“I’m so tired!” Beth whined. She’d been this way since they left the station much earlier. It was now sunset. The forest turned a rich orange and an olive green. Poyomon flew above like birds as tiny digimon scurried in the distance. Their cries echoed right into their ears. Everyone was tired, to an extent, but that whole time they’d only been walking briskly. It was barely any work, but Beth was exhausted. Now her true character was coming out. While she was kind and generous, Elizabeth was exceptionally lazy.

“It’s not much farther,” Michael assured her,” the next town’s only a little while away.”

“Yeah, so stop complaining,” Mei told her angrily.

“Man,” Takuya whispered to Koji and Tommy,” they sure are annoying.”

“We’re you any different when you first came here?” Renamon asked.

“I guess not,” Tommy said, remembering how spoiled and scared he was before this world.

As Michael took them over a small hill, he began running frantically. They followed him to see what was up, but they ended up finding what was down. It was a steel bridge, was being the word of choice. It’d been smashed to pieces, reduced to rubble and now they had no way across.

"Too bad,” Lunamon joked.

“It’s fine,” Takuya said,” We can fly us over.”

“Oh yeah,” Mei said,” What charge.”

“No charge,” Koji snapped at her,” We just wanna find this town and get some sleep.”

As Kazemon and BurningGreymon carried them over the trench, they had no idea of the dark figures watching them. On a faraway mountain, a black haired boy with winds like darkness and golden armor watched beside a cruel looking, red digimon shaped like a snake or lizard. He put his binoculars down to reveal his red eyes, scoffing and stating,” Michael’s returned. How unfortunate.”

“Should I alert Barbamon?” the strange digimon asked.

“No,” he said cunningly,” This goes straight to Epsilon”

“As you wish,” he said, flying off into the distance. He stood up, watching the forest and all it’s digimon, thinking about something not yet known. Once he was sure he was gone, he muttered top himself,” You fools. I’d bet Michael hasn’t even warned you about me, has he? Ignorance must be bliss, but so is power.”

Once they were over the gorge, Michael led them to a village of tree houses situated near a giant lake. They were built of simple branches, yet they were as big as normal houses. Some stretched as far as one hundred feet to act as guard towers. Each was connected by either a rope bridge or ladder. The population was mostly Biyomon and Lopmon with a few other species present. After admiring the engineering feat, Sarah led them to a strange megalith in the center of town. It appeared as the remnants of a shattered pillar, intricately carved with fine details and hieroglyphics.

“What do you think it is?” Kudamon asked.

“What are you, blind?” Mei said,” It’s a broken pillar.”

“Maybe we could ask someone about it,” Liollmon suggested.

“What about a bed?” Beth complained even more, although she’d gotten Lowemon to carry her all the way here.

“I’ll find an inn ma’am,” Gaomon told her as he ran off.

They went their separate ways, exploring the tiny village and all it had to offer. Emma watched the giant, pink flowers that were as big as here head. They were draped over every tree and roof, growing like a virus. Takuya and Sarah explored the housed, climbing their way over and around the high platforms. Christine found her way to the lake, a pool trapped in a natural valley. It was being fed by a rainbow waterfall, flowing gracefully.

“Beautiful,” she said as she sipped the clean water,” It’s so pure.”

“Perhaps we should get back,” Renamon suggested.

“I guess.”

Zoe carried a Lopmon on her head as she climbed the high towers and gazed at the mountains. J.P. followed her, bringing her an apple as the wind blew her hair every way. Michael lay on a branch, perched against the trunk as Dorumon tried to catch the falling leaves. He leaped with precision, yet failed as Michael told him,” Be careful or you’ll fall.”

“I’ll be fin-.”

He slipped, plummeting fifteen feet before another branch broke his fall. Michael put on a smug smile as he struggled to get back up. Mei followed Koji as he searched the woods for no apparent reason. At first she was just bored, but now she was trying to annoy him. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore.

“You need something?” he demanded.

“Nope, just bored.”

“Then how ‘bout you bother someone else?”

“Na,” she said, smiling with her hands behind her head,” I feel like pestering you for now.”

As Christine stepped back into town, Dorumon landed on Renamon, who was standing right behind her. It sent a shudder through her body as she turned around. Tiny leaves fell back on them as she took Dorumon by the skin on the back of his neck, like a puppy. She put him back down as Christine asked,” Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Renamon replied.

“Hello down there!” Michael yelled as he slid down from a vine. He jumped beside her, causing her to step back as he brushed the dirt off his hands. She giggled as he asked,” What goes on?”

“I found the lake,” she said with a smile, her hair blowing in the breeze to release a smell of lavender,” I bet we could use the water.”

“That’s smart. Beth did use up a lot of water earlier.”

“I heard that!” she yelled from a house from above. She stuck her head out the window with a frown and angry eyes while she continued,” I found a place to stay. You’re welcome!”

As Michael shook his head, Dorumon asked,” I thought Gaomon was the one looking.”

“That’s why he’s shaking his head,” Christine replied.

They all regrouped in the tavern, a tiny place with barely enough space for them. It was a tan room with beds made of straw and leaves under white cloths. Each had a single window to view the forest and the flying digimon. As they put their things aside, moonlight streamed over the branches. Each slept peacefully, until something strange happened.

It was around midnight. The air was cool and Emma woke to get a glass of water. Her bare feet lightly touched the harsh, wooden bridges as she searched the town. As she walked the paths, a strange crashing sound came from the distance. It startled her a bit, but she thought it was nothing, just a figment of her imagination. She walked along until another burst of fire came below her. It melted the wooden supports away as she clung to the rails.

“Tommy!” she screamed as the tree houses began to burn to the ground. The bridge she stood on began to creak and groan as it’s supports burned away. Emma let go, running to get to safety. The trees around her kept collapsing around her as the invisible entity sent splinters flying past her skin. The others finally woke up, her pink clothes easily visible in the moonlight.

“Emma! I’m coming!” Tommy yelled as he tried to use the spirits. Emma was curled up in the roots of a fallen tree when the noise finally stopped. He was too late. It ended before they could do anything. Tommy still went after her, taking a vine and sliding down like Michael did earlier. As they watched the two down below, he took her dirtied hands to take her back. The upturned leaves and flying twigs landed back down as Tommy found a terrified Emma in the wreckage. She still looked shaken, but she was better now, safe in his light.

When they got her up, the digimon crowded around her. They helped wash her hands as she lay in a cozy straw bed. She brushed the wood out of her golden hair as Tommy cleaned her bruises.

“I’m fine now,” she said as he scrubbed roughly.

“No, I can get it,” he said, trying to get his mind off the danger she was in ands how he couldn’t protect her. Emma put her hand over his, signaling him to stop. He stopped, putting the bucket aside as he sat next to her.

“I think you owe us some answers,” Koji told a Biyomon. As their heads and the mood depressed, they told him,” That was Garurumon. He comes here almost every night, trying to destroy our forest.”

“Why would he do that?” Michael asked sternly,” It makes no sense. There’s nothing here of interest.”

“He wants the Fractal Code for his master.”

“Who’s his master?” Koji asked, calmer and pleased he was finally getting the answers he wanted.

“We don’t know,” she said as those feelings of pride burst into flames,” All we know is what he mutters while he breaks things.”

“I did hear something,” Emma said,” He said…Epsilon.”

A chill spread over the room. Silence ensued until the digimon started screaming,” We’re doomed!”

“Calm down,” Takuya said to no avail.

“I’m afraid this is serious,” Renamon pointed out after putting everyone else back to sleep,” There are tales that the mere mention of Epsilon’s name can destroy kingdoms.”

“And now he’s back!” they kept yelling. They ran around like insects over a rotting piece of fruit. But suddenly the screaming stopped once a musical twinkling came from where Emma lay. It was a tiny music box, finely crafted with ornate details, echoing to calm the mood. As it drifted, they all mellowed down to an extent you could hear a pebble thrown into the lake almost half a mile away.

“That’s better,” she whispered as she closed the lid, replacing the placid melody with a sea of snoring.

“What we need is a plan,” Koji said.

“What’s there to plan?” Michael asked,” You’re our bodyguards, guard our bodies.”

“Gee, you could say please,” Takuya said.

“He’s right,” Tommy said as he sat on the chair. Emma had drifted into sleep with him holding her hand,” They can’t digivolve, but we can. It’s the only way to protect the village.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“Neither do I,” Koji said,” But I’m going to fight to protect these digimon, not because Michael told us to.”

“I can live with that,” Michael said, content he was getting his way.

“Then it’s settled,” Takuya said courageously,” We’ll fight tomorrow night.”

“I’ll draw up some strategies,” Michael said only to have Takuya tell him,” We don’t need useless pieces of paper.”

Michael turned to him angrily, scolding him as he said,” Without strategies, there wouldn’t be any wars, just bloodbaths.”

Once dawn broke through, leaving bright green trees against a yellow backdrop, the digimon began constructing traps to help fend off Garurumon. Of course, Mei lounged around, refusing to work, and Beth only did the simplest, least tiring acts of charity. But everyone else worked hard, pulling tightropes and digging pits.

“You know,” Sarah said, out of breath but willing to go on,” This isn’t what a proper girl does.”

“Good thing your not a proper girl then, huh?” Takuya said, handing her more logs and rope.

Michael stood watching, deep in thought as Christine carried a bag of leaves for a pitfall. She stopped, trying to see just what it was he was staring at, unaware he was simply thinking. Everybody rushed around them as she asked in her gentle voice,” What’re you looking at Michael?”

“All this,” he said disappointingly,” They didn’t bother figuring out a means of camouflage, or using the tree houses. And they can’t honestly think those tiny potholes are going to stop Garurumon, do they?”

“Why don’t you go help then?” Dorumon asked.

“They won’t accept my help,” he said, giving up before even trying.

“You don’t know that,” she said, instantly transforming into the voice of reason.

“I guess,” he said, realizing they’d be pulverized if he didn’t step in. He jumped down and walked over to Takuya and Koji. As Christine watched, unable to hear anything, she could see their conversation. By spotting hand gestures and body language, she could tell it wasn’t going well. Koji crossed his arms, a sign of doubt, as Michael curled his fists. He was angry, but he kept pleading to Takuya, who only put on a smile, probably from overconfidence. Michael walked back, but Christine knew what they’d said.

“I take it they didn’t buy it?”

He shrugged and said,” If they don’t want my help then okay. They’re just here for protection anyway. As long as we’re safe it doesn’t matter what happens to them.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Yeah, I kind of do.”

Christine sighed, aware she couldn’t change his mind. She just walked down to help with whatever she could. As she left, Emma dragged Tommy along with Zoe and J.P. and asked,” Michael, I heard your plan and well…I think you’re right.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t want anyone getting hurt, and your plan made more sense. So I’m ready to help.”

“Us too,” Zoe said, once again showing her defiance for Takuya,” What we’re doing just doesn’t make any sense.”

“And I’m with Zoe,” J.P. said confidently, only to have Tommy say,” You’re always with Zoe.”

Michael chuckled. The feeling of being a leader put him in a good mood. He looked them right in the eye and said,” Alright. I want you guys to take as much rope as you can and bring it here. Find nets, leaves, and really big rocks. And be discrete about it.”

“Discrete?” Tommy wondered.

“It means stealthy,” Emma said,” like a ninja.”

They worked hard throughout the rest of the day. Takuya and Koji had no idea what the others were doing, and it stayed that way until nightfall. Michael spent the day tying knots, swinging from tree top tree with rough twine in his hands, and weaving leaves into nets with Emma in an attempt to create cloaks that blended with the trees. It was hard work, but all the math told Michael it’d be worth it.

Night came as Koji waited in the houses and Takuya watched on the ground. Stars hung in the black sky as the three moons floated above their heads. Michael watched from below too, but rather hidden behind several bushes with Emma. His plan was starting to unfold now. Kumamon, Beetlemon, and Kazemon waited in the trees, hidden in the camouflage capes they made earlier. They each waited by a tightrope wound through the trees, a means of dumping the heavy rocks on Garurumon. It was a thousand times better than Takuya’s plan with a higher chance of success. Michael even managed to use Koji’s plan to his advantage. He knew they’d try fighting Garurumon head-on, but this would act as a distraction for Zoe, Tommy, and J.P. to attack from the shadows. All they had to do now was wait.

The time flew by, going from hour to hour almost instantly. By the time the first rustling sounds came, all but Emma was asleep. She quickly woke Michael as he instantly knew what was happening. Once the first tree came down, everyone woke up. Zoe and J.P. got into their positions as Takuya lit the flames on his hands. He quickly came in sight of everyone, a white wolf with blue striped like that of a tiger.

“Get ready,” Michael whispered, but Takuya burst forth from his bush and started burning Garurumon without a second thought. But, Michael could care less. His plan was working, and the stupider Takuya acted, the better.

“Pyro Darts.”

“Lobo Kendo’s!” Koji yelled as he jumped from above. He sliced through his silvery fur, just making him angrier. Michael gave Zoe and J.P. the okay to begin. They combined their attacks, creating stinging gusts of wind, paralyzing lightning strikes, and frosty bullets come from the darkness. Zoe left a streak of red as Zephyrmon burned his skin. MetalKabuterimon fired twin shots of electricity, bringing Garurumon down as Korikakumon’s axes worked like boomerangs to bring him down.

“What are they doing?” Koji asked, afraid they were trying to hit them.

“You guys, cut it out!” Takuya yelled.

As Tommy’s second ax came around, it soared right over Michael and Emma. It startled her, causing her to loose her footing and topple into the battlefield. She forced herself up as she said,” I’m okay!”

But she wasn’t okay. Emma was blissfully unaware that Garurumon was right behind her. Liollmon sped after her as she turned around to see the mess she was in. Emma didn’t shriek or scream, but just stood there, frozen by fear.

“Aw man,” Takuya said, faced with another problem,” Get out of there!”

“Emma!” Liollmon yelled as he jumped in front of her. Emma’s D-Tector began glowing, hurting her eyes as curiosity took over. She activated the Fractal Code, it’s light keeping Garurumon away.

“So pretty,” she said to herself.

“Emma!” Tommy yelled,” That’s the Fractal Code! Use it to digivolve Liollmon!”

“Okay,” she said doubtfully. Emma scanned the code, taking her to another place, frozen in time. As she scanned the code, she cried,” Execute Digivolution! Liollmon digivolve to Liamon!”

Liollmon went from a digimon the size of a large dog to the size of a horse. He was like a huge lion, tackling Garurumon and keeping him away from Emma. Tommy grabbed her as Liamon electrocuted the wolf with his mane. Emma looked away as he started biting into it’s fur. They all combined their attacks, using the teamwork they’d lost to finish Garurumon off. It’s fractal code lit up her face like the moon as she watched her D-Tector.

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Scan it,” Tommy said,” It’s the first digimon you helped defeat.”

“Okay,” she said, sliding her digi-vice against the blue ribbon, crying,” Fractal Code, digitize!”

Her fist digimon found it’s way into her digi-vice, bringing tranquility back to the forest. They crowded around her, proud of her achievement as a tiny digimon fell from where Garurumon once stood. It was a Gabumon, scared and confused, Emma rushed over and asked,” Are you okay?”

“Huh? Where am I?”

“Gabumon!” one of the Lopmon yelled happily. The villagers gathered around him as Sarah asked,” Do you know him?”

“He went missing a few weeks ago. What happened to you Gabumon?”

“I don’t know,” he said, grasping his head in pain,” All I remember is a blue light, then darkness, and then I was here.”

“I wonder what that was,” Beth said, yawning and stretching her legs as Michael said,” I guess we can deal with this in the morning. I say everyone should get some sleep.”

The next morning they were back on the trail. Well rested and feeling like new, they walked without complaint. Streaks of light hit their faces as Takuya tried to work the courage to apologize to Michael. Christine saw the look on his face and naively asked,” Are you okay Takuya?”

“Yeah, fine,” he said, but Zoe hit his shoulder as he continued,” Actually, I wanted to say sorry.”

“Really?” Michael said proudly.

“Yeah really,” he said angrily, but changed his attitude back to thanks and said,” Look, if you didn’t go behind our backs, we’d all be toast right now. So sorry, okay?”

He stopped, turning to Takuya with a smile. Michael laughed as he said,” Okay, I accept. But from now on, no more going behind each other’s backs, no secrets. We’re a team now and teams have to work together.”

“Deal,” he said, shaking Michael’s hand as Sarah cried,” Aw, you’re friends now.”