With surprising speed but chaotic movement, Nithhogg rushed through the empty streets, hopping this way and that and freaking out at every little thing it came across, its breath making strange rasping noises. Everywhere it moved it dragged pieces of data around with it, warping the very air around it like a heat haze. And the more it moved, the more the data shifted, tugging at its skin once again, threatening to tear it away. Even now, it hurt like hell.
It wasn't quite sure why it was running. Ten minutes earlier, it had been fixing itself when that Digimon - Gargomon? - had come in. She'd been nice. Very nice. But then she'd shot at it. Come to think of it that wasn't very nice. And then everything had moved, and she was gone, just like that. Nithhogg had been standing where she had been before, and for a moment it had seen the tips of her ears being pulled apart and disappearing. It had freaked, and then the door had disappeared and suddenly it had been running.
Oh. That wasn't good. It was supposed to stay where it was.
Nithhogg stopped, hiding in an impossibly thin space between two buildings, eyes darting every which way. "They're gonna be mad, they're gonna be mad at me-"
Nithhogg yelped as tiny spikes of darkness pierced its body, and it unravelled, rolling into a heap on the road. Its eyes darted upwards and it saw a twin-tailed figure staring down at it, matted fur blowing in the wind. It screamed. "I didn't mean to!"
"Could've stayed." Phoukamon swayed from side to side, disappearing behind a spire, before reappearing at Nithhogg's level; a move that greatly concerned and distressed it, causing it to go cross-eyed.
"I could go back just leave me now."
"Back? Back where? Where you came from? Would you? Could you?" Phoukamon leaned close, their three eyes examining every nook and cranny of the frightened creature. "I don't think you can."
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Nithhogg swiped, but Phoukamon shifted again, appearing in a puff of smoke a few metres away. Nithhogg recoiled. "I'm sorry. I'll go back."
"I know where-"
"You can't. You can't, cause you're here. Even after everything, you're still here."
Nithhogg's eyes widened. "You know me?"
"I've seen you. You didn't see me. I didn't let you. I couldn't; how could I? The silent devourer. You would have killed me."
Nithhogg cocked its head. "I don't get you. The others I get. They talk to me and I can listen. But you talk too much, or there's too much of you talking. I don't get it."
Phoukamon ran a hand over their face, and for a moment looked utterly forlorn. They peered up, their ears twitching. "Someone's running."
Nithhogg started. "They're gonna get me! They're gonna be mad!"
Phoukamon didn't answer. They just stood, head down, muttering to themselves. Nithhogg peered closer, but could make out very little. A few words. Elements. Interface. Missing. Devoured. Child. Monster. Victim.
Phoukamon's fur bristled and they lunged, black needles swarming from their fur. A few of them sliced into Nithhogg who recoiled, its tendrils lashing out and swiping at the puff of air where Phoukamon had been.
Another shout, and another volley of blackness from every direction. Nithhogg cried out, and ran, not caring which direction. All the while the attacks kept coming, along with the bitter, vengeful voices, all shouting at once.
"YOU DON'T BELONG HERE! YOU KILLED THE WORLD! GET OUT, GET OUT OF HERE, AND DON'T STOP RUNNING UNTIL THERE'S NOWHERE LEFT TO RUN!"
Phoukamon leapt up and down atop the rooftop until Nithhogg had vanished down another alleyway, shedding bits of translucent skin as it did so. Instantly the spirit's fur flattened out again, and they let out a melancholic sigh.
"Sorry. For everything."
Their ears twitched again and they looked around, scouting out every road of the city. They rubbed their hands, before snapping their fingers, disappearing again.
There was a lot to do.
Sistermon stared all around inside the broken chamber, eyes wide with a mixture of wonder and fear. "This is insane. I've never seen anything like this."
She slowly reached out to touch one of the walls, but Yasyamon grabbed her hand, shaking his head. "Given what I've heard I don't think that's a good idea."
Kent stood back, silently agreeing. The building had been practically split apart as if made from paper, with great pulsating ridges gouged out of the bent walls. There was twisted metal littering the floor, and where there were gaps, fungus sprouted up, releasing tiny particles of light into the air. The atmosphere was still and stifling, as if all life had been sucked out of it.
Kent looked to one side, where Perimon stood next to a familiar piece of metal. Gargomon's once shiny gatling gun now lay bent and buckled, the same gouges taken out of that. A pool of liquid data had leaked out of the base end. Jack was stood beside his partner, looking away.
Kent became aware of Lobomon and Karatenmon beside him, but couldn't bring himself to face them. The wolf-warrior peered around. "It got her."
"It has a particular way with data. I'd rather not go into the details."
There was a cough, and Kent looked up to see Velocimon, saying nothing, just staring him down. The boy's eyes narrowed. "Fine, you were right. I was an idiot to think I could do anything to stop this. I'm not Aaron. You win."
Velocimon shrugged, his expression unchanging. "Well what now?"
"Guys! We found footprints!"
The group rushed outside to where Yasyamon was pointing. The stone had been beaten up to a lesser extent, but there were clear marks in the road; identical shapes where the surface data had been ripped clean away, leading in a chaotic fashion down the street. The puppet put his hand above his eyes. "It could be anywhere in the city by now."
"Then we find it, and end it now.."
Karatenmon drew both his swords, but Lobomon placed a hand on his chest. "You can't…you're not healed-"
"I DON'T CARE!" The tengu snapped, batting his warrior away with the back of his hand. "I'm not going through this again! This ends now! That creature will pay for everything it's done to me."
Velocimon nodded. "We'll gather your army-"
"No." Kent shook his head. "Everyone's weak and tired right now, and for all we know it can mow right through us. We send a few strong warriors after it and get everyone else out of the city." He looked at the crow-man, determination in his eyes. "No-one else needs to die here."
The tengu thought for about a second, before nodding. "Okay. Do what you can, but I'm going after that thing right now."
Yasyamon nodded next to him; he wasn't going to leave their commander for anything. Kent looked around, before beginning to point. "Kai, Jack, take your partners and go help them; you're probably in best shape at the minute." He looked down, aware of Velocimon still staring at him. "I'm guessing you're going with them?"
"It's my duty." Velocimon raised an eyebrow. "What about you?"
"The rest of us, we'll start moving people the other way. And we'll fetch the girls while we're at it."
Vulpimon nodded enthusiastically, but Ladomon stayed back. "I'm sorry. I'm going with Colchimon."
Colchimon looked oddly forlorn, but Kent just nodded gravely. "Fine. We don't have time to waste with this. Everybody, let's go."
The warriors and rescuers immediately ran off, but Velocimon grabbed Kent's wrist just before they split. "You're making the right decision."
Kent bit his lip. "It's not the decision I wanted."
"We have no choice-"
"I know!" Kent let out a breath, and pulled away from the lizard. "I know. I just…I can't do this. Any of it. I knew it wasn't my place to lead us but I still screwed up. Gargomon's dead because of me."
"Kent, come on!"
The boy turned and ran after Vulpimon, as Velocimon held out a claw after him. But Kent didn't look back.
"Everybody, outside now! Emergency!"
All around the city, the remaining resistance staggered out of their residences; some still injured, some exhausted, and some just irritable. Slowly congregated, they followed the directions of Kent, Sistermon and Lobomon as the three gestured hurriedly towards the south side of the city. Seahomon flew up to Lobomon, a worried tinge over her body. "What's going on? What's the emergency?"
Lobomon gritted her teeth. "Trouble. It seems that we still have something to take care of, from the Fire Kingdom."
Gwappamon joined her companion, rubbing her head. "This wouldn't happen to be that weirdo I dug up, would it?"
"Just go, alright?"
Seahomon shook her head. "No. We've fought with you all this time, we won't give up on you now."
Lobomon looked over at Sistermon, exasperated, but the doll was dealing with just as many enthusiastic warriors as herself.
"Please, you can't handle this one-"
"We've always handled this! Where's Gargomon; she'll agree with me."
Lobomon's face fell, but Kent saved her before she could answer. "Seahomon? Please, listen to Lobomon. This is out of your hands now."
The Digimon turned to him, the worry on her face turning to fear. "Where is…what happened to Gargomon?"
"We don't know."
"You must know!"
"Only that whatever happened, she's not coming back." Kent bowed his head, Trilomon looking up sadly beside him. "I'm really, really-"
Kent staggered back as one of Seahomon's cloaked fins struck him across the face. Gwappamon immediately held her companion, who was trembling, looking at the ground.
"You're sorry? Yeah. Yeah, of course you're sorry. You're always sorry."
Kent held his cheek, feeling blood welling from somewhere. He nodded. "Please…"
Gwappamon sighed, and removed her headphones, nudging her companion along. "Come on. It's like he said, this is out of our hands now."
The two wandered off, joining the gathering throng as they rushed down the streets. Kent was stood, still holding his face. Lobomon reached out and turned his head to face hers. "I'm sorry. That wasn't fair."
"Nothing is." He beckoned. "Go ahead with them, get them as far away as you can. Sistermon, please could you get the girls?"
The doll nodded, rushing off into the square. Vulpimon nudged Lobomon's leg, and the two of them marched with the resistance, now looking pitifully small. For a moment, Kent was left with Trilomon. He brushed his hair back, before turning to the insect, but Trilomon was staring into a nearby alleyway. Kent tilted his head. "What is it?"
"I know that Digimon…"
Kent looked, and held his breath; he too had seen that Digimon before. Once or twice, just for a brief second, before they'd been zapped off somewhere else. Phoukamon stood facing them, waving slightly.
"Sure is busy out here. Almost like you're planning on leaving? Maybe you are leaving. I wouldn't blame you. It won't work, y'know. Nothing will work now."
"Look, whoever the hell you are, I can't deal with you or anything else right now."
Phoukamon shrugged. "I shouldn't even be here. I just need to tell you. You can't do anything now. It's all gone."
Kent ground his teeth, and all of a sudden marched towards the goat spirit, fists clenched and fury in his eyes. Phoukamon, taken aback, made to snap their fingers, but instead overbalanced, stumbling on their oversized legs. Before they could recover their footing, Kent's fist slammed into their face, sending them sprawling.
Trilomon yelped. "Kent!"
"Who the HELL are you and what the HELL are you doing here?"
The wall brust into flecks of multi-coloured light as Nithhogg burst through it, flailing wildly as it tried to look backwards. Already it could hear the commotion and the angry cries of the small group following it, and it whipped its head left and right, disorientated.
"I didn't…It's not my fault…why are you mad…?"
It stopped, suddenly finding itself looking up at a wall. The very edge of Grid Central City. Curious, it pressed its palm against the flat metal and pulled it away, but nothing came. It frowned, and repeated the gesture, but the wall was as unblemished as ever.
"Purest Digizoid, formed in the hottest furnaces of the Fire Kingdom."
Nithhogg yelped and turned around, to be faced with Velocimon, Karatenmon, Jack, Perimon, Kai, Colchimon and Yasyamon. It backed up against the wall, but no matter how much it tried the metal remained solid. Velocimon grunted. "I guess even your hellish powers have limits. You're going nowhere."
"She tried to hurt me!"
Velocimon raised an eyebrow, but Karatenmon stepped forwards, holding his swords so tight his knuckles were white. "She? Gargomon? So you admit it. What did you do to her?"
Nithhogg looked at its hands, before holding them out. "She tried to hurt me. I pushed her away, and then she went inside. She's with me. Don't be mad."
"You murdered her!" Karatenmon thrust a sword out, fury in his eyes. "You started this entire war and now you keep killing! Don't be mad? You deserve to die for everything you did to me, to this world!"
"The war wasn't me!"
"It wouldn't have happened without you!"
Nithhogg's body spasmed, and seemed to grow in girth as tendrils reached out like fungus. "I only wanted to get out. Why didn't you let me get out? I didn't want to hurt anyone."
A hand grasped Karatenmon's wrist and he turned to see Kai, whose teeth were gritted. "Please, you can't win this one. This is unlike anything we've ever seen before; if there's any chance we can avoid a battle, at least try."
Karatenmon glared, and yanked his arm away from the boy. "You had your chance. All of you humans did. You were supposed to save this world and instead you released this unholy creature. Even the being of destruction like yourself failed to kill this evil. It's my turn now."
Kai backed away, shocked, as Karatenmon turned to Velocimon. "General?"
Velocimon shrugged, his barrels charging up. "No more mercy. No more."
He and the tengu rushed forwards together, splitting and preparing to converge on the seemingly helpless creature. Perimon stepped forwards. "Velocimon, no! You'll be killed!"
Nithhogg held out both hands, and the tendrils rushed forwards, but the two soldiers were experienced and dodged every one, slicing and shooting as they did so. Karatenmon reached the creature first, and with one great slash ripped a great gash through its side, the impact sending it skidding away. Nithhogg tried to crawl, pulling up a wall of tendrils behind it, its wound already closing. But the two soldiers were not far behind.
Jack looked at his D-Nexus, but even as his fingers hovered over the buttons he felt the pain in his leg. Colchimon worriedly nudged Kai, who had gone still, his eyes glazed over.
Jack felt a pat on his shoulder, and looked up to see Yasyamon, his own swords drawn. "Look, it's too late to go back now. Are you ready to finish this?"
Kai suddenly looked up, a new look of fury over his face. "I've had enough of this. We finish the job." He pulled out his device, looking first at Colchimon, then at Jack. "You all ready?"
Colchimon could feel the will to fight seeping away from him, but he braced himself, nodding.
Jack looked over at Perimon, feeling more weak than ever. But he nodded too.
"Primal Control! Soul Control!"
Grace and Eloise had already heard the commotion outside, and were giving each other nervous looks. Grace bit her lip. "You don't think-"
Sistermon burst through the door, a panicked expression on her face. She pointed. "We need your help. Karatenmon and Velocimon…the others…that thing has escaped and they're trying to bring it down. They need your help."
Grace reached for her D-Nexus and stood up, but Eloise merely looked in shock. Grace nudged her shoulder. "Come on, they need us. The others need us."
The older girl's hands tensed, and she shook her head. "You can't expect me to fight again after what that thing did to me last time."
"You can fight it though! I know you can!"
"I'll kill you! I'll kill anyone who comes near me again." Eloise's body seemed to withdraw, making her look very small. "It's not safe for me to fight…"
Sistermon knelt down, looking the redhead in the eye. "Gargomon's dead. That thing killed her. And from what I saw of the others it won't be long until somebody else dies."
Eloise tried to pull away but the nurse reached out, holding her hand in a soft but tight grip. The doll's face was gentle, but stern.
"You have to try. Please. You have to finish what you start. I believe in you; I believe in all of you. I always did, and I still do."
She stood up again, but Eloise still held her hand out. Slowly, it descended, reaching towards her pocket. The shouts outside seemed to blur as she withdrew her own D-Nexus, still as white and pristine as it ever was. The screen glowed faintly.
The girl stood up, towering over both Grace and Sistermon. She gritted her teeth, and nodded. "They need all of us. Let's go."
Phoukamon sat up, aware of Kent staring down at them. They considered teleporting away, but persuaded themselves not to. Vulpimon wandered up to them. "Kent, what did you do that for?"
"I'm sure this guy's been following us around for a while. How long was it? Were you there when we were stuck in the fortress?"
Phoukamon pouted. "I'm not a guy. Many things, not sure what I am, but not a guy. I think."
"Yes, they've been watching, but they haven't been hurting anyone."
Kent looked at his partner. "You know this thing?"
"Kinda...I don't know..." Trilomon looked up. "Maybe we should leave this one. We have other things to attend to."
Kent looked down at his partner, before glaring once again at the goat spirit. "Go on then. Get back to your spying. Or did you come to mock me or something?"
The boy turned, only for Phoukamon to appear in front of him, holding both hands out. "Stop."
"I mean it. You can't go back; you need to save yourself."
"Myself?" Kent knelt down, staring at the goat spirit. "For someone who's been spying on us you haven't been paying much attention, have you? I don't work solely for myself. Not anymore. I don't deserve that."
Phoukamon held out a hand, grabbing his shoulder firmly. "I mean it. I tried…we tried…that thing isn't what you think it is. It will kill you. That can't happen. None of that can happen. Please, just turn, and go. I can get the others. But you have to go."
"The others? The others who we've doomed by bringing this thing in?" Kent pointed behind him. "Why don't you help them? You can teleport, can't you? Get them out of here."
"They're not important-"
Phoukamon planted a hand over his mouth, but Kent had heard enough already. He stood up, picking up his D-Nexus. "Grace, you there?"
"Sistermon's got us. We're on our way."
"Meet you at the centre." Kent turned to Vulpimon and Trilomon, gesturing. "Let's give the others a hand."
"I can't let you-"
Kent whirled on the creature, causing them to fall backwards again. "Or what? You'll drag me away? Go on then. But I swear, if I abandon them now, I'll never forgive you. Or myself."
Phoukamon gritted their teeth. "That's why I haven't. I was meant to watch. Only to watch over you. I can't explain, I can't lead you, but I can't let you die. You have to come back. You have to. You haven't finished yet."
"We're not finished until we've taken care of what we released."
Kent ran off, followed by Vulpimon. Trilomon paused slightly, glaring back at the spirit himself. "We're trying to protect this world. Why don't you try that?"
A couple of taps and he was underground, leaving Phoukamon alone. The spirit stamped their foot, biting their knuckles, before vanishing.
"Got to…I've got to do something…"
The bolts burned into the ground as Nithhogg ran, tripping over its own feet. It turned a corner, and was confronted by Mistramon, who spread his wings wide.
The blast blew Nithhogg backwards, leaving it sprawled in a heap and looking up as Achromon circled above it. It thrust its palms upwards, sending great tendrils up from the road, but Achromon ducked left and right, before zooming down, ready to make the killing blow.
The wyrm's path faltered and he pulled away at the last second, zipping through the streets. Dokkamon rushed out, watching his partner go with a hand to his chest.
"Colchimon, why did…"
"I've got you!"
Dokkamon's footing slipped as the roof he was standing on gave way, twisting into some obscene structure. Before he could leap away, Nithhogg's alien hands closed around his wrist in a vice grip and he felt himself being pulled towards the tiny creature. Nithhogg had its teeth gritted, its eyes darting from Dokkamon's arm, to his face, and back.
"You're mine. Your data."
Dokkamon looked down, and recoiled as he saw the shadows withdrawing into Nithhogg's blue body. He struggled, giving a kick and slashing with his free hand, but it was like attacking a wall. Still, Nithhogg's expression fell, and its grip tightened.
"Why isn't your data mine?"
Dokkamon looked again, and saw that his human hand was now protruding from the seeping shadows. But where the digital matter had been eaten away, the flesh stayed undamaged, if going a deep red from the constriction.
"Let him go! Feather Flare!"
A flurry of black came hurtling towards the two, and Nithhogg yelped, throwing Dokkamon sideways, where he very nearly crashed into Karatenmon. The tengu leapt over him, thrusting out with both his swords in turn, before leaping away from the grasping hands at the last second. He landed on the rooftop, and immediately fell to his knees in pain.
"What on earth was that?"
Dokkamon looked sideways to see Ladomon hovering beside him, staring down at his arm. He clenched it, and the shadows began to regroup, reforming the digital covering. "For some reason I don't think it can absorb us humans, but most everything else is fair game."
Nithhogg raised its arms and slammed them into the ground, sending waves of distorted data in every direction and causing the whole city to shake. Karatenmon was grounded again, but Yasyamon was with him in a second, his own swords raised. Nithhogg looked around, but its other escape routes were blocked off by Aeolumon, Mistramon, Velocimon and Achromon. If the creature had been any more aware, it would have noticed that most, if not all, of them, were holding back; scared, or exhausted, or both. But human uncertainty was beyond its comprehension, even if not beyond its ability.
"Why won't you let me go?"
Its own question was answered as it looked down at its arms, the blue fading once again as the translucent skin began to shrivel and flake off. It crouched down and pressed its palms to the road, absorbing great wads of data at a time. Yasyamon thrust his swords wide, eyes red with fury. "How much of our world are you going to devour before you're happy?"
"This world is mine? This data is mine. Is this world data?" Nithhogg smiled. "Then this world will help me, even if you don't."
Yasyamon let out a cry of rage and rushed forwards, only to be met with a wall of seemingly gangrenous rock that erupted and slammed into him, very nearly flattening him. Aeolumon and Mistramon made to attack as well, circling above, but Nithhogg clapped its hands together and a dozen great spears spiralled upwards seemingly from nothing, sending them back up high.
Aeolumon shook his head. "It won't let us close."
The great bird nodded. "Its abilities are improving. It's learning. Let's just hope it doesn't decide to go on the offensive."
Nithhogg smiled a toothy half-smile yet again, and rubbed its hands. "This world is my friend. This world will give me a friend to stop you."
Once, twice, three times Nithhogg pounded the earth, the waves sending the surrounding warriors backwards. Then those great arms extended, raised on high, and stabbed the ground together, sending a thousand tendrils all around, into buildings and through wires and up walls and under the earth itself. And Nithhogg pulled.
From his slightly safer vantage point, Mistramon saw the very city begin to bulge and swell, great pieces of ancient architecture being disassembled and pulled into one space, which grew like a cocoon. The bird hissed at himself.
"I should not use words."
The warriors backed away, struggling to avoid being dragged in as well as Nithhogg's fingers kept enveloping the growing mass, writhing and pulsing as they moulded the data like clay. Then they unraveled, becoming spidery, weak-looking digits again, and Nithhogg stepped back, smiling all the while as it gazed at the behemoth before it.
The mass unfolded, revealing itself to be some sort of giant. It was grotesque, the proportions all wrong, and its body was a mishmash of inorganic matter and almost insectoid tissue. Huge, overly long arms with great claws dragged across the remaining rock, and four smaller bow-legs of varying sizes stumbled around. The giant had several vestigial looking claws waving around its midriff, and an immense head, with a nightmarish maw and two huge, dead-looking insect eyes. The whole body was oozing, covered in fungal spears and yellowed warts. Every movement caused pieces to flake off of it, like it were a long-dead corpse.
Karatenmon's mouth fell wide open. "Dear lord, what manner of a monster is this…?"
Nithhogg grinned. "He'll help me. Make them go away."
The golem lurched forwards, the many legs and claws whipping out to steady its fall as its left fist crashed into the nearest building, a split second after Achromon darted out the way.
The golem turned impossibly quickly, catching the twin balls of wind, which promptly exploded and blew its hand into tiny chunks. It held the stump of its arm up, looking almost puzzled. Aeolumon flew up again, and noticed something. "Guys, Nithhogg's riding it."
The tiny blue creature certainly was, with its hands splayed across the golem's shoulders like it was riding a horse. The golem emanated with a blue glow, and its hand stump shimmered, before it morphed outwards again into a new claw.
Aeolumon gazed in horror, not twigging that the golem was now scouting the air looking for him. Nithhogg pointed and the boy snapped out of it, but the golem was too quick, thrusting its mouth open and regurgitating a bolus of compressed data.
Mistramon grabbed Aeolumon in the nick of time, but the golem kept firing, the projectiles warping the very air and ruining the bird's flight path. He cursed as he flew, with the tiny warrior in his claws. "Bad, bad bad bad bad, this is very very bad!"
Trilomon felt the golem's presence even before he saw it. He turned, shaking, and looked up at the great mass towering over the buildings. Lobomon and Kent followed his look, their own expressions darkening. "What the hell is that…?"
Kent gritted his teeth. "Trouble. Big trouble."
Lobomon looked back to see Sistermon running towards them, with Eloise and Grace running behind her. Vulpimon rushed towards them, running alongside Grace. "Glad you're okay. We're in a bit of a crisis."
Eloise slowed to a stop, pointing. "I take it that's…"
"Nithhogg's lost it. I don't know why or what its problem is, but we can't just let it go on like this." Kent turned to the girl, his eyes dull and humourless. "We've got to stop it. We've got to finish what we started, properly. Are you sure you're up to this?"
Eloise was still transfixed on the great behemoth. She didn't answer, but her hand closed around her D-Nexus. Kent didn't press her, instead turning to Sistermon. "Thanks for everything. You need to go with the others."
"But I can't…Yasyamon-"
"We don't know how powerful this is. It might be able to destroy you in seconds. Besides, somebody needs to help the others out the city."
Sistermon was about to object, but Lobomon put a hand on her shoulder. "It's alright. The others need you now; we can handle this."
Kent looked up at the wolf warrior. "You should go too-"
"Save it. I'm not leaving Karatenmon now. I've done my share of running." She winked. "Don't worry, I'll stay out of its hands."
Grace flinched as the ground shook again, before looking down at Vulpimon. "We should go. The others need us."
"Right. Okay, wish us luck." Kent beckoned Trilomon and the remaining warriors ran off towards the great golem, with only Sistermon watching them go. She cursed, before turning and running.
From behind her, she could feel the rising energy and the fading shouts of "Evolution Activate!"
The golem's body creaked as it swept its arm lazily, its claw digging into the ground like water. Yasyamon jumped and found himself running up the giant's forearm, but he was forced to jump to safety as one of those tiny claws came lashing out at him, tearing his shoulder. He landed awkwardly on a nearby roof, and ran as fast as he could without even looking back. "It's not fair! How come something that big is so bloody fast?"
There was a blur of shadow and the golem took a step back, with several gouges in its body. The shadows whipped back and forth, but the golem steadied itself, each new wound healing almost instantly. Dokkamon rematerialised nearby, out of breath. "We can't stop it…nothing we can do…"
Dokkamon looked up as the two warriors of Air flew round, striking the beast again and again in an attempt to knock him down, to do something.
"Get away from there, it's too dangerous!"
Aeolumon heard the voice, but gritted his teeth, focusing on the attack again. "We can do this. We can win this like we've won everything else, we just need to knock him back. Just need to-"
"JACK, LOOK OUT!"
Aeolumon only just noticed the fist coming from his left when it hit him, sending him crashing into the nearest roof. Mistramon immediately darted down after him, pulling him out of the open as the golem walked over to investigate. The bird looked back, and swore. "LEAVE US ALONE, ALREADY!"
Yasyamon gripped his swords tightly, aware of the titan facing the other way. "Here's my chance…"
Karatenmon leapt from the ground, his wings powering him through the air as he scaled the golem's back in seconds, finding himself level with Nithhogg. The many tendrils flickered and the blue creature turned, its face marked with horror, but Karatenmon, elite to the end, left no gaps. He spun forwards, becoming a black blur as his twin blades flashed in the sunlight.
Nithhogg raised a hand, and caught both of them. The golem juddered, but stayed standing. Nithhogg simply stared at Karatenmon, its grip tightening on the golden metal as Karatenmon tried desperately to force the blades forwards, to try and make any mark on this creatures.
"I've seen you before…"
Karatenmon's eyes widened, and Nithhogg's grip tightened. The tengu only just pulled away in time, clutching his abdomen, as Nithhogg pulled the two blades toward it. The metal cracked and corkscrewed, and all the while Nithhogg examined both of them, a quizzical look on its face.
"I saw you before. Why are you here now?"
Karatenmon's eyes were wide as he watched his swords twist, curling into that all-too-familiar shape, crumpling as they did so. Shaking in mid-air, he pointed, his vision blurred by pain and anger. "You…it was you all along. You're the one who killed my brother."
"Brother?" Nithhogg's face darkened to a frown. "He attacked me. I pushed him away, and he was gone. Everything goes."
Nithhogg flinched, and thrust his palm out, the tendrils threatening to engulf Karatenmon. He tried to fly backwards, but a great number of the blue threads wrapped around his right wing, constricting it and stripping it of feathers and flesh. The tengu screamed, pulling with all his might as his very data was absorbed.
There was a flash of green, and the golem rocked sideways, causing Nithhogg to stagger and look over at where the blast came from. It was only a brief moment, but it gave Karatenmon the moment he needed. Twisting in mid-air, he grabbed his ring at the base and pulled with all his might, the pain turning his vision white.
There was a terrible rending sound, and all of a sudden Karatenmon dropped from the sky, Yasyamon immediately rushing towards him. Way up high, Nithhogg looked back to see the remains of the crow-man's wing slowly disintegrating.
Lobomon pointed her arm and fired a volley of lasers straight up at Nithhogg, at least three hitting their mark. The creature spasmed, causing the golem to shudder, finally falling to its knees. But Lobomon's victory was short lived as Nithhogg reached back, sending a network of blue strings towards her as well. She reached for her twin cutlasses and thrust them wide, the energy slicing off the fastest tendrils as she beat a hasty retreat.
She joined up with Cratomon, Chionemon and Yasyamon, who had Karatenmon still in tow. Lobomon immediately rushed to him, nodding up at the puppet. "Thank you."
"He's still got some fight left in him. Shame to waste it."
Chionemon peered out at the golem trying to stand once again, with Dokkamon, Achromon, Velocimon, and now Alopemon and Seismon surrounding it, trying to keep it from moving while staying at a safe distance, with little success. The nomad tugged on the puppet's arm. "Where's Jack?"
Yasyamon looked down at her, before pointing. "I'm sorry. He went down, over there. Mistramon caught him."
"Damn! I should've been here!"
The nomad made to move, but the golem's sweeping attacks made her stop, and turn to face it. Alopemon made a brave run, firing icicles in a strafing movement, but no matter how many projectiles they threw at it, the creature refused to stop. She cursed inwardly, before rushing forwards.
"We need to change tack, now. We need more power. Alopemon!"
The fox turned towards her, nodding, immediately understanding as her body glowed and swelled.
The golem turned, shooting a stream of acidic bile downwards, but Tupilamon, still fast on her four legs, rushed around, her paws glowing intense blue.
"You're not going anywhere! Grave Glacier!"
Both of her front claws embedded themselves in the torn up road, and a torrent of liquid ice flowed outwards, smothering the golem and most of the surrounding area. Nithhogg recoiled atop its mount, staring down at the ice spirit. "That's wrong! Everything about you is wrong! You have to stop!"
"I won't give up this power for the likes of you. No more. Not while I still have those I need to protect."
Grace stayed as close as she dared behind her partner, looking around for everyone she could. "Quick! We need to hit it with everything we can, and fast!"
Some way away, Achromon turned to Dokkamon, who was looking more ragged than ever. The dark elf looked up at his partner, who shook his head.
"Kai, I can't…"
"If I do it, everyone will be at risk."
"I'm sorry. Primal Fury!"
The dark warrior's form dissolved as Azdajamon leapt up high, dragging the shadows with it.
Trilomon dug into the exposed earth as Paleomon stood before the golem, axe raised as the great beast began to break through the ice. The bones over his body clacked together as he swung the weapon from side to side, moving the very earth once again.
Nithhogg and the golem put their arms out in unison, but the waves of stone came from everywhere at once, tightening around them and forming a vast cage of rock. Behind him, Yasyamon and Lobomon looked at one another, nodding.
"Still got it in you?"
"For him? For them?" The puppet samurai clicked his neck twice. "For something, I guess. But I'm not stopping now or ever."
They rushed forwards as one, splitting and rushing up the cage, which was already cracking under the pressure from the golem.
Velocimon stepped out from behind a building, still clutching his partner's D-Nexus. His gunbarrels were white and smoking. For a moment he stood, watching his comrades fight to bind the beast, tear it down piece by piece.
"While there's still a breath left in my body I will finish this…"
He ran forward, faster than he'd ever run before. "SPARK SHOOTER!"
Grace rushed back into the alleyways, feeling the energy being pulled from her as Tupilamon kept fighting. She saw a flash of red and ran towards it, finding Mistramon next to a downed Aeolumon. The little warrior looked up at her, and smiled, sheepishly. "Sorry…"
"Don't be silly. You've done great."
Aeolumon struggled to look down at himself; at the mangled metal covering his body, his torn wings, and his cracked shield. He gazed up at his partner, who was shaking his head. "I'm sorry mate. You can't go back out there. Not now."
"You're right. But you can." Aeolumon flashed and vanished, leaving a heavily bruised Jack lying against the road. He smiled weakly, and raised his D-Nexus. "You ready to knock him dead?"
Mistramon grinned, and took off with two great beats of his wings. Jack watched as his partner rose skywards, counting the seconds all the way. In one hand, he held his D-Nexus, pointing it straight up as it glowed intensely. Grace held tightly to his other, refusing to cry, or crack, or let her brother down at this crucial moment.
Sistermon flinched as there was another crash from behind her, and she turned to see Cyclomon's gargantuan form rising into the sky.
"Damnit, this is going to end badly…"
She returned to trying to get the resistance past the wall, but without some of the stronger members it was proving difficult for a lot of them. Chirinmon was helping to hoist some over but he was exhausted too, and it was slow going.
Another rumble. The two Monitamon looked back, sharing worried gestures. Sistermon bit her lip, and was suddenly sorely tempted to run back, to take whoever was willing and to fight, once again.
"That's not a good idea."
The doll jumped, and noticed the shaggy goat-like Digimon squatting just beside her, wearing a solemn face. She looked over at the struggling crowd, raising an eyebrow.
"I don't think…"
"We don't tend to stay. We come and go as we please. But you can't." Phoukamon examined the crowd, before holding out a fuzzy hand.
Sistermon blinked, and within a couple of seconds she found herself on the other side of the wall, surrounded by the struggling warriors who had seemed to pop out of nowhere. In a few minutes everybody was over, except for Phoukamon, who sat atop the wall, grinning down. "That should make it easier?"
Sistermon peered up. "That was you? You can do that kind of thing? We could have used your help-"
The spirit raised a palm. "You were inconsequential."
"That's what we decided. But I decided against it. I think. I can't do anything; it'll ruin everything if I do anything. But I decided I can help you." Phoukamon pointed out into the wastegrounds. "Go. It won't be long, and everything will go crazy. Go out, find shelter, hide away. Go underground if you can. A storm is coming and you are all at risk."
Chirinmon looked up as the last of his riders dismounted, worry in his eyes. "Lobomon…"
"No more. Sorry. But I will watch all of them. Everybody left. I promise." One orange nail scraped over the spirit's matted chest. "Save yourselves."
Sistermon balled her fists, but didn't argue. From all she had seen, and all she had been through, she had resigned herself to the fact that there was little she could offer. To the humans, at least. Here, she might just be able to lead her friends and comrades to safety.
"Alright. Thank you."
"One more thing?" Phoukamon stood up, peering back into the city. "Where was Karatenmon? Where did you keep him? There's something we need, one more crucial thing. Two crucial things."
Sistermon nodded. "I'm trusting you to help, alright? Eastern edge, with the three pronged roof. You're fast enough so you can probably find what you're looking for before they get any closer."
Phoukamon smirked, and gave a quick salute, before hopping back over the wall. Sistermon faced the crowd behind her, all beaten and bruised, but still alive.
"We're going to be alright. Let's get moving."
Eloise rushed for cover as the ground beneath her feet shifted, the golem ravaging more and more of the city as it continued its rampage, sucking up more and more data by the minute. A blast of wind as Cyclomon's wind clone crashed into the great insect, followed by a rain of rock as the golem burst through another of Paleomon's walls. Even with this amount of firepower, they could barely even halt it any more. She peered around, her eyes falling upon Nithhogg atop the great creature.
"I have to stop it…it's my fault that thing's out here…"
Her cover shook, and she ran again, this time stopping just one side of a still standing wall segment. The battlefield was a blur around her, but she focused it out, holding her D-Nexus in an iron grip and focusing her energy. She opened her eyes, just in time to see Azdajamon fall downwards in a spinning orb of fur and scythes, crashing in a heap, one of his bone wings cracked. And then she saw it; a tiny slither of bright white. Ladomon flying out, wings spread, eyes glowing intensely white.
It was a futile effort, for the golem had no eyes to blind. Azdajamon struggled to raise himself, begging Ladomon to fly away, but she didn't move. Eloise was too far away to hear what she was saying, but she knew the dragon wasn't leaving her partner.
Holding her breath, Eloise ran out, holding out her D-Nexus defiantly as the great golem turned to face her.
She closed her eyes, waiting for the rush of energy. The ground around her shook and she opened them again, seeing the immense golem marching towards her. She looked down at herself. Still Eloise. Still a girl. She screamed, rushing back between the two piles of rubble, where the golem couldn't reach. She whacked the tiny device, calling out again.
"Soul Control! Soul Control!"
No response. Not a flicker of light, or even the slightest warmth. There was another rush of wind and the golem was forced away by Cyclomon, giving her time to look out. Azdajamon was now on his feet again, but his furry mane was matted with blood and he was limping. Still, he took to the skies, unsteadily, but with energy. Ladomon followed him away, staring upwards at her lifelong partner.
Eloise rushed out again, only just aware of the golem standing to her right, fighting off attacks from the gargoyle. She gritted her teeth, holding out the device and shouting even louder than before.
Even as she said it she felt nothing, and she gazed at the tiny device, now lying uselessly in the palm of her hand. She looked up, and saw that Ladomon was looking her way. Eloise held her hands wide, but the dragon looked away. The girl stiffened. She knew that look. Resent? Maybe. Anger? Probably. But most of all, shame. Shame at herself.
The dragon shook her head, but it was too late. The link was broken. They were powerless. Both of them were powerless.
Eloise's D-Nexusclattered against the ruined ground, as she stared at her partner, who hovered, still as a statue. The girl stood for a moment, before bringing her hands up, obscuring her face. All sounds from the battlefield had blurred now. She was only aware of her own breathing. Even that sounded detestable.
Ladomon's voice. Eloise looked up, only to be knocked sideways by Kai as he threw her to the ground. There was an immense shuddering as the ground where she'd been standing was dissolved away, and the two of them rolled away, staring up at the golem, with Nithhogg looking down at them. The creature pointed.
"You! It's your fault! You hurt the most!"
The girl flinched, but became aware of Kai struggling to stand, to put himself between her and the monstrosity, as it raised its arm, tendrils collecting around its fist.
"You need to go. Both of you."
A phenomenal light erupted from behind the two tamers as Lobomon stepped forward, firing her cannon. Nithhogg swung backwards, the beam catching him directly in the chest and giving Kai enough time to pick up Eloise and drag her away.
The fist came down, and Lobomon leapt out of the way, but she hadn't counted on the tendrils. There was an explosion of blue threads, and the wolf woman gasped as she found herself suddenly engulfed, the life-eating material immediately pulling at her data.
Eloise tried to rush forward, but the wolf-warrior was lifted clear off her feet and dragged upwards towards the hellish child.
Lobomon was falling before she was even aware what had happened. She hit the ground awkwardly and cried out, her leg twisting. Blue strings collapsed all around her, and she looked up. Where she had been just a few seconds before, now Yasyamon was suspended. One of his swords was missing, his mask was cracked, and already his body was being eaten away.
Lobomon raised her arm again, but Yasyamon held out his free hand, looking up at the blue menace. "Screw this. Screw this last week. Screw everything."
"Forget about me. Just get out of here." The puppet twisted, pulling out of about half of the strings and leaping onto the golem's forearm. He immediately started running, his legs already giving out as the flesh burned away, but he sped up, aiming directly for Nithhogg.
"Hell, I never even expected to make it this far."
Nithhogg screamed, and raised its hands, raising a wall of flesh out of the golem's upper arm as a shield, but Yasyamon could see it coming a mile off and twisted around, swinging around on the tendrils and landing on the golem's shoulder, just behind Nithhogg. He landed with a bang, and looked down to see that his legs had already vanished, and the rest of him was being sucked into the golem's flesh.
Nithhogg turned to him with a horrified expression. "Get off! This is mine!"
"Screw you! Screw you more than anything; I was nice to you! You can go right to hell!"
He raised his last sword, even as the data ate it away by the second, and brought it down on Nithhogg's head. The creature's body blew apart, the wooden blade slicing into its flesh and splitting it clear down the torso. Immediately a storm of fungal tendrils exploded outwards, smothering what remained of Yasyamon and devouring him in seconds. The body of Nithhogg flailed briefly, before the skin reformed from the base of the torso up, retightening and recreating the slender, frail form.
Nithhogg stared down, aware that its golem had now been sealed in place yet again, and it was currently being heavily wounded by Azdajamon and Tupilamon's attacks.
"I HATE YOU ALL ALL OF YOU DIE NOW!"
The golem roared, swinging its arms wide and dripping devouring fungus everywhere. Kai and Eloise dragged Lobomon back to where Karatenmon lay, the Digimon clutching her leg and desperately trying to twist it back into place.
"I need to get it…it needs to pay…it's taken too much away from me…"
But Eloise was now on her knees, to far into shock to even move now, clutching her knees. "It's my fault, again! I should…I should have been able to do something…but I can't…I'm powerless now…I let this thing out and now we're all going to die because of me…"
Kai rushed over to her and held her, tightly, her body shaking in his strong arms. He glanced up, but the golem was elsewhere, dealing with the rest of his friends. He remained holding onto his friend, saying nothing, but holding for as long as he dared.
Nithhogg waved its arms from atop its grotesque mount. "More! I can feel it! More data!"
"Damn you!" Up above, Cyclomon whirled around, his huge form getting fuzzy once again. "Hurricane Helix!"
He dived, preparing to split into three once again, but the golem turned, holding out both arms and grabbing him by the beak. The creature was immediately lifted from the ground, and Cyclomon shook his head, trying to get it off. Down below, Jack saw his partner struggling, before feeling a tugging sensation at his chest.
"Get off me!"
Cyclomon's form shimmered again, but the golem's grip was tight and he couldn't force himself apart. Nithhogg raised its arms again, sending out blue tendrils that wrapped around the giant's beak. Cyclomon closed his eyes, waiting for the pain to begin, but instead he too felt a tugging. He opened his eyes to see Nithhogg, poised, a look of concentration on its face as the golem pulled.
"You have their data. You're wrong. You're all wrong."
Cyclomon could see a faint red glow where the golem's tendrils were biting into him, and while they were leaving burn marks, his data remained intact.
"Huh. How about that..."
Without warning he swooped again, causing the golem to lose some of its grip and hang precariously off of the sky serpent's nose. Cyclomon growled.
"I will stop you…someone has to stop you."
Cyclomon turned again, and spread his wings wide, speeding up as he did so. The eddies along his body increased in intensity, creating a roaring even in his ears and drowning out all noise from below. Nithhogg's tendrils kept advancing, forming a cage around the great beak, and now Cyclomon could feel the pain, burning threads biting into him. But still he kept going, looking far ahead, trying to take the golem as far away from the others as possible. He scouted the ground, looking for the best place.
"Let's go down together, shall we?"
"TURN AROUND NOW I WILL MAKE YOU IF YOU DON'T!"
Cyclomon's head jerked with such ferocity that he choked, and suddenly he felt the full brunt of the wind, his wings carrying him around. Amidst the roaring jetstreams he opened his eyes, and saw the city arcing about beneath him, and the golem pulling on him, making him aim…
Far below, Jack looked up, seeing his partner flying directly down towards the city at a frightening pace. He tried to run, but his body wouldn't let him this time, and he fell to his knees once again. Grace caught him, and he looked up at her.
"He's going to crash!"
"He's going to destroy the city!"
He fumbled for his D-Nexus, desperately trying to call back the energy himself, to do something, while Grace rushed out to the others, who were already moving, aware of the catastrophe about to happen. "GET AWAY FROM HERE!"
Cyclomon struck the ground like a missile, sending his vast coils everywhere, crushing buildings and tearing up what remained of the streets. The shockwave rolled through the city, knocking into the wall and levelling most of them. Great spires toppled, wires snapped, ancient architecture was reduced to dust. The remaining warriors were sent rolling away by the blast front, their senses distorted by the hurricane.
Jack found himself lying against a wall, his body racked with pain. His D-Nexus was still in his hand, and he held it up, watching as his partner's energy fell, getting smaller and smaller.
The energy stopped moving a few bars before the very left, and the device began to beep sympathetically, the screen flashing a deep red. Jack let out a sob, and held the tiny device close to his chest, as tightly as if it really were his partner.
In the centre of the city, Paleomon loosened his grip on his axe, and looked around. He couldn't make out a single other warrior; only rubble. Then, movement from in front of him. Paleomon's gut sank; he knew even before it stepped out that the golem had survived. It was even more of a wreck than before; several of its smaller arms were missing, one eye was hanging loose, and its whole body was dripping blue slime everywhere, which expanded where it hit, sucking in yet more data.
Nithhogg bent down atop its steed, staring at the lone sentinel. "Why are you still trying to hurt me?"
The blade struck the earth, letting off an immense cleaving shockwave that severed the golem's right arm. It looked puzzled for a moment, but within seconds its wounds were already regenerating. Paleomon struck again, a weaker blast than before, but the golem just kept marching, speeding up as it did so.
"Leave him alone! Rolling Blade!"
Paleomon's eyes darted down as the tiny form of his partner shot forwards in an act of desperation, but the golem simply swatted Trilomon aside as if he were nothing. Paleomon reached out, but the golem lunged, one great fist closing around his body and pulling. The hybrid screamed as the crystal around his midriff cracked and crunched, unable to handle much more strain.
"Why do you still fight me?"
There was a snap and Paleomon was pulled free, his armour dissolving away to leave Kent hanging limply in his arms. Nithhogg beckoned and the golem held him close to the blue creature, who held out its hands, running them around Kent's face.
"What is it about you? You're different. You don't hurt me. Why you? Where do you come from?"
Kent tried to open his eyes, and caught a blurred vision of the monstrosity in front of him; that blank stare, the broken mouth open in wonder, and that translucent skin, flaking away and reforming in an instant, constantly sucking data from the very air around it.
There were shouts from around and projectiles began to strike the golem once again; from Velocimon and Lobomon and Tupilamon and Azdajamon. Kai held onto Eloise, who was looking on forlornly. Ladomon flew next to Azdajamon, as close as she dared. Grace was rushing from the crater, holding something small in her arms. Karatenmon lay unconscious.
Kent shook his head in the golem's vice grip. "Please…you can still stop this…we don't have to-"
Nithhogg turned back to him, and a not of anger rose in its voice. "Will you stop? Get them to stop."
Kent looked down at the remaining capable fighters; battle-hardened, determined to fight, determined to win. Fighters who still had a mission to save the Digital World.
"Make them stop!"
Kent shook his head. "I don't know how!"
The golem twisted and threw Kent at the nearest Digimon, Azdajamon. The black dragon caught him mid-flight, but the manoeuvre disorientated him, and he missed the huge fist flying at him until it struck both him and Kent out of the sky. The both of them crashed against the ground, and Azdajamon unfurled, looking down at the boy.
Ladomon flew up next to him. "Trilomon's down too."
"We're all dropping like flies." Azdajamon looked back, and cursed again, looking at his claws, which had been shimmering since the beginning of the battle. "I…I can't do this any more."
Ladomon nudged him. "You're strong enough! I believe in you."
"Thank you, but I don't." The gargoyle closed his fist, hunching his shoulders. "I genuinely don't know how long I can keep myself fighting for."
He held still for a minute, before looking back. At his partner, hovering worriedly in front of him, and behind her, Eloise and Kai looking on.
"I'll do it. I need to do it for all of you…"
With a flap of his wings he was airborne again, darkness streaming behind him. He flew higher, aiing himself down at the golem as his body dissolved into shadows.
The black maelstrom once again engulfed the golem, who struggled, lashing out left and right and hitting nothing. There was a cracking sound and the golem staggered again, its feet encased in Tupilamon's ice. Nithhogg clutched its head, crouching over on the golem's shoulder.
"LEAVE ME ALONE!"
There was a rush of wind, and suddenly both Azdajamon and Tupilamon were blown backwards by an invisible shockwave. They both looked up, horrified, as Nithhogg examined its flesh. The tiniest traces of red energy were pulsing through its veins; leftovers from the previous attack.
Jack forced himself to sit up, rubbing his eyes. "It's using our attacks. Our energy."
The boy turned to see Grace running towards him, holding something in her arms. She dropped to her knees, laying the unconscious Gosmon in front of her brother. "He's breathing, only just. Keep him close."
"Thank you." Jack pointed. "Tupilamon's in trouble!"
Grace stood up rapidly, turning and watching as her partner desperately tried to find off the golem. She screamed, the barrage slamming into her opponent, but Nithhogg was relentless and unyielding. In a flash the golem twisted out the way and landed a punch on the fox spirit that sent her sprawling. The behemoth was on her in an instant, landing punch after punch at a brutal pace, each one causing Grace's heart to throb in pain. Before she knew what she was doing she was running, her own D-Nexus in hand.
"Stop! Soul Fury!"
Tupilamon sat up as her body glowed, shaking her head despite the pain. "Grace…no…"
Something slashed across the girl's arms, sending her device skittering away. She immediately dropped to her knees, crying out as blood welled from her forearms, but suddenly the nightmare turned on her and she found herself crawling, reaching out for the tiny device as if that might save her, and the golem lifted its great fist up high and brought it down.
Grace was pinned, but it was a still weight on top of her, not the impact of the killing blow. She tried to push herself up, but the pain was too great and she had to twist her body.
Tupilamon lay on top of her, data already dissolving away as the beast's great yellow eye closed. Suddenly the mass was gone and Grace rolled over and picked up Lagomon, who looked up at her with forlorn eyes.
"I'm sorry. I tried."
The tiny Digimon's eyes closed, and Grace held her tightly, looking up at the golem with contempt. Nithhogg was staring with eyes of nervous curiosity.
"Why aren't you gone yet?"
Azdajamon lunged forwards again out of nowhere, but the golem easily grappled with him, sending him crashing to the ground again. The gargoyle coughed, flecks of data already floating away from his body. Still, he tried to stand, only for Ladomon to rush in front of him. "You can't! It'll kill you!"
"Ladomon, I'm the only one left."
The white dragon stared around. Nobody else was standing. Everybody lay hunched, beaten and blackened and utterly defeated, staying with their friends and partners.
Her closest friend croaked, struggling to stand. "If I don't do it, no-one else can."
Nithhogg felt the electricity jolt through its body, and it turned, towering over the still-defiant Velocimon. The lizard was in worse shape than many, with blackened eyes and great gashes over his body, data streaming from some of his wounds. The devouring creature knelt down, allowing Nithhogg to peer down at its adversary. It smiled, utterly sincerely.
"You're amazing. All of you are amazing."
"How are you all still here?"
"SHUT UP!" Velocimon fired again, and the golem reared up, Nithhogg rubbing its eyes as they regenerated from the blast almost instantly. The lizard's barrels flickered, the last of their energy fading. In his right hand he still held his partner's D-Nexus, ever tightly.
"You don't know the first thing about us. About Digimon. About what you've put us through. Go back to where you came from."
Nithhogg looked almost sad. "I can't."
"Well then you're not welcome here. You don't belong. You never did-"
"But I'm here now." Nithhogg clasped its hands to its chest, glowing slightly brighter. "This world feeds me. But the people hurt me. I can't go back, so I must stay. If I must stay, the world must feed me. If this is your world then you must feed me as well. Then you won't hurt me. This is my world now."
Velocimon raised his free arm, but the gunbarrel finally flickered out. He growled. "This will never be your world. We won't give it up unless you prise it from our cold, dead hands."
Nithhogg gave a gesture that looked almost like a shrug, and the golem leered over the lizard in response.
Nithhogg turned, and saw Kai rushing forwards, device in hand and a dark aura glowing around him. "I've had enough of this. I'm ending it, right now!"
Azdajamon became aware of what was happening first, and he cried out, trying to run but stumbling again. "STOP! YOU CAN'T DO THAT AGAIN!"
"I don't have a choice! I brought us into all this, and I'll end it!" Kai stopped, the dark aura spreading to cover his entire body. Behind him Eloise watched, unable to do or even say anything to stop her friend as the shadows threatened to consume him.
"If destruction is my fate, then I'll at least use it to save this world."
Kai could hear the warriors around him, yelling at him to stop, to stand back. But he blocked them out, focusing entirely on the creature before him. Nithhogg was suddenly shaking again, memories of the same horrific blast flooding through it again. The golem stepped back, immobile just for a second. Which was all that Kai needed.
Azdajamon's form exploded, leaving Colchimon coiled on the ground. Ladomon immediately rushed towards him, but he flinched, shrinking still further. Ladomon cried out in pain as well as the data was pulled from her; light and darkness, bonded together through everything. As their bodies shrunk, so the black aura around Kai deepened, the energy lashing out in spikes and blades and darkening the very air around him.
For a moment, the hellish pitch-black silhouette of Svartalmon was hunched over in the centre of the ruined city, three malevolent eyes staring at the golem as it fought against the waves of energy.
Then it reached skywards, and the darkness converged into its great double-edged scythe, emanating with a black aura.
The blast rocketed through the golem like a nuclear blast, cleaving through the city and out into the wastegrounds beyond. The golem was lost in an instant, its body stripped away with nary a scream. The blast only lasted for a few seconds, and then, nothing. Just the smoking rubble of the city.
Kai dropped to his knees, black spots covering his vision as he gave great, gulping breaths. There was a high ringing in his ears, so much so that he couldn't hear the cries from those around him.
He peered up, and saw it. In the middle of the scorched city, only one figure still standing. Amorphous at first, then human, then almost human. Fat, then thin. Constantly shifting. Pulsing. Writhing with a black energy that threatened to tear it apart.
Kai's head fell forwards, and he lay on the ground, crying, as Nithhogg staggered around in front of him, the full force of the devastating blast rushing through its tiny body. All around, the Digimon and the humans simply watched, unable to do anything. Eloise remained on her knees, watching Kai's sobbing form. Lobomon held tightly to Karatenmon. Velocimon lay on his back, staring up at the sky. Grace remained staring at Nithhogg, hate in her eyes. Kent and Trilomon lay near-lifeless, just a few yards from each other. Jack held tightly to Gosmon, nearly blacking out himself. Two tiny black and white serpents lay draped over one another on the dead ground.
Nithhogg's head snapped back and it let out a scream, and the energy within it burst outwards, blowing its body apart once again and smothering the city. The warriors closed their eyes, feeling their bodies being lifted by the blast, and carried up, up, into the sky, spinning and tumbling as if caught in a typhoon, the energy of destruction flowing through them one by one.
And one by one, everything faded to black.
Once, it had been a proud city. Grid Central City, home of innovation and centre of communication. Now, only grey rock, with individual particles of lifeless data drifting upwards. One vast, nearly kilometre wide crater, devoid of life. Devoid of anything.
Except one thing.
Nithhogg sat alone in the centre, pawing at the rock. For every time it touched the rough surface, more layers came away, causing its body to glow a tiny bit brighter. But the glow faded nearly as soon as it came.
Still, it had time to think. Nothing trying to hurt it. Nothing trying to kill it. But at the same time, no way to live.
"I can't be here."
Nithhogg looked at its left hand, curling the spindly fingers inwards.
"But I can't go back. Where do I go?"
Another paw at the ground, and then it stopped.
"I can go forward."
Nithhogg laughed, poking at the rock beneath it, each tap causing a small rumble. All of a sudden it reached back and punched, shattering the layer. Below it lay…something. Something else. Still the Digital World? It wasn't sure. Nithhogg reached down, peering with both eyes. Most things it recognised. The formless void. The Interface. But there was something else. Something beyond, blocked by the barrier but just visible. Something eerily familiar yet alien.
"They were different. They were different and they came here." Nithhogg grinned. "So I can go there. I can be there; they won't hurt me."
The creature stood up, looking all around it.
"All this can go away, and I can go through where they came in."
It punched the ground once again, and more data flowed away, allowing Nithhogg to grow ever brighter.
"It's small. It needs to be big." Another grin. "My partner will help."
It stared around once again, at all the rock and rubble. All the spare data, just lying around, and its own otherworldly energy.
"All my partners will help."
Nithhogg flexed its fingers, and set to work.