Episode 21: Countdown

The situation was not tense. "Tense" was entirely too weak a word. It felt as though any slightest action would cause the entire situation to snap like a taut cord at the brink of breaking.

Forbidramon laughed.
His wings fluttered silently in the cold wind that Sanmon brought with her. There was no glint in his red eyes. A nasty little smile crossed his face-- but it wasn't one of real happiness, or even his usual smarmy attitude. It was the smile of a man -- or as it was, a mon -- who was past the point of snark and antagonization.

He took one step foward, placing his heel on top of the egg that had once been Orochimon. To the surprise of none but the continued disgust of all, Forbidramon pressed his heel down, cracking the shell effortlessly. The little glowing pink orb left behind, the one he would normally have picked up and absorb... also got smashed underneath his foot. He did it slowly, deliberately, making sure all eyes were on it as he did.

Forbidramon didn't say anything. He merely stood back, folded his arms.
And then, one word:

Sanmon's mouth was almost frozen in a thin smile. It din't change as she moved forward, effortlessly drifting, leaving only a faint trail of black smoke in her wake. She moved in front of Forbidramon, and then... stopped.

"What is she doing?" Toby said quietly, looking around at the other humans.

"Trying to bait us," Julian muttered back, keeping his eyes focused ahead. Sanmon merely floated, her bandages and hair drifting around her in the wind she summoned. And yet... she did not move.
Or so it seemed.

With a puff of black smoke, she vanished, and before anyone could get a bearing on where she had gone, they had an answer.
The white woman digimon was suddenly directly before the gathered children (and Loromon, hiding behind Emily's legs); still with an unchanging taunting expression, she opened her mouth:
"Dark Area..."

She spread her arms wide, and then the pupils of the eyes on her palms contracted sharply. She let loose a hissing sigh, like steam escaping from a distant pipe, and then the children were engulfed in a black energy.

To the outside observer, it would appear that the six children and the little parrot had vanished entirely as the energy faded.
From the inside was a different story. The children were still where they were a moment before, standing to the sidelines of their digimon. All around them, there was a pulsating purple dome of strange, shadowy energy, casting everything they could see both inside and out in a violet tint, like stained glass.

"What did you do!?" StarShokunimon yelled, his lip curled, drawing his blade at a startling speed.

"We're right here!" Simon yelled uselessly, cupping his hands over his mouth; even at the top of his lungs, no sound escaped the shroud around them.

"I didn't do anything," Forbidramon said right back, a nasty smile still on his features. "But Sanmon got the brats out of the way. So they don't interrupt, you understand. We can take care of them after we get rid of you lot."

"You--" BurningBaghamon spat, and before anyone could hold him back, he leapt at Forbidramon. "Bagha Comet!"

"Down, kitty!" Forbidramon replied almost instantaneously, throwing up his red hand. It began to glow -- not with the light of the Virtue embedded within, but with an energy that sucked the light out from around it.
Despite the fact that he stood at a comparitively small eight feet tall to the tiger's thirteen, he neatly caught the tiger by the scruffy hair-like fur on his head.
Having a grip on BurningBaghamon, he instantly moved his robotic hand forward, slamming it into the cat's chest. "Dark Wave!"

BurningBaghamon made a face like he was being kicked in the gut, his mouth forced open and his pupils constricted, and he was was propelled backwards by the surge of power from his enemy's appendage. He stumbled, breathing heavy, snarling as he found his way back to balance and his feet.

"You may have reached perfect level," Forbidramon said, his voice even, taking one step backwards, "but you still don't stand a chance." He spoke with the utmost conviction-- it wasn't a challenge, or a threat. It was fact.
His wings fluttered, and he took a few more steps back, effortlessly maneuvering around the felled trees that lay strewn around. Eventually, he stepped back into the trees. StarShokunimon, holding his sword at his side, bounced on his heels and dashed after their enemy...

And was immediately blind-sided, a dark shape smashing soundly into his body. Sanmon had again teleported to his side, effortlessly knocking him off balance and into the ground with only one of her big hands.

Even without changing her expression, Sanmon turned to the group of partners, and the way she tilted her head just so was nothing less than a challenge. An I dare you.
This was absolutely no ordinary Perfect-level.

And meanwhile...
From inside the dome, hidden from the outside world... as far as the digimon could tell, the humans were gone. Instead, they were right there, watching, completely helpless to so much as encourage their partners. The walls were solid as stone, as they were quick to find out. Forbidramon occasionally flicked his eyes towards them now and again-- but it didn't seem that he could see them.

"We need to get out of here," Simon mumbled, hitting his hand futilely against the dome wall as StarShokunimon was again hit away like he were barely a gnat.

"Gee, y'think?" Faris replied, but he didn't have his usual smile, not even a bitter smirk, on his face. No, it was just a look of dismay as he placed a palm full against what held them in, cringing as he watched MetalShayumon get back-handed into a tree. It kept happening. Ariamon, leaping from her cloud, was knocked straight out of the air and into the ground. Triassimon couldn't move fast enough to get an aim on Sanmon, and she actually managed to grab and smash together both of his heads. She grabbed a hold of Ospreymon as he dove for her, blasting dark energy straight into his back.
They couldn't so much as touch her.

"I can try to attack the walls," Loromon's weakened voice said suddenly-- even Emily, to whose leg he was holding fast, had almost forgotten that he was there.

"You're only a child-level, though," the younger of the two girls said, gingerly picking up the parrot from around her leg. What was it with her and avian digimon? "And those things are thrashing our partners."

"Even if you got us out you'd just be in danger," Toby added on, but Loromon closed his eyes and turned his head, craning his neck to look outward.

And then:
The little parrot cawed as he opened his mouth, firing a blast of colourful energy. It crackled and sparked, red and green and yellow, as it flew through the air... and to the humans' surprise, when the attack collided with the dome, it warped, but didn't harm it for more than a moment.

That was more than enough. To a creature of data, the disturbance in the field around them was clear as day.
All eight digimon -- six partners, Sanmon, and Forbidramon -- outside stopped and turned. Ospreymon wriggled his way out of Sanmon's grip, flap-hopping his way backwards and away quickly.

"Where did--"
"Was that--?"
"Are you guys there!?"

"There's a digimon in there with them," Forbidramon reasoned immediately, quietly..

"They're being concealed!" yelled Triassimon's blue-haired head, and then he suddenly whipped around, thrashing his tail at Sanmon, catching her just barely off guard. "Tail Crusher!"
Sanmon, once more, vanished into smoke-- but not fast enough. The tail end (no pun intended) of the dinosaur's strike grazed one arm before it could vanish. A second later, she, reappeared right near Forbidramon, nearly hidden in the trees.

"I cannot keep my eyes on all of them at once," she said, barely moving her lips.

Forbidramon cast his eyes sideways at her; his pupils had narrowed down to slits, and his expression was unreadable. "Then get more eyes."
Sanmon paused, then nodded her head.

"... Yes, Forbidramon."

Her hesitation did not go unnoticed, but did go uncommented on, by Forbidramon.

"A Thousand Eyes..." Sanmon said those three little words, and then... there were six copies of her, all identical, floating silently-- a total of seven. Only one of them -- the original -- looked to Forbidramon for a moment; he nodded, smiling just barely.
And then the six partner digimon realized just how hosed they were. With lightning quickness, all six duplicates of Sanmon vanished into thin air, and then reappeared all but on top of each Digimon. Six voices formed a chorus as their hands began to glow:

"Dark Area..."

Yet again, to an outsider, the digimon would have appeared to disappear. It looked this way to the original Sanmon and to Forbidramon-- like the battlefield had completely cleared.
What the children saw was a different thing indeed.

Where each digimon had stood, the kids inside their dome could see another similar dome had formed around each of their partners and their respective copy of Sanmon. The domes that contained the Digimon overlapped from their perspective-- but as the digimon looked around and yelled (and no sound was heard by those outside each-- apparently, they were very good insulators of outgoing sound), it would be easy to assume that they could not see eachother's.
Each Sanmon merely floated, out of reach, as the six perfect-level Virtue Receivers tried to gain a bearing on their surroundings.

"... we're in a pocket dimension," Julian said suddenly, blinking. "We're in the same place, but on a different plane."

"Right-o, kiddies!" said a voice from behind, and they spun on their heels. When they had been watching their partners, apparently, the real Sanmon and (the only) Forbidramon had entered the dome holding the six children and Loromon-- and they quickly backed away from him, pushing themselves as close as they could to the wall. "Why, you'd almost think you understood a single thing that was happening to you."

"Th'heck is going on!?" Simon blurted out, his eye almost twitching.

"Well, your partners are going to be deleted within the hour, and you kids are going to die, if that's what you mean," Forbidramon said; Sanmon merely smiled, her face even and cold. When the humans' eyes went wide, he laughed that horrible, nasty, laugh. Again, it wasn't even of amusement.
"But don't worry. I can't take your Virtues from you as long as your little pets are using them."

He tilted his head towards the other domes.

When the child nearest him -- Faris -- turned to look, he suddenly got Forbidramon slamming a boot into the small of his back, forcing him to the ground. "But if any of your partners manage to defeat their little opponent," he said, completely nonchalantly, as though it were impossible, "I can still thrash you miserable little urchins as a precautionary measure to get them to yield."
Julian almost leapt forward, his fists and jaw clenched, but he forced himself into restraint. Forbidramon, no more smile on his face, slowly released the pressure from the boy, and then kicked him away; Julian, Toby, and Emily, all as one, dropped to their knees to inspect him.

"Freakin'... psychopath," Faris coughed, trying to find his breath.

Forbidramon cast a single look down at them, then at Simon and Andrea both still standing; his tail twitched. "Sanmon is a master of these areas. Open two of them anywhere, and it's teleportation. Here, it's a battle arena."
He looked up, then, and across. He smiled.
He chose not to tell them that while the digimon could not see eachother, they could see their partners here, trapped with him, clear as day. He wanted to see that realization come on its own.

And now for the shows.

"... what are you doing!?"

(note: all of the following events happen simultaneously.)


BurningBaghamon looked around himself frantically, snarling deeply. He was encased in a purple dome, that much was clear-- and he couldn't see a one of his allies in battle.
But there, not far, were their human partners, backing away from Forbidramon.

"Andrea!" the tiger roared, his pupils narrowing to slits. He looked up-- and stared straight at the ephemeral Sanmon, floating above him.

"Are you ready?" she said oh so quietly, lowering herself down to ground level.
She got a response in the form of the tremendous tiger leaping at her, teeth bared, his sabre-teeth glowing.

Sanmon, as may be predictable, vanished, appearing behind BurningBaghamon, grabbing him by the tails, both bunched in one hand. Albeit less effortlessly than she threw him before, she hoisted him up, throwing him directly into the wall. He snarled, gritting his teeth as he slammed into the rock-solid barrier.
But what she did next was downright disturbing.

She laughed. It was bitter, it was cold-- the most terrifying laugh the cat had ever heard. The sound sent a chill through the tiger's heart, and he reared down. "What is with you, anyway?" he spat.

"Why do you follow her?" she said quietly, still smiling. When her opponent seemed confused: "The girl."

BurningBaghamon roared, then, no words for the rage. "She's my partner!"

"She is the reason you became the monster."

"I don't care." For a split second, it almost seemed as though Narakamon's form shadowed over the burning cat. "We move on. We move past fear."

"So be it," Sanmon replied softly, and spread her arms out wide. She did not move.
For a moment, BurningBaghamon was stunned.
"Attack me," she said, plain as day.

If Iguamon were here, he thought immediately, he'd say it was a trap.
... ... ...
He didn't care.

The tiger reared onto his back legs, and gave a mighty roar:
"Burning Earth!"

He smashed his feet into the ground and pounded them like he were beating a drum, and from below their feet (or, his feet and Sanmon's trailing smoke), the earth began to crack and up-heave. From between the cracks, fire began to spew.
Sanmon made no move to avoid it. She was struck by the flames, and keeled over.

"If you defeat me, Forbidramon will all but kill her," she said, with almost no tone in her voice-- it was impossible to discern whether she was mocking, or...

BurningBaghamon swore under his breath. "Then I'll kill him," he said decisively.

Sanmon smiled.


"Where's everyone else!?" MetalShayumon cried out, her nostrils flaring. Electronic yellow eyes glared daggers at Sanmon's even face, the shark clenching and un-clenching her hands.
Sanmon merely pointed-- directly at the children.

"... What are you--" MetalShayumon began, but Sanmon shook her head.

"They will not be harmed yet."

"Yeah, right, lady," the shark replied, sarcastic even in a rage, "you can't slip that kind of crap past me. I'm the master of sarcasm, yeom." No, she couldn't suppress her vocal tic even in such a situation, but instead of a chipper tag to her words, it was spat, almost like a swear word.

"Why do you do that?" Sanmon said, looking the shark up and down.


"Cover all of your insecurities with sarcasm and humor," replied the white lady.

"Ebb and Flow!" Like she were throwing boomerangs, MetalShayumon whipped her body around in a circle, releasing both of her arm guards. Like spinning blades, they homed in straight onto Sanmon.
She teleported her way out of their range, slowly drifting her way back as they returned -- indeed, like boomerangs -- to their thrower.
"Figures you'd do that," the fish mumbled, shaking her head.

"You didn't answer me."

"Why should I, yeom? No offense but you're kind of sided with a psychopath who wants to kill all of us!"

"I want to know," Sanmon replied simply.

MetalShayumon glowered, and took a step towards her enemy. "Sure talky, for once," she mumbled, but then shook her head. She looked back up at Sanmon.
"If you can't get rid of bad thoughts, you can always make fun of them. Seeker Torpedo!" From her chestplate blasted two twin shark-like torpedoes, firing straight towards Sanmon.

This time, she did not so much as attempt to avoid it. She took the brunt of the attack, drifting backwards from the force, and looked over at the children.
Where Faris was being shoved into the dirt.
"It's admirable-- to have a way to cope. But humor can't save him," the human-like digimon mused, "if..."

"Now that you're talkin' at all, really need to learn to stop talkin' in a battle, yeom."
That comment was made right before MetalShayumon smashed herself into Sanmon's in a full-body tackle.

Even as she was being tackled into the ground, Sanmon smiled.


Triassimon didn't bother with formalities-- he didn't say a word. The second he realized where he was and what was going on, both mouths opened wide and began to spew flames at Sanmon.
"Twin Flare!"

Sanmon, likewise, chose to waste absolutely no time; she teleported herself out of the way of the (literal) line of fire and behind Triassimon. She was dwarfed by the dinosaur, but she appeared in the air behind and between his heads. She stretched out her arms, grabbing both of Triassimon's heads, and her hands began to glow with black energy. It surged from her and into him, and both heads roared.

"You know the truth, don't you?" Sanmon said, not even trying to speak above the noise; regardless, the red-haired head turned around, pupils narrowed. He grit his teeth, biting back the pain that still racked through his body from Sanmon's attack.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, his blue head still snarling with pain and facing away.

"The truth hurts, doesn't it?"

Triassimon's blue head's eyes flicked to the side, taking quick survey.

In a move that seemed to disregard his size for speed, he turned himself around. In the process, the dinosaur grabbed the body of a small tree -- or, small compared to him, standing at eighteen feet -- and swung it at the humanoid digimon like he were swinging a baseball bat one-handedly.

Sanmon raised her brow as though lifting eyebrows, and quickly vanished. She reappeared only after the trunk had swung past her, floating in the same space as before.
"For the virtue of adaptability," she said quietly, "you rely a lot on violence for most of your problems."

"For someone on Forbidramon's side, you don't seem to be too interested in killing us."

Sanmon laughed, and though the dinosaur wouldn't know, it was unlike how she had laughed at BurningBaghamon. It brought to mind a snide, self-assured noblewoman. She covered her mouth with one of her huge hands-- and when she took it away, she was grinning, baring sharp teeth.
And that was what was disturbing. It looked like it was too wide for her face, lopsided, her teeth long and thin.
"Very perceptive. Put it together. You're a smart little dinosaur, aren't you?"

Triassimon paused for a moment, and then...
All four of his pupils narrowed. For a split second, he stared at Sanmon.
"Twin Flare!" Triassimon roared, the blue and the red streams of flame meeting to form a pillar of white fire shooting at Sanmon. She made no move, and it blasted her soundly.

Even as she reeled from the hit, Sanmon smiled.


Ospreymon was not happy to be in such an enclosed space-- between his size and the fact that it didn't give him much room to fly, before he registered even so much that a copy of Sanmon was with him, he felt at remarkable unease.
The fact that he got sucker-punched in the back of the head only helped to progress that sense of unease.

"Ach!" the bird yelped, whipping his body around, and... Sanmon was nowhere to be found. His face the image of contempt, he kicked off the ground. It was a cramped space, but there was enough room for him to take to the air; flapping his wings hard, the second he reached a place he could hover, he was struck again, like an arrow through his body. The bird fell, then, to the earth again.
Sanmon stood before the fallen osprey, floating quietly.

"If I wanted to," she said, so quiet it was almost inaudible, "I could take you and all of your friends out in the blink of an eye."

Ospreymon forced himself to his feet, staring down at Sanmon; she didn't move at all, letting him get up. "Aye, if that's so, then why don't you?" The eye on Sanmon's abdomen swiveled up to meet his gaze.
She said nothing.
Ospreymon growled, and then took a hop and a step back, and began to beat his wings hard. "Gale Storm!" From the ground, rocks and debris began to kick up in the air he stirred up. He opened his beak wide, and emitted a blast of snow and shards of ice. Sanmon did not move, even as all the fragments in the wind -- some as large as baseballs -- smashed into her, or simply passed through the smoky parts of her body.

The bird stopped, tilting his head at the strange digimon in front of him.

She was facing her head away from him, looking off into the distance-- into the dome where the children, her original self, and Forbidramon were watching. Ospreymon kept himself tense, ready for an attack or any sudden movements. What he wasn't prepared for was when Sanmon spoke.
"Would you follow the girl even if you believed she was wrong?"

"..." Ospreymon glowered at the digimon in front of him. "What is this, some kind of trick to get my guard down?"
No response.

For a moment, there was tense silence, before the bird nodded his head once.

"Yes. Right or wrong, Emily is my partner."

Sanmon turned her head to look at him-- or, not look at him.
Her hand glowing, she struck out at him with blinding speed; still tensed, he was actually prepared for it, and leapt back, slashing out in return with one of his feet, claws glowing blue. "Biting Winter!" It cut across her, and from the gashes on the black hand, smoke began to pour as her hand began to freeze over, while the wounds began to close.

Sanmon smiled.


"What's going on?" Nimbimon said quietly, her mouth tugged into a frown but tone calm. She cast her eyes over to the only thing she could see outside of the dome she was currently encased in-- and her eyes went wide. Their partners... ... stuck with Forbidramon.
The only thought that crossed her mind was to get out.
She looked around, seeing nothing marring the sides of the dome; if not for the scenery outside, the view would be completely identical in all directions.

"It's almost not worth the effort, is it," Sanmon said, to herself, from beside, fading into view; the sheep took no time in turning, keeping her eyes focused on the strange woman-like digimon. "You're not much of a fighter, are you, sheep."
Keeping her gaze fixed, Nimbimon slowly shook her head.

"I'm not. But if you plan to hurt any of them," the sheep said immediately, and her eyes narrowed, "then I don't have to be a fighter to take you down."

Sanmon stared at the sheep, and smirked. "I don't," she said, mockingly, "but Forbidramon will."

"Downpour!" Nimbimon cried without a second of hesitation, and over Sanmon's head there gathered dark clouds. A shining rain poured down on her, the droplets of light cutting straight through her body. Black smoke began to pour out as the rain cleared, and her body began to repair itself-- like watching a healing wound in super time-lapse.

"Darkness and light," the darker of the digimon mused, flexing and extending her hand, the pupil in the center of it staying trained on Nimbimon. "As much damage as you can do to me, I can do the same."
As if to demonstrate, she threw her hand up. Her hand began emitting black energy, which was then fired at the sheep's body.

Nimbimon let out a cry, her legs buckling as the darkness seeped into her body. As it was absorbed, the area around it began to glow white and move inward, as though it were eating the darkness away.

"But darkness isn't evil," Nimbimon said quietly, after she forced herself back onto her feet, lowering her head, looking at her opponent closely.
"Do you want to be doing this?" the sheep said, after a moment.

Sanmon smiled.


StarShokunimon's ears twitched. He gripped his sword tight, and behind his metal visor, he closed his eyes.
When Sanmon appeared with a puff of smoke behind him, without a moment of hesitation he turned around and swung his blade. It struck true, slashing across Sanmon's shoulder. Black smoke seeped out.

"Very nice," Sanmon responded as she began to heal, drifting backwards and away from the rabbit. She spoke as though she were evaluating a painting or something equally low-key.

"Thank you," the rabbit replied.

And that was all there was to it. Unlike every other one of his companions, what happened next was a rapid, fast-paced battle-- an onlooker would hardly be able to keep track of the teleporting Sanmon and the quick-footed StarShokunimon, blasts of dark energy intertwined with the shine reflecting off of a sword-blade. They did not speak, saving their breath for calling attacks and for staying on their feet.
With a well-placed sword-strike, Sanmon fell to the ground, the rabbit standing over her.

StarShokunimon held his sword up for just a moment, and then... his arm fell, his sword going to his side.

With the hand not holding his weapon, he held out one hand, extending it to the digimon on the ground.

Sanmon looked at up at him with the utmost confusion, an expression of contempt across her lips. "What are you doing?"

"Well, first," StarShokunimon replied, a faint smile playing on his lips. "I can't attack a digimon that can't fight back." Sanmon's expression was nothing short of disgust, but her face was frozen in shock when the rabbit next spoke.
"And second..."

He said nothing, but the expression on his face said it all.

There was a pause, a moment of stark silence.
Sanmon smiled, and then...

She vanished.

Every copy of Sanmon did the same; the smile graced her lips, and then she vanished into smoke, until all that was left was the Sanmon standing astride Forbidramon in the dome holding the children. ... and then, every one of the purple domes fell away, fading into nothingness. Every digimon came into view of the others, the humans fading back into view of their partners, Loromon clinging still to Emily.

Forbidramon was frozen where he stood, staring ahead blankly. The humans ran away from him and closer to their partners.
He turned to Sanmon, and it came out as a feral roar:
"What are you doing!?!"

Sanmon said nothing; she merely turned to Forbidramon.

He was frozen, his lip curled up in a horrible expression. He slowly began to shake, his red hand going up to hold his face. His tail was thrashing like mad, his wings shivering and jerking at random. His legs buckled, and he was almost doubled over. He slowly spread the fingers of his hand, and one shining red eye glared out.
"I'm not going to let you urchins win!" he outright screamed, suddenly, the sound ripping its way out of his throat. "I'm not going to lose!"

With that, he bolted forward, smashing his entire body into the nearest digimon-- StarShokunimon. The rabbit, quick-thinking as he was, had absolutely no chance to react, both of Forbidramon's mismatched hands closing around his throat.

[Chapter 21: End]