Episode 4: dazed in the maze

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Frankie crossed one thigh over the other. She yawned slightly, covering her mouth to quiet it down a little. Her head was still pounding from the fight with IceDevimon, and even the strongest over-the-counter medications weren’t making it go away any faster. She could still feel the bump she had sustained through her hair. If she happened to brush it with her fingers, she winced every time.

Lecture hall was finally back in session since the haywire breakdown from last time, and it was just as boring as it always was. Presentations that hadn’t been completed or had been ended prematurely were back in full swing. Luckily for Frankie, she had completed hers already. But she was still falling asleep; it didn’t help that the teacher had a very monotone voice when he talked. Not even the cute guys sitting around her, also paying half attention, could keep her mind from wandering. Normally she would have had Tigrimon to keep her amused from the insides of her purse. Now, though, Siberimon was data in her D-Touch.
 
“Very good Ms. Nagasaki… Next we’ll have…” The Professor read down his list of the students sitting in the amphitheatre-style room. One end was a stage-like area, with a podium, screen and projector. Opposite this were seats arranged in tiers. “Ms… Piper Swift.”

“Coming!” Frankie glanced across the room and saw a flash of platinum blonde bouncing down the steps. That was what she did; she didn’t run, she bounced down the stairs. It was odd. The class livened up a little as Piper set up the laptop, projector, and composed herself before she began her presentation.

She fidgeted around the podium as she spoke out to the restless class. No one seemed to be paying much attention, except the tutor. Frankie perched her head on a fist and looked at the clock above the screen. Not long to go.

“… From the results seen here, we can see the positive effects of the amyloidal particles as they attach themselves to the deteriorating cells of the suffering dogs. While this is not a cure of cell deterioration, it does help, and slows down the symptom, prolonging and improving the life of a suffering animal… Tests have shown that this cell treatment can extend the life up to five years, nullifying the illness that affects pure breeds. The breakdown of…”

Piper paused mid-flow. She seemed frozen at the podium, like she had suddenly come over with intense stage fright. Frankie looked at her, and glanced at where her gaze was fixed. Her desk, where she had been sitting. Her bag was on the top of the desk, left haphazardly strewn across her work and papers.

“Miss Swift?” the tutor prompted gently from his seat.

“Of… uh…”

Frankie felt a vibration against her leg and reached into the pocket of her skinny jeans. She had managed to set her D-Touch to silent, so its constant bleeping didn’t disturb class and get her in trouble. But now, looking it at, it was going haywire. The screen was flashing black and orange, and the normal icon she had on-screen of Siberimon was moving its head in the direction of Piper’s desk.

Frankie looked over again. The bag was moving, only slightly, but enough for it to be noticeable from the distance Frankie was to it. Something disappeared inside of the backpack, and then it stopped moving again. The D-Touch continued to flash. Unable to do anything about it now, Frankie shoved it in her bag and turned her attention back to the front of the room. Piper was speaking again, but had lost her line of thought and now didn’t appear to possess the same conviction and confidence as before.

“Ms. Swift, are you all right? You’ve gone pale.” The tutor was walking towards the podium. Piper was sweeping her hands back through her hair every few seconds, and kept glancing at the papers she had in front of her, presumably where her notes were kept.


“I uh…” She faltered, stepped backwards, and tripped on her feet, tumbling back and landing on her behind with a thud. Snickers echoed around the auditorium. Frankie frowned. Something had obviously spooked her, and judging by the way the D-Touch was reacting, she was willing to bet it was some kind of Digimon interference. Though, no other electronic devices had malfunctioned. All the clocks were still right. The projector had not imploded, and everything was up and running – so it couldn’t have been the normal Digimon activity Frankie had become so quickly used to. The activity which would drag her out of class, Siberimon out of the D-Touch, and into a fight.

A fight she personally wanted to avoid for the moment, at least until her head was no longer throbbing.

She noticed Piper returning to her seat and slumping there, placing her bag on the floor after removing a bottle of water, taking a drink, and then leaning forward on the desktop, her hair splaying everywhere. Another student began their presentation about further molecular chemistry. This was a subject Frankie had to take to make up credits in her course; it was not something she enjoyed. Retrieving a packet of headache pills from her purse, she slipped out of her seat unnoticed and crossed to Piper, squatting down by her desk.

“Hiiii~ you wouldn’t mind lettin’ me have some of your water would you? I can’t swallow pills without it.” Frankie smiled as nicely as possible and held the tablets out in the palm of her hand for effect. Piper lifted her head from the desk and looked out from underneath a mess of blonde. She looked at Frankie, then the pills, and heaved her bag off the floor.

“They’re more like placebos. They won’t really do you much good, that brand,” Piper explained. She was fishing around in the front pocket of the bag, and handed Frankie a cardboard packet when she had found what she was looking for. “These are better. A little chalky, but they work fast, and it’s no ‘pharmacy’ jargon. It’s actually going to help.”

Taken slightly aback, Frankie took the packet. “Thanks…” She kept an eye on the bag, watching for movement as she took two pills, which were hellish to swallow, and downed half the bottle of water, which she then passed back to Piper. “So like,” Frankie settled on the floor by Piper’s desk and spoke in a hushed tone, “what happened up there?” She indicated to the podium.

“Oh.” Piper visibly blushed. “You ever have those moments when you walk into a room and forget why you walked in there?” Frankie nodded. “I had that moment, only it was on stage, and I couldn’t remember why I was there.” She smiled a little, and pushed her hair off her face. “You’re Frankie, aren’t you? I see you around sometimes.”

“My reputation precedes me,” Frankie smirked. “Yeah. Frankie Pitel.” She stuck out a well manicured hand and Piper shook it.

“Piper Swift.”

“Like the singer?”

Piper rolled her eyes a little. “Something like that.”

Frankie grinned; the blonde seemed okay. “So like, are you free after class? I want to talk to you about something.”

An eyebrow quirked on Piper’s face. “About…?”

“It’s a bit of a big deal, can’t talk about it here.”

“I see.” Piper looked skeptical and pursed her lips for a moment. “Not this evening. I have a study group at the café, you know, Excellent Bean. But I can probably do tomorrow.”

“Sounds good to me,” Frankie smiled widely. The bell rang, signaling the end of class and the end of the day for the academics. Piper looked visibly relieved. She heaved her backpack onto her back and quickly bid Frankie goodbye. Frankie left at her own pace after collecting her purse and bag from her seat.

-----------------------------

Excellent Bean was heaving as it usually was when normal classes let out. Piper had headed straight there after the disaster that had been her presentation. She was mortified. The first time she’d tried to present, the projector had died and class had been cancelled. Second time, she chokes. There was something trying hard to not let her present her findings. And considering how long she had spent preparing the talk she was doing, and had been researching, it was both annoying and disheartening all at the same time.

She was not impressed.

As she sat in the café, boredly poking the tea bag in her mug. She mused whether to finish the tea and head home, or actually get some more work done. She found it easier to work in a noisy, busy environment like the café. At home, at the moment, it was just her. Her parents were both away on business, and her brother Jesse had recently moved in with friends across town. The house was too quiet, even with the radio or television on for company.

Resting her chin in her hand, Piper scanned the café for anyone she recognized. She kind of wished now she hadn’t turned down Frankie’s offer of discussing something after class. She didn’t really have study group, as most of her friends had ditched their studying in favor of the beach and sunbathing. Seeing no one, Piper shifted herself and looked down at the book in front of her.

The book talked about the anatomy of different animals. To be a vet, which was Piper’s hope when she finished college, it was necessary to know the ins-and-outs of various animals, big and small. At the moment, her classes were focusing on the anatomy of horses, so the page she was on showed the details of a horse’s digestive system in graphic detail. The class would be witnessing the dissection of this particular animal in three weeks time, and Piper wanted to be sure she knew what the professor was talking about.

“Piper.”

Piper sighed, reading over the paragraph she had been reading for about fifteen minutes; it wasn’t sinking in. “Piper.” She flipped the page. “Piper!” There was a bounce on her lap and then a bang on the underside of the table that sent tea slopping over the lip of her mug.

“What?” Piper glanced down at the occupant of her lap. A chestnut ball of fur, with big green eyes staring up at her. A grey nose and whiskers. Wrapped around it was its tail, with two silver rings around it. “Tiberimon, you know you have to behave,” Piper scolded.

An indignant look crossed the small Digimon’s face and he grumbled quietly, “I thought you might like to know…” he paused and Piper waited. “Actually no, I won’t tell you.”


Piper rolled her eyes. “Please?” she said, as patiently as possible. She was used to Tiberimon acting like this. He thought it was funny, but she sometimes found it very draining. Tiberimon shuffled on her lap and turned away from her. Piper sighed, leaning back in her chair. She glanced quickly around to confirm the coast was clear. With the index finger of her right hand she began to scratch Tiberimon behind the ear, a favorite spot for him, and his main weakness when he was being difficult like this. Almost immediately, he started making a soft growling sound, like a purr, but not quite, and his ears relaxed.

“I was gonna say,” Tiberimon said finally, “there’s a boy over there lookin’.” Piper was alarmed suddenly and looked up, scanning the tables around her. People were milling about, talking to friends and crossing to tables, going up stairs, to the bathroom, and walking to and from the service queue. Though now Tiberimon had mentioned it, she could feel it. The feeling of being watched.

“Come on, we should get going anyway,” Piper muttered. She bent and lifted her backpack onto the table, avoiding the spilled tea. Opening it up wide enough, she lifted Tiberimon off her lap and gently placed him in the backpack, before zipping it up half way and getting to her feet. She hooked the bag around one shoulder and rose from her chair, making a bee-line for the door. She knocked a chair with her hip and faltered back, apologizing profusely.

“Sorry! I’m so sorry! Sorry! Are you okay? Did you spill anything? I can buy you another if you-”

“It’s fine, no harm done.” The male voice caused Piper to stop flustering. She had bumped into the seat of a blond young man, sitting with a pretty plum haired girl.

“Oh, okay. I’m sorry!” Piper apologized again and dashed out of the shop.

Tom sat back in his chair, leaning it on its back legs. Eva was watching Piper’s back disappear from view through the window. They were waiting for Frankie to arrive. And maybe Reyez. James was unable to meet with them today, having to go straight to the restaurant from the building site for work.

He had been watching Piper surreptitiously since Eva had pointed out the ball of fur she had put on her lap when she had originally sat down. Both his D-Touch and hers had started bleeping quickly, and the screen flashing. Though, because of no mechanical malfunctions taking place, they had assumed it was something different, and not an attacking Digimon. It was beginning to appear their assumptions may have been correct.

Both were sure that the fur ball had been a Digimon of some description. It moved independently, it was too big to be a cuddly toy, and what would a twenty-something be doing with a cuddly toy in their backpack anyway? Plus, Piper had been speaking to it directly, and looking right at it.

“You scared her,” Eva commented primly. She checked the time on her D-Touch, Frankie was running late.

“She was pretty flustered. I wonder if she saw me looking,” Tom commented. He let his chair legs back to the floor with a bang. “Still, if you’re going to have a Digimon out on show…”

“Frankie manages it,” Eva retorted with a smirk, “she says that Siberimon is her brother in a costume. I think it’s a clever idea.”

Tom pursed his lips for a moment. “It’s a nice idea, but I dunno if it’s the cleverest thing in the world. What if someone asked to see what her ‘brother’ looked like under the ‘costume’. She’d be kind of screwed then.”

“Eh,” Eva shrugged, “I’m sure Frankie could talk… or flirt her way out of it.” Tom laughed briefly, rubbing his hand over his chin. His goatee was getting a little too long for his liking; he would have to have a shave sometime soon. “Have to wonder if it was a Digimon though.”

“You have another explanation for the D-Touches reacting the way they did?”

Eva shrugged. “Well… no. I’m just saying, we’ve dealt with so much Digimon-related activity lately, it’s like we’re seeing Digimon everywhere.”

“I’m pretty sure it was a Digimon,” Tom replied. “What would you say it was, otherwise?”

Again, Eva shrugged and looked out of the window; she didn’t have an answer for that. There wasn’t really another explanation for what could have been on the girl’s lap. It spoke, both she and Tom had seen its mouth move, though hadn’t heard it speaking. And why else would she have gotten so crazy about it, if it wasn’t something she wanted to hide?

“Problem?” Eva opened her mouth to speak when Frankie’s voice hit her ears. The other girl pulled out a chair to sit down, crossing one leg over the other.

“No, not a problem.” Tom explained what they had seen. The possible Digimon sighting, how it had spoken, and the blonde girl had spoken directly to it. Frankie listened intently, turning her D-Touch over in her hands as his explanation concluded. “So what do you think? Digimon or something else?”

“Sounds Digimon related,” Frankie confirmed. “My D-Touch went crazy in class today, luckily I had it on silent and it didn’t get any attention to me, but it was all to do with this girl in my class, Piper Swift. I’m going to meet her tomorrow.”

“Why?” Eva asked quickly.

“To see if she knows anything about Digimon…” explained Frankie, glancing slowly at Tom in surprise.


“Don’t you think that’s a little presumptuous?” Eva queried. Frankie looked confused. “Well – what if it isn’t a Digimon and you mention them, and let the cat out of the bag, so-to-speak? I mean, if you ask her outright if she has a Digimon and she says no, but is then curious as to why – what’ll you do then?”

“Just say I was mistaken. It’s not a big deal,” replied Frankie calmly, with a smile.

“I think it’s risky, that’s all,” Eva muttered. “I think the less people who know about them, the better.”

Frankie sighed and patted Eva’s arm. “I’m not wrong. It’s no co-inky-dink that your D-Touches reacted to her the same way mine did. And the same way James’ reacted to Reyez, remember what he told us?”

Eva shifted uncomfortably. “I guess.”

“So, nothing to worry about.” Frankie grinned.

“Which reminds me, where is Reyez?” Tom was looking around the café for the newest addition to their team, who had been barely seen and heard from, unless contacted by someone else, since the fight with IceDevimon. “He should be here by now.”

“He’s probably sleeping,” Frankie said boredly, she examined her fingernails and stood up quickly. “Who wants coffee?”

-----------------------------

Reyez sat on the top of the backrest of a bench in the community park not too far from his house. He coughed as a great deal of smoke came from his mouth, granted, he inhaled the smoke once again through his nose. He amused himself with the trick before just exhaling the smoke again. His ear-buds were attached to the mp3 player clipped to the pocket of his jeans.

Ailurmon had made herself comfortable on the bench, lying down with her paws behind her head, eyes closed, listening to the ambient sound of the inner city and the incoherent lyrics and bass blasting from Reyez’s small headphones.

Reyez knew he had things to do today, but he didn’t want to do them. Nothing was over the top important that he just had to get done. He simply didn’t care. After work and after paying a bill for his sister, everything had become nothing but a distant memory in the smoke exhaling from his body.

His sister and her fiance decided to stay in today, which meant he was staying out. He knew he had some sort of meeting with Frankie and the others, but he didn’t really feel like sitting there with the girl that seemed to scold him for something that she refused to explain to him.

A gust of wind shifted through, Reyez could feel the breeze through his fitted white and red baseball shirt, with sleeves stopping at elbow length. The chain at the side of his camouflage shorts moved when he moved, a chill coming over his body.

Ailurmon opened one eye, looking around slightly before relaxing again.

Minutes after the first gust, another came through, followed by a fog rolling in. It was odd; on this side of town, it never randomly fogged. There was no call for bad weather of any kind, and the fog sure was mighty thick.

Reyez slowly removed himself from the bench, unable to see more than two feet in front of him. Ailurmon stood next to Reyez, leaning on one hip with her arms crossed. She was confused, but alert.

There was a slight shift in the ground under them. Reyez lifted a food slightly out of alertness, but stood almost perfectly still. The fog around them started to move but was clearing away. Once the fog had cleared, the two were taken aback by the change of scenery.

Instead of being in the park they once were, they were both in a garden. More so, a hedge maze garden.

“Ah… shit,” Reyez cursed, licking his lips and adjusting the black fitted cap on his head, lifting it up and scratching the side of his noggin out of confusion.

“…Yeap.” Ailurmon replied.

The hedges around them rose for a good seven feet, obscuring all vision of their surroundings. Even looking into the distance, it was a trial to see the tall buildings that had been around the park. Ailurmon attempted clambering up the branches several times, but they weren’t strong enough to hold her weight, so each time a branch gave way and she landed on the ground, and would brush the dirt off her fur with growing aggravation.

“Whelp, might as well start walking,” Reyez said and started down one path. Ailurmon ran ahead, and stood in front of him.

“I don’t think that’s such a bright idea, Rey. I think we should stay here.” She held her arms out in a further attempt to block him from moving. Reyez cocked an eyebrow.

“Why?”

“Uh – because this is a suspicious maze and there could be stuff in here wanting to kill you, maybe? Stuff that I’m not strong enough to defeat. Never mind that we don’t know how big this maze is. We could get stuck for life.”

“Nah.” Reyez shrugged. “I remember reading that with mazes, the trick is to always turn left.” He tapped his forehead in a ‘trust me on this’ way and started walking again.


“Why don’t you contact the others?” Ailurmon suggested, running ahead and standing in front of her partner again. Reyez muttered something inaudible and shoved his hand in his pocket. He withdrew the blue D-Touch, glanced at it and shoved it back, deep into his pocket.

“No reception.” He started off. “Let’s go.”

She was unconvinced, but didn’t want to lose Reyez in this unfamiliar place, so she ran to his side and caught onto his walking pace, leisurely and without urgency. The surroundings were, as Ailurmon had mentioned, unfamiliar, and had appeared without warning. That automatically put her on edge. However, Reyez’s blasé attitude towards this strange occurrence caused further anxiety. She couldn’t evolve yet, she could fight and would, tooth and nail, to protect him. But there was only so much she could do in this form. She wished there was back up in the form of the others.

They walked, paces matched for some time, though Reyez rarely checked his D-Touch to see how much time had passed. Many roads were straight with one corner, or with two possible paths to take. Only when they came to dead ends did Reyez show any irritation. Though the further they went, the more random and sudden the turns became, and several times, Reyez tripped on risen roots from the hedges.

Reyez swatted the dirt from his all black low top Adidas Shell-toes, caused from where he had tripped once again. He did this every time; it was wearing on Ailurmon’s nerves.

“Will you stop doing that?!” Ailurmon grunted in aggravation.

“I paid over 70 bucks for these; I don’t like gettin’ my shoes dirty.”  Ailurmon simply rolled her eyes and continued to walk. She understood that Reyez had different types of OCDs but some of them, to her, were just ridiculous.

As they continued to walk, both had begun noticing different types of flowers decorating the hedges. The hedge walls of the maze were high, high enough to need a ladder to look over them. Climbing them was nearly impossible, since Ailurmon had tried already.

They had already been walking for a good half an hour and Reyez’s high was coming down. He was getting annoyed and frustrated with not finding a way out, or at least running into another living species. Ailurmon kept quiet, but her irritation was feeding off Reyez’s.

“Maybe you really should call the others, like, now.”  Ailurmon looked up to him. Reyez turned the corner around a hedge closing his eyes.

“Why would I do that, again?” he simply commented back, waving off Ailurmon’s suggestion. 

“I’m just saying…we are a team.”

“Yeah,” Reyez chuckled, Ailurmon glared. She hated being mocked.

“Don’t get mad at me because you have a problem with affection,” she commented. “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”

Reyez scoffed. “Say what?” He stopped walking. Ailurmon walked a little ways before turning around to face him, her arms folded.

“You have a problem with affection. You have a problem with displaying emotions. You’re a smoking, sleeping, eating robot. I’d dump you too.”

It was as if invisible lightning struck between the two.

Reyez and Ailurmon glared at each other with intense hatred. Granted, most of this was due to their irritation of being lost, but some personal feelings we’re getting involved in the mix.

“Oh, ok. Well. Fuck you too,” Reyez grunted, turning and walking a different path in the maze.

“…You can’t go alone! Reyez!” Ailurmon snapped out of her mood and ran behind him. When she had turned the corner of the path he had taken, Reyez was already gone. She growled softly to herself – perhaps that had been a little below the belt, but it was true. He didn’t connect with anyone, didn’t seem to want to half the time. But now they were part of a team, and they had to connect; they had to accept help, and feel like it was okay to ask for help when it mattered. Like now.

Huffing, Ailurmon kicked the ground and started walking again, following the path Reyez had disappeared down and taking a right turn at the end, hoping it was the same route.

-----------------------------

Piper had agreed to meet Frankie outside Excellent Bean, and from there, they would go to another café that Frankie knew that she preferred. Piper was early. She checked the time on her phone, which showed she had about ten minutes before Frankie was due to arrive. The coffee shop was quiet, most classes hadn’t let out yet, and it was after the lunchtime rush. Piper had helped herself to a flapjack from the shop, and decided to eat it on the curb. She sat down, her backpack in her lap, and munched quietly while unzipping her bag.

Tiberimon looked up at her from inside the bag with big green eyes, blinking. He looked a little dazed, being in the bag so long, but happy to see Piper, and more so to see the half of a flapjack she offered him.

“Can I come out?” he asked. Piper checked the street. It was quiet, and the cars going by would be going too fast to spot Tiberimon. She nodded and moved the bag to her side, tipping it over carefully. Tiberimon rolled out and then moved to sit in Piper’s lap. She gave him the half flapjack and leaned back, enjoying the sunshine for now.

She had finally been able to present her stupid talk, so that was over. She hated public speaking; having to give it three times had been three times too many. But it was over, she had gotten a good mark, and she could get back to her normal studies now.

“Hey there, Blondie!” Piper’s eyes jammed open, hearing Frankie’s voice above her. She shot forward, leaning on Tiberimon.

“H-hey!” she responded breathlessly. “Uh, you’re early!”


“I got out of class.” Frankie grinned and sat herself down on the curb next to Piper, who was trying to get her backpack and stuff Tiberimon back inside; without much success, as Tiberimon was being awkward, not wanting to go back in. “So like…” Frankie paused briefly, examining her fingernails while casually watching Piper trying to stuff what Frankie was now sure was a Digimon, back into her bag, “How were your classes today?” She decided not to mention the creature yet, she had obviously scared Piper out of her wits by appearing early.

“Oh… you know. Fine.” Piper cleared her throat and zipped up her backpack. Tiberimon was safely away in the bag, she could relax now – at least she could try. “They were pretty boring… though biology was interesting today. We were dissecting a sheep’s eye.”

“Ew,” Frankie replied, making a face. “I’m not a big fan of dissection. It’s not a big thing necessary for my preferred vocation.”

“Oh.” Piper got to her feet. “Sorry – I just assumed that we had all the same classes. What are you hoping to achieve?”

“I wanna break into the fashion industry,” Frankie explained. Piper cast a quick look over Frankie’s ensemble: a beret, pink shirt off one shoulder, impossibly short-shorts and stiletto heels.

“I’m sure you’d be a hit,” commented Piper. The two girls were walking away from the coffee shop now, Frankie sashaying a few steps in front of Piper. “You seem to be good at turning heads.”

“It comes a bit too naturally at times,” Frankie grinned, tossing her hair over one shoulder, “but that’s me in a nutshell. You should let me take you shopping sometime.”

Piper blinked. “That’s a bit sudden. I don’t know you that well.” She meant it to come out in a casual way, like she was making a simple point. But Frankie cast her a glance as they turned a corner that Piper found unreadable.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll be spending more time together.” Frankie had stopped, and Piper too now. She was faced with Frankie, and two other young adults: a blond man, and a plum haired girl. Though she was more distracted by the large black bird, and the two grayish cats standing in front of them all.

“What… is this?” Piper asked, taking a tentative step back.

“Now, don’t panic. I’m Eva and this is Tom.” The plum haired girl stepped towards her. “We have reason to believe you… you have a Digimon – like we do. This is Irbimon. And Poemon, and Siberimon.”

For a moment, Piper was dumbstruck, her mouth open slightly as the three Digimon moved forward to show themselves better. In her bag, Tiberimon shuffled and grunted with irritation, Piper tried to ignore it.

“I… you… this. You’ve got the wrong girl.” Piper shook her head, backing up several more steps.

Tom spoke this time, “I don’t think we do.” He held a green item out to Piper that was bleeping regularly. “This is a D-Touch. Normally it doesn’t react like this. But it does to you… it wouldn’t unless there was a reason. And I saw a Digimon on your lap. I’m pretty certain of it.”

Still unsure, Piper fished into her jean pocket and withdrew a device similar to the one Tom held out to her, only hers was yellow. Her cell phone had transformed into this several nights ago as she had studied. Piper hadn’t mentioned it, and aside from the new shape, the phone still did what it normally did. Piper bit her bottom lip as she slipped her bag from her shoulder and lightly placed it on the floor. After unzipping it, she lifted Tiberimon out, holding him securely in her arms. Large green eyes blinked in the light and took in the humans and Digimon.

“Oh. Digimon,” Tiberimon muttered.

“This… is Tiberimon,” Piper introduced him. “I uhm… I didn’t know…”

“Neither did we,” Frankie advised, “until recently. There are two more of us, James and Odocomon. And Reyez and Ailurmon.”

“Who aren’t around right now,” Eva added. “We’re going to head off and meet… Reyez… now…” she trailed, feeling a shiver rise up her back. The Digimon were on alert immediately, Tiberimon hopping down to the ground where the Rookies all stood. Surrounding the group of four was a thick mist, obscuring the view, so that only outlines of each could be seen.

“What’s happening?” Frankie’s voice came out through the mist.

“No idea,” Siberimon murmured by her side. “Everyone stay still and stay close. This doesn’t smell right.”

It was a few minutes later that the mist lifted enough for things to be seen more clearly. Around the group, walls of hedges had risen, seemingly from nowhere. The buildings, roads and street lights that had been nearby were now all gone, leaving them alone in the hedge. With only one exit.

“…Well – this is a positive start,” Tiberimon said sarcastically.

-----------------------------

Ailurmon kept her hands planted on her belt, continuing to walk the maze alone.

“Oh c’mon Reyez! Don’t be such a wimp about it!” she semi-yelled out. She wished the Digimon were given one of those D-Touches so they could find their missing humans. She sighed, stopping in her tracks to rest.

Her eyes twitched, getting the feeling of being watched.

The bushes moved and the slight giggle was heard.

Ailurmon rolled her eyes, adjusting her posture. “I don’t have time to play games with you.” She closed her eyes, lowering her head down.


“Hm? …Hehe!” The sound of a Digimon giggle was heard again, followed by a different pitch of giggles.

“Are you looking for someone?”

“Someone for looking you are?” Two different voiced followed each other.

Two Floramon poked their vibrant pink and green heads from the hedges. One on each side of the irritated and impatient panda.

“Have you seen a human guy around here? He has tattoos on his arms and legs---” Ailurmon was cut off.

“No we haven’t.”

“Haven’t we no.”

“Then you are useless to me,” Ailurmon said calmly, waving them off and walking ahead. 

 “Wait!” They both shouted, prompting Ailurmon to turn to look back at them. She noticed they were gone. She turned back around to walk. They were in front of her now; out of the hedges and standing side by side with their flower-like hands behind their backs.

“He may have been taken by our master!”

“Master our by taken been have may he!”

Ailurmon turned to the Floramon to the right of her. “You ever thought about getting that speech impediment fixed?” She turned to the Floramon to the left. “Where is your master?”

The Floramon kept quiet, staring at something that was apparently coming from behind the small panda. Ailurmon felt a presence walking up behind her and quickly turned around.

“Fireball!” shouted a deep voice.

-----------------------------

Frankie stepped over a large root that was protruding from the ground. “What a nice and appropriate time to take a nice walk in a hedge mage while dawning some patent leather pump stilettos,” she said sarcastically.

“Do you own even a single pair of sneakers?” Irbimon asked, out of curiosity.

“I own a lot, but ya’know, strange things seem to happen only when I’m wearing heels…”

Siberimon cleared his throat. “With the large amount of footwear in your closet, I don’t think it would hurt to lose some.”

Eva chimed in, “he has a point Frankie. I mean, I only own a few pair of shoes.”

“If by a few you mean the entire colony under our bed, then yes…” Tom chuckled. Poemon, herself, giggled at the sly comeback.

Piper kept herself quiet and off to the side a bit, holding Tiberimon close. Regardless that the others had Digimon just like her, she still didn’t know any of them well enough to strike up the conversation like they were having. Even at this most awkward time.

“So…Piper, tell us a little about yourself?” Irbimon and Siberimon ran to both of her sides, walking and staring up at her like curious little children.

“Oh, uhm… I-”

Before Piper could get out a coherent sentence, all of the D-Touches went off at once. Simultaneously, Frankie, Eva, Tom and Piper pulled their D-Touches from their pockets and stared at the digital screen.

A blue dot was blinking.

“Reyez?” Eva looked to Frankie.

Frankie exchanged her glance to Eva. “He must’ve got pulled in too…”

“Do you think James did as well?” Tom asked.

“His dot isn’t blinking… so that means Reyez must be the closest.”

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The trio looked up, as Piper had fallen on the ground in a panic. Vines wrapped around her ankles and torso, pressing her arms to her body.

“Piper!” Tiberimon bounced. Piper was jerked into the hedges.

“Hey!! GIVE HER BACK!!! Or I’ll--” Before her could finish his threat, a vine came out and wrapped around Tiberimon, pulling him in as well.

Eva turned around to notice that Frankie and Siberimon were gone as well.

“Tom! Everyone-!” Tom, Poemon and Irbimon were gone.

Eva tried to keep calm and not freak out, but standing there wasn’t making her a hard target either. Before she could react, she felt a tight grip on her waist, and before she knew it, she was yanked away just like everyone else.

-----------------------------

Eva’s eyes fluttered open as she came to. She tried to move but felt herself unable to. Eva raised her body off the ground, only to find herself with her hands behind her back, and tight vines tied to her ankles.

“Whats going on!?” she shouted.

“SILENCE!” a loud deep voice spoke from the hedges.

Eva looked at her surroundings, noticing that they seem to have been at the end of the maze. The hedges were blocked off in a square with a fire pit in the center, to which she found herself too close for comfort.

The others were tied up, on their knees, hands behind their backs and ankles tied as well. They were circling the fiery pit, except for Reyez, who wasn’t even tied up, but knocked out. He lay across from her on the other side of the pit and the view of him was enough to get her heart racing with fear.

Tom struggled, trying to release himself from the tough roots, but sighed when it was no use.

The two Floramon kept guard, keeping a close eye on the group.

“What is it that you want?” Tom asked.

The Floramon only giggled.

“We’ve been watching you for quite some time… you have become a nuisance to our plans…” It was the fire that was speaking. “And now that you are all here, you must be destroyed!” The fire rose high into the air, forming into a humanoid Digimon that appeared to be completely made of fire.

“Meramon is a Flame Digimon that is made of fire and can perform fire attacks. He is capable of destroying Digimon of even higher levels!” one of the Floramon informed.

Meramon landed on the ground, not too far from the kids and the pit. “Now, who will be the first to drop into their fiery grave?” He laughed.

“HA! YOU WISH!” Tiberimon shouted. “Steel Tail!” The small Digimon bounced into the air, turning into a ball spinning towards Meramon, hitting both Floramon who were in the way like a ball in a pinball machine.


Meramon simply backhanded Tiberimon, laughing as the Digimon hit the ground.

Ailurmon smirked as she broke the vines with ease, flipping to her feet.

“Feisty…!” Meramon taunted. 

Both Floramon charged towards Tiberimon and Ailurmon. Ailurmon picked up Tiberimon and threw him as if he was a hard ball. She chased behind him.

“Steel Tail!” he shouted, hitting one Floramon in the forehead, once again. That Floramon took the hit and stumbled back, only to instantly get punched by Ailurmon and bursting into data.

“Stamen Rope!” the other Floramon shouted, releasing two parallel vines from its hands. Ailurmon turned quickly to dodge, but Tiberimon jumped in the way, only to be grabbed by both vines.

Tiberimon shouted as the Floramon continued to squeeze.

“N-No! Tiberimon!!” Piper tried to free herself. “Stop it!!” she yelled at the Floramon.

Like it was a command, a yellow light made itself known in Piper’s pocket. Tiberimon’s eyes opened wide, his pupils dilating.

“Tiberimon, over-clock evolve to...” The bouncing otter head started to spin at an incredible speed. His body shape extended horizontally, with a long tail slashing and swinging back and forth. Two silver rings became three and more spaced apart, with two more larger rings around the upper part of his short front legs. Blue fur in the design of water decorated his front paws as well, and two blue dots formed under his eyes. “Caesarmon!”

Caesarmon broke free of the vines by twisting his body and landing on his back legs. “Water Strike!” he shouted. The blue fur on his front paws began glowing with a blue light, forming energy in-between them. The energy released itself towards the Floramon, turning into two large fists.

Floramon gasped in pain as the attack hit, turning it into data.

Meramon stood before the two rookie Digimon, both posed and ready to fight.

Ailurmon nodded and jumped back as Caesarmon leaped forward. “Water Strike!” He repeated the attack.

Meramon was hit by the attack but released a fireball towards Caesarmon, who barely dodged.

“Water Strike!!” he shouted again, but Meramon dodged. The Champion Digimon ran towards Caesarmon and side kicked him. Caesarmon went flying and hit the hedge wall. Piper shouted in horror, trying to break free to make sure that he was ok.

Ailurmon found herself battling Meramon alone, mostly dodging what he was throwing out.

“Roaring Fire!!” Meramon threw his fist, releasing large balls of fire towards the small panda.

She back flipped, dodging just in time.


“Terra Shaker!” Ailurmon punched her fist into the ground, pulling up the earth from her position all the way to where Meramon stood. Meramon smirked and leaped into the air.

“Fireball!” He tossed a series of fireballs.

Ailurmon used the earth she had picked up as a shield, then hurled it towards the flaming humanoid Digimon.

Meramon braced himself, but was still hit, grunting as he was thrown back over the hedges.

Ailurmon didn’t take a moment to bask in her victory; she ran to the others and quickly tried to untie the tight vines around their wrists and ankles. She moved quickly, knowing Meramon would be back shortly.

She released Tom first, who helped Eva and Poemon. Piper helped Caesarmon and Frankie after being released, and lastly Irbimon and Siberimon.

Ailurmon ran to Reyez’s side, who was still K.O’d from way earlier. She tried to lift the dead weight but she was too short, and would only be dragging him across the ground.

So she slapped him across the face.

“WAKE UP!”

Slap.

“WAKE UP, REYEZ!”

Reyez groaned as he started to come to.

SLAP.

“YOU’RE NOT WAKING UP FAST ENOUGH! MOVE IT, MAGGOT. MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!” she screamed at him in a militaristic voice. Reyez’s eyes snapped open.

SLAP.

“OW.”

“Oh.”

Reyez rubbed his cheek. “Fuck, I got a headache.”

“That’s fine and dandy but we have to mo-”

“Magma…BLAST!!!” Meramon’s voice yelled from afar.

The group paused before looking up at the sky. Suddenly, loads and loads of magma rocks began to fall from the sky, striking deep craters into the earth below.

Reyez quickly jumped to his feet and ran with the others through the maze. The group panicked as they ran back into the labyrinth; the magma rocks followed closely, continuing to rain on them.

The rain of magma caught the hedges, lighting them on fire and quickly spreading throughout the entire maze. The hedges were now burning fire walls of death.

Irbimon, who was now leading the group as they ran, tried his best to freeze the fire closest to them to make some of the turns safe to pass. As much as Caesarmon and Siberimon would’ve loved to help, they feared that they would only fuel and spread the fire.

Reyez tripped over a vine coming out of the ground. Ailurmon stopped immediately to help him up, but the others continued running, not hearing the sound of his thud through the crackling of the burning bushes.

Reyez slowly rose from the ground. His vision was too blurry, he wanted to cough up a lung and the burning bushes were making him high. He laughed.

“Yooo…” Another chuckle.

Ailurmon grabbed his wrist and pulled him. “Not the time!---”

“Fireball!” Meramon tossed yet another fireball. Ailurmon pushed Reyez back onto the ground as she dodged the attack. Meramon proved himself cunning, as he was traveling by fire and was now in front of the two.

Reyez slowly stood up. “Soy alto como el infierno…” He chuckled.

Ailurmon grabbed her head and began shaking it. Meramon walked towards the two slowly, a smirk painted across his stitched face.

“Oh em gee, Oh em gee…” Ailurmon continued to shake her head. “This is just not my week…” She growled and grit her teeth. The closer Meramon came, the hotter she got, the more her anger rose. “Ughhhhhhh…..ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….!!!!”

“Now it’s time to end you both…” Meramon chuckled, forming a fireball to attack. Reyez kept his hands deep in his pockets, staring at Meramon with a look of unconcern. He continued to chuckle.

“UGGGGGGGHHHHHH…I--….I FUCKING HATE YOU!!” Ailurmon screamed at Meramon. Meramon was taken aback a bit by the outburst.

Ailurmon crouched low to the ground, growling like a wild animal, then launched towards Meramon with intense fury.

“Càlmate.” Reyez pulled out his D-Touch nonchalantly. The device burst into spastic blue light that enveloped Ailurmon mid-air as she was ready to pounce on Meramon, her claws drawn and teeth grit. Her eyes started glowing.

“Ailurmon, over-clock evolve to...” Ailurmon’s body twitched into a humanoid figure. Her figure shed itself of fur to reveal beautiful glowing skin underneath. The curves in her body defined themselves more in certain areas, while her legs stretched out longer. Midnight black hair swiftly flowed down her back. Giant green bamboo leaves with a blue hue sprouted from her back under her hair, draped from the side of her body, with her bangle and belt fitting her new body shape. The earrings attached to her ears doubled in size as well as quantity, looped together. Blue lipstick painted itself on her lips while leaves around her right hand formed into an abnormally large claw.  “Bambusmon!” She posed.

Not a moment too soon, Bambusmon’s fist slammed right in the center of Meramon’s face before he could release the fireball. The fire Digimon flew back into the bushes, dispersing with the rest of the fire.

Bambusmon’s feet didn’t touch the ground; she levitated, keeping her fist tightly closed.

Meramon reformed from the side, launching at her unexpectedly. Bambusmon quickly kicked him off, grabbing him by the hair and flying into the air. Meramon struggled to let himself free but was quickly caught by a vine formed from the center of Bambusmon’s leaf like claw. She grabbed the vine and began spinning, causing Meramon to yell loudly.

Her spinning increased in speed until both her and Meramon were nothing but colorful hues of themselves in the air.

Bambusmon released him without warning. Meramon cratered into the ground close to Reyez, who was lighting a cigarette on the nearest bush, unfazed by his surroundings.

Bambusmon, still in the air, aimed the clawed hand towards Meramon on the ground. She clenched her teeth as a beam of light began to form in her palm.

“Great Cannon!” she shouted. The energy from the beam launched her a bit higher in the air. The beam shot downward, surrounded by razor sharp shards of leaves and bamboo pieces.

Meramon’s eyes widened as the attack hit him before he could get himself out of the crater. He released a final cry as the blast absorbed him.

Reyez, who was still standing pretty close to the blast, only chuckled as he puffed on his cigarette. “Que chido.” He coughed, blowing out smoke. He looked down at his feet, only just noticing that he was merely inches from having been hit with the attack. It didn’t affect him any, he chuckled again.

Ailurmon landed on the ground next to Reyez and stretched.

The wild fires of the hedges disappeared as the burning hedges themselves started to disengage into pixels. The fog returned, just as thick as it had come in, and left just moments after, like before.

Reyez and Ailurmon stood there, back in the park where they had started, watching the others run towards them.

The sky was dark, and the stars were sparkling beautifully in the sky. It could’ve been around 10 PM or so, but no one was sure or cared at this moment.

“Oh my god! Are you two okay!?” Eva asked, checking Reyez over while Irbimon and Poemon did the same for Ailurmon.

Everyone was still in a bit of a panic, an adrenaline rush from almost being burned alive.

Reyez puffed on his cigarette then exhaled. “Peachy.”

“When we looked back and didn’t see either of you… we stopped and were hoping ya’ll would come into the distance…or something…” Frankie’s voice was low, trying to mask her full concern.

Ailurmon continued to stretch. “We took care of Meramon. He pissed me off.”

“Mhm,” Reyez nodded in agreement.

Simultaneous exhales were heard, followed by everyone trying to calm down - not to make the moment awkward, however, it was awkward. Reyez and Ailurmon’s lack of concern was very awkward.

“So…” Piper spoke up, looking down at Caesarmon. “Can… we all meet, tomorrow? I’m free…!”

Tom looked at the others, then at Reyez. “Will you show up?”

Reyez shrugged. “I guess.” He flicked his cigarette out into the distance.

“Cool. C’mon Poemon. Let’s get home. I need a shower…” Tom chuckled and started to walk off. Eva waved goodbye to Piper and Frankie before following close behind.

“I’ll see you later…!” Piper smiled, walking in the opposite direction with Caesarmon by her side.

Frankie stood in front of Reyez, with Siberimon looking at the sky. He stared at the full moon in some sort of trance. Ailurmon walked off towards the swing set in the park.

Frankie rubbed her arm as she looked down, and then looked back up at Reyez whose stare wasn’t directly on her. “I was worried about you…”

Reyez chuckled. “Yeah… okay.”

Frankie was a bit taken aback. “No… Reyez, I really was. I turned around and you weren’t there and-”

“Well, Frankie. I would think you’d be use to that by now. According to you, anyways.” Reyez shoved his hands in his pockets, looking at her directly in her eyes.

Frankie gasped lightly.

“Yeah… now, if you want to… ya’know… fuck, then… we can do that. Don’t try to sweet talk me into a false sense of security.” Reyez’s words came harsh to Frankie, who only jerked back in offense.

“What the fu-!”

Reyez smiled. “I’m goin’ home, I got the munchies. Text it.” He turned his back to walk in the direction of his neighborhood, whistling for Ailurmon, who quickly jogged to his side. “Now pick your ego up off the ground before it gets dirty...”

Frankie stood there, mostly in shock… but all the words were familiar and came back to haunt her. Those exact words. She watched as he became nothing more than a speck in the far distance of the streets. She sucked in her breath. “…I’m sorry.”

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