out. This did not stop Xander from rushing at the door, rearing a fist back and punching with full force at the thick vines. They gave only a fraction of an inch, like soft plant matter, only to spring back as though they had never been disturbed. "Give it a rest, will you?" Peter said, sitting upright and massaging his temples. "That's not going to do anything." "Neither is sitting down and waiting to die!" Xander said right back, rounding on Peter. "Don't know if you noticed, but we just got fuckin' captured and our partners are god-knows-where! Hell, we're god-knows-where!" "You think I don't know that!?" Peter said, glaring daggers. "Will you both knock it off!?" Natalie yelled. "How many times are you two going to have this stupid argument!?" "I don't know, maybe a few more times, just to irritate you," Xander muttered. "Oh my god, what is your problem!?" Peter yelled. "Every time we start making the slightest bit of progress--" "My problem is you, dipshit!" "I don't know," Sam said, laying on his back on the stone floor, "may as well keep it up. More air we use up the sooner we might just be able to lie down and d--" "Don't say that!" Meghan said, frowning. "Why shouldn't I?" Sam said, sitting up. "We're fucked, and pretending it isn't isn't going to make it any better." "We're not fucked!" Meghan insisted. "There has to be a way out, but denial isn't going to help us," Peter said, looking over at her. "Stop being a child--" "I'm NOT being a child!" Meghan yelled, balling her hands into fists. At the same time, Xander crossed over to Peter in two long strides. "You wanna fuckin eat rocks, dude!?" "Xander, she doesn't need you to fight her battles for her!" Natalie said. "I don't need you to defend me either!" Meghan snapped back. The room was quickly filling up with sound, arguments and snipes and accusations flying in every direction, until-- "All of you SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Lily yelled in a proper rock-singer scream, and the echo rang like a bell on the stone walls. With blood pounding in all of their ears, all eyes were on her, and she did not flinch under their gazes. "The fuck are you all snapping at each other over? You forgotten what we're here to do?" "I'm sure we're all just stressed," Natalie said, still harshly but she was deflating somewhat, as though Lily's yell had brought her to her senses, "from being stuck to--" "We've been stuck together for the past two weeks, dumbshit!" Lily said, pointing a finger at her. Unlike the rest of them, her insult held no malice, only mild exasperation, and the difference was stark to hear. "But you're only fighting like assholes now, when we've got other things to worry about!" She paused, and put her hands on her hips. "But shit, man. I'm thinking Brockmon was right. I thought he was being paranoid." "What are you talking about?" Xander said, narrowing his eyes at her. Lily glanced at him and heaved a heavy sigh. "Brockmon thinks y'all are getting Whisperer shit in your brains, and that's what's making you all act like little bitches." The room fell deathly silent, but for the sound of grinding stone somewhere far in the distance, deep below them. "What?" Meghan said after a moment. Lily put her hands up palms-out. "That's what he said. That's all I know. He said he saw something when we were talking to you," she said, pointing to Xander, "earlier. And he said he thought Desmon saw it too." "The fuck you talking about?" Xander said, but he felt a creeping sense of unease. Had Desmon been hiding something? Was even she starting to turn ag-- (Desmon, who he once said -- and had meant wholeheartedly -- that even if she was some kind of eldritch beast, he would still trust.) And just like that, he felt it. In the back of his head, something was hissing-- not words, but like air escaping from a tire, a gentle stream of something that became jagged and cold when it mixed with the rest of his thoughts. "What the fuck," Xander muttered, lifting a hand to his own head. Around him, the others did similar, suddenly jarringly aware of an unfamiliar feeling dwelling in the corners, as though their minds were physical spaces that could board unwelcome visitors. "No, hold on, back the hell up," Sam said, shaking his head. "That's bullshit. It shouldn't work on us. We're human. Hyoo-man. You heard of it?" "... but," Natalie said slowly, "... Raumon's healing magic works on us. Maybe not as well as it works on a digimon, but it still works on us." Being in the human world affected digimon (the memory of the last emergent digimon's rotting flesh was stuck in their minds). Being here affected them. They didn't have to eat; they seemed to feel less exhaustion than they would have if they had travelled half so far on foot in their world. It made sense that there would be a downside to it. Or maybe it was just the inevitable result of walking around a dying world with only each other for company and no promise of when they'd get home. Anyone might be susceptible to a niggling voice in the backs of their heads in that circumstances-- and hell, they had only been here a couple weeks. They weren't prepared to accept it out of hand, no-- but once they called attention to it, the feeling was hard to shake. Was it really that out of the question to think that they might --"Hold on," Peter said, looking at Lily skeptically. "Stop. Rewind. Why are you talking like you're immune?" Lily paused, then. It wasn't as though she didn't expect to be asked -- and she knew the answer -- but the answer was one that was difficult to phrase. Even so, she knew that not answering would be vastly more suspicious-- and give them all kinds of wacky ideas. "Brockmon said," she said after a moment, "that it looks for fear, right? Scared people -- digimon, people, whatever -- are more likely to take rigged deals, and the fear provides an in." "And you've been really weirdly chill with just about everything," Xander said, arms folded. "So is it just the power of positive thinking, then?" he said, derisively. "Hardly," Lily said, shaking her head. Meghan frowned. "So you're not scared, then?" There was a lot to be afraid of, and they realized it the more they considered the possibility. The fear they'd harbored for days of what they were heading towards. The fear that they were going in the right direction at all, and what might happen to them. The fear borne of the fact that they didn't know what had been going on with the insects before they had fallen. Right now, there was the fear that they had been separated from their partners-- that god knows what might happen while they were apart, or that they might not know how to find them before something terrible happened. The fear that they might not make it back alive; the fear that their friends and family who were left waiting for them would be waiting forever. Lily did not answer immediately. Then, she said: "it's easy to not be afraid if you're already at peace with what you're getting into." She looked at the others, smiling in a way that did not reach her eyes. "So. Now that we're all in a good mood! Anyone got any ideas?" The room fell silent. In that silence, if they strained their ears, they could swear they heard something skitter-scratching out beyond the door, but then it was gone. ***Those who were carrying the partner digimon, and the rock digimon leading them, reached a dead end in the pitch black darkness-- or so it seemed for a moment, when they came to a sudden stop. With a mighty heave, the rock digimon dragged open a door, not unlike the one it had opened high above on the cliff wall. They spilled out onto a wide, bare path, lined by stones. All around them were tremendous trees and rich foliage, as unmoving as anything else in this world but at least having the dignity to appear alive; at this point, it almost felt like a mockery. The cliff overhang soared a thousand feet above them; the morning sun could not reach them even if it had been able to break through the high canopy. In fact, it was dark as night. The trees around them were far apart, but huge on a scale that defied sense; their trunks towered like skyscrapers, their uppermost branches blacking out the sky. Through the precious few gaps, they could only see the cliff soaring high above them, as they were underneath its overhanging lip. It felt like how it might feel to be a mouse in a forest, with everything so big it was impossible to take in the whole of anything at once. Only the smattering of smaller, more reasonably-sized trees -- apparently unhibited by the low light -- helped to ground them and dispel the feeling that they had shrunk. "Where--!?" Gelermon began, a snarl. Before she could finish her sentence, the vine around her constricted, digging its thorns into her sides and dissuading her from speaking her mind. As soon as the stone digimon pulled the door shut behind it, it rounded on them. It was toweringly tall even hunched over, its entire body made of brown stone and white crystal but for a shaggy red and yellow mane. "You know where you are," it rumbled, misunderstanding Gelermon's question. Its voice deep was and, appropriately, gravelly. "And I would not have thought you so foolish as to come here." It snorted, looking down the path. "We don't mean any har--" Raumon began, but as with Gelermon, when he tried to speak, the plant digimon's vine constricted around him. "We have been expecting your arrival, Refugees," the stone digimon said sternly. "And we know what you have been doing, and what you seek here. Do not waste your breath playing innocent." What they had been doing. Banmon, Raumon, and Oremon exchanged looks, all thinking of Vicimon. Gelermon furrowed her brow, gritting her teeth to bite back a comment; Brockmon stared at the ground. Desmon opened her mouth, and spoke quickly before she was squeezed by the vine. "Yeah, and, what is it we're seeking, exactly? You know, for posteri-- hck." The stone digimon narrowed its eyes and looked then to its allies. "Come, Ajatarmon," it said. "Do not give them an inch of slack, and do not take an eye off them. We would be fools to let the refugees run free here. We will alert the priests; they will alert Dinmon. He will likely want to handle them himself. If he so wishes, we will deliver the others to him; otherwise, I will leave their fates to you." "Understood," one of the Ajatarmon said with a curt nod, and the other two mirrored the gesture. Though it might have just been a trick of the light, they could have sworn they saw a couple small shapes staring their way and then turning to bolt away. They hugged the base of the cliff wall and moved with great purpose. Before the refugees could get a good look, though, they were whisked away into the dark by the Ajatarmon....
Digimon re:CONNECT Ep. 37
Episode 37: Midnight By the time Vicimon reached the shrine of the Norns, the humans and their partners were long gone.Rest easy in that knowledge, at least. He crested the hill and grinned to himself, a giggle rumbling out of his chest unbidden. The last rays of the sun were fading over the horizon, and he had burned swaths of the hinterlands as he went, searching for the Shrine. He couldn't remember exactly where it was, you see -- never been allowed near it back when it had actual digimon keeping an eye on it, you see, and had no need to go there until now -- but the blackened, charred scar he left behind was testament to everywhere he had looked. Some digimon had really given up on running away far, far too quickly. Got outside of the city and thought it safe to stop so nearby? Foolish indeed. Well. Anyway. Vicimon could already hear the others in his head, chiding him for taking so long, but it was drowned out by the voice that whispered to burn everything, and that was the voice he cared about. He leapt down into the half-flooded shrine; the water began to hiss and evaporate as soon as he set foot in it. When his gaze fell upon the statue of the Norns standing crooked and askew, a surge of hatred gripped his mind like a vice. It wasn't a whisper; it was a scream, the white hot feeling overtaking even the white-hot feeling of the fire burning around his shoulders and arms.He smashed one fiery hand into the carved stone, and it lurched. He struck it again and it moved even further, but only a few inches. With a snarl, he drove both hands into it, and all at once, the statue shattered, sending polished blue stone crumbling into what remained of the water and skittering across stone. As soon as the statue was gone, the feeling flooded out of him. You know, he hadn't thought he'd had any particular feelings about the Norns before now. No more than anything else, anyway. Odd. Weird! Very strange. He straightened back up and took a step back."Burning Earth!" he called into the empty air, slamming both hands down into the ground. Cracks, in which flickered tongues of black flame, spread out from the point his hands touched, just waiting for the chance to burst out. *** By the time they stopped for the night, it had been dark for over an hour. They wanted to put as much distance between themselves and the burned city as was possible before they stopped, which was probably a good idea. The air had become more breathable the further they went, with less of the putrid smell lingering in the air; but the sky had been hazy up until the sun had gone down, and whether it be from smoke, clouds, or both, neither of the moons' reflected light managed to break through to the ground. They were thankful to not be in the Halo; while it had provided more cover, the land here was more open, and they were less likely to stumble into things, both in a mundane "tripping over fallen logs" kind of way and in a "walking into a populated area" way as well. Desmon and Banmon made themselves even more useful, even discounting their ability to fly up and quickly scout ahead; Desmon kept her ears peeled, and Banmon's ability to phase through solid objects enabled her to see if seemingly-uninhabited camps or villages were more populated than they appeared. They avoided several encampments this way, diverting their paths away from any digimon they might interrupt; they came across as many vacated ones, singular huts and the footprints of long-gone houses dotted around the landscape. It was in one of these abandoned ones that they stopped for the night. It had once been a pair of small huts nestled in a hill valley; now, it was nothing but a collection of half-crumbled walls on flat stone foundations, a half-standing stone chimney, a tree stump. A gnarled tree had burst through what remained of one of the walls of the larger former-hut, and its roots had broken through the foundation, causing the stone to buckle. This invasive tree was proof that this place had not been recently vacated or destroyed; it had had time to grow there. If anywhere was a safe place to stop, it was probably here. Desmon alighted in the offending tree, causing all eleven pairs of eyes on the ground to look up at her. She had flown up to take a look and a listen around, make sure they were not sitting directly on the doorstep of anywhere populated."We're good," she said, giving a thumbs-up as best she could without proper thumbs. "Over that hill, it looks like there's a village a ways that way," she pointed in a northernly direction, over a hill a short distance away, "or at least there's buildings and fires and it doesn't look like it's a buildings-on-fire sort of situation. But that's a problem for us to avoid tomorrow."With her announcement done, she jumped and flapped her way down to the ground, next to where Xander was seated against a free-standing wall. "Probably bad timing for the buildings on fire comment," he said, flicking Desmon on the forehead; indeed, Peter, Meghan, and Natalie all looked a little ill at ease, but it was quickly subsumed by the relief at being able to stop.And getting to stop somewhere where they didn't have to sleep on dirt was even better, even if it was only marginally better to sleep on solid rock. "I wonder what used to live here," Lily said, glancing around and leaning back on her hands. "Whatever it was," Natalie said, "it's been gone a long time." She nudged at a bit of buckled stone with her toe. "So hopefully it won't mind us taking a quick break in the remains of its house." "Worrying about us trespassing now would be a bit too little too late," Raumon said, and Natalie smiled thinly. "It's weird to think about, though, isn't it?" Banmon said. Though they could not see her mouth, she seemed to frown. "Not just... not just here, I mean. But everywhere we go. Digimon used to live all these places. But the empty places outnumber the places where they're still around."She didn't say it, but she could not help but think that in no time at all, the town near the shrine had been turned into another ruin. Gelermon snorted derisively, laying her head on the ground; Banmon looked at her, but said nothing more. In fact she said nothing more at all, drawing back into herself and curling up next to Peter. "What gets me," Meghan said, "is that this place is really low-tech for something that's supposed to be a Digital World, you know?" She wasn't the first one to think it (just earlier that day they had realized how jarring it was to see a proper town), but she was the first to say it. "You say Digital World and I kinda think like, scifi and-- well. Maybe not Tron, but, you know?" She gestured vaguely, pointing this way and that as though to map out the path of her train of thought. "But this place is way Iron Age." A pause, just a beat long. "... why are you looking at me," Sam said, because indeed several pairs of eyes had drifted over to him almost instinctively, even though they looked away innocently when he spoke. He knew why, of course; if anyone would have any insight on this, it would be him.Even so he spoke with a barely constrained frustration. "It fucks with our phones, the D-Rives are from here. That's all I've got until I get to ask questions of the," he gestured around his head, "ancient digimon and shit. 'Fraid my use to you is pretty much gimped." "Chill," Lily said, shaking her head. "Nobody's asking you to, like, look at a rock and be able to tell us a whole bunch of code shit." Beat. "Though that'd be dope." "Moreover, this continent isn't exactly a comprehensive cross-section of the Digital World," Brockmon said. "In terms of environment or technology." "Explains why everything is just forests and hills," Oremon said dully; Meghan smiled faintly. Brockmon hummed. "Well. Yes. But there's a continent in the south that's almost entirely covered in an enormous network of cities." He paused. "Or, it was." "Well now you've got me all intrigued," Xander said completely flatly, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back against the crumbling wall. "... geography is not my strong suit," Brockmon said hastily. "And more than that, I don't think that it's of particular relevance to our mission--" "You've just never been outside your home country, have you, bear boy," Desmon said, sticking her tongue out. Sam sighed and pulled his legs up to his chest.He said nothing more until he volunteered for first watch, when everyone was actually preparing to sleep.He wasn't going to be sleeping anyway. *** Sam sat against the tree, sitting on the opposite side from where the others were sleeping.They hadn't talked about the Vicimon encounter while they were awake, but it was coming through crystal clear without the inhibitions and filtering of consciousness. Peter's breath kept hitching at whatever he was dreaming about; Natalie's hand kept raising to her head, like she was going to grab it but stopped herself before she did; Meghan tossed and turned. Their digimon partners were faring no better, with Raumon clawing ineffectually at the air, Oremon baring his teeth, and Banmon curling deeper and deeper in on herself. He didn't want to watch it. It was uncomfortable-- it felt almost invasive. It was weird to see someone else having a nightmare, rather than being the one having it-- not knowing if you were supposed to do anything to help. He felt a particular pang of sympathy for Gelermon. Speaking of Gelermon: she lay on the ground beside him, her head resting on her folded paws as though she were a regular dog. She was more asleep than him, but any time he moved she cracked an eye open to check on him. So when -- hours into his watch, around the time he should be waking up his replacement -- Sam instead stood up, she was quick to get to her feet. She said nothing but looked up expectantly at him; he inclined his head towards the hill, over which Desmon said they could see the nearby village. Gelermon nodded her head once and the two began to walk. It was only a few hundred feet to the base of the hill, and the place they'd made camp was still in sight the entire time, and the night was growing steadily clearer. The slope was steeper than it looked from a distance, but Gelermon heeled close to Sam and stopped him from losing his footing. The trees that dotted the hillside had their roots gnarled out into the air, but a narrow path zigzagged a relatively clear way up between them, as long as they didn't mind using the roots as makeshift stepping stones. They said nothing until they had reached the top. Ahead of them lay a vast expanse of rolling, sparsely-forested hills, not unlike the others in the hinterlands. A winding path of relatively even land wound between the bottoms of the hills, almost looking like a river of tall grass, leading to the village that Desmon had mentioned.It was half-obscured behind the hills, but the faint glow of a (normal, light-giving, and non-putrid-smelling) fire stood out bright as day in the otherwise stark-dark night. Beyond these hills, those beyond seemed to become more mountainous -- less stark and steep than those in the Halo, more rolling, but also more numerous. They kept going until they extended over the horizon, as far as the eye could see even by daylight. Doubtlessly, there were more villages and more abandoned little huts dotted in the valleys between them, or maybe even more shrines tucked into hidden places.Maybe there were even more places sunken into the ground that they couldn't see. And the only places they were welcome were the ones that were empty. "Do you regret not going back to help the others with the city?" Sam said, his voice hushed even though nobody was around to overhear, staring out at the village. "I mean, do you wish we'd gone back with Raumon and Natalie and company." Gelermon didn't answer immediately, but when she did, her answer was simple. "Nope." Sam hummed quietly and leaned against a tree, still looking towards the village. "Why not?" Gelermon again hesitated before she spoke, and her answer was a bit esoteric. "It's amazing what a simple change of surroundings can do to kickstart the memory, huh?" Sam rubbed the back of his head. "Don't I know it." There were certainly places he avoided, and he didn't even have eldritch-abomination-induced amnesia of past villainy to deal with, just good old-fashioned repression.Then he said, "do you wish we'd gone home when we had the chance?" Gelermon hesitated; she flicked her tail and stared out at the pale orange glow in the distance."... it'd be so much easier if I could give you a clear answer yes or no." "God, right?" Sam said, smiling thinly and pulling his knees close to his chest. (He winced a little, which Gelermon noticed but did not comment on.) The only thing worse than feeling like you were useless was not even knowing what you could have done.The digimon had to be careful about fighting -- both Vicimon and Nithmon were testament to that. Sam himself couldn't do the one thing he was good at; all of his skills were basically useless here. They couldn't go home, but none of their options here seemed terribly appealing. Something howled, hollow and long, in the distance. It did not seem to echo, and the sound had almost an almost-metallic edge to it. Sam hummed from his chest and frowned; Gelermon stared intently out into the dark. They both knew the sound, though Gelermon knew it better. Something large and dark moved between the trees, visible even from a distance.Gelermon bristled and bared her teeth; Sam glanced over his shoulder, down to the makeshift camp, and stood up. *** Natalie was on top of her family's apartment building, with Raumon by her side. They had just gone up to investigate a loud noise, and-- and she totally knew to expect Yasyamon this time. He was waiting for them there, standing stark in the middle of the roof. He did not move, and they stood facing each other for long and terrible moments, waiting for the other to make a move. Raumon, quite unlike himself, was silent the entire time. Then Yasyamon rushed forward with his wooden swords drawn, preparing to strike at Natalie. She threw her arms up, but she knew she didn't have to be afraid. Purple light flashed in her peripheral vision, and Raumon-- Was no longer there. Vicimon burst forward from where Raumon had stood a moment before, and Natalie's limbs grew as heavy as lead. Vicimon tackled Yasyamon to the ground as the smell of rot hit her like a truck. Vicimon giggled as he dug his claws into Yasyamon's flesh, and with one smooth movement, tore him completely in two, easily as tearing apart wet paper. Yasyamon did not burst apart into data; his entrails spilled out as his torso was separated from his legs, but he did not bleed. His flesh was rotten and grey, and it began to blacken and burn as Vicimon hoisted Yasyamon's upper half up over his shoulder. Shining insects, like those that had consumed Nithmon, began to emerge from the air as though squeezed out from pockets of space, and swarmed Yasyamon's lower half. The night are was filled with a droning buzz that only grew in volume until it was unbearable. Yasyamon's head lolled forward, and his mask fell off, falling to the roof. Upon impact, it shattered, and shards of white hung in the air, suspended in time. With a shudder, Yasyamon -- or what remained of him -- lifted his now maskless head to stare at Natalie, but she couldn't manage to look directly at it. She shut her eyes and could not prise them open, even as Vicimon's laughter grew louder and louder. She could feel Vicimon's black fire spread as it caused the roof to begin to crumble underneath her feet. As she lost her footing and began to fall, Vicimon's laughter morphed into a dying bird's keen. She knew, without looking, that it was IlDoctorimon, and she knew she had to force herself to look-- Natalie wrenched her eyes open with a gasp and was staring at the Digital World's sky. Taking heaving breaths as her heart stopped pounding, she scrambled to an upright position; Raumon cracked an eye open as she moved, but had not been disturbed before now. Meghan, Xander, and Lily were asleep, with their also-sleeping partners close to them. Peter and Banmon sat up, keeping watch; Sam and Gelermon, meanwhile, were nowhere to be seen.Peter looked over at Natalie and raised a hand in a rather sardonic kind of greeting.Natalie very carefully stood up and crossed to Peter, trying her best not to disturb anyone. Raumon sat up, but did not rise to his feet. "Do you know where...?" Natalie began in her most hushed tone, looking around. Peter pointed to his D-Rive; it was open the radar. Natalie dug her own out to see for herself; indeed, there she could see the cluster of colored dots almost-overlapped with her own, and the green dot very close by. She looked in the direction that Sam's dot lay in, but could not see him anywhere.Not surprising, considering it was dark, but that was beside the point. The circles under Peter's eyes may also have been a trick of the low light, but she figured they weren't. Natalie frowned. Sam and Gelermon had been breaking apart from the group more and more frequently whenever they stopped, especially since they'd gotten out of the Barrens. He'd volunteered for every night watch, and he had barely said anything yesterday after they saw smoke. And that was just Sam; Gelermon was a whole other can of worms.She wanted to help, but truth be told-- They clearly didn't want to be here, and it was her fault they were, so what could she possibly do that wouldn't just make it worse-- She sighed and took a seat against the crumbling wall next to Peter; she wasn't getting back to sleep any time soon anyway. She didn't want to speak too much, lest she wake someone else up. Raumon joined her, sitting cross-legged beside her. She opened her mouth to say something quietly to Peter, but when she looked, she saw that he was asleep sitting up, and she thought better of it. She pulled her knees to her chest and stared out into the darkness-- and to her surprise, she actually saw something. The trees at the foot of a hill to the south -- a hill down which they had themselves come -- were rustling, and a dark shape jumped between them. The trees thinned out and whatever was moving had no more trees to jump to, and so it leapt from the tree and to the ground. It looked like a small monkey, no bigger than Raumon in size. Its eyes were like shiny saucers, reflecting even the barest amount of light, like a cat's in the dark-- and it was staring quite intently at them. It stared for a moment. Natalie did not dare breathe, and nor did Raumon. Had it seen the green light? Was it simply curious, or something else? Then, after a few moments of agonizing deliberation, the monkey turned away, as though disinterested. It did not run off, but it likewise did not come any closer. Like so many other digimon they had encountered in passing, it did not seem to want to trouble them nor be troubled in return. For whatever reason, Natalie still found herself unable to relax as every possible worst-case scenario -- for the monkey, for Sam and Gelermon, for everyone here -- ran through her head on repeat. She didn't immediately realize, as she stared intently out into the dark, that the monkey was gone. *** The far side of the hill was only barely a gentler slope than the side they had come up, but it went much faster because Frekimon was much bolder. Sam held tightly to her back as she bounded down the hill, digging her claws into the dirt to slow her descent rather than waste time finding footholds. "You don't have to come with," Frekimon said. She did not object to him being with her, of course, but she was -- she fully realized -- pulling quite a stupid move, and a hypocritical one at that judging by not only her actions earlier that day, but her own stated comments in the immediate past.But something far more emotional than logical sat heavy on her mind."Especially not for something that's basically just a fuckin'... gut feeling on my part." "You say that now, but hey, just watch. If something goes fucky--" Sam said, but cut himself off with a grunt as Frekimon made a rough landing as the slope evened out, jostling him; his still-healing stomach twinged in objection. "... shit," he muttered, and pressed a hand to his stomach to make sure that his wound had not opened. When he was satisfied that it hadn't, he continued."If something goes fucked-up, I don't want you to be alone." It was impossible not to think about what had happened to Oremon when he'd been separated from Meghan, even if none of them had paid witness to it. Frekimon said nothing for a short time, until she said simply: "You ready?" Sam sighed, but decided not to press it. "Go for it," he said.Frekimon looked over her shoulder, trying to conceal her vague concern but doing a mediocre job of it; Sam rolled his eyes gave her a thumbs-up before dropping his hand to grab a hold of her fur. She nodded and took off at a run, taking long leaping strides; quite different from the brisk pace they usually travelled at, this was a proper sprint. She wasn't from here, per se, but any one village looked the same as the next. But even if this wasn't a village she had seen before, these hinterlands had once been her home, in a manner of speaking, and she knew what she had heard. That howl had been familiar to her-- she had felt compelled to answer it. She had held off, of course, but she hadn't been able to just ignore it. This wasn't playing hero like the others had been doing, right? This was something else. That's what she told herself, anyway. At a full tilt run, the space between them and the orange glow of the village was all but insignificant. This was mitigated by the fact that they were not, in fact, headed straight for the village itself, but rather approaching at an angle, towards the hill on which they had seen the dark shape. They hit a straightaway of sorts, the land more evening out for a few hundred feet, when-- "Sonic Ear!" Sam clung vice-tight to Frekimon's back as she leapt deftly out of the way of a digimon that came tearing out of the grass at high speed with a shower of dirt and pebbles, twisting its body to slash out with fast-moving blades attached to its head. One supposes one always has to anticipate someone keeping watch. "New Moon Fire!" Frekimon was readying her attack before she landed on the ground, sending a blast of green fire at the attacking digimon. It took the attack straight-on, or it initially seemed to-- it raised metal claws and slashed as Frekimon's attack contacted it, dispersing the fireball into embers. It was mammalian, almost like a mole or a rabbit, with massive red claws attached to metal armor around its forelegs. Its ears were long and transitioned smoothly from flesh to blades; they had been what it had been attacking with. It was only a little bit smaller than Frekimon herself, so where it had come from was a mystery-- though if they looked closely, they would have been able to see a bored hole in the ground from which it had emerged. There was no time to appreciate that, though, because it gritted its teeth, leapt forward on powerful haunches, and took aim at Frekimon with its massive claws. It snarled inarticulately, attacking claws-first as it hurled itself through the air. "Real tired of this shit," Frekimon muttered to herself as she feinted out of the way, again with Sam holding as tight as he could onto her back. The hostile digimon's claws sank into the earth, and for a brief moment, it was still as it had to extricate itself. Frekimon began to gather up another fireball in her mouth, but it fizzled out as Sam nudged her side with his leg. "Just keep moving," he said hastily. "Probably a scout for the village or something, so if we leave it and alone it'll probably back off." Frekimon growled, but Sam's argument reached her. She took a half-step back from the hostile digimon as it pulled its claws out of the dirt and, before it could turn around, she took off bounding towards the hillside that was their original destination.Sam looked over his shoulder, and grimaced as the big-clawed digimon did not seem satisfied with simply chasing them off, and was much more in the mood to quite literally give chase. It was wickedly fast, and gained ground on Frekimon quickly. "Ah, right," Frekimon said with a tinge of bitterness in her voice, as though she were remembering quite reluctantly. "Prairiemon are speedy little fuckers." "Sonic Ear!" the Prairiemon cried. Its long blade-ears glowed with energy as it lunged forward with frightening speed, tossing its head so as to strike out at Frekimon's tail and haunches. The attack connected and Frekimon stumbled, which at this speed meant she fell to the ground; Sam clung tight for as long as he could, but he took his losses as Frekimon fell forward, skidding ahead of her.(This was not a good day for taking full-speed collisions. Not that there was ever a good day, really, but that's beside the point.) "Shit!" Sam blurted. Frekimon's attention shot to her partner immediately, which was probably a mistake, as the Prairiemon wasted no time leaping at her. She rolled just in time to avoid those big metal claws making contact with her face, and she gritted her teeth as emerald fire licked around her muzzle."New Moon Fire!" The Prairiemon took the brunt of the attack, slashing wildly at the air as the green fire singed its whiskers and blackened its fur. Frekimon got to her feet; the wounds on her hindquarters were shallow and the pain was fading quickly, and she powered through as she straightened up. "The fuck is your problem! We didn't do shit to you!" Frekimon snapped. "We're trying to leave you alone!" The Prairiemon gritted its teeth and raised its claws in a battle stance. "You're going to go get backup, right?" it spat, its voice a bitter laugh. "Don't bullshit me! I saw the green light! I knew you were signalling to it!" Frekimon groaned in exasperation and rolled her eyes, and she reared up onto her hind legs.Behind her, Sam remained lying on the ground, practically curled up in pain. He placed a hand on his stomach, and winced as he felt a warm dampness. Surprisingly, rolling a few meters does not do great things for a barely-week-old wound in your stomach. Who'd have thunk it? "Don't know what you've got in your head but I'm not exactly popular 'round these parts," Frekimon muttered. "And I have literally no interest in attacking your little podunk town." She spread her paws out wide in a gesture to show she had nothing to hide, but the Prairiemon was clearly unconvinced as it lunged for her again. The fire around her paws ignited in full. "Ravenous Hunter!" she cried, rushing forward with a downward slash. Her claws met the Prairiemon's, and hers won out. With a scrape and a clang, Prairiemon stumbled backwards, teeth gritted. Frekimon ceded a little ground, taking a half-backwards step. She did not take her eyes off of the Prairiemon. She knew, if she pushed the issue, she could beat it with minimal effort; its one attack that had connected had been a cheap shot, after all, and if it was actually a threat but hiding its power, she could just evolve. She knew, however, that this would be overkill.(And, more importantly, they didn't need another village pissed at them--)But Prairiemon was not in a mood to be argued with, as evidenced by the fact that it leapt, claws-first, at Frekimon again. It was now much, much closer, and accompanied by the thudding fall of a heavy beast cracking through tree branches and knocking stones aside. "Piss," Sam said aloud as he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. Prairiemon steeled itself, and Frekimon gritted her teeth and chanced a glance over her shoulder. At the foot of the nearest hill, emerging out of the sparse trees, was a big bestial shape. Even with the hazy sky blocking out the moonlight, it provided its own atmospheric acid-green glow. It was big, and black, with a metal mask covered in scratches, wicked claws, and a mane of sickly green fire that provided that aforementioned lighting. Its body was covered in scars and its fur was shaggy, but it was unmistakable for what it was. With a metallic roar, the Grimmon reared down as though preparing to charge. Frekimon whipped all the way around at record speed, hurling herself towards Grimmon with a ferocity that might have been surprising if not for the fact that Sam was between her and it. She became a streak of green light, wasting no time. "Frekimon, conduction evolve to... Xolomon!"The light burst apart as she touched the ground, revealing her ultimate form. She reared down to prepare to pounce, her teeth bared under her skull mask. The Grimmon roared again, a harsh metallic rasp. It charged, clearly taking Xolomon's appearance as a challenge. "Hellfire!" "Mooneater!" Grimmon's body was engulfed in green fire; at the same moment, Xolomon's turned shadowy, and she was quickly replaced by a black spectral wolf closer to Grimmon's size. The shadowy wolf's jaws met Grimmon's claws and burst apart in a shower of motes of darkness and acid-green embers. As the shadow vanished, Xolomon was right where she started-- except quick as blinking, she was dodging to the side, a partial ring of green fire appearing in the air around her. Sam stumbled -- holding his stomach with one hand and his D-Rive with the other -- back to where Prairiemon was standing, claws raised in a defensive stance but seeming unable to move."We're not with it, if that wasn't-- shit-- proof enough for you," he said, poorly biting back a wince. Prairiemon glanced at him and tensed for a moment, but then lowered its arms. It seemed to have cooled off significantly."Are you with the other one?" it -- or rather, he -- said. Sam couldn't help but notice that its wording and vocal style were weirdly stilted, though more out of what seemed to be awkwardness than anything more sinister. "Uh, yeah. I was on her back." "... I did not see you. I was only focused on the wolf." "Tunnel vision, huh," Sam said dryly. "I get that. "... how did it evolve like that?" "... you know, that's a great question," Sam said, looking at his D-Rive. "Eclipse Corona!" Xolomon cried, a ring-shaped blast of emerald fire meeting the harsh-green flames of Grimmon's mane, releasing the most horrid stench of sulfur and brimstone. "Black Metal!" The Grimmon leapt forward, its claws growing darker as it attacked and getting even darker as it drew blood from Xolomon's side. She did not take this lying down, retaliating in short order: "Mooneater!" The shadowy wolf bumrushed Grimmon and burst apart after taking a chunk out of its shoulder in retaliation. When Xolomon reappeared she was again taking the chance to put distance between herself and Grimmon. Grimmon was close to close the distance, only to recieve a blast of green fire in the face-- which it quickly returned in kind. The two were equally matched-- which, Sam supposed, made sense. This Grimmon was a lot less... well. Less out of control, compared to the one he was used to seeing. "Guess I never really thought about there being more than one of them," Sam muttered, then stopped himself before he said anything too incriminating. Even so, Prairiemon fixed him with a curious look. So Sam did what Sam did best: he deflected. "The hell-dog been bothering you?" he said, inclining his head towards Grimmon. "Sometimes we go months without seeing it. But it always comes back," Prairiemon said. "I saw green light. I thought I might have a chance to head it off." There was a kind of bitterness in his voice, and truth be told, Sam kind of understood. It was an unstated so much for that theory. As he spoke, the prairie dog digimon's eyes fell downwards to Sam's stomach."You are injured." "... eh," Sam said dismissively, turning away. He didn't want to say that it wouldn't have reopened if the Prairiemon hadn't gone aggro on them, but he did certainly think it a little pettily. At least Prairiemon seemed to have had a fairly quick change of heart. Kudos for that. Enough to make Sam not mouth off quite so much, at least. Prairiemon tilted his head. "I can take you back to the village while they fight," he said, pointing a claw at Xolomon and Grimmon. "To fix that," and he accentuated that with a claw gesture at Sam's stomach. "As apology for inconveniencing you." Sam blinked and furrowed his brow, until it occurred to him-- the Prairiemon didn't seem to know, exactly, who they were. His only beef with them had been an association with the Grimmon that was giving him grief."I'll pass," Sam said. "I don't want to leave my friend alone." "And you can't fight?" Sam paused. Did this overgrown prairie dog just think Sam was some kind of weird digimon? "Probably not a good idea," he said as diplomatically as he could.He tried not to think about how frustrating it was. "I see." Xolomon was being careful that they did not get any closer to Sam. Every time she gained distance, she made sure to make it in the opposite direction. The problem was that this was leading them closer and closer to the trees from which Grimmon had emerged, which -- in case you have forgotten -- is something of a dangerous prospect when dealing with digimon who mostly use fire-based attacks. As Sam and Prairiemon watched, Grimmon tackled Xolomon, sending both wolves tumbling top over bottom for a few meters. Grimmon loomed over Xolomon's face, its breath putrid and hot, as it lifted a paw to place its claws on her throat. Xolomon gritted her teeth, and then, taking advantage of the momentary shift in balance, jammed her hind legs into Grimmon's stomach. This dislodged Grimmon, but only for a moment. "Hellfire!" it roared, lunging straight for Xolomon before she had the chance to right herself, sending both of them crashing into the nearest trees. Xolomon gritted her teeth and put her all into a full-body tackle to shove Grimmon away. The two entangled again in a flurry of claws and teeth and metal and bone, resulting in Grimmon backpedalling a short distance. Xolomon stood like a guardian, holding her ground and breathing heavily. "You wanna start a fucking fire!?" she snapped, more out of frustration than anything; she had no faith that the monstrous hell-dog had much of a care for such things. She braced herself for another attack-- but while it was righting itself, Grimmon paused, seemingly at the sound of Xolomon's voice-- or, at least, her voice doing something other than calling an attack. Then, it spoke. Its voice was as raspy as its howl had been, deep, and with a vicious edge."I thought it was you," he said. "Black Metal!" Without missing a beat, his claws transformed into metal as he rushed for Xolomon, who leapt out of the way with narrowed eyes. "What, is your voice suddenly working, or just your brain?" she muttered, landing behind Grimmon, standing between him and the trees. "Rude as you ever were," Grimmon said as he turned. Though his lips were hidden under his metal mask, the bitter curl on his face was clear in his voice. "You and I must be the last ones left now. All the rest of our pack is dead. You were right all along." "Mooneater!" Before Grimmon even finished speaking, the spectral shadow wolf had taken Xolomon's place and lunged, jaws snapping. *** -?? Years Ago- Frekimon ran through the trees, breathing heavily. From somewhere behind her, a Boarmon released a plume of flame; she ducked, gathering up green fire of her own to lob back at the porcine digimon."New Moon Fire!" she called. The blast landed right in front of Boarmon, causing it to trip, crashing into the trees and snapping them like twigs.The red flames on Boarmon's back mingled with the green flames she had shot, catching onto dry wood and underbrush in a moment. As the green flames and red flames alike began to spread, she hissed a profanity under her breath but did not stop. Admittedly, she'd been passing through its territory, but in fairness to her, she hadn't meant to do any harm. She'd just been passing through. It had just gone full-aggro on her for no goddamn reason. Big surprise. The fire burned itself out before it had the chance to spread, but the plume of smoke did not go unnoticed by the town over the next hill, and surprise of all surprises, it was not the Boarmon -- god knew where it had gone -- that they blamed. Maybe she shouldn't blame them. These were dangerous, uncertain times. Anything uncertain was threatening, especially when smoke preceded its appearance. "It" meaning "her", in this case. She knew where she wasn't welcome even before she was met with threats.Weren't her kind supposed to have packs, after all? If she was alone, it was suspicious; there had to be a reason for it, right?She'd had one, once, of course-- but they'd gone to seek help from the Norns, and she had not gone with them. She had no idea what had become of them, or what would. This kind of thing just kept happening everywhere she went. Village after city after random hut -- all of them chased her away, suspicious, quick to blame her for anything that had gone wrong. Alone, she was supspicious, but she damn well couldn't go back-- whether that was due to her own pride or her circumstances was hard to say. Alone, she only had one way to stand a cha̷n͜c̶e̡. *** -Present Day- Grimmon ignited in his acid-green flames to counteract Xolomon's attack, and he bum-rushed her while he was at it. Xolomon feinted to the side and sunk her teeth into his shoulder but let go in revulsion as thick, rotten-tasting blood oozed like tar into her mouth. The two began to circle each other, slowly, carefully, neither taking their eyes off the other. "Everyone else believed to the end, the entire rest of the pack," Grimmon said, his voice a low growl. "And you were right. We hated you when we heard of what you'd done. All of us did. And all it got them was used up like cannon fodder. The Norns don't care. Dinmon won't do anything. You were right all along." Xolomon narrowed her eyes, but said nothing.What could she say? "Sonic Ear!" It was now that Prairiemon came tearing towards them, the blades on his long ears glowing. He twisted his body to slash out with them, and caught Grimmon in the long scaly tail.In the furor of the fight, they had not noticed Prairiemon -- with Sam on his back -- on the approach. Sam dismounted a short distance away before Prairiemon attacked, appreciative of not being made to run. Let it be known that Prairiemon's decision to come in for the attack was an even more reckless move than attacking Frekimon had been, as Grimmon immediately whipped around, able to pin Prariemon with ease with one massive paw. "The digimon who live here," Grimmon said, looking down at Prairiemon but clearly speaking to Xolomon. "I tried to seek refuge when I deserted." (Xolomon frowned.) "They refused me. Just like, I am sure, they refused you."He pressed down, his claws digging into the Prairiemon's flesh."You'll be pleased to know that I have been exacting revenge for us both." "Eclipse Corona!" A ring-shaped blast of green fire hit Grimmon squarely in the side, and in particular on the bite on his shoulder. He howled in pain, rearing up onto his hind legs for just a moment. Prairiemon rolled out of the way to avoid being crushed as Grimmon's claws came back down to earth. "What are you talking about?" Prairiemon demanded, pointing an accusing claw at Grimmon. "Why have you been--" Grimmon did not wait for Prairiemon to finish his question. "Black Metal!" he roared, lunging at Prairiemon and slashing. The attack hit squarely, sending Prairiemon all but flying, tumbling over himself backwards.Sam looked frantically between Xolomon and Prairiemon; Xolomon locked eyes and gave him a quick nod, and he nodded back. He moved quick as he could to check on Prairiemon.Prairiemon was breathing heavily, with huge gouges torn into his arms and chest; even the metal surrounding his hands had deep grooves torn into them from where he had tried to shield his face, for all the good that had done him. There wasn't a lot he could do, but-- "I'll be fine," Prairiemon gritted out. Good to confirm that, Sam supposed. Xolomon pounced and slashed out at Grimmon, but Grimmon knocked her aside with a metal claw in the middle of bursting into flame. "Hellfire!"He didn't wait a moment, his front quarters engulfed in flame as he leapt-- at Prairiemon and Sam. It was, understandably, the latter part of this that spurred Xolomon to immediate action. "Back the fuck off! Mooneater!" The shadow wolf that Xolomon became was larger than before, wilder, with its edges more ragged and flickering like fire. It snarled and snapped, dragging its spectral claws deep into Grimmon's side, more like a stabbing sword more than a raking claw. It slashed out again -- more than once, more than usual -- imbued with a ferality beyond even its norm. It burst apart into nothingness in due time, but when it did, Grimmon had fallen onto side, and Xolomon -- the moment she reappeared -- lunged Grimmon again. This time, she was successful, and she pinned him down as he lay on his side, her claws not quite drawing blood. "And here I thought you'd be happy," Grimmon said sardonically, through gritted teeth. "Why would I be happy." It wasn't really a question.This was supposed to be the last member of her old pack, but she couldn't remember anything about him-- she couldn't even verify if he was who he claimed to be. She couldn't imagine what reason he might have to lie, but this -- this chance meeting -- should have been a profound reunion.Instead, here she was, worrying about not setting fires and protecting her partner. "Hellfire!" Grimmon began; even lying on the ground, his flames roared to life. "Eclipse Corona!" Her emerald flames drowned his out. Her ring of fire burst magnificently as it crashed at point blank into Grimmon, like emerald stars.Her paws hit the ground with a dull thud as, with a flash of distortion, Grimmon exploded into motes of light. As Prairiemon pushed himself upright with a grunt, Xolomon's head hung low as though it were suddenly heavy. Her body was covered in burns and gashes; feathers had been torn out of her headdress, and a crack ran down her skull mask.Sam was already in the middle of crossing to Xolomon. He approached carefully, though he didn't really have to. He reached out to pat Xolomon's side, though his hand hovered for a moment, as though considering whether he should or not. He ultimately did, hand coming down on her dirty, blood-caked fur-- but his hand was dirty and blood-stained itself, so it was fine."So let's not tell the others that we exploded a digimon on our little field trip, huh," he said dryly. "I feel like it wouldn't gel so well with birdy-boy's new no-killing policy." Xolomon turned to look at him and snorted humorlessly, but she smiled just faintly. Prairiemon, who by this time had gotten to his feet -- a little wobbly, but intact -- and was trudging towards them, spoke. He had not heard most of what the two canine digimon had spoken about while they fought; to him, Xolomon was simply a passing traveler who had dealt with a problem."Not only do I owe you an apology for attacking you, many of us living here owe you a great deal," he said. "That digimon has been giving trouble to not only my village, but countless others across--" "Forgive me for interrupting," Xolomon said, though she didn't really sound that sorry, "but I didn't do this for you. We're not exactly in the business of running around and solving other peoples' problems for them." Prairiemon tilted his head, slightly confused. "But even so."Even so, it had still worked out.He paused, and looked to Sam. "Now that your friend is not fighting, and you would not be leaving her alone, would you allow the digimon of my village to attend to your wound? It looks like she could use the assistance as well," he said, looking to Xolomon. Sam and Xolomon exchanged sidelong looks, and tried not to grimace."We'll pass. We know a doctor digimon," Sam said after a moment. Prairiemon looked skeptical, but then nodded. "The offer stands," he said, and cast a look over his shoulder towards the village. "I should go back," he said, with a little bit of dread in his voice, looking down at his wounds. Xolomon paused for a moment, then knelt down so Sam could climb onto her back. She crossed to Prairiemon -- just barely smaller than her as Frekimon, now quite dwarfed by her stature as Xolomon.She knelt again."Come on. May as well." *** They dropped Prairiemon a good distance away from the village, but closer than they had been; she didn't really want to get any closer. "I'll make sure to tell them who took care of our problem," Prairiemon said as he disembarked, but Xolomon shook her head. "Nah. Don't. You just go ahead and take all the glory and we'll call it even for you trying to tear my legs off." Prairiemon opened his mouth to object, but with a flick of her green-fire tail, Xolomon took off. *** As they moved, Xolomon filled Sam in on the details that he had missed-- why she had wanted to investigate the howl, what Grimmon had said. He listened with only occasional snarky comment. They went as far as the hill from which they had started before Xolomon devolved-- and this time, they were careful to be a little bit on the far side from the village before she went up in green light. No need to signal to them again, or any other free agents lying in wait, or whatever the fuck. "Can you make it the rest of the way?" Gelermon said as the light faded away, leaving her a little scruffy, a little dirty, but no worse for the wear that Xolomon had weathered. Without delay, they began the rest of the trek down the hill, walking quite carefully as they did. "Should be fine," Sam said. "Gonna have to wake Raumon up to get some woogie healing magic, though. Hurts like a bitch." "It's only been a week," Gelermon said, nudging his hand with her nose. "Any time you get hurt you can just transformation-sequence back to normal." "Won't lie that it is convenient." Sam put his hands in his pockets and fell quiet for a few seconds."You doing alright?" "Why wouldn't I be," Gelermon said, in the exact tone of voice that one uses when they're being defensive. Sam didn't have to say anything for her to know what he meant, though, and she shrugged."If you mean do I feel great about killing some hell-beast who claimed to know me pre-mindfuck," she gestured with wiggly fingers around her head to emphasize mindfuck, "then of course I don't, but if you think I'm going to sit up and be tormented by it, the answer is also no." Sam paused then nodded. "Sorry I couldn't do much to, you know, help." Gelermon looked at him. "If I had been dealing with it alone, I'd probably have been a lot more torn up about it. Probably would have heard some shitty little whispers. But I didn't. It's hard to feel too bad about someone claiming to be part of a group that did you dirty in the past, when you've got a better group of your own now." Sam groaned. "Oh, fuck me, that's cheesy." "Isn't it?" Gelermon said with an appropriately wolfish grin. They grew quieter as they approached the makeshift camp; by this time, the sky above was starting to gradually grow light in that pre-dawn sort of way. It was with a curious sort of guilt that they came on the approach."I certainly hope someone else has been keeping watch," Sam said, more to himself than to Gelermon, but she nodded her agreement. Indeed, they could plainly see Raumon -- even despite his dark feathers in the low light -- perk up and point at them, tugging on Natalie's arm as they came into view. The camp was more or less in the same state it had been left, which was not surprising-- most nights were excrutiatingly boring. Natalie and Raumon sat beside Peter, who was asleep sitting up with Banmon curled around his shoulders; everyone else was various kinds of asleep, some in more peculiar sleeping postures than others.Natalie rose and moved to meet them, a little ways away from the group so as not to disturb anyone. Raumon was hot on her heels, as usual. "Looks like you've had... a time," Natalie said, giving the two up and down. "You know how it goes," Sam said, hands stuffed in his pockets. Natalie paused. "I mean. ... yeah." Raumon looked like he was going to say something, then thought better of it. "Are you alright?" he said instead, glancing between the two. "I'll explain," Gelermon said, then jerked her head at Sam. "After you give him some magic painkillers, birdy-boy." *** Prairiemon, covered in wounds and apparently with quite a story to tell, was quite prepared to share that story with the rest of the night guard and the scouts. As they began to trickle back in from their patrols, he listened patiently as one by one the digimon who went before him shared what they had seen, what information they had gathered, what threats to their village they had taken care of. Most of them were mundane as they usually were, but only one digimon -- Rabbitmon -- was more excited to tell his story than Prairiemon was. "I heard from a traveler, not even an hour ago," Rabbitmon said, "that the Shrine of the Norns and the city close to it have burned. That's what's made all the smoke." A murmur of interest rippled through the gathered, and admittedly ragtag, assembly. "We may have refugees coming to our village in the coming days." "What would have done that?" Prairiemon asked, indignant, feeling a rage boiling up inside him. Even those who did not follow the Norns left their shrine alone-- and that was setting aside setting a city ablaze. "What the traveler told me," Rabbitmon said, clearly relishing in getting to have everyone's attention, "is that it was the Refugees."The murmur grew stronger; they had all heard rumors that they were back over the past couple of weeks, but nothing concrete had emerged yet. "Apparently they'd been seen that day, and then they were seen again running from the flames."
re:CONTEST 2.0
Digimon Re:Conn - Beat of Life by FlyKiwiFly
re:CONTEST Meghan and Oremon by Zweicrusaders
Humans
[re:CON] kigus by glitchgoat
[re:CON] phantom by glitchgoat
[re:CON] dysfunction junction by glitchgoat
[Digimon re:CON] all hail the new kids by glitchgoat
Digimon
[re:CON] baykOwOmon by glitchgoat
[re:CON] sketchdump by glitchgoat
[re:CON] nowhere to look but down by glitchgoat
Trades with Kazzoo by Barghestmon
Partners
[re:CON] alone running in the dark by glitchgoat
[re:CON] up the wolves by glitchgoat
[re:CON] save your generation by glitchgoat
[c + re:CON] and i can't let you out by glitchgoat
Other Characters
[re:CON] in another world by glitchgoat
[re:CON] the recruiter and recruited by glitchgoat
[re:CON] spinning infinity by glitchgoat
[Digimon re:CON] The Rat by glitchgoat
With Other Fancharacters
[digimon re:set] the old obligatory icons by glitchgoat
[g] Nithogg Party by glitchgoat
.:A Meeting of Malakhim:. by AwesomebyAccident
[digimon re:SET] it's not me, you see by glitchgoat

Affiliates

:icondigimon-debug::icondigimonhomebound::icondigimon-arcana::icondigimoncrypticcode::icondigimonvalor::icondigimoninferno::icondigimonorigins::icondigimonsilence::icondigimonregenesis::icondigimon-advent:

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:iconstevenserisawa:
StevenSerisawa Featured By Owner Edited Nov 13, 2019  Hobbyist Writer
It's good to hear this is still kicking. I was kind of worried to be honest, as much as I hate being like that. 

Still kind of sad's it's ending soon-ish. Truly one of the best fanfics I ever read, hell I aspire to write stories even half as good as RE:Con. 
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:iconloudyloud:
loudyloud Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey um.. Is this group open? If not, sorry for wasting your time!
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:iconstevenserisawa:
StevenSerisawa Featured By Owner Edited Mar 9, 2019  Hobbyist Writer
The guy who writes the story has'nt been on most sites in months, so who really knows. He seems to be moderately active on twitter though.

So who knows what's going on. Life shit i would imagine. 
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:iconcannonfodder10503:
Cannonfodder10503 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
You doing okay? You've missed the anniversary. 
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