Form 2: Exodia Zero
ATK: ???, DEF: ????
ENERGY: 9999+ LP
Yami, 4000 LP. Duelist.
"This could pose a problem." The young man, who was once the master of the fearsome Exodia, stood amidst a crowd of younger but equally strong players. Each of them felt like ants as they stared at the monstrosity towering above them. Zero had unleashed Exodia's power without Juri's Ka, which meant that Yami and his friends were up against a monster without restraints, be they physical, spiritual, or ethical.
Ash, 4000 LP. Trainer.
"I didn't think beating Zero would be easy," the trainer said. "But this is more than I expected." Ash wanted more than anything to defeat Zero and claim victory, but not for the prize, and not for the chance to save the world. Ash promised Misty that he would win, and he intended to keep that promise.
Henry, 4000 LP. Tamer.
"Zero managed to summon Exodia without Jeri," the blue-haired boy gasped. "After everything we've done to try and prevent this from happening, we ended up generating enough energy for him to complete the summon."
Sakura, Hope Costume, 5000 LP. Cardcaptor and DuelBot.
"Wow...!" The duelBot was designed and programmed to measure the limits of any enemy and deal with them appropriately, whether that enemy was a gamer or a wild monster from Zero's island. But Sakura's battle program had never seen anything that could prepare her for something like Exodia. He was a monster with infinite power.
Rika, 4000 LP. Tamer.
"There's got to be something we can do," the redhead said assertively. Rika's life had taken a turn for the worst lately, and her childhood beliefs were beginning to feel like anvils weighing her down, rather than cornerstones supporting her. Now, more than ever, Rika felt like she was dealing with something beyond her ability to understand, or control.
Zero, Exodia Costume, 9999 LP.
"It won't be long now until you're all nothing more than a pile of ashes." The black Exodia called upon his magical energies and focused them on the face of his right palm. "And speaking of 'Ash', it's time for me to deal with that annoying rodent that insulted me earlier."
Ash went wide-eyed as Exodia's gigantic eyes focused on Pikachu. "PI-KA-CHUU!" The trainer ran as fast as he could towards his pokemon, who was paralyzed with fear by the monstrous Exodia.
"DIE!!" Exodia's attack shot through the air. Ash tackled Pikachu, and the two of them slid across the floor. The attack exploded against the marble floor, showering the rest of the room with rubble and knocking Ash further away. The trainer slammed into the wall, Pikachu still tightly in his grasp.
"Ash!" Rika cried. She glared at Exodia and drew the card that she'd used to annihilate the duelist Bones and his zombie army. "Why you... WILD SEVENS!!" Rika slashed the option card - a card so rare that only two cards with its power existed. One was in Rika's possession, and the other card belonged to the Digimon King, Ryo. His version of the card was called 'Goliath'.
Renamon's claws tripled in size, and the digimon's eyes took on a feral appearance as her battle limits were removed. Renamon was now a killing machine, able to annihilate digimon three stages above her at the cost of most of her summoner's energy. Renamon had just enough power for one attack, and that attack would be against Zero. [Rika's LP -- 2000 || Renamon's ATK/DEF -- 7777]
"How pathetic." Exodia shot his arm forth and blasted Renamon as she leapt through the air. But to the beings shock, Renamon plowed through the attack as if it were nothing! [Exodia's ATK: 4999 Blast]
The Wild Sevens card has boosted Renamon's battle capabilities to a level high enough to resist Exodia's basic attacks! Yugi noted with optimism.
Yami frowned as he waited for an opening. But if Exodia unleashes his Infinity Attack Fusion, nothing will be able to resist it. We must figure out a way to prevent Zero from using that aspect of Exodia's power.
Renamon slashed at Exodia's midsection with all her might. Zero's form was composed of Exodia's upper body, but it didn't have any discernible legs. All that could be seen was a dark hole from which Exodia's form originated, like a genie that originated from a magic lamp. So Renamon's target had to be Exodia's torso, even though that meant jumping more than twenty meters into the air. Luckily, there was no ceiling to speak of - only an endless, swirling whirlpool of light.
Exodia's midsection was completely severed from the thin, gaseous line that should have been Exodia's lower half. However, the damage was healed almost immediately, and the dark god's energy seemed to increase as a result of the attack! [Zero's LP -- 13,888]
"What the-!?" Rika couldn't believe it! How did that happen!
"Thank you for your help, my dear," Zero chortled. "The more battle energy you generate, the stronger I will become! And soon I will be able to wipe out everyone on this island with one use of Exodia's ultimate attack!" Exodia unleashed another blast at Renamon, and this one sent the supercharged rookie flying across the room and crashing through the wood-and-marble wall. Although Renamon was still powered up enough to ignore the damage, her fragile body was stunned by the ferocity of Exodia's attack. [Exodia's ATK: 6944 Blast]
"Exodia absorbs battle damage!" Henry shouted. "Anytime he deals or receives damage, he'll grow stronger!"
Ash crawled to his feet. He was battered and bruised, but technically unharmed. That is, his life points were intact, and right now that was the most important thing. "How're we supposed to defeat something that we can't even hurt?"
Mokuba watched from the sidelines, where Sakura was standing to protect him. "Exodia is considered to be the perfect monster in the regular Duel Monsters game. He has no weaknesses. And Zero's physical incarnation of him seems to be the same way."
"That's not true!" Yami shouted. "Every monster has a weakness, including Exodia!"
"Well then, I hope you have a plan," Rika grumbled. Renamon phased into being beside her. "Because I'm fresh out of Wild cards."
"WATCH OUT!" Ash yelled. Everyone scattered as Exodia blasted them again, narrowly missing the humans. The floor of the room shattered, leaving nothing but dirt ground beneath it. The Eye of Ra computer seemed to resist the carnage around it, thanks to what appeared to be a protective barrier.
Yami got to his feet quickly, as did the others. "Exodia's strength lies in his five parts. Using his full strength requires all five pieces. And in Zero's case, that means he must have access to the five tablets that represent Exodia's pieces!"
"The Pharaoh's priests discovered that Juri possessed a Ka... the spirit of a Duel Monster in my time. They tried to draw it out and capture it within a tablet, but each attempt failed. The Ka was too powerful to be contained by one tablet. They were forced to capture the Ka in five tablets."
"If we can destroy the tablets, or seal their power somehow, then Exodia won't be at full power!" Yami said with certainty. "We just have to attack the tablets, not Zero himself!"
"But the tablets aren't here," Sakura said after a quick look. Zero was powering up his next attack. "He doesn't seem to have summoned them like he has his previous tablets."
"They must be in that hole where his feet should be!" Ash said, just before racing for cover. The others followed suit, and everyone managed to avoid Exodia's energy blast.
Rika patted her backside, which was singed by the blast. "I think his aim is getting better. We have to do something before he starts picking us off, one by one."
"Like fish in a barrel," Henry added.
Yami fanned out his cards. "Unlike fish, we have a way to fight back." The duelist took the middle card of his hand and slid it into the active slot. The Duel Ark powered up as the card triggered the Mini-Cyber's program. "Dark Magician!" The purple-clad mage appeared next to his master.
"If we use monsters that have an advantage over Exodia's Dark element to defend ourselves, then we can prevent any loss of life points," Yami told the others. "Use your Light monsters to defend yourself and your partner!"
"Warriors, Steel-types, and other Dark Monsters are good choices too," Ash said. "Even though they won't last long against Exodia's attacks, we won't be damaged. And as much as I hate to say it, winning may mean that we'll have to sacrifice a lot of our monsters this way."
"Ash..." Rika knew why the trainer had such a heavy heart about it. Each of his monsters was like a Partner to him. Ash felt the same way for every one of his monsters the way Rika did for Renamon. It would be very hard for him to sacrifice them for any reason. In fact, Rika was sure that Ash would rather take the hit himself, instead of sacrificing his pokemon.
I'll protect you Ash, Rika whispered inside herself. So that you can keep your promise to Misty.
Each player split up so as to give each other enough room to fight. Although none of them said it, they all knew that this would also help the others survive, even if one of them were targeted by Exodia's attack.
Our magic and trap cards are probably not strong enough to affect Exodia's physical form, Yami thought. But we can distract him with some direct attacks.
Let's do our best! Yugi thought back. I'm with you, spirit!
Thank you, Aibou. We will succeed... so long as Exodia doesn't achieve an energy level of 99,000. If that happens, it's Game Over for everyone on this island.
Takato touched the shield that prevented him and Jeri from entering the castle. Now that he was alive, Jeri brought Takato up to speed on what was happening inside.
"They should be able to win without us," Jeri said softly. She was still kneeling at Joey's side, making sure that he was comfortable even while he was unconscious. "Zero is undoubtedly strong, but he is just one man. Rika and Henry and the others should have no difficulty making him surrender."
"I can't just stand out here and do nothing," Takato said as he kicked the shield one last time. "I have to be there with them, if only to watch and make sure they win. I can't shake this bad feeling I have."
Though I find it odd, I concur with the Guilty Prince's feelings, Juri said from with Jeri's subconscious.
Guilty Prince? That's the Takato in the past, right?
Yes. I will explain in greater detail another time. Right now, I think we should consider his suggestion though. I am worried about my lord Pharaoh.
Jeri sensed the love and concern that her Ka was feeling at that moment. It was as strong as what Jeri felt for Takato.
"...Maybe we should go inside," Jeri said sheepishly. "But how can we get in, Takato?"
The goggle boy thought about what they could do, but each of his ideas was scrapped almost as quickly. Getting past an impenetrable shield seemed difficult. That is, if the shield was truly impenetrable.
"You said that there's no way to break through this shield, right?" Takato asked aloud.
Jeri nodded slowly. "I think so. Several other players have been trying for hours at other parts of the barrier, and they don't seem to be succeeding."
Takato tapped his cheek thoughtfully. "We probably can't fly over it or move under it. But maybe we can ignore it."
"Hmm?" Jeri blinked.
Takato grabbed Joey's ark and locked it into place on his wrist. He then took one of his own cards and slashed it. "Digiport! Open a portal through the barrier! DIGIPORT!" A ray of blue light shot from the Duel Ark, and a metallic archway appeared. The archway looked like a glorified, futuristic version of an airport's walk-through metal detector.
"It worked!" Takato cheered. "...Maybe." Takato stepped forward and tentatively tapped the area beneath the archway. When he felt no resistance, Takato stepped forward. He turned and extended his hands triumphantly. "See, I knew it would work!"
"What do we do with Joey?" Jeri asked. "I don't think we can carry him, and I don't know when he'll wake up. He might be more seriously injured than I thought."
"Let's try to wake him up first, then we'll go," Takato decided. "If we can't wake him up, then... I guess we'll stay out here."
Jeri smiled. "Thank you, Takato. You're the best."
The two kids did their best to try and wake Joey up, even going so far as to summon a Geckomon and having it burp excessively in the duelist's face. But nothing seemed to phase the unconscious duelist.
Juri coaxed her host to keep trying. Because she wanted to get into the Crystal Castle, if it was the last thing she did. She had a bad feeling that just wouldn't go away.
"Kerpymon!" Henry shouted. The card he slashed was the Mega form of Lopmon, a digimon twin to Terriermon. Kerpymon manifested above Henry's parter just as Exodia's blast would have annihilated him. Kerpymon burst into feathers and light as a result of Exodia's attack. Terriermon watched in horror as Kerpymon was incinerated.
Henry didn't lose any life points, but he still felt like he lost an important part of himself. "I'm sorry, Sis."
Exodia's aura grew brighter and redder as he absorbed the battle damage done to Kerpymon. The dark god was reaching a level of power higher than any other monster could achieve, and he was doing it quickly. [Exodia's LP -- 54,000]
The more HP each of our monsters loses, the greater his attack strength becomes, Yugi noted. Even though we're not losing Life Points, Exodia is getting stronger and stronger. Soon, he will be able to unleash his final attack.
And we're quickly running out of monsters that can resist backlash damage, Yami added. If he hits one of our monsters that cannot resist backlash, our Life Points will plummet to 0, and the sudden shock could kill us!
"It's time for something drastic, guys!" Rika yelled. "We're not getting anywhere just defending!"
"On my mark, command your monster to use their strongest special attack!" Yami shouted. The duelist drew a card from his deck and looked at it. As he expected, it was the card he needed. "Ready!"
Yami prepared to slash the chosen card. "Set!"
"Your efforts are futile!" Zero roared.
"GO!!" Every player ordered their monster on the offensive, and Yami slashed his card as quickly as he could.
** Yami - Card Slash Sequence **
"Hand-Sealing Sword of Light!" Yami slashed the trap card and lifted it high into the air. A sword of golden light appeared from the tip of his card and pointed straight up. The sword flashed with the brilliance of all that was virtuous and shot into the air like a rocket. Yami watched as the sword dove into the black hole at Exodia's base and disappeared. There was a flash of light from within the hole, and Zero roared in pain as if a part of himself had been impaled.
Yami's Duel Ark revealed that the 'Right Arm of Exodia' had been removed from Zero's 'hand'. The tablet had been sealed!
"DIAMOND STORM!" [ATK 2550]
"THUNDERBOLT!" [ATK 3315]
"BUNNY BLAST!" [ATK 2625]
"DARK MAGIC ATTACK!" [ATK 4250]
Sakura twirled her staff and summoned the final trigger for the combined assault. "Clow Card! Use your strength to destroy Exodia! POWER!" Sakura pointed her magical rod straight at Exodia and unleashed the spirit of Power - a pink, fluffy warrior with a determined look in her eyes. POWER shot through the air, literally, heading straight for Exodia's heart, along with all the other mystical attacks. Without any defensive strength, Exodia would lose at least his torso, and summarily be incomplete and weak enough to destroy.
Exodia smiled greedily.
"You forget what I am capable of!" The red sennin eye on Exodia's head flared, and the sword of light that had impaled his tablet was obliterated. Yami growled in pain as the backlash from the trap's destruction affected his arm. It felt like he was having a stroke.
"He negated the trap with a thought!" Yami said in shock. "Stop the attack!!"
But it was too late. POWER slammed into Exodia's chest, and the dark god absorbed the spirit's strength greedily. He did the same to each attack in turn. The humans could do nothing but be amazed as Exodia seemed to double in size, and his aura of evil became nightmarishly dark.
"And now, for the coup de grace!" Exodia held his arms open wide, forming the shape of a cross with his body. Exodia's eyes glowed as brightly as the sun and shot through the air. One of the lights slammed into Yami's Dark Magician. The other headed straight for Ash.
"NO!!" Yami roared.
"Ahhh!!" Ash shielded himself from the impending attack. But just as the attack was about to hit, Renamon appeared out of nowhere like a ghost and held her arms out wide to take the full force of the blast.
"Rika, don't!!" Henry ordered. But it was too late.
The damage unleashed was comparable to that of a nuclear assault. Yami and Rika screamed as their senses were overloaded by the sheer power of Exodia's attack. Both of their clothes were singed and smoking by the time the attack had finished overloading their nerves. Yami collapsed, and Rika fell backwards to the ground.
[Rika: 0000 LP || Yami: 0000 LP || Exodia's LP -- 73,870]
"RIKA!" Ash cried. He raced across the field to where the girl fell, with Pikachu right behind him. Henry met the trainer there, just as Mokuba and Sakura ran over to where Yami fell.
"Yugi! YUGI!" Mokuba shook the boy, but there was no response. Parts of his Millennium Puzzle laid all around him, shattered by the intensity of Exodia's attack.
Henry cradled Rika's body, his hand placed lightly on her neck. He could not find a pulse.
"Rika, no... no!" Ash wept. "You can't be..."
"...Dead," Mokuba whispered. Yugi's pulse was gone.
Zero laughed within the body of Exodia. He hovered within the Sphere of Light, much like a Tamer did when fused with their digimon partner. Don't worry, my friends. They were just the first to die. The rest of you, will be next.
Pharaoh!! Juri cried. Jeri screamed as she saw the death of Rika and Yugi Muto in her mind's eye. And she saw a flash of Exodia's image.
"Jeri, what's wrong!?" Takato said, scared as could be. "Wh-why'd you scream like that?"
"Yugi... and Rika... Exodia... they're..." Tears were all that Jeri could manage after that.
Takato didn't ask how Jeri knew. Because he was sure that his worst fears were coming to life. His gut feeling had been telling the truth. "We've got to get in there, now!"
"No!" Jeri yelled, grabbing Takato's leg and holding it with all her might. "You'll be hurt too!"
"But we've got to do something!" Takato panted as his feelings stampeded through his brain like a rampaging elephant. "Our friends need us!"
Jeri looked up, her tears and her laid-out position making her look pitiful. "Takato. I... I must go. Not you."
"You're not going," Takato said firmly. "If we fail, I want you to run as far away as you can!"
"I can't run anywhere, Takato!" Jeri shouted, her face buried in Takato's shoe. "There's nowhere we can hide. I know what is inside that castle, and... and there's no place in the whole world that's safe from it."
"Jeri." Takato knelt as Jeri looked up, her face streaked with tears and dirt. She refused to let go of Takato's leg, even now, for fear that he would run off.
"I think there is something we can do," Takato said, his hands lightly caressing Jeri's face. "But to do it, you'll have to believe."
"Please don't do this!" Jeri cried. Takato looked at her intently. "I don't want you to get hurt..."
"If you believe in me, I won't lose," Takato said in a serious tone. When Jeri didn't answer, Takato repeated his affirmation. "Believe in me, Jeri. Please."
Jeri sniffled. "I... I'm so scared. I don't want anyone to die... I just want it all to stop..."
"It can stop! We can still save Rika and Yugi, I know it! The same way you saved me!"
Takato's eyes burned with a fire that refused to die out. Takato's confidence was so strong, the boy almost seemed to glow with his burning passion. "Please. Believe."
Jeri stared into Takato's eyes. She wanted it all to stop. And now, more than ever, she believed in Takato. He remained strong when everything seemed to be crumbling around her. He even came back from the dead. With enough faith, could he do anything?
"...I believe, Takato," Jeri whispered. "I'll do anything you want me to do."
Takato nodded. "Then this is what we'll do..."
Exodia blasted away an Angemon summoned by Henry to protect Terriermon and himself. The angel was a Light monster, so Henry was spared the pain of his destruction thanks to its resistance to Darkness. Terriermon stood beside his tamer, waiting for the next order of business. [Exodia's LP: 80,000]
"Ash, if we're going to mount any kind of assault, we have to use monsters that are high enough in level to affect even Exodia!" Henry looked at his hand, which he had painstakingly prepared over the course of the battle to unleash the perfect evolution combo. "I need you to fight with me!"
Ash was cradling Rika sadly. His eyes were covered by the shadow of his black hair, and his skin was as cold as ice. Pikachu knew that his trainer was really sad. It was painful for the pokemon to see him like this.
"Ash, come on!" Henry shouted. "Sakura and I can't stand up to this guy alone!" At that moment, Sakura was knocked back as a direct assault annihilated her Hope Costume. Luckily, Hope had the proper element to resist backlash damage from Exodia's attack, so Sakura was alive. Her clothes faded to their normal hue and shape, and she slumped to the ground, a little stunned. The duelBot pulled herself to her feet, activated her Light card to create a second Costume, and resumed her mission to defend Mokuba and Yugi's body.
Ash clenched his left fist tightly. It was encircled around Rika's hand. Ash made a silent promise, and let go of the girl. The trainer extended his arm and silently shifted into his slashing stance.
"Alright! AETHER WINGS and TARGET ALL!" Henry slashed his two rarest option cards. Sakura and the two monsters on the field glowed brightly as life energy rushed through them. It was time to unleash the powers inside them!
** Hidden Power! **
"Terriermon, digivolve to.... Saint Gargomon!" The tiny terrier changed into his holographic card form, which rose into the sky as it shined. The card's image cracked and shattered as Saint Gargomon erupted from within. The immortal Mega flexed its mechanical arms and feathered wings before getting ready for battle. [Saint Gargomon - 3800/3500, SPD 15 - IMMORTAL]
"Pi-KAAAA... CHUUUUU!!" Pikachu's energy levels catapulted to a realm so high, that a legendary Zapdos would be hard-pressed to match the energy. Pikachu's size remained the same, but the markings on his body changed from brown and black to a bright red, like that of a warning label on a nuclear reactor. Pikachu crackled with lightning and thunder, becoming something beyond a mere pokemon. [Super Pikachu - 3400/3200, SPD 52 - IMMORTAL]
Sakura's clothes changed into a glamorous, beautiful costume that similar to the appearance of an angel. Sakura's clothes became a long, flowing dress like that of a princess. The gown was stark white, without a hint of impurity anywhere. A pair of feathered wings arched from the girl's back, and on her head was a shining gold tiara with a cross marking it. Not only did Sakura look more elegant, but she was also more powerful too! ['Clow Guardian' Costume - 3000/2100, SPD 30 - IMMORTAL]
Zero was surprised by the sudden change in his enemies. But he did his best to hide it. "Well... three Immortal class opponents. At the very least, you'll survive long enough to see me unleash my final attack."
"Pikachu, get ready to jump into that dark hole!" Ash commanded. The pokemon responded with a quick 'Pika!'
"Sakura, you and Saint Gargomon back him up!" Henry shouted.
"I will do my best!" Sakura twirled her wand and stopped it with authority.
"HA!" Exodia shot an energy blast at the gathered warriors, but they were not phased. Sakura immediately leapt into the path of the attack and twirled her wand like a baton. The energies of the attack dispersed in hundreds of different directions, doing little more than superficial damage to the environment around them. [Exodia's LP -- 84,000]
Saint Gargomon jumped into the air and flapped his wings. The digimon zipped through the air and grabbed one of Exodia's arms, and he held it as tightly as he could. Since he couldn't damage Exodia without making him stronger, the best thing he could do was hold the beast at bay!
Pikachu moved with his Agility at such a speed that it was impossible to see him for most of the journey. The pokemon practically teleported across the arena and into the dark hole. Pikachu dove into the void and swam through it as if it were water. Upon moving deeper into the hole, Pikachu found that it was more like pudding than water. The pokemon swam through the void and searched for his targets.
It didn't take him long to find them. Pikachu gazed at the visage of five tablets, each of them twice the height of an adult human and built of solid stone. Each tablet showed a piece of Exodia's body - two arms, two legs, and a masked face that not even a mother could love. Pikachu noticed that each tablet was glowing with a red light similar to the light made by the eye on Exodia's forehead. Perhaps it was a barrier?
Pikachu didn't waste time. The pokemon focused his energies into a ball of lightning at his nose-tip, and let loose with a Thunder attack. The attack slammed into the middle tablet, but did little more than make a thunderclap on impact. The tablet seemed undamaged by the assault.
*Outside the void: Sakura is knocked into a wall by the force of another attack, and Exodia throws Saint Gargomon like a rag doll. Both of them crash-land and are knocked senseless, leaving Henry and Ash vulnerable. [Exodia's LP -- 96,000]*
Pikachu was growing restless. He had to do something! If he didn't think of a way to shatter these tablets, everything on this island, holographic or not, would be reduced to nothing but dust. He couldn't let that happen. Pikachu refused to fail Ash when he needed him most!
The pokemon summoned every last ounce of strength he had and focused it all into one, ferocious assault. Pikachu's eyes blurred as the pokemon expended every last kilowatt he thought he had. When a crack appeared on the center tablet, Pikachu's spirits rose! He drew on still more power and pushed it into the current of his lightning attack. Pikachu's body started to weaken, and the red marks on his cheeks started to bleed, as they were the source of his electrical current. His body overloading, Pikachu still pushed with all the power he had. The tablet cracked even more, and Pikachu knew he would do it! Pikachu summoned the last reserves he had and made a silent affirmation to himself. He had served Ash well.
"Pi-Kaaaa-CHUUUUUU!!!" The pokemon's final burst obliterated the tablet of Exodia's head. And outside the void, the head of Zero's costume exploded like a firework pinata. Pikachu collapsed into unconsciousness before his essence returned to the card in Ash's ark.
[Exodia's LP: 98,500]
"He did it!!" Ash shouted. "Pikachu did it!!"
"Exodia's lost his ability to absorb battle damage!" Henry realized. "Now's the time to attack! If we can damage him, we may be able to destroy him!"
Ash slashed a random Pokemon card to use as a quick attack. Henry did the same with a digimon. Balls of light appeared in Ash's and Henry's hand, each representing the life force of one monster, focused into one moment of fury.
"Rapidmon Attack!!" Henry and Ash pointed at Exodia, and the balls of light exploded like rockets from their hands. The balls expanded into the translucent images of the legendary Lugia and the ultimate Rapidmon, and the two monsters crashed into Exodia's body like missiles. Exodia flailed about in pain as his body was damaged by the assault!
[Exodia's LP -- 92,692]
"YEAH!!" Ash and Henry shouted in unison. They slashed several more cards and pressed the assault. The battle had just taken a turn for the better.
Exodia shot a blast at the two boys, and Henry was just barely able to slash his Gargomon in time to block the dark attack. Since Gargomon was a Beast-Warrior monster, he was able to prevent any damage from carrying over to Henry. And summarily, Ash was saved from injury as well.
"That was close," Ash panted.
"Yeah. He's vulnerable now, but he still has enough attack power to annihilate us in one hit." Henry held a card at the ready. "Let's not get cocky."
Inside Exodia, Zero contemplated what was happening. He wasn't finished yet. If he could just get Juri's Ka to awaken, he could draw on its strength and gain better control of Exodia's tablets. If only he could just...
Zero realized with a start that Jeri was about to do it for him. Oh, how foolish she was.
Jeri took a deep breath. "I'm ready, Takato."
Takato nodded. He was facing her in order to help her unleash her true power, in the same way he had with Guilmon once before. Takato gently took Jeri's hands.
"Everything's going to be okay," Takato said softly. "I promise I won't let anything hurt you."
"And I promise I won't let anything hurt you," Jeri replied as she closed her eyes. "Never again."
Takato felt like he was saying wedding vows to a bride - mainly because of the way they were standing. Takato cleared his throat and tried to focus on the matter at hand. He didn't know how he joined with Guilmon the first time, but he wanted more than anything to help Jeri do the same thing.
Joey's Duel Ark reacted. The device glowed blue, and the hands of the two children did the same. Suddenly, it became clear.
"I want you to imagine that you're inside your mind," Takato said. "Whenever I imagine my mind, I imagine my bedroom. For you, it'll be different."
*Jeri imagines a stage, pitch black except for a few stagelights. The audience chamber is filled with empty seats. Jeri is standing at the forefront of the stage.*
"Think about that thing inside that represents who you are. For me, it's Guilmon. For you, it might be Leomon, or something else. Whatever it is, I want you to focus on that thing, and imagine yourself standing with it."
*In her mind, Jeri slowly turns. Standing in the middle of the stage is another her, except with much darker skin, dressed in a simple rag outfit. Backstage, there is the vague outline of two figures, neither of them visible in the spotlight.*
"I think I see them, Takato."
The boy frowned. "Them?"
*Jeri looks into the other girl's eyes. The girl bows her head, but says nothing. The figures backstage remain motionless, but they are clearly not Jeri's imagination. They are there.*
"I see three people," Jeri said. "Three... things."
"One of them has to be that monster that everyone's afraid of," Takato replied. "Try to approach that one."
*Jeri moves towards the backstage. She pauses beside the dark-skinned girl and puts a reassuring hand on the girl's shoulder. The girl looks up, and smiles. Jeri then proceeds backstage, where it becomes difficult to see.*
"There's no light here," Jeri said, a little scared. "There's only darkness."
"You are the light," Takato said. His eyes were now closed as well. "Use your heart to illuminate the darkness."
*Jeri concentrates, and the light of her soul illuminates the darkness. Jeri finds herself standing before two sarcophagi, each of them massive and decorated with many symbols. One of them resembled a lion-man. The other resembled a Pharaoh.*
"Leomon is here," Jeri gasped.
*Jeri looked down at her feet, and jumped back at what she saw. A massive japanese kanji symbol, meaning 'Reaper', lay at her feet. It was a trap door, covered by chains thick enough to hold down a giant. Jeri's favorite hand-puppet was impaled by a part of the chain, through one of its button eyes.*
"...And the D-Reaper is here too," Jeri whispered.
Takato rubbed the girl's hand lightly, trying to remind her that he was there. With both of them in a trance like this, it was sometimes hard to tell where they were. "Exodia is there too, right?"
"Yes," Jeri said. "But, Leomon..."
"I understand how you feel," Takato said. "But right now, Exodia is the one we need. Without him, I don't think we can help the others."
*Jeri carefully steps over the sealed trap door and stands between the two sarcophagi, looking at each one in turn.*
"I... don't know which one to open."
Takato gripped Jeri's hands a little tighter. "Choose Exodia."
*Jeri feels a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She turns, and sees the dark-skinned girl smiling at her. The girl motions towards Leomon's casket.*
"Choose Exodia," Takato repeated. "He is the only one who stands a chance against Zero."
*The dark-skinned girl stands between the sarcophagi as well, and turns to face Jeri. She holds out her hands and gently touches both sarcophagi. Jeri smiles, and understands. She does the same.*
"I will free them both," Jeri said.
Takato gasped. "Biomerge... twice? But how?" Jeri in the real world responded in unison with Juri in her mind room.
"Two souls, united as one. Let our fates be joined, and let those we've lost now be freed. We shall win together..."
Jeri's eyes shot open. "OR TOGETHER WE'LL FALL!!"
The Eye of Ra - both the room and the computer - started to shake violently as an earthquake came into being. Henry and Ash fell to the ground, while Sakura and Saint Gargomon hovered just above the ground.
"What's going on!?" Ash yelled. "Is Zero changing again!?"
Henry looked down at his Duel Ark. "There's another huge power awakening nearby!"
"Fools!" Zero cried victoriously. "Exodia has been released! And now, its tablets shall be revived and made unbreakable, as the God himself now fuels me!" Exodia Zero's head popped back into being, and his aura flared with power as he rapidly began to reach the critical limit. His life points started to increase rapidly, and the moment when he would reach his full power was imminent.
"How can Exodia be freed!?" Henry said. "Jeri isn't even here, and Sakura isn't there to release her power like Zero wanted!"
Sakura's eyes scanned the vicinity and picked up more information. "It's Joey Wheeler's Ark! It's reacting in combination with some sort of spiritual power! Somebody else is triggering the summoning of Jeri's Ka!"
[Exodia's LP: 94,000...95,000...96,000...]
"What now!?" Ash shouted.
"We can't run!" Henry replied. "Do whatever you can to stop his attack. We have to stop him NOW!!" Henry slashed every card in his hand that could conceivably prevent Exodia from reaching full power, and both Ash and Sakura did the same. But nothing seemed to affect the Forbidden One in the slightest.
Just as he reached his maximum power, something crashed through the castle walls loud enough to make noise in the Eye of Ra. Two distinct entities crashed through the walls of the Eye of Ra. One of them landed feet-first in front of the players, and the other one hovered in the air.
One of the new arrivals looked just like Jeri, albeit with darker skin and black make-up around her eyes in the common Egyptian style. She was apparently flying in mid-air through some power that only Sakura could see. The duelBot's sensors revealed that Exodia itself, the spirit of the Forbidden God, was surrounding the girl like a ghost. The dark-skinned girl was Exodia's medium.
"Jeri's past self and the Ka they shared," Sakura said in shock. "Exodia Juri..."
The other arrival was much different in appearance. It was a lion-man, standing a full eight feet tall, dressed in green armor that appeared to be made of emerald green digichromozoid. In his right hand was a sword that could cleave a dumptruck in half, and on his left arm was a shield bearing the symbol of a lion's head.
"Is that... Leomon?" Henry whispered in shock.Exodia Juri
* ATK: ??? / DEF: ???
* ENERGY: Infinite [MAX]
* Mega + Hidden Power. LEVEL 8.
* ATK: 2750, DEF: 2500, SPD: 8.
* ENERGY: 4000. IMMORTAL, BREAK (special attack can shatter walls and barriers).
"MAGNA CHARGE!" The beast-man roared with the fury of a lion and lifted his sword high into the air. His battle cry echoed for miles, and the shockwave it made seemed to infuse anything it touched with the power of his heart. Exodia Zero was stunned by its touch, as if he'd touched the hottest surface imaginable.
Yugi opened his eyes, making Mokuba gasp in shock.
Rika moaned lightly before sitting up. "My head..."
The others couldn't believe it. Henry laughed victoriously, and Ash seemed overcome with happiness. The best he could do was smile and wipe his eyes.
"Your turn!" Magna Leomon shouted.
Juri turned and faced Zero. The fragile girl spoke with the voice so deep and rumbling, that it struck fear in those who heard it. "A God's power cannot be copied without grave consequences. I will punish you personally."
"You're too late!" Zero roared. "It is time for this world to fall at my feet! INFINITY ATTACK FUSION!!" Zero extended his arms, forming the shape of an Ankh with his body, and released all the power within his body.
With a wave of her hand, Juri called forth her own infinite power. "Only one Infinity can exist. And it will not be you!!" Juri crossed her hands at the wrist and summoned the strength of Exodia. With a single command, she unleashed a blast that would normally obliterate any monster. But Zero was ready to fight for his right to Infinite Power. He directed all his power at Juri, and the two attacks collided in mid-air. The tug-of-war had begun.
"What's going on!" Yugi shouted as he gathered up the pieces of his puzzle. "How did Jeri summon Exodia!"
Magna Leomon sheathed his sword. "I'll explain later. Right now, I need to get you out of here! We don't have much time!"
Yugi understood. In Duel Monsters, equal attack powers would destroy each other, and sometimes everything else on the battlefield. Although physical monsters had different laws of game-physics, the likelihood of everything being destroyed was still very high.
"Then let's go!" Yugi picked up the last piece of his puzzle, secured all the pieces in his jacket, and tied it off so that none of them would fall out. The boy slung his jacket-sack over his shoulder and raced towards the exit.
"Move it!" Henry shouted. He and Ash helped Rika to her feet and half-carried her out of the room. Mokuba and Sakura made a break for it as well. Magna Leomon made sure they were all well on their way, but didn't leave the room.
"Thank you," the digimon whispered as she watched Juri and Zero. It wouldn't be long before their attacks reached critical mass.
Juri looked down from high above, smiled, and nodded. There was a wordless exchange of thanks, and a wordless exchange of goodbyes.
"One last thing, just to be certain!" Magna Leomon shouted as he drew his sword in a flash. "MAGNA BREAK!!" With one swing of his blade, Magna Leomon shattered the barrier protecting the super computer and destroyed the computer with the energy wave generated by the sword. The computer was reduced to nothing but shrapnel. It was better to be certain of its destruction, rather than rely on Exodia's shockwaves to do it.
Magna Leomon raced out of the room, leaving Juri to face the ultimate evil alone. But the girl was ready to face it. It was the least she could do for her beloved Pharaoh.
Goodbye, my love.
"NOOOO!!" Zero realized that his power, although infinite, was just not enough. It was over.
The Eye of Ra exploded with the fury of the battling gods, and they were consumed by their own power. Zero and Juri faded into oblivion, as a heat as strong as the sun reduced them to nothing but dust. The battle had ended, and the threat of Exodia was no more.
After Zero's defeat, the island was freed from the Shadow Game that had sealed it from the rest of the world. The ships that had carried the players to the island arrived by automated commands preset by Zero. It seemed that the man had some sense of honor, even though he didn't expect to lose.
Jeri explained the entire situation to the others, and Takato happily rejoined the group. Joey got a chance to explain how he faced the deadly Megidramon in one-on-one combat with nothing but his deck of cards and a Duel Ark. It sounded impressive, up until the part where he was knocked senseless. But everyone enjoyed the story nonetheless, because they knew it had a happy ending.
Jeri threw flowers into the ocean for Juri. It was a very personal affair, so she didn't ask the others to accompany her. But when Jeri was finished with her private funeral, she was welcomed by the others with open arms. For the rest of the boat ride, the children were happy.
Ash and Rika had a long talk about everything that happened. Rika confessed her feelings to the trainer, knowing full well that he would respond in the negative. He had Misty, after all - a childhood friend whom he loved, and who more than likely loved him back. There was no reason for Ash to like Rika, or even be friends with her.
Ash simply smiled, kissed Rika lightly on the cheek, and whispered that he would always be her friend. And that any guy would be lucky to have her as a girlfriend. Rika was glad that he felt that way, but she would have been happier if she could be in Misty's shoes.
Yugi, Jeri, and Takato spoke about the past. They knew only snippets about what their past selves had done, and they knew that the issues of the past had a habit of resurfacing in the present. Yugi was unable to summon Yami with the Millennium Puzzle shattered, but he promised that one day, they would get to the bottom of what happened in the past. Juri's sacrifice had reminded them all that the ghosts of the past could affect the present, and the future. And Yugi had a feeling that Juri wouldn't be the last memory to resurface in the modern world.
Yugi spent the rest of the boat-ride putting the puzzle back together. When it was completed, he felt the spirit's presence. Yami said a few words of thanks before returning to the puzzle's confines. Yugi felt safer after knowing that his other self was well.
Sakura was properly introduced to the others, and there was the inevitable mention of Reedington. Ash had been told by an 'awakened' monster, whom he believed had the spirit of his father, that Reedington would be his next destination. Although they summoned Mewtwo to question him, it seemed that the monster had lost its 'living' aspects, and was once again asleep. Whether the monster was reset by Zero's computer system, or Mewtwo himself had resealed his mind, they didn't know. All they knew was that the next challenge lied in Reedington, and Sakura wanted more than anything to go there too. Ash made a deal with Mokuba to join forces and find their way to that town.
Seto Kaiba was on the ship. He seemed disappointed that he wasn't able to face Zero, but he actually seemed happy about Mokuba being safe. Sakura was afraid of what the Kaiba might say upon seeing her. When Seto approached her, he gently patted the girl on the head, and apologized for everything that happened.
"I may not be good at making friends with humans, but I feel that you... are like a little sister to me," he said. "I will try to make up for the mean things I've done to you while I was controlled by my darker tendencies."
Sakura had been overjoyed, and she fondly told 'Onii-chan' that she would do her best to make him proud.
When the ship arrived at the mainland, the first thing on Ash's mind was finding Misty and seeing her walk. The operation should've been finished, but she might've been at the hospital recovering still. So Ash's first goal was to go to the hospital and see how she was doing. But when Ash arrived at the pier, he was shocked to see that Misty and Brock were both there. Misty was sitting in a wheelchair.
Ash stared across the pier sadly. Misty was downcast, unable to face the trainer in her crippled state. Brock silently walked over to where Ash stood and spoke quietly enough so that Misty couldn't here. But the girl seemed to know what was being said.
"The doctors said that it was impossible to repair that kind of spinal damage," Brock whispered. "The best they could do was restore feeling to the leg, but not automation. So they said it was best that she be left the way she is."
Ash couldn't believe what he was hearing. After all that had happened, he'd been looking forward to some good news. He spent the entire trip feeling certain that Misty would walk again. But now... that hope was gone."
"She's been depressed ever since," Brock continued. "She won't talk or smile or anything. It's like she's lost the will to live."
Rika stood nearby, shocked at what she was hearing. "No... there's gotta be something that can be done."
Brock sighed. "I've asked every professional I can find, but they all say the same thing. Even Kaiba Corp's robomedical facilities say that it's far too risky to do. Attempting to fix this kind of damage might actually paralyze her completely."
Ash looked up. "There is something that I can do."
Brock and Rika looked at the boy. Neither of them knew what he, a simple trainer, could do that a couple of professionals could not.
Ash walked over to where Misty sat. The girl looked up, and she seemed surprised by what she saw. Ash was actually smiling.
Suddenly, Ash hugged the girl and said that everything would be fine. And that he was glad she came to meet him. Misty apologized for failing to keep her promise - the promise that she would walk across the pier when he came back from the tournament. But Ash said that he was glad to see her, and that was all that mattered.
Misty's mood lightened tremendously. She actually laughed and grabbed Ash's neck in a bear hug. Ash picked Misty up and swung her around in a happy celebration of their reunion. Brock and Rika could only watch and smile.
"Now why didn't I think of that," Brock said, chuckling. He ran over and joined the two kids in celebrating. Misty made a crack about Brock hitting on her nurse, and the three trainers laughed in unison.
Rika watched from a distance. He's back with his friends, and with the girl that he loves. All is right with the world. Rika turned and headed towards the boat ramp to look for her fellow Tamers. They'd have a long trip to Shinjuku ahead of them.
"HEY, RIKA!" Ash shouted. Rika froze and turned around. Ash was waving and jumping to get her attention, as if Rika didn't know he was there.
"Come on!" Ash yelled. "We're about to get some food! I wanna tell Misty and Brock all about ya!"
Rika's face turned red, though the trainers couldn't see it from where they were. Although Rika wanted to be with Ash, she didn't think she could look at Misty without feeling sad for herself. "No thanks, I should, um...."
"Pleeeeease!" Ash pressed. "It'll be great!"
Rika wanted to yell at him and put on her badgirl act. But a part of her wanted to be with Ash, and she didn't want to drive him away with her bad attitude. She'd driven away enough people over the course of her young life that way. This time, she wanted to listen to her heart rather than her head. It was risky to open up her heart that way. But risk was a tamer's business.
"I'm coming!" Rika shouted back. She waved and slid down the boat ramp and rushed over to where Ash and his friends were. Rika joined the group and happily met Brock and Misty, each of whom was really polite in their response.
Henry watched Rika leave from the boat above. He expected that they would stay here at the city for a day or two while being interviewed and debriefed. Rika would get to spend plenty of time with the trainers. Just like Henry and Takato would get to spend time with their new friends as well.
"Maybe, just maybe, Rika..." Henry said as the ocean wind blew through his short hair. "...you can still compete for Ash's attention. After all, everyone deserves a rival when it comes to reaching their goal."
Henry turned and left the edge of the ship. The winds blew, and the sun shined its light, as they always had. The world was at peace.
[End of "Monster Duel Ex"]