Native Forest

Fortuna still remembered the brief image of the teenage boy in Guile's eyes. He was Guile's younger self, and what happened to him implied something disturbing. Lying on the floor teary-eyed, he struggled to push off the huge bald man who was undressing him.

Imagining what followed that scene made Fortuna squint and hiss. Poor kid. No wonder why he was such a cranky guy.

CHAPTER 3: Appreciation

Native Forest

Guile was strolling through the palisades of trees with Gabumon. Trees here, trees there, trees everywhere; getting out of this place should be a pain in the arse. He felt like he had passed a certain place several times and sometimes asked about it, yet Gabumon only answered that they hadn't explored this section.

He smiled at that thought; Gabumon was a good prospective ally indeed. Without that Digimon, he might find more troubles exploring the forest.

Walking, Guile looked around, hoping to find something different from fruitless trees and bushes. He had just eaten a Digimushroom earlier, but that foul-tasting food only polluted his mouth. Now, he wanted something to make him forget such disgusting taste.

After a few moments of scouting, he found nothing edible except some Digimushrooms burrowed in the soil. How annoying. Wasn't there a way to save his taste buds from dying?

Hmm, perhaps he could ask Gabumon.

"Gabumon," he began, "is Digimushroom the only kind of food here?"

"Nope."

Guile looked down at Gabumon. "There are other types of food?"

Gabumon nodded and smiled. "Yeah, there are fruits and vegetables. If you have a fishing rod, you can fish."

Interesting.

"You're hungry?" Gabumon asked.

"I only wish to have something for dessert."

Gabumon chuckled. "The Digimushroom's taste still lingers."

"Sort of," Guile grumbled.

Thump!

Guile felt like something had just hit the back of his head.

Rubbing his throbbing skull, he turned. Weird stuff. A blue apple was lying on the ground.

"Hey, the trees around are blue apple trees. Blue apples are delicious!"

Delicious? He had to prove that with his senses first. Yeah, the thing on the ground was an apple, but the color was blue, not red or green.

Gabumon said that this weird fruit was tasty, but he would never believe in anything he heard. He would only trust the information he learnt through his senses and personal experience.

Picking up the fruit, he raised an eyebrow. It appeared that every edible thing in Digital World was larger than normal. In his world, his fingers could encompass the entirety of an apple, but here, they could barely cover the half of it.

He brought the fruit close to his nostrils. Smelled sweet. Good. This should make a nice dessert.

Crunch!

He took a bite on the apple and smiled as he chewed the bitten-off chunk. It was both juicy and sweet. Excellent. The soil-like taste of the Digimushroom earlier would soon be completely forgettable.

After swallowing the crushed chunk of the fruit, he began carving the apple with his teeth rapidly.

A few minutes later, what was left was a half-eaten blue apple with part of its core and seeds exposed. Whew. He took more time eating this fruit than a Digimushroom, but it didn't matter. He was able to cleanse his mouth from that vile taste by savoring the sweetness of this apple.

Guile opened his mouth, ready to take another bite…

Crack!

He blinked and darted off at that voice.

Quickly, he looked around. Something was wrong. Gabumon was nowhere to be found.

Bah, why did it matter? Gabumon made a fine prospective ally with his sharp senses and his okay combat ability, so he should be able to take care of himself.

Guile closed his eyes to shut his attention to the surroundings. He then bit off a small part of the apple and munched it, enjoying the sweetness of the fruit.

Thud!

Thump!

"Ahhh!"

Guile opened his eyes at that. It sounded like Gabumon's voice, which was coming from a distance. Was he in a trouble?

Hmph, not his problem. Gabumon should be able to manage things by himself.

Guile calmly chewed the apple in his mouth before swallowing it.

Pow!

Crash!

The loudness of the noise prompted Guile to open his eyes and inspect the surroundings.

What the heck?

Gabumon was sprawled on the ground, bruised and battered with twigs and leaves scattered across his muddy body. He was gasping for breath with his eyes closed.

"That's what you get for taking my stuff without my permission, boy."

A hoarse voice? That didn't belong to Gabumon for sure; the Digimon seemed to be too breathless to speak.

Thud!

Thud!

Thud!

Something was coming from his left side.

Guile turned to see who the stranger was.

A reddish brown Digimon jumped over the bushes and landed in front of Guile. His eyes were narrow. His mouth was full of shiny fangs. His legs were non-existent, and what acted as his arms were tentacles with spiky club-like ends.

"Boy, you sure need a lesson or two," the Digimon said. "Everything in this area belongs to me."

Guile threw away the half-eaten apple and clenched his fists. He needed eating too, not just this weird Digimon.

"Guile, be careful…"

That weak voice… Was it Gabumon's?

Right. Guile looked down and found that Gabumon had managed to open his eyes.

"RedVegiemon is dangerous. He is a Champion level Digimon."

Guile raised an eyebrow. He didn't understand what Gabumon was talking about.

"Clever boy." RedVegiemon chuckled. "Let me tell you something. Here, there are six Digimon levels. I'm telling you what they are from the lowest to the highest level: Fresh, Training, Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, and Mega."

"And Gabumon's level is lower than a Champion I assume," Guile muttered.

All of a sudden, he sprang and landed a boot on RedVegiemon's face. The kick sent the Digimon tumbling backwards.

"That's all I need to know. Thanks." Guile raised an arm, preparing to cast a spell. "I doubt that you're a Champion level Digimon. You keel over just because of a kick."

"Don't get cocky, boy!"

RedVegiemon stretched his right tentacle arm and swung it.

Guile ducked, dodging the attack entirely.

But he didn't see a tentacle coming from the other side.

Whap!

The 'spiked club' hit Guile's right waist. The impact sent him falling flat on his left side.

RedVegiemon got up and raised his stretched arms. "Offense is the best defense, boy."

The mace-like arms came down.

Guile rolled to his right by reflex.

Crash!

The arms bludgeoned nothing but the earth, sending broken twigs and dried leaves into the air.

Guile was out of RedVegiemon's reach.

RedVegiemon hopped towards Guile. "Rotten Rainballs!" He drew in a long, hearty breath.

At this, Guile stood up and rushed towards RedVegiemon with his right fist pulled back. Interrupting the Digimon should be the best way.

Wrong!

His face caught the purple gas spraying from RedVegiemon's gaping maw.

Stinky gas. It smelled like a rotten meat.

A building feeling of pain suddenly rippled throughout his body. His vision was blurring and spinning. In just a few moments, numbness overtook one leg, then another, then an arm, and finally, his other arm.

Unable to control his body, Guile slowly slumped to the ground.

"Guile!" Gabumon's concerned scream rang in his ears.

Guile raised his head. Gritting his teeth, he gave RedVegiemon a defiant glare. Sure, he could barely move his limbs now, but he wasn't going to surrender. Giving up wasn't his nature.

"You're still alive after getting hit point-blank by Rotten Rainballs?" RedVegiemon asked. "Never mind. You're too weak to fight back now." He raised his stretched arms.

Two blows landed on Guile's back simultaneously.

Crack!

The pressure broke his spines and forced some blood out of his mouth.

Guile's vision was failing. RedVegiemon was now nothing but a blur of brown amidst the greenery.

However, he could still see that RedVegiemon had leapt back. What was the Digimon planning to do?

His intuition told him that the RedVegiemon was going for a killing blow. The Digimon had raised a stretch arm and brought it coming down upon his head.

Crash!

Blood was trickling down his messed-up hair and muddy face.

But he was still alive.

And he wouldn't give up.

Slowly, he raised his head and spat out a mixture of soil and blood.

"You're still alive?" RedVegiemon asked. He raised his stretched arm again. "Boy, you're persistent!"

"Stay away from Guile!"

Huh? Gabumon?

Right. It was Gabumon. He was charging headfirst, ready to impale RedVegiemon with his horn.

"Go away, small fry," RedVegiemon muttered. He performed a swiping motion with his other arm.

Pow!

The mace-like tentacle arm smashed into Gabumon's face. The impact knocked the horned Digimon aside and sent him grazing against the earth for several meters.

"Gabumon!" Guile shouted, looking at the sprawled Gabumon. This was the first time Guile could show his concern towards his prospective ally – no, his ally. Gabumon had fought hard and even tried to protect him. There was no reason to neglect this Digimon; instead, Guile had better appreciate him more.

"See ya!" RedVegiemon brought his arm down.

At the same time, Guile heard a familiar voice calling out his name.

Guile knew who screamed that.

Crash!

The blow sent Guile's face planting into the soil.

But that would never be enough to bring him down.

He had to win. It was the only way to protect Gabumon.

Slowly, Guile stood up and glared at RedVegiemon.

"Boy, you're tough!" the red Digimon said, raising an arm. "I wonder how much more you can take."

Soon, the mace-like tentacle arm came down, ready to bludgeon Guile's head.

Guile caught it with his hands and gripped it tightly.

Roaring, he spun around and threw RedVegiemon away into the sky.

He then growled, reaching out his right hand with his palm facing the flying Digimon.

As purple electricity began crackling along his forearm, he shouted, "Lightning Wave!"

A streaming bolt of lightning hurtled towards RedVegiemon.

On collision, a loud scream was audible as the thunderbolt reduced the plant-like Digimon to nothing but ashes.

It was over.

Despite trembling due to his injuries, Guile quickly limped towards Gabumon. The Digimon was someone who deserved appreciation, which Guile failed to give earlier because of trust issues.

"Hey, you're really strong!" Gabumon smiled, slowly getting up to his feet.

"You too," Guile muttered. "It's all thanks to you."

"Me? Well, you do most of the job. You took so many hits, but you still fought back and won!"

"No, it was your concern that made me stronger than usual."

"Huh? Really?" Gabumon blushed.

Guile nodded and offered a hand.

"Eh?"

"Sorry for not appreciating you earlier. I always felt rather insecure with a stranger."

Gabumon gently grabbed Guile's grubby hand and shook it. "Not a big deal."

As their hands slipped away from each other, Guile said, "By the way, let's go find Palmon."

"Sure thing!"

Together, they set off.

Walking wasn't easy for Guile. He was limping all the way and had tripped over some branches several times. Falling down added more pain and injuries to his broken body. His blurred vision made his journey harder as well. There were times he would have bumped into a tree if he hadn't been travelling with Gabumon.

While he was glad that Gabumon made a great companion, he began to wonder if Gabumon felt better now. His sight was still a tad blurry, but he could determine that Gabumon didn't limp anymore. Also, most of the bruises on his body had vanished.

"Gabumon, you can recover without healing items or something like that?"

"Yeah. The recovery usually depends on our mood," Gabumon explained. "If we're relaxed and happy, we can recover faster."

"I see."

"Sadly, because Digital World is a world made of data, it doesn't apply to you because you aren't made of data."

"I can live with that." Guile snickered. "I only need some bandages, medicines, and a nap to recover. Perhaps a healing spell will help, but since I barely learn anything about it, it's just additional."

"You're tough!"

"Because I'm used to it. I must admit that my endurance comes from my profession as a bounty hunter. I frequently pick fights with crooks. Although I know many deadly spells, I must engage the targets with my fists to avoid deaths; else I won't get paid."

"Sounds like an interesting job!"

"Definitely. I especially enjoy fighting strong crooks."

Soon, it became silent again. Guile and Gabumon continued their journey in the forest. As they walked, they looked around, hoping to find Palmon.

They had soon spent about ten minutes of walking and searching, yet they hadn't found anything interesting. The only thing that currently grabbed their interest was that the forest trail was coming to an end; the number of trees was diminishing as they moved on.

There appeared to be something like a meadow further ahead.

Correction, it was a flowerbed. Trees were non-existent there, which made the sunlight a tad blinding to the eyes.

"Hey, Guile." Gabumon stopped walking and sniffed the air. "I think I smell Palmon's scent."

"Scent?"

"As a plant Digimon, Palmon can discharge some kind of scent. The aroma depends on her mood." Gabumon snickered. "For now, she's happy. I smell something sweet."

Sweet scent? Guile immediately sniffed the air. Right. Although the fragrant aroma was weak, he could compare the scent to that of a jasmine's.

He immediately rushed, following the fragrance all the way. The redolence was growing stronger as he moved, telling him that Palmon should be nearby.

Suddenly, the pleasant scent turned into the stench of rotten meat.

Wincing, Guile trod the daisy-laden ground without covering his nose. He still needed his sense of smell to find Palmon.

When the stench grew strong enough to make him pale and nauseous, he stopped to look around. Palmon should be near.

Right. In front of him, there was a moving pink flower with a hook-like object on top of it.

"Palmon?" he asked quietly, bending to get a closer look of the flower.

The only answer he earned was a loud 'Poison Ivy' and a tendril shooting out from beneath the flower.

Before Guile could make a move, the vine had managed to coil around his neck. He managed to raise his hands to grab the tendril tightly and pull it, but numbness soon overtook his body and caused his hands to slip.

Then, everything went black.