They stood a few feet away from the edge of the crater. All traces of their encampment were obliterated, and also any sign of survivors.
"Ash," said Fukamachi Sho, "do you think…?"
"I don't know, Fukamachi-san," the Lost Number replied gently. She turned to look around and said, "Get behind me!"
The human teenagers got behind her and saw Guyot standing still in his battle form. The Zoalord reverted back to his default form and fell to the ground, not even knowing that three of his enemies stood nearby.
"Come on, let's get out of here before Cronos shows up," Ash whispered and quietly led the group of three back into the woods.
"Wait," said Sho. "Let's hide close by so we can hear what they're saying."
Ash thought for a moment, and then said, "You two go on. I'll stay behind and spy. If I get spotted I'll lead them away from you two."
"You're in no condition to fight, Sho," she cut him off. "Until we can figure out what the hell's wrong with your Guyver, you'll need to trust me to protect you two. Now get going! I'll catch up with you later."
Sho was silent for a moment; her logic was sound. He couldn't fight, and if Ash were to be captured there was a chance that she could escape again. "Alright, good luck," he took Mizuki's hand and they ran into the woods while Ash disappeared.
It didn't take long before the helicopters arrived. Rhea waited until she saw Team Five disembark and she revealed herself. She walked up to the Hyper Zoanoids and said, "Lost Number Commando Rhea reporting in."
"Good to see you, Rhea," said Zx-Tole. "What's your mission status?"
"Well, as you can see," she pointed to the unconscious Zoalord, "Sir Pompadour here thought it best to blow up the cliff along with Guyver III, the Proto-Zoalord, and three of the humans. Currently, Sho Fukamachi and Mizuki Segawa are the ones that have survived."
"Where are they now?"
"Hiding in the woods somewhere; I thought it best to make them think that I would spy and see if anyone in the group survived. I can track them down later and get them to Dr. Barcus with minimal fuss."
"Good. By the way, have you heard from Aptom?"
"Aptom? No, was he supposed to meet up with us?"
"Yeah, he was monitoring the fight between Guyot and that Proto-Zoalord," said Elegen. "He hasn't even checked in with HQ since the fight ended."
"We thought he might have met up with you or something," said Gaster.
"Bloody hell," she pinched the bridge of her nose. "My gut's telling me to check up on my group; I'll contact you later." With that she turned, jumped back into the tree canopy, and began her trip to track down Sho and Mizuki as fast as she could. If he goes after them this could go from bad to ugly.
Sho paced in the small cave he and Mizuki took refuge in. It had been several hours since they left Ash back at the crater, and the two teenagers were understandably worried. It was getting dark and they hoped their winged friend would back before dark.
We shouldn't have left her, he thought. We should've stayed together!
"Fukamachi? Segawa?" a very familiar voice called out before Ash dropped out of the trees and continued to run to the cave.
"Ash!" Mizuki greeted the Lost Number happily, but her smile faded when she noticed that their new friend appeared on alert.
"What's wrong?" Sho asked also going on to alert.
"A Lost Number named Aptom has gone rogue," Ash explained. "Fukamachi, you've fought him before. He was the leader of the Lost Numbers you fought days ago."
"I remember him," he nodded.
"Last I remember before escaping Relic's Point," she continued, "he was in the optimization tank for modification. Before that he and his comrades always stuck together like they were brothers. He might come after you for revenge."
"But I had no choice but to kill them!"
"It doesn't matter to him! In his eyes, you took away his only family; only a Lost Number can understand a Lost Number in Cronos. Trust me, I know the bond those guys shared."
"Of course you do," another familiar voice said behind her. "You shared that bond with rest of us, Rhea." Ash turned to face Aptom. "From where I came in, you haven't told them the truth yet have you?"
"That's because I'm trying to keep them out of Guyot's grip, Aptom," her voice changed as she dropped the Southern accent and Sho moved himself in front of Mizuki. "You know damn well what my mission entails, even if it means finding allies among enemies."
"Allies among enemies?" he scoffed and pointed at Sho. "I'd rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon than ally with the kid that killed Gelpess, Somlume and Dyme!"
"Aptom, he didn't have a choice. Cronos never gave him a choice—"
"Oh really? Like he didn't have a choice when he killed his own father?"
"What?!" Sho's eyes widened as the suppressed memories of that horrific day came crashing down on him like a tsunami. At this point, Ash had unfurled her wings and taken a fighting stance.
"Either you stop this, Aptom, or…" she trailed off making the Lost Number in question finish that threat.
"You won't stand a chance and you know it. You don't have a secondary battle form; all you have are your wings and your bare hands."
"I know that nothing will stop me from bringing down Guyot!" She charged Aptom and punched his gut hard enough to force him out of the cave.