A/N: This is the concluding chapter of The Last Digivice, and I thank my readers for their seemingly infinite patience. I have only two things to say before we get right into it. First, I have created a forum available via my site profile. I will use it to handle any announcements I wish to make (I never did like these authors' notes) and if you have any questions or comments you would actually like me to respond to, that would be the place to take such things. Second, the final part of Digimon: Legends entitled The Fifth Eye is under development. I will post it if and when I get around to writing it.
"Damn it!" Schakalmon cursed as fell to his knees. He couldn't look away as more and more tiny red lights flickered into life. "What do you want from me?" he shouted at his own echo. "It can't end this way. It's not fair!"
"Come on, wake up," Ken urged his old friend.
Unconscious since his fall, Ryo was lying on the sidewalk with Ken looming over him. Gennai was sitting down a few yards away being tended to by Izzy and TK. The police had finally arrived and were cordoning off the area around the battle. Yolei jumped at every approaching siren, hoping it was an ambulance.
"Gennai, you need to just rest, okay?" TK insisted. "You look terrible."
"I'll live through this," Gennai said as he wiped his brow on his sleeve.
"What happened to you?" asked Izzy. "I've never seen you looking like this."
"Just doing my job," said Gennai. "Speaking of which, I'm still on the clock." He tried to stand, but quickly fell forward. Luckily, TK and Izzy were there to catch him.
"Don't worry!" Misaki shouted as she ran up to the three of them. "The ambulance is almost here. You'll be fine."
Gennai shook his head as he sat back down. "You can't worry about me now. Look up. We have bigger problems."
"What is that up there?" asked Misaki.
Gennai let out a hacking cough and tried to force himself up onto his feet. "You've got to get everyone underground. If I can't stop this, that's your only chance."
"What are you going to do?" asked TK.
"I'm not sure," Gennai said weakly. "Whatever I can."
"Gennai, you can barely move," said Izzy. "You gave your strength and your digiegg to Schakalmon, right? If you trusted him that much, then trust him to save us now and trust us to watch out for you for once."
"Besides, he's got help," TK said encouragingly. "I saw Tai and Matt running out there after him."
"See?" said Izzy. "Those two have gotten us through worse things."
Gennai gave a reluctant nod. "The subway," he said, pointing across the street. "That will be our best bet."
"Yolei!" Ken yelled. "He's stopped breathing! I need you to help me give him CPR, okay?" Yolei quickly jumped in to help save Ryo's life. "Don't die," Ken whispered in between each chest compression. "Don't die. Don't die. Don't die like this." Another siren approached.
"Where is he?" Matt shouted.
"I don't know," Tai yelled from a few paces behind. "Just keep running!"
"Do you ever miss this?"
"What?" Tai asked.
"I said, 'do you ever miss this?'"
"You know. The whole saving the world thing."
Tai shook his head, but just kept on running. "Yeah, sometimes."
"Makes me wonder why we ever stopped!"
Tai laughed. "Definitely one of my favorite hobbies."
Matt slowed to a stop, but Tai didn't notice in time and plowed right into him.
"What'd you stop for?" Tai asked as he untangled himself and sat up.
"I was trying to figure out which way to go," Matt said as he wiped the blood from a fresh cut on his chin.
"I think you're out of practice," said Tai. "I don't remember you ever getting lost on the way to a fight way back when."
"Well I don't remember you running out of breath this fast back then, so I guess we're even." Matt stood up and looked around.
"Fair enough," Tai said as he quickly caught his breath. "Now come on. I haven't waited this long to miss the ending."
"Which way though?" asked Matt.
"I've got a good feeling about this direction over here!" Tai called out as he was already off and running.
"Come on already, let's go!" Davis shouted as he did his best to herd everyone he could into the subway. "No time to spare, guys!"
"We can't move him if there's a risk of spinal chord injury," said one of the EMTs who was tending to Ryo.
"We don't have a choice," said Ken. "Do you see all those lights up there? In another minute they'll all be down here."
"Ken! You need to get all those people over here now!" Davis shouted. "We've got no time left!"
"Gennai, do you really think this will do any good?" Izzy asked as he and TK carried Gennai down the subway steps.
Gennai sighed. "It's better than doing nothing. If Schakalmon fails then it's all we have."
"Are we missing anyone?" Davis asked as he scanned the street.
"I don't see Jack down here!" Sora shouted up at him.
"Great," said Davis. "Where'd he get to? Ken, let's move it already! You too, Yolei!"
While everyone crowded into the subway, Jack made a final round looking for anyone that hadn't taken cover. He nearly tripped over himself when he turned the corner and saw Kari standing in the middle of the street looking away from him. She bit her thumbnail anxiously until she had to cough from all the dust in the air.
"Kari?" Jack called out from behind her.
She was startled and turned around quickly. "Jack," she said in a relieved tone.
"What are you doing back here? I thought you got out with everyone else."
"I don't know," she said, her mind seemingly somewhere else. "I just felt like I had to come back. Was that Tai and Matt I just saw?"
"Yeah, it was probably them," said Jack. "Come on. We need to get underground with the others."
She shook her head. "I'm going to wait here for Tai."
"He'll be fine. Besides, he'd want you to be safe, right?"
"I know," said Kari. "I believe in him though. I believe in both of them. I'll be alright, Jack. You can go on back to the others."
Jack sighed heavily. "No, I should stay here with you."
"You don't have to," she said.
"Look, I'm going to stay, alright? I just…I know nobody likes to be alone when things look bad. Neither one of us needs that now, don't you think?"
Kari smiled at him. "Thank you."
"Let's just see if we can find someplace with a little cover to wait for them, okay?"
Kari nodded. "Sure."
Schakalmon clutched his left arm tight. The pain was slowly being blocked out by a growing numbness. His head hung low as he cursed himself for his weakness in between choked sobs.
"This can't be happening. I can't die like this. I can't let them all down now. I just… Why…?" Schakalmon pounded the ground with his right fist a few times before leaning forward to rest his head on the ground. He draped his arms over his eyes to block out all the light of the world as his last bit of resolve died away and all that was left was a sobbing child.
"I'm sorry!" he cried out. "Bahadramon. Angemon. Omnimon. Everyone. I'm so… I just couldn't. I'm not strong enough. It's too much for me!"
Tears streamed freely down Schakalmon's face beneath his mask as his words became gibberish. At first he didn't even notice the shouts in the distance; even when the voices drew close he ignored them, right up until he felt someone shake his shoulder.
"Hey, are you alright?" Tai asked as he set his hand on Schakalmon.
Schakalmon sniffled pitifully. "Leave me alone," he groaned.
"What do you think you're doing?" asked Matt. "Where'd the bad guy get to?"
Schakalmon only wrapped his arms tighter around his face. "Gone," he groaned.
"Then is it over?" asked Tai.
Schakalmon shook his head but said nothing.
"The lights," Matt said as he looked up, shielding his eyes with his hand. "I take it that's not a good thing."
"We've got to do something about it," said Tai.
"Get up, would you?" Matt insisted. "We really need your help here."
If it were possible, Schakalmon slumped even lower and curled in on himself. "I can't."
"You're the only chance we've got now," said Tai. "I know we always try to do our part, but this isn't something we can stop. We need digimon like you."
Schakalmon sobbed. "I can't do anything… I can't save you. I can't save anyone!"
"We saw you fighting that evil digimon," said Tai. "You were amazing, but the fight isn't over yet. You're not going to give up now, are you?"
"It's too hard!" Schakalmon shouted. "Every day I've had to push myself to do things I should never have to do. Every day just gets harder and harder and I'm just worn out, okay? I don't deserve this!"
"I can't believe this!" said Matt. "This guy is supposed to be the one saving us?"
"Leave me alone," said Schakalmon. "I'm…I'm just a kid."
Tai leaned in and whispered in Schakalmon's ear. "The things that really matter are never easy, especially when you're the only one that can do them. I was just a kid when we first went to the Digital World, and it wasn't easy. We still kept on going because there wasn't any other choice."
"I'm not like you," Schakalmon choked. "I can't handle this."
"I know you're scared," Tai whispered. "I am too. We all are."
"Why is it always me?" Schakalmon asked.
"Tai, we're almost out of time here," Matt said impatiently.
"It doesn't seem fair, does it?" asked Tai. "We've had the world depending on us in the past, and now it's depending on you. That makes you one of us, and just like us you are going to come through in the end."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because even though we've just met, we're friends," said Tai. "Friendship can make you do things you never thought possible. It can give you the courage to fight when you're scared. Even if you can't win, you'll still fight for honor's sake and to protect everything you care about. You're a DigiDestined like us. We are your friends, and that means you never fight alone."
Schakalmon sniffled, lifted his head and wiped his eyes. "I…I'm still scared."
"We know you are," said Tai.
"We still believe in you though," said Matt.
"What are you doing?" TK asked Davis as they huddled underground alongside paramedics, police officers and fellow DigiDestined.
"I'm praying for a miracle as hard as I can," said Davis, his eyes closed and hands locked together.
TK looked down at his feet, feeling the tension between Davis and himself. All he could bring himself to say was, "I'll help."
Ken and Yolei were not far away, crammed against a wall next to Ryo, Gennai and the paramedics that were seeing to them.
"Not exactly the honeymoon I had in mind," Yolei said as she looked around.
"I'm really sorry," said Ken.
"Don't be silly," said Yolei. "It's not your fault."
"No more apologies, okay?" she insisted.
"Alright. Sorry about that."
Yolei pressed her palms to her forehead and groaned in frustration, which made Ken smile.
"Yolei, I love you," Ken said after a quiet moment.
"Don't even start with that," Yolei insisted. "We're going to be fine, alright?"
"Yeah, you're right," said Ken.
"Of course I am. I have no doubt that any second now we'll be saved."
Ken wrapped Yolei in his arms and hugged her tight. "As long as you believe, then so do I," he said.
On the streets above, Kari and Jack stood together under the red sky. A strong breeze whipped past them.
"They can do it," said Kari. "I know they can."
"I'm sorry I didn't get to know all of you better," said Jack. "Maybe then I'd be as sure as you are."
"You've put your life in our hands before," Kari pointed out.
"Yeah, but back then I could still do something myself, or at least Stormdramon could do something for me. There's nothing I can do this time though."
"That's not true," said Kari. "You can hope."
"Hope." Jack nodded. "That I can do."
These prayers and dozens more were all heard, no matter how quiet they were, by the single digignome who had appeared to lead TK to the DigiEgg of Honor. It hovered from spot to spot listening to the desperate pleas of many people, until at last it arrived at where Tai, Matt and Schakalmon stood looking up. The digignome watched silently and waited for the right moment.
"I don't think I can do this," Schakalmon said nervously.
"You can," said Matt.
"You have to try," Tai insisted. "Remember, we're all here with you."
"But I don't even know what to do," Schakalmon went on. "How am I supposed to stop this?"
"How should I know?" asked Tai. "You'll just…figure it out."
"Tai's right," said Matt. "Follow your instincts."
Schakalmon nodded as he tightened his grip on his sword. "I don't have a choice, do I?"
"Look, I know there's a lot we could say that won't make any difference in how you feel," said Matt. "You're frustrated, right?"
"Nothing I do is ever enough," Schakalmon said woefully.
"So what are you going to do about it?" Matt asked. "Are you going to turn that frustration against yourself? Or are you going to turn it back against the digimon who did all this?"
Schakalmon clenched his jaw and closed his eyes. He could see Asmodemon in his mind's eye. He could see Guilmon and SamuSetomon and everyone else he'd lost because of the Destroyer. If he lost the will to fight, then everything he had been through would be meaningless.
"I have to make him pay for what he's done," said Schakalmon.
"Then you know what you need to do," Matt said with a nod.
Schakalmon nodded grimly, and then he was off in a flash. He charged the building right in front of him and made it up over four stories in just a few strides before he had to push off. He landed with his claws flat against the building on the opposite side of the street, his sword tucked under his limp left arm and his gaze fixed unflinchingly skyward. He reached up and dug his right claw deep into the concrete; then with a mighty pull he sent himself rocketing skyward. The momentum was enough for him to get a vertical run going, the pads of his feet gracefully pushing him higher and higher with each bound. As the skyline receded all around him, Schakalmon closed his eyes and made one last push. He caught the ledge of the rooftop in his hand and smoothly pulled himself up and onto the roof.
Taking his sword in his right hand again, Schakalmon looked around him. The first bolts of the Apocalypse Rain were only seconds away, and the first one would land right on top of him. His sight was so blurry he could hardly see. His cheeks ached and his nose stung; his lungs felt only half full, though he almost choked to breathe in. He whispered something to himself then, but it was so quiet even he couldn't hear it over the thrumming of his own heart and lungs.
Schakalmon slowly pulled his sword back behind him and held it there for a moment. "Daiheijin Kyoufuu!" he cried with every last bit of data in his body. As his sword began to swing, the digignome nodded and Schakalmon felt an explosion of power within himself. As he swung his blade, the air it cut sucked everything upward. The entire building at his feet strained against its foundations as everything not nailed down was sucked up in a torrent of wind that tore through the bolt above Schakalmon and a dozen more beyond it. As the moment passed and a hole appeared in the sky above Schakalmon, his eyes could only gape in awe. He looked at his blade, at his hands, at himself; it all glowed with a shimmering white aura.
Flabbergasted though he was by this sudden power, Schakalmon had no time to dwell on it. There were already more of the deadly bolts falling around him on all sides. He turned swiftly to his left and attacked again. "Daiheijin Kyoufuu!" he roared and cut another swath through the air. Again the burst of wind blew through and dissipated every one of Asmodemon's attacks that it touched. Without a moment's pause he turned around and slashed again, cutting through another wave of attacks, but there were still so many.
Schakalmon attacked again, and again, and yet again, but every time he cleared away another cluster of screeching bombs, there would be others falling from every other direction, and when he turned to face those the originals would have been replaced by another wave. To make matters worse, this was only the leading edge of the attack. Every second the bolts grew denser and denser around Schakalmon. Inevitably, he found himself faced with one cluster of bolts on his left and another on his right. With no time to make a choice, Schakalmon could only turn and attack. As he did so, he felt a surge of power surrounding him, and then pulling away.
Schakalmon didn't even wait to watch his attack clear away his targets. He instantly spun on his heel to see WarriorSetomon standing next to him, facing the way he hadn't gone. WarriorSetomon's Flint Edge shot out a whipping tail of flame that cleared away the bolts of the Apocalypse Rain, but like Schakalmon he didn't even bother to watch; he spun around to see Schakalmon, and the pair could only look at one another for an instant.
"Heads up!" they both shouted at one another. Each turned to his right and let loose his attack, clearing away two more waves. They both kept on turning and pushed up back-to-back, both hearts pounding in their chests. The air was filled with the red haze of a thousand glowing bombs. The clouds thundered and the ground shook as Schakalmon and WarriorSetomon joined forces in their last-ditch defense.
Both of them once again struck their targets, but unfortunately Schakalmon wasn't watching where he was aiming this time and his attack proceeded to blow out three floors of a nearby building.
"Damn!" Schakalmon cursed to himself.
"Look out!" WarriorSetomon shouted at his back.
Two tight bolt groupings dropped right past the pair, one heading for the street and the other onto the neighboring building which was seven stories shorter than the one they stood on. Before WarriorSetomon had even finished what he was saying he was already on the move. He threw himself over the buildings ledge and dropped like a stone toward the next building. Schakalmon meanwhile turned toward the street and shouted, "Daiheijin Fukkireru!"
It was as if Schakalmon hadn't even crossed the space between the rooftop and the ground, but he reached the street nonetheless. His blade was shining white, and the ringing of its metal almost sounded musical. The bolts vanished without a trace as he returned his attention skyward.
WarriorSetomon, meanwhile, wasn't having such an easy time of it. Though he fell as fast as he could, he still couldn't catch up in time. With the bolt below only moments from impact, WarriorSetomon hurled his sword straight down with all his might. With only a few feet to spare, the blade sliced through its target and embedded itself in the rooftop. WarriorSetomon joined it a second later, landing on all fours before immediately turning his focus upwards at the three bolts still heading for him. He stretched both hands out high over head and positioned himself directly beneath the first bolt. WarriorSetomon clenched his teeth and waited.
The attack slammed into WarriorSetomon's palms, kicking up a gust of wind that sent dirt and debris flying off the roof. Though WarriorSetomon caught it, he was still being pushed down. The roof under his feet began to creak and groan under the pressure. WarriorSetomon grunted as he pushed back against the bolt just enough to move a few feet over to catch the second one, and then backpedaled a few yards to catch the third. Each of those two impacts made the force pushing down against WarriorSetomon even greater. The concrete beneath his paws began to crack and sink; the steel beams below that began to buckle, and as the whole rooftop started to collapse, all the windows on the top floor shattered.
WarriorSetomon closed his fists around the bolts he held, slowly feeling the pressure lifting from him as their energy coiled around his arms. He breathed it in through his nose and mouth, and just as his lungs filled to capacity and his hands were left empty, he turned and snorted puffs of smoke from his nostrils. "Incendiary Strike!" he roared as he extended his hands out and fired a stream of white-hot energy from them, quickly sweeping the sky to his right and clearing away dozens of the attacks in just a few seconds. WarriorSetomon paused only to grab his sword before heading off to a new vantage point.
Schakalmon was atop a new building, once again making broad sweeps with his Daiheijin Kyoufuu when a number of the attacks slipped in behind him, between himself and another building. Unable to counter them with his wind technique, he made a flying leap from the ledge on a path that would take him right through the heart of this latest grouping. "Daiheijin Gekiretsu!" With a few precise and incredibly fast swings of his blade he took care of most of the bolts as he fell, and when he landed he rolled and spun around to take out the remainder with a Daiheijin Kyoufuu fired up into clear sky.
Seeing a bolt about to impact that was beyond the range of his Flint Edge, WarriorSetomon thought fast. With a single slice he cut away one of the stone corners of the rooftop he now occupied, then he quickly grabbed hold of it and hurled it as far and as fast as he could. The stone block hit the falling bolt precisely, causing it to explode in all its fury; thankfully, the bolt was still high enough off the ground to not do too much damage, but it distracted WarriorSetomon for a moment. The surface on which he stood was weakened by his quick thinking and gave away under his weight. He slid right off the rooftop along with a few crumbling stone blocks, but as he began to fall he quickly caught himself on a narrow ledge, hanging on by only the claw tips of his left hand.
As WarriorSetomon looked for a way to climb back up, he saw a bolt coming straight for his building. In his position there was no way he could do anything. He tried to pull himself up, but it was too late. The bolt plunged through the roof and burnt down through one floor after another before detonating at ground level. The searing light filled the whole building, and as every wall was blown out WarriorSetomon fell backwards, watching helplessly as the entire corner of the building to which he had clung fell outward, tons upon tons of solid stone falling as quickly towards him as he fell towards the ground.
WarriorSetomon felt like his lungs, his heart, his every bone was on fire. He couldn't even breathe, at once being helpless and surging with a sense of overflowing power. He closed his eyes and crossed his arms in front of his face. He felt the ground slam into his back. His body collapsed hard against the street and all the air shot up and out of his lungs, along with the incredible sensation he's just been overcome with. He heard the corner land, but he never felt it. After a second he opened his eyes again, and though he was gasping for breath, he could still focus enough to see the hulking figure standing over him, massive forearms straining against the full weight of the stone edifice.
SaberSetomon grunted savagely. The force of the impact jarred every bone in his body, and though it felt like ever last tendon and every last muscle was ready to give out, he had to do more than hang on. He had to push back. By sheer force of will, SaberSetomon pushed past the pain, and he rolled the edifice off to the side, away from himself and from WarriorSetomon. It shook the whole street when it landed, and the mighty stone shattered from the impact.
SaberSetomon quickly turned and pulled WarriorSetomon to his feet. They smiled at one another.
"Thanks," said WarriorSetomon.
"Don't mention it," said SaberSetomon. "Care for a lift? Schakalmon could use your help up there."
WarriorSetomon nodded. SaberSetomon put his hands together and lowered them for WarriorSetomon. WarriorSetomon took one step on and before he was even ready he was hurled high into the air. He sailed above any of the building in the area before he even began slowing down, but it was a fine opportunity to take care of whatever bolts he could reach before touching down on the closest building.
As for SaberSetomon, he took a moment to regard the debris all around him: ruined cars, streetlights, and of course the copious remains of a recently destroyed building. It would seem he had all the projectiles he needed.
Schakalmon got ready to clear away another group of bolts when a car soared up from ground level and struck the bolt in the center, causing it to detonate. All the other bolts around it were dispersed by the explosion, which left Schakalmon the small space of time he'd been waiting for to try something. He reached his sword arm all the way back over his left shoulder and got ready to swing.
"Kagirinai Raiu!" A bolt of lightning reached out from behind Schakalmon, cutting through several of Asmodemon's attacks in the process. When it struck Schakalmon's blade, he swung forward and the power of the lightning bolt arced off from the blade in ten different directions, each arc slicing through one or more groups of deadly bombs.
WarriorSetomon charged across the roof at full speed, leaping into the open air and cutting through a bolt just in time. He tumbled forward toward the building across the street and hit the wall with both feet; he pushed off and sailed back toward the side of the street he had started on and cut through two more bolts on the way back. He landed on one knee and his left hand, skidding several yards before spinning around and lashing out with his Flint Edge to take out yet another bolt.
Cupping a manhole cover in each hand, SaberSetomon quickly spun around and hurled them like a pair of discuses through the air, each one spinning off in a different direction and taking out a few bolts each. He immediately reached for the next bit of debris at hand—a toppled streetlight—when an explosion knocked him flat on his chest. Despite the furious pace the three of them were working at, another attack had managed to get through. SaberSetomon quickly rose and dusted himself off, but as he did he had an idea. A quick glance skyward to his counterparts told him that they had come up with the same plan. He pulled his right arm all the way back and waited for just the right moment.
"Flint Edge!" WarriorSetomon roared as he scraped his blade along the rooftop in a circle around him. Flames sparked up fast and furious and exploded outward when WarriorSetomon brought his spin to a jerking halt. The wave of fire was enough to clear away a few of the closer bolts and gave WarriorSetomon just enough time to make his move. He charged to the edge of the building and jumped off.
Seeing this, Schakalmon sliced through a few more nearby attacks before he sent his blade flying with all his might, hurtling it through a handful of bolts before it buried itself hilt-deep in the concrete side of a building down the block. Now unarmed, Schakalmon ran to the ledge facing WarriorSetomon and leapt straight out.
"Inferno Fist!" SaberSetomon shouted. His right fist was immediately wrapped in intense flames and he punched upward into empty space just as WarriorSetomon came falling down at him. WarriorSetomon landed with his hands pressed against SaberSetomon's; he instantly took in all the heat SaberSetomon's attack had to give up, and with a little help from the immense strength of SaberSetomon's punch, WarriorSetomon launched himself back into the air, right at Schakalmon. Schakalmon and WarriorSetomon caught each other by the right wrist, and when they did they were instantly whipped around and sent flying in opposite directions. Schakalmon went sailing toward his sword while WarriorSetomon was given a clear field of view from which to attack. "Incendiary Strike!" he yelled as his most powerful attack once again erupted from his hands and burned through the sky and a few dozen Apocalypse Raindrops.
Schakalmon landed hard against the vertical surface. In the blink of an eye he had freed his sword from the building and had taken a good portion of the wall out with it. Using his Daiheijin Fukkireru he was gone again just as fast, ascending the building in time to cleave through three more bolts. Unfortunately, while he was dealing with those, there were two more impacts he could do nothing about. The area of the attack was getting wider now, and he'd have to get a lot faster if he intended to keep up.
SaberSetomon buried his claws into the street all the way up to his knuckles. Straining with every muscle in his back and shoulders, he felt the road shudder and then give out; he tore a large section of the road right out from the asphalt and hoisted it up onto his shoulders. He quickly scanned what he could see of the horizon, looking for a target to aim for, but then an immense weight landed on the section of street and instantly forced SaberSetomon to his knees. Over the next few seconds the pressure only grew; a haunting light surrounded him on all sides and the asphalt he held began to melt in his very hands. He knew that he'd been struck by one of the bolts, and in another second it would burrow through his improvised shield and it would detonate.
"SaberSetomon!" WarriorSetomon yelled as he continued to hack through bolts falling around him on all sides. "Hang on!" WarriorSetomon hacked and slashed with everything he had, but the attacks were falling thickly around him now, not even giving him an instant to charge in to save SaberSetomon. Schakalmon, meanwhile, was over half a mile away, moving from one rooftop to the next instantaneously with his Daiheijin Fukkireru. Even if he had known SaberSetomon's predicament though, he never could have made it back in time.
SaberSetomon shut his eyes tight, gritted his teeth and pushed back against the attack. There could be no doubt that SaberSetomon was strong, but even his muscles burned against the intense pressure. More and more he felt the heat from the attack seeping through the asphalt, and he could only push more and more of his power right up into the center of his back, between his shoulder blades. Then he felt the asphalt give out, splitting right in half and allowing the bolt right on through. At the very same instant, all the pressure he'd built up in his arms and back was released, erupting from the top of his spine in a glowing red form that pushed back through the attack, scattering its energies and landing a few yards behind SaberSetomon. SaberSetomon turned to look as broken bits of asphalt rained down on all sides of him. There was Setomon, crouched low and looking back at him.
"About time you showed up," he grumbled.
"You're welcome," Setomon shot back as he turned and ran toward the nearest building.
Bouncing from one wall to the other in a narrow alleyway, Setomon quickly ascended to the first rooftop he could find. He didn't even have time to scan the horizon before WarriorSetomon landed hard a few yards in front of him and dragged his Flint Edge along the roof to spark a fireball that he sent hurtling to extinguish another bolt.
"Heads up!" Setomon barked from behind him.
Before WarriorSetomon could even turn to look, he found Setomon's entire weight plunked down onto his back and shoulders. He stumbled forward and had to catch himself on with his left hand, but before he could even really react, Setomon leapt from his shoulders and out into the open air.
Fire Flash!" Setomon growled. A burst of flame appeared in front of his face and quickly engulfed his entire frame. Setomon shot off like a missile on a straight line that took him through three bolts before he slammed into the side of a building with all four paws. Only pausing there a moment, he ricocheted off on a new course that took him right through more of the bolts.
Schakalmon grunted as he sliced through yet another attack. Exhaustion was quickly settling in; the rush of power he'd felt was almost gone now, and each successive attack was getting harder to make. The only thing keeping his sword swinging now was the simple fact that he had no other choice. "Daiheijin Kyoufuu!" Another barrage disappeared before it could detonate, proving that although the strength in his arms was failing, Schakalmon's attacks remained as potent as ever. Still, he grew more and more aware of the growing distance between all his split forms. They had to spread out to keep up with the Apocalypse Rain's advancing perimeter, but that was leaving more and more room for a mistake. Impacts were getting more frequent now in spite of his valiant defense. The only question was whether it would be him or the attack that would run out of strength first. "Daiheijin Fukkireru!"
Reenergized by his near-death experience, SaberSetomon lay in wait. Another attack was falling right toward him, and he was ready to meet it head on with a smile and a raised hand. He felt the air all around him heating up; the debris was blowing away from him in billowing clouds; even sound itself seemed to flee from the bolt's approach, but SaberSetomon just kept on smiling right up until the last second, when he sprung into action. "Inferno Fist!" He struck at the attack hard and fast, so overpowering it that the bolt shattered into dozens of smaller attacks and fired back up toward the sky at as many angles. Some ripped holes through the buildings on all sides and most fired harmlessly into the heavens, but there were a few that managed to take out other threatening bolts before they could impact on the surface.
Pleased with the results, SaberSetomon grabbed for the nearest piece of rubble: a concrete boulder that he was just barely able to hold in one hand. He tossed it a few yards into the air and pulled back for another strike. "Inferno Fist!"
A thousand chunks of molten rock exploded from the street below, forcing WarriorSetomon to retreat to the next building. While he appreciated SaberSetomon's ingenuity in creating a lava storm, it posed as much of a threat to him as Asmodemon's attack did. Feeling that SaberSetomon could handle things in the area well enough on his own, WarriorSetomon quickly began expanding his fighting radius to keep up with the growing area of attack. Schakalmon was having greater and greater difficulty keeping things under control judging by the sound of explosions echoing through the streets.
"Flint Edge!" WarriorSetomon sparked a flame along his blade, but as soon as he did so he grabbed his sword in his left hand and absorbed the fire. "Incendiary Strike!" he roared, unleashing a bolt of flame that was admittedly weaker than his typical Incendiary Strike, but was also far more precise than the whip of his Flint Edge. He only took out two or three bolts with that attack, but he was quick to repeat this new approach, striking his sword ablaze with his right hand and launching a pillar of flame from his left. He moved so quickly he didn't even have time to think about the cuts forming on his left palm or the sweat pouring from his already exhausted body. Smoldering ash surrounded him, filled his lungs and singed his fur; he didn't know if it was from the burning buildings already hit or if it was the flames of his own attacks that caused it. It didn't really matter. More molten shards of rock fell around him, popping and hissing when they struck the rooftop. SaberSetomon was still giving it everything he had.
Ten stories up in the open air, Setomon dug his claws deep into the flat, vertical slab of concrete. Everything from the black clouds to the burning, smoke-filled streets below was bathed in a hellish red glow. The only things to break up the dim scene were the countless brightly-glowing, red-orange Apocalypse Raindrops. There would always be some winking out of existence when struck by the attacks of Setomon's other forms, though now and then one or two would explode in a brilliant flash that would make entire buildings disappear. The burning lights were always being replaced though as more and more of them broke through the cloud cover each second. The worst part had to be the sound. It was like thunder, but it never ceased or even diminished. It roared ceaselessly in Setomon's skull, threatening to dissolve away whatever madness kept him going on with each throb of his heart.
Setomon saw his chance to strike. "Fire Flash!" He was wrapped in a ball of fire and launched himself into the air, pushing off so hard that the wall he had been clinging to collapsed back into the building. One, two, three, four. By the time Setomon landed on the roof of the next building he'd taken out four more attacks, and he already had his sights set on the next three. In a flash he bounded across the roof and took to the air again. Five, six, seven. He landed on the front of the next building, paused a moment, and then back-flipped off. Eight, nine. He landed hard, back on the last rooftop he'd touched down on. He quickly turned to his left and took off running again, the wall of flames encircling him only growing more intense by the second; every surface he touched was left scorched in his wake.
Setomon ran to the corner of the building and leapt off. He bounded back and forth from rooftop to rooftop, crisscrossing along a street to take out every attack he encountered along the way and leaving a trail of fire behind him that stretched back to every point of his route. His count reached seventeen before a sound more terrible than any he'd heard yet erupted from just behind him and to his right. A bolt had hit the building he'd just left; the explosion tossed him like a rag doll.
Flipping through the air wildly, Setomon's flames dissipated as he began to lose consciousness. His vision of the world spinning all around him began growing darker and he felt the familiar warm trickle of blood on his skin. But then there was another warm sensation, this one within him. As his eyes grew dark, he was simultaneously being blinded by ribbons of light surrounding him on all sides. Before he blacked out entirely, he could have sworn he saw the light taking on the form of a glowing white hand, fingers outstretched, reaching out ahead of him from the base of his neck. The last thing he felt was his whole body jerking to a sudden halt.
That last impact shook the ground fiercely. At first SaberSetomon thought it was nothing more than that, when suddenly he realized that the building that had been hit wasn't entirely destroyed. In fact, most of it fell against its neighboring building, which in turn began to collapse into the street: the very street on which SaberSetomon stood. As the building began to fall right toward him, SaberSetomon took the bold—if not wise—course of action. He charged the building head on, slamming his weight stubbornly against the base. He braced himself against it and dug his toes into the concrete. Though it was enough to give the falling structure pause, there was nothing SaberSetomon could do now to stop the upper floors from toppling over right on top of him. In only a few seconds dozens of iron beams snapped, hundreds of glass windows splintered apart and thousands of bricks rent themselves from their mortar, and each of these along with everything else the building held all came crashing down over SaberSetomon.
An instant before it was all over, SaberSetomon felt someone standing over him. "Daiheijin Kyoufuu!" Schakalmon had moved in next to SaberSetomon as fast as his body would allow, and he came prepared. He fired his attack straight up with all the power he could summon. The incredible blast of wind nearly tore the street right up from the ground, making it more than enough to scatter the debris from the falling building skyward and in every direction. Some of the larger fragments even managed to take out a few errant bolts. Knowing there was no time to lose Schakalmon wrapped an arm around SaberSetomon and dragged him clear of the area in a flash, leaving the buildings to finish collapsing.
With his teammates suddenly indisposed, WarriorSetomon found himself working more frantically than ever before. He couldn't even tell if he was still breathing as he simultaneously cut a chunk from the rooftop on which he stood and used it to ignite his Flint Edge, which he then whipped at a few bolts on his right. On the backlash he absorbed the flames in his left hand while kicking the freed section of rooftop at another bolt in front of him. By the time he fired his incendiary strike at another cluster of bolts off to his left, he'd already reignited his Flint Edge and spun around to cut a flaming swath through the bolt that was just about to impact directly behind him. That was only the beginning.
Setomon's vision slowly came back into focus. It took him a few seconds to realize where he was, but when he did see that he was dangling over a hundred feet above the pavement the only thing he could ask himself was why he wasn't falling. That's when he felt the constant tugging at the scruff of his neck and he looked up. Holding the loose skin at the base of Setomon's skull in one hand and hanging on desperately to a narrow brick ledge with the other was Jenomon, his little arms straining under Setomon's weight.
Seeing Jenomon's tenuous grip, Setomon immediately dug his claws into the wall before him. With a sigh of relief, Jenomon relaxed and dropped onto Setomon's shoulders. "About time you woke up," he grumbled.
"Better late than never," Setomon said tensely. "Come on, we're not done yet."
Setomon dropped onto the nearest rooftop with Jenomon hanging on for dear life. Streaks of lightning blistered the sky, clearing away a barrage of Apocalypse Raindrops and telling the pair that Schakalmon was near. While scanning for someplace to strike from, Setomon was nearly knocked off his feet when a nearby explosion shook the whole building.
"Let's go already!" Jenomon barked.
"Alright, just hold on tight!"
Setomon was off like a shot, blasting from rooftop to rooftop faster than ever and dispatching bolts two and three at a time. His eyes could just barely keep up with his feet, but the pressure was only mounting; a slip up would be disastrous, but it also seemed unavoidable. Sure enough, Setomon tried to turn a little too quick on his heel to get at a bolt that was just about to drop below his attack zone and impact on the street below. He turned, but he kept on sliding, which turned into a roll that would land him hard against the cement lip along this particular rooftop, but not before Jenomon jumped from Setomon's back and landed in perfect striking position.
"My turn," Jenomon said with a gleam in his eye. "Rage Claw!" He ran to the ledge and leapt off just in time to claw through the attack. Of course this also meant that Jenomon was falling face-first toward the street. It was just Jenomon's luck that WarriorSetomon was passing by right then. A quick detour and he caught the rookie just in time.
WarriorSetomon kept right on running without pause. Seeing three bolts coming in for a landing ahead of him, he dropped the edge of his blade to the ground and dragged it to spark it to life again. At the last second he swung his sword in front of him and used the whipping fire from his Flint Edge to clear away all three. He absorbed the flames on the backlash and spun around in mid-stride to fire his Incendiary Strike at another bolt just about to strike a building about a block back.
Schakalmon's Kagirinai Raiu once again shook the heavens and bought WarriorSetomon time to find higher ground. He quickly ascended the closest building via the fire escape, barely even seeming to touch the metal as he jumped and clawed his way up. By the time he was on the roof he already seemed to have a plan, though there wasn't time to tell Jenomon just what it was. "Think fast!" was all he said.
Before Jenomon even knew what was happening, WarriorSetomon had grabbed him around the waist and hurled him into the distance with all his might. Jenomon flailed wildly until he saw himself coming up on a falling attack; he gritted his teeth and let loose with his Rage Claw at just the right moment. The attack dispersed, he turned back to see WarriorSetomon make his own move.
With two bolts to dispose of in opposite directions and with no time, WarriorSetomon did the only thing he could think of. He placed his blade against his already badly-bleeding left palm and jerked them apart to create the spark he needed. Despite the blood spatter left on both him and his blade, both his sword and his left hand filled with fire and he was able to attack with both his Flint Edge and Incendiary Strike simultaneously.
That was all Jenomon saw before he dropped out of line of sight with WarriorSetomon and once again found himself plummeting toward the street. This time, though, there was someone waiting there to catch him ahead of time. He landed in SaberSetomon's outstretched, oversized hands. A quick glance up at the Ultimate's grin told him he wouldn't be staying there long though. Without so much as a word of warning, SaberSetomon catapulted Jenomon straight up into the sky. He was almost getting used to it by now, and of course there were a few Apocalypse Raindrops along the way to claw through.
It wasn't until his ascent began slowing to a stop that Jenomon realized he was all alone and had about a thousand foot drop between himself and a very hard landing. As his momentum lost out to gravity, He curled up in a ball, crossed his fingers and shut his eyes tight. He nearly screamed when he landed on something hard after a mere three foot drop.
"Didn't think I was gonna' leave you hanging, did you?" Schakalmon asked. "Doing alright?"
While Jenomon didn't scream, he did wince. Landing on Schakalmon's armored left shoulder was unkind on his tailbone, but with the alternative being what it was, he wasn't about to complain. Jenomon grabbed onto his perch with one hand and managed a weak thumbs-up with the other. "Never better," he said with a cough.
"Well then hang on tight," Schakalmon warned him. "I'll get you through this yet. Daiheijin Fukkireru!"
Jenomon had never moved so fast in his life; it was all a blur as Schakalmon darted from building to building, cutting through more bolts than he could count. All the while WarriorSetomon's flames crisscrossed the sky, Setomon bounded freely from building to building, always wrapped in a ball of fire, and SaberSetomon sent wave after wave of splintered rock, lava and rubble tearing through just about anything he could hit.
Suddenly Jenomon lurched forward, just barely hanging on. It took him a few seconds to realize that Schakalmon had stopped moving, and after looking around in a very dizzy state, Jenomon realized that they were now atop the highest building in the area, very close to the center of the devastation. He grabbed hold of Schakalmon with both arms and closed his eyes.
Schakalmon lifted his blade overhead, pointing it straight up. He took in a breath, held it, and then coolly let it go as the Apocalypse Rain fell around him on all sides. "Daiheijin Kyoufuu!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.
He brought his sword swinging down low, and his whole body followed. Spinning on his heel he brought his blade slashing around all sides. As he went into the second pass he rose again and the hilt seemed to float freely from Schakalmon's hand, Daiheijin freely wielding its own savage cutting power as it spun around in a full second circle. In the third and final cut, Schakalmon took solid hold of the hilt right at the very base of the blade, and he swung the weapon's entire weight straight up once more. As Daiheijin halted its movement, aiming straight up at the heavens and ringing with the shrill cry of forged metal, the full force of the Daiheijin Kyoufuu exploded outward in every direction. The wind sent out by the attack surged out over everything in sight, breaking many windows and tossing debris wildly of course, but most importantly, every last one of Asmodemon's bolts that the wind touched was blown out like the flames of a hundred candles.
His chest still heaving, his heart racing, Schakalmon looked around for the next wave of attacks. Jenomon clamored all over his more evolved counterpart on the lookout, but all he could see was the dim red glow and the darkened shapes of buildings and smoke. Seconds passed, and for an excruciating minute there was nothing. There was nothing but the distant wail of sirens. It was not until Schakalmon began to catch his breath that he began to wonder whether it was in fact over. He didn't have a lot of time to wonder before his thoughts were interrupted.
"Look down there," said Jenomon. "It's the others."
Schakalmon peered over the ledge to the street far below. Setomon, SaberSetomon and WarriorSetomon had gathered there, and Schakalmon decided to join them. He jumped down to the next highest building, then to one shorter than that and so on until it was an easy jump down to the street. The others greeted the pair with nods and quiet mumbling.
"So did we win?" asked Jenomon.
"I don't know," WarriorSetomon said as he kept staring up at the sky.
"I didn't think it was really possible," said SaberSetomon.
"Don't get too excited just yet," Schakalmon warned.
"It'd be just like Asmodemon to try tricking us into thinking we'd won," said Setomon.
"There's no way he'd think we could have made it this far," said Jenomon.
"Maybe, but I'm not about to relax yet," said SaberSetomon.
"Schakalmon, that arm looks pretty bad," said Setomon. "We should do something about it while there's time."
Schakalmon turned to look at his left arm, hanging limp at his side. "I'm not sure we can do anything about it now," he said.
"There!" WarriorSetomon shouted. "Look!"
All eyes immediately went back to the sky. The familiar burning light of the Apocalypse Rain burned through the cloud cover. After a few seconds the clouds began to part altogether, pulling away and spiraling around the new, second sun in the sky. One final bolt hung in the heavens, easily the size of a house, unlike all the previous bolts which were usually only the size of basketballs. It was falling toward them now, slowly but unstoppably.
Schakalmon let out a low growl. "Daiheijin Kyoufuu," he said as he slashed his weapon through the air in front of him. His attack sailed through the air and collided with the last bolt, only to completely disappear against the overwhelming force dropping toward them.
Setomon and SaberSetomon both fired up their abilities, and then readily gave their strength over to WarriorSetomon. He lit his Flint Edge ablaze and used that to finish charging up his attack. Schakalmon meanwhile held his sword out behind him and took careful aim.
WarriorSetomon's blazing lance and Schakalmon's wave of raw electricity encircled one another, mixing together just as they collided with the bolt. Although their attacks struck with incredible force, Asmodemon's last laugh would not be stopped. It pushed right on through their efforts and loomed larger and large in the sky with each second.
"Well this sucks," SaberSetomon growled.
"Any other bright ideas?" asked WarriorSetomon.
"Come on, guys! We can't stop now!" Jenomon insisted.
"Jenomon's right," said Schakalmon. "We've made it this far for a reason. I have to believe we've got everything we need to stop this."
"How?" asked Setomon.
"The only way we've ever been good at doing anything," said Schakalmon. "Head-on."
WarriorSetomon smiled. "Sounds good to me."
"I'm in," SaberSetomon said with a nod.
"You can count on me," said Setomon.
"And me too!" Jenomon chimed in.
"Alright then," said Schakalmon. "No hesitation, no doubt, and no holding back. If there was ever a time to attack with everything we've got, then this is it."
"Let's go!" said WarriorSetomon.
Setomon, SaberSetomon and WarriorSetomon took off first, jumping between buildings to get up as high as they could to make the strike. Schakalmon lingered behind with Jenomon holding on to him.
"We all have a reason for being here, Jenomon," Schakalmon said calmly. "Even you."
"I know," said Jenomon. "I'm just glad that no matter what happens, it's almost over."
"My reason for being here is to fight," Schakalmon went on. "Yours is to survive."
Jenomon turned to look at Schakalmon, but before he could get out a question, Schakalmon reached up and shoved Jenomon backwards off his shoulder. Jenomon landed on his back with a bounce, and before he could rise again, Schakalmon was in the air, converging on the bolt along with the other three.
There was a blinding flash of light that filled the whole sky then. Whatever they had done, the last bolt of the Apocalypse Rain ruptured and exploded. Fortunately it was still far enough from any structured not to do any serious damage, but the shockwave was so strong that it sent everything not nailed down flying, including Jenomon.
Whether it was from a bump to the head or sheer exhaustion, Jenomon passed out shortly after that, but not before seeing the sky clear, and not before realizing that Setomon, SaberSetomon, WarriorSetomon and Schakalmon would not be returning from their final charge. His eyes shut and his breathing shallow, the last thing he felt before drifting off into a long, well-earned sleep was the sensation of being picked up and carried off somewhere. Where that place was he couldn't care less. Never in his life had he slept so well. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he did not dream.
Davis stood in front of his bathroom mirror in his boxers and undershirt, dabbing a damp washcloth at his forehead. A used, bloody bandage sat atop the pile of trash in the trashcan while some fresh bandages and tape sat on the sink along with a toothbrush, razor and shaving cream. Davis winced as he prodded the wound, trying to think away the pain by reminding himself that at least he hadn't needed stitches. It didn't work.
There was a loud knock at the front door. "Ow! Son of a…" Davis cursed. "Coming!"
Davis quickly stuck on a new bandage and pulled on a pair of jeans. Meanwhile there was another knock at the door. "The rent's not due for another week!" he shouted while struggling with the zipper.
"It's me," a muffled voice said from outside.
A few seconds later Davis made it to the door and opened it. "Oh, it's you," he said when he saw who it was.
"Well don't jump up and down or anything," said TK, whose nose was bandaged much like Davis' forehead.
"Look, I'm kind of getting ready for work, so can we maybe do this later or something?"
"You're not making this easy, you know?" asked TK.
"Making what easy?"
"Can I just come in for five minutes? It's not like you're never late anyway."
Davis sighed. "Fine, whatever."
Davis walked back into his tiny apartment with TK in tow. "How's your forehead?" TK asked before the door had even closed behind him.
"It hurts," said Davis. "What about your nose?"
"It hurts," TK said with a nod.
Davis nodded back. "I'm sorry about that I guess. It's not my fault the damn brick bounced off my head and went right for your face though."
"I know, I know. It's not a big deal or anything. Guess that thick head of yours really helped you out this time though, right?" TK snickered, though Davis didn't seem to appreciate it.
"So is this the only reason you came over here this morning?"
TK sighed and looked off to the side. "No… No it isn't. I'm sorry about that though. Guess I'm just stalling or something."
"Well spit it out already, dude."
"Fine," said TK, who was still trying not to look directly at Davis. "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I'm sorry about all the attitude I've been giving you lately and I'm really sorry if I messed things up between you and Kari."
"Well you should be," said Davis.
"I know, okay? Look, everything we went through yesterday really got me thinking. Things between me and Kari are all screwed up and then I kind of screwed things up between you and her. I don't want things between us to be weird too, you know?"
Davis rubbed his eyes. "Yeah, I know. Besides, I can't really blame you for getting Kari mad at me. That one was pretty much my doing."
"So do you think we can be cool?" asked TK.
"Sure thing, dude," said Davis. "Besides, you're, like, one of my oldest friends in the whole world. I don't want to screw that up…even if you were acting like a jerk."
TK smiled. "Well someone had to and you were busy."
"Oh I was all kinds of busy, if you know what I'm talking about." Davis laughed.
TK chuckled too, but then he said, "You weren't really, were you?"
Davis shook his head. "No, not really."
"I didn't think so."
"What is it about girls that messes everything up?" asked Davis.
"I think we both know the answer to that one."
Davis nodded. "They're pretty."
TK snickered. "How about this: we make a promise. From now on, we don't let the little things come between us, okay?"
"Sounds like a good promise to me," said Davis.
"So it's settled then," said TK. "No more fighting."
"So now that we're not fighting…" Davis started. "Are you gonna' try to get back together with Kari?"
TK shook his head. "Not right now. I think I need to take a little time off from dating. Are you?"
Davis shook his head as well. "Something tells me if I try getting anywhere near her this little bump on my head will be just the beginning."
"That's probably a good call," said TK. "Besides, I get the feeling that she just wants to get out a little more, broaden her horizons. I can't really blame her for that."
"Yeah, I guess. Who knows? Trying something different for a little while will probably do her some good."
At that very moment in another part of town Kari was cracking a few eggs for breakfast when there was a knock at the door to her parents' apartment. Unlike Davis, though, she had been expecting a visitor and went quickly to the door.
"Good morning," said Jack, who looked like he'd had a rough night.
"Come on in," Kari said with a smile.
"Thanks for inviting me over," Jack said as he closed the door and took off his shoes. "I just can't get used to this time zone, you know?"
Kari went back to whipping up the eggs she'd left on the counter. "I know what you mean. So have you slept at all since yesterday?"
"Nope. Of course it didn't help that I was breaking up with Amber all night long."
"Oh Jack, I'm so sorry. Where is she now?"
"In the hotel room packing her things. I managed to get her an earlier flight back."
"It's probably for the best," said Kari.
"You're telling me. Can you imagine having to sit next to her for eighteen hours?"
Kari giggled. "That's not what I meant."
"I know. I just don't want to dwell on it forever. It's not healthy."
"Well as long as you're happy," said Kari.
"I don't know about happy, but I've felt worse."
"So what do you like in your omelet?"
Kari took a peak in the fridge. "Hmm. By the looks of things you're going to wind up being really surprised. Do squid and tofu go well with eggs?"
Jack suddenly looked a bit sick. "I'd rather not find out."
Kari giggled again. "Don't worry, I'll find something in here."
Jack smiled and turned to take a look around the room. He was scanning some of the family photos on the wall when he said, "I'm sure not looking forward to going back home to an empty apartment."
"I know what you mean," said Kari as she discovered some cheese hidden behind a jar of pickles. "You get used to always having someone there."
"So you're in the same boat as I am, right?"
"Afraid so," said Kari. "Urg! I get mad just thinking about it."
"It couldn't have been that bad."
"No, it wasn't like that. I just get mad at myself, you know?"
Jack cocked an eye at Kari. "How do you mean?"
Kari sighed and looked off into space for a second. "I don't really know what I mean. It's just so complicated. Maybe I should have seen it coming or maybe I'm the one that ruined things, or maybe I just overreacted. I don't know; it's confusing."
"Well try not to think about it too much," said Jack. "You'll figure it out faster if you sleep on it I'll bet. Now come on, it's not like we're here to share stories of our newfound bitter loneliness."
"You're right, of course," Kari conceded. "You were the one that said you wished you'd gotten to know us better, right? So let's share. How are things on your end of the world?"
"Looking up. I was thinking of moving out of the city, actually."
"Is that so?" asked Kari. "Thinking of starting a farm?"
Jack laughed. "Probably not that far out of the city, but someplace where I could take it easy. I don't know, just a thought. How about you? How's the last decade been for you?"
"Actually, I'm really getting excited about this whole teaching thing," said Kari.
Jack smiled. "Yeah? Tell me all about it."
In the shade of Infinity Mountain sat Primary Village, which remained as pleasant a place as Jenomon remembered it. The sun was shining and there were many young digimon at play, but Jenomon of course wasn't awake to see any of it. He lay fast asleep inside Elecmon's hut, where he'd been sleeping ever since the day before. Watching him sleep, Elena sat quietly in the shady corner, away from the bright light pouring in through the window. The flimsy door creaked open and Tiresias stepped inside, having to stoop low to keep from hitting the ceiling. Elena turned to him, and though she could already see the grave news in his blind eyes, she had to ask anyway.
"How have the battles gone?"
"Not well, I'm afraid," Tiresias said solemnly. "Westmarch and Hub were completely destroyed it seems. Our allies are searching the rubble for survivors as fast as they can, but the Destroyer's forces are not making it easy."
"And Polaris?" asked Elena.
"Omnimon and Lucemon made it in time to save it from being completely overrun," said Tiresias. "There were many casualties, however, including Goldramon."
Elena lowered her head. "I can't believe this is happening."
"And yet it is," Tiresias said in a very troubled tone. "Something is very wrong here if I could not foresee this move."
"Do we know where they will strike next?"
"Malkis and Shin are investigating as we speak. The others are seeking new reinforcements."
"How is Gennai doing?" Elena asked with some hesitation.
"Resting for now. Mortality is not an easy lesson to learn, but it is the lesson he accepted."
"Then this is the beginning of the end for us, isn't it?"
"It must be," said Tiresias. "Once one Guardian falls, we all must fall. Gennai has already chosen his replacement, and I suggest we begin to do the same."
Elena turned her eyes back to Jenomon. "He's so young," she said wistfully. "How did Gennai know he was the one? How can any of us be certain?"
Tiresias knelt beside Jenomon, listening to his peaceful breathing before turning slowly back to Elena. "How has he been faring?"
"He's been resting for a long while. I can't imagine what he's been through."
"When he wakes up, he should remain here," said Tiresias. "Asmodemon believes him to be dead along with the DigiDestined and your son. I see no reason to reveal their survival to him."
"So then he will finally have a chance to grow up someplace peaceful," Elena said with a faint smile. "That's good."
"For as long as the peace lasts here," Tiresias cautioned.
"How is Ryo doing?" asked Elena. "I barely even saw him before Virgil whisked him back to Earth."
Tiresias sighed heavily. "It's difficult to say, Elena. He was badly hurt."
In the southern Earth, Ryo Akiyama remained unconscious. He was in a hospital bed, the slow beeping of monitors keeping track of his heart's steady rhythm. He had been admitted without a name.
"Ever since the D-Reaper was defeated, that Earth has been hostile to digital life," said Tiresias. "Up until now your son's human biology has been able to deal with it, but in his weakened state…it seems to be hindering his recovery."
The tree outside the window cast bizarre shadows over Ryo's comatose form. The IV by his bedside dripped every few seconds, slow but constant like his heartbeat.
"Will he recover at all?"
"I fear what it could mean if he does," Tiresias responded gravely.
Ryo was just one of many people in the intensive care unit. There were a lot of other patients worse off than he was, and more than a few doctors and nurses who may have envied his long sleep.
"He was meant to die back there," said Tiresias. "I know that beyond any doubt. His survival has created an echo that will only grow louder in time. The future that was meant to be has been changed now. I can no longer see the path ahead of us, Elena."
"I'm just happy Ryo's still alive," said Elena. "How or why it happened doesn't matter. As long as he's alive, there's still hope."
There were no dreams for Ryo. His mind—if it could still be considered a whole mind—was mired deep in a fog of confusion. Memories and hopes, feelings and sensations all swirled around inside of him as his body remained perfectly still, his chest barely rising to take in breath.
"It is how it happened that has me worried," said Tiresias. "Never in all my long years has my vision of the future been altered in the slightest. It has been so solely because our world and all who have entered it have always been driven by a purpose, by destiny. Not even Millenniumon's uncanny ability to cheat death could have saved Ryo from his fate. No, this is something far more dangerous."
"I don't understand."
"There can be only one explanation, my sister. He chose to live, even knowing he was meant for death. Even though everything he ever knew or believed in and every cell in his body must have been telling him to let go, he refused. Elena, your son has demonstrated a free will like no other. By choosing life he has altered the future of all worlds in ways we cannot even begin to imagine, and he did so not out of fear of death, not for the sake of survival, not even for those he cares about; none of that would be nearly enough. He chose this path simply because he could."
Nameless and voiceless, Ryo lingered on the precipice between life and death. His unwavering resolve had become more of a prison than a shield now. He would endure on and on and on, never moving, never waking, for a long time to come while the Digital World he so loved slowly burned to ash in the flames of war.
The Fifth Eye opens, and it sees you.