Story Title: Crest Armors Remix

Chapter Title: End and Beginning: Part 1

Author: Mathais

Rating: T

Fandom: Digimon Adventure/02

Warnings: None

Pairings: None

Summary: Unveiled by their resolve, the Chosen Children fight in the Crest Armors, discovering their true selves within.

Disclaimer: The characters of the Digimon franchise do not belong to me.

Note: I promised myself that I'd pursue the Crest Armors to its end, but I've begun to hate it, so I want to see what'd happen if I simply started anew.

OoOoO

Taichi Yagami, the Chosen Child of Courage, the flame which guided the rest of the Chosen Children in their battles, surveyed the situation with a spark of fear in his heart. Despite recovering from Apocalymon's attack, their initial advantage had somehow faded when Apocalymon proved to be able to regenerate and create claws, though it had some delay. AtlurKabuterimon had taken a grave hit from an Ultimate Stream, and currently Mimi and Lilymon were trying their best defend him and Koushiro from stray Bug Bomb attacks, though the small attack radius of Flow' Cannon did little good against the swarming attack. Whenever necessary, Sora and Garudamon swooped down with a Shadow Wing—an attack which effectively neutralized Plug Bomb whenever used—to aid them, but the fiery bird stood no match for Mugendramon's Mugen Cannon—a technique Apocalymon definitely favored—and she was forced to provide support for Jou and Zudomon, whose slow body couldn't dodge some of the more rapid attacks in time.

WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon were dancing around claws now, which shot at them at increasingly quicker rates. Fortunately, with Takeru, HolyAngemon, Hikari, and Angewomon at his and Yamato's backs, Heaven's Gates and Holy Arrows either deflecting or absorbing the worst of the attacks and leaving only minor blows here and there. The remnants of some deleted claws floated around them, but Taichi could not afford to focus on them. All he could do was lend the flame of his bursting courage to WarGreymon as his digimon swerved left and right to avoid a crisscrossing web of Ultimate Streams.

"Taichi, move!" Yamato cried, fear coloring his voice, as a Mugen Cannon shot from a hidden claw. Ensnared by the trap set up by Ultimate Streams, Taichi cursed and ordered WarGreymon to call a Gaia Force. As the molten energy gathered around them into an orb, Taichi watched the attack grow closer with no little fear. Before the attack was even half-finished, WarGreymon lobbed it at the twin bursts of energy as they grew too close—but to no avail. The weak Gaia Force couldn't stand up to the energy blast, and Taichi cursed.

He was about to have WarGreymon move into the Ultimate Stream array when Yamato's horrified scream caught his attention.

When Taichi looked back at the attack, all he saw were radiant white feathers scattered around him. Two forms flew back from the impact, and Taichi's heart twisted painfully when he caught them. Hikari's body was a mass of burns, and Tailmon was no better.

...they'd done it for him.

Hikari and Angewomon had flown through the trap, forcing themselves past innumerable Ultimate Streams, and took the full brunt of a Mugen Cannon for him.

"WarGreymon!" he shouted into the air, feeling his rage stir. This battle had to end.

"Brave Tornado!"

With the initiation of the rapid-body whirl, whatever Ultimate Streams left were shattered by the sheer force of the technique. And he dove toward his target.

Vamdemon's Night Raid mixed with LadyDevimon's Darkness Wave burned his body, but he could not afford to let it hit the weakened AtlurKabuterimon. As he himself flew back, Taichi wondered if this was what Hikari had felt.

No matter.

He hugged Agumon, Hikari, and even Tailmon close to his body, feeling the weight of battle fall on him.

He didn't want to move.

OoOoO

Yamato's eyes burned with cold flame. Hikari and Taichi had been taken out, and his attempts to move toward them had resulted in a Mugen Cannon into which Sora and Garudamon had dived, allowing him to freely gather the two Yagami siblings and their digimon... at the expense of two friends. Jou and Zudomon now stood in front of those weakened and fallen, while Yamato and MetalGarurumon dealt with the Bug Bombs, Grand Gross Freezer and Cocytus Breath having both the strength and range to deal with whatever attacks came their way.

"Yamato, go forward!" shouted Koushiro, the tactical mind of the Chosen Children ever with his eye on the prize. "Mimi, Lilymon, Takeru, HolyAngemon! Support! I want MetalGarurumon to Cocytus Breath Apocalymon's main body, following it with Garuru Tomahawk to shatter!"

"But what about you?" he shouted back.

"Zudomon's got one tough shell!" Jou gave a rare grin as he patted his partner affectionately.

The grin eerily mirrored Zudomon's before he slammed his hammer down in a Hammer Spark to deflect another Mugen Cannon. "I can take a few hits for Koushiro and AtlurKabuterimon! You need to end this! We'll support you when AtlurKabuterimon feels he's ready."

Takeru and HolyAngemon flew toward them, with a serious expression on the Chosen Child of Hope's face. "Onii-chan, we can't stop."

Mimi and Lilymon agreed. "Yamato, the battle needs to end."

HolyAngemon dived as another claw shot forward, and he ducked beneath the sharp bulk, slicing upward to sever it at the limb, at which point the claw burst into data. Apocalymon shouted in pain, and the Archangel digimon tonelessly stated, "He's distracted. It's the best time to go forward."

"Mimi, Lilymon," Takeru addressed the pair who represented Purity with eyes unusually solemn, "if something happens, you have to make sure that Onii-chan and MetalGarurumon make it to Apocalymon, all right? They're the only Ultimate we've got now."

"I understand," replied Mimi in a similar tone as the Fairy digimon nodded.

Before Yamato could protest, Takeru and his archangel had already shot forward, a Heaven's Gate in front of them to absorb stray energies. As Takeru and HolyAngemon cleared a path with their holy powers, MetalGarurumon and Yamato rode in behind them, running as fast as the Cyborg digimon's legs would allow them. True to their promise, Mimi and Lilymon were consistently around with Flow' Cannons to ward off what strikes HolyAngemon could not block.

The strain protecting him from harm was all too apparent on their faces, and Yamato cursed his inability to help them. Whenever MetalGarurumon moved to launch an air-clearing Grand Cross Freezer, they were shot a sharp look by one of the other Chosen Children and told in no uncertain terms that he must not waste his energy.

Even when an Ultimate Stream came too close and Takeru had to bite his lip to keep from crying out in pain as the passing energy left a burn on his arm, Yamato was forced to continue forward. It pained him so much to see how hurt Takeru and HolyAngemon were from having to dive forward to protect them, and it also hurt to see Mimi and Lilymon so fatigued and in the same dire straits as Takeru and HolyAngemon from their attempts.

Thusly, he breathed a sigh of relief when Apocalymon's main body came into view. Takeru, HolyAngemon, Mimi, and Lilymon were already there, avoiding the many claws Apocalymon still sported as they distracted their enemy from the true threat.

Just as he was about to order MetalGarurumon to execute the plan, Mimi and Palmon went flying past him, a twin barrage of Mugen Cannons to blame for their departure. Before he could turn back to look, Takeru shouted sharply, "Do it!"

And ignoring the instincts which screamed at him, he whispered, "Go," and urged his partner into it.

"Cocytus Breath!" called MetalGarurumon before he launched a stream of ice from his mouth. All of the claws froze as Apocalymon's main body was hit by the attack and frozen solid. Yamato grimly remembered how easily Piemon had defeated the attack previous—and how much they'd grown now that he witnessed how deeply his opponent was encased in ice.

"Finish it!" he shouted.

"Garuru Tomahawk!" Yamato hung on for dear life as MetalGarurumon flipped backwards, the compartment on his chest opening up and releasing a large missile. The projectile flew toward the frozen Apocalymon—and impacted.

Apocalymon's torso exploded in a blinding flash, icy shrapnel firing off into the distance.

As Takeru and HolyAngemon, after retrieving Mimi and Palmon, flew up to him, Yamato and MetalGarurumon shared a look. For a brief moment, all was still for him—he could feel the blood rushing in his ears, louder than anything else. The adrenaline running through his veins began to ebb, and there was a slow realization.

It was over.

"Onii-chan!" Takeru shouted across the expanse. "You did it! Apocalymon's gone!" There was a gleeful look on his face, mixed with a heavy dose of relief.

It was the last thing Yamato remembered, the thing he focused on, when he urged MetalGarurumon forward.

The gleeful look turned to horror when the claws began to move, and a storm of Mugen Cannons and Bug Bombs shot toward Takeru and his digimon. Yamato, MetalGarurumon, and even HolyAngemon himself put themselves in the way of the attack.

Yamato felt pain, indescribable pain, and he blacked out.

His only thought was that Takeru was safe.

OoOoO

Takeru was in shock. Around him were scattered the bodies of his friends, the family he'd come to depend upon. Though there were all alive, the devastation was almost too much for his young mind to bear. To know that they'd sacrificed their bodies for him dug the wound even deeper.

Crystal blue eyes stared at what remained of Apocalymon, at the claws which continued to move despite the mind's destruction. His fists clenched as he felt the first strands of fear invade him.

"We will not be defeated," came the whispering voice of Apocalymon through his mind. Takeru's eyes alighted in his fright; he backed away instinctively from the chillingly cordial voice. "We will not lose. We've been here too long; it is too cold. We need to be free of this solitude."

"Through destroying everything?" questioned Takeru, faux-politeness masking his fear.

"If we must," admitted the voice. "If that's what it takes to be rid of this pain, then we will destroy everything."

"Why?" Takeru forced himself to ask. "Why must it be this way?"

"You do not know the chill of loneliness," answered Apocalymon. "You do not understand what we have felt, as we sat here where nothing else existed—solitude in the extreme. And, thus, you will never understand what drives us to be rid of the pain."

He felt a deep, foreboding chill enter his body, invading him with its despair. There was nothing he could do; Jou and Koushiro and their digimon were too far away to help. He couldn't call for them. Everyone else was unconscious or otherwise unable to fight. He was... well and truly alone.

He was terrified.

But he tried to stand defiantly with the steel he'd gained through his hardships.

That was why he didn't tremble when Apocalymon's voice whispered, "Please do not resist. Let me be free of my insanity. Death Claw," throughout his mind. He stared at the Devimon's hands reaching out to him, and he was instantly reminded of a long time ago back at File Island, where he cowered against the mountain face when the same hand approached. He'd given into his fear and his despair and awaited his death.

Back then, Patamon—Angemon—had pulled him away.

But here, there was no one...

...no one except himself.

The last remnants of his terror and hopelessness gave way to a burning light where pierced everything else. He grasped onto his hope, his hope for a better future, his hope for the safety of all he held dear—and he pulled and pulled and pulled until raw energy filled him with unlimited strength.

Because, as the Chosen Children had just realized, their Crests lay within them. They embodied their Crest by being who they were, so Hope's power was his power.

And so Takeru cloaked himself in that power, which lay dormant inside of him.

A bright nimbus of energy surrounded him in golden light. Raising his head to stare defiantly at what was left of Apocalymon, he called out, "Then allow my hope to set you free! Armor of Hope!"

The nimbus exploded in light, and Takeru felt his body growing, lengthening, as his muscles bulged and grew and clothes shattered and reformed themselves into a knight's armor. He felt a brief pain as eight angel wings burst out of his back, but he didn't care, lost in the euphoria of energy.

As he grasped the golden staff which hovered in midair, his gloved hands feeling the Crest of Hope engraved in its shaft, he felt—everything. He felt all the hopes of everyone in both worlds, the hopes which rested on the shoulders of the Chosen Children, and they gave him strength, the power to stand tall and fight.

"The Light of Hope," he whispered and then raised his staff. As if by instinct, he charged energy into his weapon and struck.

The approaching claw shattered beneath his attack, spreading a cloud of data in his wake. Looking up, he spread his wings and flew faster than HolyAngemon, dodging right through the incoming Ultimate Streams. He was a mere streak of gold as he headed toward Apocalymon's polyhedron body. Charging his staff with his burning light, he thrust it forward, calling, "Glowing Staff!" and impacted into the space vacated by a destroyed claw. He dug deeper and deeper until he found the very thing he was looking for—the Digicore, which was the very being of all digimon. And then he smashed that too.

For a moment, he felt blessed relief as Apocalymon's aura winked out of existence. Then he shuddered again, knowing that every moment Apocalymon seemed beat—he was anything but.

"Ultimate Stream!"

Drawing energy for another Glowing Staff attack, Takeru raised his staff and slammed it into the beam, deflecting it off its intended course. He responded with several lances of light energy, and his heart nearly stopped when he saw the intended target.

MetalSeadramon curled around himself, twisting his way out of the attack.

As Takeru spun around in a circle, he realized that he was in a huge amount of trouble.

Every shard of Apocalymon's Digicore sparkled. Were they supposed to look like glass fragments? He thought they were supposed to vaporize into data. He thought this absently to quell his horror-stricken heart as each fragment of the Digicore turned into another digimon, another fallen being who had made up Apocalymon's whole.

Hundreds of digimon, ranging from Baby to even Ultimate, stared back at him. His throat dried as his heart dropped. There was no way he could fight them all off.

But, as he smiled grimly and they all turned to stare at him, he realized there was only one appropriate response.

Flaring his aura brightly, he dashed into the thick of them.

If he was going down, he would take as many of them as he could.

OoOoO

"Faster," Koushiro urged AtlurKabuterimon quietly. They'd already left Zudomon behind, preferring to get to the action as soon as they could. If everything wasn't over yet... It meant that his plan had failed or the other Chosen Children were still fighting.

He didn't want to think of the other alternative.

His heart nearly froze when he came across Yamato and Gabumon, Mimi and Palmon... and Patamon. He grabbed them and desperately began to search for Takeru.

Flashes of light amidst many bodies...

"There!" he shouted, pointing at the mass in front of them.

"Horn Buster! Horn Buster!" As fast as the Insect digimon could charge them up, he unleashed the blasts into the crowd. Sometimes, they did little save for concussive force. Other times, they heavily damaged an enemy. The glowing golden figure was tearing his way through the pack, but one enemy was replaced by two, and there were far too many.

Koushiro gasped as Mugendramon turned, his gaze malevolent. "Mugen Cannon!"

And AtlurKabuterimon tossed him off, taking the hit and reverting back Tentomon. Koushiro scrambled toward his partner, ducking—was that a Fire Blast?—to reach him unscathed. With all his might, he tossed Tentomon back toward the others.

Quelling his fear, he immediately sought to catalogue his enemies.

"A Tyranomon—no, he took care of it. MetalEtemon... He's strong, but focused strikes should do the trick. Jyureimon? Not much of a fighter, probably a few hits in the back and he's gone. Anomalocarimon'll take a few, but underneath the shell, he's a weakling."

Koushiro clenched his fists in anger.

Because he knew.

No matter how much he knew, he didn't have the strength to execute it. He didn't have the power to follow through. What use was knowing the weaknesses of his enemies if he couldn't fight? What use was knowledge if he had no way to apply it?

And then he paused.

Knowledge... Didn't pertain to only things, did it?

Knowledge meant to know...

True knowledge.

And suddenly... he knew.

Knowledge wasn't only the facts, wasn't only what existed in front of him. Knowledge also meant wisdom, to know about the heart and life and living.

To know what must be done.

Lightning crackled around him as he finally, truly, absolutely recognized the entirety of Knowledge. And so he reached down into the very depths of his being and touched the core of Knowledge. And he pulled at it, flooding his body with raw power. Lightning raced through his veins, burning hot and wild, but he fought and tamed it, tempered it with his knowledge which was beyond intelligence, beyond wisdom, until it was true Knowledge.

"Armor of Knowledge," he whispered and surrounded himself with energy. He felt pain, minuscule to the thrum of power beneath his skin, as his body responded by growing into an adult size, his muscles expanding to accommodate the new growth. He felt red armor appear on his body, so similar to his partner AtlurKabuterimon, right down to the rocket pack on his heavily guarded back which served as his method of flight. "The Lightning of Knowledge."

His fingers curled around the handle of a wicked-looking mace, and he took comfort in the familiar Crest engraved in the hilt. Putting on a burst of power, he called out, "Electric Crush!" and infused his weapon with his lightning energy. He lowered it straight into a WaruMonzaemon's head, knocking him away the golden angel.

He swerved to the angel's back, wincing upon sight of the odd angle at which one of the wings limply hung.

"Takeru, you all right?"

"Is that you, Koushiro?"

Koushiro winced at his fellow Chosen Child's exhausted tone, but he shook his head and merely said, "Yeah."

"There's too many," whispered Takeru. "I thought... Only a couple hundred maybe, but too many, and too many Perfects and Ultimates... I'm not sure if I can make it."

Quite frankly, Koushiro wasn't sure he could either.

"Well then, let's just see how many we can take down."

Through the angelic mask, he thought he could see Takeru give a lop-sided, if tired, grin. "Sure."

"Knowledge's Lightning!"

"Hope's Radiance!"

OoOoO

Jou, naturally, was a worrier. Initially, he'd always worried for his own well-being first and foremost, but, over the course of the journey, he'd learned to worry less and less for himself and more and more about others. Others placed their faith in him and his sincerity for that very reason. That was why, looking down at Zudomon, at how damaged he was, Jou knew there was only response.

"I'm sorry," he whispered quietly toward his partner, who looked up at him questioningly.

And then he slammed his fist down at the base of Zudomon's neck, using his position to aim for that one weak point he never had to worry about before.

Zudomon immediately crumpled, Jou slipping of his shoulder as he reverted back to an unconscious Gomamon.

An unconscious Gomamon, but an alive Gomamon.

He set Gomamon down, and then he walked forward.

Because he knew the others needed him. Takeru and Koushiro were fighting, and they needed him.

How did he know?

Because people trusted him; people could have faith in a person such as he, and they could see his sincerity. Such a link allowed him to know when others needed his help, almost instinctively.

But he couldn't let Zudomon fight, not in his current condition.

So he dug deep into him, touching the placid surface of his energy. Initially calm, then able to become a tempest of emotions and the like—that's what his power was. He could see, adapt, help, aid—he linked everyone together by being everywhere with everything.

He was Sincerity in its fullest. He was Sincerity in every bit of his actions, with a strength readily seen.

So, as he neared the all-out battle, he summoned that strength to lend him aid. Because others relied on him, placed their faith in him, and he always, always, returned that faith. They depended on his sincerity to do so.

"Armor of Sincerity," he whispered and drew from the wellspring inside of him. Cool water flowed through his veins, calming him, putting him in his center. His body grew with the power, and he felt hard, strong armor encase him in a defense few could penetrate. He could feel his heart beat in his chest, pounding, forever reminding him of his promises.

Grasping the battle hammer which appeared in mid-air, he called, "The Water of Sincerity," felt the Crest engraved in the hilt, and tossed his weapon in an attack named, "Aquatic Toss!" while coating it in water. It impacted in a WaruMonzaemon's back, and the digimon burst into data—but Jou knew that it was already weakened. When the hammer boomeranged back to him, he was already walking forward—faster than his heavy armor looked to be capable of, but with none of the inherent grace of Takeru's angelic wings or the shockwave bursts of power Koushiro emitted.

But his gait allowed him one thing—strength.

Strength he readily used to beat back the hordes from Koushiro and Takeru, deleting Delumon with the same strike as he knocked back a Garbamon.

Because he would always protect his friends, even if it meant sacrificing his body.

"We're not going to make it, are we?" idly asked Jou as he tossed his hammer again, barely missing another Garbamon, though the return trip knocked it senseless.

Takeru didn't respond; the Child of Hope only gripped his staff harder between tense fingers and deflected another Ultimate Stream, twirling mightily to dispel a fire strike. Koushiro shook his head and slammed his mace into a stray Banana Slip.

Jou grunted as the ChibiKiwimon bombs from a Little Pecker exploded against his back.

It would be tough, but it needed to be done.

OoOoO

Hikari was slow to wake. She could feel consciousness tickling at the edges of her senses, but she couldn't quite grasp it. Her body felt alternatively hot and cold, sometimes flooded with warmth one moment and devoid of that very same warmth the next. It was like a flickering light bulb struggling to turn on.

But soon, consciousness solidified, and Hikari was able to pull herself to wakefulness.

Gasping, the Chosen of Light gave a full-bodied shiver and struggled her way out of Taichi's arms. She took one look at Tailmon and gave a worried mutter, but she winced as she felt the burns on her body tighten.

Where were the others?

She looked around her, and she gave a worried murmur when her eyes caught sight of Sora and Piyomon.

But that didn't explain where the other five Chosen Children were. But maybe... Off in the distance, she thought she could feel something poke at her, and it caused her to straighten, even with her battered body.

Teasingly, she reached out with her mind. "Hello?"

"Hikari?" came the half-strangled gasp. "Are you awake?"

She didn't expect the reply, but she focused her thoughts anyway and sent them out to Takeru. "I'm awake. What's going on?"

"We're losing, badly," Takeru grunted, seemingly unfazed by the new method of communication. "Just... try to stay away, all right? We'll do our best." With that parting note, Takeru refused all other communications.

But Hikari would never follow his last command.

She would do anything for her friends. She trusted them, and they trusted her.

Too often, Hikari knew she was left behind to be protected. She'd always had someone to protect her, save her, keep her from harm. Even in this last battle, she knew Takeru and HolyAngemon were always taking the hits for her and Angewomon.

The first time she'd taken it upon herself to fight had led her to be captured.

The second time landed her unconscious.

But, as they say, third time's the charm.

Hikari ran forward toward where she knew the other Chosen Children were. Her heart beat wildly in her chest, and she felt energy fill her body. She wanted to be out there, to let her shine encourage them all. She wanted to help, to be in the midst of battle—because that was where her friends were, and that was where she needed to be. She wanted—needed—to be the one who stood by their side as they fought.

"Armor of Light," she called out and the warmth she felt inside exploded around her. Body lengthening and being clothed in white silk which hid the strong armor beneath, she felt the cross helmet cover her face, though she focused on the eight white wings bursting out of her back in a flurry of feathers. Her fingers found the bow, finding the Crest which was engraved in its very structure, and she reached for the quiver at her back. The Crest engraved in each shaft gave her strength as she strung it, pulling back and releasing a glowing bolt of light as she whispered, "The Shine of Light." It pierced a Garbamon in midstrike, and Hikari plowed through the resulting cloud of data, straight into the defensive formation the other three Chosen took.

"Hikari!" shouted Koushiro in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Helping." She gave a small smile as she strung another arrow, this one shining brightly. Aiming for a pair of Childs, she shouted, "Shining Rain!" and launched the projectile. It multiplied into many more once released, and the enemies were deleted by the onslaught. Just as quickly, however, Adults came, and Jou appeared in front of her to protect her.

She nudged Takeru, who was weakly tossing out shimmering spears of light. "Are you all right?"

Jou spoke for the Child of Hope. "He's been fighting the longest—he's really tired."

Hikari knew what she had to do. The eternal light inside her heart spread throughout her entire body until it coated her in a shining pink aura. Thrusting her hand out, the light surrounded all of her friends as she whispered, "Light's Luminance." As her aura coated each of her friends, their movements sped up, as if energy had been restored to tired limbs.

Taking up her bow again, she notched her arrows and fired them, grimacing when she missed the agile enemies she targeted.

She knew it would continue to be a tough battle, however. Her invigoration abilities were only a stopgap—once she herself could not support her friends, they would fall right after.

But still she continued to generate the light, because, with it, they could still fight.

That was all that mattered in the end.

OoOoO

It normally took a while for Taichi to wake. He was a heavy sleeper, and mornings were his bane.

This time, however, Taichi's eyes snapped open as soon as he returned from unconsciousness. He knew that he was in the middle of a battle, and his mind instantly went out toward the others. As the leader he was, he rose.

His first thought was that Hikari was missing.

Agumon and Tailmon were with him, but Hikari was not. His eyes began to scan the vicinity, looking for his missing sibling when he felt something.

Something was majorly wrong.

He thought he could see flashes of light in the distance. Sounds travelled toward him, making him worry, and he nearly gave a gasp when he recognized Hikari's voice shouting something indecipherable.

Desperation fueled his movements. All the weariness and pain of his body melted away as concern for not only his sister but for all of the Chosen Children came to the fore when he recognized Koushiro and Jou's voices as well.

He knew the risks; Agumon was currently unconscious and he had no protection for himself. He knew that doing what he was doing could be foolhardy; he could offer nothing for what was happening and might even make things worse.

But, in the end, what he did know was that he needed to protect his friends—the family of his heart, the family who could only come together through by facing hardships and death together. He knew the risks, knew the dangers. Knew the fear.

He discarded them anyway.

For that was true Courage.

He had learned that lesson, long ago, and it was now creeping up on him once more. Courage was not blindly charging ahead into danger.

That was Foolhardiness.

Courage was assessing the situation, understanding the dangers, and going forward anyway.

Because it had to be done.

His conviction lit a bonfire in his heart. It spread along his body, sending fire through his veins and it consumed all of him. He let out a soundless roar as he burned his Courage harder and brighter than he ever had, burned it until its light and fury covered him entirely.

"Armor of Courage!" his voice boomed in the empty space as light morphed into flame and covered his skin. Fire expanded his body, growing it, strengthening it, until he towered over his former form. His fist clenched as armor appeared on his body, orange spikes on his limbs and a silver plate with red X's covering his chest. With hands covered with gauntlets and claws, he grasped the two katana which spiraled out of the flames, taking strength from the Crests engraved. "The Fire of Courage."

On his own power, he sped up until he was at a Shellmon's back, calling, "Flaming Slash!" Fire covered his blades, and when he slashed through the Shellmon, it burst into data fragments.

He caught up to Takeru's back, noting how battered the child (which he was, no matter his form) looked. Takeru was still working, still had his reflexes, because as soon as he got into range, there was a staff heading for his head. He used his superior strength to block the hit, crossing his swords to match the staff. The light lances created in response were matched with bursts of flame, and it was only then that Takeru realized who he was attacking.

"Taichi!" he shouted, horrified as his grip grew limp on his weapon. "I'm—"

"It's all right," Taichi soothed quietly. "I should have known better than to sneak up on your back. Where's everyone else?"

"Sora, Mimi, and Onii-chan are still unconscious. Jou and Koushiro are protecting Hikari." Takeru dived backwards as an Ultimate Stream shot in front of him, a shimmering lance of energy shooting forward and barely missing MetalSeadramon.

"I'm going to help." There was no hesitation in Taichi's voice as he shot forward. "Courage's Fire!" There were no frills to his attack; a concentrated pyre of flames erupted from his hands, numerous Gazimon falling beneath the strike. In their wake, Taichi flew past to Hikari, who had just notched another arrow and pointed it at him.

"Onii-chan!" she gasped, lowering her bow.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she insisted, "but Takeru's been fighting the longest and Koushiro's tired too! It's taking all of my energy to keep letting them move."

"Well, I'll protect you." Even as he gripped his weapons tighter, Taichi took stock of the situation. Most of the Babies and Childs had been deleted; there were numerous Adults and Perfects left, though the Ultimates caused the most worry.

Even with the damage done to what had made Apocalymon, there was still more to go.

But Taichi burned his aura brighter, bursts of flame entering the fray as he called on more and more of that fire coursing through his body to the fore.

It had to be done, and it would get done.