BlackGatomon slid into reality, the tranquil sea meeting her eyes. Hikari appeared a moment later, glancing around for a Deep One.
"Perhaps there is no need for a plan. They cannot fight. Exhausted as their partners must be, the Deep Ones could kill them easily," she speculated. It would be an ending. "And they cannot run." She smiled.
Seeing none, she walked over to the sea, coming to a halt when she was up to her ankles in it. After a long moment, a Deep One rose up from the depths.
"Greetings," Hikari told her. "Please bring me others to discuss with. A handful of thousands will do."
The girl promptly dived back down. For a moment, Hikari and BlackGatomon watched nothing happen.
A handful of Deep Ones surfaced, about eight meters eight. More and more emerged as the seconds ticked by, ten becoming one-hundred becoming four-hundred becoming a horde that covered the surface as far as the eye could see. All of them watched Hikari expectantly.
Hikari smiled at her subjects. "I intend to begin the end of an Earth." There was no need to say more, she thought.
Hundreds among the Deep Ones dived down again. Several hundred more did so after a moment. Another two-hundred did so after relaying her word to the newcomers, of whom half retreated. All told, a third of them left the assembly.
"Your wish is our command, my queen," one of the front-row Deep Ones said, in a light male voice.
Hikari imagined that another portal opened a short distance to her left. Through it, the Deep Ones could see the about-twenty pairs of humans and Digimon assembled in the wasteland. The doppelganger of their queen looked back at them, along with the others.
Hikari listened to Future Kari's words with some interest. "This other incarnation of my mortal self knows them, and there was an Ophanimon among them, along with another Imperialdramon and an UlforceVeedramon." Hikari had no doubt about the conclusion.
"Another incarnation of myself and her who have the ability to Biomerge and the sense to flee." It had been several rounds since then. "A pity they have left, but this little flock makes up for it."
Hikari turned and went up onto the beach. BlackGatomon studied her briefly as she walked away - as did a few of the Deep Ones - then followed her. The Deep Ones advanced slowly on the portal while the partners walked away.
Future Kari sighed. Angewomon put her hand on her shoulder.
"We did a lot for those kids," Angewomon told her firmly. "We shared what we know about the darkness. We helped knock several demon lords and their armies down, so don't ever let yourself think you didn't do enough."
Future Kari smiled. "I know." The Motomiyas fixed their gazes on her, concern filling his brown and her ruby eyes. "I know that." None of the five were surprised to hear that.
"By the way, Kari, why did you suggest to back out?" Future Davis asked. Knowing her, there had to be another reason than just the latest world's end. And it was a change of topic.
Future Kari sighed. She internally debated whether to answer at all. Then how to answer. Then reconsidered answering.
Eventually, she said, "Because it's not just my life I'm risking." Angewomon and Davis gasped almost in synch. Rina needed a moment to realize what she meant. Veemon didn't understand and Veevee didn't care.
"That's..." Future Davis trailed off, not sure what to say. Future Kari's smile told him measures. "Well, congratulations, Kari." With that, he went for a hug.
"Thanks," she replied after breaking the embrace. "And congratulations to you too, Uncle Davis," she said, playfully.
Future Davis mulled that over, and while he did, Rina extended her fist to Kari. Kari bumped back. For a moment, pleasant silence reigned.
Rina broke it. "And before anyone suggests it, I ain't going back. I can live with getting clam-jammed over the end of the world, but I'm not dying for it." Davis couldn't agree more with that.
"Besides, things aren't hopeless for 'em," Future Davis voiced. "Between all their Megas and the four gods, they have a chance." Rina grinned at that, though she didn't believe it.
"Yeah," Kari agreed, mood raised a bit. "Let's go home." She raised her hand, and another portal opened, to Davis's and Rina's living room. The Motomiyas and their partners walked into it, back to their movie night.
Kari imagined the portal dissolving. It began to erode at the edges, normal space restored. With a wave of her hand, a hole in space opened, showing them the Kamiya residence's living room. In moments, they had gotten in, and Kari had sealed the hole again.
Within the minute, she was in her bedroom. Wife and husband had locked eyes.
She shot him an eager grin. "Where were we?"
Examon studied the Deep Ones, noting that they were looking towards something else. "At this point, it's gotta be Kari." Either her or that Dagomon.
"Hold on," Keiko called out to the Deep Ones. "You're supposed to not be bad guys, right?" Takato looked lost at that, which Sakuyamon noted. "If that's really true, then don't attack us. We don't want a fight with you."
The Deep Ones all looked to Keiko. BlitzGreymon glared back at them, expecting Keiko's words to do nothing.
"I have no desire to harm anyone, but such is what I have been commanded," one of the Deep Ones said. "I wish you all luck in fighting us."
While he spoke, Sakuyamon filled Takato in. "Deep Ones. Creatures from the Dark Ocean that sleep with humans. We were told they're a peaceful people." Takato stared at the second part.
Once the Deep One finished, the school began to advance. With a shout of "PHOENIX FIRE", Zhuqiaomon brought a stop to it - the stream of fire raced through the portal and incinerated a few of them.
Letting up, Zhuqiaomon glared at the Deep Ones with anger as fierce as his flames. "We need no luck."
"Hold on," Examon exclaimed, almost frantically looking around. Seeing that a few were staring at him, he decided to elaborate. "I don't think this is an attack, but a distraction. Any moment now, someone's gonna teleport." Right before he finished the sentence, the familiar flickering began around Ken.
Davis and Imperialdramon gasped, almost in synch, while worry filled the eyes of Aldamon and Mina. Davis shouting his name drew the others' attention. All eyes went to Ken.
"Not again," Davis whispered, not sure who he was addressing. His fists balled. "Kari, if you're doing this, if you can hear me, then take me! Leave everybody else alone and take me!" Five of them - Imperialdramon, Jun, Shuu, and Sora - looked to him, worry in their eyes.
Ken vanished in seconds after he finished, and he breathed tensely at his new surroundings.
Inky water and skies were almost everything that he could see. Mist blanketed a part of the horizon. A silver moon gleamed down on the sea, illuminating it for him. His skin felt like ice.
Ken didn't want to spend another second looking at it, yet almost couldn't bring himself to turn away. He knew all too well what was waiting.
Behind him, Hikari studied him with amusement. Flauromon stood on her left, impatiently watching him.
Ken turned around. Shock washed over him when he saw her and on her left, a three-armed leopard. Composing himself, he wondered about her change of outfit. Then wondered what that Digimon could do.
"Welcome," Hikari greeted, a smile on her face. "I am sure that you have many things to say and ask me."
A few things occurred to Ken - 'it really is you', 'where are the others', 'why are you doing this'.
"Take all the time you want to think about your questions," Hikari said amiably, noting the look on his face. "Is something the matter? Did you expect me to be some savage brute like MaloMyotismon?" She studied him, expectantly.
Ken sighed. "I'm not in the mood for any games. If you're going to kill me, just do it."
Hikari smirked. "Cody said that too, and you are as wrong as he was. This is no game. Regardless, I have an offer for you. Return to darkness, Emperor, and stand tall." Ken glared defiantly. Her smirk didn't waver. "You can have immortality, endless armies, the universe for your empire, and Yolei as your Empress."
Ken's eyes softened at her name. "No." Hikari looked to her partner. Flauromon shouted the name of her Vengeful Flame attack, pointing a claw at Ken.
Flames erupted spontaneously from Ken's forehead. Hikari watched them spread, heard Ken's screams begin and end, watched him fall. Only charred flesh remained when the minute was through.
Hikari requested another form, and Flauromon changed into Arkadimon. With a bit of thought, Hikari summoned Imperialdramon, whom Arkadimon promptly erased.
Repeating the mental gesture, Hikari summoned Davis. Ken's remains were the first thing he noticed, a gasp escaping him at that sight.
"Kari, did..." Davis couldn't get himself to finish. "Maybe we really can't save you, after all," he thought bitterly, now sure of what had happened to the others.
Hikari looked to Flauromon. With another shout of "Vengeful Flame!", Davis burned.
"BlackGatomon, I think there is no need for words now," Hikari said, once he had stopped screaming. Flauromon understood what she meant. "Let us end this."
Hikari began to summon them - the Digimon first for Arkadimon to delete, then the Digidestined for Flauromon to burn.
Phoenixmon was first and Sora followed. Then Plesiomon followed by Shuu. Rosemon followed by Yoshi. Examon followed by Noriko.
"Crimson Mode and Heaven Mode have abilities that can defeat Arkadimon," Hikari said. "I would prefer it if you take the form of Shaxmon and blind them both at the moment I bring them here."
Flauromon glowed, this time emerging into a hybrid shape. A stork's head and legs were attached to a human torso, and the animal's wings jutted from its back. Her arms were muscular and covered in white feathers.
As soon as Gallantmon arrived, Shaxmon grabbed the back of his helmet and shouted "TOUCH OF THE VOID". Crimson Mode saw and heard nothing more of them. Takato was dealt with about as swiftly.
Rika arrived next and Sakuyamon only seconds after, Shaxmon quick to do her part. While it didn't stop Sakuyamon from using her power over time, it didn't matter - the blindness lingered long enough. After Arkadimon's attack, Rika fell forward into the sand, weeping for Sakuyamon.
Keiko gasped when she arrived and saw the corpses, shattering the silence. Sadness replaced shock.
"Tai, Yolei, Davis. You died hero's deaths, sacrificing your lives to help Kari. You've lit our torches and... and you deserve better than a line from Yu Yu Hakusho for a eulogy, and I wish I could give it to you, but I can't," Keiko finished the thought bitterly, then broke into a run.
While she ran, BlitzGreymon emerged to the left of where she had been. Hikari looked blankly at Keiko.
"Here's a one-way ticket for you straight to Hell, YOU BITCH," Keiko shouted, driving her fist squarely into Hikari's face, knocking her over. Arkadimon and Hikari both stared at Keiko. "I see I've got your attention, good. Now look at this, Kari!" Keiko exclaimed, pointing at the corpses. "They were your friends, and you don't even care one bit!"
Hikari smiled. "True." Keiko's hands balled at her flippant answer, while BlitzGreymon came to her side.
"Whatever. You've got me wrong, though," Keiko told her. "I'm not one of your friends, Kari. I'm here because trying to help was the right thing to do. And now, kicking your ass on their behalf sounds a whole lot right."
Hikari grinned. "A fistfight in the age of Digimon partners. How interesting. You are welcome to try." She stood up again.
Glaring, Keiko gave Hikari another punch to the face. Shock flashed over her when her fist went through her left cheek, into Hikari's head. Hurrying to withdraw her arm, Keiko saw Hikari's wound close, recalling the elder Toguro.
"So let me guess," Keiko asked dryly. "This is the part where you make that thing beat BlitzGreymon up in front of me, and I'm powerless to stop you?" As she spoke, she recalled herself and SnowAgumon watching Toguro nearly killing Kuwabara, then Sensui pummeling Yusuke.
Arkadimon responded with a shout, "DOT MATRIX". Shock washed over Keiko when BlitzGreymon ceased to be, her brain gears trying to work out what that did - teleportation or an illusion was her first two ideas.
Arkadimon changed to Flauromon, quickly doing away with Keiko. Jun and ShineGreymon proved no more of a challenge, nor did Zoe and Susanoomon, and lastly, Mina and Aldamon.
Hikari looked around, quickly deciding to clean this up later. Another teleport later, she was in the wasteland where Zhuqiaomon was.
"You," Zhuqiaomon said coldly. "I had feared as much. But why have you come before me?"
"I am here to tell you that you should go home, like the other version of me," Hikari answered loudly, tone neutral. Glancing around, the surrounding portals closed one by one.
"No," Zhuqiaomon replied. "I have no doubt of your crimes, Kari, and they cannot go unpunished. Therefore, I can only do one thing," Zhuqiaomon trailed off, taking a breath to calm himself. "I shall deliver Heaven's judgment!" he bellowed, then shouted "PHOENIX FIRE".
Hikari didn't make a sound while the stream of flame enveloped her. Not a twinge of pain crossed her face. Her mind was occupied with plotting teleport coordinates. A moment later, Zhuqiaomon saw familiar faces and surroundings again.
After mending her vessel, Hikari raised her hand, willing the portal to close. She watched patiently as it did, and when it finished, teleported back to the beach where Flauromon saw.
"Let us go home now, to my castle, sister," Hikari told her. The reset could wait, she knew.
Flauromon changed to BlackGatomon, then jumped into her waiting arms, relaxing into her cold embrace.
After a moment, she said, "Weren't we gonna end the world? Did you forget about that?"
"There is no need to waste our energy on that," Hikari pointed out. "The Digidestined came to us as I intended. That being said, I will gladly do that with you, after I take some time to rest." BlackGatomon didn't belabor the point.
As time passed after the battle, BlackGatomon adjusted to life in the Dark Ocean. It was an easy change, as Hikari was there, plus that BlackGatomon had already learned most of the Ocean's secrets from her. One of the main things she learned over that time was that life in the Dark Ocean was quiet.
Hikari was generally content to relax and think about things, anything she felt like at that particular moment. Dagomon was of no interest to her, and often away on state business anyway. Exploring Innsmouth had given BlackGatomon a look at more sex than she wanted to see - in her view, sex was boring.
BlackGatomon explored more and more of her new abilities over that time - Gusiomon's ability to seal Digimon attacks. Bagramon's ability to move souls about. Millenniummon's ability to create subspace prisons. Each one thrilled her to consider the potential in.
It was after two days or so that they began the apocalypse. Hikari's chosen world was unfamiliar and uninteresting to BlackGatomon. Somewhere around thirty billion Deep Ones had streamed out and claimed every continent in a matter of days, despite all that humanity did to fend them off. BlackGatomon's rampage across that earth lasted for weeks and ended once she and Hikari felt certain that every living thing was dead.
BlackGatomon and Hikari had gone on trips, on a few occasions after that. One of them had been into the literally-bottomless pit called the Vortex of Shadows, half because BlackGatomon wanted the training, half because they were curious to explore it. They teleported out after one-hundred-and-ten levels of the floating boulders, bored with the lack of challenge.
Another time BlackGatomon had spent her day in Hikari's bedroom, reading a book that documented past battles - each page summarizing one possible sequence of events. The battle she had been part of was among the shorter runs.
All of that was in the past, though. The two were currently outside her castle.
Hikari sat in her ocean-side throne, a smile on her face. BlackGatomon was lying in her lap, gaze set upon the endless ocean. The moments fluttered by, neither paying much attention to the passage of time.
Dagomon slid into reality, on their left. Hikari met his eyes, with a slight smile on her face.
"Is it time for another round?" Hikari asked. BlackGatomon's ears pricked.
"Correct," Dagomon answered succinctly.
Hikari looked away, mentally initiating the teleport. Her mind's eye looked around in Innsmouth, soon seeing a sixteen-year-old girl and a white cat west of the lighthouse. BlackGatomon disappeared first, and the Dark Queen followed suit.
She saw the pair, observing shock on their faces at the sight of her. BlackGatomon couldn't blame them.
Kari gaped when she saw Hikari pop in. "Wh-who are..." she trailed off, realizing all too well. She tried to step back, but her legs felt like blocks of lead. She tried to look away from the light of Hikari's russet eyes.
Hikari smirked. "My identity is not hard to figure out, Kari," she accentuated her human self's name. Gatomon stepped in front of her human, disliking the sound of that. "You already know."
Kari fell to her knees, breath racing. "No, no," she murmured desperately. Gatomon didn't know who she said it to. "This can't be real!" Kari pleaded silently. Tears stung in her eyes.
Hikari had a hunch what Kari was thinking. "Regardless, I will introduce us, just to be clear. You have fought against Piedmon." Hikari paused for a moment. BlackGatomon caught the hint, changing into the demon clown.
"Against MaloMyotismon." The clown turned into the armored vampire. "Against Millenniummon." The vampire changed into the four-armed beast. "Against Daemon." The beast became the archfiend, a fanged mouth smirking at Kari and Gatomon. "And many other demon Digimon. But you have never faced the darkness itself."
Kari listened to Hikari with mute shock. Her tears broke free.
What to do, Hikari thought while looking indifferently at Kari. "The darkness infesting Hikari Kamiya seems the obvious choice, but fusing souls again would be boring to repeat."
"You don't scare me," Gatomon bit back. "We've always beaten the bad guys, and we'll do it again! As many times as we have to! And no illusion will change that!" Kari looked to Gatomon, mouth agape. A smile soon formed, and she wiped her eyes.
Hikari smiled, grateful for the retort. "But there does not have to be a fight." Kari jerked her head up at her. Her worst nightmare... didn't want her to suffer? "Something as prosaic as a battle between light and darkness is beneath me." Even if it wasn't, she would never fight him. "Come peacefully to your fate, Kari."
The shock on Kari's face turned into sheer horror. "Ne-n-ne-never! I won't!" Hikari smiled, enjoying the look on Kari's face.
"As you wish. Agaresmon, please," Hikari said.
The Daemon at her right studied her briefly, deliberating whether to indulge her playfulness. She soon changed again, into a humanoid crocodile with an ax. Agaresmon towered over Hikari, almost fifteen meters tall and comparatively burly.
"Commanding Presence," Agaresmon howled. Her eyes shone gold for a moment. While she shouted that attack's name, Kari raised her D3, activating it after she finished.
The cat began to glow brilliant white and change radically, quickly assuming her Angewomon body. Even after the transformation completed, she remained silent and motionless.
"Angewomon, are you okay?" Kari asked, anxiously. Her worry grew when no answer came. She looked to Hikari, glaring angrily. "What did you do to her?" she demanded, speaking as steadily as she could manage.
Hikari saw no reason to tell. "Lerajemon seems useful now." The demon crocodile morphed into a green-dressed archer who resembled a human man strongly.
Declaring "Metamorph Arrow", Lerajemon shot an arrow into Angewomon's arm that glowed violet after it landed and began fading away. Once completely gone, Angewomon changed back to Gatomon. Lerajemon fired another shot, this time de-Digivolving Gatomon to Salamon.
Kari charged to the puppy, scooping her up, glaring defiantly at the bow-woman. Lerajemon looked to Hikari, expecting she would like to talk a bit more.
"No, but thank you. Finish this," Hikari said. Lerajemon's next arrow landed between Kari's eyes, and Arkadimon disposed of Gatomon just as quickly.
Comfortable silence reigned between Hikari and BlackGatomon while they teleported back to her castle.
"How come you didn't try to make that Kari queen, or whatever it was you did, like to the first Kari?" BlackGatomon asked soon after they had gotten seated.
"Because I did not feel like it," Hikari explained. BlackGatomon blinked. "There is no strange reason why I have to do it. Consuming my mortal self is simply fun, and an efficient way to remove her as a threat in each round."
BlackGatomon didn't speak further. Hikari resumed looking out across her Ocean, savoring the quiet.