* * *
~~~ Pandamon’s P.O.V. ~~~
Have you ever known the feeling of wasting so much energy you fall back to your In-Training form? No? Well, let me tell you, it’s not that much fun. Dani and I were thankfully saved by the Gekomon and Otamamon, but in return she had to wake up their master ShogunGekomon by playing a song on the piano. Lexxy and Cunomon (who had found a laptop like Izzy’s with a message telling them to find us) came to the Gekomon castle just in time to be attacked, along with Dani and me after we woke ShogunGekomon! Is this the thanks we get? Well, I and Cunomon digivolved to our Champion forms and beat him. Turns out that evil Queen just put a spell on him. Oh, and in all this ruckus Dani and Lexxy both got their Crests! Now if we can just find everyone else, we’ll be all set!
* * *
Sonomi kept a close eye on the image of Tania and Yazumon, shown in her black crystal. Throughout the time she had been watching the Digidestined, she had noticed the growing bond between each human and Digimon in the group. It seemed to be growing stronger and stronger with each new step they took. Personally, she thought they were fools. Digimon were only tools, no more. Especially a weakling partner like Sunemon.
But perhaps this could be the key . . . the one thing that stood between her victory and their demise. Now the idea was to somehow break that bond. And, of course, Sonomi knew just how to do it. “This will be quite interesting,” she laughed.
* * *
“Whe-where am I?” Tania moaned, rubbing the back of her yellow baseball cap. She looked down and noticed her fuzzy, blue dragon companion, still sound asleep. Tania sighed in relief when she saw the snoring Digimon. Now she could worry about the rest of her posse. She picked up a fallen tree branch and playfully poked Yazumon in the side.
The little dragon arose, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Are we there yet?” he asked rather groggily.
“I don’t think I even know where THERE is anymore,” Tania replied, looking around for anything that looked the least bit familiar. The trees and exotic looking flowers that surrounded them weren’t the same as she had seen there before. “I think it’s safe to say we may be lost.”
“No kidding,” said Yazumon, scratching his furry ear with his back foot. “Have you seen anyone else?”
“Not yet.” Tania sighed. “And I doubt very much that we’ll find them staying here. Hey! Mabey if you digivolved into Djarumon, it can help us find them faster?” Tania’s gloomy expression lifted at the thought.
“Er, I guess I can give it a try,” Yazumon replied, unsure.
“Yazumon digivolve to . . . um, digivolve to . . . oh crud!” He muttered, slumping to the ground. “It’s no use, I’m still a little woozy. I’m sure I can digivolve again though, once I regain my strength.”
The two began walking, picking a direction randomly. Tania scratched her head again. “Uh, maybe we should put some more thought into this?” she ventured out loud.
Yazumon glanced at her briefly over his shoulder, as he was leading the way. “Well, sure. That is, if you have any plan that would make any more sense than just randomly picking a direction?”
Tania screwed up her face as she thought hard. After a moment she sighed. “Not a clue.”
“Right.” Yazumon snorted and continued walking.
Tania shrugged and followed, putting her hands behind her head. She had a bad feeling about this.
* * *
Queen Sonomi still gazed into her crystal, but Yazumon and Tania were not the image within. Instead it was another girl and her dragon. The blonde girl known as Lina sat on a tree stump in the forest, discussing possible courses of action with her armless Digimon, Diratimon.
“So, you have a plan, don’t you?” Sunemon asked eagerly, fawning over her mistress. “When will you spring it? Will it be a good show?” She immediately silenced herself when the Queen glared her way.
“I am waiting for them to join Tania and Yazumon,” Sonomi said briskly. “They washed ashore very close to each other. Then my spell will begin.” In her hands she held two slips of paper: her magical talismans. On each, in black ink, was inscribed a stylistic Oriental dragon, a sinuous serpent with a lion’s mane and five-taloned feet.
* * *
“If we could just find the others, things would be so much easier,” said Lina, picking a prickle out of her finger. Picking berries was definitely not as easy as it looked. Carefully, trying her best to avoid thorns, she plucked another berry from its bunch and dropped it in the pile she held in her other hand.
“Yeah,” added Diratimon. “Two creatures picking berries isn’t nearly enough.”
“What do you mean two?” asked Lina with one eyebrow cocked up. “Last time I checked I was the only one picking berries here.”
“Because I don’t have any hands!” Diratimon reminded. The blue dragon waved dramatically with his wings for emphasis.
“And that’s my fault?” the blond replied with a laugh. She laughed because in reality, it was truly her fault. She had designed him after all. If she had never sketched him, chances are he would never exist. And if he had never existed she might not be-
“Lina? Diratimon?” Lina turned, pulled away from her thoughts to see Tania emerging from the bushes. Following closely behind was Yazumon, with a decoration of branches and twigs that had apparently decided to cling to him.
“Boy are you guys ever a sight for sore eyes!” commented Tania.
“More like sore paws,” Yazumon added.
As if making sure neither was a mirage, the two girls hugged. Lina felt a rush of relief lapse over her body. Something about hugging another person made her feel not so much like a tiny person in a giant Digiworld. “I was so worried we would never find anyone,” she admitted.
Tania smiled broadly. “With my navigational skills? You gotta be kidding me!”
Yazumon let out a snort of a laugh.
“What in the world was that?” asked Tania good-naturedly.
“No offence, Tania, but after walking around with you for the past couple of hours in absolutely no direction: You’ve got about as much navigational skills as a Numemon.”
“Well excuse me, Mister ‘I’ll-lead-the-way’!” Tania countered with a grin.
Lina looked at Diratimon. “Gee, can’t you just feel the love?”
After a quick but rewarding snack of fresh berries and water the group set off. After being well fed and watered, the two dragon Digimon digivolved with little effort and soon enough Tania watched as Linda climbed onto Dracomon’s back with considerable ease. “We’ll fly on ahead of you guys and check back every so often.”
“All right,” Tania agreed with a small nod, communicating without actually saying the words in case anything happens to us. She watched Dracomon flap his large violet wings and take off for the sky.
“You know Tania,” said Djarumon. “Just because I can’t fly doesn’t mean you can’t ride on my back.”
Tania’s face broke out in a smile. “Just the offer I was waiting for.”
* * *
Surrounded by total darkness, the only light came from the glowing talismans clutched in Queen Sonomi’s delicate hands. Letting them dangle away from her body, she cleared her mind of all unwanted thoughts, focusing on her one goal. After a few minutes the Digimon Queen exhaled deeply with smile.
If all went according to plan-and it had better-the talismans would soon find their way across the expansive land of the digital world to the two dragon Digimon, turning them against their human partners.
After a glance in her crystal, Sonomi let out a small chuckle as the paper talismans disappeared out of sight. She had not expected the Digimon to be in their Champion forms, but it did add a certain exciting flare to the situation.
“There’s no way two mere human children can possibly bring themselves to defeat two Champion Digimon, especially their own,” she spoke aloud; her voice seemed even more confident, fortified by the darkness. “Now all I need do is sit back and watch my chaos.”
* * *
A loud crash from the forest on their left stopped Djarumon in his tracks. Tania leaned back to look past his shaggy head, but she couldn’t see anything more than trees and more trees. “What was that?” she demanded.
“I have no idea.” The two-legged dragon narrowed his red eyes and glared as if they could send out laser beams to cut through the forest. Now that would have been a cool attack, Tania thought. “Perhaps a tree fell.” He didn’t sound like he believed it.
“Perhaps somebody felled it,” Tania added, adjusting her baseball cap.
Movement in the sky caught her eye, as Dracomon swooped low. “What’s wrong?” Lina called down to them.
“Noise over there!” the other girl shouted back, pointing. Dracomon’s head swivelled to gaze over, then back and shook back and forth. They couldn’t see anything from their added height either.
Tania let out a yelp as Djarumon’s large paw grasped her unexpectedly, gently lifting her from her perch. “I’ll check it out,” the Champion volunteered, ignoring his Digi-Destined’s glare. Dracomon settled to the ground and folded his wings, promising to guard both girls, as Djarumon headed off into the trees.
“Maybe we should have gone too,” worried Tania, biting her lower lip. “I mean, at least if we’re all together-” She was cut off by a gasp from Lina. Looking up, both girls saw two streaks of light, like falling comets, heading right for them!
Djarumon came crashing back into view, pushing trees aside, obviously having seen the oncoming threat as well. “RUN!” he howled when he saw he wouldn’t reach them in time.
Everything happened too fast. Djarumon was running toward the trio. Tania instinctively ducked and covered her head with her arms, despite her partner’s words. As Lina screamed in fright, Dracomon reared up on his hind legs and spread his wings wide for balance. The first comet struck down directly on top of him, hitting his exposed chest instead of his back, where Lina was hanging on for dear life. The second changed angles at the last minute, shooting over Tania’s head and plowing into Djarumon.
Tania blinked and stood up as she tried to convince herself that she wasn’t dead. First her eyes sought out her partner, and the brown orbs widened in fear as she saw the unearthly white glow surrounding his body. It faded away in an instant, leaving behind a black tattoo of a Japanese dragon on his chest. Both the tattoo’s and the Champion’s eyes were glowing red. Tania swallowed. Glowing red eyes on Digimon were never a good thing.
A short scream caused her to whip her head around, and she found the same kind of tattoo was now emblazoned on Dracomon’s neck. And at the moment Dracomon apparently thought he was a bucking bronco. He hadn’t taken flight, but rather twisted his body and jumped back and forth, attempting to throw his partner from his back. With a savage lunge Lina lost her grip and sailed through the air.
Without thinking Tania was running for her. The two girls collided painfully, but fear and adrenaline were in their systems and they regained their feet in an instant, one hand on the other’s shoulder for support. Across from them two Champion Digimon grinned cruelly, showing off sharp fangs.
“My, my, my,” Dracomon cackled, once-familiar voice twisted with hate. “What do we have here, Djarumon?”
The other dragon chuckled. “Dinner.” Then he threw back his head and howled.
Tania and Lina stared at each other in horror, unable to move or think. They hadn’t expected this in their worst nightmares. Something had happened to their partners!
That got a reaction from the Digi-Destined duo. Even before the words finished ringing in the air, Lina and Tania bolted from their spot and into the dense forest behind them, nothing on their minds but to get away from their partners. A giant flash of light and sound burst out behind them, but the attacks were blocked by the trees and the girls managed to remain on their feet. They ran faster.
Far behind them they heard a booming laugh and an evil cackle. “You can’t run from us!” the harsh voice of Djarumon chased after them. “We’ll find you! We know you!”
“And then we’ll KILL YOU!” called Dracomon gleefully.
The girls ran.
* * *
In her castle, Sonomi was laughing as well. “Oh, this is too much,” she chuckled. “Poor, poor Digi-Destined. Chased and threatened by their own partners. Why, even on the show this never hap-” Suddenly she cut herself off, a shudder passing over her skin.
Sunemon edged closer. “Mistress? What did you say?
“I don’t know . . . I can’t rem. . . .” Sunemon was shocked by the soft, hesitant voice. This wasn’t her mistress! Sonomi would never say those words! Who was this, speaking with this frail voice?
Without warning the Digimon Queen whirled and pinned her Digimon with a sharp glare, nothing in her face soft, hesitant or frail. “Shut up!” she snarled. “Only speak when I bid you too!”
Sunemon jumped back, surprised again. She ducked her head in a quick bow. “Of course,” she murmured lowly.
Sonomi grumbled something under her breath that the fox Digimon didn’t hear. Then her voice was back to its usual strength. “One more chance, Sunemon. Go, now. Get out of my sight. Go and find the Digi Princess and bring her to me. No more mistakes.”
Sunemon paused, debating whether to speak, wanting to ask a question but afraid to. The Digimon Queen had never acted like this before. Truly, in her heart, the Rookie was worried. Her Queen had always been the strongest, most invincible being she had ever known. Nothing stood in the Digimon Queen’s path and lived long to regret it. No one could stop her when she wanted to do something. And yet, at this moment Sunemon had to face the fact that she was not the omnipotent creature she had once thought she was. There was something wrong here. And that worried her.
“Well? What are you waiting for?!” Sonomi shrieked, making Sunemon flinch. Hastily the fox bowed once again and then ran from the room, not daring to voice her new thoughts.
* * *
Tania was hot, tired, and having trouble breathing as deep as her body wanted her to. Her legs felt like they were on fire. Running wasn’t going to be an option much longer. Despite the fear that left a bad taste in her dry mouth, she grabbed a fistful of Lina’s green shirt and tugged her to a stop.
Lina bent over, hands braced on her thighs as she gulped air. Tania wanted nothing more than to collapse on the ground, but instead she held her breath and listened hard. All she could hear was Lina’s loud panting. She gave the blonde girl a warning shove on the shoulder, and when Lina saw what she was trying to do, she straightened and listened as well.
Silence. Not a bird or animal call. And no giant evil Champion partners shouting for their blood. This was a good thing.
Then a tiny sound broke the silence, followed by another. Tania blinked and looked over at her friend. Lina had her head in her hands, shoulders shaking.
“Hey, don’t do that!” Tania objected, not unkindly but rather frantically. She couldn’t stand the thought of one of her friends crying. “Er, don’t sweat it at all, Lina!” she encouraged awkwardly, not sure exactly what she should say. “We’ll fix this. Somehow. Even though we are alone without the rest of the group . . . and we don’t know where we are . . . or if they’re okay . . . um, I mean, it could be worse . . . right?”
Lina giggled a little and wiped her eyes. “I guess,” she said shakily. “Although I don’t s-see how.”
“Ur . . . well, we could be dead.”
“Oh, gee. Thanks.” But Lina was smiling now.
“Anytime,” returned Tania. “Besides, better to be mad than sad. And boy am I steamed! When I get my hands on the Digimon Queen for making our partners like that. . . .”
Lina blinked. “The Digimon Queen? You think she’s behind this?”
“Well of course!” The brunette threw her hands up into the air. “You think weird dragon tattoos come out the digi-sky every day? Well, maybe they do, but I’ll bet anything it’s the Digimon Queen. I’m sure of it!” Tania stamped her foot.
Lina nodded. “I wouldn’t doubt it. I wouldn’t even be surprised if she was the one who split us all up in the first . . . place. . . .” She trailed off, eyes wide.
Tania heard it too, faintly in the distance but getting louder quickly. Loud crashing. Angry roars. Explosions. They’d become used to the sounds by now.
“Time to run again,” said the girl in the baseball cap grimly.
“Maybe not!” Lina pointed, excitement in her voice. As they watched, a tiny Chuumon scampered across the ground and leaped straight into a tree trunk, disappearing in a flash of green light!
The two girls looked at each other triumphantly. “Hiding tree!” they said at the same time. They tried the tree closest to where they were standing and apparently they were standing in a whole grove of them, because this was a hiding tree too. Giggling over this replay of events from the television show, the two girls dived inside to hide.
“Let’s hope they don’t know about these,” Tania muttered darkly, the giggles quickly subsiding. She didn’t have to say who “they” were.
Lina nodded. “But as soon as they pass by, we have to get out of here and find a way to return them to normal,” she whispered determinedly.
“Yeah, and teach the Digimon Queen not to mess with our friends,” Tania growled.
The minute her words ended, the hollow trunk they were hiding in lit up with light, along with their tags. Both girls stared down at their necklaces in awe. “Our Crests must be here!” gasped Lina. She held her tag up, as did Tania.
They weren’t prepared for the blue-green light that shot up from the ground, pushing both of them backward with force enough to knock them off their feet. They scrambled up again as two symbols they both knew by heart appeared in the air. Twin beams of light left the column of brightness, entering the tags around their necks. Then the light was gone, and so was the hiding tree. They stood out in the open.
Across from them stood their Champion Digimon, red eyes glowing.
With Crests in hand, Lina and Tania were no longer afraid. They stared their Digimon straight in the eyes and suddenly knew what they had to do.
“Dracomon, you can’t do this,” Lina pleaded. “We’ve been through to much together.”
“Djarumon, you have to wake up now,” insisted Tania. “I still need you. You’re my friend.”
The Champions made no move, but at least they weren’t attacking. Yet. The two girls plunged on, trying to reach the inner selves of the Digimon.
“Listen,” Lina implored, “We both care about you so much! You have to remember us. Do you remember how we all first met? Remember how you knew this world and we didn’t? We need you to be there for us, or we won’t be able to accomplish what we came here to do! You’re our friends! We-we love you!” Dracomon cocked his head.
“Lina’s right,” agreed Tania. “And we-all of us-have responsibilities. There’s a really bad person out there, hurting people. She came from our world, so we’ve come here to stop her and bring her back. We need you to do it. It’s not just for us, for our friendship. It’s for every Digimon here in the Digiworld. You two are Digi-Destined Digimon. It’s in your blood to be protectors, not hunters! We can’t do this job without you.” Djarumon blinked slowly.
“Come back to us!” both girls spoke at the same time.
Their Crests responded to their words, shooting beams of light at the Champions, now with confused looks on their dragon faces. The light covered them in a warm glow, and before the two girls’ hopeful eyes, the awful black tattoos faded away. As the blue-green glow followed, both Champions shrunk back into their In-Training forms. The little creatures blinked up at their partners . . . with bright, normal eyes.
“Moonomon!” shrieked Tania happily, scooping up her Digimon and nuzzling his soft body.
“Dotremon!” laughed Lina, doing the same. The four of them spent a long time just being together, assuring themselves that they were all back to normal once again. After a long talk and many loud apologies from the Digimon (which the girls insisted weren’t necessary, since it wasn’t their fault) the group decided to get some rest and set out first thing in the morning. They still had a whole sixteen people to find, after all.