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Digivolve Your Differences

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The Village of Beginnings was beautiful, friendly, alive with light and fun and song beneath the big tree’s sheltering leaves—and so terribly boring. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been if Elecmon had had something to do. But with the Trailmon routinely on time to take the Poyomon and Yukimibotamon away; with the open, peaceful fields around the village blessedly empty; and with so many other, older, more eager Elecmon in her tribe available to take over caretaking duties, she found she was often left on the fringes of town, wanting for duty or even just someone to talk to.

Conversation didn’t come lightly for her. Infant care was about as fulfilling to her as chewing rocks, so even when her fellow tribesmon were available to talk, all the chatter about whose adorable little charges burped up the most spit bubbles tasted like gravel between her teeth. More and more often, she filled her days with explorations far from the village, following the Trailmon tracks aimlessly until nightfall—and dinner—called her home.

One such day, uncharacteristically dark and grey with a fine rain falling like mist, Elecmon traveled in a different direction than usual and came upon a creek.

“Fish could be good,” she murmured to herself, because what else could she do without a friend? “Everybody likes fish.”

She moved upstream without stopping, though, and found a glade of unfamiliar trees, short-ish with long, trailing leaves that hung around them like veils of green. Aware of the danger of hidden places but more aware of the electric excitement in her fur, Elecmon silently approached the trees and parted the screen of leaves to find: a human.

The human and Elecmon stared at each other, startled into silence. All the things Elecmon knew about humans—how they all looked essentially the same, how they had no special attacks, but somehow had more mythological powers than their skinny arms would let on—came from stories.

The human—Erika—didn’t know anything about what the heck this creature might be. She came here—wherever “here” was—out of curiosity, because the elevator that she was forced to use to get to the subway platform had kept going, down and down and down, until it reached a place full of old-timey trains. Sure, she probably could’ve ridden the elevator back up to her regular line, but normally the world openly offered her so few opportunities, she decided to take a chance on this one.

And so here she was, warily watching some cross between a peacock, a corgi, and a rabbit. There might’ve been some dinosaur in there, too, in the claws. Best not to think about the claws. Best to focus on how the blue pattern in its mostly red fur looked like it was imitating human hair on the top of its head and its stubby legs. It couldn’t really be a scary creature, could it?

With one hand, she reached out, her palm open, hoping that the corgi part of it could smell the goodness wafting off her, even as her other hand gripped the pocket knife she kept in her vest.

“Here, boy,” she said to the peacordinobit. “You’re a good boy, aren’t you?”

“I’m not a boy,” Elecmon said, bristling.

Erika jumped in her seat and yelped, “You talk!”

Elecmon frowned and fanned her tail out further. “So do you,” she said, “but apparently not very well. It just figures,” she went on, ignoring Erika’s indignant pout. “I get out of the village to get some distance from the babies, and here you are, another baby.”

“I’m not a baby,” Erika said, more forcefully than she would have liked. She awkwardly rearranged herself back into her sitting position while proclaiming “I’m 12.”

“You’re a baby in Digimon years,” Elecmon insisted, standing up on her haunches. “I’m not afraid of babies.”

“Good, because I’m not afraid of you either, Peacordinobit,” Erika said. “So maybe you can tell me what a Digimon is, and where the heck I am.”

“Peacorn—what?” Huffing, Elecmon put her paws on her hips. “I don’t know what kind of names you’re calling me, but how can you expect me to believe you’re not a baby when you’re in the Digital World and don’t know what a Digimon is? Poor forward thinking.” She twitched her nose. “One of the prominent markers of immaturity.”

“I was hoping for the same thing you were hoping for,” Erika said, looking around at the damp trees, the swelling creek. “Distance. From everything. I guess I found it.” She looked over at the Digimon. “It turns out, the creatures in the distance think I’m some sort of weakling, too. Even though I’m not.”

“Yeah, well.” Elecmon looked the girl over and finally decided to settle down, grooming her ruffled fur back into place. “I’m Elecmon. Not whatever it was you were calling me. Weak or not, you’re pretty brave not to even stand to face me. I’m the toughest ‘mon in the Village of Beginnings.”

Erika wondered if she should explain about her legs, about the braces hidden under her baggy jeans. Though she took self-defense classes, though she could move at a rate that wasn’t quite running but got her places a lot faster than walking, that initial attempt at balance left her most vulnerable. Better to let Elecmon mistake a weakness for strength, necessity for bravery.

“It’s nice to meet you, Elecmon. I’m Erika. The bravest 6th grader at Honnoji Academy.”

“Never heard of it,” she replied breezily, but then dropped back to all fours, curious. “What makes you the bravest? You fight a lot of Champion-levels in your kingdom?” After a beat, she twitched an ear and ventured a smile. “What, you’re not gonna tell me you win those fights, right? Hah!”

The girl hadn’t backed down, nor had she attacked. That was good enough for Elecmon. She sat, at ease for once, feeling a little out of control of her own mouth. All the words in her were trying to bubble up at once. She’d probably spoken more to this human in two minutes than she had to her fellow Elecmon in the village.

What did ‘Champion-levels’ mean, in this place? Back home, she’d never won a championship in anything, unlike all the popular kids. She wasn’t anywhere close to a black belt in karate yet, but she dreamed that one day she could be, even though she had just about as much chance at becoming an Olympic athlete. “I’ve never won a championship, but a lot of people tell me I can’t do things, and I prove to them that they’re wrong. I beat them at their own games.”

Elecmon nodded. “I know what you mean.” Idly, she broke a leaf from the branches shading them like a canopy and chewed on the stem. “At the village, the other Elecmon tell me I have to do things, or at least do them their way. It’s our duty to take care of the children and all that.” She sighed through her nose. “But I’d rather hunt and forage than stand around all day. They don’t even need me. Or miss me. It’s better for everyone with me out, caring for the kids in my own way.”

“You have to take care of kids that aren’t your own?” Erika wondered, glad to take attention off herself and back onto this strange world she’d wandered into. “Where are the parents? Is this like foster care?” She’d heard some not-so-great things about foster care. Having cerebral palsy definitely sucked, but at least her parents supported her. They didn’t say she couldn’t take self-defense classes or do karate. Initially they fought it, of course, but after letting her wear the doofy robes and and seeing her throw a few punches, they let her make her own decisions about what was too much. Even trusted her not to stab herself with a pocket knife. Sure, the blade was tiny, and she’d never unsheathed it, but even just carrying it in her pocket was a big deal.

Like Elecmon, Erika broke off a leaf from one of the branches. Instead of eating it, she twirled it between her fingers. Heavier water droplets that had accumulated from the earlier rain and current mist splashed her face. The leaves had largely protected her from the light rain still falling.

Elecmon came closer to her; the Digimon cocked her face to the side, either pondering the questions or Erika’s face, or both. Those big, bright blue eyes were beautiful but unnerving.

“Parents? What’s a parents?” Elecmon asked.

A gentle breeze stirred the leaves around them.

“Uh,” Erika said. “Well—ahem. When a man and a woman love each other very much—”

Elecmon scoffed. “What does that have to do with hatching Digi-eggs and caring for the littles until the Trailmon take them to their new homes? You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about, kid. Leave childcare to the experts.”

“If you know so much about it, why are you out here instead of singing lullabies in a nursery?” Erika grumbled, stung by the unceasing put-downs. “I bet it’s not that you don’t like it. You’re just not good at it.”

Elecmon stared at her, then reared onto her hind legs again. “Excuse you?”

Erika tossed her leaf aside. “You heard me. Or what are those big ears good for, anyway?” Slowly, laboriously, she pulled herself erect on her shaky legs, standing tall under the curtains of willow-like leaves. “That’s how it works. You make excuses, you say it isn’t your thing, but really, you’re just running away. If you wanted to prove yourself, you’d put up and do it, no matter what.”

She turned away from Elecmon and started going back the way she thought she’d come, back to the train, to find even more distance. But even though Elecmon’s legs were stubby, she managed to catch up easily, blocking Erika’s path.

“Listen, you,” Elecmon growled, now having to stare up at the girl. No matter. This puny human child had nothing on this ‘mon. Elecmon pointed a claw up at Erika and continued, “You don’t know anything about anything. You come in here spouting gobbledegook about peacoredigibits and parents and then lecture me ? You’re only 12! I’ve been a responsible ‘mon for far longer than that, making sure other Digimon don’t come and harm the littles, making sure these babies have fun blowing bubbles in my face all day. It’s pointless! Nothing ever attacks the Village of Beginnings, and these babies won’t remember me. It’s all routine rookie work, when there’s so much more to be done and see.”

“I don’t really care,” Erika said, turning around again to try get away from Elecmon, no matter the direction. Again, the red furball managed to easily block Erika’s path.

Erika had never hated her legs more than she did in this moment. She’d been cornered by bullies before, used to get tripped up by them and have to hear their sick snickering. Until the time she fought back, broke a kid’s nose with her reinforced foot. Elecmon seemingly had no nose to break, no long legs to trip, hadn’t threatened her body in any way. So what was she so angry about?

Seeing no way out, she sighed and held Elecmon’s gaze. Again, those intelligent animal eyes unnerved her, made her pull her vest more tightly around herself. “Alright, I’m sorry, okay? I don’t know anything about anything. So will you let me leave?”

Elecmon stared her down a second longer. “Yeah, fine,” she said. “Good riddance, twerp,” she added, after a moment. She started to move aside, but paused in her tracks. “Do you even know which way to go?”

Of course she didn’t. Frustrated, Erika threw her head up and growled, “Ugghh hhhh .”

“I’ll show you to the train station,” Elecmon offered, hopping two steps towards the tracks and waiting for Erika to follow. “You know. Since you don’t know anything about anything.”

Fine ,” Erika agreed, grudgingly. “Lead the way.”

They proceeded across the grassy, rail-crossed fields for two whole minutes before Elecmon’s mouth got the better of her again. “What are you doing here, anyway, if you don’t know about the Digital World? We don’t see humans here every day.”

“The elevator malfunctioned and brought me here,” Erika replied evasively. “I thought it might be fun to see where the trains took me.”

“And was it everything you hoped for, twerp?” Elecmon asked.

“It’s very pretty here,” Erika murmured, looking around at the lush fields of grass and trees and train tracks. Living in the city, she’d never seen grass so green. The grayness of concrete, its grit and dirtiness, the painful way it could cut your palms open when you tripped over your own two feet—those were intimately familiar to her. The glass and steel of buildings, the hazy blue sky, those were a different kind of beauty than this otherworldly remoteness.

And of course, normally the only creatures she talked to were cats and dogs and the occasional hamster.

“You’re pretty interesting, too. There’s nothing like you where I’m from,” Erika admitted. “I’m glad I didn’t try to stab you or anything,” she joked.

Elecmon snortled. “Stab me? With what, your blunt human nails? Haha!”

For a generous two seconds, Erika let Elecmon have her fun, then reached into her jacket once more to draw her pocket knife. “With this, mostly.”

“That?” Elecmon squinted skeptically at the object in Erika’s hand—skeptically, that is, until she opened the blade. “Whoa! What is that?”

“It’s a pocket knife,” Erika said, but Elecmon was already leaning up on her hindquarters once more, craning to get a better look at the knife. She was a little close for comfort, but, taking this as the moment for a peace offering, Erika bent awkwardly so that Elecmon could see. “A pocket tool, actually, but the knife’s part of it.”

“What are the other things for? Why do you have something like this?” Elecmon asked without waiting for an answer. “Do you need that many tools for your job?”

“I don’t have job, I just go to school,” Erika said. “But the knife makes me feel safer. It’s small but sharp. The other tools make me feel helpful. You never know when you’ll need to clip a nail with tiny scissors, or tighten a screw.”

“So this is how you humans attack without, well, attacks ,” Elecmon murmured. “Bit disappointing, to be honest.”

“Attacks? Do you have a special attack like in cartoons?” Erika asked.

Elecmon gave her a look. “Again, I don’t know what ‘cartoons’ are,” she said, “but watch and learn, sport. Super Thunder Strike!”

Static crackled in her fur as she took aim at an innocuous patch of sky and let a bolt loose, tearing open the cloud. Erika shielded her face with her arms but left a space for her eyes, mouth half-open in a disbelieving smile at what she saw.

“That was you? Whoa! Wow!” For a moment, she forgot all the tension and disappointment that hung over her day. She’d just seen lightning strike blue into the sky—seen a creature the size of a dog release an attack that would down a plane.

Elecmon, unused to awe, shuffled gruffly back into place. “It’s not that impressive,” she mumbled. “Every Elecmon in the village can do that. It’s our special attack, after all.”

“No human can do anything like what you just did,” Erika assured her. “But is that true? That all the other … Elecmon can do that?”

“Yeah. Every single one.” One paw in front of the other. Just keep walking, Elecmon. “Just like every single one of us minds the babies, and every Shamamon sees visions, and every Trailmon—well, runs on the rails.”

Once more, Erika followed after, watching the way Elecmon held herself—shoulders tight, face trained forward, fan-like tail drooping. “And … are all of you actually named Elecmon?”

Elecmon shrugged. “It’s what we are, isn’t it?”

“That seems,” Erika said, slowing as the slope of the land shifted slightly, “sad. I guess.”

“Huh?” Elecmon stopped. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, there are other Erikas in the world, but not every Japanese person is just called ‘Japanese’—you know?” Erika struggled with her words. “You’re not all the same, even if you have the same attacks. Maybe it’s what you are, but it’s not who you are. It’s just pretending to be the same when you’re not.”

“… Huh.”

The words dropped into Elecmon like a stone thrown into still water, rippling from her center outward with unnameable, cool excitement—like the first breath of a breeze to graze an open flower as spring seeps out of the snow.

More firmly, she said, “Huh.” And then, “That doesn’t cause problems among you humans? Quitting pretending you’re the same?”

A knot formed in Erika’s stomach. She couldn’t lie and say it didn’t cause problems, because it definitely did—it caused problems that adults argued with each other about, even as they put on smiles for her. People couldn’t help staring at her difference from them, let that difference define her in ways that were untrue and unfair. But she knew that there was good in difference, that often differences made everyone special, somehow. It would be boring if everyone had the same personality, the same talents. How would anybody get better at things that way?

“It causes some problems,” she admitted. “But it’s also what makes us stronger. We get jealous when people are good at things we’re not good at. A good jealous, though. Look, it’s hard to explain.”

“A good jealous,” Elecmon mused. “Like … the kind of jealous that makes Digimon better. Work harder, not to win, but so … so they can learn how to do that, too. Or learn something different. So everybody’s got something they want to be doing.”

It felt a bit like weak static creeping along her spine—as if she stood on the brink of some enormous drop, the bottom obscured with mist, but the sun shining through it, casting rainbows every which way.

Elecmon darted in front of Erika and stopped, ears twitching readily. “Teach me about that thing,” she said, pointing to the pocket knife. “Teach me about … how different tools are helpful.”

On the plains, there was nowhere to get out of the rain, but the drizzle petered out as they sat on the wet grass and talked. Erika drew each tool out of the pocket knife and explained its use while Elecmon listened raptly, ears pointed to attention. She asked questions, which Erika warmed to answering; it was a nice change from working and fighting and challenging to make herself heard, to make her strengths known.

“Humans are so …” Elecmon breathed, “weird .”

“Excuse you ,” Erika replied with a roll of the eyes.

Laughing, Elecmon waved away the jab at her earlier rudeness. “I mean it in a good way!” she said, and her fur looked more vibrant and plush as light passed through the thinning clouds. “Your ways are so strange, and obviously you have a lot of problems your society needs to work out as a whole.”

“We’re not good listeners,” Erika conceded.

“But you do have good ideas.” Elecmon turned back towards the Village of Beginnings, still visible in the distance. “I think … I will try some of those on my own. See what other tools,” she said, smiling in a slender, wry way at her upturned paws and claws, “I have at my disposal. Something the other Elecmon haven’t discovered yet.”

A strange, bittersweet pride moved through Erika as she looked at, she realized, her new friend. “… Elecmon?” she asked shyly.

“Hm?” Elecmon glanced back at her once more.

Erika knelt and offered her hand again, palm open, echoing her first disastrous greeting. “You should have a name,” she said, and those incredible blue eyes widened. “Can I give you one?”

Elecmon gaped for a moment, mouth working as if an answer should come out, and then whispered, eyes brimming, “Yes!”

Like a queen in a fairy tale, Erika laid her hand gently on Elecmon’s head and felt a spark pass between them. “Then your name is Yuuki,” she said. “Where I come from, that means courage .” She tried a smile of her own. “A fitting name for the toughest Elecmon in the Village of Beginnings, right?”

“Yuuki,” Elecmon repeated, tasting the word in her mouth, letting it fill her lungs, feeling it rush through her entire body. “Thank you,” Yuuki said, leaning her head into Erika’s palm.

Erika smiled and pet Yuuki behind the ears, in a way she hoped the Digimon appreciated. She was honestly surprised how soft Yuuki’s fur was, especially slightly wet from the rain. “I’m glad you like it.”

A strong gust of wind blew then, sending a chill through her. Erika put her hands in her vest pockets to keep warm and hunched her shoulders, keeping her arms close to her body. In the distance, she could see clouds gathering again, and her clothes were already slightly damp from the earlier rain.

“I really need to go, though, Yuuki,” Erika said, shivering. “Is the station close?”

Yuuki sat up, smelling the air; lightning was on its way. “Yeah,” she said, bounding up the slight, rolling slope of the ground. “This way!” she called down. “We should hurry. There’s a storm coming.”

It was tough going on the slippery grass. Erika fought as hard as she could, but there was only so much she could do, and Yuuki ran to and fro, feeling energy gather along her fur, crackling in her tail. She couldn’t help but picture the village in her mind: Elecmon dashing from cradle to crib not unlike she was running now, frightened Pabumon crying bubbles, the tribe elder overseeing the small, everyday chaos. They’d be worried for her, she realized for the first time. But yuuki meant courage . She set her mouth. This was how she was going to carry out her duty. She would see Erika safely to the station.

She heard something in the distance and stopped, ears swiveling.

“Yuuki?” asked Erika, grimly soldiering on.

“Shh,” she said as thunder rumbled somewhere far off. The blues of Yuuki’s eyes shone intensely in the storm. Suddenly, she took off the way she came, following the train tracks.

“Yuuki?” Erika gasped as the Digimon raced past her.

“—tool you don’t have—!” floated back to her as the rain began to hammer down in earnest.

Alone, Yuuki was fast, and she knew the terrain like no other ‘mon for miles around. She heard the sound again— whoooo whoooooooooo —and shouted as loud as she could.

“Stop! I said stop! I’m an Elecmon of the Village of Beginnings, and I need—there’s a child who needs a ride!”

Her voice couldn’t slice through the dampening fall of rain. She could see the Trailmon now, moving fast. It wouldn’t be looking at anything but the tracks in front of it.

Well then. Yuuki bounded onto the tracks and started waving her paws frantically.

“Hey! Listen up, you overgrown hunk of metal! I’m telling you to stop!”

“Hugga chugga hugga chugga, whooooo… Rock-a-bye, Yuramon, our newest crop. I won’t hit the brakes, there’s no need to stop…”

Yuuki groaned. “Oh, for crying out loud …”

She had to think. She had no time to think. The Trailmon was approaching, and if she didn’t move, she’d be roadkill—and if she did move, the Trailmon would roar right past Erika and leave the poor, furless human exposed to the elements. Her palm had felt like the skin of a Botamon—soft. Giving. Warm.

What did she have at her disposal?

Electricity crackled across her fur, thin forks of light joining and thickening until a heavy bolt spiraled lazily around her, hot and dangerous.

“Last chance to stop, you deaf tin can,” she said. Then:

“SUPER THUNDER STRIKE!”

From afar, Erika watched Yuuki’s bolt cleave the sky, bright enough to light the grassy lands for miles around. Alarmed, the Trailmon slammed the brakes, slowing, shrieking, sliding to a stop

just

inches from Yuuki’s snub nose as she stared him down, unafraid.

“Hey hey hey HEY, Elecmon, whatsamatter with you? You made the poor Yuramon poop himself,” Trailmon said. Yuuki didn’t give an inch, lest the Trailmon start to speed away.

“Glad I finally have your attention, you glorified lug nut,” Yuuki said. “There’s a human child that needs your help. She doesn’t want any of your out-of-tune singing, she just needs a lift back to the Human World. Are you ‘mon enough for the task?”

Not far off, Yuuki could hear Erika’s panting breaths as she jogged up to the Trailmon. Yuuki knew humans ran slow, what with only having two feet and all, but she didn’t quite understand why Erika’s gait was so shaky. Nor did she have time to figure it out.

“Well?” Yuuki pressed the Trailmon. “Do you know the tracks to the Human World, or are you a worthless bunch of nuts and bolts?”

“Alright alright alright ALRIGHT, since you asked so nicely , I’ll take this human with me, yeesh,” Trailmon said, giving some side eye to the still but panting Erika. “Get on, kid. I ain’t got all day. And I can’t promise you no singing! That’s too far.”

“This is your station, Erika. Don’t worry, this loony locomotive knows what he’s doing,” Yuuki assured her. “I have to get back to the village.”

Erika wanted to lean down and hug Yuuki, but knew that would take too much time. Instead, she took off her vest and handed it to Yuuki, with the pocket tool still inside. She didn’t particularly care, though. She’d get new ones. At least a new vest. She was outgrowing this brown one, anyway. Right now, she just wanted to make sure Yuuki had something to remember her by, and was prepared for the approaching storm.

“So you can prove to the other Elecmon you met a human,” Erika said with a smile, her dark hair billowing in the wind. “Bye, Yuuki.”

“Bye, Erika. Stay strong.”

“Stay brave.”

With that, she got on the Trailmon, and Yuuki stepped out of its way.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Months later, Yuuki uncovered the source of the storm.

After Erika, Yuuki’s relationships with the other Elecmon had been different. Not bad different—just like jealousy wasn’t necessarily bad jealousy—but she found herself looking at each of them in a new way. She found each had their own talents, their own seedlings of aspiration, and she encouraged their growth with quiet asides and approving nods every now and then.

She still strayed from the village frequently, but usually to gather food or other hard-to-get supplies for her fellow caretakers. Yuuki could support the babies by supporting her team; that’s what she liked to call them, now. Some of the younger ones looked up to her. She cut a striking figure in her vest, of course. Once or twice she caught them trading tall tales about the knife she often contemplated at sunset, all of them stretched and contorted from the truth.

She let the storytellers be. No skin off her snout. She had a couple regular conversation partners, now. Friends, even. Once she decided to do what she liked and look after the others in her own way, fellowship seemed to follow naturally.

Still, Yuuki missed Erika. She wished she could have spent more time with the human. She had so much more to learn—more to teach, too.

But rumors spread across the Digital World faster than the Trailmon run, and soon she was glad Erika had gone home when she had. Yuuki heard whispers that power, once again, corrupted its bearer. She didn’t want to believe it. Cherubimon had saved them from Lucemon’s greed; he had always been a kind, well-spoken Digimon, one with wholly admirable ears.

And then the Digital World started to disappear.

She was far from home, running ragged across the badlands near Flame Terminal as patches of scorched earth disappeared from under her feet. Pagumon, hardly more than babies, scattered crying as other Digimon tore raw data from their own world. Cherubimon’s evil was spreading. All ideas spread, good and bad.

“This one’s real, real bad,” she muttered to herself, and then there were no words, only running.

Garudamon, the great eagle, had lost his mind. He screeched and unleashed burning light from his sword, splitting the ground as Digimon fled left and right.

Yuuki’s mind froze as she saw the dirt before her shimmer like a mirage, revealing its fractal code for all to see. It was horrifying. Obscene.

Two Pagumon were trapped above it, and Garudamon swooped down like death on wings to absorb the data anyway.

Without slowing, Yuuki yanked the fishing spear from her back, hurled it and the rope attached to it at Garudamon’s side, and leaped into the fresh-cut chasm just as the Pagumon began to fall. “Got you,” she said as she gathered them both against her ribs with one forelimb, and then the rope in her other paw jerked and all three of them swung towards the lip of the chasm. It came up fast, too fast, and there was a sound like impact and a flash of red pain, and Yuuki knew nothing more for a while.

When she awoke, she knew that something was horribly wrong, and not just because the baby Pagumon she saved were now taking care of her . And it wasn’t because most of the land around her had been eaten up by power-hungry Digimon drunk off Cherubimon’s evil. No, it was because she couldn’t seem to open her left eye. Reaching up, she felt leaves on top of her eye, and started to remove them slowly. The Pagumon started bouncing up and down around her in a panic.

“No no! It’s bad! It’s bad!” One of them cried.

“Real bad! Real bad!” The other chimed in.

“I’m going to need you to use a better word than ‘bad,’” Yuuki said, more somber than snarky.

“Scar! It’s scarred!” Pagumon the First cried.

“You don’t have an eye!” Pagumon the Second added.

“So it is real, real, real bad,” Yuuki muttered. Scars on Digimon were a strange and unusual torture. Normally, when wounded, Digimon would just dedigivolve and run away, no big deal. Sometimes they’d turn into an egg and go to the Village of Beginnings. Scars, like those of many Leomon, became more permanent signs of hard battles fought with other Digimon. But to have her eye taken by the land, the land that got eaten by another Digimon? That was certainly new.

“We wanted to thank you,” Pagumon the First said.

“For saving us,” Pagumon the Second added.

Truth be told, of all the babies in the Village of Beginnings, Yuuki usually liked Pagumon the least. Their orange, slitted eyes set against their gray body usually made her fur stand on-edge. But she was glad she’d saved these Pagubrats, and she knew she’d do it again, even if it meant losing the other eye. “You’re welcome.”

Sitting up, she let the leaf covering her eye fall away. Yep. She still couldn’t see a stinking thing. Looking down with her one good eye, she fished in her pocket for Erika’s pocket utensil, relieved to find it still there. She unsheathed the knife, angling it this way and that to get a look at her damaged eye. In bits and pieces, she took stock of the inflamed scar tissue.

“Turning the tools at my disposal into tools I don’t have. Erika would be proud,” Yuuki said to herself. She’d also be proud that Yuuki saved those Pagumon, right? Maybe Yuuki wasn’t so good at singing lullabies like the human had claimed, but she didn’t shirk her duties.

“Alright, Pagubuddies,” Yuuki said, getting up on her haunches. “Let’s get out of here.”

Within the first few days, Yuuki made a new fishing spear. Not that it seemed that helpful, considering Yuuki couldn’t throw it straight to save her life now. Which sucked because the only reason she had it was to save her life. No matter. She’d keep practicing. Luckily, she hadn’t seen any more Digimon trying to gobble up the Digital World. Yet.

A few days later, Yuuki and the Pagubuddies met another Elecmon, between Hole #7 and Hole #643 of the Digital World. This Elecmon said she’d been following the train tracks, until they’d disappeared. It was hard to tell what this Elecmon feared more—wandering around aimlessly by her lonesome, or coming along with Yuuki, who kept the spear slung on her back, who took meticulous care of Erika’s vest, who had a mysterious scar. Ironically, it was the presence of the Pagumon that convinced this Elecmon to follow Yuuki. Go flipping figure.

The scar, the spear, the vest—they became symbols of safety for the Elecmon, rather than something to be scared of, or to pity. After a while, more than 20 Elecmon banded together, protecting themselves and each other, with Yuuki leading the way against the Legendary Warriors—or at least, the knuckleheaded warrior wannabes also destroying the world. Yuuki never let the lessons Erika taught her fade away, kept them tucked in her vest along with the pocket tool. She encouraged the other Elecmon to be their own ‘mon, even if that meant they left the little band they’d formed.

And maybe Yuuki’s team of Elecmon would never be as strong as Seraphimon. Maybe other Digimon would always look at her funny, for the pink cross in place of her left eye. But those things didn’t really matter, didn’t come to define the Elecmon’s happiness. These Elecmon digivolved in a different way. And they knew mega Digimon just made mega rookie mistakes.