((Ladies and gentlemen! What you've all been waiting has finally arrived. Months of trying to get the correct wording and a viable plot have finally come to an end. Now, for you viewing pleasure, I have split this into five parts and will post them in this thread simultaneously within the hour.
To the one who wishes to grade this, keep in mind that this project has been worked and reworked for a great deal of time, and has been read over and over to make sure it's up to par. Crestventures are about the writing skill and determination of the writer, and I hope I have put enough into it for you.
So, without further adieu, I give you:))
THE NEXT BEST THING: FINALE
It was quite warm, but Riko didn’t care. There were more important things at stake than his health. Stalking across the hot plains, the perspiration was intense on his skin. He felt as if he’d just gotten out of a pool with all of his clothes on. He took a sip of warm water from his canteen and wiped the sweat from his brow. Although the environment was heating it, the water still quenched his thirst for the time being.
The pack on his back seemed heavier on his muscles than when he began his search. The egg resting in his arms kept him going. Not only did he need to find a master to teach him, but also he needed to keep the digitama safe from the dangers of the world. Leaving Dargo and Mayer behind was a gigantic mistake, and it might cost him in the middle of nowhere.
Riko’s legs were getting tired, and as much as he wanted to keep going, rest seemed like a good idea, as well. Slowing to a stop, he noticed the tree line of the forest in the distance. He wondered if he should keep going in order to get some shade. It didn’t seem too far away, and it would benefit him in the long run. Kneeling for a moment, he gently placed the egg on the grass, and slung his pack down, digging through it to check his supplies. Everything looked in order, save for the bronze plate. The simple piece of metal was said to belong to Jijimon, but it didn’t look like any armor he’d ever seen before. It was just a bronze plate.
Still curiosity hit him as he remembered Fizban’s words. There is more to it than you think.
Standing again, Riko was hesitant in doing so, but he placed the plate on his right shoulder. The boy still couldn’t see the appeal of having one small piece of armor in a battle where blasts are coming at you from all directions. There was no way that the piece would be of any use to him, and he was so close to chucking it away. He needed weapons, not cheap souvenirs.
As he thought that, an image of Dargo altered his thoughts and filled his heart with joy. The Gabumon had protected him and fought by him for so long, and now it was time to give something back, especially now that Mayer had joined them and now that another was about to be born from the digitama. It was time he got the chance to protect his family. Tired of being afraid and hiding behind his Digimon, Riko clenched his right fist. Then, something began to happen.
As those thoughts ran through his mind, he felt something creep across his shirt thinking it was a bug, but it was more than just his shirt. Looking down, it was hard not to notice the bronze- thing creeping across his chest to his other shoulder, as well as down his right arm, and down his abdomen. His breathing immediately shifted and increased as he tried pulling at the material, but there wasn’t a place to get a decent grip to pull at it. The scales seemed to be coming from the shoulder plate he put on only seconds ago, but what was happening? And how did so much metal spread from such little material?
The boy scratched at it frantically, but he couldn’t get it off. The bronze seemed to stop as it now covered most of his neck, his entire chest and down his abdomen stopping directly above his pelvic bone, but the even stranger part was that the material seemed to completely cover his right arm and hand, but didn’t spread to past his left shoulder.
Riko continued to pull at the bronze armor, but it wouldn’t budge. Banging on his chest, the armor seemed to make a clunky sound under the impact of his fleshy hand. It was as if he was knocking on a metal door or stepping onto a steel platform. The boy couldn’t pull himself to believe that all the armor that covered him came from one piece of armor, but what vexed him more was the fact that he didn’t know how it happened.
But he was wasting time, and as long as it wasn’t hurting him, he was fine. Right now, he needed to continue on his journey. Finding Jijimon was of the utmost priority now, and he was so sure that this was what he needed. Since the armor used to be Jijimon’s, he would know how to take it off.
Coming to an end in their path, the two came to an opening of the forest to a plain with large hills covered in tall, luscious grass. They had been running for a while, and as they looked back, they noticed that Betsumon wasn’t behind them anymore. Stopping at the edge of the forest, the two looked out into the opening. Dargo leaned against a tree, then slid down its bark to the soft soil, “Let’s just rest here for now. “
“You sure? You really think we lost him?” Mayer huffed and continued to look back to the forest just to be safe. His eyes then went out to the rolling hills of the plains, but saw nothing but grass blowing back and forth in the distance underneath the setting sun’s watch.
“I think so. He might have just lost interest and found something else to do.” Dargo’s caught his breath, and looked back to the forest, his better judgment pulling at him, “But still, you’ve got a point. Let’s keep moving. Actually, Riko’s scent is stronger out here.”
Nodding, the Gabumon took a few more deep breaths, “He’s close. If we hurry, we might be able to catch him.”
It was hardly the bonding time he was looking for, but Mayer couldn’t complain as long as the Betsumon wasn’t chasing them anymore.
Ironically, as Dargo said those words, a figure appeared in the distance. It was too good to be true for the Agumon, but as he stepped forward, the happiness of their success washed over him. They’d been separated for no longer than three days, and Mayer was happier than a dog to see his tamer.
“IT’S HIM!” Mayer exclaimed, darting into the field to meet him.
Dargo looked and smiled, following the Agumon’s lead, but something was wrong. Hearing a familiar cackle, Dargo stopped and turned his head back to the forest, where movement caught his eye. The strange, scraggly figure from before burst out of the forest and into the remaining daylight, his white fur shinning in the setting sun. The Betsumon was back, and Dargo only had enough time to turn and shout a warning before the puppet Digimon was upon him, “KEEP GOING!”
The boy saw a figure in the distance running in his direction; two figures, actually. It frightened him enough to stop and reach for his knife, but as he recognized the familiar figures, he ran toward them, as well. The armor withstanding, he had to put that situation aside for now, and focus on his partners. His jog came to an immediate halt when he felt some type of movement on the skin of his arm. Looking down again, the checkered, bronze plating began to retract within itself until managed to creep underneath the shoulder piece. The piece itself stayed on his right shoulder without any effort, which wasn’t even the best part about it. Looking to his partners, he realized that Fizban wasn’t kidding about the armor.
Suddenly, something white, tall, and obviously not friendly quickly emerged from the forest behind them. His heart raced as he watched the white figure tackle Dargo. His voice rang deep in Riko’s head as he warned Mayer. The word ‘protect’ reappeared in his mind as a beacon to ignite the tamer’s will to fight back. Drawing his knife, he realized that the armor was quickly extending. He couldn’t figure out why it was happening, but a pattern began to form in his mind. A trigger; there had to be one in order to set the armor off and force it to extend; Riko just had to figure out what that trigger was.
Mayer heard Dargo’s warning and turned to see what was wrong. The maniac Digimon from before had returned, or never left as he thought about it. Whichever it was, he had Dargo in his clutches, once again pinning the Gabumon to the ground. He knew aid was necessary as he pivoted and shot a fireball in the Betsumon’s general direction. The Digimon was keen on the attack, leaping into the air over the fireball with little to no effort and falling toward Mayer with a dropkick to the snout.
The Agumon was sent to the ground rolling, the strike knocked him for a loop. Dargo, on the other, was still ready to tangle as he quickly rose from the grass. He saw Betsumon standing over Mayer, laughing as he raised an oversized paw to rend his companion. The Gabumon reacted quickly, firing a stream of blue flames directly into his back. Screaming and trying to put the fire out, Betsumon’s laugh never went away. The creature even dropped to the ground and rolled around to stop the flames, but Dargo wasn’t done there. He rushed in for a melee attack, swinging a paw to his enemy’s face, but missing as the agile entity evaded the attack with a roll.
Betsumon pushed himself up, cackled as he did so, and swung his paws at Dargo; the impacts knocked the breath from his digital lungs. Once again, the strange creature had the upper hand, but that suddenly changed when two clawed arms wrapped around his neck. Mayer was back up, and he hung from the enemy’s neck as to throw him off his assault. Since his paws were so big, Betsumon couldn’t grip Mayer’s claws to release him.
The Gabumon returned to his senses, rushing to Mayer’s aid, throwing a few fists into his foe’s stomach. Before he knew it, a flash a light stunned him as a large foot connected with his chin and sent him flying to the ground. Letting himself fall backward, he allowed his own weight to crush Mayer so he would be freed from the chokehold.
Back on his feet in a hurry, Betsumon turned to the dazed Agumon and raised his paws once again, but another body stopped him. It was bigger than the two he’d been facing, and it was heavy, as well. Riko checked the Digimon, and fell to the ground with him. Knife drawn, the boy scrambled to straddle the arcane creature and plunged it into his shoulder for lack of better aim.
The cackling ceased as Betsumon looked to his shoulder slowly, staring at the blood that seeped through the thread of his costume. His head snapped back to Riko, and the cackling continued. It sent shivers down the boy’s spine because his heroic efforts didn’t seem to be enough.
Suddenly, Betsumon lifted upward, bringing his forehead to connect with the boy’s eye. The shock forced Riko to release the knife’s handle, leaving it in the shoulder, and falling into the grass. The cat-like copy quickly stood above the human, laughing as he slowly pulled the knife out of his shoulder. Riko couldn’t open of left eye because of the pain, but he managed to see the enemy standing over him, his own weapon being used against him.
The moments seemed to fly by as if time sped up especially for this moment; the Betsumon went to strike in a downward, stabbing motion toward the boy’s chest. He couldn’t quite put the words together to describe the actual moment, but Riko knew at that moment that he was going to die. The knife plunged down into his chest, but stopped. A clunk sound entered his ears as a moment of clarity washed over him, as well as anger. The armor protected him; it blocked the knife from ever piercing his skin. It didn’t even make a dent in the bronze plating, but it didn’t matter at that point. Betsumon continued to stab at the armor, but it couldn’t be pierced, giving the human a chance.
Survival was all that mattered as Riko reached up with his armored hand, taking in it the Betsumon’s neck and squeezing. A choking sound interrupted the cackling, which pleased the boy for a moment. It was kill or be killed; yet he took pleasure in making this being pay. It only seemed fair, as he’d just tried to kill him, but more importantly, his partners.
Snapping out of his newfound bloodlust, Riko swung his arm, throwing the Digimon to the ground. Riko staggered as he reached his feet once again; a certain level of exhaustion washed over him. He watched the Betsumon writhe and gasp for air on the ground, and it made him want more. Stalking to the creature, he smirked, as he felt powerful. Wielding strength to make his enemies cower as such was useful and to be able to inflict pain to those who would attempt to hurt him or his partners was comforting. Betsumon began to crawl backward, yelling and grunting as to scare the human away, but the tactics didn’t faze Riko. Coming closer and closer, Riko was ready to enjoy putting this creature in his place. He would know that Riko Mugatu was not one to mess with.
As he came closer, something pulled at both his hands from behind. Both his Digimon yanked and yanked, grabbing his attention. He stopped and turned his head downward and to his left stood Mayer pulling at him. To his right, Dargo continued to pull, “Riko, what are you doing?”
As the Gabumon said, Riko’s thoughts focused on his partners. Dargo and Mayer were there in front of him, but there was also Betsumon, who was trying to harm them. He fought back, but it wasn’t like him to want to torture or kill anyone.
Betsumon scrambled to his feet, screaming as he scurried into the forest, leaving the three behind. Mayer was the first to speak, “Riko?”
“What are you doing out here?” Riko responded his own question, “I thought I told you two to train in the city!”
“You were alone, and we thought you might-“ Dargo began to say.
“I don’t need help Dargo!” Turning and kneeling to them, “When I give you an order, I expect you both to obey it. Do you understand?”
“But-“ Mayer’s interjection was cut off.
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” The boy raised his voice; the anger in his tone burned them more than anything. Both of them nodded in response to the outburst, and neither of them knew what to say at the moment or else they would have. Riko was obviously stressed, but he seemed to be such a gentle spirit, and this emotional shift had been an indecent surprise for them. Riko’s eyes widened, and he realized what he’d done. Taking a deep, deep breath, he stood and turned to the trees, “Now, let’s get see what we can get firewood from the forest.”
The two child Digimon couldn’t help but look at each as their tamer walked toward the forest. Both quite confused by what just happened, and even more confused as they tried to ponder what would happen next. Mayer spoke first, “What the hell just happened?”
Dargo shook his head with a frown, “Riko’s never talked to me like that before.”
“Yeah, well-“ The Agumon began to followed his tamer, “He better not do that again.”
The Gabumon knew Mayer didn’t mean it like that; as hurt feelings settled all around, it was best to let it settle and set up camp. Dealing with it now, would only stress them out more, and it wouldn’t help their current situation
The group set up camp and completed the choirs for the night. As far as Riko was concerned the sunset was the most beautiful he’d ever seen. This was especially true because the heat of the day was dying down and he was finally able to relax. After eating a simple meal of vegetables and fruit found in the forest, the group sat around a fire of forest wood and some of Mayer’s firepower. They sat quiet for a while, looking at each other through the fire.
The Agumon, however, couldn’t pull his eyes away from the egg. It was as if he’d been entranced by its small and gentle nature. Maybe the thought of how innocent the baby would be affected him somehow, but he found himself reaching for the egg. It was on the ground next to Riko, so when he saw Mayer grab for it, he was a bit confused.
Having the egg in his grasp, Mayer suddenly felt responsible for its care. It was like he didn’t know what to do with himself except watch over the Digitama. Riko didn’t pay it any mind as he turned his attention more to Dargo, as well.
“Look,” Riko broke the silence with his solemn voice, “I’m sorry about earlier. I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s fine. You were just tired.” The Agumon immediately jumped to answer.
“Yeah, Riko.” Dargo added, “We’re just glad you’re okay.”
“Well, not really.” The two looked at their tamer with high concern, but said nothing, “I have some bad news. I went to the Glacial Kingdom.”
“What?” The Gabumon sat forward.
“It’s the home of the Valor Alliance, remember? That kid, Riley, was talking about it in the hospital.” Mayer couldn’t remember all the details, but what he did recall was shared.
“Right. I promised Zack that he would be safe there, but when we got there, the place was wrecked. I mean, it was rundown and almost completely destroyed. The leader there says that Riley hasn’t been there since they were first attacked, and I don’t think he knows about the attacks afterward.” Riko starred into the fire, “It was horrible. I thought I was leading Zack into a safe haven, but when we got there, it was like looking at an apocalypse. Then, they were under attack again.”
“How’d you guys do?” Mayer asked, truly concerned for the boy’s safety.
“Well, before we could do anything, they told us to leave, and not to look back. I mean, they just told us to leave without even letting us help them.”
“I’m so sorry, Riko.” Dargo scooted over to him tamer to comfort him.
“So, what then?” Mayer asked, “Was that all the Valor Alliance down there?”
The boy nodded at the question, but it pained him to do so. They couldn’t understand how surreal it was to walk into what could only be described as a premature graveyard for those still living there, “And what’s worse is that Riley hasn’t been there in months. He has no idea what’s happening to his own group!”
The flames flickered brightly in front of him, but he paid no attention to it. The sun was going down, and their eyes had to rely on the fire to see now. The nighttime was a lot more serene, and it helped with Riko’s mood. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling of hopelessness in his journey. His efforts to turn this war around were futile so far, and he hadn’t seen any results in terms of the goals he meant to achieve.
“Oh no-“ Dargo gasped. The Gabumon couldn’t believe that the Valor Alliance was wiped out after hearing such heroic stories about it. Dargo was looking forward to visiting the Glacial Kingdom in time, but that wouldn’t happen now.
Mayer’s eyes widened, “What do we do now?”
The way he felt during the trip flooded back to a Riko’s mind. Leaving his partners behind was a mistake even though he wanted Zack to trust him. Even Aura was a strong Digimon, and she was able to Digivolve passed the Adult level; and with Zack’s dark sense, they would be able to navigate the Digital World and flatten any enemy that crossed them. He assumed that Zack was hurt enough to learn to wise up and fight back. He’d gone on a journey to find himself, and he would do it with the power to protect himself both from having a spirit and powerful Digimon.
“I don’t know, but I need you guys to listen to me.” Riko cleared his throat and continued, knowing exactly what he wanted to say, “We need to get more powerful. I know this is sudden, but we have to train even harder now.”
“I want you guys to push harder than you’ve even pushed before. I think you’ve gotten rusty since the mall attack. We need to reinvent our strategy, and when we get back, I need to get some better cards.” Dargo and Mayer looked to him, trying to find out what the reasoning was for such a drastic change. They were doing the best they could with what they had, but Riko seemed to be saying it wasn’t enough.
“What are you talking about?” Mayer interrupted, “What are you trying to say, Riko?”
With a sigh, Riko shook his head. This meant nothing, but his partners would probably get the wrong impression from his reaction. He gestured to the egg as a means to continue his explanation.
“That egg was given to me to add a little extra firepower. We have to protect this egg though. It needs to be nurtured so that when the Digimon inside is ready to come to us, it will.”
Riko continued on with his story of his travels, “Then, Fizban gave me a spirit.” Pressing a few buttons on his D-Ban, a holographic image of the statuette appeared in front its onlookers, “It’s like the one Zander has or that other kid. I think his name was Alex or something like that.”
“That’s pretty cool.” Mayer said
“Yeah. It’d be even cooler if I knew how to use it. It might be very useful to us.”
Deactivating the hologram, the boy looked to his partners and sighed. The egg and the spirit weren’t even the tip of the iceberg.
“And he told me to find an old Digimon who knows all about using spirits, and apparently, he’s the one who made this damned armor, too.”
Silence engulfed the three once again as Mayer tried to take everything in. Dargo was stuck on one particular part, though as he watched Riko tug at the bronze material.
“Wait, so, what do you mean by ‘get stronger’?” Dargo’s eyebrow lifted, “I thought we were pretty strong as long as we had each other.”
“You need to digivolve, Dargo.” Blatantly stating it, Riko went straight to the point and didn’t let up, “Every tamer that we’ve ever met had a Digimon that could digivolve past the Adult level, and even when we were at the mall, every tamer could digivolve passed that level without any cards. I don’t know how they did it, but we need to find a way for you to digivolve further. The same goes for you, Mayer. You need to digivolve to Adult and beyond. I have no idea what you’re going to digivolve to, but I think it’d be good to start with your armor form.”
“Okay…” Mayer looked to his tamer, not able to believe what he was hearing. He was basically told that the only way to get stronger was to digivolve, when just a week ago the boy told him not to rely on digivolving and cards to win. He was actually starting to believe that he didn’t need to win by digivolving at first, but now, he wasn’t sure what to think.
Dargo, however, made up his mind that second, “I can’t.”
“What?” Riko shot a look of disbelief to the Gabumon, unable to discern whether this was a joke or not.
“I can’t do that. I mean, I can’t just digivolve when you tell me to; I don’t know how or I would have by now. It’s not as easy as you’re making it sound, you know?” Trying to get his point across as peacefully as possible, Dargo saw that it wasn’t taken as such.
“What are you talking about? You figured out how to digivolve the first time. How hard could it be to digivolve to the next level?” Riko asked as if he already knew the answer, “Dargo, this isn’t a game. I’m trying to protect you guys, but you have to help me help you here.”
“Help me? You’re asking me to do the impossible! You’re trying to get me to do something you wouldn’t do yourself!” Dargo blurted out.
“Look, can you do this or not?” Riko wasn’t in the mood to argue, and would rather see results than debate about it.
“I just told you; I CAN’T!”
“You can’t or you won’t?” Riko pushed
“Right now, I don’t see the difference, Riko! You’re being completely unreasonable to us!”
Mayer’s eyes shifted back and forth between them. This was getting out of hand and he hadn’t even said that much. It went from a conversation to a verbal brawl between those who were the best of friends a few days ago. All of this reminded him of when he fought Dargo; how intense it was combined with his anger mad him lose sight of whose side he was on. But even so, Mayer had to say something.
“Guys, can we not do this now?” Mayer tried to interrupt, but it was seemingly hopeless as their eyes were locked.
“No! I want to hear what else he has to say!” Riko gestured to Dargo quite violently, letting his hand drop to his lap.
“You want me to say it? Well, I’ve said it before, but I think you let your insecurities get in the way of what you’re doing.” Dargo, in general hated to repeat himself, but feeling threatened, he felt it needed to be said, “Like the time we fought the LadyDevimon; you felt the need to fight even when we weren’t needed. That Crescemon probably would have won anyway, but you needed to show off, and it was like you were fighting to prove something.”
“Show off? What if she hadn’t pulled out of there alive? We did her a favor, and let’s not forget that if we hadn’t stayed, we wouldn’t have figured out how to use our Digimental.” Riko’s point was valid, but Dargo was right back to it.
“Our Digimental or your
Digimental, Riko? We’ve only used it twice since we found it, and there have been plenty of times where it could have been of use to us. Answer me this, Riko; if it’s our
Digimental, how come you haven’t used it on Mayer yet?”
The boy was struck hard with the question as his eyes stared into the fire. He’d never given any real thought to it before, but Dargo was, once again, right. When he found the Digimental, it reacted to his presence, so it was meant to be his. And when Dargo was magically with him in the beginning, it was Riko who was pronounced as a tamer, which meant that Dargo was his to command. The same went for Mayer in that they were meant to find him, which meant that he was also Riko’s property, but Riko never saw it like that until that very moment.
“Don’t worry, I’ll wait.” Dargo crossed his arms and stared intently at his tamer, who looked more and more like a tyrant than anything else.
“Uh, guys?” Suddenly, Mayer felt the urgency in getting both their attention, but they were still intent on fighting each other.
“I don’t even think you care about us. And you throw all this new information at us without giving us time to think about it. It’s like you’re just using us to fight so you can make yourself feel better since you can’t go home! ”
“Shut up! That’s not true!” Riko shook his head, burying his face into his hands.
“Guys?” Mayer called to them again.
“Then what the hell is it? All you care about is getting stronger and gaining power; and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were just like Za-“
” Riko drew the line there, marking the end of the argument, “Don’t- don’t you dare compare me to him! I’m nothing like him, and-”