A flaming column swung downwards, but Achromon was swift and darted out of the way. He spiraled up, spreading his wings wide in front of the Commander's masked face.
Blades of burning shadow wrapped themselves around Cephalomon's head, but he shook his head and swiped again. Steam was billowing out from beneath his mask, causing his rubbery skin to wrinkle and showing the pulsating veins beneath.
"It's no use! All you've accomplished is that you'll all die together!"
"I have no plans of dying anytime soon." Achromon flew upwards as flames singed the edge of his wings, making him wince beneath the mask. He looked backwards at his partner, who was watching his every move.
"I still have something I need to take care of."
Cephalomon let out an exasperated grunt and lunged again, sending Achromon spiralling away.
Far below the commotion, Luminemon let out a small cough. She could still feel the pressure from Cephalomon's monstrous hand as it had threatened to squeeze the life from her. That had been far too close. One of her golden wing edges bent backwards at an awkward angle, and one of her legs was badly swollen near the foot. Still, despite the various pains coming from her body, the wyvern struggled to her feet and spread her wings once again.
Eloise hopped over to her and embraced her, her sopping wet hair dripping over her partner's downy body.
"You can't go up there again…You can't fight him…You'll die…"
Luminemon looked down, before nuzzling her partner's face.
"I have to. I can't just leave him up there, not when he came back." She stared up as Achromon narrowly dodged another attack. "Kai and Colchimon returned. We're all together again. I have to try."
She smiled, before bracing herself to take off.
"Together, we can do anything."
There was a rush of wind and Luminemon limped into the sky, still retaining a surprising amount of dignity as she bobbed from left to right. Eloise stared up after her, tears staining her face.
Achromon looked down as his life partner soared up to meet him, her talons outstretched. She noticed an area of damaged armour around Cephalomon's soft neck, and with pinpoint accuracy she zoomed in and dug them into the flesh, just above his gills. He gargled and reared back slightly, before swatting at her. The white dragon flapped backwards with all the grace and skill of a drunk bumblebee. In between dealing with his own problems, Achromon looked over at her, concerned (well, as concerned as a toothy demonic shadow dragon can look, at any rate)
"I'm not sure it's wise for you to be up here right now."
"Don't give me that. I won't leave you as long as you're here, fighting by our side."
"You're injured. I saw what he was doing to you."
"That's no excuse. I'm helping you and that's final."
"Well…okay then. Thanks."
"I've really missed you, by the way."
Achromon blushed slightly as he turned to face her. "Aw, I've missed you too."
"SHUT IT!" Cephalomon practically threw himself between the two as they swerved in opposite directions, regrouping again behind him.
Achromon's attack struck the titan in the back of the head, and he stumbled forward slightly.
Achromon tensed himself. "We'd better focus. This isn't going to be easy."
Luminemon summoned the power from deep within her. Eloise was below, still willing her on, and she felt the supporting shadow from Achromon as well. But she also felt something else. A greater power by far, so great that it was almost terrifying. It snarled and slashed inside her, threatening to release itself, but something held it back. From the corner of her eye she saw Kai staring up at her, grim determination on his face. What was really going on in that head of his?
It didn't matter now. She felt more powerful than she ever had before. With a glance at her serpentine comrade, she saw that he was much the same. As Cephalomon moved once again, they split, trailing light and shadow behind them.
The tendrils of light and waves of shadow bound the great head tightly, each one repelling the other, thus digging deeper into the soft flesh. Cephalomon cursed as a couple of his smaller tentacles fell, the attacks having burnt right through them.
He shook his head again, before raising his hands to swat the two dragons out of the sky, when all of a sudden he was met with a rush of wind from above, followed by several hundred feet of sky-serpent, that proceeded to wrap around him. He caught Cyclomon's eye as the giant beak passed his head.
"You have no right to plead, you murderous monster."
Cephalomon struggled, but his movements were restricted further as Alopemon, still up and running herself, fired several icicles up at his tentacles, forming a casing. The more he broke, the more she simply re-covered.
Not even underwater was the giant safe, for with great cries of "Fossil Meteor!" Tectonamon was binding him even there, great cages of bone and flint that wrapped around the soft rubber and clogged up his barrels.
Cephalomon tried to move, but the bindings grew tighter and tighter. He was steaming so much that his entire upper body was practically white smoke by this point.
Cephalomon swayed. First back, then forward, then back further. His great bulk, unable to support itself, overbalanced, and he braced himself as he tipped backwards into his own lake, the impact causing an almighty crack, and sending water everywhere. He lay there, half submerged, as he sensed the six warriors on all sides. He tried to say something, but his mouth was clogged. A few dribbles of magma trickled down from underneath his mask, as he spluttered and tried to form words. When he finally spoke, it was with a voice laced with oil and bitter poison.
From out of nowhere, Velocimon hopped up onto the bound titan's mask, looking down at the pool of liquid fire that composed the Commander's left eye.
"We're the monsters?"
Velocimon knelt down, ignoring the hot metal of the mask against his feet as he stared, straight faced, into Cephalomon's gaze.
"What about you? You've killed thousands. You've ravaged many cities to the ground. You personally killed Placomon, sending an entire race of Digimon to their extinction. And you're seriously telling us that we're the monsters?"
There was silence for what felt like an hour. The only sound was that of Cephalomon's ragged breathing, and the increasing levels of steam coming from beneath his armour plating.
Velocimon pointed a charged arm towards the orange abyss. "Answer me."
"Why wouldn't you just give in?"
Velocimon paused, as Cephalomon waved a few head tentacles.
"I am following the path I've believed in since I was a Rookie level. I'm a soldier. That's what I've always been. We were to bring peace to the world. A new Eden, governed by a single, just ruler. You may have seen it as a massacre. Perhaps it was. But the end would be worth it."
High up above, Cyclomon trembled with rage, and Achromon had to force himself not to fly in and rip the creature's eye out. But Velocimon remained firm. He stood stock still, beckoning the Commander to continue.
Cephalomon did so. "But then you came. You wouldn't accept the greater purpose. And because of your actions, I lost my arm. Twice. Because of you, I've patrolled the oceans and sent cities crumbling to the ground. Yet despite everything I've put into finding you, I've accomplished nothing!" He began to writhe, the steam pouring out from beneath his armour in great, volcanic puffs. "My honour. My army. My status. My colleagues. I've lost them all. You want to know why you're the monsters? I merely killed. You have destroyed me, and I will make you all pay!"
"We were TRYING to SURVIVE!" Velocimon's calm demeanour broke and he fired a barrage of sparks straight into Cephalomon's eye. The beast lurched, breaking about half of his bindings and reaching upwards to the sky. All of a sudden every one of the partners spurred into action.
From below, Tectonamon let out a guttural scream, far unlike his usual calm self.
He planted his scimitars deep into the lake bed, with such an impact that the entire rock bed cracked, sending spears of crystals shooting up from below and into Cephalomon.
"You are a killer!"
Cephalomon tried to roll, but only succeeded in freeing his upper half. Alopemon ran towards him, ice shards circling around her in a manner similar to Martyaxmon's rosary.
As Cephalomon hauled himself up, icicle after icicle struck his midriff, slowing his movements. He glared down at the fox, his entire body shaking with anger now, a deep roaring coming from within his barrel-like chest.
"I am a soldier of justice. You will die for your actions if it is the last thing I accomplish!"
"You'll be the first to die! Hurricane Helix!"
Cyclomon divebombed the titan, throwing everything into his attack as the spiraling wind dragons collided with the colossus's body, sending him veering every which way like a ragdoll on a stick.
Black and white lasers pelted Cephalomon's head right between the eyes, causing the mask to develop a massive crack. The Commander began to cough, spewing out molten magma and yelling all the way.
"I WilL GET my vENgeanCE!
Far below, five of the children had were now congregated on one platform, with Kai still on the far shore. Every one of them was engrossed with the scene above them; their partners' fury, and Cephalomon's desperate struggle. There was a great rumbling, as if the earth itself was about to split apart.
Jack latched onto his sister's sleeve. "Do you think they'll be able to win?"
Grace put her arm around him. "I hope so."
Everyone turned to see Eloise, holding Aaron's D-Nexus as she knelt beside their leader. The device was flashing, the energy meter higher than before.
Aaron's face twitched. Then, slowly, he opened his eyes. They darted from left to right, looking at the faces of the people in front of him.
"Shut up!" Eloise threw her arms around him, only to pull away again apologetically as the teenager yelped in pain. Aaron looked up, and for the first time noticed Cephalomon reeling around above him. Even from this distance, it was clear his partner was right atop the giant's head, struggling to stay on.
"So it's not over yet…"
He moved for his D-Nexus but Eloise snatched it away, "Don't even think about it!"
"I can see. Up there. Just a bit more power. We can make it. We can win."
"You can't fight like this. You can't fight ever again." Eloise held the device out of reach, but nearly dropped it when a voice came from within.
"He doesn't need to fight"
Aaron started. "Velocimon?"
"Your body may be damaged, but you have a stronger will than I have ever seen before. Let it out. With your power, I can win. We can finally win."
Eloise hesitated, but the look on Aaron's face was beyond reasoning. She lowered her hand and passed him the D-Nexus, which glowed in his hand. Slowly but meaningfully, he moved his arm forward, the whole group watching him.
Velocimon had changed before he could even blink. With Galvamon's roar, he plunged his blades into Cephalomon's mass of head tentacles, growling as he charged up the power within him. The power of his partner's will.
Down below, the group watched and hoped. On the shoreline, Kai clenched his fists. "Please let this work."
Cephalomon was disorientated. His arms hung limp, tired from all the assaults, and he hung low in the water. His armour was singed, and his mask was beyond cracked. With one last burst of anger he thrust his head round, feeling the heavier form of Galvamon holding tight atop his head.
Galvamon bared his teeth. "The lie ends here, Cephalomon. You've been wearing a mask of self-awarded honour and righteousness cause for long enough. Below that, you're just a proud, sadistic beast. It's time I showed your true self to the world.
Galvamon released all his electrical energy in one single burst, which rocketed through the Commander's body. Cephalomon choked as several thousand volts ran through his head, cracking the mask even more. His voice became distorted, so much so that it was virtually impossible to make out what he was saying. Another crack, and a shard of the mask splashed into the lake, revealing orange flesh and vicious barbs beneath. His arms jerked outwards and pieces of armour fell all around him.
With a terrible snap, the mask finally splintered, the two main halves crashing into the water, where they floated like deformed sampans.
The water calmed as Cephalomon hung limp. The giant's head pointed downwards, tentacles obscuring his features. Everyone stared, waiting for the first signs of disintegration. Any hint of a victory.
If they'd been looking close enough, they might have noticed something moving on the giant's face, right between the eyes. Something not quite there.
They might have noticed the small burn mark as the something disappeared into Cephalomon's orange flesh. A burn mark that vanished just like that.
Cephalomon himself might have briefly struggled against the something. Resisted, like he had since it started. A tiny spark in his clouded mind was yelling at him. Not like this. Don't let this happen. Don't let them see you like this...
And, far, far away, a certain someone might have revealed his one last trick on the giant Commander. One last chance for victory.
Definitely not in the way he would have wanted, but one last chance, nonetheless.
Regardless of all the tiny details, what happened next was enough to shatter any feelings of relief for the twelve warriors.
Cephalomon shook. He bulged. In one, swift movement, his armour shattered, revealing a soft underbelly, pitted with pores. The barrels at the end of his tentacles snapped, the metal sinking to the bottom of the lake. Where the barrels had been, the ends of the tentacles split into four, revealing their barbed, tubular insides. The Commander's arms and back sprouted vents all along them, from which an ominous glow emanated.
For the first time, the tamers and their partners saw what was hiding beneath the mask. Tentacles flapped, finally free from the metal bindings, wriggling as if they had a life of their own. Cephalomon's mouth was made up of three spiny flaps, one on top of the other, and a jagged beak that clicked as the barbs brushed against it.
Cephalomon, if he still even recognized his own name, turned to the heavens and roared.
He couldn't speak. He couldn't think. He couldn't control himself. Or maybe he no longer wanted to. Maybe he no longer cared.
He simply roared.
The tamers, standing below, stared up in horror.
Eloise shook her head in disbelief. "It can't be. He can't still be fighting."
"He won't be." Atop Cephalomon's head, Galvamon raised his arms to strike down once again.
He was quickly silenced as a tentacle struck him out of nowhere, sending him skipping across the water like a thrown rock.
Then, chaos broke loose. Cephalomon swiped downwards, his arms glowing white hot, as he aimed for the exposed Alopemon. She jumped in the nick of time, but where Cephalomon's arms hit the lake surface the water exploded. The tamers raised their arms as a torrent of water slammed into them, knocking them off their platform.
Kent surfaced first, "Where's Aaron?"
"Kent, help! I can't…keep going…" Kent turned his head to see Aaron struggling to stay afloat. He moved towards him, supporting the younger teen as they headed towards the shore.
Grace, Jack and Eloise bobbed up beside them. Grace was panicking, "We've got to get out of here! That thing's gone insane!"
"Calm down." Eloise pointed to the shoreline, "We'll head over to Kai."
Kai had seen them being knocked off and was currently wading out in order to help them ashore. He kept glancing up for any sign of Cephalomon bearing down on him, but the giant no longer had any plan in mind. He was only out for blood.
Alopemon weaved back and forth, sending projectiles left, right and centre, but Cephalomon kept slashing downwards and turning the lake into a bubbling pool of froth. Alopemon felt herself sinking lower and lower as her icy platforms began to melt.
Far below, Tectonamon too felt the effects of Cephalomon's antics as the water surrounding him began to heat up. He snarled and reared up, forming a globule of energy in his mouth.
Dozens of bone and rock spears impaled the titan from below, but they only served to draw his attention. As if by automatic response, one of Cephalomon's lower tentacles pointed towards the giant insect, the tip opening up, revealing the glowing innards. The great insect started and tried to scuttle away, but before he could move far the tentacle spewed out a disgusting sticky mix of burning oil and napalm, making the water boil. Tectonamon screamed as the burning liquid reached him, burrowing into his armour plates, and he pressed himself into the lake bed to try and lessen the pain. He lay there, his plates rattling with fear.
The other side of the lake, Kai had reached the tamers and was helping them ashore. The circle of fire was still burning around them, but the lake level had dropped considerably since the battle had started, and they were able to rest on a narrow strip of dirty black sand.
Breathing heavily, Aaron glanced up at the boy who had left them.
"Thanks for the help."
Kai looked away. "Shame I couldn't make a difference."
Eloise punched him on the arm. "Shut up, Kai. If you hadn't come when you had, Luminemon would be dead by now."
Kai winced as he rubbed his exposed arm, and for the first time Eloise saw Kai's wounds up close; deep scratch marks along every inch of his skin, some healed, some still relatively fresh.
"Christ, Kai, what happened to you?"
The boy was spared from answering when a scream from his partner drew everyone's attention to Cephalomon again. Kai saw Achromon flapping haphazardly away, seemingly missing a chunk of one of his skeletal wings.
Jack looked desperately at Aaron, "Isn't there anything we can do?"
Aaron looked down at his D-Nexus. Just a little more power…
"No!" Eloise stood up, holding her own device out as it glowed with a bright light.
"They can do it. We just need to have faith in them, remember? We can give them the power they need."
One by one, the tamers stood up, even Aaron, and brandished their devices as they felt the energy within them. They'd come this far, they couldn't give in now.
Their partners felt it too as their energy and will to fight increased. Galvamon stood on the shoreline, blades extended, as Cephalomon turned towards him. The giant squid snarled, flecks of liquid magma falling from his alien maw.
Galvamon growled back, as bolts darted along his blades.
Using his strong legs he leapt impossibly high, catching the monster off guard as he spun his body round and round, aiming for Cephalomon's arm. The same arm from before. Galvamon gritted his teeth as he struck true.
Cephalomon roared with pain as his right arm fell, hitting the water with an immense splash. The wound oozed with glowing liquid as he slumped forward.
Far above, Cyclomon was spiraling up, building energy himself. The others circled round, ready to strike when they had the chance.
Jack pumped his fist. "Yes! Now we've got him!"
But his sister shook her head.
"Something feels wrong…"
"Look at that!" cried Kent as he pointed forward. Anyone who heard him was immediately drawn to Cephalomon's open wound. The liquid inside was pouring out, except it wasn't just a liquid. As Cephalomon's body trembled, the glowing substance grew and grew, reaching down to the lake surface, where it made the water evaporate on contact. Then, the glow subsided, showing orange flesh beneath a transparent membrane. Membrane which split, revealing a whole new arm. An arm that Cephalomon raised, flexing his fingers one by one.
Jack cried out, "Cyclomon, don't!"
But his cry wasn't heard, as Cyclomon reached the apex of his climb and began to dive downwards, the wind rushing past him as he pointed his beak towards Cephalomon's exposed back.
"Placomon, this is for you!"
Cyclomon opened his beak and charged up the tornado within him.
He noticed Cephalomon's new arm too late.
With a berserk snarl, Cephalomon whirled round and grabbed the sky serpent by the beak. Wind rushed past him as he held tightly, the pressure making his eyes water and his rubbery skin flap and wrinkle. But he held on, his hands glowing white as Cyclomon's attack threatened to back up along the great coiled beast himself. His coils unfurled and he wriggled, but the Mega level pulled him downwards, his hands leaving great scorchmarks on Cyclomon's head and beak, until he had the serpent in a headlock.
Cyclomon choked, "Jack…"
The boy ran forward, "Let him go! Now!"
Cephalomon didn't. Instead he contorted his body, and he slowly, but surely, lifted the great sky serpent up over his head, and into the lake beside him. Cyclomon's vision blurred as he hit the frothing water, and he let out a screech. The tornado inside him blasted through his own body, and, with nowhere left to go, Cyclomon's momentum sent his spiraling coils rolling down towards the tamers. Grace grabbed her brother and leapt out of the way as the immense body slammed into the ground, making the ground shake and flattening the remaining trees.
For a second, the titanic eagle lay, ruptured, motionless and grounded, as Cephalomon released his grip. Then, starting from the end of his tail and the tip of his beak, he began to disintegrate into iridescent red particles. Jack watched in horror as his partner all but vanished before his eyes, leaving just a small packet of data that plummeted into the water below.
Before Grace could stop him he'd wriggled free and jumped into the water where the data fell. The water was so dark that he could barely see anything around him, but the remains of his partner were like a red beacon, and he struggled downwards as they hit the lake bed. He was aware of voices behind him, but he didn't care. He had to save his partner. He reached out as the red glow subsided. Just a little further…
He whipped his head up and screamed as he saw Cephalomon's nightmarish face bearing down upon him. The sudden movement wracked his body, and he felt a familiar crack. Before the first blast of pain could even hit him, he closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable end.
Green lights danced around him as a mighty wall of crystal slammed into the former Commander's face, driving him backwards. At the same time Jack felt an arm wrap around him and yank him upwards. He wriggled, frantically pointing at the dark shape on the lakebed. His savior moved down and grabbed the shape, before heading back up to the surface. Jack could feel his lungs about to burst as he opened his mouth…
Kai and Jack burst through the water's surface, coughing and spluttering, and Kai dragged him to the shore. Jack tried to stand up but Grace was already upon him, her face white.
"You idiot! What were you doing?"
"Let me go!" Jack wriggled and struggled, breaking free of his sister's grip as he limped over to what remained of his partner, now lying on the shore. It was a red bird about the size of a rabbit, with stumpy black feet, vestigial wings and a helmet that was about three sizes too big. It was unconscious, but it was breathing. Perimon (or Gosmon, as he was called in this form), was still barely alive.
Jack picked up his devolved partner and hugged him tightly.
Then the pain set in, and he began to cry. Grace knelt down beside him and embraced them both.
At the bottom of the lake, Tectonamon was in big trouble. The more he erected the crystal walls, the more Cephalomon just broke them down, until the giant insect had resorted to forming a crystal cocoon around himself, in a last desperate act of resistance. Cephalomon swam back and forth, knocking his tentacles against the capsule, causing tiny shards to fall inside.
For a moment, Tectonamon heard nothing. He waited for a chance to flee; to get away.
With an almighty slam, the capsule was sent spinning away through the water as Cephalomon batted it with his arm. It left the water's edge before burying itself in the black sand at the shoreline, a massive split down the middle Tectonamon wriggled out, the water lapping against his feet as he tried to unfurl himself, but his attention was soon drawn to Cephalomon as the insatiable creature zoned in on him.
Tectonamon raised his sabres and slammed them into the ground with all his energy. But there was no wall. No jagged crystal spear. Not even a pebble.
Kent watched as his partner slumped, completely exhausted. His D-Nexus was wailing at him from his pocket, but he didn't need to check it. The boy could only watch as Cephalomon raised his tentacles. The remaining Champions circled around, firing upon the possessed Mega, but it was futile.
With a sickening gurgling, Cephalomon's tentacles sprayed oil and napalm every which way, but mostly down upon the hapless insect. Tectonamon screeched as the liquid burned into him, and he began to shrink. He grew smaller and smaller until he was lost in the waves of magma. His quarry downed, Cephalomon turned his attention to his next target.
The tamers were already running along the shoreline; the constant heat that Cephalomon was producing had one good effect; it lowered the level of the lake enough for them to skirt around the worst of the battle. Small mercies.
Kent ran out in front, and gingerly made his way across the pools of oil to reach his partner. Like Cyclomon, he'd been reduced to his In-training form; a flattened scorpion-like creature by the name of Arthmon. Kent reached down, ignoring as the oil spat against his exposed arms and burned them, and yanked his partner away, before running back to join the others.
His eyes were sunken as he reached them. "That's both Ultimates he's taken out."
Arthmon balled himself up slightly, "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."
Kent shook his head, and held the little creature tighter as he stared up at the titan.
"What else do we do?"
Nobody answered him.
"The others can't win as they are. Cephalomon's too strong now."
Still no answer.
Aaron covered his eyes as he saw the sun begin to dip over the burning canopy, casting sunbeams that mingled with the aggressive oranges and yellows of the fire. The day was ending, and they were still fighting. No matter how hard they tried to finish it, it still wasn't enough.
Very slowly, his hand began to head towards his D-Nexus. He flinched, remembering the pain.
There was a splash as Alopemon's icy powers finally gave way to the heat of the water, and she fell in, scrabbling around desperately. Cephalomon reached down and struck the water with a glowing hand, and the fox was sent rocketing towards the tamers, shedding data as she flew. She skidded to a halt in the form of a furry blue blob, sporting very large ears and a small sharp horn. Grace ran forward and scooped up Lagomon, holding her tight.
"We can't go on like this. He...he won't stop..."
From a vantage point on one of the ruined trees, Galvamon glanced down at the tamers. They were down three warriors, and there was no way they could stand a chance like this. Somebody needed to reach Ultimate level, or something. Anything to give them a single, solitary hope.
The dinosaur leapt, heading straight towards Cephalomon's barbed head as it turned towards him, distracted from chasing the two Light and Darkness dragons. With a roar, Galvamon swiped, but his blow was a glancing one and he crashed into the lake below. He surface quickly, preparing to strike again, but all of a sudden he caught sight of his arm. Velocimon's arm. He'd devolved.
The dinosaur turned in horror as Aaron's hand closed around his D-Nexus, bringing it in front of him with lightning in his eyes.
Before he could finish, Eloise grabbed both his arms and yanked him backwards, causing him to yell and drop his D-Nexus.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"
"Let go! I need to help…I can take him on!"
Aaron wriggled out of the girl's grasp and made a grab at his D-Nexus, which was beeping erratically. Kent moved in to help Eloise, and in a moment they were both holding him back, as he struggled against them. Velocimon ran over and pulled the tiny device out of his way.
"I told you to trust me."
"I do trust you!" Aaron stared down at the dinosaur, who looked ready to punch him in the face. The boy's eyes were wild.
"I trust you completely! But you're all gonna die if I don't help you!"
Eloise yanked his arm.
"You're gonna die if you do!"
Aaron gritted his teeth. "It doesn't matter…"
"Shut up!" The girl turned his head towards her and glared at him. "Don't you DARE say that."
"You can't do it. You'll hurt yourself again." Jack looked down sadly at the unconscious Digimon in his lap. "But we can't just sit here and do nothing."
"What else can we do?" Kent glanced around as the giant squid flailed around, a glancing blow from one of his tentacles sending Achromon spinning into the water below. In his arms, Arthmon curled up a little tighter.
"We literally have nothing else. Aaron only found this power by accident. He can't fight, and none of us know how to evolve even if we wanted-"
The older boy stopped and turned to look at Jack. So did everyone else. Except for one. The person at whom Jack was now pointing. He knew what was coming.
Slowly, Jack began to speak. "Kai. You did it, didn't you."
Kai moved his head slightly, but said nothing.
"That was why you left. That was why you didn't want to talk to me about it. It was dangerous, and you knew it. You've soul-evolved before, haven't you?"
In his partner's arms, Gosmon awoke at this sudden revelation.
"What? What'd I miss? Kai, you did what? Ow..." He was silenced as his helmet slipped down over his face, knocking his beak shut. Despite everything, Jack grinned.
Kai felt everybody's eyes burning into him. He raised his hand, and saw that he was shaking. He clenched his fist, trying to regain control.
"I guess I had to tell you at somepoint."
Eloise shook her head, "No, you can't do it. There…there has to be another way."
"Eloise." Kent hushed her, before loosening his grip on Aaron slightly and turning to Kai.
"How dangerous is it?"
"I'm still here, aren't I?"
"Can you control it?"
Grace stepped in. "It doesn't matter right now. You're all we have left. Please, you've got to try."
For a few agonizing seconds, nobody spoke. The only sound came from the battle raging behind, but that seemed far away. Closed off.
Kai nodded. "Ok."
He nodded at them, before turning and walking towards the battle, where his partner and Luminemon were still barely hanging on. Eloise let go of Aaron and ran towards him, but he stopped her.
"Don't come with me."
"Please, you need our-"
Kai hissed, "I SAID DON'T come with me."
Eloise flinched, and took a step back. Kai paled, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shout. But seriously, you have to stay out of my way. I can't promise anything. I don't want you to get hurt."
"Neither you." Eloise held out a hand, as if to shake his. "Do what you can. And don't die."
Kai hesitated, before he gingerly extended his gloveless hand and clasped hers. She felt his skin for the first time; cool and smooth. Despite everything, she smiled. "Thank you for coming back."
Kai nodded, before releasing her and running towards his partner. His D-Nexus was beeping incessantly in his pocket; a sign that Achromon was in major trouble. He lifted it to his mouth and spoke into it, "Achromon, are you alright?"
"What do you think? We need a miracle over here."
"You've got one."
"Look, much as I like you, you aren't so much a miracle as a natural disaster."
"Tough. I'm all you've got right now."
"I know. Just be careful, okay?"
Kai closed his eyes, feeling the moisture on his skin as, way above him, Cephalomon noticed the lone figure on the shoreline. The Scottish boy slowly raised his hand, only to realize it was shaking badly. He tightened his grip on the device, focusing himself. He had to get it right this time. For the sake of the others. Jack, Kent, Aaron, Achromon…Eloise…
I have to get it right this time...
Any doubts he had were blocked out by the sound of his own beating heart. He raised his arm, feeling the symbol of Darkness etched onto his chest.
Cephalomon made a move towards him, but Luminemon and Achromon flew either side, with cries of "White Lightning!" and "Darkfire Pulse!". Their joint attack scalded the titan across the face, briefly halting him as he swung out towards them.
The wind began to blow as tendrils of energy snaked around Kai, dancing a sinister dance, ready to strike at any time.
More tendrils appeared, and they began to embrace the boy, running along his scars and weaving under his clothes. He opened his eyes, revealing the dark voids they had become. He opened his mouth, calling the evolution in a voice between a whisper and a scream.
It wasn't like Aaron's evolution, not at all. Aaron's was unnatural; a foreign entity trying to wrap the world around it like a makeshift cape. Here, Kai was almost embraced by the data as it swirled around and through him, until his entire figure was jet black. The proportions shifted, and he spread his arms wide. Tendrils snaked around his limbs and splayed out over his shoulders. There was a dun flash of deep purple, and the smoke cleared.
The figure where Kai had been standing was taller than him by far, nearing eight foot. Unlike Kuaramon's armoured body, his seemed to be almost ethereal in nature; not quite skin or muscle, but more like living shadow. Long velvet threads adorned his body; spiraling around his torso, arms and legs like ribbons, and his shoulders were adorned with a dark purple shawl, akin to dragon's wings. Much like his partner, his body was embedded with diamond crystals, but they were blue, unlike the purple ones that Achromon wore. The few pieces of armour he wore, along with his wickedly sharp claws, looked like polished silver, and long dark blades extended from his wrists, wisps of shadow trailing off them. His hair was grey and ragged, held in place by a bejeweled silver crown. His face was mostly covered by cloth, with the exception of his eyes, which glowed an icy blue, like his partners'.
Even from their viewpoint, very far away, the tamers and their devolved Digimon heard his voice in their heads. Luminemon and Achromon heard it too, and even Cephalomon paused his onslaught for a couple of seconds, aware that this was something new.
Cephalomon lunged forward, determined to remove this new threat, but with the grace of a sylph Kai leapt back, holding both his blades backwards as he strafed around the giant squid. Cephalomon roared and landed a flaming punch in the sand, sending Dokkamon cruising backwards.
Inside the warrior's body, Kai kept his eyes closed. His breathing was deliberate. The world around him was distorted. Memories. Fears. Hopes. An irregular pounding through his head. Chaos.
Amidst everything, he heard a voice echoing through his ear. Achromon's voice.
"Are you ready, Kai?"
Dokkamon nodded. "Let's finish this."
In a split second the warrior leapt high into the air, holding both arms out as the shadowy blades began to glow. He spun in the air as he fell down towards Cephalomon.
The attack sliced rather deeply into the squid's muscle, but Cephalomon ignored it, spewing magma every which way. A globule landed on Dokkamon's right foot, but his body seemed to absorb it, avoiding any damage. If he'd even felt any pain, Dokkamon didn't show it.
As soon as Dokkamon was out of the way, Achromon zoomed in on beating wings. With both talons outstretched, he veered round towards the other arm, ripping into the regenerated flesh with claws and tail. This time Cephalomon did react; flinching from the pain and roaring. Dokkamon came to a stop, balancing on the water's surface as he gauged his next attack, but Cephalomon saw him and plunged both glowing fists downwards. There was a crack and another explosion of water, sending DOkkamon careering backwards.
Achromon swooped downwards, but found himself flying straight into Cephalomon's returning hand, which sent him spinning into the lake. Cephalomon made a move towards him, but found himself suddenly bound by chains of pure light.
Luminemon growled, a drop of blood falling from a gash in her cheek. "I'm still here, you freak."
She heard a voice from down below. "You can do it, Luminemon!" Her eyes darted down and she saw the other tamers and the other Digimon, watching them battle intently. Her own partner was out in front, clutching her D-Nexus tightly as she willed her partner on.
Cephalomon roared and swung an arm backwards, but there was a blur of black and suddenly the arm was no longer connected to its owner. Cephalomon bellowed as Dokkamon spiraled up beside him, having just done the deed.
For a brief moment, Luminemon noticed him breathing through the ragged mask. His eyes seemed out of focus, and he was briefly shaking.
Then Cephalomon moved and she fired.
It was a more powerful blast than anything she had made all day, stronger even than when she'd obliterated the Mosquimon, and it struck Cephalomon square in the face. Fragments of rubber were flung far and wide as the former Commander brought his remaining hand to his face, only to find that that too was missing. Achromon flew upwards, magma dripping from his claws.
Almost immediately, Cephalomon's missing body parts were beginning to recover; deformed lumps swelling up from Cephalomon's volcanic core. In one desperate move, the monster raised every tentacle he could and fired, sending a tide of molten magma in every direction. Those that could, scurried to safety. But the two dragons and the dark warrior had nowhere to run.
Alone, they shouldn't have stood a chance. They should have been melted to the bone in three seconds flat. But, just for once, they had a power that they hadn't seen up until now.
Four souls. Eloise. Ladomon. Colchimon and Kai. A bond between partners, siblings and friends. The power between them was far more than Cephalomon could ever have mustered. And it was this which saved them.
The wave of napalm was split down the middle as a spiraling column of black and white pierced through it, sending speckles of glowing matter every which way. The beam collided with Cephalomon's face and sent him reeling backwards, falling backwards into the much depleted pool.
Before anybody could move, Dokkamon was running across the water.
"I'm here to kill this monster."
Blades unsheathed, he stepped on the giant's tentacles and leapt high into the air, arms spread wide. Cephalomon lunged upwards, barbed mouth open as if he were trying to swallow the boy-turned-Digimon. But Dokkamon didn't even flinch. Spots of darkness formed around him, expanding as they formed a huge, shadowy mass.
Cephalomon's jaws closed on nothing as Dokkamon shot downwards, shadows following in his wake. He phased through the giant's maw, but the shadows remained, encasing Cephalomon's head and writhing around it and through it. Then, Dokkamon burst out the other side.
Cephalomon froze as if he'd just been shot in the head. Oil, blood and napalm dripped from his numerous wounds as he hung there. The only movement came from his eyes. The fiery pools within them had shrunk to specks, and they were glowing white. This wasn't the look of bestial rage he'd been wearing up until now. They were the look of a deer in the headlights.
Cephalomon was terrified.
Dokkamon stared up as Cephalomon's trembling head looked around, eyes darting down towards him. From deep within the monster's throat, there came a low croaking sound.
Dokkamon shook his head, his blades extending yet again as he kicked off from the water's surface.
"Your time for forgiveness is long past."
Dokkamon's eyes narrowed.
Cephalomon cried out as one of his tentacles fell, dissolving as it hit the water. Dokkamon didn't stop; he leapt back and forth, slashing into the Commander again and again, taking out great chunks of flesh. Cephalomon staggered as Dokkamon climbed higher and higher. The titan looked a wreck; his missing limbs had stopped regenerating, and he had great holes all over his chest and face. One of his eyes was offset by a giant split down his face; it hung down, looking the wrong way.
He weakly flapped one of his barbs as he watched Dokkamon fly up above him, trailing shadows. With one last breath, he yelled something at the dark warrior, but his speech was unrecognizable. He was nothing more than a mindless beast.
"I will never forgive you."
Dokkamon spun downwards, feeling his blades tear into Cephalomon's neck and gills. Cephalomon's black blood spurted everywhere, catching fire as it hit the napalm. Perhaps it had been the same thing all along. Nobody really knew.
Cephalomon's body slumped, before the remains of his head fell into the lake, sinking straight to the bottom. Slowly, like a great building being leveled, Cephalomon's headless corpse toppled sideways, his last tentacles crumpling beneath his bulk. He hit the water with an immense splash, and lay completely still. Magma seeped into the water, turning black as it lost its heat, and millions of tiny iridescent particles began to float off into the sky.
Dokkamon alighted on the water, seemingly hovering, staring at the fallen titan.
"The beast is slain."
He turned, suddenly aware of people behind him. They were watching in a mixture of relief and abject horror, but none moreso than Eloise. She swallowed.
"Y-y-y-you saved us…All of us…"
"What?" Eloise took a step back as Dokkamon's breathing grew ragged once again. His right blade extended as he swung his arm back and forth, the shadow seeping into the water where it touched.
"Kai, it's over…you can stop…"
"I will never forgive him. This isn't over. Murderer."
Jack held on tightly to his sister as the tamers began to back away, Dokkamon walking towards them. His feet touched the black sand, and still he kept going. His pace was slow, yet deliberate. Eloise stood out in front, her hands raised, her expression one of disbelief.
"This is a joke...you're joking...Kai, it's me-"
"YOU CAN'T SIDE WITH HIM!"
Eloise jumped, and Aaron's hand went to his D-Nexus. "Kai, we don't want to hurt you…" But his words fell on deaf ears.
Kai was practically screaming now. "HE'S A MURDERER! IT'S ALL HIS FAULT! NEVER FORGIVE! HE MADE ME INTO A MONSTER! A FREAK! I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!"
Kai suddenly raised a blade, and Eloise fell backwards. She screamed, "KAI, STOP IT!"
"I'M GOING TO KILL HI-"
Kai stalled on the downstroke, freezing dead. Slowly, he fell downwards, revealing a black scorch mark on his back where Achromon's attack had struck him.
The black wyrm flew towards them as quickly as he could, closely followed by Luminemon, who landed awkwardly, her leg still swollen.
Achromon looked around, his concerned expression masked by his demonic appearance.
"Is everyone alright?"
Nobody answered. Eloise lifted a shaking finger, "Is he…"
"He'll live." A pause, before the wyrm closed his eyes. "I'm sorry you had to see that. I'm sure he will be too."
Gently, Achromon bent down and scooped up the boy in his arms. The armour and shadow seemed to melt away as he did so, leaving just Kai's unconscious form in the dragon's arms.
Luminemon looked solemn. "You're not staying, are you…"
Achromon shook his head. He didn't even need to answer. He turned to leave, but Jack halted him, "Wait."
The wyrm turned back as Jack held out Kai's raincoat. He tried to take a step, but the pain shot through his leg and he stepped back. Aaron took the coat from him, before slowly bringing it over to Achromon. The dragon hovered lower, holding out Kai's body. Aaron draped the garment over him, before stepping back.
"Tell him that we'll see him again. He's one of us."
Achromon smiled. "I will."
He nodded twice. First at Luminemon, then at Eloise. Then, partner in arms, he flew off, back into the remains of the forest. The entire group watched as he disappeared over the treeline.
Nobody spoke for about five minutes. They simply watched the ripples on the water as the sky turned red, matching the colour of the slowly diminishing ring of fire.
Lagomon wriggled in her partner's arms. "We're near the edge of the forest. We should probably go."
Grace looked to where her partner was nudging. "Where to?"
Velocimon began to answer, but Aaron hushed him. "Right now, it doesn't matter. Let's just go."
So they did. The ten warriors left the forest and walked deep into the wastegrounds; pushing far into the wilderness until they could no longer even see the place where they used to live. They walked in silence all the way, helping the injured and the weak across the rough landscape. Eventually, when they had no energy left, they found a cave and set up for the night.
There they embraced, and cried, and were grateful. Finally, they slept, as the sun finally vanished over the horizon.
So ended the worst day of their lives.
When you have a network that spans the entire world, news tends to travel fast. Only a few hours after Cephalomon's death, one of the special forces approached Martyaxmon with the news.
The manticore stood solemnly in Surtremon's chamber, looking down at the floor. The candles burned low, as if to reflect the mood. He couldn't remember how long he'd been there, but he was suddenly interrupted by a movement in the shadows.
"So, the colossus of the deep meets his end at last."
Martyaxmon slowly got up, and began to walk towards his colleague, who was leaning against one of the columns in a relaxed way. He opened his eyes, and his face was sincere.
"A tragic loss to the Fire Kingdom…"
Without warning, Martyaxmon thrust out an armoured paw, pinning the serpent's neck to the column, making him choke in surprise. His limbs flailed around like a fish out of water as he twisted his head round, looking Martyaxmon in the eye..
"Ah…I see you're…taking it…rather well…"
Martyaxmon's upper lip curled up in a vicious snarl, as he pressed harder.
"Let me see. Because of you, we lost a major part of our army, as well as one of our most skilled Commanders and our friend, and yet the humans and the refugees are still out there, growing in strength. And it's all down to you. So give me one good reason why I shouldn't rip your throat out right here and now."
Martyaxmon snapped at him like a wild dog, causing Rinkhalmon to start giggling. "Okay…how about the fact…that the boss is watching…"
As if to reinforce the point, all of a sudden the chamber was filled with a deep red glow, and a voice boomed out, seemingly from nowhere.
The voice was ancient, yet commanding, and it emanated from the great suit of armour, standing guard in a vast alcove. Martyaxmon let go immediately, glaring at Rinkhalmon as the two walked over to the colossus and knelt before it.
"General." Martyaxmon lifted his head, "With all due respect, Rinkhalmon's interventions have led to many losses on our part."
"That's true" There was a glow from the eyes of the statue, which immediately subsided. "However, those losses would not have occurred if you and Cephalomon had followed my orders from the start. I believe Rinkhalmon told you that the children were not to be harmed."
Martyaxmon quietly seethed, but he nodded. "I have made a mistake. I'm willing to accept my punishment."
Beside him, Rinkhalmon giggled again, only to be hushed by Surtremon.
The great knight sighed. "Cephalomon is a great loss to our cause. And I believe to both of you personally." He paused, as both manticore and serpent bowed their heads in respect, before carrying on. "Nonetheless, his actions were his own. He disobeyed an order and paid the price. I hope you understand now, my Commander…" Here the faint glow transferred to Martyaxmon, who shrank back a little, "…that the children will not be defeated so easily by a typical assault."
"Then what are we to do with them, General?"
There was silence as Surtremon considered the question. Then he replied, "They oppose the cause. Unification of the Digital World under our rule. Naturally, they will fail against the divine right. But for now, they are too unstable to pursue directly."
Rinkhalmon fiddled with one of his knives. "And besides, we don't know where they've gone to, do we Marty?"
"Please don't call me that…"
"Silence, both of you." The red glow deepened as Surtremon carried on. "For now, stay away from them if you can. We'll need something powerful in order to get rid of them, and it needs to be done quickly and efficiently."
"Sounds familiar…" Rinkhalmon grinned, rubbing his hands together. "I do love our little uber-powered freaks."
Martyaxmon looked confused, then stared back up.
"The Fire Tyrants? Do we have the resources?"
"They are available, but it will take time to build a large enough force. For now, I want you two to guard the source." His voice dipped low briefly, "It must remain hidden."
Martyaxmon and Rinkhalmon nodded in unison.
"One more thing. If you see the children, I would advise that you don't engage them in combat."
Martyaxmon gritted his teeth. "With all due respect, General, I can't make any promises."
"That's understandable." The glow subsided as Surtremon's last comment echoed round the chamber. "I leave it in your hands. Don't fail us again."
The chamber was silent once again. Martyaxmon glanced over at Rinkhalmon, who was busy picking between his elongated fingers. The manticore made a face, and Rinkhalmon, noticing the reaction raised his hands. "What? I like to stay clean, thank you."
"Never mind." The two walked away from the chamber as the candles were extinguished column by column.
"So, do you think we can pull this off?"
"Come now Marty…" The serpent slapped him on the flank with a cheeky grin. "Don't you know never to trust anything I say?"
"I'm serious, old friend." Martyaxmon sighed. "It's going to be tough to recreate at least one Tyrant, let alone a whole fleet."
"Tough, yes. But definitely possible." Rinkhalmon raised his overly-long arms to the sky and stretched, "I've been refining my skills since then. It should be easier."
"Whatever. Do what you want. I really couldn't give a crap about your science." Martyaxmon ran on ahead, looking back briefly. "We'll head off early tomorrow. You okay with that?"
"Anything for you, Mittens." He began to laugh again as Martyaxmon rolled his eyes, and walked off down the corridor. The snake-man was left alone, standing just outside Cephalomon's old entrance chamber. He tapped against the door and sauntered in, the place seeming incredibly void and empty now.
"What's wrong with my science? Honestly, some people have no respect for other people's interests..."
Rinkhalmon sat down, and stared at the walls. Then he got bored, and decided to swing on the railings. Finally, with nobody left to annoy, he decided to head off back to his lab. He paused just before he shimmied up a ladder, looking around at the vast chamber.
"I'm gonna miss you, Tentacles. But don't worry…" Rinkhalmon put his finger to his mouth as he shushed the imaginary giant.
"This is only the beginning…"
I could really do with a pick-me-up right about now.
Ah well, it won't be too much longer. I can feel it. Some schmuck will be along soon enough.
Then it's fun-time...
I can wait.