Stunned, Twilimon gazed at the spot in the room where his sister and his friends had been standing just moments ago. After leaving the battlefield to the others, he had been confident that everything would be all right, that he had bought them enough time, that they would turn Ai back to normal.
What happened in front of his eyes went by so fast that he barely realized what was going on. He just saw a yellow blur, heard a screaming voice and then… a cloud of darkness had spread around Ai and the Hybrid Tamers, shielding them from his view. And then the darkness collapsed… and everyone was gone, leaving him alone with the empty throne… and the limp body of Impmon lying next to him, right where Lucemon had smacked him against the wall.
He gently shook his Digimon partner. "Impmon… Impmon, wake up."
Impmon shook his head. "Oh man… feels like a herd of Monochromon trampled all over me…" he grumbled. He then looked up at his Tamer's face. "Mako? Wh-what are you doing here?"
"What kind of Tamer am I if I wouldn't try to help you and Ai?" Mako asked.
"Heh… yer a real bullhead, y'know that? Just like yer Digimon…" With Mako's help, he climbed to his feet. Normally, his pride would stop him from accepting help like that, but Mako was a special case. "Where are the others?"
"Gone, along with Ai," Mako sighed. "Vanished in a cloud of darkness."
"Dang… that means we can't help them, wherever they are," Impmon grumbled.
"True… all we can do now is to have faith in them… in them and in Ai."
The Rookie looked up at his Tamer in surprise. 'What happened to Mako that all of this wise stuff is coming out of his mouth?' he wondered. But before he could ask, they both heard a mewing sound coming from the ceiling.
"Looks like there's still something we can do," Mako said as he ran to the throne. After a bit of searching, he found the button he was looking for and pressed it. A big cage was then lowered out of the ceiling. It contained a man and a quivering Nyaromon.
"Yamaki?" Impmon asked in surprise.
"All right, Rika… your orders?" IcePaladinmon asked.
Nogitsunemon took a moment to analyze the situation. "Takato, Guilmon! Front defense! Try to block everything he throws at us with those shields of yours. Jeri! Sis! Try to sneak behind him when you get the chance and attack his backside. Harmony! You are on healing duty! Use every item we have left, this is the final fight. Ryo! Terriermon! At my side! Together, the three of us are gonna pelt him with everything we got from here. Everyone, GO!" she shouted as the Hybrid Tamers leapt into action.
"Rika's becoming quite the tactician, isn't she?" BlazePaladinmon asked as the two brotherly knights ran into position.
"She's a natural leader," IcePaladinmon answered with a smirk. "Just like almost all video game protagonists."
"ROAR OF ETERNITY!" The massive monstrosity that was MillenniumLucemon opened its mouth and exhaled a pitch-black stream of negative energy.
The brothers raised their shields. "Duality Defense!" they shouted and their shields began to glow in a holy light, which parted the darkness. Still, they had to use all of their strength to keep their hold on them, and strands of the attack still flew past them.
Nemeamon and Qimon leapt over the tendrils of darkness as they tried to decrease the distance to their enemy to a minimum. "Over there, Jeri!" Qimon shouted as she pointed to their right.
"Already saw it," Nemeamon nodded. What Qimon meant was one of the dark tendrils that was shooting towards them. But instead of just flying at them, it sunk to the ground and turned into a pool of blackness.
"ARMY OF DARKNESS!" MillenniumLucemon roared, and all over the pool, demon-like creatures rose out of the goop. Each of them looked like a twisted, faceless caricature of Monodramon… or Minidramon.
"Gaia's Roar!" Nemeamon shouted. A wave of stalagmites tore through the masses of demons. The remaining ones began to swarm Qimon, attacking with feral bites and slashes.
The fox-woman jumped up and spun her body around as she attacked her enemies with a multitude of powerful kicks. "Twirling Fox Kick!"
Rika had to smile when she saw her sister fighting. A feeling that seemed almost like pride swept over her. Was it because she remembered her as her Digimon partner, Renamon… or because she knew that now, in this new reality, she was her sister?
Then again, the dark void they were currently in didn't look like either of the realities she knew.
"Fight with all you got!" the black fox shouted. "Don't give up now!" Her eyes glowed and around her body, purple flames formed a destructive aura. "FOX AURA INFERNO!" she shouted and launched the aura at their foe, a flaming mirror image of herself.
"Ancient Flame!" "Gargo Missile!" Nidhoggmon and MegaGargomon added their own attacks to Rika's assault. Then they cried out in surprise and pain when MillenniumLucemon hit them all with his counterattack.
"STAR OF DESTRUCTION!" the monster bellowed. An enormous, red sphere of fire and crackling darkness materialized over the heroes' heads. A deadly rain of fire and dark lightning came down on the Hybrid Tamers. It was impossible to avoid this onslaught.
"Ha… Harmony…" Nogitsunemon winced as she struggled to keep her battered body on her feet.
"I… I got this…" Inugamimon muttered. She reached into the item bag and produced a shining, silver disc. She spun it around and threw it up in the air, where it released a wave of data-restoring energy across the wounded party.
"Great job!" Nogitsunemon said. "Now Jeri, Rena… strike him from behind!"
"Gaia's Roar!" "Qi Wave!"
The monstrosity didn't even seem to flinch when the two Mega Digimon's attacks tore into its thick hide.
Instead, it grew an additional eye at the very end of its tail, a giant lidless eyeball that stared at the two fleas that dared to sting its backside.
Nemeamon and Qimon only had time to think 'We're screwed…' before a powerful beam shot out of the eye and hit them frontally.
"NO!" Rika screamed when she saw how the Digimon bodies of Jeri and Renamon broke apart into data particles. She couldn't tear her eyes off the image of her sister's dissolving form. Tears streamed down her furred face. 'This can't be happening…' her mind told her. 'She's your partner… your friend… your sister. You and her, you are the main protagonists… the heroes of the game. She CANNOT die!'
"RIKA!" Nidhoggmon rumbled. "Focus! This fight isn't over yet… and they can be restored using a Revive Chip, remember?"
"Y-yes…" Nogitsunemon murmured. "It's just a game… they can be revived… Harmony! Take care of it!"
"I would love to," Inugamimon said. "If only I could get over there…" She dodged another dark tendril and slashed it with her sword.
"Guys! Make a passage!" Nogitsunemon ordered. "Help her get to the backside, so she can use those Revive Chips on Qimon and Nemeamon."
"Get it together, bro…" IcePaladinmon winced as the darkness continued to assault his defenses. "Let's strengthen those defenses."
"I'm trying…" BlazePaladinmon grumbled. "But damn, this is hard…" They moved their shields together as close as they could, closing the gap between them, allowing no darkness to slip past their defenses. The path was clear… if it weren't for the swarm of demons MillenniumLucemon had created.
"We'll take care of them," Nogitsunemon said, nodding her head towards Nidhoggmon. "C'mon… MegaGargomon, you continue firing."
"Okay… but with my missiles alone, the beast won't fall, you know that."
"We'll be back as soon as we can," Nogitsunemon said as she leapt at the demons with bared fangs. Next to her, Ryo's mighty dragon form helped her by squashing the demons with his tail or feet.
A sudden cry coming from the Paladinmon brothers made Rika's heart jump. She risked a quick look… and froze when she saw how BlazePaladinmon collapsed under the assault. His body was engulfed by darkness and vanished… leaving only IcePaladinmon to defend his friends against the darkness. And his shield alone wasn't enough… she could see how his knees were buckling. "Takato!" she shouted. "Hang in there!"
"S-sorry, Rika…" IcePaladinmon muttered as he was pushed back further and further. "But I dunno how long I can keep this up… my bro's already gone…" If Rika had been closer, she would have been able to see some tears glinting in the depths of his helmet.
"Harmony, hurry!" Nidhoggmon shouted as he slashed apart another group of demons.
"R-right away…" Inugamimon stuttered as she ran around the behemoth's massive body. "Almost there… almost there…"
She howled when the monster whipped its tail around, shooting her with another beam of destructive energy. Just like her friends before her, she was disintegrated.
"HARMONY!" MegaGargomon yelled. He gritted his teeth in anger and sorrow. "Damn you beast, take THIS! AND THIS!" And he fired even more missiles at his enemy.
"Not Harmony too…" Nogitsunemon whispered. "This doesn't look good…"
"She's not… the only… one…" IcePaladinmon gasped. With his last ounce of strength, he pushed against his shield, but MillenniumLucemon's power was just too much… The shield was flung out of his hand and the knight was swallowed by the darkness, just like his brother before him.
"Takato! NOOOOO!" Rika screamed. It was at this moment when she stopped fighting. She didn't even look up when the darkness approached them, and not when both Nidhoggmon and MegaGargomon both were shattered into data fragments… she had lost everything. Her old reality, her family, her best friends, her sister… and now her life.
The only thing Rika felt was pain beyond words as her digital body was ripped apart. And then… she died.
"Good luck… in the final battle!"
Rika blinked. Wasn't she supposed to be dead? Then why did she hear Henry's voice?
"All right, Rika… your orders?" IcePaladinmon asked.
Nogitsunemon looked at her friends who were standing around her, all of them determined to face the terror that was waiting for them just a little further… MillenniumLucemon. Neither of them seemed to remember that just seconds ago, they had been ripped to pieces by the creature's attacks.
Except for Qimon. The fox-woman looked down at her sister with an expression of sheer confusion. "This… seems like a massive deja-vu," she muttered.
"Uh, Rika? Orders? Or do you want us to just leap into battle, unorganized?" Nemeamon asked.
"This isn't right… Rika… all of this happened before," Qimon added. "And I clearly remember… dying?"
"Yes… me too," the dark fox nodded. "But here we are… facing the same opponent as before."
"What are you two talking about?" Inugamimon frowned. "We just came here, and MillenniumLucemon was created just now… how can we have faced it before?"
Then realization struck Rika. "It's because we saved…" she said. "We died on our first try… we lost the game… but since we saved before the fight, we have another chance."
"But… why are you and I the only ones who remember everything?" Qimon asked.
"GUYS! We have a bigger problem at hand!" IcePaladinmon shouted. "Can you please exchange mental reality changed or whatever you were talking about later?"
"Right…" Nogitsunemon nodded as she repeated her battle instructions… the very same instructions she had given them on their first try.
'Maybe it's because we are the main characters,' she thought. 'We remember everything, even after reality changed multiple times… it makes sense that we'd also remember every single time we die in battle. This means that this is really the first time we died in this… game.' She shuddered. 'Dying… it is not a pleasant experience. I don't want to repeat it if I don't have to… and I certainly don't want it to happen to the others.'
She then froze. 'Wait a minute… if everything is repeating itself… that means I should have given them different orders. No, RENAMON! Please, not again…'
"QI WAVE!" she heard her sister's voice from behind the monster's body. MillenniumLucemon roared in pain as its backside was hit with Qimon's most powerful attack.
Nemeamon looked at her battle comrade in bewilderment. "How… how did you know he would fire a beam from his tail?"
"He did it before… trust me!" Qimon simply said as she continued to attack the monster.
The lioness just shrugged and joined her in battle.
Now that Inugamimon was able to focus on healing the others, the danger that she would die trying to save Nemeamon and Qimon was practically non-existant… which didn't mean they had won yet. Also, there was another danger…
"Takato, Guilmon!" Nogitsunemon shouted. "Your shields can't hold off the attack forever."
"Well, you've got any other idea what we should do?" BlazePaladinmon grunted. „Did you maybe bring Suzie's shield along that we can use in addition to ours?"
"No… but I brought something else," Nogitsunemon said. "Harmony, take out the Light Curtain!"
"The what?" Nidhoggmon blinked.
"An item I found in one of the treasure chests in Lucemon's tower," Rika explained. "It acts like a shield and raises our defenses. It won't last forever, but it should be enough to save Takato and Guilmon enough time until that Roar of Eternity attack is finally over."
"Sounds risky… but I don't have another plan at the moment," Inugamimon sighed. "All right, here goes…" She reached into the item bag and took out a blue-glowing shard, which she threw into the air. It flew directly next to the two knights and changed shape into a bigger, blue-glowing shield that added additional defense to the two shields they were already wielding. All of the Hybrid Tamers saw how a blue aura surrounded their bodies.
"Let's take this chance," Nogitsunemon shouted. "Everyone, fight! This battle's far from over."
For a while, their strategy seemed to have positive results… they managed to shrug off their opponent's assault, healed every member of the team in time and hit him with their own, most powerful attacks.
"This is going well!" BlazePaladinmon grinned. "We're beating him, I just know it."
"Don't get too cocky, bro," IcePaladinmon said while fending off another swarm of demons that was going to attack them from the side.
"He's right," Inugamimon nodded. "We don't know what else he has in… store?" She blinked in confusion when, all of a sudden, the attacks stopped. The remaining demons vanished into the ground and never came back. MillenniumLucemon was crouching in front of them, completely still excapt for its heavy breathing.
"What's he up to?" Nemeamon frowned.
"Maybe he's reaching his limits," Qimon suggested. "Just keep attacking him, we must be close to victor… AGH!" She gasped when a long tendril made of black, slimy flesh came shooting out of the monster's lower abdomen. It reached for Qimon, engulfing her body in a huge mess of sticky goop.
"Gah… what's this… stuff?" the fox woman coughed while trying to keep the slimy substance out of her mouth. "Can't get… out…"
"Hold on, I'm coming!" Nemeamon shouted as she leapt forth to attack the tendril with her claws. However, a second one came shooting out of the creature's body and snatched the white lioness right out of the air. "Hey, let go of me!" she snarled.
"What's going on back there?" Nogitsunemon asked. "Jeri? Sis?"
MillenniumLucemon then let out a deafening roar, and from all over its body, more black tentacles emerged, each of them trying to grab one of the Hybrid Tamers. The knightly brothers raised their shields, but the goop surrounded them from all sides. Nidhoggmon tried to scorch it with his fiery breath, but the tendrils grew faster than he was able to burn them. Nogitsunemon and Inugamimon tried to use their natural agility to dodge the incoming attacks, but there were simply too many of them.
"No good…" MegaGargomon grunted as he was bound by a huge number of tendrils. Slowly but surely, they began to drag him towards the monster's body. "Those things are too strong… can't break free…"
"What do we do?" Inugamimon asked, her voice filled with a hint of panic. "We can't fight our way out of this stuff and there's no item that can help us in this situation. I don't want to find out what'll happen after we're dragged all the way over to MillenniumLucemon…"
"I… don't know yet..:" Nogitsunemon grumbled. "But I'll think of something. And even if that thing defeats us… we can always come back! Remember, we saved the game!"
Dying like she did before was something she wished she would never have to experience again… but she would endure it if that meant it would help them to beat their enemy.
For now, all she could do was watch as all members of her team were dragged closer and closer towards the monster. "Remember!" she managed to shout before the first of her friends disappeared. "We can't lose this fight! If we have to, we will try it again and again and again!"
And then, she was pulled against the monster's hide. From MillenniumLucemon's appearance, she had expected it to be hard and sturdy, like the scales of a dragon… but instead, it felt strangely soft and fleshy. And then, the creature's side caved in and she was pulled into the darkness…
Of course, she believed that this meant certain death for her and her teammates. Which meant that they were able to try again from their last savepoint. So she expected that she'd reappear back at the beginning of the battle any second.
But nothing of the sort happened. Instead, she heard a soft chuckle.
"Did you honestly think I was THAT stupid?" The whispering voice was coming from everywhere around her. There was nothing but darkness around her, she couldn't see a thing… but she knew right away who was talking to her.
"It's you…" she grumbled. "That thing we've been fighting all the time… BioCalumon… or Kobomon… or MillenniumLucemon… or whatever your true name is."
"My true name?" The voice chuckled. "I had many names over the centuries… most recently, I've been called the 'Gremlin'."
"Whatever…" Nogitsunemon struggled against the bonds that still held her, but she was completely immobile. "I don't care about your name, I just know that all of this happened because of you… the world changing… humans turning into Digimon… Yamaki turning evil… Ai turning into a megalomaniac Digimon-goddess…"
"Oh, don't tell me you complain about every single change I made," the Gremlin laughed. "Without me, you would never had a sister… you and Renamon are closer than ever, are you not? Shall I continue? You and your father are closer than ever before, he and the rest of your parents understand better than ever what it means to be a hero of the Digital World… and not forgetting that all of Japans criminals, all the thieves and murderers and rapists… are gone, replaced with innocent little children! That was a good deed, wasn't it?"
"Don't give me that bullshit!" Rika yelled. "You didn't do all these things to do us a favor, it just fit into your plan, that's all. Also, what about everything else? How many lives were put in danger during the whole Belphemon fiasco? How many children did you turn into tools for war? And Ai… one of the sweetest little girls I have ever seen in my life… twisted into an arrogant psychopath with no sense whatsoever for what is right or wrong."
"Right… wrong… those are just words. It's really just a matter of seeing it from another person's point of view, then right becomes wrong. You humans often fail to understand that… but that's what makes you such amusing little playtoys." The voice chuckled.
"Well, you'll see how amusing we can be when we get out of here and kick your butt!" Rika screamed. "Go ahead and kill us if you must… we'll come back again and again!"
"Silly little girl," the Gremlin snickered. "Have you forgotten who I am? I am the CREATOR of this little game you are playing. I know everything about it, every single rule that was made. Of course I know that you hero-types will try again and again. But that's the funny thing, see… if I don't kill you… then you won't be able to try again. Simple as that."
"What? You… you're just going to…"
"Keep you in here?" the Gremlin finished her question. "Why not? I have the powers of Lucemon and Millenniumon at my disposal, why wouldn't I be able to do this?"
"But you can't… you can't just do that!" Rika shouted. "That's cheating!"
"Cheating? You are forgetting something, dear… I am this game! I make all the rules… and until your precious little 'Game Master' doesn't do anything about it, I will always get away with it. Because hey… it's just part of the game." He chuckled.
"You won't get away with this," Rika snarled, once again trying to get free. "Kei will find a way to help us and then…"
"Oh, but flower-girl doesn't even know what's going on…" The voice was now whispering directly into her ear. "Sure, she sees everything that's going on outside, on the battlefield… but peeking in here? She can't do that, I'm afraid… in here, I am the only rule that matters."
Slowly, the chuckling voice faded away, leaving Rika alone in the darkness.
"Dammit! Come back here!" she shouted. Gritting her teeth, she realized that the situation was more dire than ever. Using the savepoint to try again wasn't an option this time around… and as long as she and the others were unable to escape, there was no way they could fight him. Sighing heavily, she closed her eyes and lowered her head. She didn't want to imagine what this monster was going to do to the world while they were trapped in here…
"Rika…" a voice next to her said. "Don't give up…"
She opened her eyes. That wasn't the Gremlin's voice. "Monodramon? Is that you? Where are you?"
"All around you… and I am, too!" That was Minidramon. "Even though we are unable to do anything about it, we are part of this monstrosity. He merged with us after you beat Lucemon, remember?"
Rika was glad to hear that Ryo's partners were still alive… somehow… but that really didn't do much to raise her confidence. "Can't you do anything?" she asked. "If you are part of MillenniumLucemon, can't you control it? Help me get free?"
"We tried… but we can't do anything," Monodramon said. "Even if we somehow managed to wrestle the Millenniumon part of his powers from him, he'd still have all of Lucemon's powers at his disposal. And that is more than enough to keep us under control."
Rika sighed. Then she thought of something. "Wait a minute… what about Ai? If you are here, that means she must be somewhere around here too. I mean, I know we fought her, but… surely she doesn't want that thing to control her. Can't she help by wrestling Lucemon's powers away from him?"
The twins hestitated. "She… isn't the same as before," Minidramon said.
"Yes," Monodramon added. "She has lost her will to fight… I don't know what's going on in her head right now, but she has isolated her mind, from the Gremlin and from us. It's almost like she wants to shield herself from anything that is happening right now. That made it easy for the Gremlin to take over her Lucemon powers."
"But she has to fight this!" Rika said. "I have to talk to her… can I get to her, somehow?"
"It's no use…" Minidramon sighed. "As soon as he notices we're up to something, he will interfere… we can't do anything…"
"Actually," Monodramon spoke up. "Right now, he's not paying us any attention… we could use that to our advantage. As long as you and the others stay trapped within his body, he is satisfied. But we could take you – and possibly the others – to Ai without him noticing."
"He will notice," Minidramon muttered. "He has basically limitless power at his side…"
"Hey, why so negative?" Rika asked with a frown. "He hasn't won yet, shouldn't we try everything we can to beat him?"
"We lost the moment he absorbed me," Minidramon said with a voice that was devoid of any hope. "You may have beat Millenniumon… as unlikely as that may seem. But a Millenniumon with the added forces of Lucemon and the Gremlin? Not a chance…"
"Stop saying that, bro!" Monodramon shouted. "Listen to what you are saying… Ryo never would have wanted you to give up!"
"Yeah, what gives?" Rika asked. "We didn't come this far just to fail now."
"Rika, I WAS Millenniumon. Who else but me knows as much about his abilities? As soon as he leaves this void, he can practically do ANYTHING!"
"Well, then why hasn't he done it yet?"
Minidramon seemed baffled by Rika's question. "Wh-what?"
"He's still in that cloud of darkness he we fought him in, right? So if he's so intent on wreaking chaos in our world, why isn't he doing it? Why doesn't he leave? Let me tell you why… because we haven't beat him yet! This is the final boss fight, and neither of us can leave the arena until either of us is defeated. But he didn't defeat us, he just immobilized us. Sure, he could have tweaked the rules so that keeping us in here automatically ends the battle… but he didn't do it, so I think we can assume that our Game Master is actually doing her job. And that means we CAN beat him. You know why? Because this is still A GAME!" Rika told the unsettled dragon.
"Also, there's one other thing, bro," Monodramon said. "You may have forgotten it for a moment, but I was Millenniumon too. And both of us should know better than anyone that power comes with pride… especially when Lucemon's sin data is concerned. And right now, the Gremlin's so full of himself that he wouldn't dream of the possibility that even in here, we are plotting against him. I still have faith in our friends, just like I always had faith in Ryo. And do you know why? Because they never give up."
Minidramon was silent for a moment. "I… I'm sorry," he then whispered. "I was so scared… so scared of becoming an evil monster again… or part of an evil monster… that I figured, accepting our fate would make it so much easier. Guess I gave up too early, huh?"
"No harm done… but now we should hurry. Can you take me to Ai, yes or no?" Rika asked.
"I guess it's possible after all," Minidramon said. "Hang on a second… lemme check if the Gremlin is watching us… nope, he doesn't suspect a thing. Okay then… hold on to your tails… here we go!"
And Rika felt herself being moved around. She wasn't grabbed or anything and she certainly wasn't released from the firm hold that kept her in this overwhelming blackness, but she could tell that she was being relocated from one place within the monster's body to another.
Then, something changed. Unlike before, she was actually able to see something. It was a soft light that was seeping through the black mass. The walls of goop surrounding her parted, and she stood in a small chamber, almost like a haven of light within the darkness.
Rika sighed with relief when the tendrils finally let go of her body, withdrawing into the walls of the chamber. Surprised, she looked at her body. "What the… I'm back in my human form," she muttered. Shrugging, she then approached the small girl sitting in the middle of the room, her back turned towards Rika. She was emitting the light that was keeping the black substance the monster's body was made of away from her. For Rika, it looked like the child was isolating herself from everything that was around her.
Rika walked around her so she could see her face. It was indeed Ai, back in her Cupimon form.
"Go away," she mumbled, not even bothering to look at Rika.
"I can't do that," Rika said, sitting down in front of her. "Ai, I need your help… we need your help."
"Don't bother…" Ai muttered, trying to hide her face in her tiny arms. "I can't help anyone… I couldn't make a new world for me or my friends… not even for my family… I lost… and now I'm small and weak again.
Rika frowned. "Don't start with that. Be glad that I'm not here to lecture you because of your mistakes, cause there were a ton of them… but that's not what's important right now. Right now, we are all imprisoned within this… thing! And we need to help each other to get out of here in one piece. This isn't about turning reality back the way it was, and certainly not about treating children with respect or whatever it was that you tried to accomplish with your silly plan… this is about saving the world from an insane monster that doesn't care about who lives or dies."
"Why fight…?" Ai whispered. "Look around you… look where we are… we're small and helpless… you and the others are all older than me, but you're still all kids… we can't fight a creature this powerful… I had all the power… now he has it, and more. If I couldn't do anything about it, what could you do?"
"We could at least try to beat him," Rika said sternly. "Everything's better than sitting around in a dark corner and cry like a kid that got its butt spanked. Pull yourself together! We are not just kids… you are not just a kid. Not even without Lucemon's powers… you don't need those to be special. We are friends… teammates… we are all Tamers!"
Ai looked up at Rika with wide eyes. "Y-you would… you would still see me as a Tamer? But you fought me… you all fought me with everything you got."
"Of course we fought you!" Rika shouted. "What you did was one of the most idiotic things I've ever seen in my life. But we never wanted to KILL you. You are a young girl who received a lot of power, much more than any child should get at this age, Digimon or human. You were unable to deal with it… you were unable to handle all of Lucemon's memories that came with the sin data."
"That means… I won't get in trouble?" Ai asked in confusion.
"Hell no! If I were your mom, I'd ground you for at least ten weeks… but that's up to your parents to decide, should we ever get back. But we won't ever get back if you don't stop acting like that. Think about everyone waiting for you out there. Think about your parents, Impmon, Mako."
"Mako… he fought me…" Ai whispered again. Her small body shivered. "He's going to hate me…"
Rika gently put her hand on the Cupimon's shoulder. "Ai, he fought to save you. Both he and Impmon believed in you, they believed that deep within Lucemon's Pride, there was still the girl they loved as a partner and sister. Now it's up to you to answer that question… were they wrong? Or were they right?"
Ai sniffled for a moment, but didn't say anything. After a while, she murmured: "I'm still mad at you for beating me, you know?"
Rika chuckled. "Silly girl…" As unreasonable as Ai's statement seemed to sound, for her it was proof that the old Ai was coming back. Unlike the pompous varchangel she had turned into, she didn't see her plan as the only true salvation of the world. And instead of mourning the loss of her children and loyal servants, she acted like a child would act if one of her favorite toys was broken. She may not yet realize just how wrong she had acted… but at least it was a beginning.
"Now listen, Ai… this creature is made of data from Millenniumon and Lucemon… and even though you've been stripped of your power, Minidramon and Monodramon both believe that you could try and wrestle control from the Gremlin. It's gonna be hard, but we need to get out of here somehow. The others are also trapped in here somewhere. We need them all to break the data apart."
"You can't do that," Ai said. "Lucemon's sin data… I've had in within me. It's too old and ancient to be destroyed. It can only be banished. I don't know anything about Millenniumon, but I think it's not going to be any easier."
"She's right," Minidramon's voice spoke up. "Millenniumon's data cannot be destroyed. But it can be changed back the way it was after Ryo purified it on Okinawa… turning it back into me. But to accomplish that, we need to get rid of the force that is pulling the two data masses together… the one who controls everything."
"The Gremlin!" Rika understood. „Can you bring us to him? If we can't defeat MillenniumLucemon the regular way, we have to attack the source of our problems directly."
"Yeah, I think I can do that," Ai nodded. "I'll be waiting in here though… I won't be any use in battle, without Impmon…"
"Don't worry. We'll finish this as fast as we can, and then we'll all go home," Rika smiled. "Now, take me to him… and don't forget about Takato, Ryo and the others."
The Gremlin felt an undescribable amount of glee when he managed to pull the Hybrid Tamers into the new, powerful body he had created for himself. After he finished gloating in front of Rika, the so-called 'hero' of the game, he prepared himself for his return to Earth.
"I can't wait to plunge the world into everlasting chaos…" he giggled madly. "First Tokyo… then all of Japan… then the whole world! And I won't stop there. The Digital World and all the other worlds out there will feel my power."
He laughed a bit more, then he tried leaving the void, the dark pocket reality he had created to fight his opponents with no interruptions.
He couldn't do it.
"What is this?" he grumbled in an irritated voice. "I created this realm. I can leave anytime I want. I am in control! I WON THE GAME!"
"Newsflash!" the most annoying voice spoke up behind him. "You did not. Since you refused to kill us, we didn't lose the game… thanks for that. And as long as we are not killed… the battle won't be over."
One after another, the Hybrid Tamers slid out of the black goop walls. They stepped into a round chamber, bigger than the small room Rika had found Ai in. In the middle, they saw a crackling spark of energy, formed to resemble a humanoid shape, with claws, a tail and a pair of red-glowing eyes. The time for possessed bodies, disguises and costumes was over… this was the pure essence of the evil they were fighting, the data creature responsible for all that happened ever since Takato had first used the RPG Maker program on his computer… this time, they were facing the Gremlin itself.
"This is him?" Takato asked with a hint of disappointment. "I was expecting a bit… more."
"How dare you!" the Gremlin screeched. "You intruders! Interlopers! Trespassers! Cheaters! You were never supposed to see me like this."
"Too bad. We're here. What are you gonna do about it?" Rika shouted.
"Oh, I can think of a few things…" the Gremlin grumbled. "You want me to kill you? Fine! I'll shred all of your data to bits and pieces, again and again. Try again if you dare… I'll make each of your deaths so painful that you'll BEG me to give you a Game Over."
"You and what army?" Harmony smirked. "We are inside the powerful data you wanted to use against us. I doubt a small fry like you could withstand the force of even one of us at Mega level."
"True," the Gremlin sneered. "But in here, you still have to follow my rules… surrounded by darkness and the data of sin… you won't be able to access your full power. You'll be stuck as Rookies. How'd you like that?"
"If that what it takes to deal with you," Rika glowered as she reached for her D-Power. "Fine with me! Everyone, digivolve!"
"RIKA HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… KITSUMON!"
"RENAMON HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… BRAWLMON!"
"TAKATO HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… BLUECERATOMON!"
"GUILMON HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… CERATOMON!"
"JERI HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… CUBMON!"
"HARMONY HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… DACHSMON!"
"RYO HYBRID DIGIVOLUTION TO… SPYROMON!"
"Bring it on!" Terriermon added for good measure.
"Fools…" the Gremlin whispered. "I am the creator of this game, the one who gave life to all the creations in it, the puppet master of all the evils you have fought. I am the only Game Master there ever was."
"Wrong," BlueCeratomon said. "The one and only Game Master the RPG Maker has at the moment… is my cousin Kai, a boy from Okinawa, turned into a Digimon girl named Kei. Everything we accomplished, even us being here right now… it only happened because he helped us achieve it. And even you have to follow the rules of your own game, the rules of the RPG Maker."
The Gremlin gritted his teeth. Green sparks of energy flew through the room. "I AM the RPG Maker!" he screeched as he lunged at them. Streams of crackling, green corrupted data flew out of his hands at the Tamers.
"Everyone, at once…" Kitsumon shouted. "Flare Bullet!"
"Rising Kitsune Punch!" Brawlmon joined her sister.
"Aura Sphere!" the Ceratomon brothers said in unison.
"Leo Scratch!" Cubmon shouted.
"Air Cutter!" Compsomon fired her weapon.
"Fire Frisbee!" Spyromon added his attack.
"Terrier Tornado!" Terriermon spun around.
"AAAAAAARRRRRGGHHH!" the Gremlin screamed as his data mass was scrambled by the onslaught. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I… can't… loooooose…" His voice grew weaker as his form twitched and flickered. Slowly, his form dissipated until it completely disappeared.
The Hybrid Tamers stared at the spot where their opponent had been standing mere seconds ago.
"That… was it?" Ceratomon blurted out.
"That was… easy," Dachsmon said. "Far more easier than I anticipated."
"I don't get it… wasn't he supposed to have those phenomenal, cosmic powers that can change the fabrics of time and space?" Spyromon said. "Even without the added force of Millenniumon and Lucemon?"
"Far too easy for a final boss," Terriermon nodded.
Kitsumon slowly walked into the middle of the room. "I think… the real final battle was against MillenniumLucemon. I think we already beat him back there… and everything after that, including our abduction and this ridiculously easy battle… those were all scripted events at the end of the game. And I think we won right after I made one last, important decision."
"And what decision would that be, sis?" Brawlmon asked.
Kitsumon turned around to smile at them. "I forgave Ai for what she did."
"They did it!" Kei shouted as she jumped up from her chair and hugged Eiko. "They did it, they did it!"
"Yay, they did it! They did it!" Eiko cheered along with her friends, the two Digi-girls jumping up and down with joy.
It took both of them a while until they calmed down. Kei still couldn't keep a wide grin off her face. "How could I haver ever doubted them… they beat all the odds and defeated him…"
"They did it because you helped them," HolyCalumon smiled from the computer screen. You opened them the path to victory. The savepoint… the possibility to beat him from the inside… that was all you."
"You… are right, I guess," Kei nodded. "Heh… maybe I'm a pretty good Game Master after all."
"Are you kidding?" Eiko squealed, giving her yet another hug. "You were GREAT!"
"Well, you helped me," Kei smiled. "Both of you helped me. I couldn't have done it without you guys. Thanks… you too, Holy."
HolyCalumon sighed. "I… did the only thing I could do. I have no other reason to exist in this world… and now that Bio… my brother… is gone, I think I shall be leaving too."
"You're leaving?" Kei gasped. She quickly sat back down in front of the screen. "You can't go! You're… like a good friend. Can't you stay a little longer?"
"Take a good look," Holy said, gesturing at the images all around her. The edges of the RPG Maker windows were becoming blurry, the text unreadable. "The game is over… Bio created the RPG Maker for his own amusement. Reality itself was his game, played by a group of heroes… and now that the game is over, the RPG Maker has no more reason to exist."
Kei was speechless. She never had thought about what would happen after the battle was won. "What… will happen to the world?" she asked.
"It depends on the protagonists of the game," Holy said. "The program and the Game Master have constructed their new world, but now that the game is over, reality will adjust itself to the reality the heroes are most comfortable with. They will do it unconsciously, but the new world is based on their choices."
"So… the world won't be like it used to be," Kei murmured. For a while, she had hoped that she could return back to being a human boy, regular Kai from Okinawa… but then again… did she really hate this new form? Of course she didn't want to be an adult yet, but… she still had parents back on Okinawa. She had a new loving foster mother she really didn't want to give up. She had a brother and new friends. So what if she was a girl? So what if there was a flower growing on her head?
"Will they all remember?" she wanted to know.
"They will remember everything the way it was before Lucemon took over," Holy said. "Of course you, as well as Rika and Renamon, will remember every single detail."
"And… what about you?" Kei asked in a small voice.
Holy smiled sadly at her. "I will disappear… without the RPG Maker and Bio around, I am just a pile of intelligent data, formed to resemble a Digimon… I think I will try and find a place for me in this new world."
"Will we see you again?" Eiko asked as she also stared at the little pink creature on the screen.
"Maybe," Holy said. "I won't disappear. And I will never forget either of you." Slowly, her edges were becoming blurry, too. "I have to go, before this place disappears completely… I will start my search for a new home in the Digital World."
"Will you be all right, all on your own?" Kei asked before their friend vanished.
Holy smiled at her friends a last time. "I won't be alone… I have family waiting for me."
And then she was gone. For a moment, all they could see was static… and then, they saw nothing but the computer's regular desktop.
HolyCalumon was flying on a stream of pure data, heading for the Digital World. She was sad to leave their friends like that. Still, she knew that it didn't have to be a farewell forever. Her thoughts then turned back to BioCalumon… or rather, her brother, the second copy of the original Gremlin. Up to the end, everyone believed him to be the true Gremlin, including himself. There was no need to tell anyone the truth. He was gone now, and the threat of the Gremlin was gone, forever. She felt a bit of sorrow and regret when she thought about Bio… unlike her, he never learned the meaning of love and friendship, all he had craved was power and the possibility to spread chaos. Maybe he could have become a true member of her family if they had met earlier…
For now, she was glad that she still had some family waiting for her. "Father… brother Calumon… I'm on my way… I'm coming home," she said as she rode the data stream.
D'Arcmon blinked. "What… what happened?" she wondered. She shook her head. "Wasn't I… somewhere else?" She looked around. She was back home… and everything looked like it had always looked before. She ran from the kitchen to the living room. "HELLO?" she shouted. "Anybody there?" She prayed with all her heart to Magnadramon to find a trace of her family.
She almost ran into her husband when he entered through the front door. "Honey?" he asked. "Honey, you're okay!"
"I am okay! You are okay!" she shouted with relief and gave him a hug. She then let go of him. "Wait… the children?"
He smiled. "Don't worry. I don't know how it happened, but after I found myself back to normal, I found them in front of the door." He stepped aside, revealing the small forms of Mako (back as a TinyDevimon), Impmon, Phascomon and – clutching tightly to her brother's left arm… Ai.
D'Arcmon let out a high-pitched scream of relief and scooped all of them up in a massive hug of motherly love… even Phascomon and Impmon, who looked more than a bit irritated.
Tears were running down her face. Tears were also running down a certain Cupimon's face. "M-mommy…" Ai whispered in-between hiccups. "C-can you… can you forgive…"
"Ssssshhhh…" D'Arcmon hushed her. "Don't say a word… Mommy loves you, little darling… Mommy always forgives you…"
For a moment, they just stayed that way and enjoyed each other's company. Even Impmon had to admit to himself that having a family was… nice.
After a moment, Ai looked at her parents and asked: "So… does that mean I'm not in trouble?"
Her mother and father exchanged a look. Then D'Arcmon frowned at her daughter. "Oh, you're CRAZY grounded for what you did, young lady!"
And then she gave her another hug.
Police chief Todo had been more than relieved to wake up in his familiar, male, grownup body… right next to his wife, who was also back to normal. The first thing he did was taking a look out of the window. No countless children playing on the street. Everything was back the way it was. And over the next few hours, after several long phone calls and a quick drive to the police station, he could assure that it happened everywhere in Japan. The giant dome of light had disappeared, the hideout of the self-proclaimed 'rebels' as well. Tokyo Tower was back the way it was, and there was no trace of any of Lucemon's followers. Well, they had turned back into the children they were before Ai had recruited them… but they couldn't really put little children to prison, could they?
Well, that was a matter the courts of justice had to discuss. His team had a more important job to take care of… assuring that after all those days of craziness, the city was still a safe place. Reppamon, Hiroshi Taomon Matsuki and every other member of his squad had reappeared back in their normal human or Digimon forms, in their respective homes. And each of them agreed that now was a time that they needed to protect the citizens, to make sure they were safe.
However… Taomon had requested a week off duty to spend with his family. Todo had a good idea why this was so important, so he granted it. After all, the Matsuki family was a very… special case.
Another special case was waiting for him when a certain group of people appeared in front of the police station… people he had never expected to see again. It was Mitsuo Yamaki, accompanied by his associates Riley and Tally. Standing behind them were Alice McCoy and her small troupe of mercenaries.
"I am willing to answer for everything I did," he said. "I believe I can say that goes for all of us." All around him, his companions nodded.
To make a long story short… Yamaki and the others had to answer for a couple of law breaks. In the end, however, certain witnesses provided enough evidence that they all played pivotal roles in the events that helped turning the world back to normal… so most of those charges were dropped. Yamaki had to pay a considerable amount of money and even spend a short time in jail… but after everything was over, he returned to being a respectable man and wa even allowed to work for the government again, in the new embassy of Japan in the Digital World, together with his two partners Riley and Tally… their relationship with two of the most prominent Digimon there only helped in their job.
Alice and her two companions didn't have to answer for as much as Yamaki, but they faced it with relative acceptance of their situation. After that, they returned back to their lives as mercenaries that accepted jobs in both worlds. The only difference was that their actions were now monitored. And every now and then, the government was even willing to pay them for their services, mostly to work together with the Digimon Squad of the Tokyo police forces.
"You gave me a nasty shock back there," Ryo sighed as he and his two partners returned home. "Don't ever do that again to me, you hear?"
"We promise, Ryo," Monodramon smirked.
"Yeah, we'll never let ourselves be caught that easily anymore," Minidramon nodded.
"Okay then… but I must say I'm very proud that you helped Rika get us out of there," he smiled. Together, the threesome entered the house.
They were very surprised to see how Ryo's parents were packing everything together. Huge cardboard moving boxes were standing everywhere in the house… even in Ryo's room.
Ryo and the dragon twins stared at the spectacle for a while. "Mom… Dad… what the heck are you doing?"
"Oh, didn't we tell you?" his father asked with a smirk. "We decided to move in together again, in a new house."
"Yes, a house closer to my new working place," Fafnimon nodded. "It'll be a new start for us all, we'll be like a family again. Aren't you happy?"
"Um… sure I'm happy, but…" Ryo was at a loss of words. "Wait, new working place?" he then blurted out. "You have a new job?"
"I sure have," his dragon mother smiled. "The kindergarten hired me as a new caretaker for the young ones… looks like they were impressed with my ability to care for the tykes back when I had to take over for MarineAngemon."
"And…" Ryo looked at his father. "You don't mind?"
"Actually, I think this is the perfect chance for me to get used to all this Digimon craziness," his father said. "Now that Japan and the Digital World will have even closer contacts with each other."
"Oh man…" Ryo groaned. "And you never thought about telling me about this earlier?"
"But Daddyyyyy!" Suzie whined. "Why can't I sleep in the big bedroom anymore?"
"We talked about this, Suzie," Janyu chuckled as he petted the head of his youngest child. "You're not an adult anymore. And now that you're small again, your old bed is enough."
"But that's not faaaaiiiir!" the girl shouted. "I'll be a big girl again sooner than you think… I am a Tamer and I have my own Hybrid form now."
"But you still didn't have any good training," Sheperdmon said as she walked in. "And no daughter of mine is going to face another Digimon in battle again unless she had at least some sort of basic training."
"Um… Dad… isn't she a bit young for this?" Harmony quietly asked her father.
"What shall I do?" Janyu sighed. "For Digimon, it's normal to learn how to fight at an early age… and your mother isn't going to take no for an answer."
"See it this way, Harmony… it's not exactly normal for kids our age to fight Digimon either," Henry said as he stepped next to his twin sister.
"I guess you're right," Harmony nodded. "At least she has two older siblings that can show her the ropes, huh?" The twins exchanged a smirk.
After MillenniumLucemon was defeated, the Hybrid Tamers had realized that all of the Gremlin's presence had vanished… but BioCalumon's body had remained. But with the RPG Maker gone, it had lost all of its privileges and capabilities as a hint giver and savepoint, reducing it to a regular mass of Digimon data… But that was not the end of the story. The Digimon Sovereigns had honored the Hybrid Tamers for their services for both the human and the Digital Worlds. Zhuqiaomon, after realizing that his little pet project didn't serve any use any longer, graciously granted the Hybrid Tamers a gift… using his divine powers, he changed BioCalumon's remains, transforming them into a male copy of Harmony's body… allowing Henry to gain back his own body. Henry and Harmony both were ecstatic that they now had a proper twin brother/sister. After this event, all the bad blood that existed between the Tamers and Zhuqiaomon had vanished for good.
While Suzie was still trying to convince her parents to buy her a bigger bed, Lopmon sat quietly in Suzie's room.
A soft knock came from the door and Terriermon came in. "Um… hey Lopmon… after all that happened… I figured we should talk…"
"Yes, we should," she nodded, and Terriermon sat down next to her on the bed.
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Terriermon coughed. "So…"
They both looked at each other and said at the same time: "How about a date next Tuesday?"
Both were surprised at the others' question. They both chuckled a bit, then Lopmon smiled and said: "I would love to, Terriermon."
"Yeah… me too," he grinned. They both leaned against each other, enjoying the other's warmth and company.
"So… what about Harmony, then?" Lopmon asked.
"Ah, mou-man-tai," Terriermon replied. "She'll get over it."
Lopmon looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "She never knew that you liked her…"
"She didn't? Oh well… all the better than, huh?" Terriermon winked.
"Hey bro! We're here!" Kei waved with her long vine-fingers as she and her foster mother, Nami Lillymon Asaji, walked through the forest of Okinawa.
Stingmon bowed in front of the Lillymon as she and Kei stepped in front of him. "Miss Asaji, in the name of my mother and father, I welcome you to the nesting grounds of the Green Insect Digimon Syndicate of Okinawa."
"No need to be so formal," Miss Asaji smiled. "I'm glad I'll finally be able to meet my daughter's biological family…" And she greeted the insect warrior with a gentle hug.
Stingmon was more than flustered by the sudden affection of his sister's foster mother. "Um… is she always like this?" he asked.
Kei laughed. "Only when she's feeling affectionate," she grinned.
"I for one am very glad you see us as family as well," QueenBeemon said as she came walking through the trees, a warm smile on her face. "And I'm very happy as well to finally meet the woman who raised my darling little daughter. I can't thank you enough for taking such good care of her, Miss Asaji."
"Oh please, do call me Nami," the Lillymon said. "We have so much to talk about… so much to exchange… look, I've brought sooo many baby photos of her we can look at."
"Oh my gosh! She was sooooo cute as a little sapling!" QueenBeemon gushed after taking one of the pictures in her hand.
Kei sweatdropped when she saw her two mothers gossiping and squealing over baby photos. "Human or Digimon, boy or girl, plant or insect Digimon… I guess mothers will always be the same."
She then looked at her brother. "Oh, by the way, bro… Eiko says hi."
"E-eiko?" Stingmon muttered uncomfortably.
"Yes, Eiko," Kei grinned. „She wants to see you again soooo badly and she asked me to give you this..." And she handed her brother a small piece of paper, with a colorful crayon drawing on it.
Stingmon gulped when he took a look at the picture… it was a crude drawing on him, being nuzzled by a small ChibiBakemon. A red heart was floating over their heads and below, in a little child's handwriting, there was the following text: 'For my beloved Stingmon from his cute little girlfriend Eiko.'
Jeri grunted as she fell back on her behind.
"You certainly improved, daughter," Leomon grunted appreciatively. "But you still got a lot to learn."
"Yeah, I know that, Dad," Jeri said as she got back up from the dojo's floor, rubbing her chin. "But you didn't have to hit so hard."
"If you don't want to get hit, try to improve your dodging skills. Easy as that," Leomon said. "Be thankful that you have me as your teacher instead of your uncle… he tends to be much more unforgiving with his disciples."
That reminded Jeri of something. "Dad…" the young Cubmon said quietly as she wrapped her tail around her legs. "About Uncle Bancho… can we visit him some time?"
"I see no reason not to," her father replied. "But why do you ask now? Is there a special reason?"
"Actually, there is," Jeri nodded. "It's… it's about Leormon." She gulped. It was never easy to speak of her old partner. "I… never really apologized to him for what happened. Because of me…"
"Don't say another word, daughter," Leomon said sternly. "It was not your fault. Destiny chose you and your cousin to become partners, and it was his own decision to follow you."
"But still… I could have protected him…"
Leomon put his massive paws on his daughter's shoulders. "Jeri… our family is a family of warriors. Leormon was a warrior. He died because fought for what he believed in… and to protect you, the closest thing he had to a sister. BanchoLeomon knows that. He will always be remembered as one of the most selfless, brave warriors our clan had in years. He mourns his death, but he will always be proud… of his son, and of you. You stayed at his side until the very end."
Jeri sniffled a bit, then she hugged her father. "Thank you, Dad…"
Leomon smiled and embraced his daughter in the most gentle way a powerful warrior was able to. "I'll contact my brother as soon as I can, and if he agrees, we can go to the Digital World next summer vacation."
"I'm looking forward to it," Jeri smiled as she leaned in the warm, muscular, furry chest of her father.
"Nothing…" Takato murmured as he let go of the computer mouse. "Nothing left… not even a single file." He sighed. "I guess Kei was right… oh well, it's probably for the best."
"Would you want to use the RPG Maker to change anything else?" Guilmon asked. He was sitting on his brother's bed, munching on some Guilmon bread.
"I don't know," Takato sighed. He shrugged. "Maybe. I guess everything is fine the way it is."
Guilmon then asked a question he had on his mind for some time now: "If you knew what the RPG Maker was capable of from the very beginning… would you still have used it?"
"Well, I definitely wouldn't have turned Yamaki into the villain, that's for sure," Takato grumbled. "As for the rest… perhaps. I don't know if I would ever have thought of having a Digimon mother… or brother, for that matter. In the end, that was Kai's idea…"
Guilmon gulped down the rest of his bread and smirked. "But you're glad he had that idea, right?"
"Of course I am, doofus," Takato grinned. "No rare Digimon card in the world would make me want to give up on you."
The door opened and their mother stuck her scaly snout into their room. "Hey boys, did you finish your homework yet?"
Takato and Guilmon looked at each other and gulped. "A-almost, Mom," Guilmon stuttered.
Mie frowned. "You didn't even start working on it, did you? Well, I suggest you sit down and get to work, young men."
A double groan of discontent came from the two brothers. "Yes, Mom…"
With a satisfied smile, Mie wanted to leave the two boys to their work, when Takato called her: "Hey Mom… can I ask you a question?"
"Well, you just did. But I guess you wanna ask me something else. Sure, go ahead, son!"
Takato took a deep breath. "Mom… are you happy to be a Digimon?"
Mie took a close look at him. Then she opened the door all the way, came into the room and sat down on the bed, next to Guilmon. "Takato… come here for a moment," she said, patting the soft mattress next to her. Takato stood up and sat down next to her, leaving Mie in the middle of her two sons.
She took a deep breath. "Boys… before anything else, nothing else in this world makes me more happy than to be your mother and the wife to your father. That's all that matters to me. I really don't know anything about this… old reality you told me about, Takato. But you said that in that world, Guilmon was a Digimon and I wasn't… which means that in that reality, I could never be his true mother. I remember giving birth to him… raising him… being with him from the very beginning of his life. I have every right to call myself his mother. I simply don't care of any… magical video game changed reality or not. I am his mother, just like I am yours." She smiled. "Besides, I have enjoyable memories of my own youth, my life back in the Digital World, my journies with Mayumi, Hiroshi and Leomon. I am proud to call myself a Digital Champion… and even though I still think he can be a pompous ass sometimes, I still am proud to be a champion of Zhuqiaomon. So yes. Yes, I am very happy to be a Digimon."
She pulled both of her sons closer and embraced them in a motherly hug. "Does that answer your question, Takato?"
Takato smiled. "Yes… thanks, Mom."
She nodded, ruffled Takato's hair and Guilmon's head fins, then she stood up. "Now get to that homework, boys… and when you're done, come down for dinner. I have a nice dessert for whoever did a good job."
"Dessert? Yum!" Guilmon licked his lips. "What is it?"
"Oh, I tried something new this morning…" Mie walked out of the room, but looked back at her sons with a wink. "I call it: Ceratomon bread."
"But Renaaaaaaa! I totally told you we NEED you for the upcoming game next week!"
Rena shivered. The blonde human girl with the ponytail moved the telephone and the obnixious voice as far away from her ear as possible. "I'll… think about it, Yui… um… I need to hang up now… see you in school."
She groaned as she put down the phone. "That girl is so… so…"
"Persistant?" Rika suggested.
Rena nodded. "Yeah… that's the word. How can I make it clear to her that I'm not interested in playing volleyball anymore?"
"I don't think that's the main reason why she keeps calling you," Rika chuckled.
"I'm not interested in her in THAT way either!" Rena shouted.
"Well honey, why don't you tell her you have a boyfriend?" Rumiko asked casually as she walked past her daughters.
"MOM!" Rena blushed a deep red.
"What? The way I understand it, you two had a lovely evening yesterday…" her mother winked.
"Oh yeah! How was your date? Did you kiss?" Rika asked.
Rena's head started to look more and more like a ripe tomato. "Th-that's none of your business, little sister."
But Rika couldn't resist teasing her some more. "Hey, have you ever asked Reppamon if he prefers your human form over your Digimon form?"
"RIKA!" Rena shouted.
"From what I know, Reppamon isn't into human girls…" Hiroshi said as he entered through the front door. "Then again, he doesn't even know about this second form of yours yet and he seems to love you very much…"
"DAD!" Rena yelled.
"Good evening, dear," Rumiko smiled at her husband. "How was work?"
"Oh, you know, the same," Roshi said as he gave his wife a quick evening kiss. "Hey, girls… aren't you giving your father a welcome home hug?"
"Daaaad… you know I'm not so… huggy…" Rika murmured uncomfortably as her father hugged both her and her sister.
"Well, you seemed to enjoy the hug the Akiyama boy gave you last evening…" Roshi chuckled.
Rika squeaked. "Y-you saw that?" she blushed.
Rena spun around. "WHAT? You and… Ryo? No way! Tell me, sis! All the juicy details!"
"S-stop it, Rena!" Rika stuttered.
"And where's the rest of my family?" Roshi asked as he looked around.
"Sitting in the kitchen," Rumiko explained. "He's helping mom with dinner."
"That's my boy," Hiroshi smiled as he entered the kitchen, where his mother-in-law and a small foxboy were sitting together, preparing the sandwiches for dinner. "Hey champ! I'm home!"
Bimon's face lit up when he saw his father coming in. "Daddy!" he said as he slid off his chair. He ran up to Roshi and hugged him. "I managed to create an even bigger flame today, Daddy… grandma said it was almost as big as my nose."
Roshi laughed as he ruffled the little Digi-boy's headfur. "Very good. When you're older, I'm sure you'll be a master of using foxfire."
"You really think so?" Bimon grinned with happiness.
There seemed to be no trace left of the old Demon Lord Barbamon. When reality reset itself to the Digimon-populated Japan where Rika's father was a Taomon, Rika had expected Bimon to turn back into her criminal grandfather… after all, his transformation was a result of Lucemon's powers. The surprise was very big when they realized that while everything else had turned back, Bimon had stayed the same. And not only that – everyone seemed to remember him as the third child of the family.
Back when he was magical girl Romi, Rika's father had grown to love the little fox-boy as a brother… and now that he was an adult male again, he was even more happy that he now had a son. His own father certainly wasn't the best father in the world… so Roshi was more determined then ever to be a better father, now that the roles were reversed.
Later that evening, Rika was sitting on her bed. She was looking at some of her old Digimon cards. Rena was sitting on her own bed. She had decided to spend more time as a human now, to get a better feeling and understanding of humanity, and the concept of a family. But one thing the former Rookie knew was that she was happy with herself and her place in this new world.
"Rika?" she then asked quietly. "Are you happy?"
Rika looked up from her cards. "You know… before this started, I was a single child. I only had mom and grandma around and I didn't have a lot of contact with other kids. After I met Takato and the other Tamers, I started to have friends. I grew angry with Takato after he turned me and Dad into Digimon, sure… but you know what?" She smiled. "Thanks to him, I now have an even bigger family. Yes, I am happy, sis… very happy indeed."
Rena smiled back. "I'm very glad to hear that, Rika."
They switched off the light and went to bed.
"Good night… big sis."
"Good night, little sis."
Author's Notes: Finally... after more than five years of writing, I finally finished this very long, very fulfilling story. I remember clearly when I started this as a thread back on the Anime Addventure... It was one of my very rare non-crossover stories, unless you count crossovers of the various Digimon seasons. I am very glad that I finally got to writing this final chapter and I apologize for the long wait... personal life kept me from it. In the end, I hope very much that all of you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing for it.
Special thanks go to all those who stayed my loyal fans all over the years, those who gave me good advice, feedback and help. Above all, I'd like to thank my very special online friend Alex Warlorn, who might be the biggest fan of this particular story.