"Ready Culumon?" Said Guilmon. "This is the last one, then you can rest for a while."
"You can do it, Culumon." Said Terriermon.
Culumon nodded. They stood before Kokomon, and squeezed their eyes shut in concentration.
The emblem on their forehead began to glow, and Cocomon's body was basked in the light of evolution. A moment later, Lopmon appeared, now returned to their child-level form.
Culumon fell backwards, exhausted, and landed on their rear.
"Last one, culu." They sighed.
All of the digimon were now back to child level, except for MarineAngemon, who had managed to resist the draining effects of Shaggai, and maintained their ultimate form.
Between Shaggai and being trapped in the kernel sphere with Juri, Culumon's energy was all but gone. It had taken them all day just to evolve everyone this much. The energy requirements for further evolutions went up exponentially, so it would be a long time before anyone would have the chance to reach adult level.
"Well, at least we're all back to normal now." Said Terriermon. He glanced at Kokuwamon and Monodramon, the child forms of Guardromon and Cyberdramon. "I mean, mostly."
A long silence hung in the air.
The digimon were back in the wasteland of the digital world, or what remained of it. The horizon, which had once stretched out endlessly, was now cut short. Its ragged, cookie-cutter edge served as a monument of the D-Reaper's calamitous attack.
While the damage to the real world was undone when the D-reaper was reduced to its primitive state, the time-reversal of Operation Doodlebug did not extend to the digital world.
There was barely anything left.
What scraps of land remained had been fought for tooth and nail by by desparate digimon of all power levels.
"I can't believe Jian and Shaochung are gone." Said Terriermon. "I never thought I would be back here again. It's just sinking in that we might not be able to go home for a while." He sighed. "So what now?"
No one said anything for a long moment.
"Find shelter." Said Renamon. "Then food. Avoid getting killed."
"That's it?" Said Impmon. "What about getting back to the real world? We should be looking for a way outta here."
"Renamon's right." Said Guilmon. "We can wait here for our tamers to find us. We just have to survive until then."
"I feel weird saying this," said Terriermon, "but I kind of agree with Impmon. It would be dangerous for everyone to come back to the digital world. Before, they had us to protect them. Do you really think the adults would let them go back alone? We should try to find our own way home."
"Our tamers protected us too." Said Renamon.
"Yeah, it could be dangerous wandering around." Said Guilmon. "What if we ran into a digimon who we couldn't beat? Takato's not here to help me evolve. We can't go looking for trouble."
"I don't care if it's dangerous." Said Monodramon. "I'll fight anyone I have to. I got strong enough to evolve on my own before, and I can do it again."
"That would be unwise." Said Lopmon. "The light of Culumon's Shining Evolution reached all corners of the digital world. Digimon on the whole will be stronger than before the D-Reaper attacked. And after that apocalyptic battle, only the truly strong will be left alive. I fear that any threat we encounter may spell our end."
"Not all digimon want to fight us, though." Said Guilmon. "Maybe we can team up with some really strong guys, who can keep us safe. We all fought the D-Reaper too, after all. If they know that we defeated it in the real world, I'm sure they'll be really nice to us."
"I think not." Said Lopmon. "Look around us. This world is in ruins. Digimon will be more desperate than ever to travel to the real world. I think I need not remind anyone of the legend that says loading the data of a digimon with a human partner will make such a journey possible. If anyone were to know of our true identities, we would need to adopt constant vigilance, lest we be stabbed in the back.
"For the time being, we must do all we can to conceal the fact that we have been to the real world at all, much less that we are partnered to humans."
Guilmon's face fell. "That's so harsh. Is there really no one who would help us?" He said.
"The four gods may." Said Lopmon. "But even I do not know a reliable way of reaching their realm, especially now that so much of this world has been destroyed."
Renamon stood. "I'm finding shelter." They started to walk away.
"Let's go." Said Guilmon. "Renamon's right. A data stream could come at any time. We don't want to get separated." He turned to Culumon.
"How are you doing?"
"So tired, culu."
"It's okay, just a little longer, then you can rest."
Guilmon scooped up the tiny digimon in his arms, and set off after Renamon. Everyone else followed.
As they walked, Terriermon turned to Lopmon.
"You really think digimon would try to load us if they knew about Jian and Shaochung?"
"Indeed." Said Lopmon.
"That's an awfully pessimistic way of thinking."
"Perhaps." Said Lopmon. "But I was born a soldier, even if I was never well suited to the role. It is in my nature to expect conflict, and prepare for the worst. I only hope that this will aid us in our survival."
"You're not like that when you're with Shaochung." Said Terriermon.
"No, I am not."
The two were silent for a moment.
"I hope we see them again soon." Said Terriermon.
"It is my hope as well."