Enzan grimaced as he watched Blues and the other navis get pushed back into an even tighter corner. All of them were now well out of battle chips, and with the multitude of enemies upon them, they were starting to fall prey to exhaustion. Even Blues, who had trained for these sorts of situations, wouldn't last much longer.
"Enzan-sama," Blues spoke up from his position, tiredly holding his blade up as he watched for enemy movements. "If we retreat any further, we will be encroached on all sides. We must make our stand here."
The official nodded grimly. "You're right, but..." Having to leave Blues and the others in this position without being able to do anything made his blood boil. Without battle chips or any sort of backup, they were without hope. "Are you sure you can keep fighting like this? It might be a better idea to plug out and cut our losses."
Blues cocked his head slightly, a frown on his face as he considered that statement. It was true that they were in a very bad position, and the most practical course of action would be to plug out and rest. However, if they did that...
"With all due respect, sir...I can't agree to that," the red navi said, looking to his side. Roll fired off another arrow, glancing back at him with a smile. Gutsman and Glyde were double-teaming enemy navis when they could. "While we could leave now, the damage would be catastrophic if left unchecked. That's something we can't let happen."
Despite his anxiety, Enzan allowed himself a small smile. "You're right," he conceded. Leaving now would just be running away, no matter how much he could justify it. There was no way that he–or the others with him–would do that. "But still...we're almost out of options."
"Enzan, don't worry. Netto will...come through for us, I'm sure of it," Meiru then cut in, monitoring Roll's battle through her own PET. When the official gave her a quizzical glance, she smiled sadly. "Every time we've been in danger, it's like he's able to pull something off that saves everybody. Even if we can't see him or know what he's doing, I believe in him. That's why I believe we can make it through this battle."
Enzan stared at her, instantly able to recognize the solemn look in her eyes. Because Netto is always fighting to protect us, and we can't do anything to help him in return, he thought, looking away. He's always...so stupid like that.
Maybe it was just the stress of the moment, or perhaps it was just the feeling of helplessness that descended on him, but he felt like he could finally understand why Meiru and her friends always were so determined to help Netto in these sorts of situations, even if they were far beyond their capabilities. It was that Enzan could relate to, as his rival could always rise up to do the impossible, risking his life and sometimes his very soul to save the world.
Before, Enzan probably would have been jealous and disdainful. He probably wouldn't get why Netto kept getting in his way, or how he managed to be the one to surpass him. But now, having fought alongside him through several incidents, the only thing he could feel at the moment was the fact that he was powerless to help one of the few he called his friends.
And that thought sickened him like nothing else.
"Enzan-sama?" Blues queried, seeing his operator's uncertain face. "What are your orders?"
The official shook his head. "Stand your ground," he ordered, regaining his composure. "One way or another, we'll stop them here."
"As you command!" the red navi replied, shooting off a Sonic Boom at another group of enemy navis. Even this gesture was futile, Enzan realized; as soon as the attack deleted the targets, five more rose to take their place.
"They're not stopping at all!" Dekao snarled, unable to do anything but cheer Gutsman on through his PET. "We're not going to make it!"
Yaito grimaced herself, anxiously fiddling with her PET as Glyde continued to shoot at random navis. "I don't want to admit it, but...Dekao might be right. We're outnumbered and we're out of battle chips."
Meiru continued to watch Roll, saying nothing. However, the frown on her face was quite apparent to everybody.
So we have no choice after all, Enzan thought. "Blues, prepare to plug–"
That was when he felt it.
Time seemed to stop for a moment as something rippled through his being, a mixture of worry, anxiety, sadness, and despair welling up in him at once. But, at the same time, there was also something odd that trumped all of those, giving him an odd sort of relief.
"Enzan-sama!" Blues's voice brought him back to reality as his gaze snapped back to his PET. "The enemy...they're..." It was quite unlike Blues to sound so uncertain, he thought in trepidation. "They're...not moving..."
"It looks like they've all just fallen over..." Roll piped up, also sounding uncertain. "What's going on?"
"Move in closer to observe, but remain cautious," Enzan immediately ordered, frowning at the new turn of events. He saw the others nod as they directed their own navis to do the same, all of them gazing intently into their PETs. "Blues, report."
"It seems that...they've all been knocked offline by some sort of feedback," Blues immediately said, although Enzan could see the confused frown his navi had. "They are still functional, but...it doesn't look like they will be booting up any time soon."
"That's good news if I've ever heard any," Enzan muttered, letting out a long sigh. In the most unexpected of ways, they managed to win this battle, but the fact that they were pressed to such a limit ate away at him. "Anything else?"
"Oi! One of them is still online!" Gutsman cried out from somewhere. Without needing to say anything, Blues immediately rushed over to where the large navi was, where Roll and Glyde were already kneeling down to see what was going on.
"What's he saying, Roll?" Meiru asked, letting out a shaky sigh herself. "For that matter, why did they all stop?"
Roll shook her head, leaning closer as Blues joined them. "I don't know. He's speaking gibberish," she replied, annoyed at the static she was getting. "It will take a while before I'm able to decode what he's saying."
"Please allow me," Glyde spoke up, clearing his throat. "Yaito-sama loaded me with a special translation program for purposes like these." With that, he leaned down to hear the whispered words of their enemy, straining to hear what was being said. Finally, after a few tense seconds, he rose with a confused look on his face. "All this navi is saying is...The God of Destruction. He's just repeating it over and over."
"God of Destruction?" Yaito wondered. "What does that mean?"
Dekao glanced over at Enzan and Meiru, who had both frozen in shock. "Do you guys have any idea what that guy is talking about?" he asked. When neither of them replied, he scowled. "Come on, don't leave us out of the loop!"
But that was the least of their concerns, Enzan thought. "Meiru...did you also feel something a few minutes ago?" he asked tightly, unsure if he was being paranoid or not. He was not happy to see the girl nod herself, a scared frown coming to her face.
"I did, but...I thought it was just me," she breathed out, clutching at her chest in worry. "This is...this feeling isn't good..."
He didn't know why, but Enzan felt his anxiety ramp up as he thought of the only thing that could make him feel so scared.
Netto, you better be alright!
Serenade gazed up at the ceiling thoughtfully as the area finished trembling, nothing more than a slight frown crossing his face as he considered what just happened. For such power to even be felt in the Secret Area, and for it to cause such a reaction...there was no doubt that it was His power.
"Strange...for me to feel it so strongly down here..." he murmured, his gaze unwavering. "What has happened up above?"
The King of the Ura Net was not one that interfered with regular affairs on the internet. While the Giga Freeze program was no longer in his protection, there were still many things the Secret Area held that he could not permit to be accessed by normal people. And so he ruled from such a place, keeping watch over the Ura Net whenever he could.
He had not been unaware of the malevolent energy that had permeated the Ura Net so completely. However, he was unable to pinpoint exactly what it was before he was forced to seal the Secret Area completely. The fact that many of the navis that made the Ura Net their home had gone insane was a testament of what it could do, and there was no way he was going to let them rage around under his rule.
Still...he wondered what was going on. He had felt the chaotic energy grow stronger with each day, and now it was approaching a level of power that would be catastrophic if left alone. Briefly, he wondered if he should have taken care of this himself; but he could not leave the Secret Area at all, for any reason. However, he figured he might not have a choice in the matter should such a thing continue.
That was why he was shocked when he felt His power again after so many years. But something was different, and he couldn't put his finger on it.
"Yamatoman," he called softly, not turning an inch. His right-hand man immediately appeared behind him, kneeling on the ground. "Report."
"The situation is currently unknown, Serenade-sama," the warrior replied, kneeling even further as if in apology. "As far as my contacts can affirm, nearly ninety percent of the navis that inhabit the Ura Net have risen up to invade multiple parts of real world systems."
Serenade's frown deepened. It was worse than he thought. "Have there been any insights on what this catastrophe is?"
"Unfortunately not." The grave silence that followed this statement was more than enough to set Yamatoman on edge; his king was not happy. "However...I have managed to discover that the source of this chaos has been linked to some sort of spacial interference at the edge of the Ura Net."
"Spacial interference? Explain."
"I don't know much about it, and my contacts weren't able to glean any further info, but..." Here the warrior hesitated, which made Serenade pause. Yamatoman was not one to hold back information like this, so for him to hesitate was a cause for concern. "A few figures were seen approaching the spacial tear a while ago. We were unable to confirm who they were, unfortunately."
"Is that so...?" the king murmured, lowering his head to gaze upon the ocean-like landscape around them. Yamatoman's report confirmed his suspicions, and now he couldn't help but worry about what was going on above. "This is not good."
Yamatoman said nothing, only bowing further in apology for his lack of information. Serenade graced him with a nod before turning his attention back to the ceiling, narrowing his eyes as he considered his options. If that power he felt was His, then...
"Yamatoman, convey this to Darkman: both of you must prepare yourselves," he commanded, his right-hand man listening in rapt attention. "In the coming days, I believe the incarnation of destruction will descend upon here once more. We must be ready."
"The incarnation of destruction...ah, you mean Him," Yamatoman muttered, hissing out His name. The king nodded at his realization, a gesture that conveyed the seriousness of the situation. "I understand, my king. I will follow your orders." With that said, he disappeared.
When Yamatoman was gone, Serenade released a sigh he didn't know he had been holding. "The incarnation of destruction..." he repeated to himself, his gaze not leaving the ceiling. There was no doubt about the power he had felt, it was His. But if it had only been that, he would not have worried.
No...the power he felt was His, but it was intrinsically different. There was no trace of anger or malice in it, and yet it was much stronger than before.
The power he had felt was like his own; compassion with complete trust and friendship.
For the first time in his life, Serenade felt a dreadful feeling creep into him.
As the shaking subsided, Forte took a deep breath as he flexed his hands, amazed at how much power he could feel running through him. Long ago, he thought he had known much greater power, having absorbed many different enemies and programs, and even Gospel. But this...
This was much greater than anything he had ever felt.
"I agree," Netto's voice echoed, a reminder that they were now joined in one body for the moment. "This is...amazing."
Forte grinned. "Amazing doesn't even begin to cover it," he said happily, his gaze not leaving the glowering Lord of Chaos. "We can talk about it later, though. Let's take down this jerk."
He felt Netto nod, the boy's eyes turning harsh. "Yeah. Let's finish off this bastard."
"You think just because you gain this surge of power, you could intimidate ME?!" the Lord of Chaos bellowed, an ugly snarl across its face. "You still have no hope of survival!" With that shout, it let loose its power as it threw multiple wheels of dark energy at the black navi.
Unlike before, where this attack forced him to dodge every which way, Forte only smirked. "We don't have anything to fear," Netto murmured, feeling Forte raising his arm.
"This attack is nothing," Forte agreed as he began to walk forward, his arm still outstretched. As the wheels came crashing down on them, the black navi simply smacked the deadly energy away, not even glancing at them as they dissipated harmlessly.
"Hell's Rolling! HELL'S ROLLING!" the Lord of Chaos continued to bellow, the discs of dark energy flying at supersonic speeds as it threw them countlessly. From their vantage point, both Netto and Forte noticed the imposter rapidly losing its cool, throwing out powerful attack after powerful attack in an attempt to destroy them.
"That thing seems terrified," Netto noted, and Forte could feel the slight confusion come from his operator. "I don't know why, but...I think it knows we're more powerful than it now."
"As it should!" Forte exclaimed as he batted away more of the deadly wheels. It was amazing to be able to do this, he thought. Even with how fast the wheels moved, they were far too slow for them to even prove to be a threat to him, and stopping them proved to be even easier with how much power flowed through him.
He could feel Netto move with his own actions, lending him his own strength. The surge of feelings through their link strengthened him, and it drove him to putting everything he had into this fight. With his operator united with him, there was no way he would lose to this thing.
Just as they thought, the Lord of Chaos seemed to heave as it glared at them, fists clenched in rage. "This is...impossible! There is no way two lowly beings as yourselves can muster such power!" it screamed, the dark energy flaring up around it again. "Yet you still stand before me, evenly matching my own strength?! This...this will not stand...!"
"Enough of your prattling, you false god!" Forte shouted, Netto's voice overlapping his again. "You were the one that started this fight. If you cannot accept the fact that we have surpassed you, then it's time to end this!"
"You...?! Surpass ME?!" At that, the imposter laughed madly, covering its face with one hand. "I am an entity that you cannot possibly comprehend! The gods could only seal me away, and you think you have evolved beyond me? Arrogant mortals!"
The black navi could only chuckle, even as their enemy began to rush towards them. "Where have I heard that line before...?" he mused as he saw the Dark Arm Blades beginning to form on the imposter's hands.
"It doesn't matter if we're bugs or arrogant mortals. I'm sick and tired of the gods playing around with our lives!" Netto growled as Forte easily dodged a vicious swipe, retaliating by forcefully kicking the imposter in its midsection. The Lord of Chaos reared back briefly, but was undeterred as it stepped forward once more, the blades cackling dangerously. "Let's do this, Forte! Last routine, set!"
"Execute!" Forte said as he continued to dance around the blades. Before long, the two blades met and swung downward with the intent on cleaving Forte in two, but was stopped when Forte caught both of them between his hands, easily stopping them. "Shirahadori, success!" he exclaimed happily, grinning at the look of fury on his imposter's face.
"I suppose you learned that sometime before this..." Netto observed, which was met with a chuckle from the black navi. "Keep going! If this is all it can do, it won't be long until we can beat it!"
The Lord of Chaos snarled as it tried to wrench itself away from Forte's grip, its sneer widening as it found it to be harder than it thought. "A little trick like this...will not be enough to stop me!" With that, it channeled more energy to its blades in an attempt to force the black navi away, the dark energy becoming sharper and more focused.
Forte narrowed his eyes as he began to exert more effort in keeping the blades held. As the energy began to become more intense, he frowned. "Overloading its attack?" he wondered as he started to hold the blades as tightly as he could. "It must be desperate."
"If it is, let's show it why it won't work!" his operator urged, a smile forming as an idea came to mind. Forte couldn't help but do the same, their thoughts in sync with each other. "Ready?"
"Of course. Let's go!" he growled as he suddenly focused his energy into his hands, pushing the two blades between his hands forcefully together. Backing off now would be the worst thing to do, he realized, so he had to break this attack here and now. As he focused on crushing the blades, he ignored the feeling of the dark energy traveling up his arms and into his body, dismissing it as an annoyance.
The Lord of Chaos's eyes widened as the dark energy that made up the blades faltered before being smashed completely. Forte watched as it leaped back a distance with a cry of rage, an odd feeling pulsing through his body.
"Did you...feel that?" Netto asked warily, almost breathlessly. Of course he did; the moment he smashed the attack, it was almost as if the dark energy that made it up was drawn into his body. "I think we just absorbed the remnants of that attack..."
"Are you alright, Netto-kun?" Forte immediately asked before he realized it was a stupid question. Of course his operator was alright; it would take something more than that to take him down. "What just happened?"
"It's..." Forte felt Netto falter for a moment before the operator regained his composure. "No, that's not the important thing at the moment. We're almost there, Forte! Keep on him!" Netto urged, turning their attention back to the Lord of Chaos. Forte knew that Netto had an idea of what happened right there, but he would have to figure it out later; they had a false god to stop.
For its part, the imposter had stood back up, glaring at them with an intensity that could have rivaled the sun. "So...you would push me this far..." it said as it began to float up, extending a hand that was pulsing with dark energy. "You think you know power? Fine...I will show you what power looks like!" With that, it held up its hand, dark energy gathering above it in shape of a massive sphere.
Forte frowned heavily. The size of the sphere it was gathering was much larger than the one it had before, and he could imagine it was much more powerful. While he didn't doubt that they could survive it, he would rather not take the chance and injure his operator needlessly. As he watched it grow larger and larger, his mind rattled off any sort of defensive measure they could take, but nothing seemed to be strong enough to ward off the incoming attack.
Netto seemed to have a different idea, however. "Forte, listen to me. I don't know if this will work, but..." The boy paused there, uncertain about what he was considering. "What if...we try using the GetAbility program to absorb the attack?"
The black navi blinked. "That's only when I'm absorbing pieces of data, Netto-kun," he whispered. "I can't do it against attacks like this."
"But have you tried before?" Netto retorted, a knowing smile on his face. "If you can absorb chip data to remember for later, this should be the same...at least, in theory."
"But that's different!" Forte protested, raising his arms in a defensive position. "I can only do that because I absorb pieces of core data that allow me to know how those attacks work. Random attacks are a different story!"
"Even so...that only applies to navis and viruses, right?" Netto mused, his face scrunching up as a thought hit him. "But this thing isn't even part of the cyber world at all, and it isn't bound by the same rules...It should work!"
Forte couldn't believe his operator was insisting on using the GetAbility program in such a way. He already knew the ins and outs of it, but for Netto to be so adamant...that was when it hit him. "You know something," he muttered, a small smile forming.
"Yep!" came Netto's reply, and Forte could even feel his operator's grin. "Remember when you crushed the Dark Arm Blades earlier? I felt you absorb the attack, and...something came to me. I didn't know until now, but...I think we can use that attack ourselves now."
"The GetAbility program initialized without me knowing it?" the black navi asked in surprise. On instinct, he closed his eyes as he went over every single techinque and ability he had appropriated from various foes, and to his surprise, the Dark Arm Blade technique was there among them. He just knew how to gather the energy to create them and how to form them. "But...how...?"
"I think we can leave that for later," Netto said quickly, and Forte nodded. Now wasn't the time to think on why it happened. "Right now, we need to absorb that attack. We only have one chance at this."
"But...Netto-kun, that's..." Forte didn't know why he was so unsure, but something told him that something bad was about to happen. "What about you?" he finally asked.
Netto chuckled, and Forte couldn't help but feel reassured. "I'll be fine, Forte. We're together, after all! Now, gather as much energy as you can to keep that thing at bay!" Forte nodded as he focused all of his power into his arms, bracing himself for the inevitable impact.
The Lord of Chaos gazed upon them, a mad grin on its face as it hefted the large energy sphere up. "With everything I have...I will return you both to nothingness! It's time to die! CHAOS NIGHTMARE!" it roared as it threw the sphere down, the dark energy crackling wildly as it descended onto its targets.
"Not a chance! GetAbility, initialize!" Forte growled as he felt the program activate within him. Not even a moment after that, the attack was upon him, and he threw his arms up to halt the sphere, his palms pushing against the mass of energy.
"Ugh! So powerful...!" Netto grunted as he felt Forte absorb the dark energy, a snarl coming to his face. "But this...is far from beating us. We will not be overcome by a pittance like this!"
"My thoughts...exactly!" Forte shouted as he instinctively pushed the GetAbility's power to its limit, rapidly absorbing the dark energy. His body felt like it was slowly burning up, but it was nothing compared to the pain shooting up his arms, the energy crackling as he tried to absorb it.
As Forte's emblem began to glow wildly, Netto's snarl deepened, his eyes going colder. "This pain is nothing!" he ground out, and Forte could briefly feel the pain shooting up his operator's body. "Forte will...we will not lose!"
The mass of energy was quickly growing smaller, but there was still so much of it left...Forte wasn't sure if he would be able to absorb the rest of it, but Netto was counting on him. "Netto-kun, lend me your power!" he cried as he grit his teeth, the pain growing ever stronger. "Let's beat him together!"
"Alright!" Netto replied with a grin, although Forte could tell he was trying to hide the pain. "False god, if you can hear me, then know this..."
"You've messed with the wrong navi and his partner!" Forte continued, the energy almost completely absorbed within him. He felt Netto's will alongside his own, both of them straining to overcome their enemy. The edges of their vision started to become white as their wills and memories merged, their synchrosity going beyond normal limits. "Because..."
"We are the God of Destruction!"
With one last roar, the Chaos Nightmare disappeared as everything went white.
Rockman grimaced as his charged buster was simply swatted aside by Colonel, who was merely watching him impassively. In all honesty, he was fighting desperately; he was completely exhausted, and he had managed to leave no lasting damage on the copy. The fact that he had felt that tremendous amount of power earlier also didn't help, leaving him extremely worried about what was going on.
What was worse was the growing heat in his chest, centered on his navi emblem. He had seen it glow intermittenly as he was clashing with Colonel's copy, but he didn't know what was going on other than the fact that the strange sensation he was feeling was growing unbearable. It was almost as if he was going into Full Synchro with Netto, but...that wasn't possible, considering his operator was elsewhere. So...what was it?
"I did not expect a copy of Colonel to be able to mimic his cognitive ability so effectively," Dr. Regal interrupted as he began to frown. The scientist had been giving him battle chips in attempts to deal some sort of damage, but everything was either parried or dodged at the last moment. To Rockman's eyes, it was enough for Dr. Regal to start getting nervous. "Even so, we must find some way to divert his attention...are you holding up alright, Rockman?"
"I...I'm fine," he panted out, trying to reassure the scientist with a small smile, although he knew his hunched over form was already blatant enough. He was actually surprised he managed to take out five copies of his teammates up to now, all of whom were extremely powerful in their own right. But Colonel was always at a level above them, and he was being painfully reminded of that fact firsthand. "We need a plan, Dr. Regal. I'm not going to last long like this."
He heard Dr. Regal look through his battle chips and was not pleased when the scientist drew in a sharp breath. "We're getting low on battle chips, but...there might be something," his temporary operator murmured. "Just as I said earlier, we need to distract him long enough to deal a fatal blow. In your condition, you will not be able to fight a prolonged battle."
"I see..." he let out, grimacing once more. The fact that it was really coming down to all or nothing strategies only highlighted the severity of the situation. He had faced desperate battles like this before, but he always had the comfort of knowing that Netto was there with him. But now...
Rockman! Don't give up! You can beat this!
He barely bit back a gasp. What...what was that...?! he thought, eyes widening as the heat in his chest seemed to grow even hotter.
I'm not...going to die here...I'm going to...have my revenge...
He barely restrained the urge to hold his head. What were these images and sounds all of a sudden?
"Rockman." Dr. Regal's voice snapped him out of his thoughts as he tried to collect himself, focusing back on his enemy in front of him. "I think I have something that might help, but...it's a dirty tactic. Will you be able to pull it off?"
He nodded. "I can do it. Don't worry about the tactics," he reassured the scientist, gazing back at the waiting figure of Colonel. He had to focus; the copy in front of him was waiting for him to make a mistake, and he couldn't afford losing his concentration now. "Send me the battle chips, Dr. Regal."
Dr. Regal nodded as he sent in the chip data, and Rockman took a deep breath as he saw which two chips he had. The scientist was right; he would only have one chance to pull this off, and it had to be perfect. All he had to do now was find the perfect opening–
...if he's truly taken by the dark, then...I'll do it. I'll delete Rockman, Barrel.
I must get stronger...I will take from these pathetic navis their power, and make it my own. That's how I'll live...!
Angrily, he shook his head to clear it. He didn't know why he was seeing such things all of a sudden, but he couldn't afford to think on it. He had a job to do; Netto and Forte were counting on him!
"Rush at him the moment you see an opening in his army," Dr. Regal quickly commanded, and Rockman knew he was just as anxious as he was. "Nothing but point-blank will suffice. I'm counting on you!"
The blue navi nodded. "Alright. Here I go!" he cried as he began rushing forward, forcing himself to dodge all the shots that Colonel's soldiers were trying to hit him with. For his part, the copy raised its sword, intent on slicing him in two. As he got closer, he saw the blade begin to glow with energy, and he tensed himself in preparation.
"Battle chip, Blind!" he shouted as he held out his hand, a bright light suddenly exploding from it. The blue navi was satisfied to see Colonel grimace and hold up his hand to block the blinding flash, and was actually glad to see the caped navi attempt to swing his sword at him. When it came down in a clumsy slice, he quickly dodged it as he formed the next attack on his hand. "Super Vulcan!"
The golden vulcan was pointed right in Colonel's stomach, and the copy did not have a chance to do anything when the bullets began to tear through him. Rockman watched as the copy screamed silently, the caped navi's mouth open in agony. It hurt him to see it, and he closed his eyes briefly so he wouldn't have to witness yet another of his teammates dying, even if they were clones. "Forgive me, Colonel. I didn't want this."
It was only when he felt the brunt of a point-blank Screen Divide did he realize that taking his sight off his enemy, however briefly, was a huge mistake.
"Rockman!" Dr. Regal shouted as he saw the blue navi fly backwards, hitting the ground harshly. "Rockman, are you alright?! Get up, quickly!"
"But...I..." the blue navi panted out, squeezing his eyes shut in pain. Even though Colonel's attack hadn't even been what it should have due to having taken serious damage, it was enough. He was surprised he wasn't outright deleted. With obvious effort, he sat himself up, but his legs wouldn't respond. "I can't, Dr. Regal. I'm...completely drained..."
He could hear Colonel slowly walking toward him, no doubt slowed by his injury, but he was defenseless now. He couldn't even lift his buster...
"Don't give up!" the scientist shouted, and Rockman could hear him scrambling for any sort of chip that could help. "You can't let yourself be deleted here! You promised your operator that you would live through this!"
Rockman chuckled sadly, a mournful smile coming to him. "I know. But...I wasn't up to it after all..." he trailed off. Colonel was almost upon him now, leaving him without much time to think. "Dr. Regal, thank you for helping me. Please tell Netto-kun I'm sorry."
"You can tell him yourself!" Dr. Regal yelled at him, and the blue navi was surprised to hear him in such distress. "You have to get up! Please!"
That was impossible for him, unfortunately. He didn't have the strength...
He glanced up to see Colonel's expressionless face, his blade raised for the killing blow. Even though there was a hole through him, it wasn't enough to delete him. Rockman couldn't help but chuckle at that; the real Colonel managed to survive a suicide attack from a Darkloid, so a feeble attempt like his wouldn't have been enough either.
He closed his eyes. Netto-kun...thanks for everything. Forte...I know you will take care of him. I'm sorry for not being able to make up for my earlier behavior. I know you'll be there for him. That's why I can accept this...
"Rockman! ROCKMAN!" Dr. Regal shouted, but he could only watch helplessly as the blade started to come down.
And in one brief flash, it was over.
No! Rockman, you can't...you can't leave me! Don't do this! I DON'T WANT TO BE ALONE!
Rockman blinked as the voices began to echo in his head again, time seemingly stopping around him. That voice... he thought in surprise. Is that...?!
It's not enough. I need greater power...even greater than this!
The blue navi blinked again. "What...is this...?" he whispered, eyes widening as he attempted to discern what was going on. He could recognize that voice. He could recognize the other one too. But why was he hearing them now?
We're not going to fail here! Battle routine, set!
"Netto-kun...?" That was definitely his operator's voice! But where was it coming from?
Pathetic humans. The day where you're all destroyed cannot come soon enough.
"Forte...?!" He could recognize the black navi's voice in an instant. But what were these fragments of voices?
Rockman, promise me we'll be together forever, will you? I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you...
"Together...forever..." he murmured, frowning. I want to fulfill that, but...
How...how could I fall to you, of all navis...?! I am the strongest! I've survived until now, but...
"Survive..." he mouthed. I wish I could survive too.
Come on, Rockman! I'm never going to give up, ever! So you shouldn't either!
Rockman blinked again as he felt himself tear up a bit. "Netto-kun..." he murmured. Even if these voices were all fragmented, he could hear them as if he had thought of them himself. "I can't give up..."
I...I need to keep going...I won't...die here. I have to survive. I can't give up here...
"...that's right. I can't give up," he whispered to himself, more resolute as he clenched his fist. Just as Forte survived in the Ura Net for years, he could not let himself fall here. If he did, he doubted that either the black navi or his operator would ever forgive him.
The blue navi didn't know what these voices were, but as he listened to them, the fire seemed to burn even hotter in his chest, almost like a raging inferno. As it grew even more intense, the voices–the memories–all seemed to meld together.
What...is this navi's power...?
Sometimes...I wish Rockman could understand me a bit more...
Netto. You are stronger than this. Get it together.
Is this...the truth about humanity's cruelty...?
...Netto-kun. Thank you. You...are the first one to believe in me.
Prepare yourself, you false god!
You've messed with the wrong navi and his operator!
WE ARE THE GOD OF DESTRUCTION!
...GetAbility Program Successful.
Rockman's eyes snapped open as time seemed to return to normal, the fleeting images gone and the voices silenced. As he watched Colonel begin to lower his blade, he felt his navi emblem glow so hot that it felt like it was about to explode.
Without even thinking about it, he reared his hands back as he felt energy gather to them. A familiar and terrible power came to him at that moment, but he paid it no mind as he grasped for as much of it as he could. Netto-kun, Forte...I'M GOING TO LIVE!
"Darkness..." he growled out, instinctively reaching for the knowledge that seemed to have suddenly appeared within him. "OVERLOAD!" he then roared, thrusting his hands in front of him as he unleased the energy he gathered.
The dark energy swallowed up Colonel, and in the next moment, it completely deleted him as the waves of darkness destroyed everything in front of the blue navi, ripping up the terrain the attack raged. When it finally calmed down, Rockman was breathing heavily, dark energy crackling around his hands as they fell to his sides, limp with the exertion of what he just did.
Despite himself, he smiled. He did it. He survived, and he would see both Netto and Forte again. He would be able to make up for the things he said to Forte, and he would make sure his operator was happy.
"R-Rockman, that..." Dr. Regal's voice finally came through after a long silence, and he sounded both uncertain and completely shocked. "What did you just do?!"
"I don't know..." the blue navi said as he looked down at his navi emblem. It was no longer glowing, and the veritable inferno he had been feeling within him had subsided. "It just...came to me. I just suddenly knew how to use it. It's like...I don't know how to describe it."
Was it a Soul Unison? Or was it Full Synchro? To him, it felt like both at the same time. But...that can't be possible, right? Netto-kun and Forte are elsewhere... the blue navi thought as he pursed his lips. Whatever it was, I could hear them clearly...
"But...to be able to produce such powerful attack using dark energy...how is that even possible?" the scientist wondered as he stared at Rockman. With a deep breath, Dr. Regal then collected himself. "I suppose we can worry about that later...do you feel any aftereffects of that attack?"
Rockman looked at his hands, frowning as he flexed his fingers. "No, I...I feel completely fine, actually," he said. It was completely strange, he thought; the attack was definitely of the same type as the dark power he had once wielded, but it was completely different at the same time. It was like he was able to gather the pure dark energy itself, separate from the addictive and mind-altering effects of the Dark Chips.
"I see..." Dr. Regal then sighed. "I apologize for not being able to do anything right then. You nearly got deleted on my watch."
"It's fine, really!" Rockman protested, smiling weakly. "You managed to get me this far though, right?"
"I suppose so. In any case...you should plug out. You must be exhausted."
The blue navi considered doing so before shaking his head. "Not yet. I need to get over to where they are. They might need help."
"Don't be foolish! You won't be able to fight in your condition!" Dr. Regal snapped, but was met with the resolute glare of the navi. He then sighed in resignation. "If you're going to be so stubborn, fine. I'll continue supporting you just in case."
Rockman smiled. "Thank you, Dr. Regal."
With that, he got up and started to limp his way towards where his two friends were, hoping that they were alright.
As their sight returned to them, the first thing they felt was the excruciating pain traveling up their arms. Absorbing the Chaos Nightmare took more effort than they thought, even in Full Synchro. However, one word rang out through their heads as they slowly began to walk forward.
GetAbility Program Successful, both of them thought. They could feel the knowledge of each attack come to them; the Dark Arm Blades, Darkness Overload, and even the Chaos Nightmare. All of those attacks were now theirs to command at will.
"Im...Impossible..." the Lord of Chaos growled at them, its form heaving with the amount of power it had thrown at them. "You absorbed it...?! But...how?!"
"It ends here, false god," they spoke, their voices echoing throughout the now silent battlefield. "We won't allow you to run amok any longer."
The imposter glowered at them as it tried to gather more energy, but the pain it was in was obvious. "You think you've won?" it asked in a growl, an ugly snarl on its face. "But...you cannot kill me. As I said, I am a being you cannot comprehend. Pitiful mortals like yourselves, killing a god? Don't make me laugh!"
They shook their heads in pity. "You really don't understand, do you?" they said, frowning as the Lord of Chaos snarled at them. "The moment you tried to think of us as pawns is the moment you sealed your fate. We will not accept being mere playthings."
The Lord of Chaos chuckled mirthlessly, its glare fixated on the calm face of the black navi. "And you even think you can talk down to me now...such arrogance...must be met with death!" With that, it raised its arms again, intent on trying to gather more power to utilize.
"Because you are nothing more than an unleashed child with too much power," they said, quickly gathering energy to their arms. It was time to finish this battle. "You played around too long, and when the stakes got serious, you attempted to kill us with overwhelming power. We see no reason to respect the likes of you!"
The imposter grimaced, looking down at its hands as the energy refused to gather. "Why...why can't I attack...?" it breathed in shock, its eyes widening as whatever power it had started to dissipate. "Where is all of my power...?! What is going on?!"
They smiled as soon as they had enough energy, closing their eyes. "Like we said, it ends here. Leave us in peace." As soon as they said that, a Gospel head formed on each hand, their maws glowing with absolute power. The Lord of Chaos reared back in panic, trying to find something to protect itself, but it could conjure up nothing as they spoke their next words. "Begone. Double Vanishing World."
The twin beams of annihilation fired, and the Lord of Chaos was swallowed up within the destructive white light. They watched patiently as the explosions died down, their gaze fixed on one spot in front of them, knowing what waited there. Soon enough, as the dust settled, a heavily fragmented and nearly broken form floated there, most of its body disintergrated.
"I...I am defeated...?" it asked itself, half of its face missing. "But...I am immortal...even if this form perishes here, I will always come back...and there will be nothing stopping me from wiping you from existance once that happens."
They frowned at that admission, but only shook their heads. "Should you come back, we will stop you once more."
The Lord of Chaos laughed. "I will not be so merciful the next time! When I arise next, you–" It then cut off whatever it was going to say, whatver what was left of its face morphing into shock. "N...no! I'm being...sealed again...?! No! I can't...I won't...No! Stop! Release me, you cursed gods!"
They watched in silent confusion as their enemy writhed in midair, desperately shouting for whatever was happening to stop. Drained as it was, it could not fight back against what was going on, its struggles becoming more and more fierce as an unseen force approached.
"Stop! STOP! Don't do this, Yuna!" it pleaded, but it went unheard as some sort of hole opened up beneath it. They watched as the Lord of Chaos began to be drawn into it, its voice becoming more and more panicked as the void swallowed it. "Damnable gods! You two mortals! One day...one day, I will return, and I will bring my full power to bear upon you! I will remember this for as long as I exist, and you will regret walking away alive!"
As soon as it said those words, it was sucked into the abyss, the hole sealing itself as soon as it was gone.
They sighed in relief. "It's over," they said, smiling happily.
And like a wall crumbling, their shared existence shattered like glass as their soul separated back into two beings, their Full Synchro dying down.
Forte slumped to all fours as he breathed heavily, his eyes wide as he tried to make sense of what happened. "Were we...really one person...?" he wondered, looking down at his hands. For those scant few minutes, they weren't just his hands; they were both his and Netto's.
"I...I don't know..." Netto responded softly, and to Forte's ears, he sounded like he was in pain. It wasn't much of a surprise, Forte thought distantly, as both of them had been fighting in Full Synchro for what seemed like hours. "I remember feeling the GetAbility program work, and then..."
Netto didn't need to say any more, because Forte understood his feelings completely. Even if it hadn't been for very long, both of them had been connected in a way that they couldn't describe. Their thoughts, feelings, and even their memories had become one, and even as they separated, he could still feel all of those things as clear as day.
"Netto-kun...we only won because we worked together. I was not able to do this alone," the black navi stated, somehow knowing the train of thought his operator was going down. "No, it was all three of us. Me, you...and Rockman too. I could feel his power helping us."
Forte didn't know how he knew that, but perhaps it was because of the years of friendship and the close bond Netto and Rockman shared that made him feel that way. The two were brothers in every sense of the word, and even he could feel the power of that bond. Somehow, during the battle, he could feel Rockman reaching out, however briefly it was.
"Yeah...I think I heard him. It was very faint, but...I could hear him," Netto whispered happily. He didn't hear his voice for very long, but he heard it right before everything vanished in a sea of white light. "I felt a very violent surge of power right as I did, though...I wonder if something happened?"
Forte was about to speak up when he heard something trudging up from behind him. Slowly turning around, he saw the battered and exhausted form of his former rival slowly limping towards him, a small grin on his face. The black navi didn't even need to have a connection to his operator to feel the happy smile on his face. "Hey," he greeted softly, unable to say anything more.
"Forte..." Rockman said, the grin not leaving his face even as he collapsed right alongside him. "You did it."
"Rockman, I can't believe you did such an idiotic thing!" Netto grumbled at him, and Rockman could only chuckle mirthlessly in response. "Don't...don't do something like that again! I can't even tell you how scared I was..."
"I know. I'm sorry, Netto-kun," Rockman whispered, closing his eyes. "But I survived."
"That you did," Forte agreed, flopping onto his back. He was too exhausted to even move. "We both did."
A long silence hung in the air between them as they stared into the darkness, just savoring the fact that they were alive and victorious. It was so surreal to both of them, as they never thought they could be so at peace with each other. But there they were, laying on their backs next to each other, unable to do anything but be glad that the other was alive.
Finally, Netto's voice broke them from their reverie, cutting through the tranquility. "You two should plug out," he said softly, but to both of their ears, there was an odd strain to it. "You need to rest."
"Yes, Netto-kun," they both responded, both of them attempting to nod but failing to do so. They chuckled one last time before they disappeared with a faint blue light, their mission in the depths of darkness finally over.
Yuuichirou had never been as worried as he had been in that moment.
Surprisingly enough, it hadn't been the chaos that had threatened to bypass the firewalls at any given moment. It wasn't even the tremendous surge of power that had knocked out half of the computers working.
No, it was the fact that his son had been staring at Forte's PET with a look of utmost concentration on his face, a distant look in his eyes as he stared at something that no one else could see. The boy wouldn't respond to anything; not even shaking him roughly elicited any reaction.
What was worse were the splotches of blood he saw on Netto's hands, which Yuuichirou deduced that they were coughed up from his earlier spasms. He didn't want to imagine the other wounds his son might have taken in the time since then.
"Full Synchro..." he muttered as he observed the still form of his son. While he hadn't personally witnessed anything like what was happening, he had heard assorted tales from various sources. But seeing Netto like this, unresponsive to anything but his navi, really hurt. "I can't even imagine the synchronization percentage...with their link, it must be astronomical."
He had once observed the synchronization go beyond two hundred percent with his son and Rockman, but that was when the link between them was still in its earliest stages and not stabilized. The link Netto had with Forte, however, was entirely different; he wasn't sure how much they could get up to, but it had to be an incredible amount for his son to be almost catatonic like this.
A long sigh from the other end of the room broke him out of his thoughts as Regal stood up, looking down at Rockman's PET uncertainly. "Rockman is fine, Yuuichirou," he began as he walked over, and Yuuichirou could see how tired the man was. "It was a very close call, though."
"He was almost deleted?" Yuuichirou asked, a shiver running up his spine. Granted, taking on several powerful navis, even if they were only copies, was a deathwish in itself. "Is...is he fine?"
"He should be, but..." When Regal trailed off uncertainly, Yuuichirou felt a dreadful sensation creep up on him. "When he was about to be deleted, Rockman managed to use some sort of attack I've never seen before. It was incredibly powerful, and...I think it was the dark power you told me about earlier."
"Dark power...?!" Yuuichirou gasped, looking back at Rockman's PET. "But...!"
Regal held up a hand to placate him. "Relax. Rockman said he was fine and the power was fully under his command. The problem is, how did he do that?"
Yuuichirou sucked in a sharp breath as he considered what could have happened. "A power born of desperation?" he wondered, scratching his chin as he ruminated on all the possiblities. "...no, I would have know if he could do so, and Netto would have told me if anything had happened. Did he gain access to a new power somehow? But..."
His gaze shifted over to his son, who was still holding Forte's PET, when a thought suddenly came to him. "Could it have been a Soul Unison?" That would make sense, he imagined; that particular ability would allow Rockman to use powers he did not normally have.
Regal shook his head. "I'm unaware of the specifics, but he did not change form during battle at all," he said, watching as Yuuichirou's eyes narrowed further. "From what I saw, it was something instantaneous. It was as if...he just realized he could suddenly do it."
"Not a Soul Unison, but able to do something like that?" Yuuichirou muttered in confusion. "I can't imagine it was a Full Synchro either...what would it be, then?"
"If I may, I did notice one thing during his fight." Regal turned to look at Rockman's PET before he sighed. "His emblem was glowing during the entire time he was fighting Colonel's copy. It looked like it had been distracting him the whole time, but...after he used that power, it stopped. Any idea on what that could mean?"
Yuuichirou frowned, his gaze fixed on Rockman's PET. "Glowing during the entire fight..." he repeated, multiple thoughts coming up with many different answers. "It almost sounds like a Soul Unison, but...how? He obviously can't do it with a copy, so who...?"
The answer came to him like a bolt of lightning. He immediately looked over at Forte's PET, his face paling. Could it be he had some sort of Soul Unison with Forte? he thought quickly, trying to process where his thoughts were taking him. It would make sense in this context, but...if Forte is linked with Netto, and they're both in Full Synchro at the time the Soul Unison takes place, could that mean...?!
A sudden shift came from beside him as he heard his son groan, the boy blinking multiple times as he sat up straight. Yuuichirou was by his side in an instant, immediately grasping his shoulders to support him. "Netto! Are you alright?!"
"I..." Netto trailed off before seeing the PET in his hand, watching as Forte materialized into it . "Where's Rockman...?" he asked softly, looking over at Regal. The other scientist nodded as he quickly gave the blue PET back to its owner, which elicited a smile from the boy. Rockman was back, safe and sound. "Ah...that's good..."
The lack of response from his son instantly worried Yuuichirou. "Netto, do you understand what I'm saying?" he asked, staring directly into his son's eyes. They still had that distant gaze in them, but some form of recognition was coming back into them as the seconds went by. "Please, answer me!"
Netto chuckled lowly. "Papa...don't worry. I'm...fine..." he breathed, blinking slowly. "The mission...has been accomplished..." He then pitched forward onto the table, unconscious.
Yuuichirou's breath stopped.
Barely a half-hour later, Yuuichirou found himself in the hospital's waiting room, awaiting word from the doctor about Netto's condition. Haruka was sitting right next to him, extremely worried but remaining calm. Regal remained back at the Science Labs to deal with the clean-up, as well as to gather any more information about what had happened. Both Rockman and Forte's PETs were beside them, both of them unconscious as they recovered their energy.
It was times like this, where he was unable to do anything but wait, that he always hated. Netto always seemed to land himself into such situations, where despite any help he could give him, his son would inevitably end up facing near insurmountable odds by himself. Yuuichirou winced at that thought; how many more times did it need to happen before he accepted that he could only do so much to help his son?
A bad father... he mused as his thoughts began to take a darker turn. Maybe he was right.
Even now, it was Regal who stepped up in Netto's time of need, operating Rockman at that crucial moment. Maybe it was because he thought he wouldn't be able to battle with the blue navi as effectively, but it didn't lessen the guilt he felt at the moment.
I should have been the one operating Rockman, Yuuichirou realized, closing his eyes as he tried to relax. I thought the firewalls needed the most attention, but...I've been prioritizing the safety of the cyberworld over their lives. What kind of father am I?
"Yuuichirou," Haruka spoke up, regarding her husband with concern. "It's not your fault."
The scientist paused for a moment before chuckling. "You still know how to read me like a book," he said, a pained expression on his face. "It might have not been my fault, but...it sure feels like it is."
Haruka said nothing, choosing to look at the ground pensively for a few moments before sighing. "It's true that you did get him involved...but you had no choice," she began, glancing at him again before smiling. "You know he would have gotten involved either way."
Yuuichirou nodded, the frown not leaving his face. "I know, but...I could have done more. I should have done more," he muttered, staring at the ceiling as he tried to gather his thoughts. "I guess this is what he meant when he said I was a bad father."
Haruka reared back in surprise, blinking rapidly. "Are you still letting that bother you?" she asked lowly, now frowning herself.
"He was right," he retorted, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "Every time this happens, I try to support him and help him when he's in trouble, but...it's always when these types of incidents are occurring that we have any chance to interact for prolonged periods of time. Again and again I can make all the programs to help, but it's always him that's dealing with the danger, always the one saving the world..."
It was troubling that he had never seen any of this sooner. He couldn't even remember the last time his son ever came to him with a personal problem, one unrelated to any sort of catastrophe. During the months he had been Nebula's prisoner, it seemed that Netto had found a father-figure of sorts in Colonel Barrel, and it crushed him to think that the man had been much more paternal to his son in his times of greatest need than he ever had been.
It is my fault, he decided after thinking about it some more. Maybe...maybe if I had been a better father, Netto wouldn't be hurt like this...
"Yuuichirou," Haruka said sharply, grasping his arm tightly. The scientist winced as he felt her nails dig into his skin, glancing at her in surprise. "Stop thinking that way, right now. You are not a bad father, and this is not your fault."
"But..." he started, but was silenced by the intense look his wife gave him. It was one that she only saved when she wanted him to listen to her, and he could do nothing but obey.
"Like I said yesterday, you could have been there for him more in the past. If Netto holds that against you, you will have to deal with that," she said, watching as Yuuichirou winced again. "But you need to stop blaming yourself like this. You've done all you could do, and our son was needed to help. Even if he had the most dangerous job...you were there to support him. You were always there to support him."
Yuuichirou paused at her words, considering them. "Even so, I haven't really taken the time to ask how he's been doing," he said softly. "If I had done so earlier, had I actually considered his feelings about the link with Forte..."
Haruka's face softened, shaking her head slowly. "That might be true, yes, but you can start making up for that, if you feel that way." She then took his hand in hers, giving her husband a bright smile. "Cheer up, honey. I'm sure Netto wouldn't want to see you all depressed."
The scientist gave her a weak smile in return. Still...I could have done more, he thought. I was unable to do anything to comfort him after the Proto incident...even though I knew Rockman was alive, I didn't do anything to help him through his pain...
"He never blamed you."
Both adults were startled out of their conversation as their gaze lowered to the black PET that was beside them. Yuuichirou nearly had forgotten they were there. "Forte?" he asked tentatively as the screen popped up, revealing the black navi.
Forte looked very unlike himself, haggard in appearance and heaving in exhaustion. It seemed that the brief rest he underwent hadn't been nearly enough. "Like I said, he never blamed you," he said softly, looking over to see Rockman pop up on a screen across from him. The blue navi looked just as tired as he did, but they had both been roused by the conversation that was taking place. "He knows what you must do, and he's never held that against you."
Yuuichirou blinked. "Even though I haven't been able to help him like I should have?" he asked him, staring into the navi's red eyes. "Even now I was unable to do anything to help."
Forte shook his head. "Just him knowing you're supporting him is enough," he said, eyes softening slightly. "Even if he's constantly putting himself in danger, he does so knowing that you and everyone else he cares about is safe. He can only do that when he knows he has your help."
"Just as I said, dear," Haruka cut in, smiling again. "He knows that you're helping him, and you shouldn't feel guilty about not being able to do enough. Just as you have your job, he has his."
"He would not want you to be like this, Papa," Rockman added. "Even if he is resentful over things in the past, he doesn't hold it against you!"
Yuuichirou blinked several times, taking in a sharp breath. "But..."
"Stop with your guilt complex," Forte snapped, frowning heavily. "Maybe Netto-kun does blame you for some things, but not being there for him when it counts is not one of them. He knows full well that he would have never come as far as he has had it not been for you. Even if you need to work on knowing him better, he's never denied that he's come this far because of how hard you work to help him."
Yuuichirou knew full well that those were Netto's memories talking, but Forte was right. He was wallowing in self-pity because he could not stand the fact that he felt like he was useless to help his son, who needed all the help he could get. "You're right. All of you are right," he said, wiping away a stray tear. "It's just...it's hard, realizing that you've been a really neglectful father. I'm going to change that."
Forte smiled, and to all three of them, it was very similar to one that Netto himself wore. "Good to hear that, Papa." When all three of them suddenly looked at him strangely, his hand shot to his mouth in shock. "Ah! That...um...those were Netto-kun's memories, and I got caught up in them...I didn't mean to say that, so...uh..." he sputtered in embarrassment, turning away to hide the blush growing on his cheeks.
Rockman couldn't help but grin, and Haruka giggled at the sight. However, Yuuichirou merely chuckled and grabbed the black PET, holding it up so Forte's face was level with his own.
"Forte, I owe you an apology," he began, staring directly into the navi's eyes. "I didn't take into account your feelings when I was looking for a way to repair the link with Rockman. I was so focused on trying to make things normal again, I willingly looked away from what was going on and instead was looking at what I wanted to happen."
The black navi bristled slightly, but nodded nonetheless. "It's fine. I'm over it," he grumbled.
The scientist shook his head. "Nevertheless, I've troubled all three of you unnecessarily. I'm not going to ask for you to forgive me right away, but I hope I can prove that you can trust me." He saw Forte stare at him intently, knowing that he was fully aware of his trust issues. "That said...you are one of my son's navis. That makes you part of the family, so I don't have any issue with you calling me 'Papa'."
Forte's eyes widened in shock, staring incredulously at the man. "You're...accepting me...?" he whispered, blinking rapidly.
"That means you can call me 'Mama' as well," Haruka spoke up, smiling brightly. "I look forward to getting to know you better, Forte."
Forte looked over to see Rockman grinning widely, amusement almost shining from his eyes. He bit back a scowl as he turned away, trying to use his cloak to cover his blush. "Well...thanks, I guess..." he mumbled, his blush deepening as the other three chuckled.
Their humor at his expense died as soon as the doctor stepped into view.
"You are Netto's family, correct?" At both of the adult's nods, he sighed. "Please come with me. I'll explain what we've found once we reach his room."
There was a grave look shared between the four of them before Yuuichirou picked up both of the PETs. "Thank you, doctor," he said softly. With that, they began walking towards Netto's room, all of them feeling nervous about the boy's condition.
"Allow me to be frank for a moment; his injuries have baffled us," the doctor began as soon as they were seated in Netto's room. The boy was laying in a bed, unconscious and somewhat pale. Both Yuuichirou and Haruka flinched as soon as they saw him in such a condition, but kept silent as the doctor started to detail what was wrong. "Internal bruising and hemorrhaging, light muscle damage...both of his arms were almost broken as well."
Yuuichirou cringed at the extent of the damage done to his son. He felt Haruka fist his shirt in worry, but they merely waited for the doctor to go on.
"The strangest thing is that there is no evidence of any physical trauma. It's like all of his injuries spontaneously appeared out of nowhere," the doctor continued. Yuuichirou quickly glanced at Forte, who couldn't hide the growing worry on his face. "But...even stranger is that these injuries are all healing by themselves at an unprecedented rate. Even the bruises on his ribs will more than likely be gone within a few days. It's unbelievable!"
Haruka let out a relieved sigh. "So he'll be alright then, doctor?"
The doctor nodded, but there was still a frown on his face as he consulted his clipboard. "His physical injuries are fine, but...the fact that he hasn't regained consciousness yet is troubling. While we haven't done any extensive scans, the preliminary examination didn't reveal anything that would be keeping him like this."
That statement hung in the air for a few moments before it sunk in. Yuuichirou bit his lip as he considered possibilities on how it could happen, but was interrupted by another voice speaking up.
"Doctor, would there be a cause for concern if he doesn't wake up in a few hours?" Rockman asked, trying to hide his anxiety with a worried frown. "I wouldn't be surprised if he was exhausted and was sleeping it off."
The doctor considered that for a few moments as he made a few notes on his clipboard. "It is a possibility, but not a very high one," he admitted, causing the blue navi to frown. "Granted, we won't be able to make detailed scans until later tonight, so it is possible that he is just resting it off." As he paused, he looked at everyone in the room with suspicious eyes, the frown not leaving his face. "I will admit that I have never seen something like this for as long as I've worked here. What happened to this boy?"
Yuuichirou sighed. "Doctor...I would love to explain it, but I'm afraid that's out of my hands. Netto's condition is currently classified according to the Science Labs. You will have to contact them for further information." It was definitely a cop-out, the scientist realized, but there was no conceivable way he was going to explain anything about the link.
The doctor stared at Yuuichirou for a few moments before grunting. "Classified, huh? That's new," he grumbled, shaking his head. "Regardless, I suppose that's beside the point. I will work on getting exams set up. For now, he will be allowed visitors until further notice, if that is alright with you."
Haruka nodded. "Thank you, doctor," she said as politely as she could. "Please update us when you can."
When the doctor left, both of them walked towards the side of the bed, observing their unconscious son. "I hope he's alright..." Haruka murmured, brushing a few stray strands of hair out of Netto's face. "I know he's strong, but this is the first time something like this has happened to him..."
"He'll be okay, honey," Yuuichirou reassured her, hugging her lightly. "Something like this won't keep him down for long."
There was a long silence between them for several minutes before Rockman cleared his throat, gaining everyone's attention. "Papa, I think...maybe we should tell you everything that happened down there," he said, causing the scientist to blink in surprise. "Maybe it could explain Netto-kun's condition?"
Forte nodded. "Rockman is right. I think you'll be able to figure out what might have gone wrong...erm, Papa." The last word was added almost as an afterthought, and he turned away to hide the faint blush again.
Yuuichirou considered their words. "I suppose you're right...I need a clearer view on what happened down there," he said as he scratched his chin. "I only have some theories, but I can't really elaborate on those if I don't know what happened."
"You probably already have a gist of what might have happened, don't you?" Forte quickly asked, to which he turned away at the surprised glance thrown his way. "Uh...sorry. Those were Netto-kun's memories again."
"Again...?" Yuuichirou murmured to himself, eyes narrowed. It was very unlike Forte to be so immersed in his son's memories, if he remembered the black navi's personality correctly. "An aftereffect of their Full Synchro...?"
He was snapped out of his thoughts when there was a sudden knock at the door. Before anyone could answer, it flew open to reveal Netto's friends, all of whom looked worried.
"Netto!" Meiru cried as she hurried into the room, paling as she saw her friend unconscious. "Oh no...what happened...?"
"That's what I'd like to know," Enzan said as he stepped into the room himself, following Dekao and Yaito. Both of them were in states of shock at seeing their friend lay dormant, unable to even argue with each other for once. The official nodded to Yuuichirou, who nodded back in acknowledgement. "I knew it. I had a feeling something like this would happen..."
As everyone began to crowd around Netto, Yuuichirou considered everything that happened up until that point, trying to piece together parts of the puzzle from the limited information he had. I'm certain that the Full Synchro between Netto and Forte figures into it, but...I don't know how far into it they were, he thought as he glanced at the two PETs. But it doesn't explain Rockman's new power. That's a key point as well.
He needed more information. Glancing around at the room, he caught Haruka's eye and nodded at her. She immediately caught the message. "Ah, everyone, I think we're getting a little hungry," she said with a smile. "Let's go down and get some food to eat. Dekao-kun, Yaito-chan, could you help me?"
Both of the kids glanced at each other, knowing a dismissal when they heard one. "Alright, Haruka-san. Let's go and choose something good," Yaito said as she gave a certain glance at Meiru, who smiled uncertainly back. "Dekao will probably get all the unhealthy stuff again..."
Dekao followed them with an indignant protest, but lingered at the doorway for a few seconds before leaving.
"I wish I didn't have to do that," Yuuichirou then sighed, rubbing his eyes. "But I really need to keep the information between us for now...at least until I figure out what's going on."
"Um...if I may, why would I be here?" Meiru asked, looking between Enzan and Dr. Hikari. "Not like I'm complaining, but..."
"It's because you will not carelessly throw about information if it pertains to Netto's well-being," Enzan answered, prompting the girl to blush. "However...I also believe it's because you were originally here when Netto had first explained what had happened to him."
Yuuichirou nodded. "While it wasn't my intention, I believe you can be trusted with this information, Meiru-chan." When the girl nodded, he turned back to Forte. "Alright. I think we can begin. Please, tell us what happened."
Forte took a deep breath before he began to explain the battle.
"...and that's all I remember up until I went back to my PET."
As Forte finished recounting his fight with the Lord of Chaos, he looked around the room to gauge the various reactions. Yuuichirou had his face in his hands, almost as if he had expected something he didn't want to hear. Meiru had a hand over her mouth, frozen in shock. Enzan looked the calmest, but there was a trace of disbelief visible on his face.
Strangely enough, Rockman didn't look bothered in the slightest. He had nodded and frowned, but it was almost as if...he knew, somehow. That was the odd part to the black navi; he didn't know why, but he felt as if Rockman had been there, in some sort of strange way. It was one of the things he couldn't explain.
"So...both you and Netto were in sync so much that you temporarily became one being?" Yuuichirou asked. When Forte nodded, he bit back a groan. "I was afraid of that..."
"Is that even possible, Dr. Hikari?" Enzan then asked, unable to mask the concern on his face. He knew that synchronization at such a high level, if it was possible, would be extremely dangerous. "Because...if it was, it would explain his injuries..."
Meiru gasped in realization. "Their link?!" When the other two nodded, she bit her lip and looked back over to her friend. "Why does this keep happening to him?"
"That aside...I can't even imagine how high the synchronization was between you and Netto was," Yuuichirou continued, looking back over to Forte. "Even with Rockman, it never exceeded two hundred percent, and even that was dangerous in itself." The blue navi then nodded sadly, and Yuuichirou's face softened at the gesture. "But...if I have this right, this only happened when both you and Netto were attempting to absorb a powerful attack?"
"Well...it was his idea," the black navi protested as everyone stared at him again. "He was the one who thought up of using my GetAbility Program that way. I wasn't even sure if it would work."
"Trust him to come up with the most insane plans..." Enzan muttered as Meiru giggled beside him. "It does seem that it was successful, though."
As Forte nodded, Rockman looked thoughtful. "GetAbility Program..." he murmured in contemplation. One hand instinctively touched his emblem, almost as if he were trying to remember something. "But...I wonder if that's possible..."
"Rockman?" Yuuichirou asked softly, turning to the blue navi. "Is something wrong?"
Rockman nodded. "Well...when I was about to be deleted by the fake Colonel, I...I suddenly knew how to use something I didn't even know before," he confessed as he watched Forte's reaction carefully. It seemed that the black navi was catching on to what he was talking about, his eyes widening in shock. "I somehow managed to use an attack called 'Darkness Overload' to save myself. I've never seen it before, but I learned it, somehow..."
"That attack..." Forte gasped out as everyone stared in shock. "But...how?!"
Yuuichirou nodded to himself, almost as if he had been expecting that. "Forte, if I have this right, both you and Netto used the link and became one entity, even however briefly it was," he began, looking at both Forte and Rockman seriously. "This is only a theory, but...it's possible that, during that time you were, Rockman was unconsciously initiating a Soul Unison with you."
"But Papa, it didn't feel like one," Rockman protested, glancing at the still shocked Forte. "My symbol was glowing, and it kept burning...like it was getting hotter and hotter. It was almost like I was in Full Synchro too." He then paused, almost like he was uncertain he wanted to continue. "I also kept hearing fragmented voices in my head. It wasn't until I used that power that I realized it was Netto-kun's and Forte's voices...or fragmented parts of their memories."
The black navi turned towards Rockman, eyes wide. "Our memories...?" he whispered, disbelief evident across his face.
Enzan frowned. "So...it comes down to Netto's link with Forte again, doesn't it?" he asked softly, glancing at his friend. "I feel like it all keeps coming back to that."
Yuuichirou nodded. "If what Rockman is saying is true, then..." He stopped himself, looking between both Rockman and Forte as surprise crossed his face. "This...this is still only conjecture, but what if...what if, when Rockman was unconsciously using the Soul Unison ability, it did connect to Forte?" He stopped there as he got up, pacing around the room as he gathered his thoughts. Everyone watched him anxiously, unsure of where his explanation would go.
"But since Netto and Forte were one entity at that point, he also connected to Netto as well," the scientist continued, and Rockman gasped in surprise. "Maybe it was a remnant of his old link, but whatever happened, it connected all three of them. It's possible it could have been a simulation of the link between Netto and Forte."
"Is that why I heard their memories?" Rockman asked, blinking slowly as he tried to comprehend what happened. "But...what about that attack I did?"
"You connected to both Netto and Forte," Yuuichirou pointed out, scratching his chin as pieces started falling into place. "If I'm right, then when Forte's GetAbility Program worked, that data was communicated to you through that link, allowing you access to the abilities they gained."
"No way..." Meiru breathed as she looked at Rockman, who looked stunned. "If he was connected to both Netto and Forte, though...wouldn't that mean his link is back?" she asked in amazement, causing both Enzan and Yuuichirou to glance at her in surprise.
"I had the same thought as well," the official admitted as he crossed his arms. "I don't know the specifics of the link between them, but wouldn't they be reconnected if that happened?"
"No, the link is gone." Surprisingly, it had been Rockman who spoke up, smiling sadly at his statement. "I did feel Netto-kun's presence in that moment, and it was still there up until the moment we plugged out. I remember him speaking to both of us, but as soon as I plugged out, I couldn't hear him anymore."
"Wait. Until you plugged out?" Yuuichirou cut in, eyes wide. "Rockman, Netto was unresponsive right until then, and that was when he passed out. He couldn't have been talking to you." When Rockman stared at him in surprise, he knew he finally had the piece he needed. "You were definitely connected. He was speaking to both you and Forte at the same time, through the temporary link that had been established."
Forte looked down at his own navi emblem, his fingers tracing the scar that went through it. "I think that might be right," he murmured, closing his eyes as he tried to remember those feelings not that long ago. "I kept thinking that Rockman was with us... maybe it was just the flux of Netto-kun's memories, but I believed he was there too, and..."
"The attempted Soul Unison," the scientist finished, smiling sadly. "I think we can confirm that it actually happened now. And that means..." When he trailed off uncertainly, everyone looked at him expectantly, waiting for what he would say next. When Yuuichirou shook his head, they all sighed. "No, I shouldn't get ahead of myself. For now, I think this explanation should suffice."
There was a long silence between them all before Meiru spoke up, wanting to change the subject. "What happened, anyway? Who did all of this?"
"It was something that wasn't part of this world, real or cyber," Forte immediately answered, frowning to himself. "Something we should never have seen at all."
"Not of this world?" Enzan repeated, frowning as well. "Explain."
The black navi bristled slightly with the order, but complied. "I mean it was of the same force that had taken both me and Netto-kun to the other world," he growled out, eyes narrowing at that particular memory.
Everyone's eyes widened in shock. "You mean...a god?" Yuuichirou asked in disbelief, his thoughts coming to a screeching halt. When Forte nodded, he paled. "What was it doing there, of all places...?"
"I wouldn't even call it a god. It was...or rather, it called itself the embodiment of chaos," the black navi explained. "It said that when we were taken to the other world, it had managed to free itself in the confusion. But once we beat it down, it was sealed away again. It won't be back to bother us."
"Embodiment of chaos...hmm. That would make sense, considering the amount of chaotic energy that filled the Ura Net," Yuuichirou muttered to himself, quickly getting over his surprise. "I had wondered why we never saw anything like this before, but...I suppose it would explain that particular problem."
"It would also explain why all those navis went insane, and why they all stopped," Enzan added. "Meiru and I both observed them all going offline at the same time, so I suspect their connection with that energy was severed somehow."
Meiru hummed in thought before turning to Roll, who had been listening silently up to that point. "What did that navi say, Roll? Something about...a god?" she inquired, trying to remember what exactly was said.
"He said something about the 'God of Destruction'," Roll replied, shivering as she remembered the eerie scene. "That's all he kept saying."
"Additionally, there have been reports about other Ura Net navis repeating the same thing," Blues cut in, relaying info from reports he brought up. "It seems that a massive power feedback from that energy fried all of their logic programs."
Forte closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "The God of Destruction...that was what we called ourselves," he chuckled to himself. Everyone turned towards him as they realized what he was saying. "Both Netto-kun and I...when we went into Full Synchro, I could feel the immense power he brought with him. When we merged...I think that's when we truly were the God of Destruction."
Yuuichirou froze in his seat. "All that power...just from a Full Synchro?" he choked out. The power that had been unleashed had taken out half the computers in the room they had been working in, as well as cancelled out the effect the chaotic energy had been having on the Ura Net. "Incredible...for the link to strengthen you so much..."
Forte rubbed the back of his head. "Heh. I'm good, aren't I?" he grinned before he realized what he was doing, turning away in embarrassment again. "Uh...yeah. Thanks."
Enzan and Meiru blinked. That gesture was very much like Netto, and seeing the black navi do the same thing unnerved them.
"Well, er, anyway," Yuuichirou coughed, trying to turn away attention from the black navi. "I think that's as much as we can discuss at the moment. Both Rockman and Forte need to rest, and we can't really speculate on Netto's condition without more information from the doctor."
Everyone nodded, but Rockman still had one more thing he needed to address. "Papa, about the Soul Unison theory you had..." he began tentatively, looking unsure about what he was about to ask. "Can...can we talk about that later? With Forte?" The black navi glanced at him in surprise, but said nothing.
Yuuichirou smiled. "Of course. For now...both of you need to rest. You certainly look like you need it."
Both navis nodded, and not even a second later, their PETs switched off.
Meiru let off a sigh she didn't know she had been holding. "Dr. Hikari...Netto will be alright, won't he?" she asked. Most of what was being talked about was confusing to her, but it didn't take away the worry of something being terribly wrong. "I mean...Forte is fine, so Netto should be too, right?"
When the scientist didn't answer, Enzan spoke up. "Dr. Hikari, he is going to be alright, isn't he?" he asked a bit more intensely, the dreadful feeling from earlier coming up again. "Everything we were talking about the link...it shouldn't have done anything beyond physical damage, right?"
Yuuichirou frowned, staring at his unconscious son. "It...isn't the link itself I'm worried about," he let out, turning to face Enzan. "Rather...it's the part where they had been merged."
"Where they were merged...?" Enzan asked before he went pale, quickly turning to look at Forte's PET. He then turned back to Netto and paled further. "You're don't mean...!"
Meiru followed Enzan's gaze in confusion, watching as the official looked stricken. "Enzan? What are you talking about?"
When Enzan didn't answer her, Yuuichirou sighed. "Meiru-chan, did you notice Forte acting a bit...differently?" he asked as gently as he could.
The girl nodded. "I did, but I don't see–" She immediately stopped and went pale herself, whipping around to stare at Netto. "No way. You're serious...?!"
The scientist nodded grimly. "I might not know until we actually get more information, but...Netto is more than likely going through the same thing Forte is. And there's nothing we can do about it."
No one was able to say anything. All the three remaining in the room could do was watch Netto, unable to do anything more.
He was alone.
He didn't know how long he had been alone, but it never mattered in the end. He was alone and he would remain alone.
"What happened?" he asked himself. "Why am I here?"
He wouldn't receive any answer, of course. He was alone.
He silently trudged on through the darkness, unable to perceive beyond the dark veil, unable to hear whatever was trying to call for him. But whatever did, he did not care; he savored the silence he found himself in.
Had it always been this way, he wondered? Just him and the oppressive void before him? If there had been anything before, he would have known about it, he imagined.
If he had known anything before...maybe he would know who he was.
Netto-kun, are you alright?!
He winced. There was that voice again.
Forte, you have become a threat to the entire human race. You must be destroyed!
Gritting his teeth, he pressed on through the darkness. He didn't know what these voices were, but he couldn't care less. He was no one...he was alone.
Netto, you're not alone!
He paused, considering the voice. "I'm not alone?" he mused, closing his eyes slowly. "What a joke. I've always been alone..."
Why did you reject me? I thought...I thought you were my father...
"Rejected...?" he wondered, wincing as the voices began to increase in volume. "Was I...rejected too...?"
We're partners, Netto-kun! I'll protect you!
"Protect me? From what? From who?!" he snarled, not knowing what the voices were talking about. "I...I'm alone! There is nothing to protect me from!"
...I will have my vengeance. Those humans...will regret letting me live.
Vengeance. Something about that sparked something in him. "Do I want revenge?" he asked himself. Was there something he was trying to do? "Who am I...?"
Hikari Netto, Sixth Grade, operator of Rockman. It's a pleasure to meet you.
"Hikari Netto..." he whispered. Something about that seemed familiar. "Is that who I am?"
You are the God of Destruction, Forte. I will not tolerate your presence within my domain.
A surge of anger shot through him. "Forte..." he murmured, the name familiar on his lips. "The God of Destruction, huh...? I wonder..."
He didn't know who he was. The moment after the pain ended, he was here, wandering the darkness alone. Moments stretched out into hours and days of wandering, unsure of his existence. Even with these random flashes of memory, they never told him anything.
He held up his hand to examine it. A normal, human-looking hand. If he concentrated enough, however, he would sometimes see the faint outline of a white-gloved hand around his own. It was as if his entire body didn't know what shape it was.
But there was one sense he got from the vision. Every time he saw the white-gloved hand, he felt something resound deep within him. It was like pure power waiting to be grasped, wanting to be used.
"Power..." he whispered, flexing his hand as he continued staring at it. "That might be...the only thing left."
He felt a mad grin tug at his lips. Maybe...maybe if he stayed here, he would know why he reacted this way. Maybe he would be able to gain more power.
Somehow, that thought both excited and terrified him, and he didn't know why.
Forte woke up with a jolt, one hand going up to his emblem as an odd feeling passed through him. "What was that?" he murmured to himself as he prepared to turn the PET back on. A sudden feeling of apprehension gripped him, but he didn't know why.
As the screen turned back on, he noticed it had been quite some time since he had been asleep; it was quite late if the PET's clock was anything to go by. Despite that, it seemed that mostly everyone was still in the room, all of them listening in rapt attention to someone else.
"...unfortunately, we can't conclude anything definitive with these scans," someone had said, presumably the doctor. "It's like all he's doing is sleeping."
"And that was all the scans found, doctor?" came Yuuichirou's voice. "Are you sure you didn't find anything wrong?"
"None whatsoever. As I said before, your son's condition is baffling us."
"I see...thank you, doctor."
After a few more minutes of talking, he heard the doctor walk out, closing the door behind him. That was odd, Forte thought. It was almost like the scientist had expected the results. He knew Netto's father had a sharp mind, but did he really know something about his operator's condition before even the doctor did?
He thought back to the odd feeling he got when he woke up. Something told him he knew what it was, but he also knew that he wouldn't like what Yuuichirou would have to say. Deciding to remain silent for the moment, he looked around the room as best he could from his position.
Yuuichirou and Haruka were standing beside Netto's bed, both of them looking worried but remaining strong. Enzan was also near him, talking to Blues in a low voice. Meiru was dozing off in a chair against the wall. Dekao and Yaito were next to her, apparently discussing something of interest.
His operator still hadn't woken up. The moment he looked at Netto, a strange sort of pang echoed through him, and it hurt in a way that he couldn't describe. There was something that was bothering him, something that telling him that something was wrong with his operator, but he didn't know what.
"Forte," he heard Rockman whisper from beside him, and he glanced at the blue navi's PET out of the corner of his eye. "Are you getting the feeling something's wrong too?"
"Yeah...I can't tell what, though," he murmured back. The fact that Rockman was keeping his voice low was to avoid attacting attention meant that the blue navi felt something was amiss. "Good to know I'm not the only one."
He silenced as soon as he heard Yuuichirou sigh loudly, gaining the attention of everyone in the room. "As you all heard, the doctors do not have an idea of what's wrong with him...or rather, they can't find anything wrong with him," he began, his gaze not leaving Netto's face. "Because of this, we have no idea when he'll wake up."
Forte felt dread creep into him, but steadied himself. There was something being left unsaid, and he would find it out.
"But, Dr. Hikari..." Yaito spoke up, looking subdued. "Maybe they can't pinpoint what it is without extensive tests? Maybe if we wait..."
"If there was something keeping him like this, the doctors would have found it already," Enzan retorted, looking up from his conversation with Blues. "No, what's keeping him like this is...something else."
Something else? Forte thought, confused. His gaze shifted back to the scientist, who gave no reaction to Enzan's explanation. He was certain that Netto's father knew something, but he still didn't know what it was. He absentmindedly grasped his emblem with his hand, unconsciously seeking Netto's support.
"What is this 'something' you guys keep talking about?" Dekao groused. "Why are you so intent on hiding it? If there's something we can do to help...!"
"It's not like we're trying to hide anything, Dekao-kun," Haruka gently chided, making the larger boy quiet down. "But I don't think explaining it any further will help. The most we can do at the moment is be here and hope he wakes up."
Meiru held back a yawn as she sat up straighter, rubbing her tired eyes. "Don't you think we should tell Rockman and Forte what's going on? This concerns them most of all...so I don't think we should be dancing around the issue."
"You're right," the scientist conceded. "I just have to find the right way to tell them..."
Forte glanced at Rockman, who nodded back in acknowledgement. Apparently he had grown tired of being left out of the conversation as well.
"And exactly what..."
"...did you want to tell us?"
Everyone sputtered in shock when they heard both of them, all of them stepping back from the sight of two glowering and upset navis.
"Rockman, Forte...are you two feeling better?" Haruka asked cheerfully, although she was cowed a bit at the intense stare both of them were leveling everyone with.
"Papa, I think it's time you told us what's going on." Rockman's words came out pleasantly, but the edge in his tone along with the hard look in his eyes betrayed his anger. "Now."
Yuuichirou looked over at Forte, who was also glaring angrily at him, before sighing in defeat. "Alright. I suppose you were going to find out anyway, but..."
"Just tell us what's wrong with Netto-kun," the black navi snapped, his patience fraying.
"I'll get right to the point, then." Yuuichirou took a deep breath and then stared directly at Forte, who met his gaze evenly. "Forte, you said that when you were merged into one with Netto, you could feel everything he could?" The black navi nodded, unsure of what the scientist was getting at. "When you separated, you also said everything was still clear to you, even an hour or so after the battle?"
"Well, yeah, but where are you going with...this...?" The answer hit him as soon as those words left his mouth, his eyes widening in horror. "Oh no...Netto-kun!"
Yuuichirou nodded grimly, watching as Rockman came to the same conclusion, dread sweeping in on the blue navi's face. "Just as all of his memories were clear to you during that moment, so are yours to him. The strain of Full Synchro along with that might have been too much for him."
Forte shook his head violently. "He's strong! He won't let my memories rule over him!" he protested, clenching his fists so hard that it felt like he would tear right through his gloves. "He'll...he's going to be alright!"
"I don't doubt he's strong. He's my son," Yuuichirou agreed with a sad smile on his face. "But the fact remains that something is keeping him from waking up. It isn't anything physical, which leads me to believe..." The scientist hesitated for a moment, almost as if he was trying to decide on how to phrase the next thing he said. "I think it has to do with your link, Forte."
The black navi froze, unable to move or even think. "M-my link...it's doing this to him?" he finally whispered, staring at his operator in shock. "I..."
"He didn't say that, Forte," Haruka spoke up, walking over to stare the navi in the face. "He said that his current condition is related to it, not the cause. I think what's left is to figure out what to do."
"But, Mama," Forte protested, not caring at how he addressed the woman. "Why is it doing this to him? I never wanted this to happen! So why?!"
"Forte..." Rockman murmured, glancing at his operator again before addressing Yuuichirou. "Do you have any ideas on how to help, Papa?"
"At the moment, all I can think of is having him brought into the Science Labs for more detailed examinations, but...that might not help at all," the scientist admitted, much to the consternation of everyone in the room. "I'm sure I can think of something, but right now...I can't think of a single good idea."
Forte breathed in heavily, his mind racing for any sort of clue on how to help Netto. "If this was a fight, I could deal with this easily," he hissed, closing his eyes in disgust at himself. "But, once again, I'm powerless to help the one person I care about above all else. What...what can I do?!"
Could he even do anything? What could he do to help his operator? If only he could reach him with his voice...!
We will fight together.
The brief memory jolted him out of his despair. "That was...!" he gasped, recognizing his operator's voice.
Forte, you aren't alone anymore! I WILL FIGHT BY YOUR SIDE!
"...yeah, you did, Netto," he whispered, a small smile on his face. "We fought together."
If anything happened to you or Rockman...I don't know what I'd do. Both of you are so important to me...
He instantly knew what the memory was. In the moments where he could do nothing but watch the Lord of Chaos prepare its final attack, Netto had come to him. He remembered their conversation in that starry expanse, where they both reaffirmed their companionship.
Netto believed in him. And he still believed in him. That was why he was going to save his operator.
And he wouldn't fight alone.
"Papa," he spoke up, unaware of everyone's eyes staring at him. "Was the Full Synchro Netto-kun entered unusual in any way?"
The scientist was taken off-guard by the question. "He was catatonic ever since he entered it," he answered, not seeing where Forte was going with the question. "Why?"
"Is that common for operators who enter that state?" the black navi then asked.
Yuuichirou hesitated. "To be honest...not many operators actually do enter Full Synchro. The number of people I know who could do that can be counted on one hand."
Forte nodded, having expected that answer. "Is it possible that a navi can initiate Full Synchro with their operator instead of the other way around?"
At that point, Yuuichirou figured out what the black navi was planning and paled at the implications. "Forte, you can't!" he said quickly, earning a glare from the navi. "Well, I mean, it is possible theoretically, but it's extremely dangerous for both of you!"
"Netto-kun is my operator," Forte retorted. "And I his navi. I will go to any lengths to ensure he is safe." He then turned to face Rockman, who was watching him with an expectant look on his face. "Rockman...I need your help to do this. I can't do this alone...please, help me," he pleaded.
Rockman smiled. "Of course. I'd help you in an instant," he chuckled. "Mama, could you please link me into Forte's PET?"
Haruka gasped in shock. "Rockman, Forte..." she whispered before nodding. A few moments later, and the blue navi materialized next to Forte, both of them looking determined.
"Rockman, you too?" Yuuichirou asked, looking pained. "But...the link..."
"Papa, did you forget?" the blue navi asked, smiling slightly. "When Forte and I connected through that Soul Unison, I was connected to Netto-kun as well. That got me thinking...if Forte and I commune our souls, then I will be connected to Netto-kun too. That way we can be linked."
"And it should work," Forte finished for the blue navi. "That way, both of us can get through to him. We can bring him back."
"Rockman, Forte, wait a minute!" Enzan finally spoke up, having had enough of listening. "You need to think about this! What you're thinking about doing is untested and could harm the both of you! If something goes wrong...!"
"But we can't bear to see Netto-kun in pain," Forte interrupted, turning to face the blue navi. "Rockman, you ready?"
"You only need to say the word," Rockman responded with a grin as his symbol began to glow. Forte felt his own do the same, heat pooling into his chest as his symbol pulsed with white light. "Let's go, Forte!"
"Right!" They would save Netto-kun. They would bring him back.
"Rockman, Forte! Wait!" Yuuichirou cried, but they couldn't hear him.
"FULL SYNCHRO!" both of them cried, and the next thing he knew was blinding white light.
A sudden pain to his chest made him stop his wandering, making him clutch it in obvious pain.
"What...what is this...burning sensation...?" he choked out. This pain...where had he felt this before?
The agony of the slash across his chest, scarring him permanently–
He looked down at his chest, gingerly touching the area around it. There was...a marking on his shirt, but...it was almost the same...
Crawling through the depths of the Ura Net, struggling to survive–
The pain in his chest seemed to double upon that thought. "Is this...who I am?" he asked himself, gazing at his hands again. He could see the outline of the white glove over them, as well as the power that came with it.
"Yes...I think it might be," he muttered. He could feel it; there was an untapped power within him that was straining to get loose. It was the one thing that made sense in this place, where darkness surrounded him eternally. It was the only thing that he knew.
Power is everything.
"That's right," he agreed, grinning to himself. "It's the only thing that matters."
No! There's more to life than just power!
He paused. What was that voice?
I won't let you hurt anyone! I'll protect everyone!
"What...is this...?" he gasped out, the pain increasing. "This...loathsome memory?"
He didn't understand. There were other things besides power? But what? What would he need to protect other than himself?
What...what were these memories?
He glanced up in surprise, two figures emerging from the darkness. One was wearing a cloak while the other was a deep shade of blue. As soon as he saw them, his head throbbed.
How long have we been on the road like this, Forte?
I believe in you, Netto-kun.
Rockman, take him down! Battle routine, set!
You're a lot stronger than I thought, human.
Forte, let's go back together.
His head felt like it was going to split. What was going on?!
"Netto-kun," the cloaked one said as it began to walk up to him. "You're fine now. We're here."
Who were these people? Why did he feel like he knew them? Why were they here?!
"S-stop!" he shouted, and both of them froze where they were. "Don't come any closer. I'll destroy you where you stand."
Both of them glanced at each other in surprise before the cloaked one nodded slowly. "I knew it. My memories caused this..."
"Don't blame yourself. We'll rescue him," the blue one said gently before turning back to him. "Netto-kun..."
Something inside him snapped. "Stop calling me that!" he raged, rearing back his hand on instinct. He could feel power course through him, and he felt something gather in his fist as he called upon it. Both of the figures before him stepped back in shock as they saw it. "Just go away! Leave me be!"
The cloaked one blinked before his features softened. "I can't do that, Netto-kun."
"I said to stop calling me that!" he roared, the energy becoming more intense. "I told you to leave!"
The cloaked figure stepped closer, almost daringly so. He raged at the impertinence and willed the power in his arm to attack the figure, but he was shocked to find that he couldn't move it at all. "I can't attack...?" he gasped in disbelief, staring at his arm.
"Because you know me," the cloaked one explained, nearly face to face with him. "Because I know you would never attack me willingly. Your memories and mine are probably one jumbled mess right now, aren't they?"
How did this stranger know him so completely? How? Why did he feel so famliar? He didn't understand! What was going on?!
"Who...who are you?!" he choked out in dismay. He felt the power in his arm disperse and he couldn't understand why. "Why are you doing this?!"
The cloaked one looked at him sadly. "I'm sorry for this, Netto-kun. My memories should have never been this bad for you...but we're here to help you now. You're not alone."
You're not alone.
You're not alone.
You're not alone.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE.
He screamed, clutching at his head. He could remember that! He remembered saying that to this person! But when?! And why?!
"Look at me, Netto-kun," the cloaked one demanded, forcing his eyes to meet his. "Remember me. I know it's difficult, but you're stronger than this. Remember me, and everything we went through!"
It hurt. The pain was too much. All of the memories pulsing through him, and all the rage associated with them. It felt like the world was blurring around him, the omnipresent darkness giving way to something else.
But he couldn't look away from the red eyes of the cloaked one. Something about it...something in those eyes told him that he knew this person.
I will have my revenge on you, Cossack.
This cloaked person...were these his memories?
Humans...how pathetic. There's nothing worth saving in a world populated by them.
They...they did seem familiar...
You thought to use me, you foolish human?! I will destroy you if it's the last thing I do!
This voice...he knew it. He knew who this was.
"Forte..." he muttered, and the cloaked figure smiled. "You're...Forte. I remember that..."
"Good. You remember me," Forte said as he sighed in relief. "Focus, Netto-kun. You have to regain yourself."
"Regain myself...?" he repeated in confusion. What was there to regain? The person in front of him, the one called Forte...these were his memories. He knew that.
He also knew what had to be done.
"Forte...the humans must pay," he growled, and he saw Forte gasp in shock. "What they did to you is unforgivable. We will destroy them!"
The cloaked figure shook his head vehemently. "No! Netto-kun, that's not what I want. That's not what you want!" Forte stressed, frowning heavily. "Those are merely memories that aren't yours talking. Memories that you've already conquered!"
Had he conquered these before? He couldn't remember, but...
I can't leave a friend in pain. I'll do whatever I must to help them.
He didn't know whose memory that was, but he knew it had to be true. He had to help Forte.
"They will die," he hissed, his eyes narrowing. "I will take vengeance for both of us!"
"Netto-kun, no!" Forte cried as he grasped his shoulders and shook him roughly. "That's not what you want! Remember who you are! You are not me—you are not the God of Destruction! You are Hikari Netto, my operator!"
Why did that name make his head hurt?! Did it really matter who he was at this point? All he knew was that the humans had to pay. The ones that had hurt him and Forte had to die. He would find them and destroy them, all until no one was left.
As he was consumed with his thoughts, he distantly watched as Forte turned around, addressing the blue figure not that far away from them. "Rockman...please, help me. I can't do it...he won't listen to me alone. I need your help!"
"Don't worry. We'll bring him back together," the other figure reassured him as he stepped closer to him. "Netto-kun, you have to listen to us. You're not yourself."
He stared into the green eyes of this figure, and just like before, there was a strong feeling of familiarity with him. "You..." he gasped out, his head throbbing in pain. "Who are you...?"
The blue figure smiled. "I know you can remember me, Netto-kun. It might be difficult with yours and Forte's memories jumbled like this, but remember who you are. That's the only way you can overcome this!"
That face...that voice...how did he know them? It felt like he should know who he was, but the pain was just so much...
His power surged through him as an unknown hatred gripped his being, dark energy coursing through his arms. "I don't know you...but..." He then raised his arms, alarming the two in front of him. "My whole body is telling me to destroy you!"
"Netto-kun! STOP!" Forte shouted, moving to intervene as the energy reached its peak, but was stopped by Rockman holding his arm out to stop him. "What are you doing, Rockman?! Get out of the way!"
"Die!" he yelled, hoping that the figure in front of him would disappear as soon as he was done. "Darkness Overload!"
He brought his arms down, the energy in his hands crackling and waiting to be unleashed–
"Is this what you truly want, Netto-kun?" the blue figure asked sadly, and he felt his whole body freeze. His arms refused to move yet again, the energy dissipating harmlessly. "If you want to destroy me so badly...so be it. But...once you do so, will you be satisfied?"
...would he be satisfied? He didn't know. All he knew was the urge to destroy, starting with the one who had thwarted his search for power. All he wanted was to protect Forte!
"The only thing that you will seek is more destruction," Forte then said quietly, his eyes boring into his own. "You will destroy and destroy, and then there will be nothing left. I left that path because of what happened to us, and we will not let you fall into that spiral of self-destruction."
His eyes widened at that revelation. Would he only be able to do as Forte said, just do nothing but destroy? That...that wasn't what he wanted...
I'll protect my friends! I won't let you harm them!
Rockman, I'm with you all the way! Let's get 'em!
...let's be friends! Starting now!
No...these weren't Forte's memories. Whose were they...?
"Netto-kun," the blue figure then said, stepping forward once more. He tried to move back, but his body wouldn't respond for some reason. "Please...this isn't you. Destruction isn't what you want. You want to live together, with the both of us."
"Together? With...both of you..." he whispered, closing his eyes. He remembered something like that. But where...?
"You have fought incredibly hard to protect both of us. Just as Forte said, you're not alone, Netto-kun," the blue figure continued, his green eyes moistening a bit. "I want you to come back to us. I'm asking this as both your navi and your brother!"
He wouldn't let him die.
His eyes widened. "Rockman...Saito..." he breathed, watching as the blue figure nodded happily. "I remember...!"
It felt like something shattered within him, and he finally felt like he could recognize who he was.
The memories flowed freely, but there was no pain this time. He could see himself clearly.
Rockman and Forte were with him, both having overcome many trials to reach him. He remembered now!
"I am...Hikari Netto! My memories and my will are my own!"
With that recognition, he felt the darkness around him lift, and the twinkling stars met his sight.
"Netto-kun..." Rockman whispered as the darkness disappeared around them. "Thank goodness...he's alright."
Forte nodded, looking away to rub at his eyes. "I've never felt this scared before," he admitted, chuckling to himself. Even now he felt his body tremble in relief. "If...if he gave in to my memories, I don't know what I would have done...the thought of it terrifies me."
"And me as well," the blue navi added. "But...his will is strong. He just had to be reminded that he has two partners that he can count on."
"I can always count on both of you," Netto agreed, startling the two navis. The boy made to get up, but both Rockman and Forte put a hand on his shoulders to prevent him from standing. He gave them a weak grin in thanks before he sighed. "Thanks. Both of you. I truly mean it."
The two navis only nodded, neither of them daring to speak.
"I wandered through here for a long time," Netto continued, smiling wryly as he stared at the star-filled sky. "I guess...shortly after Forte and I separated after merging, my mind couldn't take the flow of memories. That's why I came here, but...all I knew was darkness. I couldn't tell what memory was what, or what they even were."
"That's what Papa figured out," Forte murmured, prompting Netto to look at him. "The same thing happened to me. Your memories were so clear to me that I couldn't help but mimic you. It was like you were speaking through me, even though it was only your memores in my head," he said with a smile.
"Forte..." Netto trailed off, unsure of what he wanted to say next. "It's weird, isn't it? We were thrown together so suddenly, and now...I can't even imagine what life would be like without you in it." He then closed his eyes, sniffling a bit. "Just thinking about everything you've gone through...it hurts. I know there was no way I could have done anything to help you, but..."
Forte shook his head, one hand grasping his operator's. "Just you saying that is enough for me," he replied, a small smile on his face. "The memories still do hurt, even now. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully trust humans ever again. But...Netto-kun, thanks to you, I'm moving past that. I might not be able to let the past rest completely, but I'm ready to start moving on."
"Glad to hear that," Netto chuckled before he turned his gaze to Rockman, who was watching him with a mixture of relief and resignation. "Rockman...I never doubted you would come here."
"It took me a long time, didn't it?" the blue navi asked in amusement. "But I'm here now. I'm sorry for making you wait so long for me, Netto-kun."
Netto shook his head. "You don't have anything to apologize for, Rockman," he rebuked. "I'm the one who should be asking for your forgiveness. I never realized that the link between Forte and I was making you miserable, and I never even addressed it with you. I never meant to put you through that, and I never wanted you to feel like you were unimportant."
Rockman took in a heavy breath. "So you heard us talking..." he murmured, sighing when Netto nodded. "Netto-kun...it was hard for me to accept it. One day we were connected, and the next it felt like we were total strangers. I...I couldn't stand feeling that way," the blue navi admitted, looking away from both Netto and Forte. "I kept wishing things would go back to normal. I couldn't stand being around Forte, because he was only a reminder of what we once had. I kept telling myself that something was up with him, and he was only with you out of obligation..."
"Rockman..." Forte whispered, but Netto squeezed his hand to stop him from speaking further.
"It wasn't until we talked down there that it really hit me," Rockman continued, chuckling bitterly. "I was the one being selfish. Never once did it cross my mind that Forte wanted to protect you because he wanted to, because it was easier to pretend he hadn't changed at all." The blue navi took a deep breath and looked back at Netto, who was startled to see tears brimming in his eyes. "That's why, Netto-kun, I should be the one asking for both yours and Forte's forgiveness. I was the one who caused both of you pain, because I was too busy lying to myself."
"You're such an idiot," Forte grumbled, looking away. "I already told you that I would have done the same thing in your position."
Netto chuckled. "He's right, you know," he pointed out, placing a hand on Rockman's shoulder. "I don't blame you for feeling that way. But if it makes you feel any better...we can just let bygones be bygones. We've all messed up in one way or another, so why don't we just move past that?"
Rockman blinked, a few tears rolling down his face as his operator grinned widely. "Netto-kun...thank you. I won't let it happen again! I promise!"
Netto nodded as the three sat down near each other, just taking the time to admire their surroundings. Even though all three realized that they didn't know exactly where they were, they knew enough that it connected them. Just that knowledge was enough for them.
"Rockman, Forte...I'm glad I have you guys," Netto whispered, grasping both of their hands. "We'll face the future together."
Forte smiled. "Of course. Our enemies will fear our names," he promised, smirking as Rockman flashed a quick smile at him. "I'm with you guys all the way."
"I agree with Forte," Rockman added. "I think we're more than partners now, don't you think so, Netto-kun?"
Netto laughed. "Of course!" he exclaimed, turning to face the blue navi. His eyes softened as he reached out to trace Rockman's emblem, blinking away a few tears. "Welcome back, Rockman. I missed you."
Rockman smiled. "I did too, Netto-kun. I won't let either of you down again."
"You'd better not," Forte muttered, but he couldn't help but smile at the happiness his operator was showing.
After a few long moments, Netto looked up and sighed. "I think it's time we got going. Everyone's waiting."
"Papa and Enzan were in a real panic," Forte commented, chuckling as he imagined their faces. "Did they really think that the danger of initiating a Full Synchro ourselves would stop us?"
"Well, they both worry a lot," Rockman pointed out. "But I don't think it'd be nice to keep them worrying any further. Let's go back, Netto-kun, Forte."
The operator smiled. "Yeah. We're going back together."
He reached out and grasped their hands one last time before their surroundings faded, their forms vanishing as they went back to their real bodies.
Netto groaned as he sat up, his body feeling oddly heavy. "Ugh...what hit me?" he groaned as he shook his head, blinking rapidly as the lights seared into his vision.
The boy didn't know who said that, but in the next moment someone had grabbed his shoulder and forced him back down onto the bed, causing him to protest indignantly. "Hey, watch it!" he groused as his vision began to clear up. "Is this how you treat patients?"
"It's how idiots like you get treated for causing everyone to nearly have a heart-attack," a dry voice said to his left, although it sounded strained. "You really need to stop doing this, Netto."
The brunette grinned. "Nice to hear that you were really worried about me, Enzan."
Enzan scoffed, but his face softened as he stepped aside, letting everyone else crowd around him.
"Netto!" Dekao crowed as he stepped up, rubbing his knuckles roughly over his scalp. "You're finally awake!"
"Are you trying to knock him back unconscious, Dekao?" Yaito snapped, getting a scowl from the larger boy. "But seriously. Netto, listen to Enzan! We're all going to get white hairs from worrying about you all the time!"
Netto gingerly rubbed the area Dekao had brushed over, chuckling weakly. "I'll try. Thanks for worrying about me, guys." He then heard a sniff from the other side of him, and when he looked over, he saw Meiru with tears running down her cheeks. "Meiru-chan..."
"You big idiot!" she cried, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. "You always do this! You always risk your life and you always end up worrying us when we can't do anything to help!" she sobbed, causing Netto to frown. "I can't stand seeing you hurt like this...I'm always afraid something will happen, and then you'll be...gone!"
"Meiru-chan...I won't go anywhere. I'm still alive," Netto grinned. Meiru glared at him before swallowing her next sob, giving him a shaky smile. "I'm sorry for worrying you. I'll try not to do that in the future."
"You'd better not..." she muttered in response. "I'll hold you to that."
Sighing, he looked up to see his parents at the foot of the bed, both of them looking relieved. "Mama, Papa...I'm back. Again."
"Netto..." Haruka whispered, her eyes watering. "Welcome back."
"You worried all of us," Yuuichirou then said, looking like he was about to cry himself. "You really scared me, Netto." He then rubbed his eyes, laughing slightly. "What you did went beyond anything I had ever expected. I've been racking my brain for any way to help you, and I couldn't come up with anything!"
Netto bowed his head. "Mama, Papa, I'm sorry. I didn't want to worry you guys like this," he apologized, looking up to stare them in the face. "I'm fine now, though. I've regained myself through all of this."
"You've 'regained yourself'?" Enzan inquired, looking curious at his choice of phrasing. Everyone else also leaned in, looking interested in what was going on. "We know that Forte's memories were integrated with your own, but what do you mean by that?"
"I was lost within a sea of my memories," he answered simply. "I didn't know who I was, or which memories were which. You could say I was just wandering through the darkness alone."
Yuuichirou frowned as he considered that. "That sounds more spiritual than anything else," he remarked as others in the room nodded. "It's safe to say that none of this was ever thought of, even when yours and Rockman's link had been conceived." The scientist then sighed, shaking his head in amusement. "However, you and Forte have broken through many things thought impossible already, so I suppose it's not that hard to swallow."
"Not just me and Forte, Papa," Netto spoke up. "Rockman too. He's linked with me and Forte now."
Everyone's eyes widened. "A three-way link?" Enzan gasped, looking over to where the PETs were. "...you really have to make everything difficult, don't you Netto?"
"It wouldn't be the same if he didn't," Meiru replied, causing all of his friends to chuckle.
"Yeah, yeah, I love you guys too," Netto mumbled. "Speaking of which, are Rockman and Forte awake? I want to see if they're alright."
"About that, Netto-san..." Blues's voice spoke up from Forte's PET. "There's something very...er...peculiar about them at the moment."
Netto's eyes narrowed. He didn't like the sound of that. "What do you mean?" he asked sharply.
"Well, erm..." came Roll's voice from Rockman's PET. "I think the Soul Unison went a bit...uh, differently than intended?"
"Papa, can I see them?" Netto then asked. When his father hesitated, he frowned again. "Okay, enough already. Just bring them over to me!"
The scientist sighed. "Alright, alright. Hold on," he said as he walked over to where the PETs were, picking them up as he nodded to the navis inside. "Netto, you might want to brace yourself."
Confused, the boy took both PETs in his hands as he looked into the screens, rearing back in surprise as he finally saw what had everyone nervous. "Whoa!" he exclaimed, eyes wide.
"Good to see you're up, Netto-kun," Forte grumbled, looking down at himself. He was now wearing a blue and black bodysuit, and his helmet's fins had shortened and retracted into a sleeker looking helmet. A red visor covered his eyes, and the busters on his arms seemed to be thicker than usual. While his cloak remained, it wasn't spared from the color change as it became a pure white. "I look ridiculous. Ugh."
"Here to enjoy our new Soul Unison?" Rockman asked wryly as Netto turned to him. If Forte had looked like some strange amalgamation of Rockman and himself, then Rockman himself looked more like Forte. A black and purple bodysuit covered him with silver-colored boots and gloves, along with wicked blades attached to the gauntlets. A black mouthguard covered his lower jaw while his helmet was a close match with Forte's original one. "Feels really weird, though. It's not like a normal one..." he muttered, fidgeting with the scarf-like extension wrapped around his neck.
Netto stared at both of them before he snickered, trying to hide a smirk. "Wow. What the hell happened to you two?" he let out before he laughed, a grin coming to his face. "Looks great on you guys, though!"
"Speak for yourself!" the two navis cried indignantly, which made the boy laugh harder.
Yuuichirou scratched his head as he watched his son guffaw. "You don't seem particularly bothered by this, Netto," he remarked in amusement as the boy began to calm down. "Once again, though...you seem to take the impossible in stride."
Netto rubbed at his eyes, wiping away his tears of laughter. "Why should I be bothered?" he asked as he smiled brightly. "The fact that they look like that is the proof of our link. If anything, I'm incredibly happy!"
"Proof of your link?" Meiru repeated as Dekao and Yaito looked at each other in confusion. "Oh, I get it! Because of the Soul Unison..."
"Correct. The Soul Unison between Rockman and Forte seems to have linked Rockman to both Netto and Forte, and vice-versa," Yuuichirou explained, observing the new forms of the two navis. "Now that I think about it...since Rockman had gained access to Forte's GetAbility Program through their first attempt, it would make sense for Forte to gain Rockman's Soul Unison ability when the link was established."
"Is that what this is?" Forte asked, looking back down at himself distastefully. In all fairness, he could feel the added power from Rockman flowing through him, but it didn't mean he liked the way he looked. "Please tell me there's a way to switch this off, Papa."
The scientist chuckled. "There should be. In any case, I think those forms came about because you two shared parts of your core data with each other...it should be a simple matter to switch them to an inactive state. I'll have to examine it later." He then turned back to Netto, a serious expression on his face. "I don't think I need to tell you the dangers of having a link like this, Netto. You and your navis must be very careful from now on...or we'll find ourselves here again."
The boy nodded. "I will, Papa," he said solemnly.
There was a long moment of silence as everyone considered what had just happened before Haruka cleared her throat. "Now that Netto's awake, I think I'll go inform the doctor," she said as he moved towards the door. "He'll more than likely want to check if there are any complications."
"Think you can convince him that I can go home soon, Mama?" Netto asked hopefully, cringing when the woman fixed him with a stern glare before she left. "Fine, fine, I'll stay! Jeez."
"Don't even try and get out of it either," Enzan muttered to him, linking Blues back into his own PET as the navi began to compile information for their next report. "Just lie back and be patient, for once in your life. You just had an identity crisis and now you want to get up and go about things like it's normal?"
"I was joking, Enzan," Netto groaned, rolling his eyes as his friend scoffed again. "But...thanks for worrying about me. It's good to know that you aren't a jerk all the time." He heard his friends laugh as Enzan grunted and looked away, a slight blush tinting his cheeks.
"He's right though, Netto. You should rest for once," Meiru cut in. Her eyes were still red from crying, but she was quickly regaining her composure. "No one is going anywhere, seriously. We're all here for you!"
There was an odd silence as Netto stared at her with an unreadable look, making everyone tense for a reason they couldn't comprehend. Yuuichirou was about to ask what was wrong when Netto chuckled sadly. "I know, Meiru-chan," he said lowly, his voice oddly sentimental. "I can never forget that. I won't ever again."
"Netto-kun..." Forte murmured from his PET. Everyone glanced over to see the cloaked navi smiling, a trace of humor in his eyes. What everyone found surprising is that Forte actually looked genuinely happy. "Rockman and I will always remind you of that. Just like I'm not alone, neither are you."
"And I'll find some way to come to the real world and beat that into you if you ever do forget that," Rockman added darkly, which shocked most of them. The navi seemed to realize how violent he sounded as he brought a hand up to his mouth with a gasp. "...oh no! Now I'm actually starting to sound like Forte!" he fretted, eyes widening in surprise.
Forte snorted. "Oh please. That was a pathetic attempt," he retorted, smirking at his former rival. "Even Netto-kun could do a better impression than that."
"Are you going to call Rockman the cheap copy now, Forte?" Netto asked with a grin, somehow enjoying the sight of his two navis bickering.
"That sounds like an excellent idea," the cloaked navi replied, smirking at the other navi.
"Don't encourage him, Netto-kun!" Rockman groaned, but he chuckled despite himself. "Or do you really want him to hear my thoughts on his current appearance?"
Forte growled. "Say one word, Rockman, and I'll–"
"Alright, alright, enough," Netto chuckled, watching as both navis huffed and turned away from each other. Yuuichirou watched them in confusion, noting that the exchange between all of them seemed...familial, almost brotherly. "We'll discuss your new appearances later. Right now, I'm actually getting real sleepy again..."
"I think that's a sign to take it easy, Netto," the scientist interrupted. "Don't worry. I'll look into Rockman and Forte's new powers and let you know. But for now, just rest."
Netto nodded, and the rest of the time was spent making small talk with his friends before the doctor came in and shooed all of them out.
A few days later found Netto in his father's lab, waiting patiently for the man to return. He had been discharged from the hospital on the condition he didn't overexert himself, and he had immediately been dragged over to the Science Labs for some more tests.
If it wasn't for the fact that the tests were so important, he would have been bored out of his mind. Instead, he only found himself with an odd sort of nervousness, waiting for results on the various exams his father put him through.
"Wonder if it's good news," he muttered, idly reading through some of the documents on his father's desk. While most of the technical terminology went over his head, he could understand a few things that were written down. "Let's see...multibug fusion...full synchronization...Proto composition results...eh?" The boy blinked as he saw something scribbled on the side. "Black coffee, three creams and twice the sugar?"
"I'm starting to fear for Papa's health," Forte remarked, frowning as he noted that the scribbled message wasn't the only one on the page. "How much coffee does he consume?"
"I'm pretty sure Mama is always on him about that..." Rockman agreed. He winced as he saw even more scribbles, with each successive one becoming more and more erratic. "At least you now know where you get it from, Netto-kun!"
The operator stuck his tongue out at them. "Very funny," he groused. "You're lucky you're not in your new form, or I'd be poking fun at you right about now."
Rockman huffed as Forte snickered audibly. While both of them had eventually figured out how to return back to their original forms after a lot of trial and error, the jabs they traded with each other were still fresh in his mind. Being called 'fin-head' by Netto with Forte openly laughing wasn't the most pleasant thing in the world, he found.
"Anyway, it looks like he has a lot of stuff compiled here," Netto then said, quickly changing the topic. "There's even stuff about the Saito batch file...wow, he really pulled them out just for today, huh?"
"I wonder why he would pull that out..." the black navi commented, eyes narrowing as he tried to read the documents Netto held up. "It must have something to do with our current link."
"Probably..." the brunette muttered, eyes glazing over at the mass of mathematical equations on the document. "But wouldn't this be a bit outdated? The link we share is a lot different than before."
"Well, Papa did say that the links were similar," Rockman offered, although he was just as confused as the other two. "They're completely different in practice, but they're similar in theory. That's what Papa said a few days before, right?"
Netto frowned, his content mood turning somber in an instant. "Yeah..." he sighed, leaning back in his chair. Forte gave Rockman an angry glance, who seemed to realize his mistake as he groaned. The brunette didn't like being reminded that he had blown up at his father and had said something that had changed something between the two. Even though he had said everything he had wanted to say to him for years on that day, it didn't take away from the fact that he had actually hurt his father like he had subconsciously wanted to.
Even though it had been a few days since then, there was a certain feeling of awkwardness between him and his father that made it uncomfortable to be with him for an extended period of time. It also didn't help that the scientist would occassionally look at him with an expression of guilt for a reason he couldn't comprehend.
"Sorry, Netto-kun. I didn't mean to bring that up," the blue navi apologized. "I do think it'd be better if you and Papa managed to sort this out, though."
"Sort what out?" the operator inquired, cocking his head. "Is there something I should know?"
Rockman opened his mouth to reply, but thought better of it as he looked over at Forte, who grunted. "It's not our place to say," the black navi replied, looking away as Netto regarded him quizzically. "It's something that he needs to bring forward on his own."
Netto fiddled with his cloak, a terse frown on his face. "Alright, I suppose that's fair," he said softly, leaning back to stare at the ceiling. "I don't know why he keeps staring at me that way, though." Neither navi said anything in response, leaving him to his own thoughts.
"Ah, Netto, there you are."
Yuuichirou strode forward into his office, giving a small smile to his son as he tapped the documents in his hands. "The test results are here," he continued, shifting through them until he found the page he was looking for. "Just like I thought, Rockman and Forte have given each other small bits of their core data, which resulted in both of them getting a new form."
The scientist then looked up, adjusting his glasses as he stared at the two PETs. "However, the strange part is that this isn't a normal Soul Unison. Apparently, both Soul Unison programs activated at the same time, which resulted in the core data transfer. In fact...the data leads me to believe that this isn't a Soul Unison at all!"
That part got Netto's attention, as well as both of his navis. "Not a normal Soul Unison?" he asked in curiously. "Then...it's some sort of mutation or something?"
"Somewhat. The fact that they can access these forms at will leads me to believe it's a new type of ability both of them gained." Yuuichirou paused there as he shuffled through his data, nodding to himself as he found the document he was looking for. "I've tentatively named this ability a 'Cross'. As you can expect, this ability is limited to both Rockman and Forte, and I'm unsure if any other navi will be able to emulate it due to their...unique circumstances."
"Cross, huh...?" Netto mused, scratching his chin before he grinned. "So...basically, it's called Forte Cross Rockman and Rockman Cross Forte? Good to know."
"That's a completely horrible name you've thought up, Netto-kun!" Forte raged from his PET. "What are you thinking?!"
"Can't you be at least a little more creative?!" Rockman also fumed, looking just as indignant as the black navi. "I can't believe you!"
"Whoops, got them mad..." Netto chuckled nervously as Yuuichirou hid a laugh of his own. His expression then morphed into one of seriousness. "That aside...what about the link?"
Yuuichirou nodded, his expression mirroring his son's. "As I theorized, the exchange of core data in such a way would link Rockman to you as well. Since Forte would also be linked to you through that data, it would result in a three-way link between yourselves. Since your link with Forte is stronger, the influx of memories would be shared mainly among you two, although Rockman would occassionally get glimpses of them."
Netto nodded, having already experienced most of what was being explained. "And the physical damage effect?" he queried.
"Theoretically, it should be mitigated now that it can be split between two different sources," Yuuichirou said, pausing as he read over another document. "Naturally, this would also split any regenerative abilities anyone has."
"I see..." the boy murmured before smiling. "That's a lot of guesswork based on something that isn't even cybernetic in origin, isn't it?"
Yuuichirou blinked before he chuckled himself. "You got me there, Netto," he acknowledged, a small smile coming to his face. "While I can give you details on what I've observed, the truth is that I don't know how this link will affect you, Rockman, or Forte. The fact that this link is completely spiritual in nature continues to amaze me, but it also scares me to know that you're involved in something beyond my understanding."
Netto froze as he saw the guilty look cross his father's face for a few moments before a neutral expression replaced it. He glanced at both Rockman and Forte, who both gave him an odd look before gesturing back at his father.
As Yuuichirou began to outline certain theories he had on the link, Netto found himself not listening to it. He was now certain that something was bothering his father, but it could have been a myriad of things at that point. However, that brief look of grief that he had seen on his father's face when it pertained to him...
Netto felt like smacking himself. He should have known what was bothering him.
"Papa," he interrupted, causing the scientist to pause in the middle of his explanation. "Are you still upset about when I called you a bad father?"
Yuuichirou seemed to freeze in his seat, and some of the documents even fell out of his lap. "Netto, that's...no, of course not," he stammered, quickly getting the papers off the floor. When the boy continued to stare at him, he sighed in resignation; his brief moment of shock was enough to answer his son's question. "Alright, to be honest...yes. I've been thinking about it since that day."
"But I thought we got over that..." Netto said, blinking in confusion. "I did mean a lot of what I said, but didn't we put it behind us?"
The scientist rubbed his eyes, looking weary all of a sudden. "I thought I did too, but when I saw you collapse in that room, after having fought against an enemy I really shouldn't have sent you against in the first place, I remembered what you said...and now, looking back on it, I agree. I've been completely neglectful."
When Netto opened his mouth to object, Yuuichirou held up a hand to stop him. "It's a difficult thing to realize that you're helpless to help your son," he continued, and he saw Forte give him a sympathetic look. "It's even more difficult to accept the fact that your son gets put into danger because of that helplessness. I might be able to support you with programs and advice, but...it's hard to acknowledge that it's the limit of what I can do."
Netto frowned as he got a good feel on where the conversation was going. "I've never been angry over that," he responded as gently as he could. "What you do to help me is more than enough, Papa! I mean, yeah, I resent the fact that you couldn't come home in the past, and I might have blamed you for missing parts of my childhood, but that shouldn't matter anymore. We can move past that now!"
Yuuichirou blinked slowly before he chuckled. "That's what everyone said to me a few days ago, when we were all scared about your condition," he mused, smiling wryly. "It took Haruka and both of your navis to snap me out of my funk."
Netto instantly looked at both PETs, and both Rockman and Forte were looking away guiltily. Wordlessly, he stood up and approached his father, giving him a tight hug. "Papa, it doesn't matter if you were a bad father in the past. Right now I see the best father I could ever have, moving forward with me. The past is the past. It's time to let it go."
The scientist briefly wondered when his son had gotten so wise before he hugged him back. "You're right. I'm going to start making a better effort regardless, but I need to stop with all this self-pity," he said, rubbing away a stray tear. As they broke the embrace, Yuuichirou smiled. "You've grown a lot, Netto. I'm proud of you."
Netto smiled back. "Thank you, Papa."
"Ah, that reminds me...Enzan dropped this off earlier. He said it was for you." Yuuichirou then got up and looked through his desk, shifting documents every which way. "I wonder why he didn't just give it to you himself...Oh come on...I know it's here somewhere!"
"That's Enzan for you," Netto remarked, snickering as Yuuichirou muttered darkly to himself as he nearly tore apart his desk to find what he was looking for.
Forte sighed as the two continued to converse, looking slightly wistful. "Growing up, huh? I wonder if navis like ourselves could do that..."
Rockman chuckled. "Maybe we can. Or rather, we'll have to. Netto-kun already gets in enough trouble already, so imagine him a few years from now."
The black navi shuddered. "I see your point," he murmured as he watched Yuuichirou find what he was looking for, giving Netto some sort of letter. "Of course, he's already changed a lot. Who knows how the future will go?"
"WHAT?! REALLY?!" they heard their operator shout as he read the contents of the envelope, and they turned to see a look of shock across his features. He then turned to them with the widest grin they had seen on him in recent memory. "Oh man...this is awesome! Rockman, Forte, we're being scouted as Officials! They want to meet us next week!"
Forte snorted as Netto continued to celebrate. "On second thought, he's still the same kid," he muttered, but the smile on his face betrayed his true feelings.
"We wouldn't have it any other way, right?" Rockman replied, grinning as he watched his operator read through the contents of the envelope again. "The future is going to be very interesting at this rate."
The future... Forte thought, closing his eyes in thought. It was strange to him, a navi that had been alone in the darkness for countless years, to even think about anything other than his long-term goal. But now things were different with him, and he actually looked forward to what laid beyond the horizon.
The black navi smiled. "We'll go forward together," he repeated to himself, touching his emblem. The words he had promised would never die, and he would walk forward together with his two companions.
Forte was not alone anymore, and neither were Netto or Rockman.
For the first time in his life, Forte was free from the shackles of his past.
Author's Notes: Just an Epilogue to go, and then this story will finally be finished!
I took some liberties regarding the GetAbility Program, since it's only mentioned/used once or twice in the actual games. I felt that, for the (potential) future of the storyline, leaving Forte limited with his pre-EXE4 attacks would be too limiting, so I decided to put in a plot point where he gains those powers. It just so happens that I felt it would be interesting to have both Rockman and Netto learn them too by accident, although obviously the latter can't do anything with them.
With the Cross idea, I actually came up with it on the spot after I determined I wanted to give Rockman part of the link back. Rockman is obviously important to Netto, and having him be involved in all the drama without giving him a way to connect to his operator felt empty. That's when I thought of the idea of having Rockman and Forte Soul Unison.
Of course, that's a bit of a can of worms in itself, and it's not really properly explained via game lore, so I went with what I knew and made a mini-scenario in itself. If Rockman was able to utilize the knowledge gained from Forte's GetAbility, why shouldn't it work the other way too? I think the logic is there, but again, it's never really explained in-game.
I think in this chapter, I had too many characters trying to interact at once, so dialogue might be a bit stilted. I'll try to fix that in the next chapter.
Anyway, thanks for reading. If you like my work, please review and tell me your opinion! I'll be glad to hear it.
(Chapter is currently unbetaed, so if it looks rough, that's all my fault.)