Mushroom Forest || Night
The climb down was a shaky one for Cavan since his mind was still caught on what he’d seen moments prior. A mess of leaves and wood filling a dragon-like frame—had Blossomon really become that? And if Blossomon had, was it really Cavan’s job to deal with it right now, with a Rookie-level digimon who had virtually no chance of winning?
The obvious answer was yes, but that made no sense. As much as it was clear that this was real life and not part of some game he’d started playing before he could spell Wednesday correctly, a part of him still wanted to process it like the game, if only because he’d gone through some of this in
the game. Talking to Blossomon was the goal, and though the situation had changed, maybe the core principles were still in place. That meant there was probably something he was missing here, like an Ultimate-level ally he could recruit, or some easy-fix artifact or cure he’d overlooked. Either of those made more sense than having him and Bax fight Blossomon in monster mode, because what kind of quest put a Rookie against an Ultimate?
Spotting a Ninjamon with a guy around his age at the base of the tree brought a grin to Cavan’s face, and he jumped off the last branch, landing on his feet and jogging over to the dude. “Let me guess—Clock?”
There were only two other guys in the chat, so he had a good chance at guessing. As for why this guy struck Cavan as more of a Clock than an Apollo, Cavan wasn’t really sure. Maybe it was that Apollo was a guild leader and a pretty active player overall, so Cavan was expecting somebody more talkative, but now that he was thinking about it, this dude looked pretty chill, and Clock hadn’t sounded very chill from the few messages they’d exchanged, so… “Wait, Apollo? Asher?”
Cavan blinked, looking the dude up and down again. He didn’t strike Cavan as the mature authority figure Apollo sounded like over text, but hey what did Cavan know anyway? “Eyy, nice to meet you, guild leader,”
he said, resuming his grin as he raised a hand to clap and bump fists with Asher.
Looking around and spotting nothing but the Ninjamon at Asher’s side, Cavan furrowed his brows. “You had a Vorvomon, right?”
he asked, then shrugged. “Well, this is Bax,”
he said, indicating the Gabumon at his side, who eyed Asher with clear suspicion, “and Flynn,”
he said, throwing a thumb at the Kiwimon behind them.
“Great, another one. Is this it, or should I just wait here until everyone who needs help climbing a tree gets here?” Flynn asked dryly.“Nah, I don’t think we’ll need it,”
Cavan said, looking back to Asher with a grin. “So, I have an idea, and it might be kinda dumb, but hear me out.”
He looked between his audience, who looked varying shades of wary and interested. “You know the portal thing Blossomon had? Well, it’s there. Behind all these trees. Problem is, Blossomon’s also there, and he’s turned virus—into this huge, gnarly lizard thing. He’s a whole lotta leaves now, and he doesn’t look nice. But, you saw the mission right? ”
Cavan fished his digivice from his pocket, turning it on. “‘Return Mushroom Forest to its original state’—that definitely means we need Blossomon back, and I’m willing to bet that portal in there is how we’re going to do that. Maybe it’ll portal us to somewhere where we can get help, or maybe it’ll portal us to a lower-level place to train—I don’t know, but my gut says it’s the key.”
He looked to Asher, his grin wide. There was something exciting about the situation. Sure it was dangerous, and sure what he was suggesting was potentially very stupid, but it felt like the moment before he attempted a new trick. He knew what he needed to do, and all he had to do was go for it. If he fell, he fell. If he scraped his shins and elbows up, then he’d get a few more bandages, but there was never a world where he didn’t attempt the trick at least a dozen times. Jumping into the deep end was how he learned to skate and swim, and that’s how it worked. That’s how he
worked.“How about it? One of us can distract the thing, and the other can make a run for it. Check the portal out. If it’s broken, we bail. If it’s not, well, we save the day.”
He could feel Bax’s eyes on him, but he didn’t care. This—this was exciting.
Mushroom Forest || Night
The trek through the forest was silent, which was both annoying and not. While Alice didn’t want to talk to Afton, she also didn’t like that they hadn’t shared what they knew. They were on the mission together, after all, and sharing information and discussing possible plans seemed to be the obvious next step. That said, Alice wasn’t about to initiate a conversation, and since it didn’t seem like Afton was planning on initiating one either, they were at an impasse. One of them would have to give in and start the conversation, and though a part of Alice knew that she probably should, that it’d be the best and more mature course of action, she didn’t. Doing so would be like admitting defeat in some way that she couldn’t quite put a finger on, and it wasn’t like she needed anything from Afton anyway. All of the information she needed was on her Digivice, and all of her questions could be asked and answered when they found a Floramon, so she trudged on in silence, ignoring the glances Doru directed at her. He could pretend like taking the mature loss was some sort of win, but she wouldn’t. She’d rather have silence.
Afton stopped suddenly, forcing Alice to stumble back awkwardly in order to avoid crashing into her. “What?”
Alice asked, fully irritated as she looked around. Following Afton’s gaze, she spotted a light-colored tree with large purple mushrooms growing out of it. Considering the fact that it lacked leaves, it looked pretty dead to her, but one dead tree was nothing much. “That’s a Woodmon with five Mushroomon on it,”
Afton said, her voice flat as ever.“Yep, and they stink,”
Monodramon said, swiping at his snout with a wing.
Glancing to Doru, who was looking intensely at the tree, had Alice realize that she was probably the only one who hadn’t caught on, and she was none too happy about that.
“Aw, you found us?”
A pair of blue eyes opened on the tree, and the middle of the trunk cracked open to reveal a maw of jagged wood that curved upwards on either side to outline a grin. On top of the trunk, the mushrooms lifted their caps, revealing toothy smirks that glinted in the moonlight as the Mushroomon stood and flexed their hands through fuchsia gloves.
“Your turn to hide then!” the Woodmon exclaimed happily, its voice higher than what Alice would’ve expected, but with a throaty scratchiness that created an unsettling contrast. “I’ll start counting now.” It covered its eyes with its spiky arms, the Mushroomon on it continuing to leer. “Ten, nine, eight…”
Alice looked to Afton, eyes wide. Running seemed like their best bet since they were both outnumbered and outmatched, but exposing their back was like asking to get attacked. Taking the Woodmon at its word didn’t seem like a good idea no matter how she looked at it, yet there wasn’t a better option at the moment. The risk, then, was equal parts necessary and worth it.“Should we?”
Afton nodded, her eyes steady as she met Alice’s gaze, and Alice got the impression that they had the same idea. “Run.”
They turned tail and ran, with Monodramon being the only one who seemed caught off-guard, judging by his cry of surprise. Doru, on the other hand, had kept up with Alice, flanking her as he glanced behind to where a sinister quintet of laughter chased after them. Nearby was Afton, who maintained a few feet’s distance but didn’t seem to be running at full speed beside Monodramon. Given her outfit, Alice wouldn’t have thought her particularly athletic, if only because the athletes she knew tended towards tennis shoes and athletic wear even on their downtime. From the way Afton effortlessly kept pace, her strides looking like a casual jog even in a pair of ostentatious platform boots, though, it was clear that Afton’s frame was leaner than it seemed, and this realization had Alice grit her teeth as she tried to speed up her own pace.
Spotting a faint glow in the darkness ahead, Alice frowned, glanced at Afton, then veered towards it. A few seconds later, a dragon-like digimon revealed itself between the trees, its claws and horns glowing bright enough to faintly illuminate the Floramon beside it. “Vorvomon?”
Alice looked around as she came to a stop beside the lava digimon. “Where’s Apollo? Asher?”
“We’re headed to the Flower Council to find them,” the Floramon said, looking over them warily. Since they weren’t digivolutions of Mushroomon, Alice figured the Floramon would connect the dots soon enough, so she turned her attention backward instead, peering through the leaves as another slew of delighted laughter echoed out. “We’re being chased. Five Mushroomon and a Woodmon. Help us out,”
Afton said, and Alice fixed her with a stare, surprised. That wasn’t cool, and it didn’t seem like something someone who liked coming off as cool would do, yet Afton had done it—and looked cool while saying it, Alice realized in retrospect. Though she’d thought them helping was a given when the Woodmon caught up to them, informing the other party was
better, and now she was back to being too conscious of Doru’s eyes on her.
Just as Alice opened her mouth to add something—please, or that she agreed?—the stomping started, the sound muted but able to shake the leaves behind them as Alice glanced at the others.
“Fe fi fo fum, ready or not, here I come!” the Woodmon shouted, and Doru gave Alice a nod. Yeah, this was happening, and Alice was going to prove that Doru was better than the loudmouth Monodramon. Somehow. “Doru, Metal Canon!”
Alice called as the quartet of Mushroomon burst through the trees, sniggering with delight as they reached into their pockets. They were going to use their signature mushroom bombs, no doubt, but Metal Canon was a stronger move, and that’s what counted.
Doru shot her a questioning look but complied, his mouth opening and glowing with energy as an iron sphere formed between his jaws. Beside him, the Floramon lashed out at the closest Mushroomon with vines, and Monodramon followed suit after getting a nod from Afton, leaping at another Mushroomon and ramming his head into it as fire pooled in his jaws.
Given that Metal Canon took a bit to charge, it took a few seconds before Doru actually launched his first attack. Alice had thought this a calculated loss that would pad the way for a bigger win when the move struck, but as she watched Monodramon and Vorvomon throw out one fiery breath after another, she realized that she’d miscalculated. Besides the advantage the dragon digimon had with their fire-based moves, there was the simple fact that Metal Canon didn’t have enough DPS for this battle. While it hit hard, it failed to one-shot any of the Mushroomon, and as the last Mushroomon fell, Alice realized that the only digimon Doru had done more damage than was Floramon.
“Oh, are all the little mushrooms gone?” The Woodmon feigned surprise as it stepped forwards, its eyes round but brimming with mirth. “Then it’s time for some fun!”
Smashing its two large, branch-like arms together, it cackled, leering as its eyes swept across the group. Though Alice hadn’t questioned why it’d stood back as they made quick work of the Mushroomon, she had to now, and the only explanation she could come up with was that it didn’t care—that it was much stronger than its rookie-level counterparts and had no problem assuming that it could tank them all alone, and that in itself was scary.
“Eenie meenie miney mo, let’s see which one takes a blow!” the Woodmon shouted, charging for the Floramon, its arms raised.“Monodramon!”
Afton called.“Doru, Hyper Dash Metal!”
Alice shouted at the same time.
Again, Doru shot her a funny look, but he followed her instructions again, charging at the Woodmon alongside Monodramon, who’d streamlined his wings against his body as slivers of flame leaked from his jaws. They made contact with the Woodmon with consecutive headbutts, and the Woodmon cried out as it fell, the Floramon stepping out of the way and directing the vines she’d tripped the Woodmon with onto its arms. As the Woodmon struggled against its thin restraints, snapping vines easily despite its stunned state, Doru, Monodramon, and Vorvomon bombarded it with attacks. Doru had chosen Beast Attack, Alice realized from a distance, and judging by the way the Woodmon’s side gradually splintered away under his claws, Alice realized it was working.
“This isn’t fair! You’re not playing fair!” the Woodmon cried as its struggles got weaker. “I-I don’t want to play anymore!”
Within another few seconds, though, the Woodmon froze, then collapsed in on itself, its form dissolving into small blue cubes that glowed as they swirled towards the digimon around it. Monodramon was the first to jump towards the data, growling as he looked between Doru and Vorvomon, his gaze challenging. While the Floramon was the first to step back from the fray, Doru was a close second, and Monodramon was left staring down Vorvomon as the data flowed into the two of them.“Doru! Why aren’t you absorbing the data?”
Alice was all confusion as she came to a stop beside Doru, looking between him and the last traces of glowing data. Was he really letting his maturity come between him and digivolution?“It’s just some data,”
Doru said, his tone placative. “There’ll be more later.”“That’s not the point!”
Alice hissed back, but her words grew quiet as she saw Afton approaching with the rest of the digimon. Where the Floramon looked concerned, Monodramon was fully smug, which wasn’t made better by the lack of tells on Afton’s face.
Holding Alice’s gaze for a second, Afton blinked, then looked to Doru, nodding. “Thanks.”
At that, Doru hesitated, looking at Alice questioningly. Her “don’t talk to her or else” glare, though, prompted him to settle for a nod, which Alice wasn’t too upset about. It was simple, did the job, and she’d have a word with him about all of this later.
A snort from Monodramon made Alice want to snort as well because, really, what was this? They were guildmates and perhaps part of the same party, but gaining experience was an individual thing. Trying to pretend like everything was going to be split fairly when Ephie was involved was a joke in itself.
The disapproving look Afton shot Monodramon had the purple dragon straighten a bit, though her attention shifted immediately to the Vorvomon and Floramon. “Were you heading somewhere before we met?”
“I was taking him to the Flower Council so he can be reunited with his humanmon,” the Floramon said, glancing at Vorvomon briefly before continuing. “I can take you to them too. They will know where the other humanmon is, if you are looking for him.”“Take us to them,”
Alice asserted immediately. Though she was acutely aware of how unnecessary her rushed tone was, she didn’t want to be left out of the decision-making like some blind follower.
“This way,” the Floramon said after a hesitant glance at Afton, who’d only spared Alice a bland glance. Under the Floramon’s guidance, the forest felt slightly less ominous than before, even if it’d remained just as dark and crowded.
Mushroom Forest || Night
“Announcing Aftonmon, Alicemon, Dorumon, Monodramon, and Vorvomon! Found in the southern woods!”
The forest clearing wasn’t bright, but there was enough clearance above to allow moonlight to illuminate the area and reveal the numerous digimon speckling the trees around them. At a glance, the crowd appeared to consist of Floramon and its champion forms, Ninjamon and Kiwimon, and a closer look simply revealed more and more of the same plant-based data digimon. Even considering how the Floramon from earlier had immediately helped them against the Mushroomon and Woodmon earlier, the crowd of digimon gathered around the clearing, simply standing around and watching, felt a distance from friendly.
“Humanmons, tamers, and digimon, you stand before the Flower Council. We have already met Cavanmon and Ashermon, and we have sent them with guides to see Blossomon,” a Floramon slightly larger than the Floramon beside it said, its voice feminine and steady as it carried around the clearing. “You are welcome to meet them there, but we have been informed that battle has broken out near our southeast border. Thus, we humbly ask for your assistance on the front.” The Floramon met each of the tamer’s eyes in turn, communicating an elegant plea with its gaze. “Our battles along the border are usually won, but at too great a cost for us not to ask for help. So please, offer us your aid and let us work together to limit the casualties in these endless battles.”“Let’s do it. There’s no reason we need to all be in the same place, so if Asher and Cavan are already with Blossomon, we might as well go and help fight,”
Alice said, looking at Afton expectantly. She expected Afton to agree with her, and Afton had to admit she was tempted to. There really wasn’t a reason they all needed to see the old flower together, and though pooling information was a priority, they needed information to pool first. “Vorvomon,”
Afton said, looking to the fiery dragon, “will you be joining us on the front?”
Whether or not he wanted to join them didn’t matter too much. He’d be a force on the battlefield considering his natural advantage over all plant digimon, but Afton couldn’t fault him if he wanted to reunite with his tamer instead. Considering his temperament so far, he seemed the type to prefer a fight over most things, but Afton didn’t want to assume—yet. So, she waited for his answer, a small, silent part of her thinking that Monodramon’s challenging glare at Vorvomon would be enough to convince the fire dragon to tag along to the war front, and another, smaller, and more cynical part of her wondering whether he’d be interesting enough to prove her wrong.