Digimon re:CONNECT || Something wicked this way comes.

Episode 26: If I Should Fall From Grace

Peter pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, looking down at his D-Rive screen as the 'call' with the others came to a close. It was nice to have some sense of purpose, instead of just walking up this beach in hopes of stumbling upon something, but he couldn't say he was feeling too thrilled. Then again, when did he?

He sighed through his nose, pocketing the little device as he looked around. He and Banmon had woken up here about an hour ago, and they could have looked around all he wanted; there wasn't a whole lot to be seen that they hadn't already seen.
In one direction: a sea as black as ink, choppy and rough, in from which a thick fog was pouring like a second set of waves. In the other: sand blown back by wind, in between coarse earth and vast swaths of greyish beach-grass. Both ahead and behind them: an endless expanse of coastline, arcing into lagoons and jutting out in outcroppings of soft pale sand.
Because the idea of walking on pure sand for who-knew-how-long wasn't Peter's idea of a good time, he and Banmon had wandered a short way inland, but they could still see the water.

That was just about all they could see; between sand kicked into the air by gusts of wind and a thick fog rolling unevenly off the sea, almost everything more than maybe a half-mile ahead quickly turned to a desaturated visual slurry lit up by a soft, diffused sun.

"At least," he said, speaking to Banmon, who was floating over his shoulder, "even if we can't see anything, nothing much else can see us."

"That's only so much comfort," she said, looking around cautiously and wringing her scarf-hands.

Peter glanced over at her. He paused and turned slightly so he could smile, howevr subtly. "We'll be fine," he said. "Worse comes to worse, you're more than capable of fighting anything off."

Banmon, if she had blood, would have turned a fantastic shade of pink, but instead the smoke around her face under her hood merely swirled a bit harder and she looked around.

"We're going... east, right?" she said, glancing up and down the beach. "We should be going this way, then," she said, orienting herself with respect to the water and pointing in the correct direction.

Peter blinked, then-- "Right. Brockmon said the sea was to the south. That'd make sense."
He supposed they might run into Xander, if he and Desmon had been spat out further up the coast.

He kiiiiind of wished they wouldn't encounter each other. Maybe they were further behind, and slow to catch up; maybe they were a ways ahead, and it was Peter and Banmon who wouldn't catch up.

Their relationship hadn't been as -- quite literally -- violently bad as it had initially been, ever since... hell, ever since the last Draugmon fight, really. They had at the very least learned to have a kind of uneasy, for the good of the group truce. Still: he had never been forced to be alone with He of The Negative Amounts of Tact for any extended period of time. Further, he wasn't sure that extended exposure to Desmon, loud and rambunctious as she was, would be the best for Banmon, either.

(... maybe he was just projecting...)

He may have felt bad for thinking it, but that didn't stop him from thinking it.

And so they walked-- or rather, Peter walked and Banmon floated close to hand. They kept to a comfortable silence, making decent time as best they could figure.

Much the same as Natalie and Raumon were discovering, they found that there weren't a whole lot of digimon hanging around. Occasionally a handful of sea-bird-like digimon flapped by overhead, and very-occasionally they saw dark shapes out at sea, but even that may have been a trick of the eyes for all they knew. The fog had been dying down somewhat, but only somewhat, and it only served to reveal how much there wasn't around them. They had passed through some stretches that had been grassier or rockier than others, but unless your idea of 'things of oustanding interest' included 'saw a moderately weird rock', there wasn't much to speak of.

"You don't suppose the entire world is like this, do you?" Peter mused out loud, pausing just momentarily to wipe off his glasses off on his shirt.

Banmon glanced around. "You mean... this empty?" she said, and Peter nodded. She considered it. "I can't say for sure," she said, "but I don't think so. After all, there were enough digimon around to come through and antagonize us." It wasn't quite sarcasm in her voice, as she wasn't the type, but that last bit was said quite flatly. "They had to come from somewhere."

Peter smiled thinly, but didn't interrupt.

"I think there's something about this place," she said slowly, glancing inland. "Brockmon said that we were around the barrens. The way he talked about it, it sounded like... maybe digimon want to avoid it."

Peter followed Banmon's eyeline. "You think it might be because we're close to where digimon are able to cross over?" he said. It wasn't a huge logical leap; according to Brockmon, they had all been strewn relatively close to a common center, and he had picked up bits and pieces from talking with Theo and Martyamon. "I wouldn't particularly care to stick around somewhere unstable, either."

"Yes, but I think it's more than that," Banmon said, tilting her head.

"How do you figure?"

She hesitated. "... I think... the cracks have only been happening for a few months. It wouldn't be this empty if that was all it was. Things happen for a reason."

***

Some, of course, had far more efficient methods of travel than having to go by foot, and felt they'd be a fool not to utilize them.

Xander clung to Corymon's back as she flew, almost entirely silently, over the shallowest part of the water. He wasn't sure if it was a blessing or a curse that he had his glasses on and not his contacts in; on one hand, he didn't want to fuck with contacts in another world, but on the other, his glasses kept fogging up and he wanted to fucking die.
His hands were starting to go numb, too, though whether that was from flying, the cold salt spray, or holding onto Corymon's mane was a crapshoot.

They had to stay low, else they'd completely lose sight of the ground, and despite Xander's gripings, they had to be on the lookout for Peter and Banmon.
He wasn't thrilled about it, but fuck it.

Corymon kept her spirits as high as usual. She hummed as she flew, and whenever she noticed that Xander was instinctively trying to keep the rhythm by drumming on her back with his fingers, she matched him, a pseudomusical back-and-forth-- and, occasionally, deliberately tried to throw him off-beat.
Xander almost found his partner's energy level kind of weird-- she hardly seemed to notice that they had been vomitted into another world. Really, though, he supposed that that kind of devil-may-care cheer was Desmon's way, no matter what form she was in.

(Even the crazy psycho wyrm-bat one.)

"Oi," Xander said, nudging Corymon in the side with the heel of his boot. "D-Rive's got something."

Yes, Xander had been checking his radar periodically, despite its total failure to bring up radar signals on any digimon. It was mostly because he didn't want Corymon to actually end up veering off and flying them into the middle of the goddamn ocean; because of the low visibility, it would've been easy for them to drift further out than they meant to. While its map was rudimentary, it was better than nothing.

But now, for the first time all day, something came up.

Behold: a single, slightly off-white circle, just barely slipping into frame on the far-east side of the map.

Mark the fucking difference.

Jokes aside, Xander had a feeling that he knew what that dot was; it was identical in size and shape to the blue one at the center of his radar. When he thumbed over it, a window popped up, just as it would have for a digimon, except it read only one word:
WHITE

Beat.

"He sure fuckin' is."

"What am I missing?" Corymon said over her shoulder, her ears twitching. "Fill me in."

"Think I've got the hipster wonder on the radar. Looks like he was ahead of us after all. I think this thing's still got the range it did back home so I don't think it'll be too far."

"Roger-dodger. And if it isn't Peter, and instead it's just some giant monster prepared to murder us?"

"Shit, that's a win-win," Xander muttered, sighing through his nose.

Corymon grinned.

***

Peter, not looking at his D-Rive, did not see the way it lit up, nor the blue dot that drifted onto its radar.

Banmon, casting a glance over her shoulder, stopped for a moment squinted into the fog. It was hard to tell over the sound of the water, but she thought she heard something behind them. She knew, intellectually, that it was probably just another flock of sea-bird digimon or something, but even with as few digimon as they had seen, she didn't want to take anything for granted.

"Something up?" Peter said, turning around to look where Banmon was looking-- for all the good it did. Visibility was still piss-poor, but even so, he looked out seaward. Sure enough, in a few moments, he heard a voice and saw a dark form slowly, very slowly, coming into focus.

And a very familiar voice, singing very, very off-key as she flew towards them.

"... bury me at sea, where no murdered ghost can haunt me! If I rock upon the waves, then no corpse can lie upon--! Ow! What was that for?"

"Looks like we've found them," Banmon said, glancing at Peter.

"Or rather, like we've been found," Peter said flatly, and Banmon nodded. Even so, he raised a hand, hailing Corymon down. Her form became more distinct as she drew closer and came in for a landing.

Peter got the distinct impression that she could have... alighted, let's say, more gracefully than she did. She landed shallowly, dragging her claws into the sand and salt and soft earth, kicking up a massive cloud of it both behind and in front of her.

From somewhere in the cloud:
"Was that really necessary?" followed by the sound of spitting as Xander tried to get the sand out of his mouth.

"Thought we could use a little excitement," Corymon said with a grin, flicking her tail. She seemed totally unperturbed that Peter and Banmon both looked at her without much response. "Been kind of a dull day."

Peter hummed noncomittally, and Banmon didn't anything but hovered close to his shoulder.

Xander dismounted from Corymon's back and dusted himself off, rolling his eyes at her.
In turn, she Corymon went up in blue light, replaced by the smaller, flapping form of Desmon. Xander visibly braced himself as she moved closer to him, and predictable as anything, landed on his shoulders.

"Your turn to carry me, now," she said, beaming.

"I suppose it would be too easy if you were big enough to carry us both in flight," Peter said. He had been prepared to walk anyway, and he wasn't about to expect that of Corymon, but... eh, it's fun to dream.

"Come on, Xander's heavy enough as it is," Desmon said, beaming as she leaned forward on her partner's head, much to said partner's intense dismay. "And I've been flying all day," she said, a little more seriously, but at least a little apologetic, and she shrugged. "Even I get tired."

"Which is why you demand to be entertained at 3 am," Xander muttered, and he sighed, looking up the coast into the grey blob that everything in the distance faded into. "Well, only 500 more miles of this shit to go."

"Sorry to say we won't be terribly entertaining," Peter said, putting his hands in his pockets as he began to walk forward, maybe a little snider than he needed to be. "Sorry to disappoint."

"It's fine, you're always about as entertaining as watching paint dry, I expected it," Xander said, mimicking both the putting his hands in his pockets and the moving forward, almost as though he wasn't about to be outdone.

***

Xander -- who, despite his griping, let Desmon stay on his shoulders -- walked a ways ahead of Peter. What had been a comfortable kind of quiet when it had just been Peter and Banmon together felt stiff and awkward now, even though functionally nothing had changed. Banmon had come to rest around Peter's shoulders like a boa; he didn't mind, as she barely weighed anything, and it let her relax.

Ahead of them, Xander and Desmon chattered back and forth occasionally, antagonistic and acidic but comfortable in that-- and acting almost as though they hadn't joined up with Peter and Banmon at all but for the fact that they weren't flying on their own any more.
Peter and Xander may as well have been in different worlds entirely for all they interacted. The awkward silence of two people who really don't want to be in each other's company sat on their heads, thicker even than the fog.

Even if he realized it was irrational, Peter found himself half-bitterly wondering why Xander was even here at all, if he and Desmon could just fly ahead. He didn't seem to want to be stuck around Peter, just as much as Peter didn't want to be stuck around him. Was he doing this on purpose? Was he going to hold this against--

"Are you okay?" Banmon asked quietly, a question that jarred Peter out of his minor reverie.

"Mm," Peter said, which wasn't an answer, and Banmon knew it. She didn't say anything, but he saw her glance away to the side, wanting to say something but finding nothing to say. Peter lifted a hand and placed it on top of her head, even though it put his arm at a slightly awkward angle.

Peter glanced around. The fog was as thick as ever, and the sun was starting to sink behind them.
Sooner or later, they were going to have to figure out what they were going to do when it was too dark to carry on-- which may well have been in the next ten minutes, at this rate.

However, when he looked forward again, he saw something in the mist that gave him pause enough that he actually stopped in his tracks. He he wasn't alone in it; Xander had come to a stop as well a short ways ahead of him, and both Banmon and Desmon both perked up, on high alert. Had they not all responded to it, he might have thought it was his eyes playing tricks on him.

A short ways ahead of them, the ground rose up into a rolling hill. On top of that hill was a shape that-- well, it was only dark compared to the light scattering in the fog. It seemed to be pale, and was the size of a large dog, albeit significantly more slender.

Peter only realized that it was a stark-white fawn when it turned to look at them and its large, spade-shaped ears twitched upwards.

Though they couldn't see its eyes, there was no doubt that it was staring at them, and it stood still and alert.

The small deer turned and bounded away. It moved so lightly that it almost looked like it was floating as it vanished down the far side of the hill.

"Okay," Xander said slowly, ennunciating each syllable as Peter closed the distance between them. "Deer near the ocean. Makes fuckin' sense to me."

"We're in another world, you do realize," Peter said; Xander rolled his eyes, which Peter ignored. "Things may be different--"

"Yeah, but point is when's the last time you heard of a deer on a beach?" Xander said, which was possibly the weirdest question he'd ever asked. "Some shit just doesn't go together, is all I'm sayin'."
That felt... pointed.

"... right," Peter said.

The deer was the only sign of life that seemed even remotely interested in them all day; even setting aside its being apparently out of place, that did seem like it should be of some concern, but what could they do about it at this point?
They crested the top of the hill that the deer had been on, and they both stopped to look around -- for whatever good that did. The light was fading fast.

"Check it," Xander said, pointing into the distance.

A good ways away, close to the water, was another rolling hill, a bit taller than the one they were on now. Just past it, more obvious because it was opposite the sun, there was the faint, flickering orange glow of firelight being scattered by the fog.
It was the first possible sign of--

Well, 'civilization' felt like it may have been a douchey way to put it.

Point is.

"What're the chances that whatever made that fire isn't going to try to kill us?" Xander mused out loud.

"I'd give it about fifty-fifty," Peter said dully. "Most of what's been out for our blood has either been a squirrel or uncontrollably feral, so I'd say we may stand a chance. We're going to have to figure something out unless we want to sit around in the dark."

Xander, to his credit, seemed to agree, even if he didn't say as much. As such, they pressed on; it was the only thing they had seen that even remotely indicated a place to stop that might not get them killed.

Behind them, going unnoticed, the white deer gently padded its way back to the hill. It stared at the travelers' backs, then cast a glance inland.

***

It wasn't a terribly long walk to the hill they had seen, though the fact that they had to veer closer to the water -- and thus, walking through much looser sand -- made it a bit more of an ordeal. They left a trail of prints that were quickly eaten by the soft sand.
The closer they got, the more apparent it was that the 'hill' they had seen was really a steep upcropping of rock.

Xander, in the lead, had made an executive decision to circle around the side that faced the water; Peter had, again, fallen a little ways behind. However, when Xander turned the corner, he stopped. Desmon seemed to be wanting to make a low whistle, but she couldn't really maneuver her mouth to do so, so she made a chirrupping noise instead.

"Ey, scarfy," Xander said over his shoulder. "Check it."

"Scarfy?" Peter repeated, incredulous. He picked up the pace a little bit to catch up to whatever it was that had inspired Xander to address him. "You couldn't come up with anything better than-- huh."

Firstly, what had seemed to be the other side of the hill, where they had seen the firelight, was really the inside of a sort of natural enclosure. It was like a hole had been punched out of a hill, leaving a crescent-shaped almost-ring of rock in its wake-- maybe fifty feet at its widest -- and most of it was taken up by a small, almost-circular little lagoon.
Only a smallish gap, around fifteen feet across and -- by appearances -- a few feet deep connected this pool of water to the sea. Anyone who wanted to pass without getting their feet wet would have to follow the inner curve of the crescent, but that opened a whole new set of problems.

As though eaten away by thousands of years of water, the entire underside of the hill opposite the mouth had been carved out into an overhanging miniature cave of sorts. The fire whose light they had seen was a decently-sized bonfire, located on the thin strip of dry land between the mouth of the overhang and the lagoon water. Beyond the fire, there stood sturdy little huts made of rock, clay, and grass. More than two-dozen huts lay scattered inside the shelter provided by the hollowed-out hill, and the digimon who lived there were going about their business.

Most of the digimon were small. A couple seal-like digimon with white fur and purple markings talked with a small teal dolphin with goggles on its forehead; steel-grey crabs and white-and-blue seagulls sat near the fire, with a couple digimon who looked like living rocks sitting alongside. There were even couple outliers that looked like they didn't belong anywhere near the ocean: a calico cat sat alone, as though supervising; a large talking mushroom sat alongside a a green caterpillar the size of a small dog, attending to the apparent injuries of one of the crab-like digimon.

Despite the number of digimon, a great many of the huts looked as though they had been left in disrepair, while some of the others looked a bit like patchwork-- like they had nicked bits and pieces of abandoned huts to fix the ones being used.

"Wonder if they're hostile..." Banmon murmured quietly.

No sooner than she said this, one of the little seals pointed a big black claw in their direction. In a moment's notice, the four travelers had dozens of eyes on them, and Banmon immediately shrunk behind Peter with a little squeak.

In the time it took to blink, a pair of blue shapes that they hadn't seen before dropped from the ceiling of the overhanging rock. Two bat-like digimon came flying towards them; their bodies blue, their undersides faces white, and the membranes of their wings shocking red. They were smaller than Desmon and more lithe, but the most shocking difference was that each of their limbs -- wings included -- and their long tails were all tipped with a curved metal sickle. The two strange bats came to a stop immediately in front of the two humans and their digimon partners, peering at them with beady yellow eyes as they flapped in place.

"Hey, batty-buddies," Desmon-- who was still clinging to Xander's back, piggyback-style -- said, and Xander immediately clamped a hand around her muzzle.

"Who are you?" the first strange bat said.

"Who are you?" the second one said, staggered a half-second from the first, leading to a disquieting echo effect. When they opened their mouths, they seemed to open just a little bit too wide.

"We're just passing through," Peter said quickly, totally even, putting his hands up defensively.

"You don't look like any digimon we know," the first odd bat said, and let it go unstated that from here on out, whenever one spoke, the other echoed its words on a minor delay. "We know all the digimon that live around here."

"Well, we're not from around here," Xander said, shifting his weight on his feet. It was clear he was biting his tongue and wanted to say quite a bit more, in ruder terms, but he managed to restrain himself.

The strange digimon peered at them, their faces hard to read but seeming unconvinced.

"You look like dangerous intruders," the unfamiliar bats said, getting closer so they could get looks at Banmon and Desmon. Nobody was particularly thrilled about having these digimon right in their faces after the whole day spent undisturbed; both humans took half-steps back to gain some distance. The unfamiliar bats closed the space back up immediately, getting right in close.

Peter started slipping his hand towards his pocket, inching towards his D-Rive, and when he glanced to the side Xander had already managed to get his out, but they were both stopped by yet another new speaker, voice feminine and sharp.

"Pipismon!"

The bats scattered immediately, each one going in an opposite direction as they made beelines back. It was a flurry of wings and fur, and it took a moment for them to see what had spoken that had caused the odd bats to flee.

Coming towards them, running on all fours, was the calico cat that had been sitting alone; they assumed it had been her that had spoken. As she came to a stop in front of them, she glanced over her shoulder before standing upright.
She was no bigger than either of their partner-digimon, her fur a mottled tortoiseshell canvas of orange, black, and white. She peered at hem with big golden eyes, and put her handpaws -- which were encased in brown paw-like gloves -- on her hips.

"My apologies," she said, her tone cool. "Points for enthusiasm, but they're not the most tactful. I'm Mikemon. Who are you?"

"We're just passing by," Peter said for the second time, before anyone could say anything more potentially-incriminating. Yes, they had maybe been hoping they could have stopped here, but...

Mikemon them a strange look. Her gaze fell pointedly on Banmon and Desmon; it was hard not to feel a little bit defensive, a little bit put on the spot. "Is that so," she said flatly.

"Damn straight it is," Xander said. "Is that a problem?"

"Can you please not--" Peter began to mumble, meaning something like antagonize them, but he cut himself short.

Mikemon glanced at the device clutched in Xander's hand, which he was idly thumbing at; she looked from it to him, to Peter, to each of their digimon partners in turn.
"You're travelers, then? Where are you from?"

"We--" Banmon tried, then stopped uncertainly.

The few seconds of silence that ensued when they realized they had no idea how to answer such a simple question were heavy. It was hard to feel not like it gave them away immediately, and the cat's unreadable face didn't help that feeling.
"Right, then," Mikemon said when it was apparent no answer was forthcoming, shaking her head. "If you're passing through, then pass. Get away from here as quickly as you can, before you drag something in with you."

***

"Giving us the goddamn airport security treatment," Xander muttered, rolling his neck, "only to tell us to piss off. Pain in the dick."

They had gotten perhaps a half-mile's distance on the far side of the little village's enclosure. The sun had set fully behind them, with only the last lingering rays lighting their way, and the fog wasn't showing any sign of clearing.

"It looked like they've had better days," Peter said evenly, putting his hands in his pockets. "We shouldn't expect--"

"Weren't you whining like fifteen minutes ago about what we're going to do when it gets too dark to continue?" Xander said. "I'm not saying they have to give us a five-star hotel, but you could at least act a little bit annoyed."

"What good would that do us?" Peter said, exasperated, coming to a stop. "You're the one always going on about how you can't change shit so why worry about it."

"Since when do you agree with literally any part of my life philosophy?" Xander snapped over his shoulder, coming to a stop as well.

"Can we maybe not fight," Banmon mumbled, huddling down around Peter's shoulders, "guys...?"

"I'm just trying not to make this entire experience any more unpleasant than it has to be," Peter said, feeling a little guilty that he was ignoring his partner's complaint, but his frustration had been threatening to bubble over for a while.

"I donno, I think it'd be a lot more fun to make it more unpleasant," Xander said, his voice dripping in sarcasm. He sounded almost like he'd been waiting for this. He had gone so long without sniping at Peter, that the moment he had the slightest excuse, he was going for it. "For instance, are you wearing a fucking sweater vest under that jacket, and if so, who let you leave the house like that?"

"Oh my god," Peter muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose.
They had been doing so--

Well.

Not well.

"Xandie," Desmon said, tapping Xander on the head with one claw.

"Hey, you're the one implying that being around me is necessarily unpleasant," Xander said, spreading his arms out. "May as well have fun with it."

"That's not what I was saying," Peter snapped back, feeling his body tense. "I just meant that we're already stuck somewhere very outside of our normal circumstances, and--"

"Peter," Banmon said, raising her voice just slightly.

"If that's what you meant-- shit, no, you wouldn't have said it even if you had," Xander said, curling his lip. "Sorry, I forgot for two seconds that you're allergic to saying what you mean."

"I am not," Peter said testily. "I said what I meant. We're in a foreign place right now, and I just think that it'd be a good idea to--"

"No, no, back up, it's that you're stuck here with me, which is the worst possible future, yeah?" Xander said. "You haven't exactly been doing a great job of hiding it, but you haven't had the nads to just fuckin' say it--"

"Maybe because I knew that if I said shit you'd just blow up and throw a goddamn fit--"

"Don't even fuckin' start!" Xander said, advancing. "Don't pull this martyr bullshit when you change your goddamn mind about what you want every ten minutes and then act like I'm bein' unreasonable!"

"Hey, guys," Desmon said.

"What do you call this, then, if not being unreasonable?"

"Guys?" Banmon said.

"Bein' pissed for a good damn reason! It's different!"

"Guys!"
Both Banmon and Desmon yelled at the same time, having exchanged knowing looks while they were being ignored by their bickering partners. They were uninterested in the petty squabbles of their friends, and there were more pressing issues at hand.

"What?" both humans said back at the same time, snapping out of their argument.
It was clear that the argument hadn't even remotely been about what it had started as-- it was just two people boiling over, looking for anything to glom onto to vent those feelings out, and the moment they were shaken out of it a ton of tension slipped out of their bodies.

And then it re-entered them again. Banmon and Desmon were both pointing towards the sea, in the direction from whence they had come. They immediately saw what their frustration with each other had blinded them to.
A large shape was rising out of the water far behind them, dark and massive enough to be seen even in these conditions. It was hard to make out in the low light and the fog, but they got an immediate sense of unease. They stood rooted to the spot as a massive shape rose, wings unfurling behind it. An unholy roar shook the air.

Like almost every other digimon they had encountered while wandering, the dark shape didn't seem particularly interested in them. It might have been a nice change of pace from how everything in a five-mile radius seemed to have it out for them back in Atlas Park, but--

"It's heading for the--" Banmon gestured as she tried to find the word-- village? Settlement? "It's heading towards those digimon..." She slipped from around Peter's shoulders, wringing her fabric hands.

"Right!" Desmon said, jumping off Xander's back and flapping her wings to maintain her place in the air. "I know they're not exactly on our good kid lists right now," Desmon said, looking a bit nervously at the dark shape, "but maaaybe we oughta--?"

"Motherfucker," Xander and Peter hissed in near-unison, cutting the bat off.
Without consulting each other, they both took off at a run, tracing their steps back. Without saying so, they both felt the same instinct-- that whatever was going down, they should probably see if they had to intervene. The fact that they had been turned away didn't even register.

(Something niggled in both of their brains, something about gritting their teeth and doing it just because they knew they should.
Man, when'd they get to be such boyscouts?)

Desmon and Banmon glanced at each other, nodded, and immediately took off after their partners.

***

"Shit," Mikemon hissed, lifting a paw to cover her eyes. She raised her voice to be heard over the clamor. "Everyone! Get to the tunnels and stay there! Now!"

"To the tunnels! To the tunnels!" the Pipismon yelled, flapping over the heads of the panicking villagers to help disseminate Mikemon's command. Digimon made a mad dash, abandoning their fire, their little stone huts, everything, and rushed towards the back of the stone overhang, where narrow tunnels led to too-shallow shelters. It was better than nothing.

They were more or less used to this, having faced drills and legitimate incidents more times than they cared to, but it always felt like the end of the goddamn world.

Mikemon had felt that the strangers would bring trouble, but she hadn't expected it this quickly. She supposed it might have been a coincidence, but... frankly, she'd know them anywhere, and she wasn't feeling particularly charitable.
She caught a glimpse of something stark-white, standing on top of the hill, and she hissed through her teeth.

Of course. It made sense, if they were who she thought, that that damned deer would be--

A massive pulse of water crashed against the rocks, moved as the massive digimon from the sea advanced on them. Most of it was blocked by the rocks, but no small amount of it rushed at high pressure into the enclosure as Dagomon began to advance towards them. When she looked again, the white fawn had vanished.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.
She had to figure something out, and quickly.

"Pipismon! Evacuate the area!" Mikemon yelled, cupping her hands over her mouth, and the twin bats immediately took off to sound an alarm to the surrounding beach.

***

Xander, Desmon, Peter, and Banmon all saw the white deer bound away from the little village as they drew closer. They couldn't help but feel that it wasn't a fantastic sign, but they had to prioritize.

Running across sand was nobody's idea of fun. Blue and white light erupted in the night, and in moments, Corymon was taking to the sky with Xander on her back, and Banshemon carried Peter in her arms.

"We're going to have to do some damned negotiation gymnastics to convince them we're not trying to gang up on them," Xander thought out loud, keeping his eye on the dark shape in the water that was getting, quite steadily and quite loudly, closer to shore.

They heard the voice of one of the Pipismon. It carried, almost painfully shrill but carrying surprisingly well for such a high sound, as it yelled: "Evacuate! Evacuate! Move inland! Move inland!"

"They've got quite a system in place, huh," Corymon said, frowning slightly as her ears twitched.

"Call me crazy, I feel this isn't the first time they've had shit go down," Xander muttered, sighing through his nose. Any further thought was curtailed by:

"Forbidden Trident!"

The voice of the sea monster rang out, rumbling and deep. It threw a three-pronged spear that sailed in a smooth arc, smashing into rock with an earth-shaking sound.
They heard distnct sounds of panic, undercutting under the alarm that the Pipismon were still raising.

"Ride's over-- we're gonna have to distract it," Corymon said, loud enough for Banshemon to hear her.
The ghost concurred, and in moments, the two humans' feet were on the sand once more, and they could take a moment to really take a look at what they were about to go up against. They were still a short distance from the actual lagoon itself, but they were close enough.

Up close, it was unnerving to see-- it was massive, easily rivalling Draugmon in size. It was humanoid, to a point; membranous wings unfurled behind it, and its limbs seemed to be comprised of tightly-coiled tentacles. A rosary of purple beads the size of beach balls hung around its neck, and chains were lashed around its tentacled arms. It seemed quite intently focused on the little enclosure, drawing closer with massive steps that shook the ground and stirred the sea around it. It was almost completely out of the water, and advancing with a single-minded intensity on the little lagoon.

Corymon and Banshemon were about to fly towards it, confront it, distract it, do something that they'd figure out in post when--

"Neko Claw!"

An orangeish blur came soaring out of the mist, as Mikemon smashed claws-first into Banshemon's side. The ghost immediately crumpled, her body not substantial enough to withstand the hit, but she righted herself quickly.

"Get the fuck away!" Mikemon snarled, her lips curled to bare razor-sharp teeth, her hands raised in a ready-to-fight stance. "Your friend's already--"

"Forbidden Trident!"

Crash, rumble, shatter.

"We're not friends with cthulhu fucker over here!" Xander said, gesturing ineffectually at the indeed-quite-cthuloid beast.

"We came back to see if we could... lend a hand," Banshemon said, holding her hands up in a whoa-there gesture.

"Do you think I'm stupid!?" Mikemon snapped, rounding on her.

"I-- no, I just--"

"I know exactly who you are," Mikemon said, pointing an accusatory claw at them each in turn. "You're them. I already knew I recognized you, but--" she curled her lip even further. "But I was willing to let you go along your way if you weren't going to bother us, but fuck, look how well that worked!"

"We're not with-- whatever that is," Peter insisted, casting a cautious glance at the beast, who was almost upon the little enclosure. "We came back because we thought we could try to help--"

Mikemon wasn't listening.
"And then you have the gall to come back, digivolved, and act like I won't see through it? How stupid do you think I am? Nikukyuu Punch!"
The cat launched herself at Corymon, her paws flying in a rapid series of punches. The bat, unsurprisingly, leapt backwards and out of range before the attack connected.

"I remember who you are!" Mikemon spat, pointing an accusatory claw at her and Banshemon in turn.

"That makes one of us," Corymon said, unable to stop herself. "Look, this whole diplomacy thing isn't my strong suit, gotta admit," she said, glancing out at the massive sea monster. "Fukkit." With that, she flew towards the monstrous digimon, wind beginning to whip around her.

"Corymon--!" Banshemon yelped, and before she entirely knew what she was doing, she threw herself right after her, her claws beginning to glow.

Mikemon's pupils restricted, she looked after them. She faltered slightly, but she breathed heavily, looking around almost frantically.

"Do you mind explaining what's going on?" Xander said, not taking his eyes off of Corymon as she, cloaked in a swirling orb of air, threw herself at the cthulhu-like digimon, pulling out of her dive to send the sphere flying at it.

"Hurricane Blitz!"
It had very little effect-- the massive digimon didn't even seem to notice it, and Corymon looped around, teeth gritted.

"Banshee's Call!"
Banshemon's flurry of white ghosts materialized from thin air around her as she flew. Her attack, too, had as much effect as flies on the back of a bull-- maybe a little annoying, but it didn't even seem to notice them in any serious way.
The beast seemed quite focused on destroying what was in front of it, in a way not entirely unfamiliar.

"What are they playing at," Mikemon muttered, speaking to herself. She glanced over her shoulder, and found herself praying that the tunnels were holding. She couldn't check, not with these interlopers on her-- she hoped they hadn't thought she'd left them to die--

"They're not playing at anything," Xander said. "We came back because we didn't figure that fucker," he gestured, open-palmed, at the giant monster, "was part of your evening plans!"

"Don't play dumb--!" Mikemon began.

"Oh my god can I just make a shirt that just says no I'm not playing dumb holy fuck just stop playing coy and tell me what's going on," Xander muttered, pressing his fingers into the bridge of his nose.

Corymon flew past the monster's face, lashing out with the stinger on her tail. This at least got its attention, and it turned, swiping out at her with one tentacled arm like it was trying to swat at a fly. As it turned, Banshemon rushed in, slashing out with glowing claws. They phased almost harmlessly through the beast's hide, but it swiped with its other arm at her as well, not even attempting to turn to look at her. It took a huge chunk out of the rock, instead, with an ear-shattering noise.

The sound echoed, and Mikemon spoke again.

"The white deer follows the Whisperer, and Dagomon follows the white deer," she said slowly. "Every time. More of us die, and nothing changes. Our numbers just keep dwindling. Things don't change. The best you can do is hunker down and try to weather it."
And even so, Corymon and Banshemon were making a damned valiant effort...

(Even though Xander and Peter had been tunnel-focused on continuing to argue with each other, their partners had been quick to put any of their differences aside to help.)

"Black Stinger!"

"Banshee's Call!"

Mikemon didn't even look as the two attacks, again, succeded only at mildly irritating Dagomon. She gritted her teeth and stared at the ground, muttering something about why are they of all--

"Why shouldn't they be?" Xander said, folding his arms. It wasn't meant for him to hear, but since when would something like that stop him? "You've done a pretty bad job of convincing us of anything."

"Because people don't change, either," Mikemon said matter of factly, but--

"Oh, fuck off," Xander blurted right back. "They're trying to help and you're still pitching a bitch fit? Fuck that, I'm not waiting around for this shit anymore," he said, with even more profanity than usual. With that, he took off at a run towards where the digimon were fighting, pulling his D-Rive out.

Peter hesitated for a moment, looked between Xander's back and Mikemon, and--
He followed in Xander's footsteps, pulling his D-Rive out and breaking into a full run. Corymon had probably been right; maybe diplomacy wasn't their strong suit.
But at this point, was it more about doing the right thing for its own sake, or for spite? (It's really funny how rarely that makes a difference.)

It wasn't like they had a lot of options here-- they could try to drag Dagomon away (which was going so swimmingly), or they could--

...

Well.

Corymon glanced over her shoulder to see the humans running their way; Mikemon, behind them, stood stock-still, watching.
If Mikemon was telling the truth... then, hell, she probably had a pretty good reason to be grumpy about them, but at this point, it was too late to back out. They had already gotten involved, so they may as well see it through, right? In for a penny, in for a pound?

Banshemon, for her part, was a bit too preoccupied with keeping the sea-monster at least vaguely occupied to notice the humans on the approach, let alone consider the possibility of having to evolve. She hadn't seen any of the villagers-- they must have gotten out some other way. Tunnels?
(She felt an uncomfortable, familiar sort of sinking feeling at the very thought of being trapped in the dark-- but she didn't think now was the time to examine that.)

Corymon gritted her teeth as she gathered dark energy in her stinger. "Black Stinger!" she cried, firing off the arrowhead-like shots in quick succession. Dagomon rumbled as the attack struck it, the monster turning its crimson eyes on her.

"Thousand Whip!" Dagomon roared, lashing out with one many-tentacled arm. As it swung its limb, the tentacles separated like the tails of a flog, and it struck out with tremendous force. Corymon hadn't been expecting a full retaliation-- either they were starting to wear it down (unlikely), or they were starting to piss it off.

And anyway, the fact that she wasn't expecting it meant she took the brunt of the many-tentacled strike, and was sent flying. She would have crashed into the (rapidly-crumbling) rock overhang, if not for Banshemon immediately shooting after her. Banshemon wasn't large enough to properly catch Corymon, but she was able to slow her down and lower her down to the ground.

"Thanks," Corymon said gruffly, nodding her thanks as she righted herself. Her ears twitched as she looked over her shoulder. Had she seen something moving behind her?

She didn't want to risk too long looking away from Dagomon, but--
Peering out from a crack, almost impossible to see, she saw one of the little dolphin-like digimon. It realized quickly that it had been noticed and ducked back into the crack.

"Shit," Corymon muttered quietly, glancing to Banshemon, who had -- judging from how she was looking at the same place that Corymon had been -- seen it as well.

"This isn't going to work," Banshemon said, turning her palms upwards. They had barely put a scratch on Dagomon-- it was definitely an ultimate level.

"We're kinda running out of options," Corymon agreed, nodding. Dagomon struck out at the hillside, crumbling it handily into rubble, and it was impossible not to feel it.
It must have been even worse for the digimon in hiding. Tunnels and cracks and shallow little dug-outs; it was hardly shelter, it was barely even hiding, and it was impossible not to feel a little bit responsible.

After all, Mikemon seemed pretty keen on blaming them, and she knew a hell of a lot more than they did.
(A lot of digimon had been pretty keen on blaming them, come to think of it.)

"Our buddies are coming towards us," Corymon said, glancing to Banshemon. "We're going to have to take the risk and evolve, I think."

Banshemon looked like she was about to protest, but she looked at Dagomon, and--

"Neko Claw!"

Mikemon's voice resounded loud and clear as the white-orange streak came tearing tearing up over what remained of one side of the rocky hill. Mikemon leapt for Dagomon, dwarfed completely by it, but going in claws-first. Her attack glanced off Dagomon's leg harmlessly, but she followed through, skidding to a stop in the soft sand.
For all she had been hanging back mere moments before, she seemed to have had her own change of heart, for whatever reason.

"The hell are you standing around for!?" Mikemon yelled, looking over at the two digimon. "Are you trying to help, or were your friends just blowing smoke up my ass!?"

Banshemon and Corymon exchanged glances and nodded solemnly, knowing they were on the same page.

Both bat and ghost took into the air like bullets, whipping winds and a flurry of white ghosts accompanying them respectively.

"Hurricane Blitz!"

"Banshee's Call!"

The two attacks had almost no effect on Dagomon, as usual, but once again, the cthulhu-like monster seemed less than charitable.

"Thousand Whip!" it roared, and both Corymon and Banshemon braced themselves.

"Nikukyuu Punch!"

Mikemon flung herself at the tentacled arm, her paws flying wildly as she put her everything into countering Dagomon's whipping-tentacle arm.
This went... about as well as you might expect it to. The cat was smacked out of the air like a fruit fly and was sent tumbling into the sand. Still, it did its purpose-- Dagomon seemed distracted by the attack, and halted its own.
The little cat -- too little by far to be going toe to toe with such a monstrous beast -- met the tentacles with her paws, and Dagomon seemed satisfied that it had hit something, and reared its arm back. Its fanned-out tentacles re-formed into one contiguous arm as it pulled back.

Xander and Peter came running up at just the right moment to see this happen.

The two humans glanced at each other, and without words, they made a beeline for where Mikemon had landed, but they could see her try to right herself and stand -- however shakily -- back up before they reached her.

Corymon and Banshemon glanced at each other as well and nodded. Without words, despite their differences, and despite their partners' differences, they were all stuck in this stupid situation together. They couldn't help but feel responsible-- Mikemon knew more than they did, after all.

Man.

They just prayed that their partners being on-hand would be enough to keep it from going way, way, way worse. They were trying to help, after all.

"Hurricane Blitz!"

"Spirit Ripper!"

Corymon pulled out of her charge moments before she smashed into Dagomon, while Banshemon dragged her claws through the monster's arm as she rushed past it. Dagomon hissed as the sphere of air and the white claws impacted it, but the two champion-level digimon split apart quickly. Banshemon parted to the left, while Corymon soared to the right, both dropping down near the ground.
Dagomon began to turn, trying to decide which of the two to attack first, its trident appearing in one hand while the other split apart into innumerable tentacles.

Banshemon prepared herself, feeling a strange sense of familiarity awaken deep inside her, like she had faced this situation before, and she realized with an uneasy feeling that she probably had at some point. She felt the desire to run away, to turn her back on digimon who had turned their backs on her.
Not again.
With that two-word thought, Banshemon prepared herself, and a white glow began to creep up from her claws and the tip of her tail.

Corymon closed her eyes for just a moment, feeling... it wasn't resignation so much as acceptance. It didn't matter why any of this was happening, as far as she was concerned; it knowing or not knowing wouldn't change what she--
Pardon. What they had to do right now, to help, to at least try to right some unknown wrong.
A blue glow began to slowly consume Corymon's body, starting from the tips of her claws and the edges of her wings.

Over the rumble of Dagomon's footsteps and the dull throbbing roar of the sea, that familiar glitchy squeal cut like a knife. Xander and Peter's D-Rives burst into their respective colours of light. All four of them steeled themselves, as if they had all known this was the inevitable outcome of their getting involved.
(Even so, they had chosen to get involved, right? Too late to do anything else-- right now, they were here, and they had to do something. This village hadn't done a damn thing wrong, and they had made the damn choice to come back and help, because it was the right goddamn thing to do.)

Both Banshemon and Corymon, independent of each other but fully certain that the other was feeling it too, felt like this was a choice that was long overdue.

Dagomon tossed its head in search of the source of the noise, but as soon as it did so, the glitchy noise died out. It still rang in their ears as the light continued to to flow over the bat and the ghost alike, the negative space formed by crisp circuit lines filled in by blackness.

"Banshemon, conduction evolve to..."

White and black swirled around Banshemon, the white almost blindingly bright and the black seeming absolute. As it engulfed her, it did not distort, staying intact and whole even as it shrunk around the ghost digimon, until, in a shower of light, it burst, revealing a digimon quite unlike the naga-like Onryomon.

A long white robe, decorated with black and gold much like Banshemon's arms, was draped around her. The sleeves were almost as long as the rest of the robe, obscuring her hands as her arms came to rest at her sides. The robe split apart at the waist, revealing black smoke bound by bandages into the shape of a slim human lower half-- but her legs were bent and her knees were drawn close to her chest, almost as though she were sitting in mid-air, allowing her long robe to trail, almost but not quite touching the ground.

Banshemon's skull mask remained, framed by long white hair that wholly covered the left side of her face, while the lower half of the humanoid face underneath was wrapped in bandages. A pin-prick of white fire glimmered behind the mask to serve as an eye.
Her hood was darker in shade now, the tail of it extending like a wind-sock, and a pale-gold flame danced above the tip, matching the necklace of gold and black orbs that rested around her neck.

She popped into the air and somersaulted, her robe, sleeves, hair, and hood all trailed behind her; the golden flame at the tip of her hood left a trail of floating embers in its wake. She fell back to 'stick the landing', so to speak, with not a single hair out of place. She lowered her legs, falling into a posture that looked like she was standing on tip-toe, even though she floated several feet off the ground.
"Syrenamon!" she said, her voice carrying a lilting lightness that Peter had never heard his partner speak with before.

And on the other hand...

"Corymon, conduction evolve to..."

Vivid blue light cut through the blackness of the sphere surrounding Corymon, zipping up and down and around almost manically, but keeping in straight and clean lines. The orb grew and burst apart; much like Banshemon turning into Syrenamon, Corymon's evolution left behind a much more humanoid digimon than had been there a moment before, though... well.

Her new form stood at over ten feet, with huge, dragon-like wings spreading out behind her back, huge blunt orange claws adorning their 'palms'. Her long scorpion tail thrashed, almost entirely unchanged from Corymon's, and the same scaly skin as comprised her tail now covered her forearms and legs from the shin down. With two fingers and a thumb per hand and three toes per foot, each digit was tipped in an orange claw not unlike the ones on her wings. It was difficult to tell if she was wearing tattered dark-blue pants, or if that was simply the colour her fur was below the waist; either way, she on powerful haunches, with a stylized skull and crossbones of sorts emblazoned on her right leg.

Bandages encircled her chest, while a white ruff of long fur surrounded her neck. Massive black leather bracelets and cuffs -- some spiked, some not -- encircled her wrists and ankles alike, while two similar belts sat around her waist, one put on properly, and the other hanging at an angle. Golden hoop earrings decorated her ears, which were now a bit more proportionate to her head, and from between those ears, a wild waterfall of white dreadlocks fell, barely held in place by a dark-navy bandana headband.

She landed on the ground with a thud and a cloud of sand as the light of her evolution cleared away.
"Radiomon!" she cried, lifting one arm and pointing to the sky, her other hand clenched into a fist, the spitting image of a rock star-- if a rock-star was a twelve foot tall bat monster.

"Shit," Xander said, the word coming out half from surprise and half from relief. Peter said nothing, lips pressed tight, but they both read with the same expression--
That went way better than I was expecting it to.

"Well, damn, take a look at this," Radiomon said, kicking into the air with one powerful jump, her wings beating to keep her hovering in place. Syrenamon floated with much less motion, poised like a ballerina, and she glanced over at the bat.
Though they couldn't see her face and though it was dark, Syrenamon smiled with her eyes in an unmistakable way. She laughed a gentle, quite faint, almost musical laugh before she bounded forward, feather-light on her feet.

***

Some distance away, the white deer watched on from atop a hill further inland.

She turned her head and bounded away, deciding that she had seen enough.
Dagomon had been nothing more than a tool -- barely more than an empty shell, at this point -- and she felt no sorrow at its inevitable loss, but this was still an... unpleasant development.

***

Dagomon took a couple haphazard steps backwards, sloshing water and crushing rock under its heavy feet as it did so. Radiomon and Syrenamon were still much smaller than it, but it seemed to know that, so to speak, the tide had begun to change, and it faced them, eyes wild and feral. It prepared to attack, but it was too slow on the take.

"Dancing Flame!"

In the blink of an eye, Syrenamon was gone, but for the small yellow fire that had flickered at the end of her hood. The ember jumped erratically, almost hypnotizing in its movements.
This was quite deliberate, as in the half-second that Dagomon's crimson eyes were fixed on the golden flame, Syrenamon reappeared at point-blank. Her feet were engulfed in a cold white fire, and in a one-two elegant movement, she slammed one foot and then the other into Dagomon's chest. Despite their size disparity, Dagomon stumbled backwards towards the sea, taking a nice chunk of rock out with it.

"Sorry about that," Syrenamon said to nobody in particular, feinting backwards with an elegant leap.

"Forbidden--!" Dagmon began, starting to summon a trident in its hand, but it was interrupted.

"Signal Overload!" Radiomon cried, and with every syllable, her voice raised exponentially in pitch and volume until it shook the air. Peter, Xander, and Mikemon clapped their hands over their ears, feeling if it got even a little bit louder their eardrums would burst, but then it seemed to cut out, as though someone had unplugged her mic.

At least, for them-- by all appearances, Dagomon giving up creating its trident to slapping its tentacled hands over ears that may or may not have even existed, paralyzed by the sound.

In that second of paralysis, Radiomon lunged forward, her claws glowing with blue energy as she, too, saw fit to kick Dagomon-- except she went straight for the face, kicking it soundly in its octopus-like head. Dagomon stumbled backwards yet again, ejected from what remained of the little enclosure and into the shallows of the sea.

Dagomon did not seem to appreciate this.
"Thousand Whip!" it roared, both of its tentacled arms fanning out into innumerable tentacles. Syrenamon and Radiomon both pulled back, preparing to be struck, but no such thing happened. Instead of aiming its attack at the two digimon it was fighting, Dagomon slammed its tentacles down into the ground. Water, sand, and loose rock were sent flying. The ground shook as Dagomon's tentacles slammed into it.

Mikemon looked frantically over her shoulder, hit with a surge of fear that her villagers' tunnels and hide-out caves would be threatened. They weren't particularly deep, after all--

Dagomon lifted a tentacled arm, preparing to repeat the motion, and both Syrenamon and Radiomon were ready.

"Dead Air!" Radiomon yelled, holding her hands out in front of her. In the space it took to breathe, the air went still-- completely, almost eerily still. There was no breeze, no movement of the swirling fog, nothing moving in the air at all -- except for a swirling sphere of wind and energy that was forming between her claws. It was hard not to feel like she was stealing all the movement in the air for her attack-- and indeed, this is exactly what she was doing.

"Siren's Song!"
In the stillness created by Radiomon's attack, Syrenamon's attack rang out all the clearer. The attack name gave way to a haunting melody, and as the notes escaped her mouth, so too did a shimmering white fog. It began to swirl around her, fluid and hypnotic, and the more she sang, the more of the fog accumulated.

And within the same second, the same instant, Radiomon hurled her sphere of wind and Syrenamon stopped singing.

Radiomon's attack swirled and roared like a tsunami force had been held back and was trying to rush forth as it flew towards Dagomon. The white fog around Syrenamon, the moment her song ended, surged forward, taking on a serpentine and almost-familiar form, with long hair and clawed hands. The ethereal shape and the sphere of wind both collided with Dagomon, one after another, and the beast staggered backwards, beginning to shift and glitch.

In a shower of bright light, Dagomon burst into particles of data.
Radiomon and Syrenamon were not able to hold their forms for long. Both floated in place where they had launched their attacks, as though waiting for the sea monster to get a a surprise second wind, but when none made itself apparent, they began to glow, shining like blue and white stars in the foggy night.

Xander and Peter exchanged brief glances with each other and said nothing as they both ran underneath their partners. As Banmon and Desmon drifted and slightly-inelegantly flapped -- respectively -- their ways down to ground level, their partners caught them in their arms.

As the last of the light faded, the wind began to howl in the distance, and the roar of the sea felt almost too-quiet in comparison to the havoc that had just been wreaked. More than half of the little stone hill was completely wrecked, practically levelled; Dagomon's tentacles had practically dug trenches in the sand that sea-water had been quick to rush into and fill.
Some of the more shoddily-put-together huts had crumbled, but miraculously, it seemed like most of the dwellings had been left more or less unscathed-- no doubt, thanks to the interference of bat and ghost.

As digimon began to peer out of their hiding places, Mikemon approached the two pairs of partners.

She was slightly awkward in offering them a place to sleep for the night, and they were slightly awkward in accepting.

***

It was weird to think that the roar of the sea not a hundred feet away counted as quiet, but after the hectic evening they'd had, it was downright tranquil. Most of the village was asleep, worn out by their panic and fear, and so only very few were stirring-- and no prizes for guessing who.

"We'll have to start rebuilding and scavenging in the morning," Mikemon said, sighing as she glanced around.

She had granted use of one of the abandoned huts to the four travelers. It was sparsely-furnished, with a straw-packed futon against either side being about the extent of it, but it was dry, if perhaps a little dusty, and safe enough.

"I'm sorry we can't really offer to help," Peter said, "but--"

Mikemon cut him off with a head-shake. "It's best if you move on as quickly as possible. You've your own problems to deal with," she said, then added, "and your own problems that come with you."

Helped though they had, they couldn't deny that -- at least from Mikemon's point of view -- they were still, ultimately, responsible for the incident.
Fair enough.

She had seemed reluctant, every time they had asked, to divulge more about Banmon and Desmon themselves. They had just been forced to accept that they weren't going to get a full story out of her.
Perhaps it was unfair to expect a so tell me my own backstory out of the first digimon they met in this world.
But...

"I know you're not going to tell us about," Xander said, and he motioned at Desmon and Banmon, "-- but could you maybe explain what the fuck was up with the deer?"

"Yeah, like, that thing was freaky," Desmon said, nodding enthusiastically. "Why were you so sure we were with it?"

Mikemon blanched slightly, but she seemed to agree that she at least owed them that much explanation.

"You're the refugees," she said, matter of factly, the first time she had been forthright about this. "Correct?"

No use hiding it, they supposed, and Banmon and Desmon both nodded.

"Then you follow-- followed, at least -- the Whisperer. The white deer does, as well, though I'll take a wild guess and assume that she's rather more devout than you've turned out to be." She sounded slightly skeptical, but she pressed on. "The white deer follows the Whisperer, and she follows disaster. She signals that whatever is happening is because we..." Mikemon trailed off. "Because we still hold out. A mocking statement that this could have been avoided."

The four travelers looked at each other curiously, but said nothing. Mikemon continued.

"We're so close to the barrens all that we should really just up and move, before it's too late," she said, glancing out the door, "but it's dangerous. We're not fighters. Anyone who would have been is already gone, and it's not like any of us are going to digivolve anytime soon."
She cast her eyes downwards, her voice full of a distant bitterness.

"Why not?" Desmon said, tilting her head.

Mikemon looked at her with a mix of annoyance and bewilderment, then sighed. "Right. You've been away," she said. "Everything stopped when our world was severed. We don't digivolve naturally anymore. The only digimon who digivolve do so because they've accepted power from the Whispers, and every digimon who does that winds up mad or dead."
She looked at her paws.
"And when we die, we don't come back anymore."

EPISODE 26: CONNECTION INTERRUPTED

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