In the back streets of a Digimon town, the sound of clanging metal and scraping earth could be heard. A small, armoured sheep brought his dagger down as the small dragon shifted before him, bringing his claw forwards and striking the sheep on the chest. He leapt, but the sheep dodged, his cape billowing out behind him. With a smile he brought the blade forwards again, knocking his opponent on the side of the head.
"Never. Jewel Rush!"
There was a rainbow flash, and the sheep flew backwards as the dragon's body slammed into his chest at high speed, knocking him to the ground. He lay there, fumbling for his dagger as the dragon stood over him, grinning away.
"What do you think you're doing?"
The two Rookies turned to see a Kabuterimon, one set of arms folded and one on her hips. She buzzed in an annoyed fashion. "Wyvermon, Arimon, you two again? Go on, get outta here; you're messing up the streets."
"But we're practising."
"I don't give a hoot what you're doing; it's disrespectful. Go back to your clans."
Wyvermon rolled his eyes as he let his sparring partner stand up, and brushed the dust from his pristine scales. "It's not disrespectful. You just don't want to piss off Dallurmon, that stuck-up dimwit."
Kabuterimon seemed not to hear as she marched away on her patrol. Arimon did, and he rushed over to his partner. "Quiet; you know you shouldn't talk about him like that."
Wyvermon huffed, puffing out his chest. "I can talk about whoever I want however I want to." He winked. "For example, I can say I beat you and I am obviously superior to you."
"You jerk." Arimon punched the dragon's shoulder as they made their way behind the rows of huts. "We got interrupted. We're still on, you know."
The dragon sighed in a mocking fashion. "You're just delaying the inevitable."
"Yeah, well just you wait. I'm gonna train hard and I'm gonna prove once and for all I'm stronger than you. You be looking up to me as a hero and then you'll agree with me."
"Keep dreaming, Arimon." Wyvermon smirked, as he made to turn down his own road. "Maybe one day you'll fit those knightly clothes of yours. But you'd better work hard if you want to keep up with me."
He ran off, missing Arimon sticking his tongue out. The sheep laughed, shaking his head, before turning and heading down the road, with his cape still billowing behind him.
Arimon heard a rustling behind him, and turned to see Yvonne stick her head out from behind the canvas, her hair now loose and flowing. He smiled, gripping his dagger tightly.
"No way." The girl quickly poked her head back inside, and for a brief moment the sounds of snoring emanated from the cave. She grimaced. "The others are doing fine though. I think they've had it."
"Not surprised, with the day you've had."
Yvonne emerged fully, staring up at the night sky as she joined her partner on the hillside. "No matter how many times I look at it, it's still amazing. You're all amazing."
"Yeah, well…" Arimon scratched behind his head. "Sorry. You shouldn't have been mixed up in all of this; none of you should. But I promise it's gonna be fine; we're gonna find Dallurmon and we're gonna send you home."
"It's okay, I believe you."Yvonne laughed, gently clasping the sheep's hand. "I know a noble knight when I see one."
Arimon's normally lilac face fur turned slightly pinker than usual, and he pulled away rapidly. For a moment he stood, silent. Then he yawned, and immediately clamped his hands over his mouth.
"It's alright. Relax. You're doing great."
Arimon turned, looking into her with his wide eyes. "You really think so?"
"Well I don't know about the others, but I feel safe." Yvonne grinned. "I trust you. I know you'll protect us."
She yawned herself, and her eyelids began to droop. The sheep pointed. "Go on. Get some rest."
"I guess I should, shouldn't I…"
Arimon exhaled, shaking his head, as the girl crawled back inside the cave, leaving him alone on the hillside.
Sparks and flames licked through the mountain lair as the Rookies ran for the exit. Arimon's head was down as he pulled the others along, his head spinning and his mouth dry.
Light flashed before him and he raised his arms, only to become aware of the side of the mountain crumbling away, the stress of the gate having pushed it too far. He ran forward, holding his arms out in a feeble gesture as the young Digimon barreled through the collapsing wall.
As a group, they crashed through the falling rubble and scrambled on the sliding rock, as it carried them down, away from the carnage and insanity. Still they fell, gaining speed, until one by one they rolled into submission near the base of the exploding mountain.
Some of them were already out cold, and the others weren't lasting much longer. Arimon squinted, with visions of swirling madness swimming through his mind. They played, one after the other, like an old warped film reel. Visions of what had conspired in that dreadful place.
He could barely make out the form of the children as they clutched one another. Of Yvonne, staring back, mouthing something, he couldn't remember what. He gritted his teeth as he staggered forwards, thunder ringing in his ears.
"I'm sorry…I couldn't…protect-"
Then the gate had opened.
The onslaught of impossibilities rushed into the sheep's mind yet again, and he collapsed, finally losing consciousness at the base of that awful mountain.
Khrysomamon stood, feeling very small, staring at the battle-scarred armour and polished weaponry lining the walls. He tapped his hooves nervously, aware of the higher-ups talking in the room just in front of him. The door opened and the wannabe soldier in front of him strode out. His eyes met those of the ram just briefly, but the soldier walked off before Khrysomamon could gauge anything. He swallowed.
A FlaWizardmon poked his head out. "You're up next."
Khrysomamon nodded, and walked inside. The advice of his draconic friend echoed through his mind once again, still fresh after all this time. Stand tall. Look them in the eye. Above all, be true to yourself.
He stopped, and saluted at the three Digimon before him; the General first, then the two Commanders either side. The Commanders returned the gesture. General Muspelmon simply nodded, and looked down at the parchment on the desk in front of him.
"Well, soldier. From your results you're highly skilled in all aspects of battle, and certainly passable in strategy. Physical capabilities excellent, but you do show areas of hesitation and frustration."
"You occasionally don't utilize your abilities to the highest level. I'm sure you'll agree that's potentially fatal as a soldier."
Muspelmon lowered the parchment, and leant forwards. "This is a tough road. So tell me, why do you want to join the Fire Forces?"
Khrysomamon coughed nervously, but remained sitting straight, looking his trainer from the past several months straight in the eye.
"I want to protect this world, and everyone in it. I failed once, and I want to make sure it never happens again. I want to fight to make this world better."
Muspelmon remained looking at him for a little while. He sat back, scrawling something on the parchment and beckoning his Commanders over. One of them looked torn. The other just nodded. Khrysomamon waited patiently until Muspelmon had finished.
The General leaned forwards, his face cracking into a smile. "You've got a remarkable resolve, Khrysomamon. Always knew you did. Welcome to the Fire Forces. You'll receive your schedule later today. Thank you."
The ram took an intake of breath, then became aware of one Commander staring at him, and he turned it into a respectful cough. "Thank you, General."
He saluted, then turned and walked out of the hall, making sure to keep at a reasonable speed. The Commander rolled his eyes, and chuckled. "They're always so young."
"So were you once. As was I." Muspelmon slid the ram's file away into its correct slot.
"Do me proud, Khrysomamon."
General Muspelmon stood atop the balcony, staring out over the ranks of soldiers as they practiced one on one combat. The Commanders stood along the side, shouting out orders, accusations and the odd bit of encouragement. Just another typical morning.
One Commander was missing. EldJotumon stepped out from the fortress behind and joined Muspelmon on the balcony, chuckling to himself. "They make it look so easy."
"We were all there once." Muspelmon smiled. "That's not a bad thing though. You have good soldiers and people always seem to assume you did a good job."
"You have done a good job."
The general shrugged. "I only did what my predecessors did. I kept this world safe. And you, EldJotumon, you will do a miraculous job from what I've seen."
"Please." EldJotumon sighed. "I'm just doing my part."
"As will I. I may be stepping down as General but I'll still be around. And the good thing is that I'll have time to be a mentor."
"To me? I can probably manage all the paperwork; I've seen you do it often enough. And the element of Fire; I'll be sure to keep it safe."
Muspelmon shook his head. "I mean to one of them. As a General, you'll need your Commanders, won't you? Just as the former elders trained you, so I can train one of them to be the leader you need them to be. The other Commanders can help as well."
"So who were you thinking?"
"They'll be working under you; you tell me."
EldJotumon scoured the battlefield, looking out particularly skilled fighters. Two in particular caught his eye; a Champion level knight with mechanical arms and a powerful stroke, and a small Rookie level with quick feet and a smile on his face.
The General-in-waiting shrugged. "I'll need to think about it. There's certainly some strong competition."
"I don't doubt it." Muspelmon yawned, and turned to go back inside. "I must take care of some business. Watch over the soldiers, will you?"
EldJotumon saluted as his General disappeared within, before turning his attention back to the manoeuvres below. He noted that the Rookie level had managed to win his duel yet again, clearly out of breath but still ready for more. He glanced up, and his grin caught the sunlight briefly. EldJotumon chuckled, and he muttered under his breath.
"Keep on smiling, soldier. Keep it up and you'll manage great things."
Coremon held his breath as he knocked on the door of his general's chamber. There was no reply.
The manticore peered back, but Mollumon and Serpemon merely fidgeted, not saying anything. The Elite sighed, and pushed the door open, revealing Surtremon inside. He coughed. "Sir…?"
Slowly, the General raised his head, staring into nothing. The Elites walked in one at a time, saluting as they did so. "We were wondering…is there anything we can…I don't know…"
Surtremon turned to face them, his expression hidden by the great mask. He shook his head. "You've done more than enough. It was wrong of me to get you mixed up in all this. You shouldn't have seen any of it."
Coremon gritted his teeth, but held firm. "We were doing our job. We need to protect the world from harm. You taught us that. There's nothing we regret."
Surtremon's head lowered. "You don't have to lie to me. I know this business hurt you. It hurt me as well."
"I killed somebody today. A maniac, true, but somebody I trusted and somebody I respected. And the worst thing is I don't even think he was wrong in what he did." The giant's immense, armoured hand went up to his face, clawing at his mask. "Every time I think I've fixed it the world breaks yet again. Peace is always just out of reach, and the road is blocked by tyrants and dictators."
Serpemon swayed back and forth. "You're still here. You're still fighting for the right cause. And you're stronger than any of them."
"Not for much longer." Surtremon looked up. "What's the point of protecting the Digital World if we can't ever finish the job?"
Nobody answered. Surtremon turned away again. "You may go. I need to think things through." He paused. "Again, I'm…I'm sorry about all this…"
Slowly, the Elites turned and left the chamber. Coremon was the last to go, when he stopped, and turned to face his General.
"Whatever you do, we will follow you, sir. We want to see that better world."
Beneath his mask, Surtremon smiled, as his most loyal soldier left the room.
Surtremon stood alone, staring at his reflection in the great window to the courtyard. Already his soldiers were making preparations; rushing here and there, arming themselves, preparing for a plan of attack. His Commanders were doing a sterling job, as he expected. They were always trying their hardest.
It had been a long time coming. The incident in the Spokes. The rebels. The anarchy. The constant rejection from the cities across the continent. And even among his own people, the dreaded affliction and bloodlust that had caused so much strife. He closed his eyes. It had been too much.
Eventually, he'd had to make a choice. Submit to the forces of anarchy, or take a stand. Try, once and for all, to finish this never-ending battle of his ancestors. The most difficult part was done. Now his soldiers knew where he stood. Now they knew the cause they needed to fight for. And they'd stayed. Every single one. It had to be a sign. This was the right path.
In his mind's eye, he could see Wyvermon nodding at him. 'You finally fit those knightly clothes of yours' he seemed to say. And then Yvonne, standing as she did all those years ago. 'Keep on fighting. You can protect this world. I trust you.'
Surtremon's hands tightly gripped the handle of Logi. He couldn't get complacent. This battle had only just begun.
Surtremon opened his eyes, watching as the doors to the main chamber swung open. Below him, he could see the six humans and their Digimon partners walking towards him. They were tiny. So small he could have reached out and squashed them like ants. But far from insignificant. He knew that much.
The intruders stopped, staring up at him. They were at an impasse, each waiting for the other to make a move.
Surtremon lowered his head, and immediately Jack and Eloise jumped, holding up their hands. But Surtremon wasn't ready to attack just yet.
"So you're finally here."
Aaron looked backa t the others, before stepping forwards himself. "Have you been watching?"
"I have. I saw everything out on the battlefield."
"Everything?" Aaron shook his head. "You've lost your three Commanders. The Fire Tyrants are useless now. The Resistance are still fighting back your army. You're on your own now."
"So it would seem." Surtremon's hands tightened around Logi, pressing it against the ground. "It appears we have no choice but to fight. Shall we begin?"
Nobody moved. Surtremon slowly raised Logi to a more upright position, his gaze travelling the length of the blade. "You've come all this way to fight me. Why are you hesitating?"
Aaron gritted his teeth, and without thinking shook his head. "Can't you see what's happening?"
"What do you mean?"
The boy stood tall, staring into the knight's piercing eyes. He swallowed, but carried on. "You're smart. You obviously care about this world, yet you seem intent on destroying it. Why? You're destroying your own people. Can't you see that what you're doing is wrong?"
Surtremon closed his eyes. "You are naïve. All of you. I suppose it's one of a human's best traits, but it's another reason why you shouldn't have come here. This isn't your war, and you have no business interfering with my people."
"Don't even go there."
Now Kent stepped forwards, glaring up at the General as he held his D-Nexus tightly. "We've seen things you never did. We've seen the terror you've pushed on the people of the Digital World, and the lands you've destroyed. You can't keep hiding behind your morals; you have singlehandedly ruined hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Don't you dare try and justify yourself."
A flash of anger in Surtremon's eyes. Then he calmed. "I prepared myself for the consequences. I wanted neither glory nor power from my crusade; I only wanted a better world."
"But you can't force a better world on anyone. It's not right-"
"Then I should have tried harder!" Surtremon stamped, his great foot making the chamber shake. Immediately the warriors before him raised their arms, preparing for an attack.
"I have seen great beings fall because of war. Because despite everything, no matter how hard I or anyone else tried, they wouldn't keep the peace. You think you know this world and it's people but you're wrong. Digimon are greedy, boy. They are selfish and violent and only care for their own desires. I wanted to change that. Because of people like you."
Kent started. "What…?"
"I knew a girl, long ago. She and other children saved us. She was kind, and gracious, and selfless; I truly believed humans were better than we ever could be. I wanted to become as good as she was; I wanted to protect this world. But the world wouldn't listen. So I had no choice. I began this war to save this world. I would change it from the ground up if I had to."
Now Eloise was the one to stand forwards, glaring at the great knight. "You must have seen you were only making things worse."
The knight barely even registered her; his eyes glistened with tears and his hands shook as he raised his sword. "I believed I could change this world without war. But the more I tried, the more it resisted. And the more it resisted, the more hesitant I was to fight back. But I had no choice. I had a vision. And then you arrived."
Kent raised an arm, pushing the others backwards as the General stepped forwards.
"You arrived, and you destroyed everything once again. The world could have been saved by now if you hadn't interfered. And the worst thing is it was my fault; it's all come down to this because I didn't want to kill the same people I once loved. But now I see there's no choice."
Aaron lowered his head, holding his D-Nexus tightly. "There's always a choice, Surtremon. If you were truly a partner, you would know that."
Surtremon's eyes narrowed. "I still stand by my words. I have only one regret now; that I didn't kill you the day you arrived. I should have killed you all and saved you from all this hardship. But I won't hesitate again." Surtremon's gaze hardened, and with a smooth movement he lifted Logi high into the air, the blade glowing brightly as he twisted it.
The great knight's blade swung downwards as the warriors only just scattered in time. With a mighty crack the blade penetrated the floor, releasing a torrent of flame that scorched the rock. Surtremon's turned his head, his eyes following his opponents as they spread far and wide.
With a grunt he pressed his left foot to the ground, hauling the great blade out of the floor and round in an arc, sending another barrage of fire towards the warriors. "Don't expect me to take pity on you now! Dante's Maelstrom!"
The warriors threw themselves down as the flames rocketed over their heads, crashing into the opposite wall. The blast wasn't quite as daming as the one that had sealed them in Grid Central - obviously Surtremon was loathe to knock down his own fortress - but the heat and shockwaves were still intense. The nearest warriors rolled back over as Surtremon raised the blade once again, preparing to strike a third time.
Cratomon threw his hands up, and the ground split open as hordes of bone soldiers rose, holding up their arms against the onslaught. They disintegrated almost immediately, but gave just enough cover for Alopemon to rush forwards, leaping around the giant and firing gigantic ice shards at the General's hands.
He wrenched, pulling his hand away and fracturing the thin ice instantly, but the hand still holding the sword was dragged back by the weight, sending the tip crashing into the floor. In an instant Galvamon was on it, rushing up the blade as bolts spiraled over his arms.
"I've fought against you often enough to know your limitations, General. Strike Thunder!"
He launched himself off the shifting blade and threw his arms forward, sending helixes of lightning into Surtremon's gauntlet. The giant winced, but gripped with his other hand before he let go of the mighty weapon. With surprising speed he rushed forwards, sending his head slamming into the dinosaur's body. Galvamon rolled away, dazed, as the General lifted the blade once again.
Surtremon's head whipped up as Dokkamon flew towards him, blades outstretched. He raised the flat of the blade, making to swat the warrior away, but the dark elf already had a plan; his body shimmered and dissipated, darting around Surtremon to the other side of his body. The blades reformed in seconds and Dokkamon thrust them down into the knight's back, slicing through the heavy armour. He leapt away before the giant could catch him again, landing beside Kuaramon.
Dokkamon raised his arms. "I got lucky. He won't fall for it again."
Aeolumon and Achromon swerved as Surtremon suddenly changed direction, twisting the blade into a stabbing motion and launching it downwards. The heat caught Aeolumon the worst, sending him earthwards as his wings caught fire, but the knight wasn't paying attention, instead driving Logi deep into the stone floor.
He then turned to face the oncoming warriors, and pressed his hands together as a glow emanated from between them.
"Star of Muspell!"
Seismon watched as his attack flew towards an expanding wall of light, and was the first to twig what was going on.
It was too late. The attacks struck the wall and disappeared with a ripple, each impact sending glowing trails beneath Surtremon's armour. He lowered his head, and rushed forwards, bringing a great armoured fist downwards towards Luminemon, the nearest. She yelped, and twisted at the last moment, the fist just glancing her but still sending her spinning away.
"You are all impressive warriors." Surtremon turned, raising his arms in defense as Mistramon arced past him in a trail of pink energy. "You just have the tendency to get complacent."
Chionemon ducked, flinging daggers upwards as a great foot nearly slammed into her. "You're resorting to insults now? That seems below you."
"I don't think that was an insult." Ljosamon pointed behind Surtremon, to where Logi was still buried in the floor. "I think that was a warning."
Many pairs of eyes briefly followed her gaze, witnessing as a trailing cloud of fire was pulling away from the glowing blade. It twisted, writhed and shifted above the handle for a moment, before its light grew more intense and it arced towards the warriors, propelling itself through the air like a serpent.
"Mistramon, watch out!"
The bird dived out the way too late as the flame embraced him, flying away again and leaving scorch marks over his body. He yelled out expletives, twisting in mid-air in an attempt to quell the stinging burns.
Aeolumon pointed. "It's coming back."
"No it bloody isn't…Pressure Wave!"
The attack hit the cloud head on, dissipating it instantly, but the bird's joy was short-lived as the burning particles reformed behind him, sending another trail of fire arcing off around the chamber.
"You've gotta be kidding me…"
Galvamon pointed, getting to his feet in some pain. "Can I have a little help with the good General, please?"
"Bear with me." Kuaramon ran forwards, the cables twisting from his arms as he ran as fast as he could. He was already aware of Surtremon thundering towards him, but even as he turned out the way he practically ran into the immense foot that came crashing down, sending a shockwave out that knocked him on his feet.
Kuaramon thrust both arms forwards, sending the cables spiraling away, but Surtremon grabbed them and hoisted them up to his full height. The electric warrior winced, the discs and channels over his body screaming as the cables were yanked through them. Then, the metal ran out, and Kuaramon was wrenched upwards by his arms.
"You bastard!" Galvamon cried out. "Aaron!"
Surtremon didn't respond; he simply swung Kuaramon by the cables and launched him across the chamber. Mistramon saw and immediately flew towards him, twisting in mid-air and holding his wings wide. "Pressure Wave!"
The air cushion broke Kuaramon's flight somewhat, but he and Mistramon still went tumbling away. Already Surtremon was walking after his next opponent, pressing his hands together again. "Star of Muspell!"
Ljosamon looked around desperately, her eyes focusing on Seismon. She yelled over, running towards him. "Seismon, I need you!"
He looked in her direction and nodded, scuttling over to her as they stood together in front of the almighty General. She felt a rush of wind and saw the green particles as Seismon evolved behind her, leaving Tectonamon's vast form staring down the knight. Surtremon exhaled, steam coming from beneath his mask. "A valiant attempt. How long do you think you can hold against me?"
Tectonamon shifted, but Ljosamon held out a hand. "Wait…I need you to keep me in place."
"What are you doing?"
"Showing him how it feels."
Tectonamon paused, then nodded, understanding. Surtremon suddenly rushed forwards, thrusting a great gauntlet straight towards her. She lowered her stance, moving one of her feet back. "Now!"
A wall of crystals sprouted from the ground as the holy warrior's domed shield emerged, colliding with Surtremon's gauntlet. The shockwave was immense, reverberating from the shield and the angled crystals and returning threefold back on Surtremon. The General was thrown off his feet, crashing into the stone floor and cracking it with a grunt of pain. Ljosamon fell to her knees, catching her breath and swaying slightly. "I can't believe that worked."
"Impressive." Surtremon was already standing up, readjusting his stance. "It really saddens me I must destroy you like this."
Kent emerged, pointing up at the General. "For god's sake, will you just shut up with your self-pitying bullshit?"
Surtremon's eyes darted over to him, although he didn't move a muscle. "I'm being honest. I made a choice, and I sincerely stand by my decision."
"Well your decision was wrong."
"Why can't you understand? I have to do this! You didn't see the world before; I had to do something! I never wanted power. I wanted to save the world."
Kent narrowed his eyes. "There you go again, trying to justify yourself. You seriously think it's right to kill millions just because you're sincere about it?"
"That's not what I said-"
"Then why are you still arguing? You keep admitting there's no excuse for what you've done, yet you keep trying to make excuses. You can't have it both ways. Maybe you don't want power or control, but I think the reason you're still fighting is because you don't want to face the consequences for what you've done. You don't want to admit that you were wrong."
A flinch. It was subtle, but everyone saw it. A crack in Surtremon's defense. His eyes widened as he stared down at Kent, trying to think of an answer. He didn't need to, as Galvamon stepped out from behind the crystal. "You can't hide anymore, General. You're not a herald of a new age. You're not even a leader anymore. At the end of the day, you're nothing but a mass murderer. And you know it."
With a roar, Surtremon raised both arms and fired blasts of light at both Kent and Galvamon, who rushed back behind the protective wall. He strode forward, causing Ljosamon to raise her arms once again. "You think you can bring us down so easily?"
"I have no CHOICE!" Surtremon raised his arm back and slammed it into the ground, cracking the stone and shattering the crystal wall. Ljosamon and Tectonamon were thrown back, and Surtremon stood tall, pressing his hands together again. "Star of-"
The knight looked down as the cables wrapped around his left foot, and Kuaramon started to move back. "You can't move me, boy."
"I don't need to! Soul Fury!"
With a flash Brontesmon stood in his place, the cables having turned to arcs of savage lightning. He reared up, backing away mechanically as the bolts snaked up Surtremon's body.
Surtremon jolted, the bolts digging underneath his heavy armour plating and into his mask. Groaning, he still pressed his hands together, the energy powering him up, but he couldn't escape the electricity's pull. Achromon floated by. "We've got him!"
"No, Aaron, watch out!"
Brontesmon didn't react, so focused was he on his attack, so the devouring flame slammed into him without warning. Immediately an inhuman screech filled the chamber as the flames bit into the biomechanical body, slicing and gouging at the metal which glowed white-hot.
The blades of ice struck the ground at Brontesmon's feet, causing the living flame to recoil. Instantly Chionemon rushed forwards, barreling the goliath out of the way of the firestorm. Sparks flew, and he disintegrated, leaving a heavily marked Kuaramon struggling to get up. "Thanks."
"Star of Muspell!"
Chionemon yelped, and dragged Kuaramon forwards as Surtremon's great fist came crashing down. The explosion sent them hurtling to the ground yet again, and they rolled, ending staring up at the giant. Surtremon stood over them, holding out his glowing palms at point blank range.
Suddenly there was a flap of skeletal wings, and Achromon's claws hooked into his mask as the demonic dragon stared down. "Your battle is with me! Darkfire Pulse!"
The giant's vision was momentarily smothered by black fire, and he raised his hands to his face, swatting the black dragon away. Achromon recovered, circling back around and searching for a good place to attack. "You have way too much armour."
Surtremon watched him spin, firing a beam and only just missing. "I won't apologise for common sense!"
"Maybe not, but we can still hit you!" There was another rush of wind, and Ventimon rose into Surtremon's field of vision, his shield plates lined up and forming an immense blade. He twisted left and right as Surtremon struck at him, his makeshift sword clanging against metal and causing a few dents. A blow from the General shattered it, but the plates reformed, this time making a great wall as the little warrior pulled back.
The wind buffeted the General as the shield rushed downwards, but he raised both palms and blocked it, only skidding back a few feet. He closed his fingers, crushed the barrier and threw it away, leaving Ventimon out in the open.
Ventimon rushed out of the way, as Achromon sped up towards him. "I'm coming for you!"
His promise was cut short as the devouring flame caught him below the jaw, causing him to writhe and speed off course in an attempt to shake it off. Already the others were trying to follow the giant, firing off attacks and blasts that seemed to bounce off the armour like nothing.
Kent rushed over to Alopemon, who was circling around. "We need to take down the sword; that flame's making it too difficult."
Alopemon nodded. "Leave that to me." Gracefully she bounded away, her feet leaving little patterns of frost on the stone floor. She passed by her partner, who turned mid-throw, and began backing away. "I hope you know what you're doing!"
With a roar the brute rushed against the flat of the pulsing blade, pressing her paws against the ground as her eyes flashed bright yellow.
Spikes of ice erupted from the ground, fixing onto the blade in a steaming mass. Tupilamon grunted, pressing harder as the ice built up higher, pushing against the deeply embedded blade. From up high, the flame sensed the disturbance and rushed down towards her, but a red blur rose up in front of it.
"Leave the lady alone, hothead! Wind Tunnel!"
The column of wind dispersed the flame once again, causing it to retreat and reform. It spun around again, but the falcon was too quick and intercepted it once again. The flame changed tactics; instead pursuing Perimon at a speed surpassing his own. Despite his agility, the Rookie level could feel the flames getting ever closer, singing his feather yet more.
"Any time now, Tupilamon!"
Tupilamon roared, a blast of ice so powerful that the floor could no longer hold; it shattered, sending the giant blade to the ground. The devouring wisp faltered, screeched, and vanished into nothing. Kent smiled. "My turn."
Surtremon turned, and began thundering towards his fallen weapon. "What good will that do you?"
The attacks struck as one, sending Surtremon veering off course. He righted himself, and threw a flaming punch that sent Ventimon spinning away. He turned again, when a missile struck him in the face, erupting into bones and shards of rock that dug into the metal. Tectonamon rushed behind his partner as they approached the still smouldering sword.
Surtremon went to run forwards again, but something stopped him. A pull; some unseen force.
"Circle of the Void!"
Surtremon struck, but to no avail, Azdajamon's ring was complete and the room went black.
On the outside, Grace stared up at the rapidly pulsating void and backed away from the sounds coming from within. "What are you planning on doing? Cause you need to do it now."
"Have a little faith." Kent stood at the very end of the blade, and held out his D-Nexus.
"Look out!" Luminemon rushed forwards as the void exploded, sending Azdajamon careering away across the floor. For a moment, Surtremon was disorientated. Then he whipped his head round, his eyes flashing with anger for but a moment as he saw his fallen weapon.
A beam struck the giant in the square of the back, and he fell to his knees in pain. Dimetromon backed away, but not quick enough to avoid the bladed tail slamming into his body, sending him rolling away with Aaron in pursuit.
But the attack had fulfilled its purpose.
Paleomon brought his weapon down upon the blade of Logi with a splintering smash, sending fissures over the entire weapon. The handle cracked and broke into two, and one by one the glowing orbs straddling the length of the blade faded into nothing. The weapon exploded, sending sards of superheated metal flying all over the chamber and knocking Paleomon backwards, the shockwave causing his crystal body to vibrate.
Surtremon remained on one knee, staring at his broken blade in the distance, and at the warriors slowly advancing around him. Bruised. Grazed. Limping. But still standing strong. He pressed his hand to his face and began to chuckle.
Luminemon glared at him. "What's so funny?"
"You've disarmed me. The last time I was disarmed was over two hundred years ago. I was only a child." He looked up, and his eyes were suddenly cold slits. "What makes you so desperate, I wonder? What is it that gives you your power?"
Quickly, he stood up, walking calmly in a circle as he held his hand out, keeping each one of them at bay. "It's not going to end like this. I will not allow it."
Tectonamon yelled up, his voice cracking. "You can't hold back the power of the elements forever!"
"Did you forget? I wield my own!" Surtremon raised a fist, which glowed beneath the gauntlet as if it were holding the light of a thousand suns. The seal on his chest glowed and writhed, and the fire shimmered through the rest of his armoured body. "I am the lord of all fire and all flame, and I will purge the evil from this world!"
He slammed his fist into the ground, which ruptured, sending a tsunami of fire in every direction. The warriors were blown backwards as one; some managed to dodge the full force of the wave, whereas others were swept away. The noise and the impact were earth-shattering; windows exploded outwards and torches were wrenched from the walls. The great doors to the chamber clattered alarmingly, barely holding.
Surtremon stood alone in the burning room, staring round at the fallen warriors as they pulled themselves to their feet yet again. The knight gritted his teeth. Despite everything, they were still willing to fight. In a smooth gesture he held his arms out, his palms splayed, with flames licking around his fingertips. They lengthened, extended and twisted together, forming twin longswords with twisted handles and burnished, biting, black blades, which reflected the flames around them with a deep red.
Surtremon raised his new weapons, his eyes flickering behind him as he heard a rush of air.
"Shall we continue?"
Ventimon's shield plates struck the back of Surtremon's head with an almighty clang, and the force of the shockwave sent him staggering forwards, just a little. Grace yelled up to her brother, "GET OUT OF THERE!"
The little soldier was already retreating, but Surtremon moved like lightning. In a single sweeping motion he brought his right sword down, sending an arc of white fire flying towards him. Ventimon raised the shield again, but the explosion blew it apart in an instant, sending him spiraling away.
Surtremon slashed three times, summoning the arcs of fire each bigger and more catastrophic than the last. Ventimon just dodged the first, but the second caught him on the base of his body and the third slammed into him full on. Without a sound, he flew back, crashed into the wall and fell earthwards.
Tupilamon's claws grasped the giant's left foot, sending waves of ice up his leg, but despite the constricting cold the ice was melting away faster than she could make it. Surtremon stepped back, staring down at her as he raised his swords again, but a cloud of shadows enveloped his face as Azdajamon targeted his eyes.
There was a glow, and the shadows recoiled as twin beams of fire rocketed out from behind Surtremon's mask. Azdajamon flapped chaotically away, but the General's great gauntlet reached out and grabbed him in mid-flight. He struggled in vain as the General held him close.
"You think you're the masters of your elements. But I am one with mine. It was passed on through generations of Fire Generals before me and it obeys my every command. I don't need a bond any more. I control fire. I am fire. None of you will accomplish that now."
Surtremon glared down at Tupilamon, who was attacking desperately now, trying to force him backwards. Her attacks simply glanced off him as mere vapour. He sighed, and threw Azdajamon directly at her, sending them both skittering over the stones. Before either of them could move, he raised his foot and slammed it down again. The stone cracked, and a rush of fire flew towards them, engulfing them. Grace and Kai felt a sharp pain, and held out their D-Nexuses, watching as their partners' energy fell.
The flame stopped. Tupilamon had already disappeared, replaced by a barely conscious Alopemon, lying on her side. Azdajamon tried his best to retain his form, but that too faded away, leaving Achromon with a torn and tattered body, staring down the General.
Surtremon rocked back, keeping his hands up. "I must admire your resolve."
A multi-coloured beam struck Surtremon in the back, and for a moment he arched his back, pain flashing across his face. Then, struggling, he turned round, as Lyublanamon kept firing, her gems spinning so fast they were but a blur.
For a moment the giant didn't move, as if frozen in place by the beam as it scorched his armour. Then, one step at a time, he moved forwards, holding out his palm to keep the beam at arm's distance. Lyublanamon focused, pushing as hard as she could, but even with her full power she couldn't divert the knight away. Eloise watched in vain as Surtremon's hand reached her partner, pressing against the base of the beam. The light faded. The gems clattered to the floor.
Yelling in anger and frustration, Lyublanamon lashed out. Kicking and ramming and slashing at the great hand before her, she tried to call upon the power of the element once again. But there was nothing left within her. Surtremon slowly raised his hand, clenching it into a fist as it glowed with all the power of the beam. Then he brought it forward with the force of a meteor.
Now Eloise doubled over, also feeling the pain of the assault through her link with her partner. Lyublanamon lay on the ground, unmoving.
Achromon growled, flying up haphazardly and firing his jet black beam at the great warrior. The remaining warriors joined in; Dimetromon, and Paleomon, and Alopemon, and even Perimon flew around attempting to ram the knight. But it was no use; Surtremon simply turned on the spot, unleashing blade after blade of fire and smothering the room in flame.
Roaring flames and screaming Digivices mingled with one another as the partners joined up, shaking underneath the might of the Fire General. Trilomon nudged Kent, who held his foot, his body scorched. Kai held a barely conscious Colchimon in his arms, glaring up at Surtremon. Grace and Vulpimon were still huddled over, not wanting to look. Aaron and Galvamon were still standing, still ready to battle, but the war had taken its toll on both of them; it was obvious they wouldn't last much longer. Perimon and Jack were separated, both unconscious on opposite sides of the chamber.
Surtremon slowly turned, and looked down at the last partners. Ladomon was crying. Eloise held her tightly, holding herself between the two. She fumbled for her D-Nexus, her eyes still defiant against the great knight as he walked towards her, his swords unleashing spurts of flame. In a dim flash of light, she stood up, as Ljosamon, staring at the titan once again.
Surtremon merely grunted. "You have lost."
"If you will not admit it, then you will die."
Ljosamon tensed up, when suddenly Ladomon choked, trying to speak.
"It's not fair…"
Ljosamon looked down. "Ladomon?"
The dragon stared at the ground, her wings limp. "It's not fair. We've come so far. We…we only wanted to live in peace…Colchimon and I only wanted to live in peace…"
Suddenly she pulled away, where she immediately collapsed to the ground, no long with the strength to even fly. She yelled up at Surtremon, who listen, his face as impassive as ever.
"It's YOUR FAULT! It's NOT FAIR! You couldn't let us be, could you? You thought you were being so noble but you never bothered to look, did you? You wanted to know why we tried so hard to stop you? Because you never even knew our names."
Her wings slipped against the stone and she fell down, but still she glared upwards with eyes of piercing blue. "I hate you. I hate everything you've done. Whether or not you kill me right now, what you've done is unforgiveable. You're a monster and a disgrace to every one of us Digimon." She sniffed, her mouth clogging up again. "But why would you listen to me now…?"
Surtremon didn't answer. He simply raised his hand, holding a sword high.
Ljosamon got to her feet, holding out her own arm as her comrades looked on. She could feel her partner's raw fury burning through her veins, focused entirely on the great general above her. She could see the great sword pulsing in Surtremon's hand, the steeled look in his eye, and the bright orange element burning away on his chest. Her bow extended, and she loaded an arrow.
"You don't deserve to wield that power!"
Surtremon brought his arm down, and Ljosamon fired, the arrow spinning up directly into the glowing elemental seal.
There was a flash. A near-instantaneous pulse of light as the arrow dissipated into the flame.
And then the seal exploded.
Surtremon reeled back, screaming and clutching his head as flames burst from his torso. His swords clattered to the ground, reverting to molten metal and then to vapour. He staggered backwards, his feet cracking the floor again as his eyes vibrated in their sockets.
"No…you can't…it can't be happening…"
Ljosamon backed away, holding Ladomon's body as the titan stumbled again. "What did I do…?"
"My lineage has commanded this for hundreds of years!" Surtremon stood tall, scanning the ground until he saw the retreating Ljosamon. "What have you done?"
Before she could answer he stepped forwards, raising his arm as another sword formed, this one crooked and dull. Still he brought it down, but Ljosamon raised an arm.
The sword shattered on impact, sending Ljosamon to her knees but no further. Trilomon coughed as he stood up."Have you forgotten, General?"
Surtremon roared and sent a foot slamming down, but Trilomon dodged out the way. The General's eyes followed him, but there was something else there now. A long forgotten memory. An oversight.
Trilomon continued. "I may be young, but I know enough about the history of the world to know your lineage. You committed a grave error when you unleashed the elemental power."
Vulpimon gasped. "Of course! It's like with my mother, and now me; you were to protect the element. You were never meant to use it."
Grace looked at her. "I don't get it...what's happening...?"
"The element's rejecting him."
Galvamon looked over. "What?"
"The pure energy of the elements can't be used this way, even by somebody as powerful as Surtremon. Add the healing power of Light and the element can hold no more. The Digital World itself is fighting back now." Trilomon swayed a little, but remained balanced. "He can't control it on his own. He never could. But we can control ours. We have the link."
Galvamon suddenly remembered what had happened with Pikamon; the mass of energy, and the great explosion. Nothing had survived, not even the mighty WarGreymon. Trilomon was right. The energy was too much for one being alone.
He looked at Aaron, and his partner looked back at him. For a brief moment he smiled, and the electrical link between them strengthened, sending a new charge through both their bodies. In a flash, Kuaramon stood beside his partner, swaying a little but still ready to fight.
He called out. "We still have a chance! Work together; give it everything you've got!"
Surtremon stared around the chamber as the warriors before him began to glow. Some of them remained barely moving, but where one partner couldn't stand up, the other one shone all the more brightly. There was a puff of steam, and Chionemon leapt forwards, her fists glowing as she circled the great General. In a rush of wind Mistramon and Achromon also joined the fray, their great wings beating away the flames. Seismon stood tall, holding his fists up, and Dokkamon phased out from behind the flames, dragging shadows behind him.
Surtremon roared, thrusting his hand around as fire trailed from it in a great arc. "Dante's Maelstrom!"
The attack slammed into the ground, but it had lost its ferocity and luster, merely disturbing the rubble and shifting the flames. Chionemon moved in, holding back her hands and leaping against the General's foot, punching again and again. "Petrify Hand!"
The metal turned black, let off steam, and began to crack as the flesh within froze on the surface. Surtremon hissed in pain, swiping his leg back, but he walked straight into a pocket of energy to the face. Seismon stood tall, thrusting his fists forward one after the other, each green missile finding its target. The giant's helmet caved in from the multiple impacts, causing him to stand back. With a roar he sent a flaming fist into the ground again, which Seismon only just dodged in time. Surtremon raised his hand again, the flames glowing brightly.
The General pulled his hand away in pain as the dark beam struck, vaporizing the armour and leaving raw flesh exposed. The black dragon flew around again, attacking repeatedly with pinpoint accuracy, until wounds were visible all over the knight's erupting body.
"Star of Muspell!"
Surtremon pressed his hands together, ignoring the pain as he tried to build up his strength, but the energy just left him as soon as it struck him. What's more, he didn't notice Mistramon flying straight towards him, tail blade glowing brightly. Jack watched him from the edge of the room, barely able to open his eyes but his will stronger than ever.
Mistramon banked upwards, the arc of energy flying out in a vertical loop straight across Surtremon's body. The knight staggered, lights flashing before his eyes as he struggled to keep his footing.
Galvamon rushed across his path, firing twin beams of lightning that racked the knight's body. "Aaron, Kai, hold him!"
Dokkamon landed beside Kuaramon, and they both darted behind the General. Dokkamon's shadows wrapped around Kuaramon, as he pointed. "You take that arm?"
"You've got it."
Dokkamon leapt, dragging Kuaramon into the air with him. The two split in mid-jump, each finding their own target.
Tendrils of shadow and cables of lighting snaked around Surtremon's shoulders, biting into his armour plating and the body below. He jerked, and fell to his knees, as both warriors landed and pulled with all their might, forcing the great arms to cross over the knight's back. Surtremon struggled, trying to stand up, but each movement only increased the pain. Pain. A sensation he rarely felt, but through the constant wearying battle it was now burning into him, and with his firepower dissipating it became his only feeling.
"Star of Muspell!"
He roared, firing flames from his eyes and from his hands and from his seal, but they barely reached the ground now, the flames dimming from yellow, to orange, to a deep, cool red. With each movement the warriors fired again, cracking his armour and slicing into his flesh.
"I can't lose to you! Not after all this!"
His seal glowed once again, powering up for one last devastating blow. He twisted his body, preparing to release the last of his energy in a deadly beam towards the nearest of them. Galvamon looked up as the deadly white circle bore down on him.
The blast never came, as another arrow hit the seal, shattering it once again as flames blew forth. He focused himself, trying to build the power again, but none came. He stared, watching his own chest as the fire flickered, shrank, and faded to nothing. The glow in his body dissipated, leaving his armour dull, damaged and blackened by war. His eyes widened, and he struggled once again.
"No! No! Fire is my legacy! You can't take this from me!"
Surtremon yelled in pain as another arrow struck his exposed shoulder, smothering the flesh as data particles floated away. He looked up, only to see Ljosamon's bow pointed directly at his head, from just below him. He wrenched his body forwards, when Ljosamon's voice boomed around the room.
The shout was commanding, and full of unheard wrath. Surtremon sat back, staring at the shining arrow as it was pulled back further. It could just as well have been at point-blank range. Around him he was aware of all the still standing warriors with their weapons raised, ready to strike yet again. The only ones missing were Kuaramon and Dokkamon, who remained behind him, still holding his arms bound.
Ljosamon was still, her eyes glowing an intense green. "One more move and I will kill you right now."
Surtremon slumped, letting out a breath. He suddenly felt incredibly old and tired. Galvamon walked over, standing tall before the great knight. He was scarred and singed all over his body, and he held his right arm awkwardly, covering a red mark around the bicep. But still he stood tall. In fact, for the first time in his life, he stood taller than the General himself.
"It's over. You can't beat us now. You've got nothing left. We've won."
For a moment, there was quiet. Just the flickering of the flames as they died away, and everyone's ragged breathing. Surtremon bowed his head.
"You…how did you do it…?"
Mistramon huffed. "Same way we always do it, I guess."
"I have no idea."
Surtremon felt the bindings around his arms tighten, and he stared down at Galvamon. "I concede defeat. I will accept my penance."
Kent and Grace looked at one another. "Wait, that's it?"
Surtremon closed his eyes. "I surrender. You've won. Do you require anything else from me?"
Ladomon struggled up, resting herself on her weary wings. "Anything else? Maybe an apology? Any sort of remorse for destroying our world?"
Surtremon stared down at her, remaining silent for a few minutes. She glared up at him. "Well, you bastard? You think you can get away with mass murder with just a slap on the wrist or something?"
The General looked away. "I will accept my punishment. I have killed hundreds; I expected as much." His eyes flashed briefly. "But I will not apologise for my beliefs. I still hold to them. You can't blame me for that."
The watching warriors flinched. Galvamon raised an arm, his claws crackling with energy. "For your crimes against the Digital World, you will be executed."
Galvamon turned, as Ljosamon held out a hand. "Wait…we don't have to do this…"
"What are you talking about?" Ladomon nudged her partner's legs. "He's too dangerous to keep alive."
"I know, but…this isn't right."
"Nothing he's done has been right!"
Achromon floated over, gritting his teeth. "Actually, I'm with Ljosamon on this one."
Ladomon whipped her head round. "What? You can't be serious! This bastard needs to die; it's only fair."
"Stop!" Ljosamon fell to her knees, her legs finally giving out as her Digimon form vanished. "We've won, Ladomon. Isn't that enough? Surtremon can't stop us anymore. We don't need to kill him. I don't want to see anyone else die. I just want to end all this."
"I agree." Jack and Chionemon stepped forward, followed by Kent, and Seismon, and Vulpimon. The fox shook her head. "No more. Please…we don't need to go down the same path he did."
The others looked among themselves, unsure. Galvamon kept his arm raised. "For years I've dreamt of this. Of putting you through all the pain I've felt over the last hundred years. You may not understand, because you weren't there. You didn't suffer all that I suffered just trying to defend myself. I bet everyone here feels the same."
Surtremon slumped lower, his eyes never losing their luster. "What are you waiting for? Do it."
Galvamon didn't answer. He clenched his fist, and the bolts brightened, the energy building. The dinosaur glanced downwards and saw Kuaramon looking at him.
The glow in his hand faded, and he lowered his arms. "I'm stopping it. Right here, right now. Nobody else dies today."
Surtremon nodded. "Very well. Then what will you do with me."
Galvamon thought for a second. "You will relinquish your power, your status, your weaponry and any political standing you have, now and for the rest of your life. You will also be confined until such time as we feel you safe to return to civilization. Sound fair?"
He became aware of Mistramon staring at him, and shrugged. "What? I'm a soldier; you have to be professional."
Surtremon nodded. "I accept."
"You don't have a choice. But there's one more thing." There was a flash, and Galvamon reverted to Velocimon. He looked faintly ridiculous, staring up at the great knight, but there was a power in his voice. "You keep telling us you wholeheartedly believe in what you did. You say you believe you didn't make a mistake. But I don't believe you."
Surtremon leaned forward, as the lizard continued. "I want to see your face."
"Your real face. I want you to look me in the eye, with no mask, and tell me straight that you weren't wrong in what you did. But at the very least I need to see the face of the Digimon who destroyed my life, along with so many."
The lizard nodded behind the General. "You can release him."
Kuaramon looked concerned. "Is that a good idea?"
"Despite everything, he's still honour-bound as a knight. He's already defeated." Velocimon waved a claw. "It'll be fine. I just need to see this."
Kuaramon and Dokkamon looked at each other. Then they stepped back, withdrawing their bindings. Surtremon remained kneeling. The warriors gathered in front of him, behind Velocimon, waiting for the General to move.
Slowly, Surtremon reached up, with both hands, clasping his metal muzzle from either side. He extended his thumbs, pressing in the clasps one by one. The warriors watched intently, as the giant's hands shook, his thumb releasing the final clasp.
Slowly, he pulled the great metal mask forwards.
And recoiled in sudden shock and pain as his face came with it.
The warriors stepped back, those able to immediately preparing to attack yet again. But Surtremon made no moves towards them; he clutched his head, screaming in agony as something writhed on his bare flesh. The mask clattered to the ground, the inside laced with molten flesh and something else. Something almost invisible and practically inaudible. Something familiar.
Achromon twigged first, and gasped in horror. "Leeches!"
The others didn't notice him, so transfixed where they on Surtremon, who was still writhing in pain. His hands fell to the floor, struggling to hold him up, and the tamers and partners got a good look at his face. Or at least, what was left of it.
A vast skull stared down at them, mottled and stained, with leeches wrapped around it, feeding on the remaining muscle. Even more were burrowing into his helmet and further; down his neck, into his arms, his torso, his legs at lightning speed. Molten metal and liquid flesh oozed from the gaps in his nigh impenetrable armour. Only his eyes were left, and they were already clouding over, black blood vessels becoming more prominent.
He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Only a deep gurgle as his throat was eaten away.
Kent and Dokkamon forced the warriors back as Surtremon spasmed, his body literally falling apart before them. First his left arm gave way, separating from his shoulder. Then his torso split in two, the metal clanging against the stone floor. Deep red data burst from him in great clusters, spiraling away into the air.
It was only about a minute before it was over. Only Surtremon's great armour remained, lying in pieces on the ground. Metal so strong and pure that even death could not make it decay. But even that hadn't save the once-mighty General.
Surtremon was dead.
Eloise ran forward, before whirling around, her expression crazed. "What happened?! What the hell happened?!"
Everyone began talking at once. Kent remained staring at the pile of armour. Grace grasped her head and fell into a crouch, suppressing a scream. Jack began to cry. Velocimon ran around, looking for any sign of what had happened.
Dokkamon disappeared, leaving Kai to sit down on the floor, his face a mask of shock. "The leeches…this is the same thing that happened to Cephalomon."
Aaron's breath was ragged. He felt rooted to the spot. They had won, and yet…they hadn't won at all. Something else was going on.
The noise died down, as the tamers and the Digimon turned towards the chamber doorway. Only a single sound was left.
A slow, rhythmic clapping; somewhat soft and muffled, but loud enough to echo around the chamber as a figure stepped forwards. His feet curled around the smashed stones. One clawed hand collided again and again with the badly bandaged stump of the other.
The twelve warriors watched in stunned silence as Rinkhalmon smiled his ever-so-friendly smile.
TO BE CONTINUED…