Episode 51: Turn Into
Pure Light, Part 2

  dark                      light

Rose awakened slowly, feeling groggy and disorientated. It hurt to open her eyes, and her body felt heavy as she tried to move her fingers and hands.

She laid on her front, flat against the concrete of what had been not long ago the west Atlas Corp tower. Wherever it was, it was dark and there wasn’t much light for her to see by. Something of a significant weight lay on top of her, practically crushing her to the concrete beneath; it was a struggle to breathe properly.

In weak slivers of light that were around her she could see tiny dust and dirt particles floating upwards. She followed one with her eyes until it disappeared from the light and then found another one to follow. For some reason she found it therapeutic. Her mind was blank and she couldn’t seem to recall anything of what had just happened.

Her last memory was of Mukademon attacking the bunker she and her brother and their friends had been hiding in. She had felt the excruciating pain of the attack, far worse than any other pain she had experienced before. She recalled smacking against some mangled iron shafts that had held the windows of the building in place. She even remembered the red hot sensation of blood dripping down from a wound she had sustained, the blast having impaled her on the iron itself.

But aside from that her mind was blank.

Maybe I’m dead. Rose thought, and while that thought should have caused her great grief and terror, it didn’t. Oddly enough she found comfort in the thought and continued to watch the dust and dirt float in the various shafts of light, letting the simplicity of it all relax her.

She closed her eyes after a few minutes, deciding to let everything that was coming, all the inevitably wash over her. It would be easier that way.

“She’s here!”

The voice she heard was echoing and sounded very far away. There was a sound of scratching somewhere above her, and high pitched whining that grated in Rose’s head like someone’s nails down a chalk board.

“Help! She’s under here!”

The voice again, closer this time. Tinged with fear, worry and desperation. The scratching sound became more insistent, and Rose felt small pieces of rock fall onto her cheek.

“Get back,” a man’s voice joined the first, barking the words like an order. “We have to do this methodically, or she could be crushed.”

“But—”

“We’ll get her out,” the man’s voice said, “trust me.” A sound of movement. More rubble tumbled onto Rose’s face and down, making light tapping noises on the concrete she was lying on. “Rose? Rose, can you hear me?”

No. Rose thought. Leave me alone. I’m happy here.

“Rose?! Rose, answer me! Let me know if you’re alive!”

Go away...

“Rose!” The female voice, desperate and tearful.

Mother...?

“It’s Hatimon, please, answer me!”

Hatimon...?

Rose opened her eyes again, slowly, blinking a few times, adjusting to the dim air, the tiny shafts of light from earlier where still there, though now they were brighter, having lost their pinkish tinge. Had she fallen asleep?

Hatimon...

“Rose?” Hatimon’s voice again, her nose appeared above Rose, just about pushing through one of the gaps between the rubble. “Please, answer me.” Hatimon sounded desperate, on the verge of tears. Every one of her words was choked.

“Ha... ti...” Rose’s vocal chords were dry and strained. The dust in the air she must have inhaled did not lend itself to help. She could barely speak. “...Help.”

“Rose!” Suddenly Hatimon’s tone was relieved. “She’s alive! Hurry Logan, hurry!!”

Logan...?  The memories were slowly beginning to come back to her, after the blast, how... somehow Selenemon in her dying state had absorbed her. She had... ascended? Yes. That word sounded familiar. They had become a singular being with one heartbeat. It had been a mode change, like the one Mukademon had gone through, just like how Ryudamon explained.

Logan had appeared during the battle, but he hadn’t been alone.

“We’re going to get you out from under there, okay?” Logan’s voice was above her, and there were more sounds, footsteps.

In the confusion of Logan barking orders, Hatimon scratching at the stone and offering gentle words of encouragement to Rose through the small gaps she could find to speak to her, and the occasional shift in the weight that laid across Rose, finally she was free, bathed in the glow of the rising sun.

The other men, soldiers, who had helped in dislodging the debris and assisted in freeing her, stepped back as Logan dropped down to the same level as Rose where she lay and eased her to her feet, taking most of her weight himself as Rose trembled and shook violently when she was finally upright.

Hatimon could see just how fragile her partner was and was able to resist the desire to leap at her, so pleased she was alive, and settled for simply licking Rose’s hand when she offered it and whined appreciatively to the brief ear rub she received in return.

Logan was leading her towards the recovery unit that had been set up.

As soon as the battle appeared to be over, McTyre had sent for military medical units to be set up, and for trucks and ambulances to begin making their way through the city to see to any who had been killed or injured during the tower’s collapse and the fighting.

All the Digimon congregated around one of the medical trucks where Hunter stood, along with everyone else.

They each looked disheveled, wrapped in silver foil blankets, their partners milling around their feet, but otherwise unhurt and by all accounts, lucky to be alive. Corneliamon and Rubimon were with them all too, talking quietly with Eleanor while Eric stood a few meters away, talking with one of the soldiers and McTyre.
Medical staff approached Rose, two women, and took her from Logan. She was immediately wrapped in a foil blanket, and moved towards the open back of the truck where they sat her down and began to check her over for injury.

Logan hung back a few feet, not wanting to encroach on his sister or the others.

“Logan...” Rose called for him weakly, but the medical staff obscured him from her view. She turned her gaze to Hunter who, while he looked at ease, had a certain hardness and severity to his expression that she found a little unsettling. “Go get him, Hunter.”

He shook his head silently and lifted Hatimon into the back of the medical truck so she could be closer to Rose.

“Please,” Rose implored her brother, trying to look at him while one of the women peered into her eyes with a bright light.

“We don’t need him,” Hunter explained. He turned on his heel, facing Logan. “I don’t see why he turned up anyway. It’s pretty co-incidental.”

Frankie bit her lip. “Maybe we should give them some privacy...”

“I agree.” Odocomon nodded her head slowly. “This will be awkward enough.”

Eric gave them an excuse. “McTyre says there are reports coming in from all over the city that the crystal is withdrawing, melting away. He’s got some video footage.”

Grateful for the distraction, the others followed him back to where McTyre stood away from them, talking quietly with one of the soldiers that had accompanied him and Logan, both looking over the screen of a tablet computer.

Logan took a deep breath and approached his younger siblings. The medical staff were finished with Rose and seemed happy enough with her condition, that she was not in any danger and that her injuries from earlier had all healed completely, just like the injuries the others had had. Rose smiled weakly, while Hunter stood with his arms folded and his brows furrowed. Hatimon laid beside Rose, her head in her lap, and Skollmon sat at Hunter’s feet.

“You look like dad,” Logan said to Hunter, “pulling that face.”

Hunter’s fist hit his brother’s chin before he had even registered Hunter was throwing a punch. Logan reeled back from it, while Hunter cursed softly. Logan rubbed his skin, and cleared his throat.

“I guess I deserved that.”

“You’ve been gone for nearly ten years! TEN! Not a phone call. Not even a fucking email to say where you were,” Hunter raged. “But you’ve been in contact with Eric the whole time. And now you turn up out of the blue! Why?! What’s the point?! It’s a bit late!”

“Hunter!” Rose snapped, quashing her brother’s rant. Her throat was dry still, and it felt uncomfortable to talk, but she wanted a family reunion of peace, not littered with shouting and punching. “Logan is here now... can’t we be grateful for that?”

“Why are you here?” demanded Hunter, practically ignoring Rose. “Why turn up now? Why not a year ago? Two years ago? Why not when we actually needed you?”

Logan treated Hunter to an impatient look, and pinched the space between his eyebrows, drawing in a deep breath. He had never been good at keeping a cool head. Bella had always been able to push him into arguments, but he didn’t want his reunion with his brother and sister to end in a blazing row.

“I wanted to come back,” Logan explained, beginning slowly. He paused, waiting to see if either Hunter or Rose would interrupt him. They both looked at him, Hunter with suspicion, while Rose had an open and honest expression. “I did. I just... I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be near her again.”

“Where did you go?”

Logan looked at Rose. “I live in Germany.”

Hunter sneered. “Couldn’t get far enough away, huh?”

“I have a wife and a daughter... hopefully a son on the way in about four months,” Logan continued. He spoke again, hurriedly, not allowing either sibling to speak before him, though their shocked expressions said more than he would need to hear. “I wanted to contact you. I did, but that would mean getting in contact with her, and I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to have anything to do with her, and I didn’t want her to get anywhere near my family.”

Rose ran her fingers slowly back through her hair, while stroking Hatimon with her free hand. “So, what made you come back?”

“Eric,” Logan explained. “We’d been in touch for ages, just after I left, actually. I asked if he could keep an eye on you, and we exchanged emails once in a while. When things with the Digimon began occurring our emails became more frequent and I wanted to see if I could help in any way. I came back because right after Eric disappeared to the Digital World with Eleanor, the city became covered in the glass and crystal. I wanted to be here, in case I could help.”

“Well, you were a bit late,” Hunter snapped, turning his back and beginning to walk back to the others.

“Hunter!” Rose called, he ignored her. She turned her face to Logan and smiled a little. “He’ll understand... I think it’s all a lot to take in.”

Logan nodded slowly. “I suppose... still, you’re handling this all very well.”

Rose shrugged. “Give me a couple of days.”

“I found this,” Logan said, and held out Bella’s silver D-Touch to Rose. She examined it for a moment before clutching it in both hands tightly. Rose remained quiet.

“General!” Two soldiers raced past Rose and Logan, receiving curious looks from them everyone. One of the soldiers whispered something to McTyre, glancing at both Rose and Hunter while speaking.

“You’re certain?” McTyre asked, clasping his hands behind his back.

The solider nodded. “She’s very weak.”

A few more hushed words were exchanged, with more puzzled and uneasy looks being exchanged between Digimon and humans alike. Rose approached, Hatimon at her side, while Logan retained his distance, not wanting to get too close and make an already uncomfortable situation any more uncomfortable.

“I see,” McTyre said slowly. His eyes landed on Rose, then Hunter. “Rose, Hunter... it appears your mother is alive.”

The words and actions that followed were a blur. She was weak, and just about hanging on to life. Some of McTyre’s men had found her beneath an overturned car when they had been looking for survivors, and were unwilling to move her because of her weakened state. Without a moment of doubt both Rose and Hunter had demanded to be taken to her, and were led quickly away from McTyre and the group, across the destroyed streets and down a small side alley.

Logan went with them, more to satisfy his own morbid curiosity than anything.

The car that had been covering Bella was in two parts, appearing to have been sawn through to make it easier to move. More medical staff moved about her body. She had been covered up to the shoulders with a blanket. Bella’s hair was a mess, tattered and clumped together with blood. Her skin showed the scars of the battle that had passed only hours ago.

He skin was white, her lips were blue, and her eyes were sunken and sallow, almost having fallen into her face. She trembled, and at first didn’t seem to notice what was going on around her.

When Hunter and Rose saw her they both stopped and stared for a few moments, not sure whether to approach or just turn around and leave.

Their confusion was matched. This was the woman who had turned them and their Digimon into nothing but weapons. Used them for fighting and treated them more like employees and a constant thorn in her side than her children... but that had been under the influence of Mukademon, with the parasite attached to her, she had not been herself for most of their lifetime.

And while that did not excuse her treatment of them entirely, it did make up for some of it. And the fact remained, she was their mother. And at some point, before Russell’s death, before the Digital World, before the Parasite had embedded itself into her, she had loved them.

Rose took Hunter’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. She moved towards their mother’s body first, Hatimon at her heels.

Hunter followed after a few seconds, slowly taking a breath each time he took a step.

The air was thick with the stench of blood. The blanket that covered Bella from her shoulders to her feet was sticking to her, the fabric heavy and clotted. Even in the direct light of the rising sun, the air around Bella felt cold and clammy.

Rose knelt beside Bella’s body on her right side, while Hunter went down on one knee on her left. The medical soldiers were clearing up their supplies. Cotton wool stained red, and bandages of the same color were being disposed of in a chemical waste bag.

Hunter saw their glances, their expressions. It was easy to read the sight of sorrow and pity from each of them.

“She’s so... cold,” Rose murmured, taking one of Bella’s hands in her own. Bella was breathing slowly, her eyelids flickering wildly as if she was in the midst of a terrible dream from which she was trying to awaken. “Mom...?”

Hunter gingerly lifted the blanket to see the worst of the damage. The black dress she had been wearing when she had jumped from the tower window was torn to pieces. He could just about make out the worst of her wounds, situated around her torso and navel, where the final attacks had been concentrated. He lowered the blanket again, making sure it was neat once Bella was covered.

“Mom?” Rose tried again, shuffling a little closer to Bella. “Can you hear me?”

Bella’s eyelids flew open, while her eyes stared around wildly, unable to focus.

Rose tightened her grip on Bella’s hand. “Mom, it’s Rose. Mom... Hunter is here too.”

“Rose...” Bella’s voice was strained, and blood mixed with saliva bubbled from her mouth when she spoke, dripping out of the corners of her mouth and slipping down into her hair. “Y...you...”

“Don’t talk, Mom. We’re going to get you to the hospital,” Rose said, clasping both her hands around Bella’s.

Hunter looked at his sister sadly, but her focus was completely on Bella. There was no way to tell her Bella wouldn’t survive. It was amazing she was still alive now, considering what her body had gone through.

“N-no,” Bella said. Despite her weakened state she managed to sound firm. More blood dripped down her chin.

“But mom–”

“It’s... okay...,” Bella told her. Her breathing was shallow, and it seemed like every short inhale and exhale caused Bella to wince. Every breath was punctuated with a gurgling sound, like blood was pooled in the back of her throat. She continued to speak, regardless of the pain she felt, and how she struggled to form words. “Y-you... won...”

Hunter nodded his head, bending over to be better in view. “Yeah... we did, mom. We beat Mukademon.” He swallowed hard. His nose and eyes were burning, a sensation of tingling was behind his eyes and he couldn’t stop shaking. Rose was practically rocking back and forth on her knees, clutching Bella’s hand like a child would clutch a toy. “He’s gone.”

Bella’s mouth twitched into a smile which was only visible for a moment. “I knew...” She took a deep breath, too deep. She sputtered violently, sending droplets of blood flying from her mouth.

“Stop talking,” Rose pleaded. “Momma please, there’ll be time to talk later.” Rose released Bella’s hand, only to wipe her eyes. As soon as she had disposed of her tears, Rose took Bella’s hand again, tight in her own.

“Proud,” Bella wheezed. She breathed deeply, redness bubbled in her mouth and small droplets spat from her throat and landed on the blanket and on Bella’s own face. “Proud... of you... both.”

Then things seemed to slow down. Bella took another intake of breath, a sharp one this time, her head arcing back while she coughed and spluttered. Rose was shaking uncontrollably, while Hunter didn’t know what to say or where to look. He could practically see the life drain out of their mother as she head lolled to one side and her eyes stared at him. The blood in her mouth dripped down, slipping down her cheek and staining the ground. Bella blinked slowly once, then her eyes unfocused, any life in them disappeared. Her chest stopped rising and falling, and her whole body went limp.

“Mom?” Rose said urgently, shaking Bella’s hand. “Mom, come on.”

Hunter backed up towards the side of the car. Like he had been suddenly struck by unimaginable fear. He just stared at his mother’s lifeless face and breathed quickly, trying to subdue the panic and feeling of sickness rising in his chest.

Tears in his eyes spilled over and he grit his teeth tightly together, beginning to breathe hurriedly through his nose. His gaze shifting from Bella’s face to all around the area, to the sky, the medical personnel, and Rose. To Logan who stood so far away he was completely detached from everything.

Overcome, Hunter began fisting handfuls of his hair, burying his head and face into his legs, which he brought up to his chest. His shoulders shook, and to distract himself he dug his fingernails into his scalp.

It shouldn’t have felt like this.

He shouldn’t have been so overwhelmed. Rose shouldn’t have been sobbing, rocking back and forth, clutching their dead mother’s hand.

She had been a monster to them both for most of their lives. A person who was not a person, but just a vessel for a parasite that had been working and planning for twenty years with no care or love shown to her children. She had, by all accounts, been dead for that period of time anyway. Unfeeling, unseeing... an empty husk filled up only by Mukademon’s hatred and desire to vengeance and planning.

But it hurt.

Hunter’s chest felt like it was about to cave in on him. His heart and ribs felt heavy. It felt like no matter how much he breathed or how fast, he would never catch his breath. As if every fiber of his being was being torn apart by some unseen force. Everything was agony, and he didn’t want to open his eyes to the reality of it.

Their mother was dead, and even though she had been for the majority of their lives, nothing more than a stranger, she had still loved them in the beginning, and even deep down, the part of her that had resisted Mukademon’s influence for so long had loved them as well, despite never being strong enough to break through Mukademon’s grip until the last moment where she had said she was sorry... and it had been genuine.

Logan consoled Rose, who was sobbing uncontrollably, watching the medical staff cover Bella’s face with the blanket and try to ease her onto a disassembled trolley for easy movement.

He opened his mouth to speak, to console, but was quickly overshadowed by the sound of Piper’s voice that broke through his younger brother’s reverie, and Hunter’s sharp, bloodshot eyes turned up to him as he stood a few paces off.

“Hunter!” Piper dropped to her knees beside Hunter, hugging his head to her chest. Hunter released, sobbing into her chest like a child as she had buried her face into his hair. There was nothing she could say to make the situation better, but it was enough to just be there.

“I am so sorry...,” Piper whispered. “I am so... sorry”

-----------------------------

The sun had completely risen, basking the ruined city in a dim glow.

Piper walked over, leaning on the side of the truck with Caesarmon curled around her feet. Wanting to leave the Divine siblings in peace, she had left Hunter alone with the family, joining the group who had found a comfortable place to race a bit up the street from where they had found Bella’s body.

James sat on a stretch of sidewalk that seemed to be the only area that had not been too badly damaged by the fighting. Frankie sat with him, her head on his shoulder with Siberimon and Odocomon beside them.

Eva and Tom perched in the back of one of the military trucks with Irbimon and Poemon, while Reyez sprawled out over a flat piece of concrete with a cigarette lit in his mouth and his forearm covering his eyes, Ailurmon sitting beside him.

Eleanor, Rubimon, Eric, and Corneliamon sat on the ground with James and Frankie.

None of them spoke.

They were all watching the soldiers milling around, barking orders back and forth at each other. Watching the comings and goings of medical helicopters, trucks and Jeeps. Observing the mission the military were confronted with now, which was to dig out the bodies from the Atlas Crop tower rubble and hope for survivors.

McTyre had left one of his Captains in charge to oversee things, while he checked on the areas of the city that had been hit worst by the crystal, to gauge how quickly it was receding, and to try and generate an estimated time for how long it would be before the city’s inhabitants could come back in safely.

It was hard to weigh in how they all felt.  Difficult to put into words whether it was relief that everything was over. Remorse that so many had had to die in order for things to get to this point. Regret at the fact Ryudamon had sacrificed himself to save them all and none of them would ever get a chance to say thank you properly.

“...What do we do now?” James asked the air, not expecting an answer and only continuing to stare at the image of the Digital World that remained visible in the pale blue sky.

“Give ourselves a pat on the back?” Tom suggested, shrugging his shoulders. “I think, after everything, we deserve it.” He smiled a little, sweeping his fingers over Poemon’s feathery head.

“And maybe treat us to something-or-other,” Irbimon suggested with a small grin. “After all, if it weren’t for us...” He left his comment open and stretched out.

“Technically, Ryudamon saved you all,” Rubimon told him, her tone and mood difficult to make out. Not that that was much of a surprise, none of them really knew how to feel at this point. It was all such a mess and confusion of feelings and emotions.

“Can someone explain exactly what happened?” Frankie asked, turning her gaze to the small dragon. “I remember the impact of Mukademon’s attack, and the heat... then... just the sound of a heart beat.”

“You died,” Rubimon told them all bluntly. “Mukademon’s attack killed you... but even as you die, there’s still enough life in you for a short period of time to be brought back from the brink. When Mukademon’s attack hit Ryudamon, he released his life essence... Your partners were already desperate to save you, and Ryudamon’s sacrifice gave them the kick start they needed to heal themselves and draw you into them to be healed.”

“We combined,” Odocomon said simply, smiling. “That’s quite a thing to occur.”

Rubimon nodded. “It was your own kind of mode change. How Mukademon changed, you did too. Only yours was... different. You each ascended to a higher mode. Quite a feat.”

“Ah. That’s something to tell people then,” Reyez said, sitting up, “if they ask what amazing things have occurred in our lives, we can tell them we each nearly died and became Digimon for a short period of time to survive.”

“I don’t know if that will either go down well or be believed,” Frankie told him, tossing her hair over one shoulder. “It does certainly make me feel closer to you though.” She pulled Siberimon into her lap, laughing as the white-tiger released a pleased purr while she rubbed his belly.

“I can’t wait until we get to ascend again!” Caesarmon said boisterously. “We were so many levels of amazing, astounding, incredible... awesomeness!”

Piper chuckled, lifting the otter from the ground, while others around them laughed at the Digimon’s excitement. “It was... an experience.”

“So... for a while, Reyez, Tom, and I were female. And Eva, Piper, and you, Frankie... were male,” James spoke, appearing to try and rationalize the situation. He ruffled his hands through his hair. “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“...Did you really just say that?” Frankie side-eyed her boyfriend.

“I mean... I had boobs! Real boobs!” James tried to defend himself.

Tom stared at the russet-haired man. “You say some of the weirdest shit.” He grinned.

“C’mon Tommy boy - you can say if you enjoyed being in a girl’s body for a change,” Reyez smirked. “Or at least being taller.”

“Ha ha,” Tom retorted dryly, throwing the foil blanket he had been wearing earlier at Reyez good-naturedly.

“How did you guys feel joining with us?” Eva asked Irbimon, and the other Digimon who sat around them. “Did it feel weird?”

A few seconds of silence passed, while the Digimon mulled her question over. “Not... weird,” Ailurmon spoke up, her head tilted to one side in thought. “It was like having a piece of us in place after not having it there for so long.”

“Kind of like when we each first reached our God stages,” Siberimon agreed. “It was a sense of fulfillment, one like none of us had experienced before. Combining with each of you, sharing your thoughts and feelings... it was quite beautiful. Really.”

Frankie squeezed him ruffling her face into his fur. “You sentimental old tiger.”

Siberimon released a half-hearted grumble.

“Hunter and Rose are coming back,” Poemon announced, looking up from where she was perched in Tom’s lap. Each head turned to look in the direction Poemon indicated. The twins walked towards the group slowly, with their Digimon at their heels.

Eva hopped down from her perch, while Piper let Caesarmon down to the ground and stood up straight. Odocomon, Siberimon, and the other Digimon each crossed hurriedly to the twin wolves, offering soft words of encouragement and light head butts or pats to show their affection.

Piper crossed to Hunter first, hugging him before he could protest. He reciprocated, hugging her tightly while burying his face into the blonde’s scarf.

Eva moved towards Rose with Frankie, who was now also up on her feet. Rose, who hugged herself uneasily. The lilac-haired woman’s face was blotchy and tear-stained, her eyes bloodshot, and she shook uncontrollably.

She looked like a small child, lost and completely out of her depth.

Offering a small, weak smile, Eva wrapped her arms around Rose’s trembling shoulders, and Frankie did the same, cuddling both women.

The air was uncomfortable and tense for the moments that ticked by. Those that witnessed the exchanges didn’t know whether to watch or to look elsewhere. The previous jovial atmosphere had dissipated significantly with the reunion of the twins with the rest of them.

“Where’s Logan?” Eric asked slowly, breaking the silence as Eva led Rose towards the group, and Piper stood with Hunter, the two of them locked in a softly spoken conversation.

“He went to his hotel,” Hatimon explained, sitting at Rose’s feet and licking the girl’s hand as it came down to rub her ears.

Rose sniffled and cleared her throat. “He... he said he wanted to change. So much has happened... I think we’re going to meet up. He’s staying in town for a few weeks.”

“At least you’ll get to talk to him properly,” Eva said gently.

“What about Bella?” Ailurmon inquired.

Rose’s eyes teared up immediately, and she tightened one of her hands into a fist. “She’s... uh... They’re taking her to the...” Rose swallowed thickly, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “We have to...”

“It’s okay,” Frankie said gently. “You don’t have to tell us... I think we can guess.” She removed strands of  Rose’s hair from her face, placing them behind her ears before settling back to lean against the military truck.

“Don’t let us spoil the celebratory mood,” Hunter said, clearing his throat and approaching the group clutching Piper’s hand. “We won, go us.” He forced a smile, and his apparent good mood was just as false. He didn’t want to show his weakness to his friends, not now. Not after they had fought so hard and had so much to celebrate after winning. They recognized that too, so no one pressed him or Rose about Bella, or anything else for that matter.

“Actually,” Rubimon said, her tone grave, “you can’t celebrate for too long.”

“What?” Irbimon’s mouth dropped open. “Why? We just defeated the Parasite! The one that tried to kill us a thousand years ago. We combined with our Tamers, reached new levels... why can’t be celebrate!?”

“Because there’s still something that needs to be done,” Rubimon explained.

Ailurmon arched a brow. “More? Haven’t we done enough?”

“There’s no fighting involved this time,” the red dragon continued.

“I sense a ‘but’... a big resounding one,” Siberimon murmured, plopping down on the ground beside Odocomon. The wolf twins laid out over the floor each at the feet of their partners.

“The Digital World needs to be stabilized,” Rubimon elaborated, looking at each of the Rookies in turn. “It’s been handling things just about without a Core, and with Mukademon still alive it was too dangerous to stabilize it. However, with Mukademon breaching the connection between the two worlds - something I never thought was possible - I worry how much longer the Digital World will stay in the sky before it comes crashing down.”

“Crashing down sounds pretty bad,” Caesarmon muttered.

“It would not be pretty,” Rubimon agreed patiently.

Poemon hopped down to the ground, fluttering her wings. “So, how can we help to stabilize it?”

Rubimon drew herself up, standing straight and as tall as she could. “A new Core needs to be created, once a new Core is in place in the Circle, then the Digital World will disappear from the sky and the connection will be severed. The Digital World will be stable, meaning no Digimon should get through to this side, and no humans to the other... unless there are special circumstances.”

“A new Core?” Skollmon repeated. “Sounds simple enough.”

“Really?” Ailurmon retorted to the fiery wolf. “Doesn’t to me.”

“What does creating a new Core entail?” inquired Odocomon, butting between the squabbling Digimon.

Rubimon nodded her head slowly and raised her amber eyes upwards, looking at each human in turn. “Do you have the lodestones with you?”

One-by-one, those in possession of them withdrew them from pockets, holding them so Rubimon could see. She was visibly relieved to see all six were present.

“These?” Reyez turned his over in his hands. “These are the new Core? I just thought they were a weird paperweight.”

“At the moment, no,” Rubimon told him. “At the moment they are simply stones, but they are the building blocks of a new Core. Given to each of you to use when the time is right – like it is now.”

“What else is needed then?” asked Eva.

“And how come Rose and Hunter don’t have them?” James added.

Rubimon observed each of them patiently. “Rose and Hunter do not have them because their Digimon were not Gods. They were the original Core split into two, so technically they have always had a piece of a Core with them. I suppose, though, Hatimon and Skollmon can be considered honorary Gods, for all their involvement.”

Skollmon puffed his chest out proudly at that.

“As to your question,” the ruby dragon turned to Eva. “Power,” she said simply, “immense power. The kind of power that is enough to make a whole world run and prosper peacefully. The kind of power... that allows a Digimon to evolve to latter stages.”

“What?” Odocomon sounded alarmed.

“Give up our ability to evolve?” Irbimon exclaimed, Rubimon’s intent dawning on him and the other Digimon around him. “You mean like... I wouldn’t be able to become Ymirmon again? I’d never be able to join with Eva again?”

“No,” Rubimon answered.

“They would have to give it all up?” Tom queried. “Does that mean things like their memories too? The things they received again?”

Rubimon shook her head. “No, nothing like that. Your Digimon would retain their memories of their lives before and their lives now. They would remember everything, but they would not be able to go further than the stages they are at now.”

“What if we revert?” Poemon asked. “If I got sick per se, and became Corvimon. Would I be able to become me again? Or would I have to stay as Corvimon?”

“You would become Poemon again. It would take longer to build up the energy to reach your Rookie level again, but would be able to be yourself. The energy to get from In-Training stage to your Rookie stage is minor in comparison to the energy and power required to get to your God forms... even becoming your Champion forms is a huge jump.”

“How would we protect our partners?” Caesarmon demanded. “How can I protect Piper properly if I can’t be Vespasmon, or Aureliumon or Gaiusmon?”

“Protect her from what?” Rubimon asked him gently. “The threat is gone. There is nothing more you need protect Piper from. None of you need to protect your tamers from anything any longer... The war is done.”

“I... suppose,” Siberimon said thoughtfully. “It’s a fair point.”

“But I like being able to be Ymirmon!” Irbimon complained, folding his arms. “I like being bigger.”

“There’s more to life,” Poemon chided.

“Won’t you miss Ymirmon?” Irbimon asked Eva. “Or even me being able to become Skadimon. And Poe, I know you’ll miss becoming Morrigamon.”

Eva pursed her lips. “I... don’t really know Ymirmon enough to miss him. Besides, there’s going to be a little bit of each of your forms in you. And I’ll have memories.”

“Memories aren’t tangible though,” Irbimon retorted.

Poemon ruffled her feathers. “I suppose I will miss Morrigamon a little. It’s wonderful being so strong... and fierce.”

Ailurmon shouted in the background. “Amen!”

Poemon giggled. “But... even if I miss those things, I know, deep down, I’m Poemon and Morrigamon. And Valramon and Kinnarimon too. They’re all a part of me, I hold all their strength inside me, just like we all do. And I think it’s more important we keep our memories and give up our ability to evolve if it means the Digital World will be stable, and those living there will have a chance to have happy, normal lives now that the Parasite is gone.”

“Poe...” Tom knelt beside his little raven Digimon. “You’re sure?”

Poemon nodded firmly. “Positive. I don’t need to worry or be scared anymore. Even if something happens and I have to protect you, I know I’ll be able to do it, even without evolving.”

Tom smiled a little, and gave Poemon a hug, just as she burst into a dark green light. It moved like a stream from around Poemon’s body, unwrapping like a ribbon. The small river of light floated around her a few seconds longer and wrapped once around Tom’s arms and head, before it disappeared into the lodestone he held in his hand, leaving it to glow the same green. His grip lessened, and the stone floated upwards, remaining stationary and airborne, awaiting the others.

Rubimon smiled. “Thank you... Poemon.”

The little crow returned her smile with one of her own, and welcomed Tom’s arms wrapping around her feathery body.

Slowly but surely, with a little more convincing needed on Irbimon and Caesarmon, the Digimon began to give up their powers, each one relinquishing them in the same way Poemon had, with a quiet dignity. The powers left them each in a long ribbon of glowing color that wrapped around them and their tamers, as if the other forms they were giving up were saying goodbye in their own way. Then, the ribbons of color disappeared into the waiting lodestones and once the lodestone was full, it floated to the others, waiting for more.

Once all six lodestones were hovering in the air, each one released a different tone hum, indicating the power they held. Rubimon moved towards the wolf twins.

“It’s your turn now.”

“Us?” Hatimon said. “But... how can...”

“As being two halves of the original Core, you two need to use your powers to knit this one together. The information in the two of you will provide this new Core with the blueprints it needs to keep the Digital World running smoothly,” explained Rubimon. “To help it generate the building blocks for new towns and villages for Digimon to return to and repopulate.”

Skollmon looked a little skeptical. “You’re saying we’ve been running around with the x, y, and z required to kick start the Digital World?”

“Something like that.” Rubimon nodded her head slowly.

“Seems a little farfetched,” Skollmon said.

Hatimon nudged her brother. “Come on. Let’s do it together. Our friends have all done it... we mustn’t be difficult.”

“I guess...,” Skollmon murmured. He walked with his sister until the two of them stood directly beneath the floating lodestone and opposite each other.

They breathed in together, and immediately their small canine bodies were awash with black and white lights which slinked off them both and twirled around one another. The two trails wafted around Hunter and Rose before rising up and surrounding the six stones.

Spinning around and around the stones, the black and white ribbons of light drew them together, making the angles of each stone lock together in place until they were all joined up. Then, as two, the ribbons expanded, beginning to cover the shining formation in two separate sheets of light. They collided together in a blinding flash which forced those watching to cover their eyes from it.

Once the light had relinquished, in the place of the six lodestones was a grey sphere about the size of a bowling ball. It almost looked like it was made of polished marble, the surface was so smooth.

It bobbed up and down in midair until Rubimon stood beneath it and it floated down into her waiting claws.

“That’s the Core?” Ailurmon said slowly, staring at it with a discerning eye. “I thought it would be more... flashy.”

“Appearances aren’t everything.” Odocomon smiled. “After all, look at us.”

The panda rolled her eyes a little.

“What happens now?” asked James. “Now there’s a new Core. I assume you don’t just throw it up to the Digital World and hope for the best.”

“No. That would be unwise,” Rubimon told him, she was moving about on the ground, the Core under one arm, while scratching the claws of her other hand into the crystal on the ground, carving out a pattern. “I have to return to the Digital World, put the Core in its rightful place, and ensure that everything works as it should do.”

“The Digital World?” Eric repeated. He had been silent for so long, sitting with Eleanor and Corneliamon each of them taking in the information being passed around. “You have to go to the Digital World?” There was an anxiousness in his voice that the others heard.

Rubimon looked at him curiously. “Yes.”

“Will... I mean,” Eric ran his hand through his hair, “will you come back? Once you’ve done what you need to do?”

The crimson and purple dragon paused in her drawing to look at the human. “I... can do that,” she told him slowly. “Why?”

Eric seemed to struggle for a moment, his words catching in his throat as he didn’t seem able to decide what he wanted to say or how he wanted to say it. “Ryudamon was basically my partner,” Eric said finally. “I mean... he had been around since I was a child. And in the recent events, especially after my mother died, he stuck around to keep me company, while flitting between the Digital World and here.”

“Yes...,” Rubimon murmured.

“Well,” Eric cleared his throat, “he’s gone, now. And... I feel a little... I don’t know. Like a piece of me is missing.” He swallowed, aware of the eyes on him. Beside him, Eleanor gave his free hand a gentle and supportive squeeze. “What I mean is... will you come back?”

“To... what, be with you? Your unofficial partner?” Rubimon asked, clarifying the request.

“...Basically?”

“Corneliamon is staying,” Eleanor spoke up, the cream otter in her lap. “To keep me company as we’ve become quite close, and of course to keep Caesarmon happy too.”

Rubimon’s brows furrowed a little, and she walked towards Eric. “I was going to ask if you wouldn’t mind letting me stay anyway.” She smiled weakly. “But I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. After all, you knew Ryudamon more than me...”

“I would... love to have you stay,” Eric told her, his mouth slipping into a grin. “Just don’t stay away too long.”

“I won’t.” Rubimon welcomed the hug Eric gave her, reaching her free arm up onto his shoulder where it rested for a few moments until he let her go.

In silence, she returned to the half-drawn shapes on the ground and continued to scratch them out in the crystal with her claw until she had a glyph drawn out, about two meters square. She stood in the middle of it, making sure everything was complete around her, and checked the Core was still under her arm.

“Thank you for giving up your powers to help the Digital World again,” Rubimon said slowly. “I will return soon.”

“Don’t get into any trouble,” Corneliamon called.

Rubimon nodded her head and breathed in deeply. She blew out a short red blast of flame that ignited the different trails of the glyph until Rubimon was standing in the middle of a sea of crimson and purple, with embers licking at her scales.

The flames rose higher quickly, swallowing Rubimon in their heat. Her body disappeared in a shimmer of red and purple and the flames died as soon as she was gone.

The group was quiet, a bit awkward in silence.

“Hold the fucking phone...,” Reyez broke the silence, pulling the cigarette out of his mouth. “You mean to tell me she can teleport from the Digital World and back this whole time? The whole electrical field thing could’ve been avoided all to-fucking-gether.”

“Oh god, really Rey?” James groaned.

“Shut it, McTits. I don’t want to argue with you right now,” Rey quickly retorted. 

James shook his head, groaning to himself in slight annoyance.

-----------------------------

Two weeks had passed and things were finally beginning to get back to normal.

After three days of full military clear-up, the parts of the city that had been encased in crystal had been released from it, the crystal having melted away slowly but surely. Every day more people were returning to the city to salvage what they could of their destroyed homes, or simply find out if their home was still standing or not.

Shelters had been set up for those people whose homes had been destroyed, and hotels were putting up many families free of charge while new places were found for them to live while the bid to begin rebuilding the apartment buildings and houses that had been destroyed went forward.

It seemed a sense of community had spread through the city after the disaster, as many people came out to help move rubble, dispose of it and help out in volunteer centers and hospitals for those who had been badly injured when the Atlas Towers had collapsed, and when other attacks had happened.

Piper had been living at Hunter’s undamaged apartment the whole time.

After Jesse had been freed from the crystal and it was clear he was undamaged and still as obnoxious as ever, Jesse had gone to stay with friends a few cities over, while both Piper’s parents had decided to stay in a hotel in the city to begin arrangements for their home to be rebuilt.

The aftermath of everything seemed to have gone past in a blur.

Hunter and Rose had arranged a funeral for their mother. A private and small occasion attended only by themselves and Logan, who had stuck around for it. Bella had been cremated and her remains interred in the Divine crypt where Russell was buried, and his parents before him.

After the twins had spent a little more time with Logan, he had left to go back to Germany to his family, though he had promised to keep in touch this time and hopefully arrange some visits for his family to come and for Hunter and Rose to visit him.

The Digital World had remained visible in the sky for only a few hours after Rubimon had left, and she in turn came back, as she had promised, to Eric after nearly four days of being in the Digital World. She had been worn out when she had arrived, apparently having not slept the whole time she was there, so her first order was to sleep. The weather had righted itself to its proper season, with the fall air kicking back in with strong winds and cold fronts coming through.

James’ family had all been reunited with each other as soon as the crystal had melted away from the house. And aside from the inside of the house needing airing due to no ventilation, James’ brothers, sister, and grandmother were healthy and unharmed. His parents had come back into the city after learning the house was accessible again.

Lora, Frankie’s mother, had visited too. Making sure Frankie was safe and wanting a full recount of the events and how everything happened, which Frankie indulged her with. They also went to check out how the newly-designed mall was coming along since its destruction by Satyressmon so long ago.

Reyez’s sisters and mother had been out of the worst of the crystal and only knew the basics of what was happening further in the city from the radio. Reyez had gone to visit them after having a few days to relax in his house and ignoring their calls in favor of sleeping for nearly two days. Unsurprisingly, he had been chided painfully by his sisters for not getting into contact sooner, and then immediately smothered and demanded answers of.

Tom and Eva had gone to do another visit to Tom’s parents more at their insistence than at Tom’s or Eva’s desire. They had disappeared for a week, and come back to find their apartment building no longer considered dangerous after being fully examined and deemed safe to enter, despite there still be some apartments that were crushed or had no access to them from the ground floor.

For everyone, it seemed like life went on as normal, despite what they had all gone through.

With the roads now clear, driving was much easier and less treacherous with no frozen people a risk to knock into. Eric had made the request for everyone to meet up when they were free, once they had all had time to reflect and recharge after everything that had happened.

With the Saturday morning traffic next to nonexistent, the drive to the outskirts of down and further out towards the woodland was painless and quick. Hunter pulled into the make-shift car park where Reyez’s car, Eric’s car, and James’ jeep were already standing.

The humans and Digimon were idling around, talking easily as there were no other cars or people about from what Hunter could see.

Piper climbed out of the passenger side as he switched off the engine, and Caesarmon slid out behind her with Skollmon in tow. Hunter locked the car and approached the group.

“What time do you call this?” Frankie demanded, hands on her hips. “We agreed one o’clock. It’s...,” she checked her D-Touch, “twenty past.”

“Sorry, Frank.” Piper smiled, giving the other girl a quick hug. “Roads, map, sat nav. Blame whatever you want, at least we’re here now.”

Frankie gave the blonde a judging look, taking stock of her mussed hair, and how Hunter hurriedly straightened his t-shirt. “I suppose.”

Caesarmon greeted the others with Skollmon, who bumped heads with his sister and then ran off to join in the game of chase Irbimon, Siberimon, and Ailurmon were involved in. Caesarmon made a beeline for Corneliamon once Eleanor put the squirming otter onto the ground.

“Let’s get moving,” Reyez instructed as conversations began to strike up around him. “It’s not a long walk.”

“How are you enjoying normality?” Eva asked, walking up beside James and Frankie, her hand in Tom’s.

“It’s so strange to get used to it again,” James admitted with a small grin. “Not that I’m complaining, it is nice to not worry about when the next Digimon attack is going to happen.”

“I am loving being able to have a sleep-in though,” Frankie said, stretching her arms above her head. “The other day I didn’t even get out of my pajamas.”

“How about you?” asked James.

“It’s been odd. Though I admit it is nice working in the bakery and not having to have an excuse already planned in case something starts,” Eva explained. “Helen said something about training me up to do things with the bakery on my own. I think she was kidding though.”

“That would be pretty cool if you did take over though,” said James. “You could have the apartment over the top. It’s got to be bigger.”

“It is,” Tom confirmed.

“Plus free pastries!” Irbimon added exuberantly as he dashed through Eva’s legs, outrunning Skollmon by mere centimeters.

“It’s just something she mentioned in passing,” Eva said nervously. “I don’t think I could ever run that place myself.”

“Did anyone see the news report the other evening?” Rose asked the group. “What the government are trying to pass off the whole thing off as?”

“A terrorist attack, right?” Reyez said. “Yeah, I watched that. Their angle is that the Atlas Corp buildings were attacked for their world renown... I guess it would make sense if you were living under a rock.”

“I imagine it’s to quell the fears of the people who were frozen,” Piper sighed. “When Jesse thawed out, he didn’t remember anything aside from when the crystal enveloped him. I imagine a terrorist attack is an easier-to-swallow explanation than Digimon and a near-on apocalypse.”

“But it’s online,” James argued. “There are videos, forums, photos... even conspiracy theories. People thinking it was a staged attack to do with an insurance scam... even if the government’s idea is to protect people, all they would have to do is a quick engine search to come up with the real reason.”

“Why aren’t we Internet famous?” Hunter said loudly.

Reyez looked at him oddly for a moment. “What?”

“Well, if there are videos and photos and whatnot, then surely there should be some footage of us and our Digimon. So how come there hasn’t been a massive outpouring of fans, or a demand to know who the heroes are?” Hunter explained, smiling.

“Probably because they want to blame us for the way the city is now,” Tom reasoned. “Some of the forums James linked me are... violent.”

“Violent?” repeated Piper.

“There are people crying out for justice, demanding the ‘monsters’ responsible are brought in and destroyed because they’re a danger to the general public,” Tom told her. “Some forums have a real mob mentality.”

“It’ll die down eventually,” James said. “It’s only been a few weeks since everything happened. I guess people are still caught up in the hysteria. Give it six months and all that will remain of the naysayers will be dead forums and empty chat rooms.”

Frankie arched her eyebrow. “I hope you’re right.”

“There’s Eric, Eleanor, and Rubimon,” Rose pointed out, spotting them further down the hill they were all walking down.

The three of them stood beside a small pond which had a trickle of a stream running into it. The water was clear, clean, and surrounded by greenery and pond life.

“We thought you had forgotten where you were meant to come to,” Eric said, approaching the group with Rubimon.

“What are we doing here?” Poemon asked, landing softly of the ground.

“Paying our respects,” Rubimon explained, leading the way around the small pond and onto the other bank. There, she and Eric had erected a small monument made out of rounded pebbles all piled up on top of one another to create a pyramid. Rubimon had carved the words ‘Ryudamon, Friend and Teacher’ into the largest stone, which lay in front of the small pyramid.

“Why so out of the way?” asked Frankie, taking a handful of wildflowers from Eleanor that the other woman had collected.

“If we did something in the city there’s a good chance it will get destroyed or something. Out here, you only really get dog-walkers and hikers. They’re not going to do anything to it, I hope,” Eric explained. “At least nothing that can’t be easily fixed.”

“Plus,” Rubimon added, “I think this is the perfect spot. It’s tranquil with no noise.”

“It’s perfect,” Piper confirmed, laying some flowers down in front of the makeshift headstone. “I think Ryudamon would have loved it here.”

After the flowers had been laid by those who were given them, the humans and Digimon all stood in silence, each one thinking their own private thoughts, reflecting on Ryudamon and others they had lost through the course of their long and arduous fight, thinking on how life was so strange now that it had gone back to normal.

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Caesarmon said after they had all been quiet for some time, with only the sound of the small stream bubbling to break the silence.

“What is?” Odocomon asked.

“This. Now.” Caesarmon tilted his head. “It’s strange to go back to a mundane kind of life. After we’ve all spent so long waiting for the next fight, wondering how we’ll win, or what is going to come next around the corner... going back to a normal routine. It feels so odd.”

“I don’t think it will ever be a normal routine,” Ailurmon admitted. “After all, most people don’t have Digimon, right?”

“I guess,” Caesarmon sighed. “But still...”

“I, for one, am glad we don’t have to worry so much about Digimon attacks,” Tom admitted, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “It means I can finally do something I’ve been meaning to do for an age.”

He dug around in his pocket for a moment, before withdrawing something small and circular. “I didn’t expect to get muddy for this...” he muttered, slowly bending down onto one knee and taking Eva’s left hand in his right.”

“Oh my God...,” Frankie gasped, covering her mouth and her huge grin.

Eva stared at Tom with wide hazel eyes, anxiously tucking her plum-colored haired back behind her ears. “Wh... what are you...?” She knew what he was doing, the question was silly and pointless, but she felt like she was on display, the eyes of her friends and the Digimon all on her, staring.

She could see Irbimon’s blue eyes boring into Tom’s back, as if wanting him to burst into flames right then and there.

“Eva,” Tom cleared his throat, “I really should have done this months... years ago, but I didn’t. I was terrified of what you might say, that you might say no. But life’s too short, I know that now. I suppose being on the brink of death helped me realize that. I love you, Eva... and I’m humiliating you here today, in front of all our friends and their Digimon because I know the peer pressure will make you say ‘yes’ anyway…”
Eva choked on a laugh.

“But, will you?”

“SAY IT PROPERLY!” Poemon called from behind Tom, causing small tickles of laughter to arise from those surrounding the couple.

Tom smiled a little. “Will you, Eva Lily Jarvis, marry me?”

Eva opened her mouth and could only release a small bark or choking sound from her vocal chords, she was so overwhelmed, so she settled for nodding her head several times in quick succession as Tom slipped the ring he held onto her finger, to further cries of excitement and applause.

Tom was up on his feet, squeezing Eva around the waist, while she giggled and sniffled between kisses, wrapping her arms around the blond’s neck.

Once the two had parted, James smacked Tom on one shoulder, offering his congratulations, while Frankie grabbed Eva’s hand to examine the ring Tom had selected and both Piper and Rose exclaimed their own joy in high pitched voices with Eleanor.

As the excitement settled down, and an agreement was made to begin walking back to the cars.

“What do we do now?” Piper asked, nestling up to Hunter’s side as a breeze kicked up, causing a sudden coldness despite the sunlight.

“Anything?” Tom suggested, his smile stretching from ear-to-ear as Eva examined the ring around her finger for the umpteenth time.

“Coffee,” Rose suggested. “I could definitely go for some coffee and I’m sure there’s somewhere in the village we can get something.”

Reyez nodded his head. “Sounds like an idea.”

Eva’s shoulders raised in a shrug. “It’s not like we’ve got anywhere else to be!”

“For a change,” Frankie added.

“You guys go ahead... I’ll be moment,” Eric smiled.

“Are you sure?” Eleanor asked, touching his arm lightly.

“I just... need a minute. That’s all,” he assured her. “Don’t worry, I’ll catch up in a minute.”

The Digimon walked alongside their partners in silence, listening to them all talk and banter back and forth, enjoying the relaxed nature and the conversation, how at ease they all were. From the wooded area they emerged out into the sunlight, breathing in the crisp air, safe in the knowledge there was no danger awaiting them, and that the future could only bring brighter things for them all.

Eric stared at the pond, his hands loosely in his pockets. The sun rays that pierced through the trees reflected on its clear blue waters, with the slight sound of movement from the ecosystem living in the pond.
He closed his eyes, considering everything that had happened. Everything he and the others had seen which would affect them their whole lives. Things they would never be able to forget. He considered all the pain and loss they had gone through, all the friends they had made and how they were now bonded together for the rest of their days.

Exhaling deeply, Eric opened his eyes and looked into the pond.

Staring back at him, Eric could see his mother and Ryudamon, side by side and smiling at him warmly, with pride in their eyes. Though they were merely hallucinations, they looked happy. He felt at peace, as if finally, after the endless fighting and countless battles, everything was done. Was finished. Things were settled and things were going to get better.

THE END

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