Despite being a mass of rods and levers and joints, Forsetimon still cut a terrifying figure. In his column-like form, he flexed each new finger in turn, before leaning forwards, staring inside the suspended prison, the rods leaping out from his body to give him support as he bent down.
"Amazing, isn't it? Two such small beings can cause such destruction. In a few centuries this could almost be poetic."
Forsetimon became aware of something flying near to him, and he tilted his body to see Colchimon flying up in his line of sight, with Ladomon floating close behind. The black dragon's tail was glowing, and his face was lined with anger.
"You can't do this. It's wrong. It isn't their fault. None of this is their fault."
Forsetimon leant back, his hands grasping the stone columns either side of him, making him look like a disappointed king in front of his subjects. For a while he stared down at the two dragons; at Colchimon, forever defiant, and at Ladomon, who said nothing, merely staying close to her brother.
"Is it really wrong?"
Forsetimon glanced back at the suspended prison, and at the terrified expressions of the inhabitants within.
"Nithhogg is eating the world as we sit here. The Fire Kingdom nearly destroyed it all to begin with. Everything's gone wrong. Somebody has to pay. It has to be someone's fault that the world's about to end. Therefore, somebody must face justice." He leant back, retracting his great metal claws slightly. "So do tell me, please. Am I really so wrong? And if I am, then who am I to blame for all of this?"
The humans and the dragons looked down, as the many hundreds and thousands of rods making up Forsetimon's body began to ripple again, stretching out into the space across the old courthouse. At first they laid flat, forming an impossibly smooth surface. Then, they began to rise; just in specific places, forming islands and mountains and ridges and valleys. A map of the Digital World. Except it wasn't. Not any more.
There was barely anything left. The Infernal Fortress had disappeared. The Southern Daggers had halved in length. The vast Wastegrounds and the desolate ice-sheets of the Northern Tribes had been decimated. The Stone Halo mountain range was steadily shrinking from both ends. In places there were pockets of land untouched, including in the centre of the map, where somewhere, somehow, Silicon City still stood. But even then, the edges of the land were rippling, slowly being eaten away. The Digital World was dying; not a vast, cataclysmic event, but instead a slow decay. Slow, but inevitable.
Kai placed his hands over his mouth. "Jesus..."
"You see now?" Forsetimon shifted his main shield slightly, facing the tiny cell in front of him. "This is all that remains. Nithhogg has brought our world to its knees." His body shimmered, and the map broke up with a crack, splintering back into individual rods.
In front of him, Colchimon shook his head, his body shaking slightly. "No...no, this is still wrong." He glared up, looking directly into the largest purple jewel, his own furious face shining back. "All this? This was already happening. The Obelimon, the distortions in this world; Nithhogg was doing this before any of us even knew it existed. It was happening before the humans even arrived here."
"Of course. Nithhogg is as Nithhogg does. It devours. That is the way it survives. It cannot be judged on actions of instinct and survival." The golem reared back, and pointed with a great, metal claw. "That is why you were summoned. You were ones meant to stop Nithhogg. And consequently, you were the ones who failed."
There was a clang, and the prison swung precariously as Eloise grasped the iron bars in front of her. "We were trying our best! We were the ones out there fighting to stop it! And anyway, surely it's due to the Fire Kingdom that this all happened in the first place!"
Beside her, Ladomon raised her head. "That's right. We were so busy fighting the war against them that we never even realised what was behind it."
Colchimon glanced across at the white dragon, and smiled in relief, but his relief was quickly washed away by Forsetimon's booming voice.
"The Fire Kingdom were victims in this. Surtremon was a victim."
Colchimon gritted his teeth. "But Rinkhalmon-"
"Is no longer part of this world." Forsetimon curled his claws up, his anger clear despite his lack of expression. "The world is cruel. Justice is warped. At the end of the day, right is pointless, and wrong goes unpunished. But I stand by the voice of the Digital World. Some justice must be found today." He reared up taller. "Rinkhalmon may be the cause, but you humans are far from blameless. If it weren't for your actions, Nithhogg would not have entered our world."
"Our actions?" Kai looked down at his feet, before stepping forwards. "If it weren't for our actions the Digital World would be a mass of fire by now."
"But it would still be intact."
The boy raised his arms incredulously. "Listen to yourself! You have a go at us for ending the world because it wasn't in the way you wanted it to end?"
"Do you know what happens after a volcano erupts?"
Forsetimon shrank down a little, his rods forming into a more relaxed posture. "The soil is burnt over. Life is decimated. But it is reset. It can grow again, even better, from the ashes. The Digital World is much the same. It always has been. If the Fire Kingdom were victoriuos, that would have been the case. Nithhogg would still have been trapped, and the Digital World would have regrown, sealing over the cracks. Digimon would have died, true. But that is a part of history." His orb flashed, in a gesture that could have been seen as anger. "This? This isn't the end of the world, this is the erasing of everything. Data is disappearing. Devoured by a single entity. Nothing can grow back because nothing is left. And who released the entity that's doing that right now?"
"HOW did Nithhogg escape?"
"We didn't even know-"
"TELL ME HOW, HUMAN!" Forsetimon lunged forwards, his great, central jewel merely feet away from the prison, causing the humans within to jump. Forsetimon hissed. "Tell me exactly how Nithhogg escaped."
Kai looked away. "We were attacking each other. We provided it with the energy to escape."
Forsetimon grunted. "And there you are. You admit it. The creature escaped because of you. This is all your fault."
There was a harsh laugh, and Forsetimon looked left to see Eloise still clutching the bars. "Give me a break...do you know how often I'm telling myself that? Yeah, I single-handedly ended the world and killed my good friend. I get that now."
Above her, Ladomon flinched, and hovered just slightly towards her partner. "Eloise..."
"But you know what? If I still have this element I can still use it to do some good." She pointed up. "You can see everything, can't you? Tell me, if it weren't for us would the army of leeches still be in Silicon City?"
Forsetimon chuckled humourlessly. "That's a poor example. They'd still be there, and not condensed into a single entity and implanted into you."
Eloise faltered. "I..."
"I understand what you're trying to do. But every bit of good you claim to have done has been undone by your own stupid actions. Unintentional or not."
He stopped talking as Colchimon flew right up in his face. "And yet we've kept growing stronger. Everybody has. Throughout all this we might have released a monster, but we've grown enough to be able to face it. Which is more than you have, keeping yourself locked away here."
"Interesting..." Forsetimon scraped down the edge of his rightmost shield with one elongated claw. "And yet I believe you never even intended to fight for us anyway. What is strength if you don't have the will to apply it correctly?"
"I..." Colchimon pulled back once again, his face pained. Forsetimon leant forward expectantly. "I...we...we were going..."
Forsetimon chuckled, and for a moment his gems flashed. "You were going to hide away in Silicon City. You were going to pretend this war never happened."
"It wasn't for me! It was for us. I needed to protect her-"
Colchimon flinched, and slowly turned, looking back as Ladomon glared at him. She bore her teeth at him. "The others found us. We decided to help. We did, Colchimon. We were going to save the world. Don't you dare bring this down to just one of us."
Colchimon dropped down several feet, looking forlorn. But Forsetimon ignored him, instead focusing his attention once again on the humans within the cage. "And what about you?"
Eloise folded her arms. "What about us? We never had a choice."
"I believe you did. I seem to recall it was the first thing you were asked. You were given the chance to turn away, and you didn't take it." Forsetimon cocked his head. "I wonder; if somebody else had fought instead of you, perhaps this would never have happened."
"Perhaps nobody would have died."
"I SAID SHUT UP!" Eloise turned in fury, only to be dazzled by the vast purple orb staring directly at her. She gritted her teeth. "We were going to help. All of us. I remember; we got together and decided...we decided..."
As her own voice trailed away, she turned as Kai stepped forwards, his right palm on his chest.
"They all decided to follow me."
Eloise's eyes followed her companion as he moved to the front of the cage, looking into the golem's vast eye.
"I decided to stay. Everybody else came with me. And I never stayed to help the Digital World; at least, that wasn't the only reason. I stayed because I wanted to be a hero. Because I wanted to have a purpose in my bloody life. Not for the Digimon. Only for me." He glared up, his icy blue eyes piercing and furious. "The death of the Digital World is all my fault, because I wasn't the hero it needed. None of us were. That's what you wanted to hear, isn't it? "
For a moment Forsetimon stared into the cage, his expression inherently unreadable. Then he pulled back, lying on his own rods as if perched on a great throne.
"And there we have it. Confession."
"That's bullshit." Eloise marched over to Kai and grabbed his shoulder, turning him to face her. "What the hell are you talking about? We all had a choice over what we did back then. What you did was up to you; we stayed because we wanted."
Kai blinked. "I was the one who brought you here-"
"It doesn't matter now!" Eloise let go of him, her face tired yet her eyes still full of the fire they'd held since the very first day. "None of that matters now. Come on, Kai, do you honestly think anyone else has given up here?"
"You were pretty close a little while ago."
"I was being an idiot." Eloise looked down, shuffling her feet. "It was my fault. Aaron's death was my fault. Nothing you or anyone says will change that. But I can't just let it stop me in my tracks; not when we haven't finished yet. And I'm willing to bet that everybody out there is still trying to fight on." She looked up again. "You still have a job to do. As do I. It doesn't matter how much we get wrong; nobody can stop us from doing the right thing."
"Not that it matters what you think."
Eloise turned, but Forsetimon was right up against the cage again. "Enough. It's finished. By his own admission, Kai MacLaurin killed the Digital World and he must pay the price."
Kai stepped back, and Eloise marched forwards, clenching her fists. "I won't let you..."
Eloise's foot stuck, and she looked down. Or at least, she tried to, but her neck wouldn't move. Neither would any part of her body, with the exception of her eyes. She was stuck in place, her whole body instantly encased in a perfect sheen of metal, attached to the prison floor and ensnaring her completely. Inside the trap, she shivered, the metal cold against her skin.
"Eloise!" Kai started, and turned on the golem. "Let her go, now!"
Kai stopped mid-step, the mercury freezing his legs in place. All around him, shining spiked extended from the prison walls and floor, reaching towards him until he was surrounded by blades. Eloise ground her teeth, trying desperately to break out of the prison, but it was so solid she couldn't even speak, the metal holding her chin in place. All she could do was watch, as Kai was moved to the very edge of the cage.
"I hope you're watching, Ladomon, Colchimon. This is the fate of those who would bring chaos." Forsetimon huffed, and raised a large claw, the first finger extending into a wickedly sharp spear. "It ends here. The remains of the Digital World will at least rest in some form of peace."
He brought his arm forwards, the spear point poking through the bars and laying to rest on the boy's chest. Kai closed his eyes, as the incredibly sharp point dug in. Forsetimon simply kept staring. "How typical. The bringer of Darkness knows nothing else than to bring destruction."
"And the wielder of Light must obey the will of order."
Forsetimon paused, and turned slightly, gazing back at the small dragon behind him. Ladomon hovered silently up at his level, her head down but her face steely. Forsetimon retracted his claw. "Interesting."
Colchimon turned. "Ladomon, what are you-"
"Shut up Colchimon. It's true. You know it's true but you can't bring yourself to say it." Ladomon flew forwards slightly, glaring at Kai within the cage. "It was all him. It always was. He tore everything apart."
Kai flinched, but forced himself not to look away. Beside him, in her metal cage, Eloise tried to move, her eyes brimming with tears. But it was futile.
"So you would testify to his guilt?"
"I would testify to my own that I didn't say anything sooner."
Ladomon slowly moved forwards, only for Colchimon to dart in front of her, his wings outstretched. "Ladomon, you can't do this. Not you..."
"Get out of the way!"
Ladomon lunged forwards, thrusting her brother aside and causing him to spiral into the cage wall. He looked up, distraught, as her gaze remained upon him.
"I'm sorry. You always wanted to see the best in him. You were always the best of your element. But Darkness brings about grief. It always did."
Distraught, Colchimon tried to fly up again, but before he'd even realised it the liquid metal had grabbed hold of him as well, binding his wings and tail to the outside of the steel container. Ladomon just kept going, as Forsetimon watched; slipping through the bars, and right up to Kai.
"You ruined everything. And you brought us with you."
Ladomon turned, glaring back at Forsetimon, who was staring inside. "After this is over, you'll let my brother and I go. We'll go back to Silicon City; it'll be like before the war."
Beside her, Colchimon was shaking his head in desperation. "You can't be doing this, Ladomon, god, PLEASE!"
The dragon quietened down, watching as his partner straightened himself up, holding his coat open. "You have every right to hate me. For everything I've done wrong. If I'm going to be judged, it should be by you."
The air was silent. All eyes were on the dragon. Slowly she brought up her tail, which glowed white-hot, and held it perpendicular to the boy's chest, perfectly still and straight.
"All my life I wanted to believe in kindness. Justice. Right in the world. But you...all of you brought forth darkness that I can never forget about. Horrific acts of cruelty, and madness, and..." She shuddered, her breath unsteady. But she calmed herself, and pressed the blade in a tiny bit further. "I'll never forgive you for that. You most of all. Especially for taking Colchimon from me."
Kai closed his eyes, his breathing hollow. "I'm sorry...I can't change what I did."
"So much death, all because of you."
"And because of you, we can still save the world."
Kai opened his eyes, and looked up. For a brief moment, he saw Ladomon smiling, opening her wings wide. Already the metal was edging forwards behind her, but she twisted with the speed and grace of a dolphin, rushed out of the cage, and flew straight towards Forsetimon.
The blast was intense, one of the strongest she'd ever made in this form, but it was lost in the rush of metal and spikes as Forsetimon reached forwards and plucked her out of the sky, holding her tightly.
"You foolish girl."
For the first time, the great golem seemed genuinely angry. The spines over his back bristled in waves, and individual rods broke free over his body, lashing out in lethal spikes.
"This is the will of Yggdrasil. The judgement of something greater than all of us. I would have thought you'd see that. You, a pure angel since birth."
Despite the continuous pressure around her body, Ladomon managed to speak. "I'm no angel. I never was. I never saw that in all my years because I thought the world was simple. But there is no light without darkness, and vice versa. We need both to survive."
Forsetimon held her even tighter, and she fell into chokes. "Do you honestly think we can survive this? What can you possibly do?"
She smiled. "Let me...show...you..."
The cage exploded outwards, and a mass of serrated shadow slammed into Forsetimon' ripping great chunks out of his body. He jerked backwards, and released his grip on Ladomon, who flew out of his reach, her body bruised but still intact. Forsetimon gazed around, only to watch in horror as Azdajamon perched himself, legs tensed and wings outstretched like a gargoyle, on top of the remains of the cage. Kai stood beneath him, holding Eloise close to him, her metal entrappings gone. In the boy's hand, he held his D-Nexus.
In fury, Forsetimon turned to see the pedestal where he'd placed them, and where only one now remained.
For the golem had been so focused on the children, he hadn't noticed Ladomon's retrieval of one of the devices, as she concealed it within her wings. Nor that her futile attack on him had given Kai just what he needed to act.
"LADOMON, YOU TRAITOR!"
With the sound of a thousand swords being unsheathed, Forsetimon reared up, every rod in his body quivering with rage and pointing towards the white serpent as she dived towards the one remaining device.
Ladomon flinched as her tail wrapped around the device, and an almighty clang surrounded her. Opening her eyes, she saw the sentient darkness surrounding her, with the faintest visage of Azdajamon turning his head, holding thousands and millions of spears at bay. "Go! Get to Eloise!"
Already the spears were turning, arcing around the barrier towards the dragon. She flew, ducking and weaving between them and into the arms of her partner, who stood, mostly freed from the mercury prison but still fastened by her feet. The dragon spread her wings, and the D-Nexus fell into her partner's hand.
"Ladomon, you...you came for us..."
"We said we'd fight. Every one of us, back then, that night. I'm going to believe that." The dragon looked to the side, into Kai's piercing blue eyes, so terrifying the first time she'd seen them, but now comforting and dependable. "It doesn't matter what we got wrong. We still have a chance to do something right. I promise, I'll never abandon you again. Either of you."
The reunion was broken by sounds of pain and a terrible screeching of metal, and the three looked up to see Forsetimon clawing his way through the flurry of shadow. For every rod that was ripped from his body, a dozen more grew in its place, and Azdajamon, for all his pwer, was being engulfed. Still, he pushed back, spreading his shadows as wide as he could. "I won't let you hurt them! I won't let anybody hurt them!"
"Then you shall be judged with the rest of them! Millennium Impaler!"
Ladomon rose again, her beaten body still and sturdy, rising between the tamers of Light and Darkness. "He needs help."
"Light, Darkness; you don't have the power to stand against me!"
Eloise held her device up, the last of the metal encasing her flaking away as white light spiralled from her body. "Alone, maybe not!"
Kai held up his own device, the deep blue and black energy intermingling with that from his companion's. "But together, we're going to win."
Ladomon flew forwards at an immense speed, her form growing into the majestic one of Lyublanamon. She halted in front of the main shield, her whole body radiant and brighter than ever before. Just as the rods began to reach out towards her, she spread her wings wide.
The attack was bedazzling, and for the first time, the faintest trails of shadow were twisted in with the spiralling laser. When it hit, it was devastating; Forsetimon was blown backwards, scattering pieces of metal in every direction. Azdajamon, freed from the oppression, flew up and joined the pegasus in the sky, his own body glinting with the tiniest specks of light.
"I'm so glad you're back with us."
The two dragons stared down at the remains of the cage, where Eloise and Kai held tightly to each others' hand, their energy freely flowing between them. They glanced at each other and smiled. "You glad you came back to help?" said Kai."
"We have to finish what we started." Eloise closed her eyes, for the first time in a long time feeling the peace that came with her element. "No-one's going to stop us now."
"Don't make me laugh! Mercury Snare!"
Azdajamon and Lyublanamon darted out of the way as a torrent of liquid metal shot past them, and directly towards their partners. The dragons arced around in an instant, slashing through the surge and narrowly diverting it, but before they could turn Forsetimon was already rushing towards them, sending spires of metal at them, and at their partners, from every direction.
"Circle of the Void!"
Azdajamon looped around the two humans as the spears struck the broken cage in several places, sending it crumbling and tumbling into the bottomless pit below. The sphere of darkness kept moving, with the metal striking it and coming up empty, although the repeated blows were beginning to destabilize it. Forsetimon followed its motion, rearing up in front of it and bearing hundreds of claws.
"Your fate is set! The moment you tire, you will die!"
Momentarily, the golem was distracted, his attention on the rings that pulled his claws out of reach, and dislocating them from his body. That moment was enough, as the circle of darkness exploded outwards in front of him, with Azdajamon reaching out with brutal claws at his great central orb, slicing at it with the ferocity of a wild animal. Unable to completely see, Forsetimon lashed out wildly, pulling the dragon away, only to see Lyublanamon already circling away, having already plucked the falling tamers from the sky and carrying them to relative safely.
Azdajamon roared in his field of vision. "Why are you watching them when you should be keeping your eyes on me!"
Forsetimon pulled back, bringing together his two smaller shields and slamming them into the gargoyle's body. Azdajamon fell away briefly, but righted himself, swooping low and then up again to meet the main shield at its level. Forsetimon's orbs were intense now; a full violet that seemed to emanate around the entirety of the room.
"You would defy fate to this extent?"
Azdajamon ground his hooked beak, his eyes narrowing to dangerous slits. "We've been defying our fate since we started this fight."
"Then you will all burn in the hell you created."
Forsetimon flashed, and his rods extended once again; not in a torrent, or a directed spear, but in every single direction. An explosion of metal, embedding itself in walls, pillars, the ceiling; creating a web of chrome that surrounded everybody in the area. At the very centre of that web, Forsetimon pulled his three shields together, with every single orb in his body glowing intensely, letting out waves of purple aura.
There was a blast of energy, and all four beings within it were shocked to their very core. Opening their eyes, they could see the very atmosphere around them trembling, as if underwater. Everywhere the web reached, the same aura hung between the strands, melding them together from rods to something liquid and organic. And they shone, so brightly, almost painfully so. Then it was with actual pain, as the energy resonated between strands. Lyublanamon shook her head from side to side, Eloise and Kai clutched their heads, and even the rugged Azdajamon crouched down, his eyes trembling in their sockets.
Through the intense pain, the dragons flew towards one another. Towards their partners. Against the growing pain, they wrapped themselves together, holding their bodies against the energy in a tight embrace, trying their best to protect the partners who had brought them this far.
"The shield will fall, and nothing will be left. No life, no soul, no sin. The shield will fall, and you will be annihilated."
Through the corner of their eyes, Eloise and Kai could just about see the trio of shields clutched tightly in the centre of the burning web, and the slight crack between them as they, ever so slowly, began to pull apart, revealing the terrible power that had been building within.
They reached out.
They held each others' hands.
Nothing could survive that power.
Nothing except the fundamental force of the universe.
The constant struggle, and yet constant harmony.
Light. Order. Hope.
Darkness. Change. Comfort.
For once, they held tightly to one another. A one in a million bond between two. No, between four. Flawed, imperfect, sinful. Yet holding tight to their undying belief in one another.
No words were said. None were needed.
Together, they shone.
As the light grew within the burning web, Forsetimon himself was forced back. The aura trembled, unable to handle that much power, that much pure energy. All around the webs began to snap, as purple lights intermingled with black and white orbs, and a great sphere of swirling light and darkness within.
The golem lowered his shield. "Despite everything...you actually made it..."
The web exploded, and the golem regrouped himself on the first pedestal, discarding his singed and snapped rods and replacing them at a rapid pace as he watched the shining globe. With a movement as smooth as liquid it split into two; one sphere of pure white and another of deepest black, still swirling.
Together, they showed the journey of those partners within. Luminemon and Achromon. Dokkamon and Ljosamon. The guardian beasts, Lyublanamon and Azdajamon. Even the destroyers, Svartalmon and Alfheimon. Then, within the swirling orbs, two more figures. Identical, yet opposite. Similar, yet different. Twins once again. The lights and the shadows were swept away with two great wingbeats, leaving the angels hovering in the centre of the old courthouse.
Both had humanoid heads and torsos. One had hair of deep scarlet and skin of glistening, pale gold. The other, a body of deep, pulsating blue, with hair of a rich brown. They were modestly attired, with holy rings of gold and silver respectively around their arms, and gems embedded within their fingers; one blue orbs, one purple diamonds. They hovered on great, broad wings, and their eyes were covered by engraved metal visors, which hung down from the crowns that adorned their heads. From their waists down, their bodies swirled away into great serpent's tails, armoured in beautiful rings and studded with more jewels. And they each held a dual-ended staff; one tipped with a sun-shaped blade and a huge curved crossbow, the other with a hooked crescent and a curved trident.
They flapped their wings again, and looked at one another, their moves slightly different yet very nearly synchronous.
They looked down at the golem from their vantage point, their wings moving slowly, but with enough magical power to keep them afloat. Astraeusmon clutched his staff two-handedly.
"Release us, Forsetimon."
The golem let out a mechanical chuckle. "You seem mistaken. You have not escaped your fates merely by changing forms-"
"You can stop now."
The golem paused, watching as Eosmon held her palm out. "We can sense your intentions. This has all been a ruse. Even as much as you talk about justice and sin." She tilted her head slightly. "It appears you do still believe in our power."
There was a great clanking, and Forsetimon raised himself up again, his rods multiplying in seconds into dozens of lethal spiked arms. "I will only believe in you when I see you with my own eyes!"
Eosmon shrugged. "Fair enough. If that's what you want."
Eosmon moved like the wind as the spears shot towards her at a rocket speed, brushing past her wings and glancing off her tail. The urgent ones she managed to knock away, although the movement threw her off a bit. As she looked up, she saw yet more spears aiming towards her, and she spun her staff rapidly, catching the ends and twisting them away.
"Need any help?"
Eosmon looked up to see Astraeusmon dealing with his own demons; in his case, one of the smaller shields, that bore down on him relentlessly and brutally. Eosmon merely waved. "This is fine."
"Don't think you can escape this time with just luck and false power!"
Forsetimon's larger shield loomed in front of her, with the darker of the smaller ones rising behind her. Already she could feel the metal tendrils reaching around the tips of her wings, freezing them in mercury yet again. She gritted her teeth.
"This power was earned. And if you're so desperate for proof, let me show you!"
With a yell she spun her staff, gathering light at the end that sliced through the metal as if it were paper. Moving with grace and an incredible speed, she carved a way through the clawed rods even as they continued to close in on her, each impact making her weapon glow all the brighter. Through her visor she could see the smaller shield bearing down upon her, the central orbs glowing bright purple. A simple target.
She inverted herself, swimming through the air and blasting the closest rods away with a sweep of her wings, giving her a few seconds of space. Plenty of time to raise her glowing staff, aim it at the shield, and fire.
A wave of light burnt away every piece of metal in the immediate radius, as an arrow-shaped beam shot from the crossbow end of the staff like a comet from space; a bright, piercing light that impaled everything in its path, including the lowermost gem on the smaller shield. It recoiled, along with all the surrounding metal, shedding data as it did so. Eosmon gathered her bearings and looked around for her other half, only to hear a series of loud, aggressive roars coming from above her.
She looked up as he came down, his spiny wings tearing through the rods and his two-pronged spear embedded about a third of the way through the other smaller shield.
With the sound of tearing metal, a huge explosion of darkness sent spears of shadow in every direction, rupturing everything they touched. The shield was split apart in an instant, the orb of shadows simply ripping the data away like nothing. A few more quick lunges with the spear and Astraeusmon had removed yet more of the rods, slowly cutting his way towards Eosmon.
"You are loud, aren't you..."
A few quick blasts from her own weapon and Eosmon had joined him, the two of them facing each other, barely out of breath. The scene around them was one of splintered and twisted metal, and a few limp rods just swinging back and forth.
"You do wonder where these guys get their ideas that they can beat us."
Astraeusmon hooked his staff over his back, tilting his head back. "I just appreciate the work."
"This is work for you?" Eosmon clenched and unclenched her free hand. "I haven't found battle this easy in a long time."
"Now's a time for jesting, is it?"
Eosmon and Astraeusmon turned as the main great shield of Forsetimon rose up between the debris, the purple orbs now glowing with a ferocious violet flame. Astraeusmon sighed, and transferred his staff to one hand. "There's nothing you can do to us. Let us out, or we will make you."
The orbs exploded outwards, sending spires of metal in every direction, catching both angels in the mercuric web. Instantly the flames began; with no lesser shields to contain them, Forsetimon just released the energy in waves. The angels raised their arms in defense as they were hit by arc after arc of flame, threatening to rip the very data from their bodies.
"Your power is irrelevant! You will never escape this place!"
Eosmon gritted her teeth. "That's enough. I've had it with freaks like you."
Astraeusmon, currently holding his staff up two-handed to keep the flames away, glanced over. "Shall we?"
The two moved synchronously, barely registering the flames striking their bodies as they began to release waves of energy. Their staves carved trails in the air as they spun them; ancient symbols, overlapping and interlocking, glowing bright white and pitch black.
The two angels lunged forwards, releasing twin trails of light and darkness, the shape of Ladomon and Colchimon, that arced around, slicing through the burning web and arcing back towards the main shield. Forsetimon's orbs glowed ever brighter.
"It's no use! Neither of you are strong enough to destroy the element of Metal!"
The angels smiled, and reached out with their free hands, clutching the other as they held their staves steady and true.
"Maybe not on our own..."
"But we're not alone."
"As we said before..."
Up above, the energy dragons began to spiral, twisting together into a single, four-winged entity of spiralling light and shadow, heading like a spear straight towards the very central orb.
"We stand together! Chaos Quetzal!"
The attack struck true. The barrage of flame stopped, as the shield began to shiver, dropping the twisted metal left, right and centre as white and black serpents trailed their way across its surface. As the metal was overrun, the orb in the centre lost its lustre. Lost its fury.
With an almighty crash, the thousands and millions of metal spikes broke apart, falling down into the very depths of the courthouse, where so many criminals had been sent, many hundreds of years earlier. They made a sound like heavy rain as they struck one another, perhaps falling for eternity, perhaps not. But soon enough, they had all fallen away, and only the shield remained. It lay against one of the podiums, its edges chipped and cracks running through it. The central orb was the only one that remained, and its light was dim now, flickering gently. Forsetimon had been defeated.
Eosmon and Astraeusmon descended upon the podium, their forms falling away as they did so from the severe damage and beating they'd taken between them. Kai shivered, holding his arms close as he gazed at the massive shield in front of him. "We did it..."
The boy turned, only to have Eloise's arms thrust around him. He held his arms out, unsure what to do, and was promptly joined by Ladomon and Colchimon, both of them, twisting together.
He ignored his confusion, and joined the embrace. For a moment they all held tightly to one another, all four of them, together as warriors of light and darkness. Together as friends once again.
Ladomon was the first to break, brushing the dust from her pure-white plumage and blushing slightly. "I...um...I'm sorry for doubting you. All of you."
Colchimon flew towards her, and wrapped himself around her, causing her to giggle. "I never doubted you. Not for one moment." He grinned. "You always were better than me."
"You saved us back there." Kai smiled. "Thanks for believing in us."
Kai rubbed his shoulder from where Eloise had punched him (lightly, so as not to bruise him further). He scowled at her, but she held her hands on her hips. "Don't be so quick to sacrifice yourself. We spent a long time trying to find you."
"Oh, I'm sorry I was trying to minimise the damage when the big guy was threatening me. I didn't mean to waste your time."
"You know what I mean." Eloise plonked her hands into her pockets. "I don't want to lose you."
Kai grinned. "I promise, I'm not leaving you anytime soon."
"I trust you. Still, I never realised we could reach that level of power." Eloise placed her hand against her chest. "Maybe we do have a chance, after all."
"You have done wonderfully well. Better than any of us could have h-h-hoped for."
The four of the jumped, and turned to look at the shield, which was breaking down before them, the orb being scored with great cracks. Kai went for his D-Nexus, bracing himself. "You think he's still alive?"
"I never died in the first p-place." Forsetimon chuckled as the orb fell to the ground, the cracks forming a web over its surface. "That's the thing about the element of Metal. Of all the elements, it alone makes you practically indestructible."
Ladomon's eyes widened, and she looked at her brother, who appeared equally shocked. "You...it can't be...you said you were the curator of this place."
"I am the curator. Or at least I was. But I must see to the Digital World's f-future as well. To do that required d-deception on my part." The orb's glow brightened one last time. "I never wanted to lie to you, b-b-but I had no ch-choice..."
The orb shattered, sending tiny pieces of crystal everywhere. The four warriors covered their faces, and when the barrage stopped, they looked down in awe.
For with the crystal had been another Digimon. He uncurled himself, and shook off the final pieces of purple. For a moment he staggered, trying to find his bearings. Then he looked up, and his face was tired, and full of regret.
Colchimon's jaw dropped open. "You...you're alive..."
"I'm so, so very s-s-s-sorry..."
Chromon blinked, and looked away in shame.
"I need to t-t-tell you everything..."
TO BE CONTINUED...