"It's been fun, all this time. Yeah, we felt crushed sometimes, found our sadness as well -- but at least we truly lived. And most of the time, no matter what the stakes of our battle, we found happiness. (Either make the comma a semicolon, or put 'and' after the comma.)

"But… at the same time, even when angsty, we were all thinking far too much of ourselves or each other. And though we did stop to consider it…

"Until we saw that one fleeing Agumon, I'm not sure if we ever realized just how many innocent digimon, because of us, were crying from true pain.

Or how many loved it."

"Taichi-sama, Qinglongmon-sama, anyone… please help!" It was a lone voice he heard (the cries of the others not loud enough, with their small, pitiful, baby-digimon lungs) echoing across the insanely pleasant-looking digital plain – a voice of sheer, desperate terror.

"C'mon, Greymon! Let's kick some evil digimon butt!" he shouted, ordering his dinosaur digimon onward, desperately trying… these attackers, whoever they were; they had to be stopped from hurting any more innocent digimon!

The gogglehead riding on Greymon's shoulders wondered just how much longer there would be any innocent digimon around anywhere to save, but this turned quickly towards a motivation for courage, and enthusiastically he pointed a finger to the distance, pledging the safety of the crying, wounded fluff-ball.

"Just hold on!" Taichi shouted – he would've added the species name, but he didn't know it; there were just so many species of small fluffy digimon. From off in the distance, a Motimon looked very much like a Tokomon or Pagumon, and even his partner's own form, Koromon, was rather hard to distinguish.

Whatever it was he'd been pulverizing into data, the virus-type saw the helmeted tyrannosaur's approach, and decided to slay the wounded, defenseless baby-strength digimon later. The brown-haired leader felt his hand slipping from the tyrannosaur's back as the two flung themselves into battle, slipping, then falling, and at last watching helplessly, wishing with all his heart for his still-charging digimon to win.

He held up his digivice. Metal Greymon wouldn't come – Qinglongmon's digi-core seemed just a bit useless right now. The pink fluffball (on closer inspection, it was very much a Motimon, actual arms and all) cried out in pain – a pain hardly undone, even if his tormenter was attacking another. Taichi fell to the ground, kept his eyes open, and watched the fireball hit the streams of blood and darkness…

The fireball was overpowered; the dinosaur tried to clutch his leg in pain, but the arms wouldn't reach – so he merely screamed. The Vamdemon turned, let his cape back, and unleashed a stream of bats, ripping the once-defended Motimon apart brutally – and as he was, Taichi noticed a lone Agumon, off in the distance, running to escape.

And in sympathy, in failure, he began a horrified, defeated cry, only to hear his own Agumon – Agumon, as in the child-level, and not the slightest-bit wounded, shout.

"Taichi's gone through enough lately without you messing with his dreams! Baby Flame!"

The brown-haired boy rubbed his barely-opened eyes, gaze following the fireball as it exploded against the odd-looking creature, which… honestly, it looked like the ghost of a miniature elephant. The tapir shrugged it off, counting himself lucky it had hit his silver-armored trunk, and angrily shot a blank sphere outlined in purple writing, sending it slowly, dreamily towards the reptile.

"Agumon… what's going on?" Taichi asked lazily, still half-asleep, gazing upon the dark digital night, not noticing the Bakumon's manipulating and stealing his dreams.

"Taichi, I heard enough of your nightmare," he said fiercely, glaring at the ethereal digimon with his sharp green eyes, letting loose another fireball. "This creep gave you that terrible sleep just to --"

The human blinked once, then twice, peering at the singed digimon's body. "There's no evil ring."

Agumon set out yet another fireball, and the attacker, burnt and discovered, fled the bipedal lizard's flame-bombardment, quickly floating into the distance, thanking the harmonious ones Taichi's digimon hadn't chased after. "But Bakumon are good digimon! You must've missed it, Taichi."

"Did you see it, then?"


"Was there anywhere it could've been hidden?" Taichi was reasoning now, intelligent, actually seeming just a bit awake.

Agumon shook his oversized head slightly, remembering its body shape – the rings on its legs were golden, and black would've stood out; fur just didn't work to hide the devices, the cloud of haze behind it faded far too often. On the other hand, perhaps… it just didn't make sense otherwise.

"The trunk. It could be under the armor there; I think it flips up."

"Doesn't look like it… Hey, did any of the dark seed kids have a Petit Meramon?"

The yellow-scaled digimon nodded.

Taichi pulled himself out of his "bed," pushing his hand against the ground to get up. "I think this just got four times worse."

As a species, Agumon, like most child-level digimon, are not prone to cursing. But with realizations like this, even he is prone to doing so, and he quickly responded with an "Oh, crap."

Taichi gazed out at the dark birdseed fields of the Pyocomon village, then beyond, into the distant night, thinking of how long he had neglected his responsibility, clearly shaken by both Agura's tale and his own nightmare – at least his wasn't real.

And then, the leader's courage returning, he stood up, spiky hair blown back in the wind, speaking calmly and letting the words flow out.

"Agumon, it's time we do what we were chosen for."

Andromon, Meramon, Kentarumon, Yukidarumon, Ogremon, and Unimon -- their names, as the survivors, still rung through the chronicles of that long-ago digital struggle. But their lives continued, though in those days since the digital memorial, as war enveloped their world, things had certainly changed.

Well, not for all of them. Elecmon was still the same – more deaths meant more reincarnated babies to take care of, he was more exhausted than normal, even if he had dragged in a couple assistants – but mostly, business as usual. But with none of the others living in such an isolated, safe location, (Dark masters and Devimon aside,) he was the only one.

Meramon, for instance, had not enjoyed the war. Not at all – his feet were sore, just being near Yukidarumon drew his body temperature down to dangerous levels, and the way the Dark Masters had reshaped the digital world left no room for volcanoes, not even his beloved Miharashi. So, he personally had felt little nostalgia, not even bothering to venture down for the reunion, and simply stood guard until they came.

He had fought heroically, learned how to burn off Noriko's rings with ease, decimated the Tsarina's army, and even seemed on the verge of winning, once or twice. But on that second time, just as victory seemed at hand, an evil ring caught him in the back and the battle swiftly turned to a massacre. And like so much of the digital world, Miharashi Mountain had been overrun; a tall, black spire now marked its summit.

The fire-man digimon now ran patrols, seeking out the ones he had once ordered to hide, and killing any who dared resist the empress's rule. Once again, he had fallen to the latest turn-digimon-evil device, and he served Noriko now, and the fact that she was sending most of her digimon out after Deathmon didn't mean she wouldn't keep up her brutal conquering on the side.

The new target was a domed, industrial city of machine digimon – the one Andromon called home. And under these circumstances, the machine digimon rallying the resistance to the controlled invader… For the first time since Spiral Mountain, since they did their part to stop the Dark Masters, for the first time in four years… Andromon and Meramon stood face to face once again.

And then, after a possessed, red-eyed glare, as a dry, mechanical voice intoned grave words of regret and determination, a blazing fireball hurled across the metal city.

From the other side, from the robot's spinning drill-arm, a blade of electricity spiraled right towards the flame.

"I don't know, Taichi… It's a good enough idea, but where do we even find those evil digimon? They haven't exactly been broadcasting battle plans…" Sora responded, a question raised so easily by her leader's new, determined plan. But much as she tried to retort, she was still concerned for two worlds and one conscience, hiding her true reasons for opposition as transparently as she ever had.

This was her wish, after all. And if it were to come true, if she were to enjoy it…

The Yagami boy realized her attempt, saw through her flimsy shield – but it was a reasonable question; Yamato and Jou seemed just as desirous of an answer.

And honestly, he hadn't thought of one.

"We'll know when we're close. The chill of evil follows wherever they go," Gabumon said, clutching his wolf-pelt from the mention of that particular feeling – he had a distinct feeling Yamato wouldn't appreciate his clinging, at least not in public.

"But which way do we even look?" Tailmon asked, fear overwhelming her voice… it wasn't Vamdemon, but Deathmon seemed even scarier.

"Chosen, digimon, we need some courage here!" Taichi shouted, but the bravery proved distant as ever, as he quieted his voice to a desperate, sorrowful tone. "For Palmon's sake, for those innocent Agumon, for Leomon's followers… Even for Wizarmon, Piccolomon, don't any of you want to make their deaths have meant something?"

Sora nodded – after all, his logic was excellent; normally it would've proved persuasive – but she just wasn't convinced yet.

"Besides, we have our digivices; I'm sure there's someone we can get to on the outside! We'll track them, somehow!"

"That's not all though, is it, Sora?" Piyomon chirped, memories of hiding and Pico Devimon flooding back. "Don't worry so much. You're among friends."

"I wished for this," the auburn-haired girl spoke, her hand on her face, wiping desperately at her tears. Her thoughts had moved back once more to the last time she truly hid something from the chosen – the shadows of past adventures were still here, even now, even as she began her depressed explanation.

"If it wasn't for me… if it wasn't for me, they'd still be alive."

Their goggle-headed leader shrugged dismissively, speaking his response. "We'll hold your trial later. Right now, we have a digital world to save!"

Sora Takenouchi pulled herself sadly to her feet. "Hold on, I'm coming. After all -- the digimon need us."

The chosen children dashed off to fight evil, Koushirou glanced at his laptop, reminded them which particular direction said evil was actually in, and… it may have taken four years and a week, the ones they had met had certainly changed them.

At last, after so long, the chosen children were back to doing what they did best, the only thing that could ever bring them true happiness: protecting both worlds.

And looking at the sheer determination in all their eyes, regardless of whether it'd be Deathmon, Noriko, or even Vamdemon's latest reincarnation they fought… those who threatened their digital world wouldn't stand a chance.

Twelve chosen children, one dark seed child, one battle for the fate of the digital world, an adventure that they all hoped would never end, yet a battle that seemed so final, non-angsty chosen children and all.

Sure, despite Ken and Daisuke's attempts, even after all that had happened, convincing Noriko to turn good seemed about as likely as Yamato walking on Mars or Miyako ending up a housewife. But they could convince her or finish her afterward – for now, she'd fight on their side anyway.

Sure, whoever sent Bakumon was still out there… sure, there were human/digimon issues, things being made all the more prevalent while an ambassadorial commission to Taichi Yagami sat unnoticed in his inbox. And sure, the evils of the Dark Ocean seemed more and more interested in that one oft-glowing girl, Yagami Hikari…

But that didn't change the feeling that the wish, at least, would end – that this time around, either Deathmon or the chosen children wouldn't walk away alive.

Ogremon hacked away at the brush, trying to walk through the forest, attempting to stand tall with the pride he was supposed to have as an Ogremon!

It wasn't easy. The Airdramon still overflew the forest, tossing dark rings whenever they saw a target. He wouldn't hide from them, mind you, but it was just common sense to go somewhere he might be harder to spot from the air.

Yes, common sense. Nothing at all cowardly, just like how he wasn't at all good when fighting Metal Etemon… Right, as if. He just wasn't even convincing himself anymore.

"Face it; I've become a wimp -- a goody-goody wimp. Stupid chosen, protecting me, healing me…" The words sounded foolish even in his head, and his thoughts turned to Mimi and Leomon… so of course, he began to cry.

The viral digimon put his bone-club up towards his eye, wiping away the tears. It hurt, yes – but that was why he did it, so that crying would hurt, so that he could learn not to let a single tear fall. After all, even if Ogremon was caught, it was far more dignified for him to smack himself in the face with his own club than to cry.

Leomon was dead now, though. He supposed that if Leomon was still alive, he'd probably end up with a dark ring, (The black gears did him in twice and all) so fighting for good wouldn't violate his rivalry, or was it his purpose? Besides, better a warrior than a wimp, and that little girl calling herself empress really got on his nerves.

On the other hand… evil. He was a virus-type, even if he had grown softer; and he had to admit he had. After all, the ogre was happily remembering being glomped by Mimi eight days ago, when by all rights he should've been fantasizing about clubbing a bunch of Koromon to death.

The green digimon noticed Kentarumon on a distant, leafy hilltop. If there were ever a time to approach him, now was it, and maybe he needed to talk to some elderly centaur, reminiscing of the good old days.

But that just wasn't his style. Too girly, too good -- fine on the first of August, maybe, but only then, and even on that day he couldn't afford getting too emotional, lest the others –

A few spinning needles whizzed by his neck, and Ogremon turned from his thoughts -- these Airdramon were really starting to bug him. And for that reason, he pumped his arm forward, letting forth a purple, vaguely head-shaped burst of energy.

"Supreme king fist!"

Kentarumon looked down towards the newly-formed battle, listening to the soft chirp of the many distant Piyomon, and at last smiled.

The holders of the digivice had come, the prophecy was now fulfilled, the world seemed safe, or at least with safety coming -- but the kind of safety he could smile at and still call interesting. Content in this knowledge, he turned his back to the flying purple ogre-head and spinning, poison-tipped needles, and trotted away into the leafy horizon.

For Ogremon and the growing swarm of darkness-controlled Airdramon, on the other hand… the battle continued, painful and exciting as ever.

A peaceful kingdom in the midst of warfare, rebuilding, neutral, lucky enough to have a chosen child as princess. The Otamamon and Gekomon had seemed to hold a bit more contentment, slight aspects of admiration – the rebuilding was hard, but as Mimi held her royal scepter and looked out at her new realm, she didn't see a single bit of boredom among them, they all seemed so excited, so alive…

But why? She couldn't herself understand; there was something the bearer of purity had missed, something that seemed so obvious, yet with her thoughts always managing to pull away from this truth.

With Palmon gone, she herself had given up on war yet again; even given how her own desires had become for that one moment on the day of digital memories… and yet, save a few interludes and new challenges, she too had returned to that same mix of boredom and sorrow shared by her closest friends.

And she couldn't, for the life of her, determine out how to avoid it, though she had managed to have a bit of fun with her new "subjects." Face it, being a monarch was weird.

But this time around, she wouldn't abuse her power. The Otamamon and Gekomon – they had selected her, called for her, and so much of what they were going through in the first place was only the fault of her incompetence in battle.

For them, she would do her duty.

She noticed a slight crackling in her hands, still cradling the one she always seemed to be with, her closest friend – the one who died at the hand of the enemy she refused to fight. If she had been stronger…

Leomon's death was what snapped her out of it, last time. But even without Palmon -- she would not waver, not throw away the lives of her followers for revenge. Speaking of followers – it was at this point in time that a reverent Gekomon stumbled into her royal quarters, apologizing profusely for falling through the door, then noticing his queen's decisively un-royal temperament, weakness, and tears.


The pink-haired girl shook her head. "Didn't I tell you to call me Mimi?"

"Back when you had stopped being a princess," the green frog answered reflexively. But as soon as he heard the words slip out, he cowered, fearful for his head, and took to one knee.

"Mimi, please forgive me for my offense! My falling into your royal quarters was bad enough; I beg you, do not inflict upon me your wrath for that flippant, foolish remark!"

She smiled distantly, still deep in thought, remembering once again how to abuse that power. "I forgive you, but I want your help with something, if you're willing to assist me."

The Gekomon nodded slowly, confused as to why she was asking, when it was so much simpler to just give the order.

"And you should really stop being so deferential, or don't you remember who gave me this position in the first place?"

The musical digimon bowed reflexively, then stood up before her, facing her as nearly to equal as one could manage with such a small size. "So, then, what's your request?"

"That we find a way to build a new digital world – and create happiness in peace."

"And I can only hope he has a way, after all, no one else does…" Mimi thought, a fateful, pleasant feeling suddenly rushing over her. As it came, she heard a slight sound from behind her, in the direction of that royal incubator; the Otamamon had just insisted on building her one for the fallen royal digital partner, despite her insistence they focus on fortifications and rebuilding their homes.

Hearing it, she turned back towards the egg, and noticed a slight crack. And for the first time this whole adventure, she could truly smile.

Unimon soared gracefully above File Island, black wings almost shining majestically in the sky. The digimon let the currents carry him, spreading his wings wide, mouth a dignified shut as ever, zooming over the terrain below. From Infinity, the mountain with that gentle spring and a hollowed-out cave he had so often called home, flying east towards the forest, peering away from the chaos, wishing Ogremon would just hold onto the gauntlet for once his life.

It didn't matter; he was above that. He continued to soar, briefly spotting a city of metal – but why the heck were Andromon and Meramon fighting? All in all, with such an odd turn of events, the unicorn couldn't help but wonder if he needed come down from the infinite mountain more often.

The winds turned colder as he flew through the canyon, winds turning suddenly cold and sharp, Unimon flapping just to stay in the air. And before long, at the isle's edge, amidst the glaciers, his destination was finally in sight.

So with that, he flew downwards, hooves landing softly on the frozen lake, helmet-covered gaze cast at the snow-white creature.

"Unimon! What brings a digimon like you somewhere this cold?"

The dark-winged unicorn glared a bright red at the snowman-bear, a look that Yukidarumon could only surmise meant something along the lines of "Idiot, don't you know?" Admittedly, it was difficult to read facial expressions through a visor, and in somewhere so icy he wouldn't dare motion with his hooves, but the large, white digimon still got the message.

"Please forgive me." The vaccine-type of the frozen lands bowed his head apologetically, ah, how he knew. Another battle, he'd charge in excitedly, but as Angemon or Taichi would give dramatic speeches to the enemy about saving the digital world, he wouldn't be able to think of anything but to yell out his own name.

"Are you coming?" The unicorn gestured off to the distance, pointing to what he could only surmise to be Deathmon's lair, trying to contain his own excitement. His aloofness had become almost characteristic, but there was something just plain fun about flying in at the last minute, charging along with the digital army, shooting a ball of blue light for the sake of the world.

And yeah, he did want to have that feeling again, much as he tried to contain his excitement – Yukidarumon saw through it, of course, the wings were shaking as if they just wanted to take-off and fly high, charge as the aerial cavalry.

The snowbear remained silent for a moment, pondering that very question. But it wasn't much of a question, yeah, he could hide all he liked -- but there was still just nothing to do in Freezeland.

Besides… all in all, he supposed it might even be fun.

The main group of chosen children continued their journey to Deathmon's lair, at once fearful and confident, yet still grim, emotions jumbling about as their approach neared its end.

"This isn't the final battle," Miyako said, plainly, with the sort of bizarre certainty that Hikari held as the trains departed, that they'd see one another again.

"What do you mean?" Iori asked, innocently unaware of the depths of depravity within Miyako's fangirl soul.

The purple-haired girl smirked. "There's still the battlefield of love. And in a world where Taichi and Yamato can spend four years fighting over who gets to be on top--" The two older boys glared daggers at Miyako, who instantly fell silent.

The "heroes" traveled on some more, Taichi walking excitedly, Koushirou navigating by laptop, Takeru and Sora moving at a slow, weak pace, together in the back. And Hikari had slowed down for a bit, glowed white, and turned – she could understand all she liked, but this time they would save the digital world. And there was absolutely no point in doing that if a traitor (close friend, total bishounen, but still a traitor) could just restore evil to both worlds again.

The light couldn't afford to shy away from hope any longer, even if the end result would be Angemon and Angewomon ordered into brutal combat; she could only hope her digimon would forgive her. Any more treachery like this, and humans and digimon could never live together in peace… and even if he had just dreamed of an adventure, even if Takeru would fight on her side, it meant he'd find happiness.

After reviving Deathmon, for all that was right in the world… yeah, she'd be threatening her best friend of four years to ensure his rightful sorrow. If the bearer of light were as weepy as she was even last month, she'd be crying now.

But this wasn't last month; the third adventure indeed changed things too. Hikari Yagami turned around, generating a ball of light in her hand. "Takeru, please leave this battle to us. One who serves the darkness now… there's really no point in you joining in."

"Hikari-chan…" Takeru began, heart already filled with sorrow. "I don't deserve to, and this was what I wanted in the first place – but at the same time, I wouldn't miss this for both worlds." Closing and arching his eyes in a light-hearted, carefree smile, he spoke: "And if you guys will still accept me, I'll fight on your side."

"Takeru…" she began in response, torn between speaking something along the lines of "Takeru, of course we'll accept you! You mean so much to me, to all of us," or just responding with a sad, bitter, "regardless of that, I'll never forgive you." After speaking an awkward bit of gibberish that not even her best friend and "destined" partner could make out, Hikari finally settled on something.

"Forgive me for this, but I can't trust that, Takeru-kun… and I must save the digital world. Tailmon?"

Oddly enough, even granted where loyalties lay and the human-digimon bonds, it was Angemon who stopped the feline, as Hikari's light shone brighter still.

"Angemon, why do you protect him, even after he gave that map to Noriko and unleashed death on this world?"

Most of the other chosen had passed off to the distance by now, unnoticing – well, they'd realize soon enough. Besides, they had D-terminals, they had wings, and it wasn't like whoever emerged from the conflict would get lost and not be able to link up with the others.

Most. Sora had been in back with Takeru, stopped when they did, searching for words to speak in the bearer of hope's favor, battling down the crushing guilt of her own wish. And with her partner wanting Takeru protected, Birdramon was ready to block Angewomon's attack, if all else failed.

"Because…" Angemon began, trailing off, like so many others searching for just the right words to avoid such a needless combat.

It was Sora who opened her mouth. "Even considering this, it's because he's one of us. Let's put past our differences--"

"The same way Takeru wanted this to go, to switch sides, engineer evil and fight for good once again, hope for a bit of happiness? And what's to say he won't just betray you to keep the battle going, unwilling to let it all end?" She paused for a moment, letting the unbeatable tears flow from her eyes. "Innocent digimon are not our playthings!"

"Hikari… I never said they were."

Do you really think the digimon were any less bored?

"Then why… why could you do this to them? How could you bring back Deathmon, how could you just let so many get hurt!" She asked this question crying, launching an angry, painful burst of light at her love, her enemy, even as her glowing tears fell down her smooth hair.

"Stop it, Hikari-chan. I was the one who…" Sora began to retort, trailing off, too ashamed to exactly finish. "Taichi was right, let's deal with this after the battle… I know we don't deserve to fight, but can you guys even win without us?"

"We'll find a way!"

She shook her head, holding back her own tears. "There are so many times I wished that were true."

"But we can evolve, can't we? Taichi's courage, Daisuke and Ken's closeness, I've heard even Noriko's switched sides…" Sora paused at this, slightly unconvinced, emotions mixed as ever. After all, if they could win without her, it would only mean that once again she'd be missing out.

"You sure? Someone like Deathmon, we usually need all the help we can get," Takeru spoke, feeling close enough to Sora right now that he thought Angemon and Birdramon could jogress right then and there.

"I'd love to have your help, Takeru-kun… but I'm sure I'll only find your betrayal."

"Then take the risk," Patamon advised helpfully, the seriousness tempered by his simply adorable voice. "Keep your eye on him, and worse comes to worse, just fight him there."

Grateful she could at least go just a bit longer before they'd have to fight, the girl silently acceded to the batpig's request.

It had come at last.

Deathmon stood complacently in his lair, awed by the multitudes of opponents coming his way. The chosen children and their digimon were one thing – Noriko and her evil-ringed army, Unimon, Yukidarumon, even Digitamamon, carried by a wounded, bloody and poisoned Ogremon…

The battle was big. And the ghoul couldn't help but noticed that he was cornered, and his foes were way too determined to run.

He tossed his eye lightly in his hand, summer's end approaching, the fate of two worlds at stake, then wound up his arm and hurled. "Explosion eye!"

The golden, shining orb, err, bomb, flew with great speed through the mass of attackers, smashing through the legendary goggles of leadership and hitting Daisuke right in the skull. Moving as quickly as he could manage, Imperialdramon, in his fighter mode, ran swiftly to his half-partner, quickly grabbing the explosive as it bounced off the second leader's forehead.

And then it detonated, a huge blast right in the ultimate-level's clawed hand. For all the Gundam-looking digimon's power, even he could not contain such a simply huge blast – and as soon as it went off, though he was only blown back and the others unharmed, the fused digimon's entire arm had been utterly annihilated.

"Daisuke's worth protecting," he muttered to himself in his mixed voice, trying to ignore the sheer pain – at least he didn't need an arm for this attack. "Positron laser!"

A blue beam of antimatter flew forth, and with that as a signal, with the numerous conflicting reasons they all had for wanting to kill Deathmon driving them on…

"Meteor Wing!" Conscience or no conscience, she wouldn't miss this for both worlds.

"Holy shot!" The same as before, but slightly earlier – Unimon wasn't about to back down; this was the one time his majestic, haughty life wasn't boring as hell. He could only wish he had made his memories sooner, both times.

"Shaking pulse!" Rukamon's loyalty had never faded – and this was Noriko's order.

"Heaven's knuckle!" Sure, this was what he had wished for… he was torn as ever now, but he had to get over it. Somehow. Even though, if they actually won, if it ended… How could he avoid just returning to the boredom of old?

"Holy arrow!" Angemon and Angewomon smiled nervously at each other; Takeru and Hikari may never become an item, but that didn't mean their own love couldn't flourish. Besides, Birdramon just wasn't right for him, nor Aquilamon or V-dramon for her.

"Supreme k--" Ogremon began, raising his wounded fist, trying to summon up the burst of energy needed to attack, over Jou's vehement protest. But he just plain didn't have the energy after that fight, and it's hard for one to battle with poison rushing through one's bloodstream. The ogre glared at the empress, then closed his eyes in fatigue – he wasn't dead, but he wouldn't be able to do anymore like this either.

"Harpoon Vulcan!" It seemed so much like the last time they had fought, when Hikari had led them into foolish combat, when he just got blown up and missed the rest of it – Unimon and them being all together, even with Noriko, hadn't made him any less worrisome. This wasn't safe. It was, on the other hand, totally worth the danger.

"Mega flame!" Compared to Noriko's, to Takeru's, to Koushirou's, to Daisuke and Ken's, even to his younger sister's, Taichi's digimon's attack was pitiful.

But Deathmon had to be stopped – and for what it was worth, it looked like he had infected all the others with his courage.

"Fox Fire!" Yamato's angst had not subsided, not in the slightest. But the moment Gabumon started bugging him about it; he was just as certain he'd realize he was just being stupid again.

"Absolute Zero Punch!" Yukidarumon pounded the ground with his snowball-like fist, a burst of ice headed for the enemy. At least being in the midst of it all was exciting, his own attacks joining into the swarm of energy.

"Destructive impulse!" For this one battle, Ookuwamon's actual obedience was enough to be curious about. If they won, of course, Koushirou would probably find himself a month's worth of entertainment just analyzing this fight.

"Blast laser!" Miyako pointed her finger outward, excitedly watching from his feathers as her digimon attacked, as she let out one more happy cry of "Perfecto!" for good measure.

"Nightmare syndrome!" Regaining his bearing after Ogremon collapsed before he could launch their planned throw, the egg digimon let out a small portion of the darkness deep within his body. But dark as his soul looked, Purity had changed him… if only Mimi could have been here, too.

"Tail hammer!" Iori glanced at Miyako, at Daisuke, even at Ken – the former Kaiser really had redeemed himself. He cast a long look at Noriko, equal parts of contempt and happiness, and then turned as his digimon struck Deathmon.

Yeah, this was his adventure, too. Which group of chosen they were, 01 or 02, that didn't matter – the adventure belonged to all of them.

The attacks rushed towards Deathmon, combining along the way into a prismatic, many-colored swirl of sheer energy – an attack of fourteen so vast even he didn't have the quickness to dodge them all.

He would've tried, were there any point. But if he were to avoid this attack, a barrage seeming as though even Metal Etemon's armor lacked the strength to block it, there was only one option – to counter.

"Death arrow!" A small burst of darkness pierced the center of the strike, cutting a path right through Birdramon's meteor wing. As the chosen watched in horror, the one-eyed demon followed the arrow's path with amazing speed, abandoning his lair to carry on the fight.

Carry on the fight. He was not about to run away, even if the cave itself collapsed from the force of the digital swarm.

And as though to prove it to the chosen, he opened his mouth and launched his attack, shrouding all that was visible within the purest of nights. "Black death cloud!"

Hikari glowed desperately, piercing Deathmon's darkness, but only for herself – a lone light may have shone brightly, but it barely even reached her friends. As if drawn to her light it, a tentacle cracked through the ground between her feet, slinking up towards her as the girl stumbled and fell back in terror.

Miyako charged at that moment, keeping her promise, ordering Aquilamon on… Red eye-lasers shot towards the tentacle, the eagle zooming to catch and protect Hikari…

Another tentacle burst from the ground, gripping her left leg, as Angewomon shot a determined, protective arrow, piercing Dagomon's limb, as once more, Angewomon's light scared off the eldritch creature – as Deathmon's own black arrow struck her wings.

Hikari smiled happily at her protector, once more unafraid to be the light.

"Deathmon, you've gone too far. Though I would gladly sacrifice myself, if it would appease your murderous dreams, I can not allow you to hurt any more of my friends."

As the wounded Angewomon plunged to the blackened ground; Hikari ran quickly to catch her, slipping on Yukidarumon's earlier attack, sliding uncontrollably, and somehow ending up blushing, having caught her beautiful eight-winged angel-digimon partner in her arms. As Miyako and Daisuke looked on with envy, but a determined one, knowing this rivalry could continue on – as Hikari glared at the ghoulish nightmare soldier, righteous fury in her eyes.

As Garurumon battled with his comrades against Deathmon's crushing attacks, Ishida Yamato once more found himself wondering about friendship, love, and the boundary between the two – and which side his relationship with Taichi fell on.

It didn't help that what he had ever felt for Sora wasn't nearly this strong, or those glances he exchanged with his "best friend" often seemed so purely romantic… Or how Garurumon nuzzled War Greymon like that, healing, restoring, just before a different final battle – was that mere friendship?

Keeping himself focused on the battle, trying to avoid what made him so often teasingly called emo, he thought once more of the bonds between all the chosen, the memories they had shared. If he could be with them again, just hang out like they had the past few days… maybe this was friendship. And it seemed to bring even more happiness than love could. This time, he couldn't just let his friends drift apart!

Or maybe it was something else entirely, something that, even as he moved Garurumon into position to selflessly, foolishly defend Koushirou, he still didn't understand.

"Garurumon, chou shinka! Were Garurumon!" The blond-haired bishounen didn't understand how that happened either – but he had Koushirou, so he'd figure it out.

And he had Taichi, and Sora, Takeru, Jou, Mimi, even Hikari and Daisuke – all while wishing he could get to know Miyako and Iori better. Compared to friendship like this – what could love possibly be? Besides, it'd be between two of them, Taichi, Sora, himself, one would be on the outside.

At least they had the two crests, both Garurumon and Birdramon to help out, and an excuse for Sora to get to the digital world.

"Fine, I admit it. Taichi, you're an excellent leader."

The gogglehead grinned happily, even as Were Garurumon blocked Greymon's attacks, Yamato so sorely tempted to nuzzle the other boy's face the same way his digimon partner once had to War Greymon's.

And he had an unparalleled friendship -- or was what he had with Taichi love? But he could think about that later – with the clarity of an understanding soul, he had a great adventure to continue, and an amazing world to save.

For as long as he could remember, Koushirou Izumi had always been attached to one computer or another; even in the digital world, he spent so much time on File Island just looking for a battery. And here he was, typing as quickly as ever, half-distracted even as Tentomon's newest form fought desperately against the latest incarnation of darkness.

Not that he was being useless, of course. As he had to explain so often to Taichi, he was analyzing, not gaming. These skills were useful in a digital world – Ookuwamon's presence on the battlefield alone demonstrated that much, even if his latest strategies were failing as badly as ever.

Ookuwamon… Yes, it was absolutely necessary to have a perfection-level digimon in this particular battle. Yes, rationally speaking, this was for the greater good, the suffering of one pained, hacked digimon against the suffering of millions. But still – didn't he even have it in him for Tentomon to evolve normally, the same way Agumon or Gabumon could?

"Tentomon, I love you!" And the computer geek liked to think that when he dropped his laptop so long ago, it had meant something. But now he could only think of Vademon's universe and Pabumon's tears, of Tentomon screaming in pain as he first evolved… No matter how happily he joked with him, how could he call treating the insect this way love?

Even if he was the only thing that let him just let go of his computer, finding something more excited, someone he just wanted to hug goodbye amidst professions of undying love… still, that was love, not curiosity; he couldn't expect any miracles.

But it was one thing to give up love for the sake of the world – something heroic, something self-sacrificing, though it wasn't like Koushirou ever went for that kind of thing. To never show it, to manipulate Tentomon's feelings, do anything to him as long as it'd make him stronger; that was just plain cruel, no matter how necessary.

He wasn't the sentimental sort, of course; Tentomon just had that effect on him. The spiky-haired computer nerd typed in a few bits of code on his PIbook, not even the slightest bit curious – at times like this, a hacker needed to know what he was doing. After all, one wrong move in most hacks could crash the server – and while he had an intellectual curiosity about what would happen to a human in the digital world if the world itself crashed, he had a decent hypothesis that the ultimate result was death.

A stream of '1's and '0's burst from the heavily armored, silver stag beetle, carrying the armor and scissor-arms itself with it, the digimon shrinking and color-changing back to Kabuterimon form.

"Koushirou-han, I can't protect you adequately as Kabuterimon," the purple beetle protested, standing defensively in front of the chosen child, leg but an inch from the short, nerdy boy's face – close enough he could reach out and glomp it. "Why did you reverse the evolution?"

He was tempted, so sorely tempted – ah, but his digimon, his love deserved an answer. And besides, small though he was, anything that could come close to making the digimon lose balance would be fatal, even if Deathmon's attacks had been mostly deflected as of yet. (Or was it just that he couldn't see any better than they could in this darkness?)

"I – I realized something. You appeared to be in pain, and it had only then occurred that I couldn't stand the thought of hurting you any further… Kabuterimon, I still love you."

"I love you too, Koushirou-han." The giant beetle answered, looking skyward at the approaching eye-bomb. "That's why – please enable me to protect you!"

"Kabuterimon…" Koushirou began, entering a few desperate lines of code, then tearfully watching as his digimon once again – wait, that was strange.

Must've been a typo. But it was a typo with excellent results – he'd have to look this up a bit later.

"You don't hav – please d – I'm honored," Koushirou stammered, tears in his eyes as the gigantic red beetle flew up towards the darkness. But still, that laptop was of use, there was tactical help he could still give – for his own protection, for his digimon's wish.

"Atlur Kabuterimon, Deathmon's attacking from above and to your right at a thirty-five degree angle. Your shell should be able to endure the attack, but if he hits anywhere else…" Koushirou paused, crying at the thought, his digimon turning defensively, trying to ensure it would never come true. "Just remember, our love will never get anywhere if you just leave me again and disintegrate!"

"Koushirou-han, we'll see the future together, I'll make sure of it. Horn Buster!"

"Hope… is it hope I've been missing, all this time? I gave up the crest power -- for the digital world, for the sake of all those innocent digimon." He wondered about that decision, wondered if continuing evil might have made him not revive Deathmon, or if it perhaps upset the balance of light and darkness too much – and Oikawa, Ken, so many suffered when the digital pendulum swung back the other way.

Still, he trusted Gennai, the old man had been sent by Qinglongmon – and it wasn't the bearer of hope's place to question the harmonious ones.

And it was worth doing. But if I really did lose that crest, if I am truly unable to hope…" Takeru continued, smiling weakly, glancing up at the angel's wings as his digimon fought on, "how come Patamon's still able to evolve?"

Something was going on here, something seriously weird – even from the start, Patamon shouldn't have been able to evolve. Were Garurumon, Ookuwamon, Angewomon, Hikari's light in the dark ocean – not one of those things made sense; their digimon shouldn't even have been able to reach adult level.

They had given up their crests, hadn't they? It wasn't like Gennai was about to double-cross them, or like the holy beasts had used these powers anyway. But – the existence of the dark whirlpool, shouldn't he have seen it from the start?

No – the whirlpool was a seal; even the Bakemon needed evil rings, back then. As he ducked beneath the latest darkness attack, he glared into the distance at Deathmon – thinking could come later, so could his angst. Taichi was absolutely right; this digimon had to be stopped!

Besides, this was what he dreamed of, after all that had happened… in a way, it'd be even more horrible for him not to at least enjoy the adventure on which so much had been sacrificed.

"Heaven's Knuckle!" Angemon was still fighting hard, at least. And it was times like this that Takeru wished he could do more to help, even if he was being the power source – and with all the weird stuff going on, he wasn't even sure of that. Still, at least he could cheer him on.

"Go Angemon! Let's show this creep the power of those who want to protect the digital world!" he shouted, trying to hold back tears; the hypocrisy alone was too much.

"Spiral Sword!"

"Absolute Zero Punch!"

"Aerial Attack!"

Takeru glanced mournfully in the direction of the attacks, trying to at least see the sadness he had brought one last time, to at last show what, after being chosen, he had truly brought the digital world. But as he looked at the attackers, his comrades, the digimon that should be suffering the pain of being driven to combat… it wasn't sorrow he saw, but an unmistakable, absolute happiness – the exact same sort he'd have, were he not responsible for all this damn darkness.

And if just one battle had excited them as much as it seemed, given all of them this much determination to live, without them even getting to endure (or was it enjoy?) all that heartbreak and bittersweet happiness… If it could be this much for Unimon, Andromon, and Yukidarumon, if that excitement and life he sensed was really there…

Still, Noriko still had digimon under her thumb – enslaved, mind-controlled. Memories may be unlikable, they may sometimes distort – but he couldn't just let them forget or never even have this happiness!

"Angemon, please destroy every single evil ring you can find!"

"Are you sure of this, Takeru? No one hates evil more than I do, but division is sometimes necessary, and right now they're fighting on our side."

Takeru nodded, wishing Angemon could make his way around this darkness Deathmon created better than he could, guided only by those bursts of energy shot off to save the world. And maybe, just maybe, he could hope again.

For now, he had a different aspect of the powers of darkness to deal with, one involving the difficulties of maneuvering without light. Attacks must be dodged, in a battle such as this – with Deathmon's eyeball approaching, all he could manage to do was try and dive out of the way. But in this much darkness, tripping over an unfamiliar, unconscious body, one the absent light would have shown him as belonging to Ogremon, he couldn't even see where he fell.

Hearing the blast, on the other hand, or the sound of the debris from the blast zooming by, strangely missing him: that was a whole different matter. And by the light of the explosion, there was one shape he could make out – a silhouette of Sora's back, standing protectively over him, taking all the eye-shrapnel that should have rightfully brought his own death.

She's still standing, at least... that means something, right?

But then, the attack seemingly finished, it looked as though there was an odd, secondary explosion at the attack's end, knocking an unprepared Sora right towards the chosen boy. The child of unusual hats moved his arms up reflexively, catching her was right, if only to cushion the blow.

Somehow, again as so much ended, her face bloodied by combat… Sora found herself being accidentally in Takeru's arms, the younger boy blushing and releasing the tomboy the instant he noticed.

"Sora? You… protected me?"

"I owed you from the Snimon thing," she answered, smirking as she hid the pain – though at least having Takeru with her made it hurt less, somehow.

"No, that was just me making up for the battle against Piemon – and it might take me even longer than three years to make it up this time."

Sora smiled at this, conceding the point, chatting with Takeru amidst all the combat, the two thankfully protected by Birdramon's fiery wing. "That doesn't count; you were gonna fight beside me anyway – 'til I convinced you to run for it."

"Yeah…" the chosen child answered nostalgically, blushing as he awkwardly fell silent, searching for something to say – a silence that only ended when, as he began to open his mouth, the older girl instead spoke.

"It's ending, isn't it? Do you think you'll be okay?" Another bit of worry, so like her… he had thought of posing the same question to her, honestly, but the bearer of hope just shouldn't ask such things.

"One way or the other, it does seem that way. But there's still Noriko to think about, and the random Bakumon from earlier… besides, it could be like the first time, just a random message from across the sea."

"You remembered that? I thought you were crying too hard over Angemon."

"Yeah, way to put your foot in your mouth again, Sora. You wouldn't be any different if it were Piyomon – no wonder you hardly even hang out with Taichi and Yama anymore." She tried to shoot down that troublesome, obnoxiously conscience-like voice in her head, noticing the reawakened sadness in her friend's heart. "Sorry… I wasn't thinking."

No kidding.

There were times Sora was especially grateful that Takeru's words were louder than her own thoughts.

"Don't worry, I forgive you. And even if that does happen…" He paused for a moment, allowing her to take in the meaning of his words, or maybe just searching for the right way to say it. "All of us, we've been through so much together, just being with each other is fun in itself – and we'll still have that."

Sora noticed a distinct, yet familiar feeling at his words, her heart pounding slightly, though secretly – she could keep this hidden, right?

"Birdramon, chou shinka, Garudamon!" Her phoenix digimon disappeared behind a wall of fire, then poked out with clenched talons, thick, feathery arms, giant wings, and a good deal more power.

Okay, she couldn't hide this after all – only give an uncharacteristic blush for a love revealed in the oddest of ways.

"Sora-san, I lo--" Takeru began, trying to fight back the heaviness of the confession, even if the other's feelings were known to him… and the fact that spoken love between chosen children only had brought sadness certainly didn't help. (It still would, this time, too… Angemon at the very least, torn as he'd be with his partner finally finding love. Taichi and Yamato, maybe, perhaps Hikari even still…) "No use in me hiding it either. I love you."

She smiled, laying on her back, watching her digimon let loose a "Shadow Wing!" at Deathmon – watched him block the literal firebird effortlessly.

"Don't make such a big deal about it. After all, love for the adventure got us into all this… and I hate to say this, but love can't save the world."

"Garudamon held off Vamdemon, didn't she?"

"And Angewomon killed him. And Imperial Dramon, and a Metal Garurumon/War Greymon team, in different incarnations. Angemon killed Devimon and Piemon, Metal Greymon took out Etemon, Magnamon stopped the Kaiser – you don't need to try to convince me otherwise; love just isn't strong enough."

Takeru nodded, sadly convinced.

"Hope, on the other hand..." The golden-haired boy thought of the future once more at Sora's words, mulling over the likelihood of an end, the earlier fact of comfort – and the fact, the promise not to let the chosen children drift apart this time. His hopes and dreams – Devimon could call them useless all he wanted, but they weren't; quite to the contrary, they were strong.

"Angemon, warp shinka! Seraphimon!" A shining suit of white armor encased the angel digimon, four new golden wings growing on him as his other's changed color to match them, bits of embroidered blue metal covering the joints.

These hopes were very strong indeed.

Seraphimon flew into the air, leading the other digimon onward, amidst another of Garudamon's "shadow wing!" a "Positron laser!" from Imperial Dramon, all sorts of attacks effortlessly dodged by Deathmon.

"You think a bunch of pitiful digimon like you can stop me? Half of you aren't even perfection-level!"

The angel digimon placed his hands in the proper position, generating small fireballs, still concealed in his own yellow-glowing light. "What you've done is unforgivable – but you're about to learn something that cost Devimon and Piemon their lives just to find out."

"And that is?"

"When compounded with a desire to save the digital world, there is nothing stronger than hope!" The fireballs grew in the angel's hands for effect, shining with an unearthly, almost holy light – Deathmon still dodging the attacks of so many others, too many attackers for him to even remember which attacks were so weak he could just ignore them. "Seven heavens!"

The fireballs shot rapidly at once towards the ghoul of times past, incinerating him as he screamed in disbelieving pain. "Takeru, they never learn."

"We did it!" Taichi's excited yell, joined by a peaceful, at last happy Hikari, seeming every bit the hope-filled person Takeru just was, all the chosen forgetting even the sadness before to simply celebrate – yes, even Noriko.

The chosen children spent hours like that – it must have been at least four of them before Sora let slip a single tear not of happiness, and there was still not a one among them willing to be first to leave – upon hearing of the peace, even Mimi, together with her "subjects" and the newly-hatched Yuramon, had rushed to the party.

"But… it's over now." The scepter of real (well, non-digital anyway) life loomed as large as it had in July, the boredom, the loneliness – all of it was every bit as strong.

"Don't talk like that," Mimi began, optimistic and knowing. So she had arrived last of all, been the most distant, let New York become where her happiness lied, only visiting the others a few times a year; it wouldn't stop these words. "Next time, let's not just get so distant… we chosen children need to stick together!"

At her response, even Ken cried, cried tears of complete agreement.

"But we didn't even have much to talk about last Odaiba Memorial…" Koushirou began, ever the analytical realist, no matter how bitter it became. "Absent our finished journeys, which can only be so long – what is there to keep us together?"

Takeru shook his head, his mouth before opening once more in a hopeful smile.

"It's not over. We have worlds to integrate, plenty of threads of this great time still dangle unfinished… And as long as there's a digital world, I truly believe that our adventures will always continue on."

Author's notes: Yeah, this could never really end, just the part that's written. But I tried to leave it with a digimon-style yet good ending. XP

(I was running low on plot-threads, honestly, got a few good ideas but all ending-related, this seemed as good a time as any...)

Feel I made it a bit shippier than planned, but I'm really confident in this ending…(I defend listing it as gen only because it's such a genre-combination that even this much romance can't make me do otherwise, and defend the angst 'cause it's so freaking angsty.)

That said, savage criticism, boundless praise, general neutrality, whatever opinion you've got – if you've come this far, PLEASE review.

It's all welcomed, just to know people read it. And I hope it really is as good as I believe!

(And always, ALWAYS, remember the digital world. This anime rules, and the fandom only makes it better.)