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A Dragon in Shining Armour [PG-15] (Digimon)

Discussion in 'Non-Pokémon Stories' started by Griff4815, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Continued from previous post

    -

    Alphamon let out a groan as he sat up in bed. The morning sun glared upon the landscape outside, indirectly illuminating his room through the windows. The knight brought a hand to his face and rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up

    He glanced over to the other side of his large bed. He saw that OuRyuumon was not there. While the two typically only spent the night together on the odd occasion, Alphamon noticed his absence particularly on that morning. It was then that the guilt from yesterday returned. He groaned and rubbed his face when he remembered. He made a pass at Omegamon.

    “Great… Just great…” he murmured, sliding out from under the covers and standing to his feet. “First OuRyuumon, now him. What else could go wrong?”

    As if on cue, there was a frantic knocking on his door.

    “Who is it?” Alphamon called out.

    “MetallifeKuwagamon!” a voice responded.

    “Just a moment. I’ll get dressed,” the Lord of the Empty Seat responded, walking over to his bureau. He slipped on some clothes as quickly as he could and went over to open the door.

    The short, insect technician was standing there, looking somewhat flustered. “I’m sorry, Alphamon, sir. Did I wake you?” he asked.

    “No, I was just getting up anyways. What is it, Metallife?”

    “There’s an urgent communication from the Overseer of Havelock Prison,” MetallifeKuwagamon explained with a look of concern on his face. “He says that there’s been a prison break.”

    “What?! That’s impossible!” Alphamon exclaimed, glaring and balling his fists up. “What happened?”

    “Y-You should really talk to him yourself…” MetallifeKuwagamon told him. “I don’t know the details…”

    Alphamon nodded curtly and walked past him, haste in his stride. MetallifeKuwagamon followed after him. He made his way down to the first floor, speed-walking down corridors until he reached the communications room. He walked in and saw the gold, fearsome body of a Reapermon on the giant monitor’s screen. The Reapermon’s skull-like face had an agitated, frustrated look, and his gold-plated, humanoid body had scuffs and dents all over it. Above the clenched, metal claws of his left hand was a giant cannon, which contrasted with the long, deadly scythe of his right arm.

    His glowing, red eyes looked over as he noticed Alphamon and MetallifeKuwagamon appear on his screen. “Alphamon…” he spoke in a gravelly voice.

    “Reapermon, are you alright? Tell me what happened,” Alphamon urged him. Although he was extremely agitated about everything that was going on, he maintained a calm, professional demeanour in front of his subordinates.

    “A little battered and bruised. I’m fine. My pride took the brunt of the beating,” Reapermon explained, frowning deeply.

    “MetallifeKuwagamon told me there was a prison break…” Alphamon spoke, narrowing his eyes. “How is that possible with all of the security measures in place.”

    “It happened from the outside… Yesterday,” the Overseer answered. “It was DarkKnightmon.”

    Alphamon sneered. Him again. “DarkKnightmon… Of course…”

    “He knew all of the security protocols. The guards were no match for his power. I couldn’t even stand up to him,” Reapermon admitted, grimacing and bowing his head somewhat. “I apologize, Alphamon.”

    “No… It’s my fault. I should have anticipated something like this. We should have updated the protocols,” Alphamon assured him, sighing and rubbing his forehead. “Now… How bad is it?”

    “That’s the thing…” Reapermon said, looking up. “The only prisoner that was set free was MirageGaogamon. All of the rest were still locked up.”

    “MirageGaogamon…” Alphamon spoke bitterly. “His old ally.” He looked up at the screen. “Were there any casualties?”

    “Fortunately not. Ninety percent of the guards are injured though. I would like to request that we send them to headquarters for medical treatment and get some temporary replacements from your Defence Forces,” the Overseer said. “As it stands now, Havelock Prison is unsecure.”

    “Of course,” Alphamon said. “I’ll make those provisions. I’ll also have Duskmon send one or two of his apprentices over for those of you with minor injuries.”

    “Thanks, Alphamon. Oh… by the way. It isn’t all bad news,” Reapermon explained, a grin creeping onto his skeletal face.

    “Oh?” the Lord of the Empty Seat inquired, cocking an eyebrow.

    “I managed to send that insect-shaped scout pod that MetallifeKuwagamon made for us here at Havelock after them not long after they escaped.”

    “You did?” MetallifeKuwagamon spoke up. “If you tell me its code, I should be able to access its memory bank remotely from the computer.”

    “Twenty three, I’m fairly certain. I hope you can find something to work with from that,” Reapermon told them. “I want to do at least something to help after that embarrassing event yesterday.”

    “Thank you, Reapermon. I hope so too,” Alphamon answered.

    “Catch those bastards for me,” Reapermon said, moving his hand and closing the video call program.

    MetallifeKuwagamon walked over to the long computer desk. “This will take about fifteen minutes, Alphamon.”

    Alphamon nodded at MetallifeKuwagamon and walked out of the room, leaving him to his work. “I will, Reapermon,” he thought to himself. There was a purposeful determination in his step as he strode down the corridor.

    I’ll stop him before things get even more out of hand.

    -

    Omegamon lay in bed, lying on his back. He stared up at the ceiling with his hands rested behind his head. As soon as he woke up, all that he could think about was what had happened the day before. The events kept playing over and over in his mind.

    Why did Alphamon do that? Did Alphamon actually have those kinds of feelings towards him? He doubted it. If Alphamon did, Omegamon never noticed them before. Then again, Omegamon hadn’t realized that Alphamon was bisexual either, so maybe he wasn’t the best judge of character. He thought that it was more likely that Alphamon was just emotionally confused after what happened with OuRyuumon. Alphamon’s emotions were running high and he had a moment of weakness, he figured.

    However, even that didn’t make things that much easier. A line was crossed yesterday, and now Omegamon was left confused. Alphamon was Omegamon’s best friend, but now he didn’t know what he was supposed to feel… or what Alphamon felt about him. That, combined with the uncertainty of Alphamon hiding his sexuality and relationship with OuRyuumon only served to confuse him further. It upset him to know that things would inevitably different between them from now on. Things had been strained between them enough as it was. He didn’t want to lose Alphamon as a friend. He had been willing to look past Alphamon’s apparent lack of trust in him, but now… he wasn’t sure what to think. His thoughts were spinning.

    Omegamon sighed and pulled the covers off his bed. Thinking about the problem all day was no solution. He had duties to attend to and he needed to start the day. The white knight stood to his feet and made his way towards his door.

    As he approached, he suddenly stopped. He thought that he heard metallic shuffling coming from the room to the left of his, at the end of the corridor. It was Alphamon’s room. Curious as to what the sound was, Omegamon opened his door so that he could listen more accurately.

    As he opened the door, Alphamon opened his own door. Omegamon froze, his heart sinking. He wasn’t prepared to face Alphamon yet.

    Alphamon took one step out of his room before stopping in his tracks. He saw Omegamon and struggled not to grimace. “Oh… Omegamon…” he spoke, the sheepish discomfort plain in his voice. “Good morning…”

    “Good morning…” Omegamon answered, his eyes acknowledging Alphamon before looking away. He was about to turn to escape back into his room when something caught his attention. Alphamon was suited up in full armour, cape and all. It was odd for him this early in the morning. He turned his gaze back to Alphamon, arching an eyebrow. “…Are you going somewhere?”

    Alphamon cringed and averted his gaze. “Don’t worry about it,” he answered, beginning to walk again. He passed Omegamon and began to head towards the set of stairs on the other end of the hallway. However, he found himself stopped in his tracks by a white hand on his shoulder guard. He turned suddenly to see Omegamon holding him in place.

    Omegamon glared at him resolutely. “Where are you going, Alphamon?” he demanded in an authoritative voice that was rare for Omegamon.

    Alphamon grunted and looked forwards again. “I’m going to face DarkKnightmon.”

    “You aren’t serious…”

    Alphamon nodded. “Please don’t try to convince me otherwise.”

    Omegamon frowned and walked up beside him. “How do you even know where to look? The morning patrols aren’t even back yet, are they?”

    Alphamon released a sigh through his nostrils; Omegamon could be stubborn when he needed to be. “DarkKnightmon broke MirageGaogamon out of Havelock,” he told him. Before Omegamon could react with shock, Alphamon continued. “Reapermon sent out one of Metallife’s scout pods after them. He’s bringing up the memory feed as we speak.”

    “He’s gathering allies,” Omegamon said, his brows furrowed harder now.

    Alphamon nodded. “That’s why I need to stop him now, before he can amass more allies against us.”

    “I’m coming with you,” Omegamon told him.

    The Lord of the Empty Seat turned away. “…You don’t need to do that, Omegamon.”

    “Yes, I do,” the white knight firmly answered. “It would be foolish for you to go alone. You know how strong DarkKnightmon is.”

    “Are you sure…?” Alphamon pressed, leering over his shoulder at him.

    Omegamon frowned. He knew why Alphamon was hesitant. Neither of them forgot about the incident between them yesterday. “…Yes. It’s my duty as a Royal Knight to support you on a dangerous task like this.”

    Alphamon paused. “I see… Your duty. Very well,” he said, turning towards the staircase. “Go get yourself armoured up and meet me in the communications room.”

    “You won’t slip away while I’m changing, will you?” Omegamon asked him, arching an eyebrow suspiciously.

    “You never would have asked me that before…” Alphamon spoke in a near mumble.

    Omegamon couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt in his chest. He winced and his gaze strayed away. “Sorry…”

    Alphamon frowned suddenly. “No, I—“ he stopped himself and closed his fists with frustration. “Never mind. Meet me when you’re ready.”

    “Very well…” Omegamon answered tensely. He turned and headed into his room, closing the door behind him before sighing. As he expected, things were extremely difficult between them. It seemed that they both had unspoken words that they didn’t know how to say.

    This was the first time since they had become really close friends that Alphamon had really been a mystery to him. Usually, he was able to pick up on Alphamon’s thoughts just by being around him, and vice versa. Now, he didn’t know what Alphamon was thinking. He could feel the rift between them growing wider by the day and he didn’t know how to mend it.

    Omegamon sighed wistfully and began undressing to change into his armour. “Maybe defeating DarkKnightmon will solve all of this…”

    -

    After twenty minutes of preparation, Omegamon walked into the communications room where he found Alphamon waiting. He stood behind MetallifeKuwagamon, who sat at the computer, watching the video feed of his reconnaissance drone.

    “Is this your scout pod?” Omegamon asked walking in and standing to look at the screen.

    “It was…” MetallifeKuwagamon said with some bitterness in his voice.

    “Was?” he questioned, wondering about his choice of tense. Omegamon looked at the screen. The monitor showed the mechanical drone following what were definitely DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon.

    “This is at the twenty minute mark,” MetallifeKuwagamon informed him, looking expectantly at the giant computer monitor. “They haven’t noticed it yet.”

    Omegamon and Alphamon continued watching, standing apart from one another.

    The scout pod followed the two Digimon from a distance, recording their movements, as well as their voices with limited audio quality. The sound was distorted because of the strong winds, but it was able to pick up a few of their words here and there.

    “…Dorbick—Sssssst…iversion… Fffffft…” the computer’s audio speakers echoed.

    “I can’t make out what they’re saying,” Omegamon said.

    “I can try to amplify the audio, but it will likely take until the mid-afternoon,” MetallifeKabuterimon said.

    “Do that. For now, we’ll go off the visual cues,” Alphamon told him.

    MetallifeKuwagamon nodded, watching as the two fugitive Digimon began to make sneaky glances over their shoulders. “Here,” he said.

    DarkKnightmon suddenly spun around whipped his Twin Spear towards the drone like a javelin. The lance flew towards the screen at a frightening speed before the tip embedded itself in the camera of the scout pod. The screen cracked and immediately went black.

    “That was the last point of contact with Scout Pod #23,” MetallifeKuwagamon explained with a light wince.

    “Is that why I saw you on the floor when I walked in?” Alphamon asked, raising an eyebrow.

    MetallifeKuwagamon’s face flushed. “Err… It was startling for somebody not expecting it…” he sheepishly said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Would you like me to rewind the memory file?”

    “No, that’s alright,” Alphamon reassured him. “I know where the scout pod was destroyed from the landmarks I noticed the first time.”

    MetallifeKuwagamon nodded. “Then I’ll get to work on the audio.”

    “Thank you, Metallife,” the black knight told him. “We’ll head out then.” He looked at Omegamon. “If you’re ready, I mean…”

    “If you are,” Omegamon replied.

    With a nod, Alphamon walked out into the corridor. “Then let’s go.”

    As they walked into the hall, the two knights abruptly stopped. OuRyuumon was walking towards them.

    Alphamon saw him and looked away with a soft wince. While he was still furious at the dragon, he couldn’t help but feel guilty about making a pass at Omegamon while they were still in a relationship.

    Omegamon similarly felt uncomfortable about what had happened, and he felt a bit guilty himself that OuRyuumon didn’t know about it. That said, he wasn’t about to tell him, knowing how much worse it would make everything.

    OuRyuumon looked up and noticed Alphamon, a bit of hope growing in his eyes. “A-Alphamon!”

    Alphamon frowned and walked towards the dragon. He passed by him without a word.

    Omegamon’s gaze softened as he followed the black knight. It pained him to see the look of dejection and sorrow on OuRyuumon’s face. He sympathized for the Digimon, but at the same time, he couldn’t feel too bad because OuRyuumon brought it on himself to a large degree.

    “He’ll come around,” Omegamon felt the need to tell OuRyuumon as he passed him.

    Cringing, OuRyuumon shrugged. “Yeah… Sure…” he mumbled. He glanced over his shoulder at him. “Where are you two going?”

    Omegamon stopped and paused. He knew that Alphamon didn’t want any of the other Royal Knights going with them, and he certainly wouldn’t want OuRyuumon to come along. Omegamon himself knew that bringing OuRyuumon along to face DarkKnightmon after what DarkKnightmon had done to their relationship would be a huge mistake. “We’re just meeting with KaiserGreymon and AncientGarurumon,” Omegamon lied.

    “Oh…”

    With that, Omegamon went to catch up with Alphamon, so that they could go and face DarkKnightmon.

    -

    After an hour’s flight, Alphamon and Omegamon landed on the grassy plains of their territory. A heavy overcast of grey clouds had taken over the sky, blocking out the sun.

    It had been a long, tense journey for the two knights. They barely spoke to one another, and the uncomfortable silence that resulted made things all the more unbearable. Neither of them bothered forcing small talk, knowing how transparent it would have been. They only spoke about the mission at hand, pointing out landmarks and points of interest.

    They had been relieved when they reached the first of their destinations, Havelock Prison. From there, they followed the path of MetallifeKuwagamon’s scout pod, based off of Alphamon’s memory. It was another twenty minutes until they reached their second destination.

    The black and white knights looked around the area cautiously. There was grassland for kilometers, with only a few trees and giant boulders to serve as landmarks for the area. To their right, there was a large bed of blue and yellow flowers.

    “You’re sure this is the place?” Omegamon asked, looking over at Alphamon.

    “Yes,” he answered, nodding over to the flowers. “I recognize the flowers.”

    “Are you sure it’s the same one? There are countless beds of those flowers around our territory,” Omegamon contested.

    “Positive,” Alphamon responded certainly. He turned away from the white knight and scanned the flowers. “I picked a flower from this patch for OuRyuumon for our first date, as a joke.”

    Omegamon tensed up slightly. “I… see,” he answered ambiguously, not wanting to linger on their problems anymore during that mission. His head was already racing with countless thoughts about himself, Alphamon, OuRyuumon, and DarkKnightmon. He didn’t need his judgment clouded any further. Omegamon knew that these thoughts of uncertainty were plaguing Alphamon’s mind as well.

    Omegamon shook his head. He needed to focus at the task at hand. He looked around the vicinity carefully. “…I think I see something,” he remarked, suddenly turning in a different direction and walking over.

    Alphamon pivoted and walked after him, looking to see what Omegamon noticed. “I think you’re right,” he said.

    The two knights approached a pile of gold scraps of metal, strewn heedlessly amongst the blades of grass. Metal shards and cut circuitry lay at their feet.

    “This must be the scout pod,” Alphamon figured, nudging the scrap metal with his boot.

    “It seems that way…” Omegamon agreed. He looked up and gazed around the area carefully.

    His eyes snapped wide open at something.

    “Alphamon!” he shouted.

    Alphamon whipped around to see two streams of fire ripping through the air towards them. The jets of flames incinerated the flowers along with the blades of grass below.

    Omegamon tackled Alphamon to the ground roughly. The sweltering streams passed over the Royal Knights harmlessly, although Omegamon still felt their heat pulsing against his back. Alphamon hissed and stood up as soon as the flames dissipated, pulling Omegamon up with him.

    “Damn it, an ambush,” he growled, turning towards where the attack came from. He summoned the Seiken Grad Alpha in a burst of light.

    Omegamon narrowed his eyes and nodded, his Grey Sword and Garuru Cannon springing out from his gauntlets as he turned towards the blast’s origin as well. They could only see a spot of red and black against the green and grey backdrop. “There,” he exclaimed, raising his cannon towards the attacker.

    Before Omegamon could fire, the Digimon acted. “Burning the Dragon!” a voice roared out. There was a flash of violet power in front of the figure and, suddenly, the ground began to shudder and quake, throwing the Royal Knights off balance.

    Alphamon snarled and stabbed his sword of light into the ground to keep himself standing. Omegamon did the same with his Grey Sword, unable to fire while off balance. However, the attack didn’t end there. The earth suddenly ripped up around them, throwing grass, dirt, and rocks upwards around their forms.

    “Break!” Alphamon shouted to Omegamon, bursting through the left side of the blast of upturned earth. Omegamon nodded and burst through the right side, separating from Alphamon.

    Disoriented from the attack, the two knights stopped and regained their bearings, raising their weapons to counter any surprise attacks. Omegamon whirled around towards where he last saw the figure, but he was already gone. Instead, he noticed something directly above him, falling fast.

    The large, crimson form of a dragon man Digimon descended on him, slashing down a sword wreathed in blazing, violet flames. Omegamon recoiled and raised his Grey Sword, blocking the blade with his own. The force was incredible against his arm; he could tell that this Digimon was powerful.

    Omegamon’s blue eyes narrowed as his sword was pushed back, but he dug his boots into the ground and pushed back, swinging his arm out mightily. The strong swipe of the sword pushed the assailant back through the air. Omegamon then raised his cannon, taking advantage of the opening, and fired a powerful blast from the Garuru Cannon’s muzzle. The orb of swirling blue power pulsed from the cannon towards the draconic attacker, who was but meters away, but he responded with incredible battle instincts. From the two cannon ports on his pectoral muscles, he fired two blazing streaks of power that slammed into Omegamon’s attack and detonated it in between them, throwing both Digimon back.

    Alphamon sneered. “Omegamon!” he called out, turning towards him. Alphamon cried out with pain when blast of dark matter slammed into his back and exploded, knocking him to the ground violently.

    Omegamon landed on his feet, catching himself, and turned to see what hit Alphamon. He immediately knew there was a second Digimon there too.

    DarkKnightmon’s form burst out from the canopy of a tree and landed close to the leader of the Royal Knights. “You should never leave your back exposed,” DarkKnightmon chastised him.

    Alphamon growled and pushed himself to his hands and knees, his white and blue cape singed and smoking slightly. He stood up and gripped his sword tightly in his hand. “Least of all around you,” he said to DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon smirked. “If you like…” he spoke. He looked around the vicinity. “Is OuRyuumon not with you today?”

    Alphamon narrowed his eyes angrily. “Being smug doesn’t suit you, DarkKnightmon,” he told him bitterly. His red eyes glanced over at the crimson dragon, who landed away from him and over near Omegamon. “New friend?”

    “Yes. That’s Dorbickmon,” DarkKnightmon explained. “He’s my bodyguard.”

    “Bodyguard, is he?” Alphamon asked, narrowing his eyes at DarkKnightmon.

    “You two came out here searching for me,” DarkKnightmon said. “I need to defend myself.”

    “You planned for us to come after you. What you’re doing here is acting aggressively, not defensively,” Alphamon countered, secretly building up power within his free hand as he spoke. “So don’t play the innocent party.”

    “Very well,” DarkKnightmon spoke, raising the Twin Spear and aiming it at Alphamon.

    “Digitalize of Soul,” Alphamon shouted, shooting his arm up as he spoke and firing a beam of emerald power from his palm.

    DarkKnightmon fired a dark, violet beam from his lance, and the two attacks clashed violently. Green and purple tendrils of energy splayed off in multiple directions as the attacks bloomed and detonated between them. Grass was ripped up and the two dark knights were buffeted backwards by the concussion of the colliding attacks.

    Omegamon darted towards the explosion, intending to engage DarkKnightmon. Suddenly appearing in his path was Dorbickmon, who gave him a toothy smirk.

    Dorbickmon charged forwards and slammed his fist into Omegamon’s face, knocking the white knight backwards. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asked with a grin. “You have to deal with me.”

    Omegamon, wincing from the blow, began to glare at him. He looked over Dorbickmon’s shoulder at Alphamon, who was busy clashing weapons with DarkKnightmon. His comrade seemed like he could handle himself, so Omegamon readied his sword and cannon. “Then I will.”

    “Good. You can serve as practice,” Dorbickmon said, whipping his fiery sword, the Tyrant Collbrande, out in front of him. There was a glint in his yellow and violet eyes as he stabbed the blade into the ground. “Burning the Dragon!”

    Once again, Omegamon felt the earth below him tremble. Suddenly a pillar of rock blasted out of the ground behind him, slamming into his armoured back, right between his shoulders. Omegamon’s back arched and he was thrown forwards savagely. He quickly attempted to right himself and raise his cannon to fire at Dorbickmon, but another chunk of rock ripped from the ground and drove itself into the knight’s face, knocking him upwards.

    Omegamon staggered backwards, grimacing with pain. Through his blurred vision, he saw Dorbickmon rip his sword from the ground and charge towards him, winding his fist back with the intent of drilling it into Omegamon’s torso. However, Omegamon acted quickly and darted to the right as Dorbickmon swung his draconic fist. As the dragon missed his target, Omegamon spun around and aimed his cannon at Dorbickmon’s upper body.

    “Garuru Cannon!” he spoke. The blast burst from the cannon and consumed Dorbickmon, throwing him through the air and tumbling across the grass.

    He can manipulate the land like Duftmon can in his Leopard Mode,” Omegamon observed, carefully watching Dorbickmon.

    Dorbickmon snarled and stood to his feet, brushing the ice from his spikes. “I barely even felt that!” he taunted, his eyes burning excitedly. “The kid gloves come off now! Tyrant Collbrande!” he shouted.

    The dragon man raised his burning sword over his head. Suddenly, the flames intensified and the sword elongated to six times its length and width. Dorbickmon roared and slammed the massive sword down on top of Omegamon, who blocked with his sword and cannon. The immense pressure and sheer power of the Tyrant Collbrande forced him into the ground, and the area around him caved in under the gigantic sword’s power.

    Despite this, Omegamon held firm, continuing to block the sword. When the blade suddenly retracted and shrank back to its regular size, Omegamon slackened, panting with exertion. Although he avoided a direct, unguarded blow from the sword, his muscles throbbed just from blocking it.

    Omegamon stood up straight and began charging towards Dorbickmon, his sword poised and his cannon firing blasts at Dorbickmon.

    Dorbickmon smirked and slashed one of the blasts down the middle with the Tyrant Collbrande. “Bring it on, Royal Knight,” he said to him, narrowing his eyes as the attack’s frosty breath dispersed around him. “I’ve had years of training too…”

    -

    DarkKnightmon and Alphamon exchanged blows. DarkKnightmon’s spear tore at Alphamon’s armour. Alphamon’s blade melted Dorbickmon’s plate mail. The screech of metal pierced the air and sparks cascaded out from their clashing weapons.

    The two knights broke away and they paused for a moment to glare at each other.

    “Enough games, DarkKnightmon,” Alphamon said, poising the Seiken Grad Alpha. “What are your intentions?”

    “You already know,” DarkKnightmon responded, lunging at Alphamon and stabbing his spear down at him. “I…” He paused when Alphamon parried his attack and fired back with a large beam from his left hand, which DarkKnightmon was forced to dodge. “…Never approved of the way you ran the Order.”

    DarkKnightmon rushed forwards at Alphamon, ramming him with his massive shoulder blade. “Rgh! …I’m going to dismantle the Royal Knights… and create my own Order,” he explained to him, struggling against Alphamon’s sword. As he fought against it, he pulled his Twin Spear back and levelled it at Alphamon. “I’ll replace your Royal Knights with those who share my views. Then, we will bring order to these chaotic lands.” The fugitive knight’s golden eyes flashed and he released a devastating blast of shadows from his Twin Spear onto Alphamon.

    Alphamon roared out as the shadowy power enveloped him, burning beneath his armour. He lashed out with his holy sword and swept it through the beam of darkness, ripping through it and driving it across DarkKnightmon’s chest.

    The two knights fell away, vestiges of darkness and light on their bodies as they recoiled in pain.

    “If you would just open up your eyes, DarkKnightmon…” Alphamon said to him, growling.

    “My eyes have already been opened,” DarkKnightmon responded. “And since I don’t see OuRyuumon around here, I would say that so have yours.”

    Alphamon’s gaze hardened. “Enough talk. I’ve tried to reason with you time and time again, but you would never meet me halfway.” He brandished his sword of light and sliced it diagonally at DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon parried the attack with the Twin Spear, which he flipped around and stabbed towards Alphamon’s chest. Alphamon swerved his body to the left, so the spear just glanced across his armour. He then reached out and grabbed the base of the lance, holding it in place.

    DarkKnightmon grunted and tried to retrieve the spear, jerking it around and trying to wrestle it from Alphamon’s hold. “I’ve learned something, Alphamon, something very important…” he explained to his former friend. He narrowed his eyes and drove his boot into Alphamon’s side, knocking him away from the Twin Spear.

    “Never compromise…” he said before charging at Alphamon and locking weapons with him once again.

    -

    Dorbickmon swiped the Tyrant Collbrande down on Omegamon. The white knight grunted and swung the Grey Sword to meet it, and the two swords clashed violently. The two struggled against one another, trying to break through the other’s defence.

    However, Dorbickmon suddenly grinned and tilted his head back. “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” As he shouted, his mouth began to leak violet flames. He jerked his head forwards and spewed fire from his mouth at Omegamon.

    Omegamon shouted with pain the inferno swept over his body, but he quickly fired back with a cannon blast to Dorbickmon’s chest. The impact wiped the smirk off Dorbickmon’s face and sent him sprawling to the ground.

    Upon crashing to the ground, Dorbickmon stabbed the fiery Tyrant Collbrande into the ground and accessed the Digital World’s dragon veins. “Burning the Dragon!” he shouted, once again manipulating the earth around them.

    Omegamon looked around himself warily. He pivoted suddenly when he saw a nearby boulder suddenly fly towards him. He pulled his cannon up and fire three hefty blasts from the Garuru Cannon. The three spheres of compressed power slammed into the boulder one after the other, shattering the giant piece of rock to fragments.

    Dorbickmon suddenly caused a large piece of land to shoot up behind Omegamon take out the back of his legs, causing them to buckle. Omegamon fell onto his back with a crash. Wincing, he aimed his cannon towards Dorbickmon, who was sitting up, and fired.

    Sneering, Dorbickmon tore his sword from the ground and used it to help brace for the attack. It only helped so much as the freezing pressure exploded on contact with him and sent him crashing into a tree.

    With a low snarl, Dorbickmon stood up, his back against the tree. “Bastard…” he growled, his eyes blazing with anger. “Tyrant Collbrande!”

    Once again, his sword amplified and he swept the massive, fiery blade towards Omegamon. Omegamon rolled to his feet and blocked the attack, trying to hold against the overwhelming blade. However, Dorbickmon’s sheer strength broke his defence, and the sword slammed into his body throwing him through the air. Omegamon landed on his chest, and he cried out with pain as the sword fell upon him another time, crushing him into the ground.

    “I don’t think you’ve had enough yet,” Dorbickmon growled, raising the sword up slowly from Omegamon’s trembling form. He hoisted the massive blade up over his head, ready to drive it down on Omegamon again.

    Omegamon opened an eye and suddenly rolled onto his back. He aimed his cannon and fired at Dorbickmon while the dragon man was too exposed to defend himself.

    Dorbickmon’s eyes widened as the blast detonated on impact with his chest. A roar of pain escaped his lips as he was thrown clear through the tree behind him, causing the whole tree to topple down with a crash.

    Grimacing with pain, Omegamon stood to his feet, more slowly this time. He forced himself to run over before Dorbickmon could formulate a counterattack. Omegamon jumped on top of the tree’s fallen trunk and saw Dorbickmon already sitting up, glaring at him.

    “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” he yelled, releasing a massive swath of flames towards Omegamon.

    The white knight jumped out of the way of the flames, and saw the inferno completely consume the tree that had just fallen. Dorbickmon stood up and charged through the smoke, the Tyrant Collbrande in hand.

    “You’re going down, Whitey! One way or another!” he snarled, bounding off the burning trunk and diving towards Omegamon, swinging his sword back.

    Omegamon narrowed his eyes and raised his cannon, pointing it at the oncoming dragon. With silent determination, Omegamon’s Garuru Cannon pulsed and released a powerful blast that ripped through the sky towards Dorbickmon. Dorbickmon snarled and began to slash down his sword, but he was too late. The compressed orb of sub zero power collided with his body and detonated in mid air.

    Dorbickmon was thrown out of the sky and he landed on the ground, not moving.

    Omegamon waited, inspecting him for several seconds to see if he stirred again. When he didn’t, the white knight turned towards DarkKnightmon and Alphamon, who were still fighting. He saw that Alphamon was having trouble. Omegamon knew that he needed to intervene.

    -

    Alphamon slashed the Seiken Grad Alpha down towards DarkKnightmon. The knight pivoted and caught the sword with his shoulder blade before driving his spear into Alphamon’s chest armour and firing a pillar of darkness against his body.

    He released a shout of pain as he was thrown onto his caped back, sliding across the grass.

    “You are going to have to do better than that, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon told him, frowning at him stoically. “You’re fighting sloppily, like you’re distracted. You aren’t wasting your thoughts on that waste of space known as OuRyuumon, are you?” he asked, knowing that that was likely the cause for Alphamon’s distracted fighting style.

    Alphamon sneered and stood to his feet, breathing heavily. “…Why didn’t you tell me about him back before you went to the Dark Area? Why yesterday?”

    “Because it benefited me more yesterday than it would have after I had just gone on a rampage,” DarkKnightmon explained.

    “How?” Alphamon demanded, narrowing his eyes.

    “Worry about the fight at hand, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon responded, whipping his lance down and firing another blast at Alphamon.

    Alphamon sneered and made a backwards somersault, landing on his feet and pushing off to fly into the air. He braced against the explosion below him and only suffered being pushed through the air by the blast.

    While Alphamon was distracted, DarkKnightmon lowered his weapon and lunged into the only remaining tree nearby. After a few moments, he burst from its branches and flew above Alphamon. Their eyes met for just a moment before DarkKnightmon slammed the Twin Spear down into Alphamon’s chest.

    Alphamon crashed to the ground on his back, sending a shockwave through his body and twisting his left wing painfully in the process. He let out a winded gasp. Meanwhile, DarkKnightmon kept up his assault. He descended upon Alphamon, spear in hand. However, Alphamon raised his hand up and fired a surge of green energy from his palm.

    The emerald pillar of light engulfed DarkKnightmon and threw him upwards. Although grimacing with pain, DarkKnightmon swung his arm down and retaliated with a destructive blast from his Twin Spear. Alphamon swung his holy sword up in front of him to protect himself from the darkness, but his arm buckled after a few seconds and the blast crushed him into the ground.

    DarkKnightmon let out a grunt and landed at Alphamon’s feet, inside the smoking crater near the base of the tree. The knight stomped on Alphamon’s gut before grabbing him by the collar and slamming him into the trunk of the tree. DarkKnightmon then stabbed the tip of his Twin Spear through one of the openings in Alphamon’s twisted wing, piercing through it and pinning him to the tree. Alphamon shouted in agony.

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and drove his fist across Alphamon’s face. He punched him again, and then again. “That’s always been your problem, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon said, taking Alphamon’s chin in his hand and pressing his horned head back against the tree. “You’re afraid to get your hands dirty. That’s why you’re weak…”

    Alphamon narrowed his crimson eyes, breathing heavy with pain and fury. “I’ve gotten stronger…” he told him, staring at him defiantly. “In body and in spirit…”

    “Lies… Your spirit is breaking. I can see it in the way you fight,” DarkKnightmon said, leaning in close to stare his cold, yellow eyes into Alphamon’s animated red ones.

    “Then there’s always my body!” Alphamon retorted, suddenly pressing both hands against DarkKnightmon’s chest and firing two lasers at point blank range into him.

    DarkKnightmon growled with pain and flew back several meters onto the ground. Alphamon reached over and wrenched the Twin Spear out of his wing with a grunt of pain and effort. He tossed it aside and gripped the Seiken Grad Alpha as DarkKnightmon stood up.

    DarkKnightmon looked at Alphamon. He then glanced over at Twin Spear nearby. Timing his movements carefully, he suddenly lunged for it.

    “Garuru Cannon!” a voice shouted from behind him.

    DarkKnightmon released a shout of surprised as he felt a numb pressure slam into his back and send him flying off his feet. He landed on top of the Twin Spear with a clatter of metal.

    Alphamon looked up and saw the battle-worn figure of Omegamon standing nearby, his Garuru Cannon aimed at DarkKnightmon. His armour and cape smoked and he looked weary from his battle.

    The Lord of the Empty Seat nodded at him and turned to DarkKnightmon, who stood to his feet.

    “So you defeated Dorbickmon…” DarkKnightmon observed, turning around and facing Omegamon. He looked past Omegamon at Dorbickmon and grinned behind his helmet.

    “It’s two against one, DarkKnightmon,” Alphamon remarked.

    “Last time we fought it was five against one,” DarkKnightmon dryly said. “And anyways…” There was a victorious glint in his eyes. “Your math is wrong.”

    Alphamon’s eyes widened. “What?”

    DarkKnightmon looked up at the tree above him and Alphamon, leering into its thick canopy. “Now, MirageGaogamon.”

    “Double Crescent Mirage!” a voice shouted.

    Two crescent-shaped bursts ripped through the branches of the tree, slicing them effortlessly, and slashed across Omegamon’s chest. The white knight cried out with pain and collapsed onto his back.

    Sloppy mistakes, Royal Knights,” DarkKnightmon thought to himself as he raised his spear towards the shocked Alphamon. As soon as he saw the cobalt blur shoot out of the tree’s canopy, his gaze hardened. “Twin Spear!” The Twin Spear released a torrent of shadows that enveloped Alphamon and blew the nearby tree to pieces.

    Alphamon was propelled across the ground fiercely, rolling along the grass and landing on his bleeding wing and back.

    MirageGaogamon descended on Omegamon at a blinding speed that rivalled UlforceVeedramon’s. Omegamon tried to stand to his feet to defend himself, but his movements were too slow, his mind too sluggish from distraction, and his body too tired from his battle with Dorbickmon. MirageGaogamon’s clawed gauntlets ripped across Omegamon’s body from multiple directions, slashing through his armour, rending the black fabric on his waist, and cutting into the skin beneath.

    Omegamon grimaced with pain and he lashed out with the Grey Sword, but he found himself missing the speedy Digimon. When MirageGaogamon’s attacks let up, Omegamon decided to perform one final stand, knowing that his body was on the verge of giving out. He raised his cannon and aimed at DarkKnightmon.

    “Garuru Cannon,” he breathed, firing at the knight.

    DarkKnightmon sneered and blocked it with his Twin Spear. He held against the attack, but it managed for blast him back several paces. He whipped the Twin Spear out to the side in a swift, decisive motion. “Dorbickmon, MirageGaogamon, do it.”

    Alphamon propped himself up on his elbows and looked over at Dorbickmon. He thought he was unconscious. In actuality, Dorbickmon was wounded, but conscious. The crimson dragon lay on his stomach but raised his sword over his head. “Burning the Dragon!” he snarled, stabbing the Tyrant Collbrande down into the ground.

    Alphamon sneered and tried his best to move his protesting body to scramble to his feet. He felt the earth quaking beneath him. Just as he was about to stand, rocks shot up from around the knight and curved over his limbs to restrain him and pull him against the ground.

    “What the-?!” he demanded with anger, fighting against a large rock pulling against his arm, and trying to pull his leg away from being sucked into the ground.

    MirageGaogamon nodded and turned to Omegamon. “My apologies, Sir,” he calmly spoke. “Full Moon Blaster!”

    With a nimble push of his legs, MirageGaogamon jumped high into the air. As he reached the apex of his jump, the wolf head on MirageGaogamon’s chest armour opened up and released a torrent of intense, yellow energy. The beam streamed from his chest and descended on the white knight, blasting Omegamon’s body and crushing him into the ground beneath a giant explosion.

    “Grah!” Alphamon, who watched as this took place, yelled in frustration, blasting one of his rocky bonds away only for it to be replaced by another. “Omegamon!”

    The smoke cleared and revealed Omegamon at the bottom of the crater, unconscious from the superdreadnought-class blast.

    DarkKnightmon walked through the blast of wind that resulted from the explosion and stood at the edge of the crater, staring down. “MirageGaogamon, take him quickly,” he told him. “It won’t be long until Alphamon’s free.”

    “Yes sir,” MirageGaogamon replied, flying down and landing at the bottom on the crater. He scooped Omegamon up in his arms after making sure that he was unconscious.

    “What?!” Alphamon demanded, struggling more violently, trying to wrench his arms, legs, and wings free from the rocks that Dorbickmon summoned. “What are you doing?!”

    DarkKnightmon ignored him. “Get a head start,” he told MirageGaogamon. “I’ll carry Dorbickmon.”

    “Would you?” Dorbickmon asked, grimacing and sweating with concentration. “I don’t know how much longer… I can keep this up.”

    MirageGaogamon nodded and flew through the air, the unconscious Omegamon in his arms.

    “No!” Alphamon shouted, watching as MirageGaogamon began taking off with Omegamon. “Digitalize of Soul!” He started firing beams of green energy from his palms, both at the rocky restraints, and at DarkKnightmon and Dorbickmon. He couldn’t aim at MirageGaogamon without risking hurting Omegamon.

    DarkKnightmon scowled when a beam detonated nearby and sent a blast of energy and dirt over them. He nodded at Dorbickmon, who pulled his sword from the ground. The dark knight quickly picked up Dorbickmon in his arms and began flying away, after MirageGaogamon.

    “Omegamon!” Alphamon yelled after them. “DarkKnightmon! Stop it!”

    They didn’t respond. Alphamon growled and slashed at the rocks very precisely with the Seiken Grad Alpha, tearing through the thick rocks around his arms. Once they were free, he was able to start hacking away at the rocks over his torso, wings, and legs. After about another minute or so, Alphamon stood to his feet, ignoring the resistance and protests of his exhausted body. Alphamon flapped his wings and flew into the air, but he found his left wing giving way, too twisted and wounded to fly properly.

    “No!” Alphamon snarled with frustration, catching himself by landing on his feet. He started sprinting after them, but by then they were already specks in the grey, cloudy horizon.

    Alphamon slowly came to a stop when it was finally apparent that he was physically unable to catch up. He staggered for a few final paces before his legs gave way and he collapsed to his knees, panting.

    He looked up with wide, distraught eyes as the specks disappeared in the horizon, Omegamon with them.

    Alphamon grimaced and, in an act of rage and anguish, drove his fist deep into the ground.

    “OMEGAMON!”
     
  2. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 18: Bonds​


    “Where are they?”

    Duftmon stood in the council room with folded arms and a tapping foot. He had an irritated look on his face. Around him stood the eight other Royal Knights, all of whom were clad in their armour.

    “Who knows?” UlforceVeedramon asked, leaning back against the white, round table behind him. “Nobody’s seen them.”

    “OuRyuumon said that they were going to meet KaiserGreymon and AncientGarurumon, but when I called the Warrior Ten, they said that they didn’t know anything about it,” Dynasmon remarked, frowning deeply.

    “They should have been around today,” Duftmon spoke angrily. “There were three simultaneous attacks from mercenary groups in our territory. We were able to drive them back, but those attacks were no coincidence. They were coordinated to happen at the exact same time. I’m completely certain of that.”

    “It sure looks that way, doesn’t it?” Dukemon mused. “Alphamon and Omegamon would’ve told me if they were going anywhere…”

    “Leaders require accountability!” Duftmon ranted. “He can’t just go off on a moment’s notice without telling anybody. And I expected better from Omegamon.”

    “Now, Duftmon, we don’t know what happened,” Sleipmon said, looking over at the agitated strategist.

    “Perhaps they couldn’t control their desires any further and eloped!” RhodoKnightmon suggested excitedly, clasping his hands together.

    “I think we can definitely rule that idea out, Rhodo,” Dukemon said with a small grin.

    “They were gone early in the morning,” Examon observed. “Maybe there was a different attack earlier on that they went to deal with.”

    “It’s possible…” Magnamon mused.

    “Maybe OuRyuumon knows more than he let on,” Craniamon suggested, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

    The double doors of the council room suddenly opened with a loud creak, garnering the attention of all nine of the Royal Knights. They were shocked when they saw the haggard, battle-bruised form of Alphamon stagger into the room. His armour was covered in dirt, scuffs, dents and punctures. His cape was caked in mud and torn in several places. Blood dripped from the underside of his left wing, splashing onto the marble floor and leaving a trail of crimson droplets all the way from the foyer. If the knights looked closely at his face, they would have been able to see the absolute guilt and devastation in his sombre eyes.

    Behind him was the long, red, draconic body of a DORUGreymon, who craned his long, maned neck to look at Alphamon with a worried expression. “Please, Sir! You need to go see Duskmon for medical attention!”

    “Alphamon!” Magnamon cried out in concern, jogging over to him to help him stand.

    “What the hell happened?!” Dukemon demanded, going over to him with worry as well. “You’re hurt.”

    Craniamon’s eyes widened slightly at the sight. He looked over at Examon. “Somebody actually did that to Alphamon…?”

    “I… guess,” he responded, just as shocked as the others. Examon had never seen Alphamon get hurt before. He wondered who was able to do that.

    “DarkKnightmon…” Alphamon whispered, staring at the floor in front of him.

    “What?!” Dukemon asked, his yellow eyes burning with anger. “DarkKnightmon did this?!”

    “Alphamon…” Duftmon said to him calmly. “Tell us what happened exactly.”

    Alphamon stalled for a few moments. Finally, he sighed and nodded, cringing in a mixture of physical pain and remorse. “…Omegamon and I went out to look for DarkKnightmon. He broke MirageGaogamon out of prison and Reapermon sent one of Metallife’s scout pods after him, so we knew where to look.”

    “You two went alone?” Dynasmon asked, narrowing his eyes. “After what DarkKnightmon did last time?”

    Alphamon grimaced. “There wasn’t time to wait for others to get ready. I couldn’t let that opportunity pass,” he responded. “Besides, half of you don’t know what you’re up against with him.”

    “That’s no excuse to do something so reckless and foolish,” Duftmon chastised him.

    Alphamon glared at Duftmon but kept silent.

    “What happened next?” Magnamon asked him gently.

    “We were ambushed at the site where the scout drone was destroyed,” he explained, his eyes wandering back to the floor. “By DarkKnightmon and a new ally of his, Dorbickmon.”

    “Dorbickmon?” Examon asked.

    “Those aren’t all that common…” Dynasmon said, remembering seeing one of the species before. The violet dragon man then frowned as he noticed something off about the situation. “…Where’s Omegamon?” he asked, a few notes of worry in his voice.

    Alphamon suddenly grimaced. “He…” He paused. “We were fighting them, but then MirageGaogamon appeared… He tipped the tide of battle in their favour… Omegamon and I were beaten down… and…”

    “…What?” Dukemon asked, placing his hand on Alphamon’s shoulder, his chest suddenly constricting with worry. “What happened, Alphamon?”

    “Omegamon was knocked unconscious…” Alphamon explained, the guilt plain on his face. “They took him. Omegamon’s been captured…”

    “What?!” Dynasmon shouted, clenching his fists.

    “No…” Magnamon whispered, staring at Alphamon in shock.

    “Unbelievable…” Craniamon murmured, frowning hard.

    “That can’t be,” Dukemon spoke with a scathing growl in his low voice.

    Duftmon’s gaze on Alphamon hardened for several seconds. “This is a complete disaster… Not only were you both absent today when three simultaneous attacks were taking place, but now one of our finest warriors has been taken prisoner by the enemy… Well done, Alphamon…”

    Alphamon’s fists curled up into tight, trembling balls.

    “Stop it, Duftmon,” Sleipmon chastised him, wincing with grief at the grim news. “That’s not helping anything…”

    “Yeah,” UlforceVeedramon spoke, his face hard and serious. “We need to focus on how we’re going to get him back.”

    “Very well,” Duftmon conceded curtly. “We can likely deduce from the fact that DarkKnightmon has, indeed, taken Omegamon prisoner, that he also has a base of operations somewhere. He needs to keep him somewhere, after all. It’s also likely that it’s located somewhere within the Free Area, based on all of his prior sightings.” Duftmon’s brows narrowed with thought. “However, it’s hard to deduce why he would take him prisoner at all. Surely not for ransom… Moreover, why take Omegamon but not you as well?” he asked, looking over at Alphamon questioningly.

    “I don’t know…” Alphamon admitted grimly. “He probably could have if he wanted to.”

    “Thank Yggdrasil that he didn’t then,” RhodoKnightmon spoke.

    “I wonder… Could this be connected to the three attacks we repelled around noon?” Duftmon mused.

    “Maybe…” Examon responded.

    The DORUGreymon cleared his throat audibly. “A-Alphamon… You really need to see the physician. You’re still bleeding.”

    “He’s right, Alphamon,” Magnamon agreed. “Dukemon and I will help you down there.”

    Alphamon grunted with reluctant compliance. “Fine…” he muttered. “Just can’t believe that this happened…”

    Duftmon glared at him. “I don’t know what you expected, Alphamon,” he remarked, folding his arms across his chest and tilting his head back and to the side slightly.

    “Give it a rest, Duftmon,” Dukemon warned him.

    Dynasmon frowned and looked away. He didn’t like to admit it, but he agreed with Duftmon on this. If they had just asked him and a few other knights to go along too, then it was likely that Omegamon wouldn’t have been captured.

    Alphamon’s gaze hardened and he slowly turned towards Duftmon.

    “He’s our leader!” Duftmon responded. “He ought to know better. He needs to know that things like this are unacceptable for someone in his position. If the roles were reversed, he would have said the same thing to any of us.” Duftmon turned and locked his eyes with Alphamon. “All of this – Omegamon’s capture – is entirely your fault, I hope you know.”

    “I KNOW!” Alphamon snapped at him angrily, taking a step towards the leopard knight. The unexpected volume from Alphamon silenced the room. “Do you think that I don’t know that?! That I’m not cursing myself and blaming myself for what happened to him?! Well, I knew full well without your infinite wisdom, but thank you for making sure that I was aware of my massive mistake. But I suppose you just enjoy twisting the knife, don’t you?”

    Duftmon went silent for a few moments, taken off guard by his outburst. “…I simply have the best interests of the Order in mind,” he replied quietly. “I take no pleasure in Omegamon’s capture or the effects that it has on you.”

    Alphamon grunted and turned towards the doors, his back to the Royal Knights. “I can carry myself to the medical ward, Magnamon, Dukemon.”

    “That’s great,” Dukemon said, taking Alphamon’s arm and pulling it over his shoulders. “I’m still gonna take you.”

    “I’ll come too,” Magnamon told them.

    Alphamon sighed and nodded weakly, letting Dukemon help him out of the room and to one of the nearest doors in the great hall. He winced as they walked; every movement sent pain shooting through some part of his body.

    “He’s just as strong as before, I see…” Dukemon mused grimly, walking Alphamon down the corridor.

    Alphamon gave a soft nod. “…I should have stopped him back in the Mesozoic Kingdom, when I had the upper hand,” he muttered. “I never should have fallen for his trick.”

    “What trick?” Magnamon asked, looking up at Alphamon as he followed from behind.

    “…Nothing,” Alphamon answered, not wanting to involve the other knights in what happened with OuRyuumon. “Just some effective tactics.”

    “DarkKnightmon’s always been cunning,” Dukemon said with a stern frown. “But we’ve gotten a lot stronger since back then.”

    “So has he,” Alphamon replied.

    “I guess so…” Dukemon supposed, figuring that DarkKnightmon must have honed his abilities in the chaotic Dark Area. He looked over at Magnamon. “Hey, Magna, can you run ahead and tell Duskmon to get a bed ready?”

    “No problem,” Magnamon answered, jogging ahead to the medical ward.

    Dukemon watched as Magnamon disappeared around the corner. When the knight of miracles was gone, Dukemon turned to Alphamon. “How’re you doing?” he asked him in a sympathetic voice.

    “You can see for yourself,” Alphamon told him dryly, gesturing to his form.

    “Not what I mean…” Dukemon explained, rubbing Alphamon’s back.

    Alphamon cringed. “…Terrible… Perhaps DarkKnightmon’s right. If I wasn’t so weak, maybe none of this would have happened. If I had stood up to him… or…”

    “Don’t let DarkKnightmon get to you,” Dukemon told him firmly. “DarkKnightmon’s ‘power’ isn’t real strength. It’s a slippery slope that ends at oppressing the Digimon we swore to protect.”

    “He isn’t entirely wrong though, Dukemon,” Alphamon said solemnly, looking at the crimson knight. “I’m afraid to make controversial decisions because I’m afraid of tarnishing my image.”

    “You’re the leader of the Royal Knights; of course you think about your image. And besides, you inducted Sleipmon into the Order; that raised a lot of eyebrows but you still stood by your decision,” Dukemon reassured him. “Don’t listen to DarkKnightmon’s crap. You’re letting him get into your head.”

    “It’s not all garbage though…”

    “It is, damn it,” Dukemon told him sharply. “You’re thinking this way because you couldn’t stop Omegamon from getting captured. You’re not the only one with insecurities, you know…” He smiled at Alphamon a bit. “This is coming from the so-called ‘Ticking Timebomb’, after all…”

    “Dukemon…” Alphamon said with a frown. “Nobody thinks that about you.”

    Dukemon gave him a sad smirk. “Don’t they?” he asked him. He gave Alphamon a pat on his back. “Anyways… DarkKnightmon will try to play on my insecurities about the Digital Hazard when he gets the chance. He’s always done that with our enemies back when he was one of us. Now he’s doing it with you. He’s a bit like that Gaiomon guy that KaiserGreymon knows, in that respect.”

    “Yes… You’re probably right,” Alphamon said as they approached the medical bay. “Do you think that’s why he took Omegamon?”

    “Maybe… Who knows?” Dukemon said, sighing a bit upon thinking about their friend. “Omegamon’s tough… He’ll be okay.”

    Alphamon nodded with a soft wince. He still felt guilty about Omegamon, not just because of all that had happened between them, but also because Omegamon never would have been captured if Alphamon hadn’t insisted on going after DarkKnightmon. He could never forgive himself if something happened to Omegamon.

    Dukemon helped Alphamon into the medical bay, which had a few soldiers in there from the brief fights against the mercenary groups earlier. They saw Magnamon and Duskmon standing beside a fresh bed.

    Duskmon approached them and his multiple eyes began looking Alphamon’s body over. “That wing might be broken, Alphamon,” he observed.

    “I’m fine, Duskmon,” Alphamon insisted unconvincingly.

    “You’re fine when I say you’re fine,” Duskmon responded, helping Dukemon bring Alphamon over to the bed to sit him down. “Now, set a good example for your subordinates and behave.”

    Alphamon gave him a weak nod of compliance and sat down, letting Duskmon strip off his chest armour to observe the damage underneath. He closed his eyes and took to his thoughts as Duskmon made his inspection.

    Hang in there, Omegamon. We’re coming for you.

    -

    The faint, whipping sound of flames flowed into Omegamon’s ears as he started to fade back into consciousness. Initially, he barely registered the sounds; the first thing that he noticed was the numb, throbbing pain throughout his body. His head ached the worst, but the pain wasn’t as bad as he expected, considering what had happened before he was knocked out by MirageGaogamon’s last attack.

    Omegamon groaned a bit at the pain. He felt pressure on his knees and feet. As the knight began to regain his consciousness more fully, he became aware that he was in a kneeling position. He started to wonder why that was. Omegamon tried to stir a bit, to reach out and get his bearings. This was when he became aware of a strange, tight feeling around his upper body. He found himself unable to move his arms at all.

    The Royal Knight slowly opened his blue eyes to see what was going on. His vision was blurry and everything was dark except for the individual torches along the walls. As his vision started to focus and adjust, he saw that he was in the center of a long, ornate hall. It looked similar to the great hall of the Royal Knights’ headquarters, but smaller and less grand.

    Next, Omegamon looked down to see what was inhibiting him. His eyes widened to see that he was completely restrained. Solid, metal chains were wrapped around Omegamon’s upper body, tightly pinning his arms to his sides from his shoulders down to his waist. He saw that the chains also coiled around his wrists before they lead down to attach to a pair of thick, metal rungs in the marble floor, one on each side of his body. This served to keep him in a kneeling position.

    Shock and alarm flooded through his body, waking him up fully. Omegamon grunted and instinctively struggled against the chains tied around his caped and armoured body, trying to break them or loosen them enough to free himself. When this didn’t work, he then tried to stand to his feet, but thanks to the chains holding him down, he couldn’t get his knees more than a few centimeters off of the ground. A frustrated growl escaped Omegamon’s mouth as he began to feel desperate. He didn’t have either of his weapons and these chains seemed particularly strong. They were definitely too strong for him to break, but that didn’t stop him from trying.

    It wasn’t long until Omegamon began to hear a sound other than the frantic rattling of his chains. He heard metal footsteps echoing down the hall as they hit the marble floor.

    “Those are chrome digizoid chains,” a familiar voice explained to him from behind.

    Omegamon ceased his futile struggle and looked over his shoulder with a glare. He watched as DarkKnightmon emerged from the shadows and walked towards him. “DarkKnightmon…” he murmured lowly, narrowing his eyes.

    “They can only be broken by chrome digizoid weapons, the highest of temperatures, or the strongest of attacks,” DarkKnightmon continued, walking up to him.

    Omegamon grunted and looked off to the side. “I’m aware… of how chrome digizoid works,” he answered through a twinge of pain. He suddenly turned his head and began to look all around himself. “…Where’s Alphamon? What did you do with him?”

    “We had to leave him,” DarkKnightmon answered calmly, stopping right in front of the restrained knight and looking down at him. “He was still too volatile and we could only carry one of you, with Dorbickmon badly injured.”

    “It doesn’t add up,” Omegamon said, glaring up at him. “You always wanted to remove Alphamon from power. Why take me and not him instead?”

    “The simplest solution isn’t always the best one… We capture Alphamon and then the whole Order descends on us,” DarkKnightmon responded.

    “And they’ll just forget about Alphamon’s second-in-command?” Omegamon challenged. “Alphamon wouldn’t… None of them would. I’m sure of it.”

    “I’m sure you’re right,” DarkKnightmon said enigmatically, resting the Twin Spear on one of his shoulders.

    Omegamon narrowed his eyes into a suspicious leer. “What are your plans for me?”

    DarkKnightmon squatted down in front of Omegamon so that he was at eye level with the kneeling knight. He used his spear like a stick to balance himself. “I’m not going to explain it to you, Omegamon.”

    “Think about what you’re doing, DarkKnightmon,” Omegamon told him, staring into his eyes.

    “I have been thinking…” DarkKnightmon responded decisively, staring back.

    “About all of it…” Omegamon urged him. “About this misguided goal of yours of taking over the Order… I know that a lot has happened, but it’s not too late to go back.”

    DarkKnightmon reached out and placed his hand on Omegamon’s shoulder, gripping it gently. “I’m glad to hear you say that, Omegamon. …I’m glad because, despite all that’s happened, I still consider you and I to be friends.”

    Omegamon frowned slightly and looked down at the chains around his chest. “Do you restrain all of your friends?” he asked him dryly.

    DarkKnightmon smirked at the comment. “Just when it’s the only way to make them listen to me…”

    “I’ve always listened to you…” Omegamon told him, gazing into the dark knight’s gold eyes, hoping to strike an emotional chord with him.

    He gave a barely audible exhale. “Yes… Yes, you have,” DarkKnightmon spoke. “You have always understood me when nobody else bothered. I suppose that’s partially why you’re here.”

    “That’s not true. Alphamon and the others listened to you too. They just didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear,” Omegamon replied.

    “I would appreciate it if you didn’t generalize my actions to just throwing a temper tantrum when I didn’t get what I want,” DarkKnightmon replied. “There’s much more to it than that and you know it.” The dark knight furrowed his brow. “Is OuRyuumon still slinking around like the snake that he is?”

    “I believe so…” the captive knight answered.

    “So, Alphamon did nothing to punish him, I shouldn’t wonder.”

    Omegamon frowned a bit. “He didn’t condone OuRyuumon’s actions in the slightest. That’s all I’m saying.”

    DarkKnightmon gave a ghost of a grin behind his helmet and slid his hand down Omegamon’s chest to pluck one of the chrome digizoid chains with his finger. “That is your prerogative,” he answered, standing back up to his feet. “You’re not kneeling there so that I can interrogate you.”

    “’Kneeling’ being to operative word…” Omegamon muttered. “Is this one of your mind games?”

    “Coincidence, I assure you. There aren’t enough precautions I can take with you, and this place doesn’t have a proper dungeon that I can hold you in, so we had to make do with placing you there,” DarkKnightmon explained.

    The Royal Knight turned his head and looked around the great hall. “…This is the Lupolford town hall. The great hall, to be exact. Aren’t you afraid somebody could walk in and see me?” he noted, recognizing some of the familiar features. “What happened to Wolfmon, the mayor we appointed after Anubismon was deleted?”

    “Don’t worry. We’ve made it clear that nobody is to enter without Dorbickmon’s expressed permission. As for Wolfmon… Dorbickmon scared him into silence. We allow Wolfmon continue with his usual duties and he keeps us secret while we control the town hall,” DarkKnightmon explained. “Did I not tell you all that the Free Area was a flawed concept? That something like this might happen?”

    “You have a very unique way of proving your point, DarkKnightmon,” Omegamon calmly stated. He narrowed his blue eyes as he looked up at the knight standing over him. “I’ll ask you once more. What do you plan to do with me?”

    “Just be patient, Omegamon. You aren’t going anywhere,” DarkKnightmon told him, walking past him and heading towards the doors at the back of the hall. “If you’re hungry or need to use the facilities, just tell whoever’s watching you and we can come to some arrangement.”

    Omegamon sneered behind his helmet and, again, tried to fight against his bonds. After a few minutes of struggling, he began to stop. It didn’t look like he would be able to break free. He closed his eyes and sighed with distress and frustration. He hoped that Alphamon had managed to follow them here… unless it was DarkKnightmon’s plan to use him as bait. It seemed like it was possible, since he was displayed in the center of such a large area that was conducive for a fight. Omegamon prepared for that possibility. He would much rather be able to find a way to escape on his own, without risking the other Royal Knights, but so far, he was at a loss for ideas.

    Meanwhile, Dorbickmon and MirageGaogamon stood in the shadows, near the back end of the great hall. They observed the captive Royal Knight from afar.

    Dorbickmon had bandages over his bruised and slightly frostbitten body. He turned to MirageGaogamon. “I don’t get it. Why did DarkKnightmon bandage up that guy’s wounds too? The weaker he is, the better.”

    “Even if Sir Omegamon was at full strength, he still wouldn’t be able to break free from those chains,” MirageGaogamon defended. “Besides, he and Sir DarkKnightmon have a history.”

    “Yeah, I know. DarkKnightmon was a Royal Knight,” the crimson dragon flippantly said. “He’s not now though. Now, they’re enemies.”

    MirageGaogamon leered at Dorbickmon out of the corners of his eyes, silently judging him. “It is called loyalty…”

    “Tch,” Dorbickmon scoffed with a dismissive wave of his clawed hand. He looked in the opposite direction from MirageGaogamon with a grim expression. “Loyalty…”

    Mercenaries…” MirageGaogamon thought to himself with a disdainful shake of his head. “Anyways…” the lupine crusader began, his keen, yellow eyes drifting back to the chained Omegamon. “Do you happen to know what Sir DarkKnightmon’s plans are for him?”

    “Me?” Dorbickmon responded incredulously, turning to look at him. “I thought you’d know! You and him are supposed to be all close from your time together with the bucketheads, aren’t you?”

    MirageGaogamon bristled. “Yes, well… you were the one who helped him escape, so I assumed you were more in the picture than I was…” he answered, defensively folding his arms. “So, you don’t know either?”

    “Not a clue,” Dorbickmon admitted, turning his eyes towards Omegamon. “What do you think he’s here for? Bait? Interrogation? Trying to win him over? Something else I’m missing?”

    “I’m unsure,” MirageGaogamon responded, frowning. “DarkKnightmon tends to keep his thoughts secret unless he has reason to tell them. We were put in a compromising situation by being careless with information in the past.”

    “Think he doesn’t trust us?” Dorbickmon asked, folding his arms.

    MirageGaogamon glanced over at the dragon shortly. “That’s not it. There was a saying among the Royal Knights’ forces… ‘Loose babble loses battles.’ It’s just a case of being careful, especially in the early stages of our plans.”

    “If you say so…” Dorbickmon said with a shrug, sounding somewhat unconvinced. His yellow and violet eyes darted over to Omegamon. “It’s risky having the great, white knight in shining armour around, even if he is under lock and key.”

    “I’m sure Sir DarkKnightmon knows what he’s doing.” MirageGaogamon began to walk away from the dragon, towards the door at the back left corner of the great hall. “It’s your watch, by the way.”

    Dorbickmon shrugged and sat down against the wall, leaning against it and giving his sore legs a rest. He narrowed his eyes carefully at Omegamon, looking him over. “I wonder how much he’d tell me about Examon… I wonder how much he actually knows, for that matter… I doubt Examon would be a Royal Knight right now if he knew that he tried to kill his best friend. Hm… Now there’s a thought…

    -

    It was now the early evening. The sun was half-set along the horizon and its rich, orange rays still reached out across the landscape. The sky began to darken into a deep, blue hue and stars became visible in the distance.

    Things began to quiet in the Royal Knights’ castle. Many Digimon of the Order finished their duties for the day, so they had the chance to relax. However, not all Digimon could relax. The news of Omegamon’s capture spread through the ranks quickly. It was an unsettling thing to hear, that one of the strongest Royal Knights and the second-in-command had been captured by a mysterious Digimon.

    One of these unsettled Digimon was Alphamon. He resided in his room after being treated by Duskmon. He had been told by the physician to get some bed rest so that his wounds could heal. Alphamon, however, sat at his desk instead. His form was bandaged and his wing was in a splint. In front of him were papers and scrolls, strewn about his desk as he went through the Royal Knights’ databases on his personal computer. He was trying to figure out the possible locations where DarkKnightmon could have taken Omegamon.

    He took a drink of water and continued scanning through the database vigilantly. At first, Alphamon didn’t notice the sound of his door handle turning.

    Alphamon’s door opened and a tall figure emerged in the doorway, peering in uncertainly. A set of purple eyes observed him through the widening gap. The door opened fully and Alphamon saw, out of the corners of his eyes, a familiar dragon enter his room. While he didn’t turn to address him, his gaze began to harden a bit.

    OuRyuumon walked into the room apprehensively. “Shouldn’t you be resting?” he suggested, looking over Alphamon’s bandaged form.

    “In a bit,” Alphamon curtly answered, his eyes still scanning across the computer screen. “I’m very busy right now.”

    “...I heard what happened. With you and Omegamon. I was worried when I heard you were hurt,” OuRyuumon told him, taking a few steps closer to Alphamon. “So… you okay?”

    “I’m fine,” Alphamon told him, finally glancing over at the dragon Digimon. “If that’s all, can you please leave?”

    OuRyuumon couldn’t help but cringe. “Leave?” he asked. “I came to see how you were, damn it! I know you’re mad at me, but you don’t have to be so damn callous!”

    Alphamon gritted his teeth and shifted his chair to look at OuRyuumon more fully. “I’m mad at you for a good reason, remember,” he answered, trying not to raise his voice in anger. He raised his hand to rub his eyes and sighed. “I don’t need this right now, OuRyuumon. I’m very busy trying to coordinate Omegamon’s rescue effort. If you’re just here about our relationship, please come back another time.”

    “You say like our relationship doesn’t matter at all…” OuRyuumon spoke, suddenly giving a toothy sneer. “Just tell me this!” he demanded. Suddenly, OuRyuumon felt very ill-at-ease. “…Are things over between us?”

    Alphamon released a growl of annoyance and glared at OuRyuumon. “You do know that Omegamon, a Royal Knight and one of our friends, has been captured by DarkKnightmon, don’t you?” Before OuRyuumon could reply, Alphamon spoke up again, cutting him off. “He’s been taken prisoner and that’s all you can think about?!”

    OuRyuumon snarled and he suddenly retaliated with a dark glare of his own. “You’re not the only one worried about him, you know! It just so happens that there are other things I care about too! You know, like you and me, which is more than I can say about what you care about!” the gold dragon snapped back fierily, balling his clawed fists up. “With you, it’s been ‘Omegamon this’ and ‘Omegamon that’ for the past month!”

    Alphamon narrowed his eyes hard at OuRyuumon. “Of course I’ve been talking about Omegamon. I’ve been trying to mend my friendship with him and now he’s been taken by DarkKnightmon.”

    “Yeah?! And what about our relationship?!” OuRyuumon demanded. “I didn’t mind when you were stressed out and snapping at me, but that’s all you did. I’m sick of you always passing me over!”

    “Passing you over?” Alphamon asked, his voice stern and rigid.

    “Yeah! Like now. And like for the position of Royal Knight! I’ve been with the Royal Knights from the start and you never even considered making me one of you! You inducted Examon before me!” OuRyuumon passionately told him. He clenched his teeth. “You never even think about me!”

    “I’m the leader of the Royal Knights, OuRyuumon, I’m not here to make you feel good about yourself,” Alphamon responded severely. He turned his head away from the dragon. “I’m not even sure why I’m with somebody who’s so selfish…”

    “Selfish?!” OuRyuumon snapped, his blood boiling at Alphamon calling him that. “You’re calling me selfish after all that I do for you?!”

    Alphamon growled and began to stand to his feet, but stopped when he felt pain shooting through his form. “Rgh… Oh, you mean like when you tried to murder DarkKnightmon for me, you mean…” he sarcastically replied, leering coldly at OuRyuumon.

    “Yeah! Exactly like that!” OuRyuumon urged. “I did that for you! To protect you!”

    Alphamon’s gaze hardened with fury. “If you think that I want that kind of protection…” he trailed off and turned back towards his computer. “You’re twisted, OuRyuumon.” He paused and considered his next words for a few moments. “…I want you to leave.”

    OuRyuumon scowled and swiped out his arm into the air. “Fine!” he shot back. “I’ll be in my room when you want to apologize!”

    “No, OuRyuumon…” Alphamon spoke, the anger from his voice gone. His words were suddenly heavy and there was a very subtle wince on his face. “I meant I want you to leave the Order…”

    After a few seconds of taking in Alphamon’s words, OuRyuumon’s eyes slowly widened with disbelief. His previously animated arms fell to his sides and he looked at Alphamon to make sure that he was serious. “Wh…What…?” he asked softly. It was as if all of the passion and frustration had been sucked out of his voice and replaced with total shock.

    Alphamon sighed and closed his eyes, leaning forwards on the desk in front of him. He couldn’t look OuRyuumon in the face. “…Go back to our home city, OuRyuumon. Go back to New Terminal.”

    “W-Wait a sec, Alphamon…” OuRyuumon begged, taking a step forwards, the pain clear in his face and his voice. “You’re not serious… Please…”

    Alphamon grimaced and clenched his fists underneath his desk. “Go, OuRyuumon… It’s over between us. And… you’re not Royal Knight material… I’ll reassign somebody to take over as the Captain of the Strike Forces.”

    OuRyuumon stared at Alphamon silently. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He felt an unbearable, stabbing pain in his heart, which seemed to pump at twice its normal speed. A hurt, heartbroken expression formed on OuRyuumon’s face, but he allowed it to be visible only for a second before covering it up with his anger. “FINE!” he shouted furiously. “But don’t you dare say that it’s because of what I did to DarkKnightmon!”

    Alphamon opened his eyes and slowly turned to look up at the tall, heartbroken dragon. “…What?”

    “That’s just a convenient excuse and you know it!” OuRyuumon exclaimed, half-sneering and half-grimacing. “You’re only breaking up with me because you want to pretend that you’re straight! You want to only like women for the sake of appearances!”

    Alphamon felt a blow to his pained heart as well. “What?!” he demanded. “That isn’t--“

    “THEN WHAT IS!?” OuRyuumon snapped. He snarled and folded his arms. “Oh, I know! Maybe it was Omegamon who you wanted all along, given how much you go on about him!”

    Alphamon growled and stood to his feet angrily. “OuRyuumon!”

    OuRyuumon levelled his furious eyes with Alphamon’s, revealing them to be cloudy and moist. “Do you think it’s been easy having a bisexual boyfriend?! Not only having to worry about you liking other men, but other women as well?! It doesn’t help that loads of them want you, since you’re the leader of the Royal Knights.”

    Alphamon grimaced. “Well, you don’t have to be insecure about us anymore…”

    OuRyuumon growled and turned away. “Good! I’m glad I don’t! You were always boring anyways!”

    Alphamon chose not to respond and a tense silence grew between them.

    “I’ll go pack my damn things then,” OuRyuumon spoke up, grimacing and not looking at Alphamon at all.

    “Okay… Have a safe journey,” Alphamon told him, looking down. “Tell your parents I—“

    “Get ****ed,” OuRyuumon interrupted brusquely. He stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

    Alphamon sighed and sat back down in his chair, slumping forward and staring at the ground with a pained grimace.

    OuRyuumon marched down the corridor and disappeared into the second door on the right, his bedroom. He pulled the door closed with his tail and grabbed his belt from the floor, aggressively tightening it around his waist. He then pulled his Gairyu scimitars from the weapon rack and placed them inside the belt. Next, he took a large sack from underneath his bed and began angrily throwing his clothes and personal items into it. This excluded Alphamon’s things, gifts from Alphamon, and things that reminded him of Alphamon, all of which he tossed into a corner of the room.

    Once the cloth sack was full, OuRyuumon swung it over his shoulder. For a few moments, he stood there and glared at the wall in front of him furiously. OuRyuumon’s body started to glow with an intense, golden sheen and aura.

    “OUGAI!” he yelled, suddenly tearing forwards like a golden comet. OuRyuumon burst through the wall to the outside, completely destroying it with ease. Multiple shards of stone exploded outwards as OuRyuumon rammed through the wall before taking into the sky, soaring on his metal wings. Several guards whipped around with surprise, wondering why OuRyuumon suddenly destroyed the exterior wall of his room. However, none dared to try and stop the dragon. They could tell that he was furious about something.

    Dukemon, who had been walking down the corridor of the sleeping quarters wing, suddenly raced over to OuRyuumon’s room to see what had happened. When he opened the door, he was shocked to see a gaping hole in the wall to the outside. “What the hell…?”

    The crimson knight jogged over to Alphamon’s room and swung open the door. “Alphamon!” he exclaimed, running into his room. “Something-- Alphamon?” He stopped when he saw the state that Alphamon was in.

    Alphamon was hunched over his chair, rubbing his eyes with his hand to hide a pained grimace.

    Dukemon frowned, immediately realizing that something was wrong. With worry and concern for his friend, he walked over to Alphamon and crouched down in front of him, placing his hand on his knee. “Alphamon… What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

    Alphamon looked down at him with his distraught red eyes. “…I’ve dismissed OuRyuumon from the Order.”

    Dukemon gaped, his jaw nearly dropping. “You… what? Why…?”

    Alphamon grimaced and looked down at his lap. “Dukemon, I… Sit down… There’s something that I need to tell you. It’s about OuRyuumon… and about myself…”

    -

    OuRyuumon steamed through the air, the gold aura from his Ougai attack trailing behind him as it faded. He weaved around one of the watch towers and flew towards the open part of the castle grounds, where the training grounds and the target range were.

    “Stupid Alphamon… Stupid Order… Who the hell needs them…?” he snarled through a strained voice and tightly narrowed eyes.

    He was so immersed in rage and sorrow, that he didn’t realize that he was flying into the target range.

    “Pendragon’s Glory!” a voice shouted from overhead.

    An emerald beam plummeted to the ground from the sky, twenty meters in front of OuRyuumon. The beam annihilated a target in the center of the firing range for ranged attacks. OuRyuumon was unaffected by this. He didn’t care; he continued flying forwards recklessly, despite the danger of moving through the range unannounced.

    “Pendragon’s Glory!” Examon’s voice echoed from above once again. The beam pierced the air and hit another target, closer to OuRyuumon this time.

    OuRyuumon pressed on, tearing through the sky furiously.

    Examon took aim at another target. “Pendragon’s--!” His eyes widened when OuRyuumon finally passed into his field of vision, from his place fifty meters above the ground. His finger had already pulled the trigger of the Ambrosius. He grunted and desperately jerked the long lance in a different direction, making sure to only hit within the target range without hitting OuRyuumon. The lance fired and a green beam surged from its muzzle, striking down in the middle of the range, missing the targets, but luckily missing OuRyuumon by a few meters.

    Examon sighed with relief when he saw that OuRyuumon was unharmed. However, he felt a twinge of irritation at OuRyuumon for doing something so reckless and foolish. The Caledfwlch wings flapped strongly before veering forwards and bringing Examon into a steep dive. Examon shouldered his lance and let his wings carry him down to the gold dragon.

    OuRyuumon flew forwards stubbornly, nearly at the castle wall bordering the training grounds now. He clenched his fists and carried himself faster. Suddenly, something silver and red obstructed OuRyuumon’s path and vision, dropping down in front of him. OuRyuumon angled his body and wings and came to a stop before he could crash into the broad wing in front of him.

    He scowled. “Watch where you’re going, damn it!”

    Examon turned around in the air to face him, staring at him firmly. “You should watch where you’re going, Captain OuRyuumon,” he told him in annoyance. “You just flew through the middle of the target range while Digimon were still firing. I know that it’s sunset so the range is closing in several minutes, but you must have seen my atta--“

    “Shut up and get out of my way, you friggin’ pain in the ***!” OuRyuumon snapped at him, swiping his free arm out and pushing him out of the way.

    Examon looked at him with surprise. He noticed OuRyuumon’s face. His eyes were red and glossy and there seemed to be the trail of a tear of his cheek. “OuRyuumon…” he said, his tone softer than it was before. He observed the dragon with astonishment. “Are you… crying?”

    “Like hell I am! It’s just sweat, idiot!” OuRyuumon growled, although suddenly turning his face away from Examon.

    Examon frowned deeply when he noticed the full bag slung over OuRyuumon’s back. “Where are you going?” he asked him.

    “Where does it look like?” OuRyuumon asked bitterly. “Away. I’m leaving the Order.”

    “…Why?” Examon questioned.

    “None of your damn business!” OuRyuumon said. With that, he flew past Examon and began flying away.

    Examon furrowed his brow as he watched OuRyuumon fly away from him. He looked at him and then turned back towards the castle. He wondered if the other Royal Knights knew about this. He considered going to tell them, but he knew how rash OuRyuumon could be. He figured that he shouldn’t be left alone, even if OuRyuumon wouldn’t thank him for it. He should try to get his fellow dragon to reconsider or at least find out what happened.

    The Caledfwlch wings, in tandem with Examon’s intentions, flapped strongly. The crimson dragon made his way after OuRyuumon.
     
  3. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 19: Omega

    The night wind whistled outside of the Lupolford town hall. It was the only sound Omegamon could hear aside from the flickering of the torches and the infrequent footsteps of the Digimon guarding him.

    He still kneeled in the middle of the great hall, bound down by the secure chains. He wasn’t sure how long he had been there by now, but he was sure that it felt longer than it actually was. The time seemed to drag on with nothing to do but kneel there and think and wait. Omegamon felt an intense, numb, tingling feeling in his legs and arms, likely due to the tight restraints and being forced to retain the same position for lengthy amounts of time, he figured.

    The sound of footsteps grew louder again. This time, they sounded like they were heading towards him.

    Omegamon slowly opened his blue eyes just in time to see the colour of crimson in his view. He looked up to see Dorbickmon smirking down at him with his hands on his hips.

    “How’s it going, oh white knight?” he asked him with an air of levity in his voice.

    Omegamon chose not to respond.

    “Oh, come on. You must be bored, kneeling there for hours on end,” Dorbickmon observed. “How’bout a chat?”

    “Are you trying to get information out of me?” Omegamon simply questioned, looking up at him. “You needn’t bother, because I’m not going to tell you anything.”

    “Hey, I’ve got no ulterior motives here,” Dorbickmon explained, folding his arms. “What you see is what you get with me.” He gave the knight a toothy, crooked smirk. “Trust me… if I wanted to interrogate you, you’d know about it. I just want to pass the time.”

    “All the same…” Omegamon replied. “I’m not in the mood for talking.”

    “I guess I don’t blame you, given your situation,” Dorbickmon conceded, looking down at him. “Okay. I’ll do the talking then.”

    Omegamon went quiet and listened. It wasn’t as if he could do anything to stop Dorbickmon.

    “You’re probably wondering who I am and why I’m out to get you and your companions, aren’t you?”

    Omegamon didn’t respond initially. Internally, he did admit that the question of who Dorbickmon was had crossed his mind. “Mercenary?” he asked.

    “No…” Dorbickmon answered. “I mean… yeah, that is my job, but DarkKnightmon didn’t hire me. I’m not just doing this for a fancy payout.” He grinned. “I guess, in a way, I hired him.”

    “He’s working for you?” Omegamon questioned with some surprise. This Dorbickmon seemed open to casual banter. Omegamon figured that, even though he was the prisoner, he could try to get some information out of him instead.

    “No, he’s doing his own thing. I’m just along for the ride because our goals kind of coincide,” Dorbickmon freely told him. He smirked a bit wider. “That was why I freed him from the Dark Area to begin with.”

    Omegamon’s eyes widened. “You…? But how?”

    “It wasn’t easy… It was so draining that it nearly killed me, to be honest,” Dorbickmon explained. “Dragon veins… Leylines, if you prefer. They’re these streams of raw power that flow through the earth of the Digital World that only a few Digimon can access. I used them to disrupt the security barrier of the Dark Area.”

    “Why?” Omegamon asked.

    Dorbickmon grinned broadly. He was finally at the part that he had been waiting for. “Because I don’t approve of your latest appointment to the Order. ‘Examon’, is it? Or the ‘Dragon Emperor’, maybe?”

    Omegamon frowned. “Examon…?”

    “I’m guessing he hasn’t told you about his past… You really ought to look into the histories of your members more. It wouldn’t sound very good if everybody knew that one of the Royal Knights was a murderer.”

    “…A murderer?” Omegamon spoke, looking up at him in surprise. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

    “Well… attempted murderer,” Dorbickmon replied, his grin disappearing completely and his facial features darkening. “I survived thanks to the town doctor.”

    Omegamon frowned deeply. “What are you talking about?”

    “Examon and I used to be the best of friends. He was a Coredramon and I was a Strikedramon. One day, we were playing around and he suddenly flipped out and tried to kill me… Nearly blasted me right through,” Dorbickmon explained with notes of a snarl in his voice. “The worst part was that he left me for dead. Didn’t even go to get help.”

    “I can’t believe that,” Omegamon told him. “Examon wouldn’t do something like that. Alphamon looks into potential Royal Knights very thoroughly.”

    Dorbickmon growled, leaning over the captive Royal Knight. “Think I’m lying? I’ve still got the scars to prove it.”

    Omegamon frowned. “They could be from anywhere. You’re a battle-hardened mercenary.”

    A hiss escaped Dorbickmon’s mouth. He leaned down and grabbed Omegamon’s chin roughly, forcing him to look up at him. “Well, they’re not. I guess you probably don’t want to believe that one of your fellow Royal Knights is a cold, callous killer. You don’t have believe me; I know the truth.”

    “I can take over from here, Dorbickmon,” a voice echoed down the hall.

    “Tch.” Dorbickmon let go of Omegamon and stood up straight, looking over. “DarkKnightmon?” he asked, folding his arms indignantly. “Didn’t know you were back.”

    “Can I have a word with Omegamon in private?” DarkKnightmon asked, walking down the great hall towards the two.

    “Go ahead,” Dorbickmon answered with a nonchalant shrug. “Mind if I go to the tavern?”

    “Please yourself. Just don’t run your mouth like you have been doing to Omegamon,” the dark knight advised him.

    Dorbickmon smirked. “I only said all that because I knew he wouldn’t be escaping anytime soon.”

    DarkKnightmon looked at the red dragon man carefully. “All the same… Loose babble loses battles.”

    Dorbickmon rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Okay… I heard that one already…” With that, Dorbickmon sauntered down the great hall in the other direction, towards the front entrance of the town hall. He disappeared into another room and, soon, the sound of two large doors opening and closing could be heard, followed by the sound of them locking.

    “Omegamon…” DarkKnightmon greeted.

    Omegamon glanced over as the black knight passed by him. “DarkKnightmon…” he muttered in reply.

    “How are you feeling?” DarkKnightmon asked, in what sounded like a genuinely concerned tone.

    “My legs are asleep… as are my hands. And my upper body is incredibly stiff,” Omegamon answered him plainly. He looked up at DarkKnightmon with hard, blue eyes. “I’m getting frustrated with whatever game you’re playing.”

    “I don’t play games, Omegamon,” DarkKnightmon assured him, returning the stare. “Not with what’s at stake.”

    “Then what are your plans for me?” Omegamon asked, narrowing his eyes. “If you think that the Royal Knights are stupid enough to fall into whatever trap you’re laying, you’re underestimating them.”

    “You have the wrong idea…” DarkKnightmon explained. He crouched down in front of Omegamon so that they were at eye level with one another. Despite Omegamon’s situation, he wanted to talk to him as if they were equals. “I want you to hear my side.”

    “You mean how the Royal Knights are too soft and ineffectual,” Omegamon concluded. “I heard that opinion nearly a decade ago. The difference is, you have been in the Dark Area since then, so you can’t actually say if our Order is ineffectual or not. We have lasted this long and the continent is still intact, so we must be doing something correctly.”

    “The previous mayor of Lupolford, Anubismon, raised an army of mercenaries and attacked the Dramon to the west, didn’t he?”

    “We became aware of his activities and stopped him before any real damage was done,” Omegamon countered.

    “If you all had listened to me, he never would have considered the idea in the first place,” DarkKnightmon argued.

    “I understand your point, DarkKnightmon, but the way you want to execute it isn’t right. We can’t intimidate Digimon into submission to our laws.”

    “It isn’t about intimidation; it’s about stringent order and rules, the ardent enforcement and subservience to our right and just laws. That’s the only way that order and justice will prosper,” DarkKnightmon urged him.

    “If you want a society like that, go to the Metal Empire,” Omegamon replied. “Besides, I can’t help but notice the hypocrisy here. You talk about Anubismon hiring mercenaries when you’re doing the exact same thing.”

    “Yes, well… necessity compels,” DarkKnightmon responded. He sighed and looked at Omegamon with a soft gaze. “I’ll tell you why you’re here right now, Omegamon… I’m asking you for a second time, from one friend to another… Join me.”

    Omegamon looked at him incredulously. “Join you…?” he asked. “You can’t be serious. You must think that I have no honour at all if you think I would turn against the Royal Knights.”

    “I’m not asking you to fight them, Omegamon. I want you to convince them that what I’m saying is right,” DarkKnightmon explained to him.

    I’m not convinced that what you’re saying is right,” Omegamon retorted, frowning.

    “But you at least conceded that I have a point,” DarkKnightmon pointed out. “Is what I’m suggesting really so outrageous?”

    “You can’t restrict a Digimon’s freedom for the sake of maintaining order,” Omegamon told him. He looked down at the chains around his body. “As someone whose freedom is being restricted, I know what it feels like, and it breeds resentment.”

    DarkKnightmon looked at Omegamon with a steely gaze and stood to his feet. “So… that’s a no, I take it?”

    “It’s a no,” Omegamon answered.

    DarkKnightmon’s cold eyes observed Omegamon quietly. “…At least think it over,” DarkKnightmon told him. “I’ll give you a day to consider it and then I’ll ask you once more. The answer you give will determine how you and I will proceed from now on.”

    The white knight looked up at DarkKnightmon with a standoffish leer, one of his eyes concealed by the shadows cast on his face by the torches. “Is that a veiled threat, DarkKnightmon?”

    “No. It’s a fact, Omegamon,” he answered rigidly. He began to walk past the bound Royal Knight. As he did, he placed his hand on Omegamon’s shoulder. “I hope you make the right decision,” he said, his hand sliding off his shoulder as he walked by Omegamon, towards the back of the great hall.

    Omegamon frowned and thought to himself. He considered each of his limited options. He went over the pros and cons of each choice, and what DarkKnightmon’s thought process might be regarding the proposal he made.

    He had a choice to make and he needed to make sure it was the one that was best for both the Order and himself. Or, if it wasn’t possible for both, then the one that he valued more.

    -

    OuRyuumon and Examon flew north in the night, soaring through another territory of the Free Area. The dark sky made it hard to see, so they had to rely on their keen eyes and instincts. Most of the moonlight was blocked by the clouds, lighting them up dimly.

    Examon followed behind OuRyuumon, who he could tell was still bristling at his presence. “It’s dark, OuRyuumon. At least find an inn to stay at for the night.”

    “For the last time, Exadork, stop following me,” OuRyuumon growled, not even looking over his shoulder.

    “Not until I figure out what’s going on and where you’re going,” Examon stubbornly replied, flying after him. “Alphamon would be angry if I just let you go without saying anything.”

    “Tch. He wouldn’t care,” OuRyuumon muttered to himself.

    “What?” Examon asked, not quite hearing that.

    “I said ‘bug off’. Go home already,” the surly, gold dragon responded, looking behind him.

    “It sounded like you said something completely different,” Examon pointed out.

    OuRyuumon growled and rubbed his face with frustration. “Look, I’m leaving the Order, okay?! Don’t try to stop me. It’s pointless.”

    “Why are you leaving the Order?” the other dragon Digimon pressed, wanting a real answer out of OuRyuumon.

    “If I tell you, will you leave me alone?” OuRyuumon asked, stopping his flight and turning to face Examon.

    “I suppose,” Examon responded, although he wasn’t actually sure if he would do that, depending on OuRyuumon’s answer.

    “Okay… I’m leaving because I can’t stand you,” OuRyuumon replied, sneering at Examon. “Now go home.”

    Examon sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, looking at OuRyuumon blandly. “I find that hard to believe, even if I know that you don’t like me,” he answered calmly.

    “Rrgh. Cripes, go home, Examon… I don’t know why you even care what I do. We’re not exactly close,” OuRyuumon retaliated tiredly.

    “I know, but I took an oath. Royal Knights look out for one another,” Examon explained, folding his arms.

    OuRyuumon scoffed and turned away, hiding his grimace from Examon. “I’m not a Royal Knight. I never have been.”

    “No, but you’re still an important part of the Order,” the crimson dragon replied. “The oath doesn’t stop with other Royal Knights.”

    “Alphamon sure doesn’t think I am,” OuRyuumon muttered grimly.

    “Alphamon?” Examon asked, arching an eyebrow.

    OuRyuumon sighed and turned his back to Examon. “Look, there’s a town up ahead. Wayside. We can stay there for the night and then you can head back to the castle in the morning,” he told the Royal Knight.

    “Fine…” Examon conceded. He knew that he couldn’t keep following OuRyuumon forever, especially if this was a case of him being as stubborn as a Bullmon, so Examon figured that he could at least try to get to the bottom of what was going on before morning. He also hoped that OuRyuumon would calm down a bit once they were inside the inn and maybe had something to drink. Examon would make sure that OuRyuumon would only drink in moderation, of course. He thought to himself. “Do you think there will be enough room for the both of us?”

    OuRyuumon glimpsed over his shoulder. “Whad’you mean?” he asked, arching his eyebrow.

    “In the room,” Examon answered.

    “What?! I’m not sharing a room with you!” OuRyuumon exclaimed, his eyes widening. He quickly turned forwards as his face heated up.

    “I didn’t bring any money with me,” Examon sheepishly replied, shrugging. “I don’t want to make you waste your bits on a second room for me.”

    OuRyuumon grimaced. He left in such haste that he hadn’t thought about taking his share from the Royal Knights’ vault before leaving, so he only had the petty cash that he had taken from his room. He might be forced to share the room with Examon to save money. “You’ve gotta be kidding! We can’t share the same room!” he stammered. “The innkeeper might get the wrong idea!”

    “…What wrong idea?” Examon questioned, oblivious to what he was talking about.

    OuRyuumon flushed harder and sneered. “That we’re sleeping together or something!” he yelled at him.

    “We are sleeping together. In the same room,” Examon replied matter-of-factly, still not picking up on OuRyuumon’s issue.

    “They might think we’re gay, idiot!” OuRyuumon shouted, glaring over his shoulder at Examon for making him spell it out.

    Examon frowned. “But… we’re not. It isn’t strange if two Royal Knights share the same room. Besides, I’m sure they have double rooms.”

    OuRyuumon palmed his face and growled. “You’ve gotta be fu- Fine! Whatever. You do the explaining then.”

    “I can’t say I understand the way your mind works sometimes, OuRyuumon,” Examon told him, grinning a bit.

    “I don’t think you understand anything…” OuRyuumon muttered, flying ahead a bit faster. He began a slow descend towards the collection of dim lights far in front of them and Examon followed after him to the town.

    -

    Dukemon walked out onto one of the castle balconies and let out an exhausted sigh. He brushed his hand through his white hair as it moved down to rub the back of his head. It was dark out now. The moons and stars speckled the dark sky as Dukemon approached the stone railing and leaned against the thick slab of rock.

    He looked out across the castle grounds. Several guards were walking to and from one side of the main building to gawp at the massive hole in the wall that OuRyuumon created. There was no doubt that gossip and rumours were already spreading about what had happened. However, of the Digimon there, only Dukemon knew the truth.

    A flash of crimson caught Dukemon’s attention. He turned his head and saw a familiar digital life form flying towards him. Zero ARMS: Grani soared over and stopped in front of the balcony, the moonlight glinting off of his metal back as he hovered.

    “Dukemon, there you are,” Grani said with a veiled sense of urgency in his composed voice. “What happened? There’s a massive hole in OuRyuumon’s wall.”

    “Yeah…” Dukemon said with a heavy breath. “I’m not sure how much I can tell you, but you’re going to find this much out anyways. OuRyuumon’s no longer a member of the Order…”

    Grani stared at him with disbelief as the words sunk in. “…What?” he whispered. “But he’s the Captain of the Strike Forces… He’s been around since the Order was formed. …What happened?”

    Dukemon frowned and looked down, over the edge of the balcony. “I’m not at liberty to say…”

    Grani frowned. “You can’t just say something like that and clam up,” the Zero ARMS told him. “His subordinates will want to know. The other Royal Knights will want to know.”

    “Look, I don’t know what I’m allowed to say,” Dukemon countered shortly, raising his hand and rubbing his face irritably. “Alphamon’s exhausted after today and so am I. We haven’t sorted out what’s best yet…”

    “There’s something going on and I’d like to know what…” the giant bird-dragon told his friend, flying over and perching on the railing beside Dukemon. “I can tell you’re upset over something.”

    “I told Alphamon I wouldn’t tell anybody. Not yet,” the crimson knight sighed. “He told me a lot of things. He really needs to be able to trust me right now.”

    “This is me you’re talking to, Dukemon…” Grani reassured him. “We’ve been friends for years. You know that I’ll be the soul of discretion.”

    “Damn it, Grani, I can’t,” he said with deeply furrowed brows. “I promised.”

    “You want to, though. It’s bad for you, Dukemon, when you don’t get things off of your chest,” the red dragon told him. “You know you can trust me with a secret.”

    Dukemon sighed and glanced up at the large, crimson raptor. “…You sure you can keep a secret?” he asked, a bit of Dukemon’s usual levity beginning to shine through again.

    “If I breathe so much as a word, you can tell my whole reconnaissance squadron – no, the whole Order - about the time I landed in that bog and needed you to rescue me,” Grani told him with a wry grin. However, his tone soon became the typical, serious yet calm voice that Gran was known for. “I just don’t want you feeling like there is nobody you can turn to for advice.”

    Dukemon chuckled. “I appreciate it, but I am a big boy, you know,” he replied with a tiny smile. “I know I’ve got problems with the Hazard, but you don’t need to coddle me.”

    “Believe me, I’m not trying to,” Grani assured him. “I know you’re more than capable of handling your own problems, but there’s nobody in this world that’s above needing a friendly word of advice now and then. At the very least, it can’t hurt to get a different perspective on whatever the problem is.”

    “Yeah, I guess so…” Dukemon conceded. He flashed Grani a look out of the corners of his eyes. “But if you do tell anybody, I really will tell everybody that story.” He laughed at the memory. “’Zero arms’, indeed.”

    Zero ARMS: Grani flushed and tilted his body to nudge Dukemon with his wing. “Yes, yes. Hilarious. So, what happened?”

    “Well…” Dukemon began, closing his eyes. “Short answer: Alphamon and OuRyuumon had a massive argument.”

    “I see…” Grani spoke, inspecting Dukemon carefully. “What about the long answer?”

    Dukemon looked around to make sure that nobody would hear except for Grani.

    “Well… Remember the night that DarkKnightmon turned on us?” he began, glancing up at the metal dragon.

    “It’s hard to forget, going in and seeing the state of the castle, not to mention all of you,” he answered.

    “You know how DarkKnightmon apparently fell off one of the towers that night?” Dukemon asked. “Well, Alphamon said that OuRyuumon pushed him. DarkKnightmon told him yesterday when they met in the Claw Desert.”

    “Surely DarkKnightmon was lying to spread distrust among the ranks,” Grani reasoned logically.

    “That’s what I said to Alphamon...” Dukemon said, pausing. “Except OuRyuumon admitted it. Thinking back on that night, it makes sense too… I still can’t believe it though.”

    “I see…” Grani responded, frowning. “That… I’m not really sure what to say, actually…”

    “I dunno either…” Dukemon said, sighing. “I’m still wrapping my head around it… I mean, I can see OuRyuumon’s point of view. I wanted to give DarkKnightmon a good beating that day too. But still… that’s going way too far.”

    “And that’s what Alphamon and OuRyuumon had a huge argument about?” the Zero ARMS questioned.

    “Sort of… It’s a big reason, but it’s not the whole reason…” Dukemon said. He turned to Grani. “You might want to sit down. This is going to be a big shock too.”

    Grani looked at him blankly as he perched on the railing. “I’m sitting to the best of my ability.”

    “Alphamon’s bisexual,” the crimson knight told him bluntly.

    “Bisexual…” Grani repeated. He frowned. “And that means…?”

    “He likes both males and females from a physical and romantic perspective,” Dukemon explained.

    “I see… And… that’s a big deal? As a Zero ARMS, I only have a gender from an aesthetic and mental standpoint, not a biological one, so I’m not very good with these matters, as you well know,” Grani sheepishly said.

    “Well… yes and no…” Dukemon replied, scratching his head, with an expression that made him look like he was at odds with himself. “I mean, it’s not a big deal that he’s interested in both genders; Rhodo’s gay and I’m cool with that. It’s just a shock that I’m just finding out after all these years.” He sighed. “I know not all of the Royal Knights will be thrilled about it if he ever tells them, though.”

    “Do you begrudge him for not telling you?” Grani asked.

    “No… I understand why,” Dukemon answered. “He explained to me. To be honest, I don’t even really see him that differently. He’s still the same guy.”

    “I’m glad about that,” Grani told him. “But where does that come into the argument?”

    “He was in a relationship with OuRyuumon, who’s gay,” Dukemon said with an ironic chuckle.

    Grani blinked with disbelief. “They… were? But… that’s like you and I being in a romantic relationship,” the Zero ARMS remarked.

    “Hey, now. Don’t get any ideas,” Dukemon teased his friend.

    “Ignoring that…” Grani glanced over at him. “The most shocking thing is that OuRyuumon was able to keep a secret so well.”

    Dukemon chuckled a bit. “For you, maybe… But yeah… You can see why I’m a little out of it right now. It was a huge shock; I’m still coming to terms with everything. And there’s still more to what happened… I haven’t even gotten to Omegamon yet.”

    “Then perhaps we should go in to your room,” Grani suggested, turning around on the railing to face the door. “It’s more private there. And we can talk over some herbal tea.”

    “Yeah, okay…” Dukemon agreed, turning around and heading inside.

    Grani gave Dukemon a sympathetic look and flew around to meet Dukemon at the balcony of his room.

    -

    The morning rolled around across the Free Area. The dew laced along the countless blades of grass sparkled in the morning sun, whose light began to warm a small town after a somewhat crisp night. In the inn, OuRyuumon began to wake up after a tumultuous sleep.

    OuRyuumon gave a soft snarl as he woke up, slowly and groggily. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers and stirred in the bed.

    He was situated in a relatively small double room. The gold dragon got what he paid for in the room, which wasn’t a whole lot. He had tried to minimize the price since he didn’t have a whole lot of money with him, and he needed to make it last until he arrived at New Terminal. He could smell the aromatic scent of tea and bread coming from the floor below, which was the tavern and dining area. Also, from that level, he could hear the muffled chatter of other guests talking over breakfast.

    It was about the size of his room back at the Royal Knights’ headquarters, which would have been fine, except there was a second bed thrown in nearby, which took up a lot of the actual space. Residing in that second bed was Examon, who slept in a bed about one meter adjacent from his. The beds were small for them. The dragon’s large wings and long tail stuck out awkwardly from under the covers, stretching over the sides of the bed. This caused the blanket on top of the bed to slip down to Examon’s waist, exposing the top half of the dragon’s body. OuRyuumon could barely fit his own serpentine body in the small bed, having had to arch his back to fit.

    OuRyuumon turned his head and looked over at Examon, inspecting the Royal Knight. “I can’t believe he’s still here… stubborn bastard…” he thought to himself. “Can’t he see that I didn’t leave by choice?

    The gold dragon sighed and continued looking at Alphamon. “I’m gonna have to tell him something though… Surprised that he’s going to all this trouble for me even though I made it clear that I didn’t like him…” OuRyuumon mused.

    His violet eyes lingered on Examon, shifting from the red dragon’s face down to his exposed chest. OuRyuumon began to appreciate the dragon’s athletic chest muscles, his gaze going over the contours of his pectoral and abdominal muscles before eyeing his arms as well. He liked the sheen of his red and white scales as the sunlight from the window spread across Examon’s wings and chest.

    He sure is hot though… OuRyuumon thought to himself with a soft sigh through his nostrils as he enjoyed the scene before him.

    However, the dragon soon grimaced and turned his head in the exact opposite direction, sneering with frustration and embarrassment. “Don’t be an idiot, OuRyuumon! You’re on the rebound from Alphamon and you know it. Don’t do anything stupid with a straight guy who you’re trying to get to stop following you, damn it.

    Examon let out a soft groan as he began to wake up. He opened his eyes and squinted at the sunlight entering them. “Rrr…” he mumbled tiredly, yawning and sitting up in his bed. He turned to look over at OuRyuumon. “OuRyuumon…? Are you awake?” he asked him.

    OuRyuumon paused for a moment to consider his answer. “…Yeah,” he decided to reply, turning his head and looking up at the ceiling. The former-Captain pulled the bed covers down and slid out of bed, standing to his feet and stretching.

    Examon pulled his sheets down too. He turned and slung his legs over the side of the bed, preparing to stand up next to OuRyuumon. When OuRyuumon turned around, he saw that Examon was sitting right behind him. His eyes immediately gazed down at Examon’s waist and his spread legs, shamelessly checking his scaled torso out.

    D-Damnit!” OuRyuumon thought to himself, immediately turning away and flushing at the dirty thoughts entering his mind. “Don’t even think about it!

    Examon stood up behind OuRyuumon and looked at him. “Feeling any better this morning?” he asked him.

    “Fine!” OuRyuumon exclaimed swiftly, not turning around and trying to ignore the proximity of the draconic Royal Knight. “Just… get your armour on already!”

    “Can I at least polish my lance first?” Examon questioned, folding his arms.

    OuRyuumon’s eyes widened and his face heated up greatly. “N-No! What d’you want to do that for?!”

    Examon shrugged and looked over at the Ambrosius lance propped up against the wall. “I was planning to yesterday, but I guess it’s not vital to do right now…” he supposed, walking over to his armour, which was strewn across a chair.

    OuRyuumon sighed with relief and he began to relax again. He didn’t entirely trust himself at the moment, after everything that happened yesterday.

    Examon put on his armour over the front of his body so that the chrome digizoid covered from his abdomen up to his collar. He then turned back to OuRyuumon and folded his arms. “Have you reconsidered your idea?”

    The jagged rows of teeth inside of OuRyuumon’s mouth suddenly gnashed together. It looked like Examon wasn’t giving up. “You’re still on that, are you?” he asked, looking over at Examon with an irate sneer.

    “I want to stop you from making a mistake,” Examon told him calmly.

    OuRyuumon scoffed. “A mistake…” he muttered. “You don’t know the half of it.”

    “So tell me. I won’t judge,” the red dragon offered.

    “It’s… complicated,” OuRyuumon said dismissively, walking across the room and plopping his tailed backside down on Examon’s bed. “It’s no use, whatever you’re trying to do.”

    “At least hear me out, OuRyuumon,” Examon told him, walking over and sitting on OuRyuumon’s bed to face him.

    OuRyuumon rolled his eyes. “I guess this is what it’ll take to get him off my back… Maybe it’d be easier to just tell him that Alphamon kicked me out… Alphamon’ll probably tell everybody anyways. …No, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction,” he thought to himself. He looked up at Examon. “I’m listening… Let’s hear it.”

    Examon nodded. “When I first joined the Royal Knights, I almost quit as well,” he admitted.

    OuRyuumon was genuinely surprised. “You did?” Internally, he thought to himself, “Why didn’t you? Maybe then I could have taken your spot.

    “I probably don’t have to tell you that I didn’t exactly fit in,” Examon told him with a slight grin. “Not only was I the new guy, but, well…” He gestured to his large, draconic body. “Let’s just say I faced a lot of opposition.”

    “From me, you mean,” OuRyuumon flatly replied, folding his arms.

    “You, Duftmon, Craniamon, UlforceVeedramon…” Examon answered. “I know you each had your different reasons. Anyways, I didn’t feel like staying there was worth the aggravation.”

    “What stopped you?”

    “Dukemon,” Examon replied. “He made me realize that being part of the Royal Knights was too good to throw away. It really is an honour being part of the Order, being able to impact the world more than I could just being on my own in the United Dramonic Coalition.”

    OuRyuumon winced a bit. “Great…” he muttered sarcastically.

    “What I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t throw away something so important. You’ll end up regretting it,” Examon said.

    The gold dragon growled and rubbed the bridge of his draconic snout, his frustration getting the better of him. “You don’t get it… I threw it away years ago.”

    “I don’t understand…”

    “DarkKnightmon… I pushed him off that tower,” OuRyuumon explained ruefully, looking down at his lap.

    Examon was silent for a few moments. “…I see…” he replied, reserving his judgment as much as he could.

    “He was plotting to overthrow Alphamon, okay?!” OuRyuumon defensively said. “I know that’s not a great excuse, but I can’t change it now…” He sighed. “Anyways… he told Alphamon. Alphamon and I had a big argument and he told me to leave the Order. I didn’t want to leave, so there’s no point trying to convince me otherwise.”

    “…Oh…” Examon said, a bit unsure of what to say now.

    The dragon gave a hollow laugh. “Go on. Laugh. Chew me out. Do whatever. You’ve probably been waiting for a chance like this,” OuRyuumon told him, his head still bowed.

    “I’m not that petty,” Examon replied, frowning at OuRyuumon. “Besides, I’m in no position to say anything… I hurt a friend in the past too. What I did was probably as bad as what you did, if not worse.”

    “Huh…?” OuRyuumon asked, glancing up.

    “You were eliminating a dangerous threat who showed hostile intent. I lost control of my power, hurt my friend, and then skulked off like a coward,” Examon admitted with a pained expression.

    OuRyuumon observed Examon for a few moments. He then smiled ironically. “It might be hard to believe, but DarkKnightmon was my friend too… in a weird sort of way. We argued a hell of a lot and I felt threatened by him sometimes, but we looked out for each other in battle. Even I think you’re being too generous to me, Examon. I mean, I still feel justified in what I did, but I know that what I did wasn’t ‘right’. I still feel guilty when I think about it. What I did wasn’t all that much better from whatever you did.”

    OuRyuumon paused and thought to himself. “…Why the hell am I telling you all this?” he asked aloud.

    “You’ve been keeping it in for too long, I suppose,” Examon replied calmly. “There’s something cathartic about telling a secret that you’ve been holding in for longer than you can remember…”

    OuRyuumon’s brows furrowed. “But… Why you of all people? We’re not exactly friends. We’re not even alike!”

    Examon shrugged. “We’re both dragon Digimon.”

    “You’re from the UDC and I’m from New Terminal,” OuRyuumon countered. He sighed and rubbed his face. “I dunno… I feel like I know you better, I guess. I can understand how you feel out of place in the Order.”

    “Can you?” Examon asked. “You’ve been Alphamon’s best friend since before the Order was formed, haven’t you?”

    “And that’s all I ever amounted to: Alphamon’s best friend,” OuRyuumon answered with a scowl. “I was never good enough to be one of the Royal Knights. I have the skills, but I don’t have the… - I dunno – ‘inner fortitude’ or some ****. According to Alphamon, I’m too selfish, petty, violent, - oh - and I disgust him.” OuRyuumon glimpsed away grimly. “It wasn’t just being a dragon Digimon with me. I was never ‘one of the Knights’. Sure, I was Captain of the Strike Forces, but I still felt like I was just tagging along. At least you’re actually one of ‘em. And then there’s…” OuRyuumon trailed off. He already said more than he wanted to say. He wasn’t about to reveal that too.

    “I never knew you felt that way…” Examon said, looking at him sympathetically.

    “Why do you think I don’t like you?” OuRyuumon challenged. “The first pure dragon Royal Knight should have been me.”

    “I can understand why that angers you, but that’s hardly my fault,” Examon retorted.

    “I know that!” OuRyuumon snapped, leering at him. “But you’re still there. …Tch. Doesn’t matter now anyways. You’ll never have to see me again now,” he told the other dragon, standing to his feet and going to collect his belt and scimitars.

    Examon frowned and stood up as well. “OuRyuumon… Don’t.”

    OuRyuumon turned around. “You really are dense about everything except combat, aren’t you?” he told him. “Alphamon kicked me out. Even if I wanted to, going back there wouldn’t change anything.”

    “Except if Alphamon changed his mind,” Examon countered. “He’s a rational Digimon. He probably thinks differently now.”

    “Doubtful. Besides, there’s no way I’m crawling back there.”

    Examon frowned. “Don’t let your pride get in the way

    “Don’t let the door get in your way,” OuRyuumon told him, thumbing over to the door to their room.

    The crimson dragon knight narrowed his eyes. “Pig-headed… I’m trying to help you here.”

    “I didn’t ask for you to come after me,” OuRyuumon told him sharply. “If you joined the Royal Knights to atone for blowing your friend up or something, that’s your call, but don’t involve me.”

    Examon suddenly glared at him darkly. He clenched his teeth and balled up his claws, as if trying to keep himself from going for OuRyuumon. “…Fine. Leave. I don’t know why I bothered coming. You’re probably right about me. I let it blind me from seeing the truth,” Examon scathed. “Alphamon was right; you don’t deserve to be part of the Order. You’ve always been a destroyer… That’s not something the Royal Knights need.”

    OuRyuumon suddenly sneered and walked up to him, glaring into Examon’s eyes. “And what are you?! You just joined the Order to make yourself feel better!”

    “I joined the Order to create a better Digital World, like I did with the UDC,” Examon lowly replied, gritting his sharp teeth.

    “Hah! You try to act all humble, but you really are arrogant!” OuRyuumon exclaimed, the two glaring at each other. “You’ve gotta be arrogant to think that you can actually do that on your own! You really think that highly of yourself, don’t you?!”

    Examon growled. “It’s a hell of a lot better than what you do! Fighting for pleasure… It’s disgusting! Fighting without a purpose is just sadistic self-indulgence. It’s no better than what our enemies do.”

    “Get down from that ivory tower of yours! You think you’re better than everyone else… You probably thought that way ever since you became an Examon in the UDC. It must’ve felt pretty good to be a big fish in a little pond, huh? Well… what you’re trying to forget is that it’s in a dragon’s nature to fight! Okay, you had a bad experience because you couldn’t control your power.” OuRyuumon poked his clawed finger against Examon’s chest. “Now you’re all awkward and repressed because you’ve been trying to repress those instincts. You have that calm and collected voice and demeanour like ice wouldn’t melt, but I can see it in your eyes: you’re itching to punch me right now!”

    Examon sneered deeper into OuRyuumon’s eyes, clenching his fists a little bit tighter. “No…” he replied as calmly as possible. “I want you to leave.”

    “Liar,” OuRyuumon told him.

    Examon stifled a snarl. “…I’m not.”

    OuRyuumon looked at him for a few more seconds. “…Tch,” he scoffed, backing off and turning away, walking away from the dragon to collect his bag. “You don’t even have the balls to be honest about your feelings…”

    “You mean like you were with DarkKnightmon?” Examon challenged.

    OuRyuumon snarled and glared at Examon over his shoulder. “It wasn’t like…” He paused and shook his head, slinging his bag over his shoulder. “Whatever… When you get back, tell Alphamon that I want all of my bits delivered to my place in New Terminal. Later, Exadork. Don’t worry; I’ll still pay for the room.”

    With that, OuRyuumon gave an irritable flick of his tail and walked out of the room, heading down to the first level of the inn.

    Examon let out a pent up sigh and rubbed the back of his neck, walking over to get his Ambrosius lance from the wall. “Well, I tried…”

    -

    It was the afternoon in Lupolford.

    Omegamon remained in the same position he was in since when he had been first tied up. He hadn’t slept much during the night. He had only been able to nod off for a few hours at a time before waking with a jerk. Being chained to the ground in a kneeling position wasn’t exactly conducive to getting a good night’s sleep, especially since he couldn’t even lie down.

    He had done a lot of thinking since he last spoke to DarkKnightmon. He had thought about all of his alternatives. Omegamon had considered pretending to join DarkKnightmon, but Omegamon knew that DarkKnightmon wasn’t so naïve as to trust him completely; there would have been some sort of restraint placed on him to ensure that he wouldn’t simply escape or turn on DarkKnightmon as soon as he had been freed. Being on the introverted side, the white knight had little confidence in his acting abilities as well, and he was sure that DarkKnightmon would be able to suss out even a skilled liar. Those factors made him doubt that option.

    He also considered stalling for time by asking DarkKnightmon if he could think about it. He hoped that he could give himself enough time to think of other ways to free himself or give the Royal Knights enough time to rescue him. Given the strength of the Chrome Digizoid chains and the fact that the Royal Knights likely didn’t have a lead to go off of, he doubted that choice as well.

    Finally, he considered calling DarkKnightmon’s bluff and flatly refusing to aid him. DarkKnightmon kept speaking of their friendship, and even when DarkKnightmon had attacked them in the castle, he didn’t express any interest in killing him or any of the other Royal Knights. Omegamon suspected that DarkKnightmon didn’t want to kill them, so there was no real serious consequences to just turning him down. That way, he didn’t encourage DarkKnightmon’s plans by making him think that there was a chance that he thought it was a good idea.

    Omegamon waited. It was all that he could do. Every so often, he made an attempt to fight against the chains, but it always ended the same way.

    Finally, he heard a familiar set of footsteps approaching from behind him.

    “DarkKnightmon,” Omegamon spoke, so accustomed to the weight and the time between each stride that he could tell who it was without looking.

    “Omegamon…” DarkKnightmon replied, walking in front of the Royal Knight and turning to face him. “Have you made your decision?”

    “I have,” Omegamon told him.

    “Good… What is it?” DarkKnightmon questioned.

    Omegamon paused. He closed his eyes. “I won’t help you. I won’t ever help you… At least, not when it comes to what you want to do to the Order.” He opened his eyes and looked up at DarkKnightmon. “I’m sorry.”

    DarkKnightmon looked down at him coldly. For awhile, he didn’t speak. He just stared at Omegamon with an icy, unreadable expression.

    “…I see,” he finally spoke. “Then… I’m sorry too.”

    Omegamon frowned. “What for?” he asked him.

    “You leave me with no choice,” DarkKnightmon said, suddenly moving.

    He walked behind Omegamon and turned to face his back.

    Warily, Omegamon looked over his shoulder to see what DarkKnightmon was up to.

    DarkKnightmon kneeled down behind Omegamon. He drew a key from inside his armour and put his hand on the chrome digizoid lock that connected the chains to one of the two rungs in the marble floor. DarkKnightmon inserted the key, twisted it a few times in a very precise sequence, and forced the lock to pop open and release the chains from the metal ring. He then turned to Omegamon’s other side to do the same thing to the lock in the other ring.

    Omegamon watched as the chain came loose from the floor. He gave a tentative strain against the chains still around his caped body, but they were still too secure for him to free himself. He began to wonder if DarkKnightmon was going to do it for him anyways.

    Instead, DarkKnightmon grabbed him roughly by the back, clutching the chains as well as Omegamon’s cape as he tersely hauled the white knight to his feet. Before Omegamon could begin to try to fight against him, DarkKnightmon pulled Omegamon forcefully, forcing him to walk.

    Omegamon winced as his blood suddenly rushed into his numb legs after being still for so long, the circulation to his lower extremities suddenly flowing. His legs buckled with every step, as they were too numb to walk on, but DarkKnightmon forced Omegamon to walk regardless and held him up whenever his legs failed him.

    “What are you doing?” Omegamon demanded, still feeling a surge of warmth and prickling needles within his legs.

    DarkKnightmon didn’t reply. He kept his hand firmly on Omegamon’s bonds and pushed him towards the back of the great hall.

    The further that they went, the more that Omegamon was able to see. At the end of the great hall, on the raised level at the top of a couple small steps, past the ornate throne, there was something in the floor. It was dark and seemed to move.

    On closer inspection, it appeared to be a small fissure in the marble floor, about two meters long and several inches wide. It was black and there were wafts of darkness seeping out of it. Omegamon’s eyes widened when he recognized what it was: a dark rift.

    “A dark rift…?” Omegamon whispered as they grew closer to it. “But I thought they closed up after you escaped.”

    DarkKnightmon ignored the question. “You see, Omegamon…” he spoke, his voice cold and stoic. “Even when Digimon don’t want to be controlled, there are always ways to control them.”

    “What?” Omegamon demanded, looking over his shoulder at DarkKnightmon. Before he could say anything else, he felt DarkKnightmon’s boot collide with the back of Omegamon’s legs, forcing them to buckle and for the knight to fall to his knees in front of the rift. Omegamon looked down and saw the shadows that came from the rift begin to aggregate and reach towards Omegamon. Omegamon’s eyes widened. He suddenly remembered what Examon and Craniamon said happened to Tankdramon. “D-DarkKnightmon!” he shouted angrily, suddenly resisting a lot more fervently. “What are you doing?!”

    “I’m sorry, Omegamon. You left me with no other choice. You and your blind, foolish loyalty to Alphamon, the stubborn idiot… You can’t see past your bonds, even when you know that what I’m saying is right. Now, I have to do this,” DarkKnightmon responded. He pushed his hand hard against Omegamon’s back, trying to force him down onto the rift. “These are the powers of darkness that grew and thrived deep inside the Dark Area. They are forces of hatred and corruption. They feed on the darkness in the hearts of Digimon and take them over.”

    Omegamon felt his bound upper body being pushed towards the rift beneath him. Shadowy tendrils reached up from the rift and grabbed at his arms, chest, and waist eagerly. Omegamon snarled and flexed his abdominal muscles as he fought against them desperately, trying to pull himself away and struggle against DarkKnightmon’s pushing. “DarkKnightmon…! Don’t… do this…!”

    “You should have joined me voluntarily,” DarkKnightmon said, his yellow eyes flashing. “Omegamon.” With those words, he gave a final, violent push, breaking through Omegamon’s resistance. He shoved down powerfully, forcing Omegamon’s chest down onto the floor, his face and upper body hitting the cracked marble around the rift painfully.

    Omegamon immediately tried to push himself back up, but it was too late. The aura of darkness flowing from the rift was already consuming him. The tendrils coiled around his limbs, body and neck, burning at his skin as they corrupted his data. The white knight let out a mighty bellow of pain and anguish as his body was enveloped by darkness.

    The dark data flooded through his form, taking over the holy data of his body and consuming his soul and digicore. A final shout sounded from Omegamon’s mouth before it was drowned out by the roaring shadows.

    DarkKnightmon watched with a stoic expression as the shadows washed over the body of his friend. When the dark aura faded in a wisp of black and violet, there was a new Digimon kneeling in the place where Omegamon had previously been.

    The chrome digizoid chains fell around him, broken and shattered. A dark figure stood up, panting with exhaustion. It turned around to face DarkKnightmon.

    It was Omegamon, yet it was not Omegamon. His body looked like Omegamon’s, but it was drastically different. Instead of his usual white armour, the plate mail he wore was as black as the night. There was no colour in his form; all of the white, blue, and orange had been replaced by a fearsome ebon hue. His body was black from head to toe, with only gold trimming on his chest and spikes. As the chains fell, his cape spread more freely. Instead of white and bright red, the fabric was sable on the outside and blood red on the inside.

    The new Omegamon observed DarkKnightmon with a calm, dark stare. “DarkKnightmon…” he spoke. His voice sounded like Omegamon’s, but instead of the gentle, sensible, and caring tone of his words, they were now menacing and baleful.

    DarkKnightmon cautiously observed him. “…Omegamon.”

    “Zwart,” Omegamon corrected suddenly, his red eyes hardening viciously. He innately knew what his form now was, and it wasn’t that of Omegamon of the Royal Knights. “…Omegamon Zwart.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “Omegamon Zwart, then…”

    Omegamon Zwart’s eyes narrowed.

    “Get me my weapons… And tell me what you need me to do…”
     
  4. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 20: The Daydream of a Digicore​


    Dukemon leaned on the railing of one of the castle balconies, gazing off into the distance. He watched as the sun rose in the morning, sending light across the grey sky. The crisp refreshing breeze blew across his scales, sweeping his long, white hair behind him gently.

    Beside him sat Grani, who watched the sunrise with Dukemon before he went to begin his scouting duties. Ever since Omegamon had been captured, Grani and his scouts had been working extremely hard to try to locate either the Royal Knight or his captors.

    The two stood in silence, completely at ease in the other’s presence as they watched the day begin.

    They initially didn’t notice a third Digimon walk out onto the balcony. Grani heard some shifting and glanced behind him to see Alphamon walking over.

    “Alphamon?” he asked. “Have you come to join us in watching the sunrise?”

    “If you don’t mind,” Alphamon responded, walking over to Dukemon’s side.

    Dukemon arched a brow and looked at him suspiciously. “Are you sure you should be up, Alphamon?” he asked him. He offered a playful grin. “I don’t need to get Duskmon up here, do I?”

    Alphamon responded with a small, faint smile as he leaned forwards on the railing. “No, I’m feeling better today, thank you,” he told him.

    Grani glanced between the two Digimon. His large body then moved when he stood up straight on the railing. “I think I’ll get started on my scouting duties. There’s a lot to do. Much to organize.”

    “Alright,” Alphamon replied, glancing over at the sizeable Zero ARMS.

    “Huh? Oh, sure,” Dukemon said, looking at his friend as well. “Good luck, Grani.”

    Grani would have nodded, but his head didn’t allow for a lot of movement, so he responded with a ‘thank you’. The two Royal Knights watched as the red dragon-bird took off from the balcony and swooped down towards the ground before veering left and disappearing around the side of the building.

    When he was gone, Dukemon went back to staring off into the distance.

    Alphamon looked over at the crimson knight. “Are you thinking about Omegamon?” he asked him.

    “Yeah…” Dukemon admitted. “What do you think DarkKnightmon wants with him?”

    “Probably not for information. If he wanted to use him as bait to lure us into a trap, we would have gotten at least a clue to Omegamon’s whereabouts by now,” Alphamon figured. “I think he wants to hurt me. That’s why he revealed what he did about OuRyuumon when he did.”

    “But he doesn’t know that you and OuRyuumon were together, does he?” Dukemon asked.

    Alphamon sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. It was still strange for him to hear somebody else talking about him and OuRyuumon in that way. “No… I highly doubt it. I didn’t even know that OuRyuumon was gay back when DarkKnightmon was around.”

    “Ah… Well, you’re not going to let him get to you, right?” Dukemon questioned, looking over at him.

    Alphamon smiled a bit. “No… I have been for the past week, but… not anymore. I’m the Lord of the Empty Seat.”

    Dukemon smiled as well. “And you’ve got your Royal Knights around you to support you, remember.”

    “I know…” Alphamon replied, locking eyes with Dukemon. He stalled for a few moments. “Dukemon… Are you sure you’re fine with me being… the way I am? ‘Bisexual’, if you want to call it something.”

    Dukemon turned to look at him. “Again, yeah… I’ll be honest, though, it came as a massive shock and I was a little annoyed that you only just told me yesterday, but… I can understand why. It really doesn’t change anything about you in my eyes. You’re still you, even if you like guys as well as girls, just like I’m still me, even if I have the Digital Hazard, right?”

    Alphamon smiled at him gratefully. “Right… Thank you.”

    “Anyways… Have you changed your mind about OuRyuumon, by any chance?”

    A frown grew on Alphamon’s face as he considered Dukemon’s question. “…I don’t know. I’m not going to say I won’t change my mind, but… I think it’s better if he and I are apart for awhile. Maybe I’ll feel differently after some time... Besides, I can’t think about him right now. We need to focus on rescuing Omegamon.”

    “Well, okay…” Dukemon said uncertainly. He grinned slightly. “From a strategic standpoint, it’d be good if you could still go Ouryuken with him.”

    “I think a lot of mending is needed until we’re able to do that again…” Alphamon answered somberly.

    Dukemon looked at Alphamon with a concerned expression. “The argument was that bad, huh…?”

    “We both said some things that struck deep,” Alphamon explained, wincing a bit.

    “Oh…” Dukemon put his hand on Alphamon’s shoulder and rubbed. “I’m sure you’ll both feel differently when you see each other again.”

    “We’ll see…” the black knight answered, looking towards the sunrise. He turned around and faced the entrance from the balcony into the main building. “Anyways, I have to get started.”

    “So soon?” Dukemon asked, withdrawing his hand. “Have you even showered yet?”

    “I need to send communiqués to the states of the Free Area, asking them for possible information on Omegamon, DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, or Dorbickmon. Chances are that somebody has seen something. We should also start printing ‘wanted’ posters offering a reward for useful information about DarkKnightmon.”

    “Want me to ask Dynasmon to call the Warrior Ten and ask AtlurKabuterimon to draw up the portraits?” Dukemon asked.

    “If you can drag him out of bed,” Alphamon replied with a small smile, nodding at Dukemon and heading inside.

    Dukemon looked over his shoulder. “By the way… Don’t worry about OuRyuumon either. Despite the way he acts sometimes, he can take care of himself.”

    Alphamon stopped and nodded. “One other thing… Have you seen Examon? Nobody’s seen him since yesterday and his bed doesn’t look like it’s been slept in. He and Sleipmon are supposed to have military command lessons later this morning.”

    “Can’t say I have… Maybe he got up early to train or do something else productive,” Dukemon replied.

    “I’ll look around,” Alphamon said. “I’m going to call a meeting at around noon about what to do about Omegamon and what happened with OuRyuumon.”

    “I’m guessing you won’t be telling them the whole story,” Dukemon supposed, looking over at Alphamon.

    “Not now…” he replied. He paused. “But eventually. I’ve seen what happens when a secret is discovered rather than admitted. Now’s just… not the right time for that.”

    “I understand,” Dukemon told him. “Don’t worry. I’ll back you up.”

    Alphamon nodded. “Thank you... For being so supportive,” he said sincerely.

    Dukemon grinned and nodded.

    “I’ll see you in a few hours, then,” Alphamon told him, turning towards the door and disappearing inside the castle.

    -

    MirageGaogamon walked down a stone corridor on the second level of the town hall, where his new residence was.

    He had a rough sleep. He still wasn’t used to the unusually comfortable bed after sleeping in a prison cot for years, and he had a bad dream that he couldn’t shake. He didn’t have anything to do that afternoon, as DarkKnightmon was busy here and Dorbickmon went off somewhere, so he had decided to have a nap, but that was cut short by what sounded like a yell of pain. MirageGaogamon assumed it had been another dream, so he ignored it.

    He made his way down to the great hall to see if DarkKnightmon was still watching Omegamon. As soon as he passed through the door to the back end of the great hall, he stopped. The spot where Omegamon was bound was empty and the Royal Knight was gone. He began to dash in, but noticed something out of the corners of his eyes as soon as he did. MirageGaogamon swerved to his right and saw Omegamon’s form standing nearby. However, he noticed that Omegamon’s armoured body was now coated black and he had somehow regained his weapons. MirageGaogamon tensed up. He must have evolved or mode changed to break free.

    MirageGaogamon acted. His body became an azure blur as he darted across the floor, poising his claw gauntlets.

    Omegamon Zwart whirled around just as MirageGaogamon closed in on him, his weapons raised.

    MirageGaogamon pressed his claws against Omegamon’s neck, but his eyes widened upon feeling and seeing the black knight’s Grey Sword against his neck as well. He looked into Omegamon Zwart’s cold, fearsome, red eyes and felt a chill down his spine at how different they seemed compared to Omegamon’s usual look.

    “MirageGaogamon! Omegamon Zwart! Lower your weapons,” DarkKnightmon told them, striding over to the two.

    “W-What?” MirageGaogamon asked in a voice that required an answer.

    Omegamon Zwart’s eyes narrowed at MirageGaogamon, but he withdrew his blade. He then swatted MirageGaogamon’s clawed hand aside with the muzzle of his Garuru Cannon.

    “You two are on the same side,” DarkKnightmon explained. He looked at MirageGaogamon. “Omegamon – or ‘Omegamon Zwart’, now – is with us.”

    “But… But how?” MirageGaogamon asked, taking a step back. “He was so obstinate before.”

    “I had a bit of help,” DarkKnightmon said, turning and looking over at the dark rift indicatively. “That crack between our plane of the Digital World and the Dark Area, while not enough for hard mass to pass through, is leaking dark data. However, within some of that data are secretions of a substance called Black Digitron. It’s incredibly rare in the Digital World, but it’s easier to find in the Dark Area. Within it is an agent that allows for the creation of dark subspecies of certain Digimon. That, along with the dark data, has allowed me to turn Omegamon into the loyal follower of our cause that you see before you: Omegamon Zwart.”

    Omegamon Zwart observed MirageGaogamon carefully. “MirageGaogamon. Former Captain of the Royal Knights’ Defence Forces.”

    MirageGaogamon looked at DarkKnightmon. “He retains his memories?” he asked. “Then how can we trust him?”

    “The dark data brings out the darkness in Digimons’ hearts as well as physically corrupts their digicores. He still has Omegamon’s loyalty from before, but he’s expressed his scorn for the Royal Knights to me. That loyalty is now mine,” DarkKnightmon explained, turning to Omegamon Zwart and nodding.

    “But how can we be sure that—“

    The sounds of the front doors creaking open interrupted him, and the three turned towards the noise, always somewhat wary that it was somebody other than Dorbickmon or the mayor, who was reluctantly complying with Dorbickmon out of fear. This worry was somewhat eased by the fact that only those two had the keys to the town hall.

    After locking the front doors behind him, Dorbickmon strode into the great hall and looked up to see Omegamon Zwart standing with DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon, with his Garuru Cannon trained on him.

    “Woah, what the-“ Dorbickmon’s eyes widened and he suddenly became defensive, sneering. “What the hell’s going on here?!”

    “Oh. It’s you,” Omegamon Zwart spoke, lowering his cannon.

    “Dorbickmon, meet our new ally,” DarkKnightmon said, motioning to Omegamon. “Omegamon Zwart.”

    “Omegamon Zwart…” Dorbickmon said, arching an eyebrow. He walked over to them and looked the pitch black knight up and down. “What’d you do? Use that rift I couldn’t close?”

    “Yes, that’s right,” DarkKnightmon answered. “Astute guess.”

    MirageGaogamon grunted quietly and folded his arms. “Where did you sneak off to, Dorbickmon?” he asked him suspiciously.

    “I had some business to attend to,” Dorbickmon cryptically replied, eyeing MirageGaogamon with a contentious grin.

    “What, exactly?” MirageGaogamon pressed, narrowing his eyes.

    Dorbickmon chuckled and sighed, folding his arms. “Okay, fine… I went to see one of my mercenary pals. I told some of them to keep an eye out the Royal Knights and other members of the Order. He contacted me around noon with some information.” He looked at DarkKnightmon with a dark grin. “You might find this interesting. He saw an old friend of yours flying north towards the Free Area’s border, all by himself.”

    DarkKnightmon looked at Dorbickmon pensively. “Who?”

    “OuRyuumon,” Dorbickmon informed him.

    A dark shadow seemed to fall over DarkKnightmon’s face as he looked down in thought. The knight turned to Omegamon Zwart, who was glaring intensely at the name.

    DarkKnightmon nodded and closed his eyes. “…That’s good to know.”

    Dorbickmon grinned as he thought to himself. “And there’s something else I found too…

    -

    OuRyuumon soared through the warmth and humidity of the late afternoon. It was one of those uncomfortably warm days that either preceded or followed a rainstorm. The humidity made his armour cling to his scales and his hands sweat inside the violet, leather, fingerless gloves that he wore. He hated the feeling. It made the flight even more irritating than it was already.

    He flew over the grasslands and the multitude of trees that stood across the landscape, whose blue and red leaves rustled in the soft breeze. The sun was beginning to slowly descend towards the horizon, off to his left. Its rays still shone into his eyes and sparkled off the scimitars dangling from his belt. That annoyed him as well, even if he usually liked sunny days. It was like everything grated on his nerves since DarkKnightmon revealed what he did. Things had just kept getting worse for him from that point on.

    He didn’t believe in Yggdrasil. Or Fanglongmon, for that matter. Or God, unlike many of the Angel Digimon who followed that smaller, less known offshoot of the Yggdrasil faith. However, he couldn’t help but feel like he was being punished. OuRyuumon always knew that it was too good to be true, that he had gotten away with what he tried to do. Now, he had lost everything.

    OuRyuumon wondered what he would do when he got back to New Terminal. What lie he would tell his parents about why he wasn’t part of the Order anymore, and what about Alphamon. Some lie, he guessed. He was already used to lying to them about himself. However, he was beginning to realize that some lies don’t last forever.

    He wondered if he should even bother going back to New Terminal; he didn’t know what he would do there for a living. He supposed he could work for his father at his smithy, but he never really had that much interest in that. He considered not returning and going off to join a mercenary company or guild. That was where his skills lay, and that way he could keep fighting. However, he doubted that option too; he couldn’t bear potentially going up against Alphamon and the Royal Knights one day. The shame and guilt would be too much.

    The gold dragon sighed and he grimly looked over his shoulder, checking the landscape behind him. “There’s no going back now…” he muttered to himself. “Almost out of this damn Free Area…”

    He suddenly stopped as he neared the rushing river that acted as the border separating that Free Area province with the end of the Free Area’s territory. His eyes narrowed defiantly and he suddenly closed his fists tightly. “No…” he hissed out of his draconic mouth. “I’m not about to give up and slink away in the night like I’m the bad guy. It was DarkKnightmon who put his poisonous words into Alphamon’s ear. He was trying to do this to us and I’m not about to let him get away with it! If I can find him and take him down, then Alphamon will have to realize that I’m worth keeping around! I’ll show— Huh?“

    OuRyuumon stopped the motivational speech, filled with new found resolve, when he heard a noise behind him. His heart sank when he saw a bright blue energy orb rushing towards him at incredible speeds.

    His hands instinctively went for the Gairyu swords in his belt. He was fast enough to close his claws around their hilts, but he didn’t have enough time to draw them to defend himself or even dodge the sudden attack. Just as he began to pull them out, the blast detonated against his body, throwing him out of the sky violently. OuRyuumon let out a cry of pain as his body was concussed with frigid power and he fell to the ground like a falling brick. He hit the ground, his wings and back colliding with the grass first before the rest of him followed.

    OuRyuumon grimaced with pain and lay there for a few seconds, growling between winded coughs. Although dazed, he tried his best to look around, trying to locate his attacker. His eyes narrowed when he located something: there was a black figure standing out against the sky. That was all he could make out before another blast, fired from the figure’s arm, obstructed his view of the Digimon. The attack soared towards OuRyuumon’s downed form.

    Not about to take this lying down, OuRyuumon jumped to his feet and drew the Gairyu swords, twirling the scimitars in front of him for a moment before flapping his wings and darting to the side just as the attack closed in. The beam hit the ground with a large explosion and shards of ice pelted OuRyuumon’s armour and scales as he flew away from the blast.

    “You picked the wrong guy on the wrong day, bastard!” OuRyuumon shouted angrily, circling around and looking over to where the Digimon was. It was then that he noticed that the Digimon had moved already. He looked around fervently, searching and listening. He couldn’t see it anywhere.

    It was then that he noticed the sound of fluttering of cloth coming from above him. OuRyuumon looked up and gripped his swords tightly; the black figure was descending on him. OuRyuumon immediately dove downwards into frontal loop to put distance between himself and the Digimon so that he could counterattack. As soon as he reached the lowest point of the dive, where he began to circle back up again, OuRyuumon heard a deep voice harmonize with the sound of something being fired.

    “Garuru Cannon!”

    Garuru Cannon?” OuRyuumon couldn’t help but think to himself.

    However, that thought quickly vanished when he saw the attack descending on him. OuRyuumon sneered briefly and crossed his long, jagged swords in front of him as his body began to glow gold. “Ouga- AH!”

    The attack was too fast. The ball of compressed power broke through his defence and exploded against his chest. Apart from the pain, a sense of dread flooded through OuRyuumon when he felt the Gairyu Sadaijin fly away from his left hand as his body was concussed by the blast. He slammed into the ground violently, his long body arching in pain as he collided with the grass.

    Not two seconds after hitting the ground was OuRyuumon already trying to move, but to his amazement, another attack was already falling upon him, followed by another and another.

    The blasts pounded OuRyuumon’s body mercilessly. His long, serpentine form was hammered and lambasted by the explosions, and forced further into the deepening crater around him. All he could feel was a cold, high-pressure, painful sensation all over his body as the attacks continued. He wasn’t allowed a single moment of respite. The dragon grimaced when he felt himself lose his grip on the Gairyu Udaijin, which was torn away from his hand and blasted out of his reach.

    After two more painful blasts, the bombardment finally stopped. OuRyuumon lay in the bottom of the crater, his body steaming and ice coating his form in some places. His whole body was wracked with pain and his movements were slow and sluggish as he tried to do something in defiance. He looked up and into the sky and saw a caped, sable knight descending on him.

    As the armoured warrior landed on top of OuRyuumon, the dragon instinctively reached for one of his scimitars, which lay a meter away. The knight slammed his heel down on OuRyuumon’s wrist and wound his right arm back.

    OuRyuumon gritted his teeth and looked up at his attacker. He looked into the Digimon’s sharp, crimson eyes and black, helmeted face. He recognized him. “Omega… mon…?”

    Omegamon Zwart threw his arm forwards and slammed the heavy muzzle of the Garuru Cannon into OuRyuumon’s face.

    OuRyuumon saw a painful flash of red before darkness overtook him.

    -

    Examon lugged the Ambrosius over his spiked shoulders as he flew through the heavy, humid air. He could see that the storm clouds in the distance were creeping closer. It looked like it was going to rain in the evening – possibly all through the night.

    He headed back towards the Royal Knights’ territory after his unsuccessful, self-appointed mission to bring OuRyuumon back. He supposed he could have handled it better and not gotten so defensive and contentious during their argument, but he wasn’t sure that it would have made any difference. Examon wondered if he should be truthful about his absence when he returned back to the headquarters; he didn’t want Alphamon getting angry at him for insubordination after Alphamon had made the decision to throw OuRyuumon out of the Order. Then again, Examon wasn’t sure if lying would be much better, especially since he wasn’t very good at it. It wasn’t like Examon knew OuRyuumon had been thrown out until he talked to the dragon himself.

    His Caledfwlch wings floated on the warm air currents and he sailed through the air at a moderate speed.

    He often wondered about the United Dramonic Coalition and how it was doing. He was sure that they would have heard something if there had been any trouble, but he still couldn’t help but think about it. It had been a big change, going from living there and being its protector to only going there every so often as a Royal Knight. However, he was still glad that he made the decision to join the Royal Knights. It was extremely gratifying, and he even felt like he made a few friends here. That wasn’t something that he could say about protecting the UDC.

    The broad, armoured wings flapped in front of Examon, stopping his flight when he noticed something in the distance. Far up ahead, lying in the grass, was a Digimon. The Digimon turned to see Examon and called out to him, hailing with a wave of his arm.

    Examon frowned and drew closer, descending down towards the Digimon. The Digimon was a red dragon Digimon like himself, more draconic than humanoid, it seemed.

    “Hey!” the Digimon called out.

    Examon flew down and landed in the grass. “Hello?” he asked, the Digimon, unaware that the species was a Dorbickmon.

    “You’re one of the Royal Knights, right?” Dorbickmon asked, bent forwards and clutching his leg with a grimace on his face.

    “Yes, I’m Examon,” Examon replied, looking him over with a frown.

    There was a slight, fleeting change in Dorbickmon’s expression. “Thank the Sovereigns!” Dorbickmon explained with a breath of relief. “I sprained my ankle and I can’t walk very well. Can you give me a helping claw?”

    Examon nodded. “Of course,” he told him, sticking the Ambrosius into the ground so that he could go and help the wounded Digimon up. He bent down and took Dorbickmon’s hand in his, their claws locking firmly. With a grunt of effort, he heaved the large, bulky dragon to his feet and slung his arm over his back and neck to help Dorbickmon stand. “This okay?” he asked.

    “Yeah, thanks,” Dorbickmon asked, balancing on one leg while turning and looking at Examon with an expressionless face. “You’re a real lifesaver…”

    “I’m just doing what a Royal Knight should do,” Examon assured him.

    Dorbickmon released a soft but sharp exhale from his nostrils. “Really.”

    “How did you hurt your leg?” Examon asked, readjusting Dorbickmon’s arm slightly for comfort.

    “I was climbing a tree for some fruit but one of the damn branches broke. I landed on my feet but I must have landed weird, so I twisted my ankle,” Dorbickmon explained.

    Examon nodded. He looked over at Dorbickmon. “Where should I take you? Where are you from?” he questioned.

    There was a glint in Dorbickmon’s yellow and violet eyes. “I’m from the UDC actually…” he admitted to Examon. He looked at the draconic Royal Knight to see his reaction. “Wyrm’s Edge.”

    Examon looked at Dorbickmon with surprise. “R-Really…” he spoke, trying to maintain his composition. He gave a miniscule wince and looked away. “I am too, actually…”

    “Fancy that…” Dorbickmon murmured, not taking his eyes off of Examon. “’Course… I don’t live there now. Too many bad memories…”

    Violet flames began to grow within the palm of Dorbickmon’s hand - the one that rested at his side, away from Examon.

    “…I see…” Examon spoke, still wincing somewhat. That was something that they had in common.

    “You see… my best friend tried to kill me as a teenager,” Dorbickmon told him.

    Examon’s whole body tightened and his heart felt like it skipped several beats. He slowly turned his head towards Dorbickmon, his eyes wide. He stared into Dorbickmon’s eyes, which leered into his green ones with a kind of compressed excitement. Dorbickmon’s eyes narrowed, his purple irises fixing on Examon’s pupils, the yellow hue surrounding them making the violet colour stand out. That look… the way he looked at him… it felt familiar to Examon.

    “Strike… dramon…?” he whispered. His calm, composed voice was gone. Instead, it was that of absolute shock and horror at the prospect of facing him.

    Dorbickmon’s eyes hardened passionately. He pulled his arm away roughly and stood on his own two feet, revealing that he had been feigning injury. He gritted his teeth and glared darkly into Examon’s eyes. “Coredramon…” Dorbickmon wound his arm back. “You ****ing HYPOCRITE!” he roared. He threw his clawed fist forwards, flames streaming out from within his closed palm, hard into the end of Examon’s snout.

    Examon let out a shout of pain and surprise as the blow sent him crashing onto his winged back. He felt the tips of his horns dig into the grass slightly, along with a numb, throbbing pain in his snout. A metallic taste made his tongue curdle as blood oozed from where his jagged teeth dug into the inside of his lips.

    He winced and sat up, rubbing his snout and spitting out some bloody saliva from his swelling lip. “Strikedramon…” he said, looking up at him with a guilty grimace.

    “It’s ‘Dorbickmon’ now, ‘Examon’,” Dorbickmon hissed, clenching his large hands tightly. “I bet you thought you finished me off for good, didn’t you?!”

    “You don’t understand!” Examon pleaded, standing to his feet. “I didn’t mean for that to happen!”

    “Oh, sure,” Dorbickmon scoffed, a bit of fire leaking from his maw as he spoke. “Just like you didn’t mean to leave me for dead and run off before you could be arrested, right?”

    Examon looked down at the ground with tightened, guilt-filled eyes. “That was…” he spoke lowly. “A huge mistake…”

    “I’ll bet it was,” Dorbickmon snarled, breaths of fire drifting from his maw with every word. “You’re wishing you finished the job right then and there! Well, here’s your chance, you traitorous bastard. Kill me, if you can! Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!”

    Examon’s eyes widened as the flames flew towards him. Despite his surprise, Examon’s wings acted on their own and cloaked in front of his body to act as a chrome digizoid shield. The flames heated the metal intensely but harmlessly washed along their metal coating, unable to get through to Examon’s scales.

    The Caledfwlch wings swept out strongly and blasted the fire away with a powerful gust of wind, turning the inferno into embers which were quickly snuffed out. “Strikedramon! What are you doing?! Let’s talk about this!”

    “It’s ‘Dorbickmon’, damnit!” he growled, flames still swathing from his mouth.

    “Dorbickmon…” Examon muttered, thinking that the name sounded familiar. His eyes widened with realization. Alphamon mentioned that a Dorbickmon attacked him and Omegamon. “You’re the one helping DarkKnightmon?!”

    “I’m the one who freed him!” Dorbickmon explained. He held his hands in front of him and summoned the Tyrant Collbrande in a tempestuous burst of fire. Dorbickmon gripped the flaming sword tightly in his claws and took on a combat stance, sneering at Examon.

    “But why?!” Examon demanded.

    “To get to you!” Dorbickmon spat. He scowled at him darkly. “You were my best friend. You turned on me… Tried to kill me… That changes the way that a young, carefree Digimon looks at the world.”

    “I’m sorry about that, Dorbickmon,” Examon told him animatedly, clenching his claws tightly. “Believe me!”

    “Hollow words,” Dorbickmon snarled. “What did I get from what you did? I nearly got reformatted if it weren’t for the town physician. I got scars, burns, and the way I look at the world changed forever. What did you get? You got rewarded. You became a Royal Knight; one of the heroes of the Digital World. You make me sick.”

    Examon grimaced. “Let me explain… You don’t have to forgive me, but at least hear—“

    “You’ve had fifteen years to explain!” Dorbickmon shouted, slashing the Tyrant Collbrande outwards, a few embers flying off with the angry swipe. “What I want now is action!”

    Before Examon could respond, two jets of fire streamed from Dorbickmon’s chest towards him. Examon gritted his teeth and acted on instinct. He swerved to the side, angling one of his wings in front of his body to shield against the attack. He let out a grunt of pain as the streams of flames exploded on contact with his wings, creating a fulgurating blast that buffeted his wing painfully.

    “Dorbickmon!” Examon shouted out over the roars of the flames.

    “Let’s see if you’ve got the skills of a Royal Knight!” Dorbickmon exclaimed, charging at Examon. He lunged into the air and swiped the flaming sword downwards powerfully.

    Examon moved his wing and saw Dorbickmon descending on him with the Tyrant Collbrande. He dashed out of the way and made a dive for the Ambrosius lance, sticking in the ground several meters away. His claws clasped the hilt of the lance and pulled it from the ground just as Dorbickmon landed nearby with a mighty crash that sent heat flying out and dirt shooting up from around him.

    Examon spun around and held the Ambrosius defensively. He narrowed his eyes at Dorbickmon as the aggressive dragon turned to glare at him. “I don’t want to fight you, Dorbickmon,” he told him. “I know how angry you must be, and you have every right to be, but—“

    “Damn right, I do,” Dorbickmon grunted, dragging his sword out of the ground with a cascade of grass and dirt. “You’re a Royal Knight, right? Isn’t it your duty to fight me since I helped capture one of your comrades?”

    Examon grimaced at his words. He decided not to answer, as he was torn about what to do. “Omegamon… How is he?” he asked him.

    “He’s okay… He’s got a new look,” Dorbickmon said with an enigmatic smirk. The grin disappeared. “Now stop dragging your feet. You’ve never had a problem fighting me before.”

    Examon frowned. “If that’s the only way I can get you to listen to me…”

    “Good…” Dorbickmon adjusted his burning blade in his claws. “Don’t hold back; I’m sure not going to.”

    -

    A draconic growl escaped OuRyuumon’s throat as he began to slip out of the holds of unconsciousness. The growl turned into a groan as he felt a throbbing pain in his face, back, and body. His hearing was slightly muffled, but he was sure that he heard the voices of Digimon talking nearby.

    OuRyuumon gritted his teeth, tasting the sharp bitterness of blood on his tongue as he began to open his eyes. Through the blur of his eyes, he could see two dark figures and one blue one standing in front of him. He was indoors and the room seemed pretty dark, from what he could tell.

    The next thing he noticed was the tight strain he felt in his shoulders and wrists. It became apparent to him that he wasn’t lying down, but barely standing. His feet dragged against the ground and he was held up by something around his wrists. OuRyuumon grimaced and slowly pressed the soles of his clawed feet against the cold, stone floor, standing on his own to reduce the strain on his arms.

    “The hell…?” he muttered to himself, still a bit groggy. OuRyuumon tried to move his arms, but he found that he was unable. Wincing, the gold dragon Digimon looked up to see what the problem was. To his shock, he saw that his arms were suspended above his head. His wrists were crossed over the other and bound tightly by chains, which lead up to the ceiling of the room. “What the fu-…?! Hey! What the hell is this?!”

    The next thing that he noticed was that he couldn’t move his wings along with his arms. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the chains around his wrists led down and bound his wings together, preventing him from using the Gaiba Daimeijin for flight. OuRyuumon tried to spread his bladed wings out to cut against the bonds, but saw that they held firm. He began to realize that his Gairyu swords were missing, as was the blade that usually sat on the tip of his tail. The dragon snarled, struggling to wrench his hands free. He turned and glared at the three Digimon in front of him, who turned towards him now that he was awake.

    In front of him was DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, and…

    OuRyuumon squinted his eyes to get a good look at the third Digimon. It was the one who had attacked him. He wore black armour but he looked exactly like Omegamon. “What…?” he whispered to himself.

    “So, you’re awake…” DarkKnightmon observed, folding his arms.

    “DarkKnightmon…” OuRyuumon hissed, a fire in his violet eyes as he glared at him balefully. “You… bastard…”

    DarkKnightmon grunted. “You don’t change, do you?”

    “Neither do you… You’re still a treacherous little eel,” OuRyuumon said to him. “Release me right now so we can settle this once and for all! Or are you scared?”

    DarkKnightmon looked at his prisoner calmly. “There’s a fine line between courage and stupidity. You’re the living proof of that,” he dryly responded. “I think I’ll leave you the way you are, if you don’t mind.”

    OuRyuumon narrowed his eyes and turned his gaze to MirageGaogamon. “So… You’re free,” he said, making the disdain in his voice clear. “Ex-Captain.”

    MirageGaogamon returned the stare. “Quite the reversal, isn’t it? …Ex-Captain,” he made sure to add.

    “Don’t know what you’re talking about,” OuRyuumon defiantly said, sneering. He turned and looked at the Digimon who looked like Omegamon. “And what the hell is this? Some bad Omegamon impersonator?”

    “I was Omegamon,” the black armoured Digimon explained in a cold voice. “I am now Omegamon Zwart.”

    OuRyuumon narrowed his eyes at his words. “…You expect me to believe that?”

    “You’d believe me if I revealed your and Alphamon’s secret,” Omegamon Zwart threatened.

    OuRyuumon’s eyes widened. There was only one secret that that could be. He didn’t want to believe it, but now he was sure; that Digimon was Omegamon. OuRyuumon felt a pressure in his chest. What had happened to him? Had Omegamon betrayed them? Had he been brainwashed? Was there some sort of strange Digimon’s spell over him?

    “Omegamon…? What… What the hell happened to you?!” he demanded, looking between Omegamon Zwart and DarkKnightmon. “What did you do to him, you bastard?!”

    “That’s none of your concern,” DarkKnightmon countered. “Moreover, I don’t have to explain myself to prisoners.”

    OuRyuumon struggled hard against his metal restraints and snarled, glaring at DarkKnightmon. “Whatever you did to him, let him go!” he told him. “And let me go too, you damn coward!”

    Omegamon Zwart narrowed his eyes and raised his arm swiftly, pointing the Garuru Cannon at OuRyuumon’s face, showing him the flickers of blue energy igniting within the muzzle. “Watch your mouth for once, OuRyuumon. Or I’ll see to it that you’re unable to speak,” he warned him.

    OuRyuumon gritted his teeth and sneered, his eye brows furrowed furiously. “Omegamon… Damn it…”

    “It’s alright,” DarkKnightmon said to them. “I can handle him alone from here.”

    “Are you sure, Sir?” MirageGaogamon asked, looking at OuRyuumon suspiciously. “You know how volatile he is.”

    “He’s restrained, so all I have to concern myself with is his big mouth,” DarkKnightmon explained. “I’ve handled it before and I can handle it now. I’d just like some privacy, please.”

    “Of course…” MirageGaogamon said, nodding, although somewhat apprehensively. He turned and headed for the door to the room.

    “Very well…” Omegamon Zwart replied, lowering his cannon and giving OuRyuumon a final glare before following.

    As soon as DarkKnightmon’s two allies were out of the room, DarkKnightmon went over and closed the door.

    As he did this, OuRyuumon glared defiantly at him. He covered most of his worry about being a prisoner up with anger towards DarkKnightmon. “What the hell did you do to Omegamon? Tell me!” he demanded.

    DarkKnightmon made sure that the door was completely shut and then turned around. He walked back to the restrained serpent dragon in the middle of the room. “You have always thought that you were owed things that you didn’t deserve, haven’t you?” DarkKnightmon asked him in response.

    “What?” OuRyuumon questioned, confused and annoyed.

    “An answer to your question,” DarkKnightmon explained. “A place in the Royal Knights… Special treatment because you and Alphamon were childhood friends.”

    The gold dragon sneered deeply. “I never asked for something that I thought I didn’t deserve!” he countered. “Unlike you, who stabbed us in the back because you couldn’t have your own way with the Free Area!”

    “Leave it to you to bring everybody else down to your own, petty level,” DarkKnightmon replied, narrowing his gold eyes. “To this day, I have no idea how Alphamon stuck by you for so long…”

    OuRyuumon couldn’t help but grimace and look away, the cheek of his snout pressing against one of his biceps as he did. He clenched his bound hands with anger and emotion.

    DarkKnightmon grinned behind his helmet, picking up on his body language. “Or maybe he finally showed you the exit… Was it because I told him the truth about what happened? Is that why you were flying north when Omegamon Zwart went after you? Because Alphamon kicked you out of the Order?”

    “**** you,” OuRyuumon muttered, refusing to look him in the eyes and give him the satisfaction.

    Despite this, DarkKnightmon was satisfied. “Your mouth has always been bigger than your brain, hasn’t it?”

    “And your mouth has always been bigger than your dick,” OuRyuumon fired back.

    DarkKnightmon calmly observed him. “If I were an insecure teenager, I might just have found that offensive.”

    OuRyuumon rolled his eyes. “What the hell are you going to do anyways?” he asked angrily. “If I have been kicked out of the Order, I’m no good as bait. Or maybe you’re planning to do to me what you did to Omegamon.”

    “I would, but your heart is already dark. Anybody with half a brain can see that,” DarkKnightmon insulted him, eliciting a glare from OuRyuumon. “I doubt you’d have listened to me anyways.”

    “You’re damn right I wouldn’t! You’re the evil one here!” OuRyuumon fired back.

    “And yet it was harder for Alphamon to dismiss me from the Order than it was for him to dismiss you,” DarkKnightmon responded.

    OuRyuumon couldn’t help but wince. “You don’t know that.”

    “No, but you do,” DarkKnightmon said to him with a small smirk.

    The gold dragon growled and sneered at him deeply. “Enough of your talk,” he snarled. “What the hell do you want with me?”

    DarkKnightmon levelled his yellow eyes with OuRyuumon’s narrow glare and toothy sneer. “I’m not a petty Digimon, OuRyuumon…” he explained to him. He raised his hand and pressed his finger against a large cut above OuRyuumon’s left eye, from which dried blood caked down his face. This caused OuRyuumon to wince and hiss as pain shot through his forehead. “But, for you, I’ll make an exception.”

    “I’ll make it easy for you, then,” OuRyuumon told him. He leaned his head back and then spat onto DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon remained expressionless as his face and chest were sprayed by blood and saliva. He raised his hand and slowly wiped some of the mixture from off of his face. His eyes suddenly narrowed and he swept his arm outwards, backhanding OuRyuumon across his face, causing his head to jerk into his raised arm.

    OuRyuumon winced at the numb pain in his cheek but defiantly turned his gaze back to DarkKnightmon. “You hit like a little girl.”

    DarkKnightmon grabbed OuRyuumon’s head by his violet hair and forced the dragon to look at him directly. “I’m not beating you because you’re goading me into it, lizard; I’m beating you because this is long overdue payback. Rather, this is what you deserve - a rash, petulant, bloodthirsty Digimon like yourself…”

    “You hypocrite…” OuRyuumon snarled. “You’re always acting like you’re so morally superior to everybody else. At least admit to yourself that you’re doing this because you hate me, not because you’re trying to do something good for the universe.” He clenched his claws and pulled down hard on the chains leading to the ceiling, hoping he might be able to pull himself free. “In fact… admit that you don’t actually care about stopping crime and brigandage or creating a peaceful world; you just want to control everybody for your own damn ego!”

    At that, DarkKnightmon’s eyes narrowed sharply into an angry glare. He reeled his arm back and then drove his fist into OuRyuumon’s chest, hard enough to make the serpent’s back arch. OuRyuumon’s eyes widened and he let out a pained gasp as all the air in his lungs, along with a few drops of saliva, shot out of his mouth from the painful blow. He couldn’t help but double over as much as the chains binding his wrists would allow, nearly collapsing onto DarkKnightmon’s fist.

    “You’re right; that was cathartic,” DarkKnightmon responded, slowly withdrawing his hand from where he drilled his fist into OuRyuumon’s chest scales. “That’s where your solar plexus is located, isn’t it?”

    OuRyuumon couldn’t respond. He sagged forwards a bit, coughing violently and gasping for breath as much as he could. OuRyuumon whipped his tail around and tried to strike DarkKnightmon with it.

    DarkKnightmon caught his tail and twisted it painfully, eliciting a garbled sound of pain from the winded dragon Digimon. “I knew we should have restrained this somehow,” DarkKnightmon said, leering at the tail in his hand before moving forwards to deliver a painful uppercut to OuRyuumon’s chin.

    The dragon’s head jolted up at the strong collision. Wincing with pain, OuRyuumon began to catch his breath again. However, he soon felt DarkKnightmon’s fist drive into a lower part of his body, tearing a sharp grunt of anguish from his throat. Although grimacing with agony, OuRyuumon tried to continue standing on his feet.

    “Didn’t… f-feel… a thing…” OuRyuumon spat, glaring at DarkKnightmon and trying to wrench his tail free from DarkKnightmon’s other hand.

    “Then I’m not trying hard enough,” DarkKnightmon replied. He narrowed his eyes and pulled his fist back. “Don’t worry; I’ll only make you feel like you’ve been thrown off of a tower…”

    He cracked his fist across OuRyuumon’s snout, drawing blood from the corner of his mouth. Next, he drove it into OuRyuumon’s gut.

    The dragon Digimon heaved and lurched forwards, spitting blood out onto the floor with a groan. He snarled and glared up at DarkKnightmon with a pained grin. “Gonna… kill… you…” he rumbled between staggered breaths.

    “You had your chance for that, I’m afraid,” DarkKnightmon replied, driving his knee into OuRyuumon’s lower body. “Now, accept the justice you’re owed.”

    With that, DarkKnightmon continued laying into OuRyuumon, pounding him and striking him until he felt satisfied.

    OuRyuumon grimaced with every twinge of pain that shot through his body, though only allowing himself to grunt for all but the incredibly painful blows. He shut his eyes and gritted his teeth as more blood trickled out of his mouth and he felt DarkKnightmon’s fist collide with the tip of his snout, causing the crimson liquid to flood out of his nostrils. He felt a sharp burning sensation in his eyes as they began to water, but he refused to open them in case DarkKnightmon mistook them for tears

    He clenched his bound claws and tried to distract himself through the pain.

    Alphamon…” he thought to himself, flinching as he felt his long, serpentine body throb and spasm after another solid blow to his chest. “I’m sorry… I need you… All my… fault…

    -

    (Continued in the next post)
     
  5. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    (Continued from previous post)

    -

    Examon sneered and flew sharply to the right as he dodged the massive, flaming Tyrant Collbrande, which Dorbickmon swiped at him from the ground as he flew forty feet into the air.

    The reach he has with that…” Examon thought to himself, gripping the Ambrosius tightly with his claw on the trigged as he aimed at Dorbickmon. “Pendragon’s Glory!”

    A linear beam ripped from Examon’s lance and tore across the ground in front of Dorbickmon, narrowly missing the wingless dragon as he stepped to the side. Dust and smoke exploded up from the impact, but Dorbickmon tore through the smoke, he jumped high into the air and slashed the elongated sword at Examon with a roar.

    Examon gritted his teeth and swooped under the swing. He felt the heat of the blade against the Caledfwlch as they took him down and then began to climb through the air again. His body was already showing signs of wear and tear from the ongoing battle. There were cuts across his arms and legs, not to mention burns from Dorbickmon’s fiery attacks. Dorbickmon was stronger than he expected and he had a burning intensity to go along with it. The dragon grimaced and looked over his shoulder.

    He’s a close-to-mid range attacker, so I should keep my distance from him and just fire from the sky, but I need to convince him to stop and talk,” Examon thought to himself, swinging around and flapping his wings.

    “Flying won’t be enough to help you!” Dorbickmon called up. He slashed his sword along the ground, tapping into the dragon veins, and summoning huge columns of rock from the ground to use as a staircase. He pulled the Tyrant Collbrande back up and allowed the fiery blade to shrink to its normal size again. Dorbickmon dashed up the makeshift stairs and lunged off at the top. He hurdled into Examon in a full body tackle, shifting his body to narrowly avoid getting struck by the Ambrosius’ tip.

    Dorbickmon grabbed hold of Examon’s face as they fell through the air, pushing him down and pressing his blade against Examon’s armoured chest.

    Examon grunted as he fell through the air, unable to right himself or support Dorbickmon’s weight. The Royal Knight crashed into the grass in a cascade of dirt and fire, landing hard on his winged back.

    His assailant grinned, having made Examon take the brunt of the impact, and sat on his chest. Dorbickmon drove his clawed fist repeatedly into Examon’s face. “I wonder… how long… it’ll take… for you… to rage out… again…” he mused between punches.

    Examon grimaced as his head was forced into the ground; Dorbickmon’s jagged fists drew blood all over his face and snout as the punches pummelled his head. He tried to use the Ambrosius to retaliate, but he couldn’t manoeuvre it at such a close range. He just ended firing off a blind shot behind Dorbickmon, which ripped across the grass harmlessly. Examon dropped the lance and reached his claws up to catch Dorbickmon’s fist before it could hit him again. He sneered at Dorbickmon, looking up at him with one eye, as the other one was closed from pain and blood trickling over it. He held Dorbickmon’s hand tightly, pushing against his might.

    “That… was an accident…” Examon told him, panting. “I never meant… to hurt you…”

    Dorbickmon scowled and drilled his other fist into Examon’s armoured stomach, punching hard enough into the chrome digizoid for him to still feel it. The Royal Knight momentarily seized up at the painful blow, letting go of Dorbickmon’s other hand.

    “Well, I’ve got news for you, bastard! You did!” Dorbickmon snarled, grabbing Examon’s throat and squeezing, his sharp claws digging into his scales slightly. “You really think I’m dumb enough to believe any excuses you thought up? If you didn’t mean to hurt me, you would’ve gotten help! Anyways, I don’t care anymore. I just care about kicking your sorry knight ***.”

    Examon grimaced and gasped for air, grabbing Dorbickmon’s wrist and trying to pull his hand off. After seeing that Dorbickmon was physically stronger than him, Examon knew that he had to act. He moved his long tail swiftly and lashed at Dorbickmon’s back like a whip, causing him to cry out and arch his back in pain. Feeling the grip loosen around his neck, Examon knocked Dorbickmon’s arm away and drilled his bony claws across Dorbickmon’s face, knocking the bulky dragon off of him.

    Dorbickmon crashed to the ground and spat blood out onto the grass. He sneered when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Examon pull away and aim the Ambrosius. Dorbickmon quickly acted. He grabbed the shaft of Examon’s lance and pointed it upwards as it fired, causing it to miss him. He then assailed Examon, lunging onto his body.

    Examon grunted as Dorbickmon threw himself at him. He raised his free hand to try to defend himself. “Dorbickmon, st--!“ He was crushed to the ground by another punch to his face.

    The fiery Digimon then summoned the Tyrant Collbrande once again. Dorbickmon snarled and stabbed the burning blade straight through Examon’s wing with enough strength to puncture the chrome digizoid. The Tyrant Collbrande pierced through the sail-like appendage and stabbed deep into the ground. Examon released a resounding howl of agony.

    “Ha hah!” Dorbickmon laughed triumphantly, leering down at Examon as he kept his hand on his sword and he pinned Examon’s arms down using his knees. “There it is! The first real emotion that I’ve heard from you today! You can only hide yourself behind that fake, professional, knightly demeanour for so long!”

    Examon cringed in absolute pain. In desperation, he drove his knee up to hit Dorbickmon’s back end. This caused Dorbickmon to lose his balance and begin to stagger forwards, allowing Examon to free one of his arms. He tore his arm away and drilled his fist into Dorbickmon’s side before slashing at it with his claws.

    Dorbickmon rumbled with pain and anger and proceeded to cuff Examon across his face and strike him in the collar. The dragon man then stood to his feet over him. “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” he roared.

    Amethyst flames spewed from Dorbickmon’s draconic maw and washed over Examon’s body, searing him all over with ultra-hot flames.

    Examon roared out at the burning anguish, but the roar soon faded away with exhaustion. The flames petered out and Examon lay on the ground, his body smoking, bruised, and bloodied.

    Dorbickmon smirked with satisfaction as he stood over his old friend. He raised his arm and wiped the blood trickling from his mouth before licking his lips and leaning over Examon, who was too pained and tired to move. His claws reached down and gripped Examon’s nose horn so that he could pull him off the ground slightly. Dorbickmon looked down into Examon’s eyes with a victorious gleam.

    “Looks like I won this time, Examon…” he told him. “DarkKnightmon’ll be happy… Now he’ll have two captains and two Royal Knights…”

    “What…?” Examon weakly whispered, looking up at him.

    Dorbickmon let go of Examon’s horn and let him drop back to the ground. He picked up the Ambrosius and threw it aside just in case Examon found enough strength to try and use it. He then stepped off of Examon and stood at his side, looking down at the dragon. “Now… How to carry you with your big *** wings…?” he mused.

    “Shining V Force!” a voice resounded from the distance.

    Dorbickmon turned towards the sound and he took on expression of shock and rage. He barely had enough time to bring his arms up to defend himself as a v-shaped ray of light slammed into his upper body, blasting him away. The next thing he knew, a cobalt blur was shooting towards him.

    Examon watched with weary surprise as a familiar dragon knight rammed his shoulder into Dorbickmon’s form at high speed, knocking him off his feet and sending him flying through the air until he hit the grass many meters away.

    UlforceVeedramon landed in front of Examon, holding the Ulforce Sabre extending from his V-Bracelet up in front of him. “As somebody with ‘big *** wings’, I take offence to that!” he grinningly remarked.

    “Ul…force…” Examon said, looking up at him.

    “Not looking too sharp, Ex-sama,” UlforceVeedramon said, glancing over his shoulder at him swiftly before turning his attention back to Dorbickmon, who rose to his feet.

    “D-Damn it…” Dorbickmon snarled, glaring furiously at UlforceVeedramon. “You interfering, pink-winged ponce!”

    “You’ve got a thing about wings, haven’t you? You keep mentioning them,” UlforceVeedramon asked him, tilting his head with a mocking grin. “Feeling jealous?”

    Dorbickmon grunted and summoned the Tyrant Collbrande in his hands. “Okay, it looks like I’ll be taking two Royal Knights back as my prize! I ought to get a big reward for that,” he said, glaring as the flickering flames of his sword caused his facial shadows to tremble.

    “You’ll have to defeat me first,” the azure knight told him.

    “And the rest of them,” another voice added.

    Dorbickmon and Examon turned their heads and saw a crimson dragon bird swoop down beside UlforceVeedramon.

    “Grani?” Examon said, surprised to see him there as well.

    “The others will be here soon,” Grani explained, hovering beside UlforceVeedramon and looking at Dorbickmon.

    “Others?” Dorbickmon asked through gritted teeth. He swore under his breath.

    UlforceVeedramon frowned and looked at Grani with a questioning gaze. He gave UlforceVeedramon a quick glance.

    Dorbickmon scowled and stabbed his blade into the ground. “Burning the Dragon!” he shouted. The earth shook and trembled beneath the blue dragon knight’s feet. The land began to shoot up in front of them in earthy explosions as pillars and spikes of rock burst from the grass.

    “UlforceVeedramon!” Grani exclaimed, flying into the air to avoid the morphing terrain.

    UlforceVeedramon sneered and turned off his beam blade, quickly swerving around and taking Examon into his arms in an awkward carry. He flew into the air to meet with Grani as the blasts of ground continued, the bursting of pillars from the terra getting further and further away from them.

    “He’s retreating,” Grani observed calmly, watching as the rock formations burst from the ground in the distance. “He’s covering his escape.”

    “Take Examon,” UlforceVeedramon told the Zero ARMS. “I’ll pursue him.”

    Grani frowned. “I don’t wish to speak out of turn, UlforceVeedramon, but I think that would be ill-advised.”

    UlforceVeedramon glanced sideways at Grani as he clung onto Examon. “Yeah, I’m kind of sensing that,” he said. “Why did you say that the other Royal Knights were coming?”

    “Because I was bluffing. Dorbickmon looks to be a powerful individual. He already defeated Examon; there’s no guarantee that you would win on your own,” Grani explained.

    “I’m a way better close range fighter than Examon is,” UlforceVeedramon responded. “No offence, Ex-sama.”

    Examon gave a weak grunt, although he couldn’t help but feel like the way he was being carried was rather undignified. This always seemed to happen whenever UlforceVeedramon showed up to help him.

    “Besides,” UlforceVeedramon continued. “He was already worn down from their fight.”

    “Even so, we can’t gauge how much fight he has left in him. Our main priority here is rescuing Examon, and getting into an avoidable fight might jeopardize that,” Grani responded. “It would also have been a messy fight, and Examon may have been hurt in the process.”

    “It seems like a wasted opportunity, if we let one of DarkKnightmon’s allies escape…” UlforceVeedramon said. He sighed. “I guess you have a point though.”

    “Shall I take Examon?” Grani asked him.

    “Please,” UlforceVeedramon said with a light chuckle. “That Dorbickmon guy had a point; I don’t know how to carry this big jumble of limbs.” He flew over and lay Examon down on Grani’s back. “I’ll go get your weapon. Just give me a few seconds.”

    Examon nodded and watched UlforceVeedramon fly down quickly.

    “What happened, Examon?” Grani asked, glancing up at his passenger.

    “He pretended to be hurt,” Examon replied. He reached over and put his hand on the hole in his wing. He grimaced at the sensitive contact and withdrew his claws. “How did you two…?”

    “Luckily, UlforceVeedramon was helping me scout the area for traces of either Omegamon or DarkKnightmon’s group,” Grani explained. “We saw the lights of battle in the distance and UlforceVeedramon went to investigate.”

    UlforceVeedramon returned with the Ambrosius resting on his shoulder. “Okay, I’ve got it,” he explained. “Let’s head back to headquarters; you can tell us all about it after to have a nice, long visit with Dusky.”

    Examon gave a weak nod and lay back on Grani, too exhausted and pained to do much else. He felt Grani begin to fly and saw UlforceVeedramon escorting them from the side. The red dragon knight closed his eyes and released a sigh.

    Strikedramon… I can’t believe… that I did this to you…"
     
  6. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 21: Decisive Action

    Examon slowly opened his eyelids and yawned slightly. His emerald eyes had to adjust to the light of the room since they had been closed for so long. He felt a mild pain in his body, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as he last remembered it being. As he gained his bearings, Examon realized that he was still in the medical bay of the headquarters. He was sure because there was a mild, sterile smell that Examon came to associate with the room.

    He turned his head so that he was facing upwards, moving slowly so that he didn’t accidentally puncture the pillow with his two back-facing horns. It was then that he saw a familiar, black, multi-eyed figure come into his view.

    “Oh, you’re awake,” Duskmon greeted, walking over to Examon’s bed. “Good morning.”

    “Morning…?” Examon asked, confused.

    “You fell asleep as soon as UlforceVeedramon and Dynasmon put you down on the bed,” the physician explained.

    “I did?” Examon asked with a wince, sounding annoyed with himself. “I didn’t have the chance to explain what happened.”

    “There’s time for that, Examon. You need to focus on resting for the time being,” Duskmon said, placing his hands on his hips. “You were in pretty bad condition when you came in here.”

    “I feel better now,” Examon said. He felt a sharp twinge of pain through his body, causing him to cringe. “For the most part… How bad was it?”

    “Your organs, bones, and digicore are all fine, thankfully; the wounds were mostly superficial. That said, you had some heavy bruising and lacerations all over, and you’re going to have a hell of a black eye,” Duskmon explained to him. “Also, we’ve bandaged that hole in your wing and treated it with a data-restorative cream. Until it’s healed, I don’t want you flying on it.”

    Examon sighed and nodded. “I do need to speak to the other knights, though.”

    “If it’s that urgent, you can tell them from bed,” Duskmon said to him. “Only a few of them, though. This is a place of healing, not a council chamber.”

    Examon gave a soft nod of resignation. “Thank you.”

    “I’ll go get them,” Duskmon told him, turning away and walking past a few other beds to the other side of the ward. As he went, his left shoulder eye glanced behind him to make sure that Examon was staying put while he was out. “Apprentice, keep an eye on Sir Examon while I’m out. And make sure that Garmmon doesn’t agitate his cut.”

    As Duskmon walked out into the large corridor, Examon closed his eyes and waited. He tried to ignore the itching sensation of the healing cream that had been put on his wings and body, particularly where the large hole was. He listened to the sounds of Duskmon’s apprentice checking on the three other patients in the medical bay.

    As much as he didn’t want to think about it, Dorbickmon kept pervading his thoughts. So many feelings were swelling underneath him, although nobody would have thought it by looking at him. Guilt was, by far, the most prominent emotion. Along with that was relief at seeing Dorbickmon alive after all, shock that he was so different, confusion at why he was working with DarkKnightmon, frustration that they were working together at all, and sadness that Dorbickmon seemed to hate him so much.

    I can’t exactly blame him…” Examon thought to himself. “After what I did to him…

    Even though he felt that way, the Royal Knight couldn’t help but be surprised that he was so militant towards him. He wouldn’t even hear him out about his side of the story, although Examon knew that he didn’t have a magic excuse that somehow made him blameless. While it was true that Dorbickmon, as a Strikedramon, accidentally brushed his Gekerin while they were play-wrestling, triggering his violent physiological response, Examon could have tried to control himself better or at least stayed around to get help for his friend. However, he didn’t, and it seemed that he was now suffering the consequences. Examon couldn’t help but feel that they were long overdue.

    The dragon opened his eyes when he heard the clamour of metal boots hitting the floor as they entered the room. He looked over and saw Alphamon, Dukemon, UlforceVeedramon, and Grani come over.

    “Did you give him enough bandages, Duskmon?” UlforceVeedramon asked with a grin. “He looks like a Mummymon. Or at least a dragon-mummy.”

    Duskmon rolled all of his eyes. “No more than necessary,” he said before going back to his duties.

    “Examon,” Alphamon greeted, smiling at him a little. “How are you feeling?”

    “Don’t worry about me,” Examon responded. “Duskmon said that none of the wounds are serious.”

    “We’re glad to hear it,” Dukemon said to him, walking over to the bed. “So Grani and Ulforce here said that you got into a fight with a Dorbickmon…”

    “Was it the same Dorbickmon as the one who fought Omegamon and I?” Alphamon questioned him.

    Examon paused. He didn’t know how much he should tell them about Dorbickmon. “It was…” Examon answered. “He admitted that he was working with DarkKnightmon, so I assume it was the same one.”

    “Who is he…?” Alphamon asked aloud, not speaking to anybody in particular.

    Examon remained quiet although his eyebrows furrowed slightly.

    “What I want to know is where you disappeared to,” Dukemon said, folding his arms as he looked at Examon. “From what we could tell, you’ve been gone since the night OuRyuumon left, two days ago.”

    “Yeah, nobody’s seen you since then,” UlforceVeedramon said. He grinned slightly. “RhodoKnightmon’s already began to fantasize about you two leaving together.”

    Alphamon rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably at the mention of OuRyuumon. He looked at Examon, wondering about the answer as well.

    The draconic Royal Knight paused for a few moments, thinking to himself. Finally, he sighed with compliance. “To be totally honest… I went after OuRyuumon,” he admitted.

    Alphamon looked at him with surprise. “You… did?” he asked.

    From Alphamon’s response, Examon couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or not. He nodded in reply. “I… saw him leaving the castle with his things so I followed him to find out what was going on…” he explained. “We stayed at an inn overnight and it wasn’t until the morning that he told me what had happened.”

    The Lord of the Empty Seat stiffened up at his words. “…And… what did he say?” he asked cautiously. As he spoke, Dukemon glanced over at Alphamon, picking up on his apprehension.

    “He just said that you and Alphamon had a fight over DarkKnightmon,” Examon explained, making sure to be vague just in case Alphamon didn’t want Dukemon, UlforceVeedramon, and Grani knowing the details about what OuRyuumon did to DarkKnightmon.

    “That’s what happened?” UlforceVeedramon asked, looking over at Alphamon and remembering his vague address to the Royal Knights about OuRyuumon leaving the Order due to ‘differences’. “That guy isn’t worth fighting over.”

    Alphamon brushed off the comment as he didn’t want to get into it then and there. “What happened?”

    Examon glanced away sheepishly. “Uh… I was trying to convince him to come back but… he and I had an argument. I decided to come home and he kept going to New Terminal.”

    “…I see…” Alphamon responded expressionlessly. “And, on your way back, you came across Dorbickmon?”

    Examon nodded with a deeper frown. “It… was like he was waiting for me…”

    “When he defeated you, it looked as if he was going to take you prisoner, similar to what happened with Omegamon,” Grani observed. “Didn’t it, UlforceVeedramon?”

    The cobalt knight nodded, folding his arms. “That’s what it looked and sounded like.”

    Alphamon frowned and rubbed his chin, trying to figure out what DarkKnightmon’s intentions were.

    “There’s something else…” Examon suddenly spoke up, as if just remembering something.

    “Yes?” the black knight asked him.

    “It was something Dorbickmon said to me after I was defeated,” the dragon said. “He said, ‘Now we have two captains and two Royal Knights.’”

    “What…?” Dukemon questioned, frowning in thought. “Two Royal Knights… That’s you and Omegamon, I guess. But two Captains…”

    Grani narrowed his eyes. “MirageGaogamon and…”

    Alphamon thought to himself. He saw Captain Knightmon just that morning, as well as the Captain of the Stealth Forces. That only left the Strike Forces. It was then that Alphamon’s eyes widened with horror.

    “OuRyuumon…” he whispered.

    “What…? No way…” Dukemon said, disbelievingly.

    “It was only a few hours since I last saw him. Was there time?” Examon questioned with concern.

    “It’s the only option,” Alphamon replied, grimacing hard at the realization. “The Captain of the Strike Forces is the only one unaccounted for. And… this is the sort of thing that DarkKnightmon would do…”

    Without another word, Alphamon turned around and strode out of the medical bay, his cape flowing behind him.

    “A-Alphamon,” Dukemon said after him, glaring angrily at the news. He clenched his fists and growled a bit. “This is the last thing he needed…”

    “You don’t really think OuRyuumon’s been captured, do you?” UlforceVeedramon asked. “He’s not the type to go down easily… Besides, he’d drive his captors crazy,” he added with a laugh. However, the laugh faded when he saw that the others were grim and silent. “So… We’ve got to figure out how to find them.”

    “Agreed…” Grani spoke. “I’m going to go call a meeting with my scouts.”

    UlforceVeedramon turned to leave as well. “I’ll go speak with the other knights.”

    Dukemon nodded. “I’ll just talk to Examon for a minute…”

    As UlforceVeedramon and Grani made their way out of the medical bay, Dukemon walked up beside Examon’s bed. He gave Examon a small smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a lecture about going off on your own.”

    When Dukemon saw Examon’s lack of a response, he frowned suspiciously and folded his arms. “Examon? Is something wrong?” he questioned.

    Examon closed his eyes, continuing to think to himself about what to say. “I…” He stalled. “Yes… There’s something I didn’t mention…”

    Dukemon arched an eyebrow behind his visor. “Okay… What’s that?” he asked in a diplomatic tone.

    Examon opened his eyes and they turned to look at Dukemon uncertainly. “Remember when I told you about my past?” he asked him. When Dukemon nodded in memory, Examon continued. “It’s Dorbickmon… He’s Strikedramon. The friend that I wounded and… abandoned.”

    “…You’re kidding,” Dukemon replied, looking at Examon with eyes full of disbelief. “Why do you say that?”

    “He told me,” Examon explained, a guilty cringe growing on his face. “He wasn’t lying… I recognize those passionate eyes.”

    “Unbelievable…” the crimson knight spoke, unfolding his arms and bringing one up to rub the back of his head. “That’s one hell of a coincidence…”

    “I don’t think it is a coincidence…” the bed-ridden dragon answered. He balled up his fists in momentary frustration “He really hates me, Dukemon… So much that he’s working with DarkKnightmon just to get back at me. In fact, he was the one who freed DarkKnightmon from the Dark Area in the first place.”

    “He was the one…? But how?” Dukemon asked with a sneer.

    “He used the dragon veins, I think he said,” Examon replied.

    Dukemon narrowed his eyes a little and reached over to place his hand on Examon’s shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. “Don’t blame yourself, Examon. He chose to be a mercenary, so not all of the blame can land at your feet.”

    “No, but enough of it does. He wouldn’t have hurt anybody back before that happened,” the dragon knight replied.

    “You don’t know what else happened in his life afterwards,” Dukemon explained. “Look, don’t worry about it right now.”

    Examon grunted and lay back in the bed. “I know you’re trying to help, but that’s easier said than done.”

    “Then at least try not to think about it. Focus on resting; you think too much sometimes anyways,” Dukemon said with a grin, patting his shoulder. “We’ll talk later. You need to rest and I need to talk to Alphamon.”

    “Yeah, okay,” the dragon said, closing his eyes. “Sorry I didn’t bring OuRyuumon back. Maybe if I—“

    “Examon,” Dukemon interrupted. “If you don’t stop feeling sorry for yourself, I’m going to gag you with your pillow.”

    At this, Examon managed a grin. “Message received and understood.”

    Dukemon smirked. “Good. Now get some rest,” he told Examon. With a final pat, Dukemon turned and made his way out of the medical bay. He had a guess where Alphamon might be.

    -

    Alphamon stood out on the castle wall, leaning forwards on one of the large, stone ramparts. Heavy rain fell all around him from the dark, grey clouds that blanketed the sky. The rain poured down on him, splashing onto his armour, trickling into its gaps and soaking his skin underneath, and drenched his white and blue cape.

    He didn’t seem to be affected by the showers. He was too concerned with looking out into the distance, although he could barely see much due to the poor visibility the rain provided. However, he seemed more to be deep in thought rather than actually looking at anything in particular.

    The short, black, owl-like form of a Falcomon flew over and landed on the parapet next to Alphamon. “Alphamon, sir?” he asked. “You’re becoming soaked. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go to the pavilion where there’s shelter from the rain?”

    “I’m fine, thank you,” Alphamon assured him, making no audible indication that there was anything wrong. “Carry on, Falcomon.”

    Although uncertain, the Falcomon obeyed and continued flying along the wall, leaving Alphamon to his thoughts.

    Alphamon’s gaze softened as he stared out at the rainy landscape, water dripping down his face and body.

    First Omegamon and now OuRyuumon… Two of my best friends…” he thought to himself as a twinge of pain squeezed at his insides. “If only I had been stronger… better…

    Alphamon tensed up when he felt a hand press against his back. He turned his head and looked over his shoulder to see the familiar red and white form of Dukemon standing there.

    Despite the rain, Dukemon smiled and walked up beside Alphamon. “It’s a bit wet to be enjoying the view, isn’t it?” he asked him, keeping his hand on the Lord of the Empty Seat’s back. He looked over at Alphamon, seeing his cape matted against his back. “You’ll be able to squeeze a whole lake out of that cape.”

    “I don’t mind,” Alphamon replied.

    Dukemon stood beside him, his own cape and hair getting soaked from the rain as well. “Should I ask how you are or is that a stupid question?”

    “Stupid question…” Alphamon said, sighing and looking down at the grass far below the wall. “It’s all my fault.”

    “You’re the second guy to say that to me today. I swear, there’s something about knights and guilt-complexes,” Dukemon replied with a touch of levity in his voice. “So, why is it your fault?”

    “All of those things I said to OuRyuumon,” Alphamon responded with narrowing eyes. “I told him to leave the Order. I gave DarkKnightmon the opportunity to attack him while he was alone. Now, who knows what’s going to happen to him?”

    “Just like Omegamon’s capture is your fault, right?” Dukemon asked him, his tone now sarcastic.

    Alphamon balled up his fists. “Wasn’t it, Dukemon? I insisted on going after DarkKnightmon alone.”

    “Alphamon, stop it,” Dukemon said to his friend sharply. “Stop this thing that you do where you take all the responsibility onto your own shoulders. I know you feel that, because you’re the Lord of the Empty Seat, you have greater responsibilities and you have to deal with things alone, but you don’t. We’re all in this with you, and none of this is your fault. Sure, maybe you could have handled certain things better, but nobody’s perfect. We’re a team and the purpose of a team is supporting each other and making up for others’ shortcomings. That’s what you’re always saying to the new members, isn’t it?”

    Alphamon paused. After a few short moments of mulling over Dukemon’s words, he sighed. “I know… I know what you’re saying is true. I’ve just been feeling like everything I’ve done has been wrong recently. I can’t help but feel like a failure when I can’t even protect my second in command or partner.” He frowned. “Maybe I should have killed DarkKnightmon back then…”

    “I don’t think you mean that… A lot of us would have lost a load of respect for you if you had done that, I think,” Dukemon told him, rubbing his back. “Anyways… Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to help anything. Do you think Omegamon or OuRyuumon would want you standing out in the rain, sulking?”

    “No…” Alphamon responded, closing his eyes and standing up straight.

    Dukemon turned to face him fully, the rain still pouring down on their bodies. “I’m not telling you to close off your emotions and become a machine. I’m the last person who would tell you to do that,” he assured him. “It’s just that this isn’t the right outlet.”

    Alphamon turned to face him as well. “I know. You’re right.”

    Dukemon smiled warmly at him and let his hand rest on Alphamon’s shoulder. “You know you can talk to me about anything, right? And the other Royal Knights too… well… maybe not Duftmon, but all of them are your friends.”

    Alphamon smiled a bit. “Yes… I know.”

    After his words, there was a silence between them, filled only the sounds of the rain pattering against their armour and the stone wall.

    “…I miss him,” he wistfully admitted. “Both of them…”

    Dukemon closed the gap between them and pressed his arms around Alphamon’s caped and armoured body, embracing him and patting his back. “I know, Alphamon.”

    Alphamon stalled for a moment before returning the hug, gripping Dukemon’s back before pulling away. “…Thank you,” Alphamon said to his friend, looking into his eyes gratefully. “I think I needed that pep talk.”

    Dukemon chuckled and placed his hands on his hips. “I’m getting used to it,” he explained. The crimson knight looked up at the clouds, which continued to torrent rain. “Why don’t we go inside? At this rate, I’m going to drown in my own armour.”

    Alphamon managed a smirk and nodded. “You and me both,” he agreed, turning and beginning to head across the bridge behind them, heading towards one of the towers of the main building. “I need to find the Captain of the Stealth Forces anyways. We’ll need both his spies and Grani’s scouts.”

    “Karatenmon?” Dukemon asked, walking up alongside him. “Maybe you should ask him to enlist the help of his ninja friends as well. I’m sure he’d be willing to.”

    “We’ll have to see…” Alphamon responded. “As much as I might like to, I don’t want to send the whole Order out looking for Omegamon and OuRyuumon. It wouldn’t be practical to draw monpower away from other areas just to look for them. We need to maintain the day-to-day routine as much as possible so that we don’t create cracks in our defences that DarkKnightmon can exploit.”

    “It’s nice to see that you’re still not leading with your emotions,” Dukemon observed with a smile. “Even though I personally think that acting with your heart can sometimes be a good thing.”

    Alphamon nodded. “You’re not wrong, but I think that that’s what DarkKnightmon is hoping for. All of these attacks have been very personal, but I can’t let them affect me since I’m almost positive that that’s what he wants.”

    “Good. That’s the spirit,” Dukemon said, placing his hand on Alphamon’s wet shoulder as they passed over the bridge. As they reached the door on the opposite side and went in to take shelter from the rain, Dukemon moved his hand and looked over at Alphamon. “We’ll get them both back, Alphamon. Royal Knights never leave other Royal Knights in their times of need, after all.”

    “Yes…” Alphamon replied, closing his eyes. “You’re right. We will.”

    -

    OuRyuumon drew hoarse, haggard breaths from his mouth. His nostrils were too clotted up with dried blood for him to breathe through them. Every time he sucked in and blew out, his chest ached and trembled.

    He remained barely standing in the repurposed dining room. The dragon Digimon was in bad shape. His arms were still bound and suspended above his head by the chrome digizoid chains, which connected to a rung on the ceiling. His wrists itched from all the struggling and the friction of the metal. Blood trickled from his draconic mouth and nose down to his chin and neck. Most of it had since dried and was caked to his face. His body was bruised all over and there was the odd cut from where an edge of DarkKnightmon’s gauntlets got hooked on his scales. OuRyuumon felt like one of his ribs might be broken, but he was in no condition to check. He was so exhausted and pained that he was barely able to keep himself on his feet.

    DarkKnightmon had laid into him for a good thirty or forty minutes, using him as a punching bag. When he had enough, he left somewhere. OuRyuumon didn’t know where.

    This hadn’t been in OuRyuumon’s plans at all. He was supposed to go and defeat DarkKnightmon to show Alphamon that it was a mistake to dismiss him from the Order. But now he was DarkKnightmon’s prisoner before he had even had the chance to act on his mission. His humiliation was only outweighed by his frustration.

    The sound of the door slowly creaking open drew his attention. OuRyuumon weakly raised his head, just a few centimeters, and looked up with a glare.

    To his surprise, it wasn’t DarkKnightmon, Dorbickmon, MirageGaogamon, or even Omegamon Zwart who appeared. It was a skinny, humanoid Digimon. He was dressed in white clothing and he wore a white, wolf-shaped helmet atop his beige-skinned, blond-haired head. The Wolfmon looked around the room nervously before walking inside.

    OuRyuumon gritted his teeth and eyed the Wolfmon suspiciously as he made his way inside the room.

    “OuRyuumon, sir…” he said nervously, walking over and stopping several meters away from him. The guilt and distress was obvious on Wolfmon’s facial features.

    OuRyuumon narrowed his eyes a bit. “You’re… the new mayor… of Lupolford… aren’t you?” he wheezed, still trying to catch his breath and find a way to speak without the stabbing pain in his serpentine body.

    “Y…Yes…” Wolfmon responded, looking down at his feet. “I’m so sorry about this.”

    “About what…?” OuRyuumon asked, sneering in a way that revealed his sharp, bloody teeth. “Oh… You mean about letting them use your town hall as their home base to attack the Royal Knights? I don’t think ‘sorry’s gonna cut it!” he shouted. OuRyuumon suddenly winced and tried to curl up as a stabbing pain shot through his body from his previous injuries.

    Wolfmon grimaced and looked away from him in shame. “I… I have no choice…” he told him apologetically. “Dorbickmon said that if I told anybody about what they’re doing, he’d burn the town to the ground.”

    “Tch…” OuRyuumon scoffed, still breathing heavily. “He’s bluffing… If he did that… the Royal Knights would come down on them like a lightning bolt.”

    “I can’t take that risk… I’m responsible for everybody here,” Wolfmon explained.

    OuRyuumon growled weakly. “So, what are you here for?” he asked curtly.

    “I was just wondering… uhh… what you wanted to eat…” he admitted sheepishly.

    The dragon Digimon eyed him with his sharp, purple eyes. “Why? Isn’t it DarkKnightmon’s job to feed his prisoner? Or are they afraid I might bite their hands off?”

    “All four of them left together an hour ago,” Wolfmon explained. “They left me in charge of the town hall while they’re gone. I wasn’t sure if they’ve been feeding you, so…”

    “In that case… I’m kinda hoping that you free me…” OuRyuumon told him, although it left an incredibly sour taste in his mouth to say.

    The mayor looked away. “I’m sorry… but I can’t.”

    OuRyuumon gritted his teeth. “I know you’re worried about what they’ll do, but is what you’re doing now any better?” he asked him. He tugged against the chains. “You’re just going along with whatever they say! How’s that gonna make you look after all this is over? Like a spineless coward who betrayed the Royal Knights.”

    Wolfmon winced. “Maybe… but that’s a lot better than a mayor who got his town burned down and his citizens killed.”

    “It doesn’t have to end up like that!” OuRyuumon urged him, although cringing with pain. “There’re other ways!”

    “I don’t see how…” Wolfmon muttered. He finally forced himself to turn and look at OuRyuumon. “Believe me. I want to help you, but no matter which way you cut it, if you’re gone when they come back, whatever excuse I give won’t make a difference. It’ll be the town that pays for it.”

    “Not if I can fly back to the castle and tell them what happened in time,” OuRyuumon insisted, balling up his gloved fists.”Then the Royal Knights can hurry here and stop them from doing anything to the town, not to mention uncover their base of operations.”

    “You’re barely able to stand, sir, let alone fly,” Wolfmon said to him with a sad, defeated, and sceptical look.

    “I can fly just fine once the chains are off of them,” OuRyuumon maintained, frowning harder.

    “I’m sorry… I can’t risk it. I have no idea how long they’re gone for. It could just be for a few hours,” Wolfmon explained, scratching his blond hair. “They could come back and find you missing before you even got back to your headquarters.”

    OuRyuumon growled with frustration. “Come on, Wolfmon!” he told him heatedly. “The Royal Knights made you the mayor for a reason, and that’s saying a hell of a lot after what the last guy tried to do. You’re the mayor so think of something! You’ve got more authority than the average Digimon, so there’s gotta be something you can think of. I’ve gotta warn them about what DarkKnightmon did to Omegamon!”

    Wolfmon grimaced at his words. “I… I’ll…” He frowned with a sudden determination. “I’ll see what I can do.”

    “Just don’t take too long,” OuRyuumon told him, looking down at him. “There isn’t a lot of time.”

    Mayor Wolfmon nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind…” he replied. He sheepishly looked at the former Captain. “In the meantime… Are you hungry?”

    “No… I’ll probably end up puking it up,” OuRyuumon responded, thinking about the throbbing in his stomach and abdomen from the beating he took. “I’ll just have some water. Try to focus on figuring something out.”

    “I’ll do my best,” Wolfmon told him. He gave OuRyuumon a brave look and then turned around to walk out of the room, closing the door behind him.

    OuRyuumon took the opportunity to wince and slump forwards a bit. Now that Wolfmon was gone, he allowed his weakness to show again. He felt as though he was going to throw up even without food inside him. The upper half of his body was very numb with pain and he had little blood flow in his hands. His insides felt tender from DarkKnightmon’s vicious pummelling. He hissed and panted with staggered breaths.

    Damnit…” OuRyuumon thought to himself. “Alphamon… **** my pride. I just want to get back to you and make sure you’re okay.

    -

    “So, you’re telling us that OuRyuumon’s been taken prisoner by DarkKnightmon and them too?”

    Dynasmon folded his arms as he looked at Alphamon and Dukemon, frowning angrily at what they had told them. Around him were the other Royal Knights minus Examon, who was still recuperating. Magnamon, RhodoKnightmon, Craniamon, Sleipmon, UlforceVeedramon, and Duftmon all looked at them. The brief silence that ensued was accentuated by the drumming of raindrops against the council room’s tall, stained glass window of Imperialdramon Paladin Mode.

    “We believe that’s the case,” Alphamon said grimly.

    “That fool,” Duftmon said with a scowl. “Now DarkKnightmon has two pieces of leverage over us.”

    “Two of our friends, you mean,” Dynasmon corrected, looking at the leopard knight with a sideways leer.

    “Regardless,” Duftmon spoke. “They still have two hostages that they can do what they like with. Our strategies have to be heedful of that. They might use them as bargaining chips or shields or bait… any number of possibilities.”

    “Thanks a lot for that, Duftmon,” UlforceVeedramon dryly said. “Great morale booster.”

    “I am simply being realistic,” the tactician explained, placing his hands on his hips.

    “How’re Grani and his scouts doing?” Craniamon asked, looking over at Dukemon. “The longer we sit around as they search, the more time we give the enemy.”

    “They’re doing their best, Craniamon,” Dukemon explained. “They’re searching all over and asking around. We’ve got some of the Stealth Forces working on it too. The Strike Forces have also been putting up wanted posters all over the Free Area.”

    “I’d like to put a new rule into effect until this crisis is resolved,” Alphamon spoke up. “No Royal Knight goes out of our territory alone. It seems like DarkKnightmon is trying to take us down one-by-one, as evidenced by the capture of Omegamon, OuRyuumon, and the attempted capture of Examon.”

    “What?” Craniamon complained, leering at Alphamon indignantly. “I do not need a babysitter.”

    “Be reasonable, Craniamon,” Magnamon said to him. “If Omegamon and Alphamon were taken down, then any of us could be if we’re not careful.”

    “Tch,” the violet knight scoffed. “I don’t see how they can possibly be that powerful.”

    “They’re no stronger than any of us,” Alphamon explained. “However, DarkKnightmon knows how to make the most of Digimons’ skills and abilities, and more importantly, how to exploit their weaknesses. He’s not invincible, but he’s not to be underestimated. That’s why I think that these precautions are necessary.”

    “Very well,” Duftmon conceded with an audible sigh. “It makes sense to me, so long as I’m not paired up with Dynasmon.”

    “Oh, but you and he make such a cute couple!” RhodoKnightmon remarked playfully.

    “Disgusting!” Dynasmon yelled out in outrage at the prospect.

    “We make no such thing!” Duftmon countered irritably. “Keep your abnormal fantasies to yourself, RhodoKnightmon. This is a serious meeting.”

    “Apologies, of course,” the pink knight dismissively said. “So, what should we do about the current crisis, exactly? Until the scouts or spies find out where Omegamon is being held, we can’t exactly mount an effort to rescue him.”

    Dynasmon frowned and placed his large hands on his hips. “We can’t just keep waiting while DarkKnightmon is doing who-knows-what to Omegamon.”

    “We may not have to,” a voice behind Dynasmon said suddenly.

    “Gah!” Dynasmon shouted, jerking with surprise and whirling around.

    Behind him was a humanoid bird Digimon covered with feathers as black as the night sky, primarily at his shoulders and the two, large wings that sprouted from his back. His lean form was covered in violet chest armour, which matched his avian helmet and his wrist and ankle bracers. Around his waist was a belt that held two sword sheathes, one on each side of his hips. The sheathes rested against a pale brown cloth wrapped around his waist, over a pair of white pants. His feathers and clothes were dripping wet, as if he had just been out in the rain, and there was a trail of water drops leading from the doors to the great hall. Despite this, the Karatenmon’s red eyes looked at Dynasmon with a calm but whimsical look.

    “Damn it, Karatenmon!” Dynasmon exclaimed. “I know you’re a ninja and all, but stop sneaking up like that!”

    Karatenmon smirked. “Sorry, Dynasmon. Force of habit,” he replied, although he didn’t sound that sorry.

    Alphamon looked over at the humanoid crow Digimon inquisitively; it was Karatenmon, the Captain of the Stealth Forces. “Karatenmon? What do you mean?”

    Karatenmon folded his arms. “I intercepted a messenger who was on his way here from Lupolford.”

    “Lupolford?” Magnamon asked. “He flew from there in this weather?”

    “He said that Mayor Wolfmon told him it was a message of the utmost priority,” the corvid captain explained. “And that he needed it delivered at all costs.”

    Karatenmon took a leather pouch that hung from his belt and opened it up. He reached his avian claws inside and took out a rolled up scroll of paper, bound by a black ribbon. He walked over and presented it to Alphamon. “I think it’s worth looking at,” he told Alphamon with a meaningful gaze.

    Alphamon arched an eyebrow and untied the ribbon, opening up the scroll and reading the digilettering written down on it. His eyes scrolled across the page. “He wants us to change the date of the Lupolford inspection from a few months’ time to tomorrow.”

    “…And that’s important how?” Dynasmon asked, placing his hands on his hips.

    “It is a rather odd request…” Duftmon determined. “To expedite an inspection so quickly and at such short notice.”

    Alphamon glanced at Karatenmon. “It’s almost as if there’s something that he wants us to inspect…” he observed, his words lingering.

    Karatenmon nodded slowly. “It does seem that way, doesn’t it?” The crow man Digimon took a step back and bowed politely. “I’ll await your orders, whatever you decide.”

    The captain of the stealth forces walked away from the Royal Knights and quietly made his way out to the great hall.

    “What’s that about?” Dynasmon asked with an arched eyebrow, feeling confused. “What’s he getting at?”

    “I think Karatenmon thinks that the Mayor is trying to send us a subtle message… something to do with DarkKnightmon or Omegamon and OuRyuumon,” Alphamon explained. He rubbed his chin with his fingers. “I’m inclined to believe him.”

    “There could be a different reason why he wants to change the inspection date,” Sleipmon suggested.

    “I don’t think so,” Alphamon replied, bringing his hand down and tapping the letter. “At the end, Wolfmon says, ‘if the issue arises, you insisted that we changed the date.’”

    “My, that is strange…” RhodoKnightmon observed.

    Dukemon nodded and narrowed his eyes. “It’s as if he’s being threatened…”

    “So… What?” Craniamon asked. “You think that DarkKnightmon and them are holing up in Lupolford and threatening Wolfmon to keep them quiet?”

    “Yes, I believe so,” Alphamon said.

    Duftmon folded his arms and thought to himself. “That does line up with my theory…” he said. “It seemed like they were residing somewhere within the Free Area, given the pattern of their movements.”

    “Suppose this is all a trap,” UlforceVeedramon suggested. “Maybe they threatened Wolfmon into writing that letter so that they could draw some of us to Lupolford in order to capture us, if that’s what they’re trying to do.”

    “It’s possible…” Alphamon admitted. “Though that still means there’s something going on in that town.”

    “I think we should do the inspection,” Dukemon stated, turning and looking at Alphamon. “We just need to be careful. What do you think?”

    Alphamon nodded. “I don’t mind going to check it out.”

    “Foolish idea,” Duftmon remarked. “Many of DarkKnightmon’s actions seem focused on you, Alphamon. You going would be playing into his hands, if this is, indeed, a trap. At any rate, you’re hurt.”

    The Lord of the Empty Seat raised an eyebrow. “Are you worried about me, Duftmon?”

    “Hmph,” Duftmon spoke, turning his gaze away. “You simply cannot act at maximum combat efficiency with those wounds you sustained. It is the same reason why Examon cannot go.”

    Alphamon smiled a little. “Very well… I’ll stay here,” he spoke. He thought to himself. “As much as I don’t want to…

    “Then who will go?” RhodoKnightmon asked, placing his hands on his hips.

    “In case this is a trap, I don’t feel comfortable picking any of you,” Alphamon said. “Are there any volunteers? Keep in mind that a team of at least three is mandatory.”

    “I’ll go,” UlforceVeedramon said, raising his hand nonchalantly.

    “Me too,” Craniamon stated determinedly. “I’d like to have a crack at these guys.”

    “Don’t go in to start a fight,” Alphamon told him. “Omegamon and OuRyuumon’s rescue is the top priority. We also don’t necessarily know that they’re there, so treat this as a scouting mission.”

    Craniamon sighed. “Fine.”

    Alphamon nodded. “Who else? One or two more should do.”

    “I’ll go,” Dynasmon offered. “You need someone there who knows what DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon are capable of.”

    “I’ll go too,” Sleipmon offered. “To balance things out.”

    “That is satisfactory,” Duftmon said, looking the group of four over with folded arms and a meticulous gaze. “Speed, defence, offence, and range. I can attempt to come up with a plan, but as this is a covert scouting mission under the guise of a routine inspection, there’s only so much that I am able to do.”

    “It’s really no different from what we usually do during inspections,” Dukemon explained. “We always have to be extra aware in order to spot things that are out of place. The only difference is that we’re looking for Omegamon and OuRyuumon.”

    “It’s also more exciting, for another thing,” RhodoKnightmon added.

    “Our last inspection wasn’t exciting enough?” Sleipmon asked with a small grin.

    “Oh, it could have been more exciting if you took me up on my offer,” RhodoKnightmon teased him.

    “What offer’s this?” UlforceVeedramon questioned, a smirk growing on his face.

    “You don’t want to know,” Sleipmon sheepishly replied. “Anyways, there’s another difference too. This could be a trap and they could be using civilian Digimon has hostages, not to mention Omegamon and OuRyuumon.”

    Alphamon nodded. “That means you four will need to be extra careful,” he explained. “Omegamon and OuRyuumon will probably have tried to leave clues, and you’ll need to be wary of an ambush.”

    “Got it,” Craniamon replied affirmatively.

    “Won’t it seem weird having four Royal Knights going for a single inspection?” Dynasmon asked. “We usually assign two at the most, not counting if things turn ugly. It might look suspicious.”

    “We’ll just say that we want to be extra careful. It makes sense, given the mistake during the last inspection, when we missed that Anubismon was planning to attack the UDC,” UlforceVeedramon said.

    “Yeah, I guess that’s believable,” the violet dragon man conceded.

    “The first thing we should do is talk to Mayor Wolfmon at the town hall,” UlforceVeedramon told them.

    “We’ll also need to determine the possible places where they could be holding them,” Sleipmon suggested.

    “We can take advantage of Karatenmon’s stealth forces for that,” Magnamon pointed out. “They’ve probably learned to keep an eye out for the scouts, but DarkKnightmon shouldn’t know about our stealth forces since they’re not common knowledge and they were brought in after he was exiled to the Dark Area. We could send a spy in.”

    “I guess we could, but we’re headed to Lupolford tomorrow anyways,” Dynasmon replied.

    “An extra set of eyes couldn’t hurt,” Magnamon said to him. “The spy could look around today and tomorrow and then meet up with your group when you arrive. With any luck, they’d be able to tell you if it’s a trap or if Omegamon and OuRyuumon are there.”

    “I guess that’d be fine, as long as they didn’t get caught,” Dynasmon replied.

    “That is the idea behind the role of a spy,” Duftmon sarcastically told him, earning him a sneer from Dynasmon.

    “I believe that’s a good idea,” Alphamon agreed, placing his hand on Magnamon’s shoulder. He turned to look at Dynasmon. “Dynasmon? Since you’re the most familiar with DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon, I want you to be the team leader during this mission.”

    “Got it, Alphamon,” Dynasmon agreed.

    “This should be fun,” UlforceVeedramon joked, elbowing Dynasmon playfully.

    Dynasmon elbowed him back a little too hard, causing the cobalt dragon to stumble a bit. “Don’t have a problem, Ulforce, do you?” he asked him with a grin.

    “Not at all,” UlforceVeedramon responded, rubbing his sore bicep. “As long as you don’t sleep through the day tomorrow or accidentally blow up the city hall.”

    “I think I know how to control my attacks,” he replied, giving Ulforce a sideways glance.

    “Hopefully it won’t have to come to attacks,” Alphamon told them. “So, it’s Dynasmon, UlforceVeedramon, Craniamon, and Sleipmon?” When he received nods, Alphamon placed his hands on his hips. “In that case, Dukemon, Magnamon, RhodoKnightmon, Duftmon, and I will remain here.”

    Duftmon nodded. “I will have a look at the maps and layout of Lupolford and try to determine some points of interest for you and the spy to check out.”

    “Then I suppose the meeting’s finished,” the black knight spoke. “I’ll talk to Captain Karatenmon about who to send as a spy. Duftmon, summon us to the war room when you’re ready.”

    “Very well,” Duftmon concurred, beginning to make his way out of the council room.

    Craniamon looked at Sleipmon, UlforceVeedramon, and Dynasmon. “Looks like I’ll be the only one needing to go to the blacksmith for weapon touch ups.”

    “I was thinking of asking Asuramon to have a look at my armour and shield, actually,” Sleipmon told him, trotting over to the violet-armoured Royal Knight. “I could use some new bolts for the Muspullsheimr too.”

    Craniamon gave him a short nod. “Let’s go then.”

    Sleipmon and Craniamon were the next to leave the room, and the rest of the Royal Knights soon began to disperse after them.

    Alphamon went off in search of Karatenmon to discuss what had been decided.

    Magnamon, Dynasmon, and Dukemon watched as he made his way down the great hall, before they turned into a door leading to one of the side hallways. Magnamon looked up at Dynasmon as they walked down the torch-lit corridor.

    “Do you think you’ll be able to fight DarkKnightmon if it comes to that?” he asked him.

    “I’ll have to,” Dynasmon answered. “We may have been friends once, but not anymore. He crossed the line when he betrayed us, and he crossed it again when he took Omegamon. There won’t be any holding back this time.”

    “Except if the fight breaks out in the middle of Lupolford,” Dukemon pointed out.

    “Yeah, except that…” Dynasmon complied, sighing.

    “Good luck all the same,” Magnamon said. “Hopefully you guys will be able to rescue Omegamon and OuRyuumon without having to fight him.”

    “Yeah, I guess so…” Dynasmon responded. “To be honest, I’d just like this to be over with once and for all.”

    “I do too, but we can’t rush things,” the golden knight explained. “Especially not with DarkKnightmon.”

    “On the other hand, the more time we give him to strategize, the harder it’ll be for us,” Dukemon countered.

    “I guess there’s that argument,” Magnamon admitted.

    “So, if I have to chance to take him down, do I take it?” Dynasmon asked.

    “Your call, but the priority is to rescue Omegamon and OuRyuumon, right?” Dukemon said to him.

    “Yeah, okay,” the bulky dragon man replied. “Anyways… want to go to the leisure room until the kitty calls me for the strategy meeting?”

    “Sure thing,” Dukemon said with a grin. “Just don’t go into the meeting angry if I kick your *** at darts.”

    -

    The rain fell in torrents across the grassy landscape as three figures made their way down a path to a small, wayside town.

    DarkKnightmon lead the way through the grey haze of water pellets cascading from the dark clouds overhead. The rain drenched his black mantle and trickled down his jagged armour.

    Behind him walked MirageGaogamon, who was similarly soaked and looking none-too-happy about it. Trailing him was Omegamon Zwart, who looked at the town ahead of them suspiciously.

    “Are you sure about this?” he asked DarkKnightmon, looking past MirageGaogamon to the leading Digimon.

    “We need a place to stay for the night,” DarkKnightmon insisted, entering the town and making his way towards the nearby inn. “Unless you want to sleep in the rain or, more importantly, out in the open where the Knights’ scouts will be able to spot us.”

    Omegamon Zwart nodded, although he still had doubts.

    DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart stopped in front of the door to the inn. The doors were big in order to accommodate larger Digimon. Orange light could be seen through the obscured windows and loud, raucous chatter could be heard inside. DarkKnightmon turned to MirageGaogamon.

    “We had better take on alternate forms,” he told him.

    “Understood, Sir,” MirageGaogamon answered, closing his eyes. His armoured, azure form became engulfed in light and he shrunk in size a little bit. He turned into a blue-furred wolfman Digimon garbed in white and black clothing. Over his shoulder was a large red belt that was quickly buffeted by rain drops.

    DarkKnightmon observed his MachGaogamon form for a moment. “MachGaogamon should be less conspicuous,” he said before becoming engulfed in light himself. “Xros Open.”

    His bulky, knightly form split into two, separating into two separate entities: SkullKnightmon and DeadlyAxemon.

    SkullKnightmon landed at the base of the door and looked up at MachGaogamon. “Shall we?” he asked him.

    MachGaogamon nodded and walked to the door, pushing it open. He walked inside and made his way over to the front counter.

    SkullKnightmon began walking after him. “Come along, DeadlyAxemon,” he said to the bladed monster next to him.

    “Got it,” DeadlyAxemon responded, sliding alongside him into the inn, out of the rain.

    Omegamon Zwart walked after them. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a poster on the wall of the tavern. It was a ‘wanted’ poster with a well-drawn picture of DarkKnightmon on it, promising a reward for useful information about him. He made a mental note to get rid of that later.

    SkullKnightmon and DeadlyAxemon stopped beside MachGaogamon and looked up at the inn desk.

    “Two medium-sized double rooms, please,” MachGaogamon told the innkeeper.

    The Grizzmon innkeeper stood on his hind legs and looked the group over, particularly finding Omegamon Zwart curious. “Sure thing… Any special considerations needed?”

    “No, thank you,” SkullKnightmon answered. “Can we have a breakfast included, as well?”

    “’Course. No problem,” the Grizzmon said, meandering over to get them their keys to their rooms. “You’ll have rooms 17 and 18.” He made his way back and placed the keys on the desk before marking the new guests down. “Enjoy your stay.”

    “Thank you,” SkullKnightmon courteously replied, bowing his short, stocky body slightly.

    He looked to the others and they began to head up the staircase to their rooms.

    “Think they’ll recognize us?” DeadlyAxemon asked as he climbed the staircase, behind SkullKnightmon.

    “Doubtful,” SkullKnightmon replied. “They would likely only consider us if they were actively looking.”

    “Let’s hope so,” Omegamon Zwart said shortly as they reached the second level.

    The group of four began to walk down the hallway towards their rooms. “Who’s rooming with whom?” MachGaogamon asked, glancing at SkullKnightmon.

    “I will be staying with DeadlyAxemon,” SkullKnightmon told him, gesturing to the big, metal demon beside him.

    “Naturally,” DeadlyAxemon added, glancing over his shoulder at MachGaogamon.

    “You two will be fine together, I take it,” SkullKnightmon said, glancing at MachGaogamon and Omegamon Zwart.

    “Yes sir,” MachGaogamon responded dutifully.

    “Fine by me,” Omegamon Zwart complied.

    “Good…” SkullKnightmon stopped in front of his room and looked to MachGaogamon to unlock it.

    MachGaogamon put the key in the lock and twisted it, unlocking the door. He pushed it open and lead the way inside. SkullKnightmon and DeadlyAxemon followed. Omegamon Zwart entered last and closed the door behind him.

    It was a small room with two beds on each side. Between the two beds was a table with a candle, which MachGaogamon went to light. The rain pounded the window and obscured the outside from their view.

    “Why didn’t Dorbickmon come again, Sir?” MachGaogamon asked, side-glancing at SkullKnightmon.

    “Because his abilities are unsuitable for this particular mission, especially if this rain keeps up,” SkullKnightmon replied. “Besides, he said he had other things to do.”

    “It’s not like you to let him take liberties, Sir,” the wolf man pointed out.

    “The former was more important than the latter, Captain,” the short knight spoke. “There is also the fact that I don’t trust OuRyuumon alone for too long.”

    MachGaogamon nodded. “I understand. So, what is this mission, exactly?”

    “I want to test the Royal Knights’ current battle strength,” SkullKnightmon explained.

    “What do you propose?” Omegamon Zwart asked. “I already know their general numbers and how they operate.”

    “I would rather test them in actual combat,” SkullKnightmon replied. “It’s good to see how they react on the defensive, in response to a surprise attack. It’s also a good chance to deliver a blow to the Order’s morale.”

    “By attacking the Royal Knights’ castle directly,” DeadlyAxemon said with a smirk, already knowing SkullKnightmon’s plan.

    “That’s… a bold plan,” MachGaogamon said with surprise. “The headquarters is a fortress…”

    “We don’t have to take the castle,” SkullKnightmon assured him. “We just have to deliver a solid blow to them and then retreat when the tide begins to turn. A simple hit-and-retreat attack. If we strike right at their heart, they will see that they’re not invincible and more doubt will grow in their minds. They couldn’t protect their own knights. We will show them that they can’t even protect their home.” SkullKnightmon turned and looked at Omegamon Zwart. “Or their honour as Royal Knights.”

    Behind his helmet, SkullKnightmon smiled darkly.

    “Soon, they will realize that they cannot protect a single thing…” He closed his eyes. “And that… that will be the end of the Royal Knights.”
     
  7. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 22: The Gathering Storm​


    It was mid morning. An expanse pallid grey spread across the sky. The rain had continued into the next day, although it seemed to have let up considerably by then. The droplets were fewer and more dispersed. It was just a light shower, so Digimons’ views were no longer obstructed by the previously dense rain. That said, the dark clouds in the distance suggested that this was only a temporary respite.

    Three Digimon were crouched underneath a large tree with a broad, thick, umbrella-like canopy. It stood on top of a small, grassy hill. From under it, DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart observed the Royal Knights’ headquarters in the far distance. They could see the faraway forms of guards doing their rounds on the walls, as well as the occasional scout leaving the castle’s airspace. They made sure to keep hidden whenever a scout flew too close.

    “Are you sure about this, Sir DarkKnightmon?” MirageGaogamon asked, turning his head to look the shadowy knight beside him. “Won’t attacking them put them on their guard?”

    “They are already on their guard,” was his reply. “We cannot afford to let them have a chance to compose themselves.”

    MirageGaogamon frowned and looked over at the distant castle. “Yes, but…”

    DarkKnightmon glanced over at him. “Now is no time to be getting sentimental, MirageGaogamon,” he told him. “If you are having doubts, you should say so now, otherwise you will end up being a burden to yourself as well as to me. You will only get yourself hurt, going into battle with a clouded heart. Alphamon has proved that recently.”

    “It isn’t that, Sir, honest,” the lupine warrior assured him. “It’s just that the rain and humidity will dampen the effect of my Full Moon Blaster. I won’t be operating at full combat efficiency.”

    “You will still be able to do enough damage, especially at a closer distance,” DarkKnightmon explained.

    “Right…” MirageGaogamon replied, although frowning a bit.

    “There is no room for hesitation,” Omegamon Zwart told him.

    “So, you have no problem attacking your former friends?” the azure-armoured warrior asked him sceptically.

    “Not at all,” Omegamon Zwart spoke decisively. His red eyes narrowed. “Alphamon turned on me. He will pay.”

    MirageGaogamon eyed him cautiously before turning back to DarkKnightmon. “What do we do if the Royal Knights mobilize against us?”

    “Depending on their numbers, retreat,” DarkKnightmon replied. “We don’t want to get into a battle of attrition right on their doorstep.”

    “Why don’t we just use the mercenary forces that you hired for this?” MirageGaogamon asked curiously.

    “We want this to be a surprise attack,” DarkKnightmon responded. “There is no way for a force of that size to attack covertly, and if they attempted an all-out assault, they would be decimated from the Royal Knights and their defences.”

    “Understood,” MirageGaogamon replied, knowing from experience the capabilities of the Royal Knights’ Defence Forces.

    “Look,” Omegamon Zwart suddenly spoke, narrowing his eyes. “To the left of the castle, in the air.”

    DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon turned their heads and looked to where the former Royal Knight indicated. They saw four figures in the distance. Three were flying and the fourth was standing on the largest one’s back.

    “Dynasmon, UlforceVeedramon, Sleipmon, and Craniamon,” Omegamon Zwart said coldly, recognizing the four Royal Knights as they flew away from the castle.

    “Where are they off to, I wonder?” DarkKnightmon asked with a small smirk.

    “You don’t think they’ve spotted Dorbickmon, do you?” MirageGaogamon questioned with perpetual pessimism about the draconic mercenary.

    “I doubt it,” the dark knight replied. “He wouldn’t be so careless as to get spotted.”

    “I wonder…” the former Captain muttered to himself.

    “They are most likely responding to a large bandit attack, if four of them are going at once,” DarkKnightmon said. “It’s fortunate for us that there are now, at most, only six Royal Knights stationed inside the headquarters.

    “When do we attack?” Omegamon Zwart asked pointedly.

    “Soon,” DarkKnightmon replied succinctly. He gripped the Twin Spear tightly in his hand. “Now, let’s see how you react, Alphamon…”

    -

    As Dynasmon flapped his broad, violet wings, beads of rainwater flew off of them. The only sound he could hear apart from the rhythmic beating of his and UlforceVeedramon’s wings was that of the falling rain splashing against their armour and the grass and trees below.

    He led the team of himself, UlforceVeedramon, Sleipmon, and Craniamon north, towards Lupolford, where they were to perform their impromptu inspection. The rain slid down the gaps in his armour, onto his pale purple scales, causing them to cling to his armour’s interior uncomfortably.

    He turned his horned head and looked over his shoulder at his team. UlforceVeedramon flew right behind him at a casual glide. He knew that Ulfoce could fly much faster, but he wanted to keep pace with Dynasmon and Sleipmon.

    Behind him was Sleipmon, who used the golden, metal wings on his back on flight. Sleipmon was a comparatively slow flier, but his land speed more than made up for it. The reason he and Craniamon took to the air was because they knew that they had to pass over a forest for the most direct route to Lupolford. Dynasmon couldn’t help but smirk at Sleipmon, whose thick, purple mane of hair, ornamental waist sash, and white, puffy tail were soaked with rain, causing them to droop amusingly.

    Finally, Craniamon balanced on Sleipmon’s back, standing rigidly with folded arms. Likewise, the rain soaked his ornamental loin cloth and the tufts of purple hair decorating the spikes on his helmet. Despite the rain soaking Sleipmon’s back, he kept his balance surprisingly well.

    “How are you guys doing back there?” Dynasmon asked them, still looking behind him.

    “I dunno,” UlforceVeedramon replied, grinning and looking at the other two. “Depends how long until the rain starts to make Craniamon’s purple suit stink.”

    Craniamon narrowed his dark, red eyes and rubbed his abdomen, which was covered by the thick, skin-tight suit that he wore under his armour. “Yours isn’t much better,” he countered, leering at UlforceVeedramon.

    Dynasmon smirked and shook his head. “Nobody needs to stop for a bathroom break?”

    “No,” Craniamon said decisively.

    “Speak for all of us, why don’t ya?” UlforceVeedramon joked.

    Do you?”

    “Well, no,” UlforceVeedramon admitted.

    “I’m fine too,” Sleipmon replied. “It’s only another hour or so until we get there, anyways.”

    Craniamon glanced at UlforceVeedramon. “You are going to treat this inspection seriously, right? Omegamon and OuRyuumon have been captured; this might be our only chance to rescue them.”

    “I always do,” UlforceVeedramon assured him. “I know it’s serious, but I don’t see the point in travelling with a dark cloud over our heads all the time. It just stresses everybody else out.”

    “I guess that’s true,” Dynasmon conceded.

    “And what about you?” UlforceVeedramon retorted playfully, looking at Craniamon. “You’re not just coming along so you can pick a fight with DarkKnightmon?”

    “Tch,” Craniamon scoffed. “That’s secondary to the mission. We need to get our friends back.”

    “That’s the right idea,” Sleipmon said, glancing over his shoulder to the knight on his back.

    “Looks like we’re all on the same page,” Dynasmon said.

    UlforceVeedramon kept his arms under the umbrella of his wings so that his V-Bracelets would be shielded from the rain while he fiddled with them. He carefully fine-tuned their settings for optimal output. “Left one, Tensegrity Shield… minimal diffusion rate…” he muttered to himself as he worked. “20% to shield thickness… 100% beam output…”

    Ignoring Ulforce’s mumblings, Craniamon looked over to Dynasmon. “This spy – ShadowWereGarurumon - where’s he going to meet us?” he asked.

    “Inside the market. He’ll approach us,” Dynasmon answered.

    “Why did Karatenmon suggest him? He’s kind of a smart ***,” the violet knight asked.

    “For one thing, he fits in,” Dynasmon explained. “Lupolford mostly has canine Digimon living there. The key to keeping a low profile is looking like you belong there.”

    “Is that something you learned from your days as a mercenary?” Craniamon inquired.

    Dynasmon smirked, despite the rain running down his face. “Yeah, it is. KaiserGreymon even gave me acting lessons once. But it’s really just common sense when you think about it.”

    “Yeah, I guess. Just as long as he doesn’t blow his cover by getting into another tavern brawl.”

    “He wouldn’t compromise the mission like that,” Sleipmon assured him. “Not one of such sensitivity and importance.”

    “He better hope he doesn’t,” Craniamon said curtly.

    “Anyways…” Sleipmon spoke, hoping to shift the subject. “How do you guys think Omegamon is doing?”

    “If I know Omegamon, he’ll be fine,” Dynasmon responded confidently. “He may be shy and soft-spoken, but he’s got balls of chrome digizoid.”

    “Does he? At least he’s got good protection where it counts,” UlforceVeeedramon teased.

    Dynasmon managed a smile at his words, but didn’t directly respond. “But, yeah. Whatever DarkKnightmon throws at Omegamon, he’ll be able to handle it.”

    “And whatever DarkKnightmon throws, OuRyuumon will probably throw it right back at him. He’s a feisty son of a *****,” UlforceVeedramon remarked. “So, straight to the town hall once we get there, right?”

    “Right,” Dynasmon said. “Everybody be prepared.”

    “I’m always prepared,” Craniamon answered. “We don’t need Duftmon’s tactics to complete a mission.”

    “I’m with you there,” Dynasmon agreed. “This is one of those situations where we have to think on our feet.”

    “Don’t let Duftmon hear you guys say that, unless you want an hour long lecture,” UlforceVeedramon told them. “’The Importance of Tactics’ by a university-educated know-it-all.”

    “Hopefully this will be a straightforward mission and not a trap,” Sleipmon added.

    Dynasmon nodded and kept flying through the cascading showers. “We’ll see what happens when we get there and talk to ShadowWereGarurumon.”

    -

    Dukemon walked with Magnamon through the castle grounds. They walked past one of the barracks, the blacksmith’s, and the armoury, among several other buildings residing within the castle walls. The rain continued to pour down, so Dukemon held the Aegis shield over their heads like an umbrella. The earthy smell of wet stone drifted into their nostrils as they went.

    Magnamon looked up at Dukemon, ignoring the sounds of the rain drops pelting against the metal, dome-shaped shield above them. “-ou think we should ask the Warrior Ten to collaborate with us in trying to subdue DarkKnightmon?”

    “I don’t know,” Dukemon responded, walking along the wet, stone street, untouched by the rain. “They have their own things to deal with. Besides, DarkKnightmon is a Royal Knight problem.”

    “I suppose, but KaiserGreymon will want answers. Remember, DarkKnightmon beat PileVolcamon and AncientIrismon fairly badly when he first escaped. And once he hears that there’s a problem, he’ll want to help,” Magnamon reasoned. “You know how stubborn he is, and he has a knight complex to boot.”

    “He wouldn’t like it if we started fighting his archrival without his permission,” Dukemon said. “He’ll just have to deal with it.”

    Magnamon nodded. “I guess I wouldn’t want them getting hurt for our mistakes,” he agreed. “We should have seen the signs before DarkKnightmon turned on us.”

    “Can’t turn back the clock, Magnamon,” Dukemon said as they walked by one of the watch towers.

    “You’re right,” the short dragon knight conceded. He fiddled with one of his gold arm bracers as he walked with Dukemon. “So… how’s Alphamon holding up?”

    “He’s doing better now…” Dukemon said, frowning and looking down at Magnamon. “All of these things DarkKnightmon’s doing have hit him pretty hard, but he’s doing his best not to let it get to him.”

    “Poor guy… Two of his best friends in trouble like they are…” Magnamon said, sighing a bit. “So, he’s persevering?”

    “Like we all are,” Dukemon answered, turning his head forwards. He was unable to tell Magnamon what Alphamon’s relationship with OuRyuumon really was. It made him uncomfortable, lying by omission to Magnamon. Dukemon was an honest and straightforward Digimon, and keeping secrets from his friends wasn’t something he felt comfortable with. However, he did promise Alphamon, and he already felt like he violated Alphamon’s trust by telling Grani.

    “Good,” Magnamon replied, sighing a little. “But I can’t help but feel like there’s something else bothering him. I know Alphamon and I think there’s more to it than just worry.”

    Dukemon did his best not to wince or appear uneasy. “You don’t think he’d be upset over what happened with Omegamon and OuRyuumon?”

    “No, it’s not that… I know he would,” Magnamon insisted. “It’s just that… - I don’t know – with the way he’s acting, I think there’s something else bothering him too. I think I’m going to ask him later.”

    “If you think that’s a good idea,” Dukemon answered, trying to be neutral on the matter.

    “I do. I don’t want him bottling things up if there’s something troubling him” the gold armoured Royal Knight explained. He turned his head and glanced up at Dukemon again. “Do you happen to know what’s bothering him, Dukemon?”

    Dukemon averted his eyes. “I, uh…”

    As he tried to think of a reply, an aerial creature cut through the rain and swooped down towards them. Both Royal Knights turned and looked, recognizing the large, crimson, soaking, draconic figure that flew to a halt in front of them. Zero ARMS: Grani hovered in front of them, the rain running down his metal body and dripping off his pointed bits such as his beak, wingtips, arms, and tail.

    “Dukemon, Magnamon,” he greeted ceremoniously, although sounding out of breath.

    “Grani?” Dukemon asked. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to still be on patrol?”

    “You’re scouting in this weather?” Magnamon asked incredulously.

    “I was trying to. Visibility is poor, so I returned,” Grani explained.

    “You and your squadron have really been working hard,” Magnamon noted, placing his claws on his hips.

    “It’s our duty,” Grani dismissively said. “Not one second is wasted if it’s used searching for our comrades.”

    “Always the professional,” Dukemon joked.

    “I wish I could say the same about you, Dukemon,” Grani dryly responded, floating forwards so that his head was shielded from the rain by the Aegis.

    Dukemon responded by flicking Grani’s beak with his fingers.

    Magnamon chuckled a bit. “So… Have you found any leads?” he asked curiously.

    “Indeterminate,” Grani answered. “There are three potential leads; I have sent scouts to investigate further, but it’s unknown whether they will amount to anything. There was a rumour suggesting that three shady-looking figures were spotted around an abandoned tunnel outpost within the Southern Dragon Mountains, another suggesting that they saw a Dorbickmon in Lupolford, and, finally, one of my scouts claimed that she saw a dark knight-looking Digimon in Falconhead… though what she was doing there when she was supposed to be in Cloudspire, I’m not sure. Either way, they’re all worth following up on.”

    “Lupolford?” Dukemon asked, looking at Grani with a surprised expression. “Then we know. It’s Lupolford. They’re definitely there.”

    Grani couldn’t help but stare at Dukemon blankly. “…How can you be so confident?” he asked.

    “Didn’t you hear?” Magnamon questioned him. “Yesterday, Karatenmon intercepted a messenger from Lupolford. The messenger had a message from Wolfmon requesting that we accelerate our inspection to today. It sounded suspicious so Karatenmon sent a spy up there yesterday. We sent a team of our own up this morning to contact him. We think that Wolfmon is sending us a hidden message.”

    Grani’s eyes narrowed uncharacteristically. “What?!” He looked at Dukemon. “And why didn’t you… That… That Karatenmon…!” he spoke angrily. “Karatenmon has absolutely no respect for regulations, procedure and protocol! He should have told me about this; this is a scouting matter, not a spying one. He undermines me again and again. I don’t know how he achieved the rank of Captain with such a nonchalant, carefree approach to everything.”

    “You two still don’t see eye to eye, I see,” Dukemon said with an amused grin at Grani’s ranting. “And don’t knock it. We still get the job done, even with that approach.”

    “I didn’t mean you, but I suppose a bit of discipline wouldn’t go amiss for either of you,” the Zero ARMS remarked cattily.

    “I think both Karatenmon and I have both been practicing discipline enough in our lives that we realise that it’s okay to take it easy now and then. He is a former ninja, after all. He must have some, especially since he taught others the way of the ninja as well. Besides, Alphamon wouldn’t have made him Captain of the covert Stealth Forces if he didn’t trust him,” Dukemon insisted.

    “That may be,” Grani half-conceded, “but life is easier for everybody if things are done consistently and following procedure. I don’t like being left out of the loop in my own affairs. Karatenmon is certainly going to hear about this.”

    Magnamon looked at Dukemon. “Will the Recon Forces and Stealth Forces ever get along?” he asked him with a sigh.

    “There’s a reason they don’t sit together in the cafeteria,” Dukemon replied, scratching the back of his neck.

    “I’ve done my best to accommodate them,” Grani insisted with an indignant tone lacing his calm voice. “Anyways, you believe that DarkKnightmon is hiding out in Lupolford? In plain sight?”

    “With what you just told us about what your scout heard, I’m pretty certain,” Dukemon answered.

    “It could be a coincidence… or a trap,” Grani suggested.

    “The others are prepared for that,” Magnamon explained.

    Dukemon place his free hand on his hip as the other one continued to hold the shield over their heads. “I wish we could contact them with this new information.”

    The shorter dragon man shook his head. “They have a few hours head start on us. We can’t catch up with them. Hopefully, they figure it out on their own…” Magnamon explained, frowning a bit.

    As Dukemon began to nod, a high-pitched, effeminate-sounding voice rang out through the rain. “Grani, Sir! Grani, Sir!” the voice called over excitedly.

    The two knights and Grani turned towards the noise. A golden jet-like Digimon was cutting through the rain towards them. As it descended, the rain-soaked metal of its gold body shimmered in the dim, morning light. The Sparrowmon had two short, white arms just in front of its wings. Eagerly clenching its hands, which were covered by wet, grey gloves, the Digimon decelerated the thruster engines of its body and pulled up, slowing to a stop in front of them. Upon closer inspection, it looked to be about half Grani’s size.

    Inquisitively, Magnamon looked at Dukemon and then at Sparrowmon, who saluted them before turning to Grani.

    “Grani, Sir!” Sparrowmon said in a high voice that made it hard to tell what exactly its gender was.

    Grani turned to his subordinate. “Oh, Sparrowmon. You’re back from Lupolford. Do you have something to report?”

    The jet Digimon nodded enthusiastically, looking up with a white face, brown helmet, and wide, honest, blue eyes. “Yes, Captain! I followed up on that rumour and found out that it really was that Dorbickmon guy we’re looking for!”

    “It was? You’re sure?” Grani asked.

    “Pretty positive!” Sparrowmon eagerly insisted. “It looked just like the picture and I’ve got pretty good eyesight. The scars he had matched.”

    “What can you tell me?” the captain of the Reconnaissance Squadron questioned.

    “I saw him in Lupolford heading towards the town hall. He didn’t see me, so I flew in closer and followed him from above. I watched him go inside the town hall. I went over to the building and tried to look through the windows. That was then that ShadowWereGarurumon jerk from the Stealth Forces surprised me and started giving me attitude,” Sparrowmon said with a huffy sneer. “He said that he already checked the place and that there was no way to get in, so I should just go home.”

    “Of course…” Grani spoke with dry exasperation. “My apologies, Sparrowmon. Nobody informed me that a spy was going ahead to Lupolford. I should have been more aware.”

    “It’s not your fault, Captain!” Sparrowmon reassured him hastily. “Those stealth guys never tell anybody what they’re doing. They’re so sneaky… I can’t stand it sometimes.” The jet Digimon then seemed to remember that Dukemon and Magnamon were nearby. “Uh, I mean, not that that’s anybody’s fault. I mean, I know they’re spies so it’s kinda their job and everything, but...”

    “Don’t worry about it,” Magnamon explained, scratching his cheek with a claw. “We know how it is.”

    Grani glanced back at Sparrowmon. “Anyways, you did a good job, Sparrowmon. I look forwards to reading your report.”

    Sparrowmon smiled broadly and seemed to blush despite the rain trickling down the bird’s white cheeks. “Thanks, Captain!” the jet Digimon exclaimed graciously. “I’ll write the heck out of that report!”

    As the Sparrowmon got ready to fly towards the main building, Grani flew in front of the scout’s path, causing the Digimon to stop. “Just a second, there are some other things I want to ask.”

    As the two aerial Digimon spoke, Magnamon turned to Dukemon and motioned to come in close. In a whisper, he asked, “Dukemon… I’ve always wondered… is Sparrowmon a male or female?”

    Dukemon stifled a laugh. “You mean you can’t tell from the voice?” he teased in his own whisper.

    Magnamon rolled his eyes, trying not to appear too sheepish. “It’s a high, androgynous voice… Do you know? I don’t want to embarrass myself one day by calling h-… i-… Sparrowmon the wrong thing.”

    “Uh…” Dukemon stalled, rubbing the back of his neck when he had to admit that he didn’t know, himself. “Not… exactly… Why don’t you ask?”

    “I can’t do that!” Magnamon whispered back fiercely. “Sparrowmon’s been with us for at least a year. How hurtful would it be if I told Sparrowmon that I didn’t even bother to know its… their… gender?”

    “Good point…” Dukemon responded in a whisper. “Maybe I’ll ask Grani. He should know. That Sparrowmon has a massive crush on him; he has no idea either.”

    “Really?” Magnamon said, turning and looking over at the Sparrowmon. “Wouldn’t that mean the Sparrowmon’s a girl?”

    “Not necessarily…” Dukemon said, scratching his hair. “I mean… look at RhodoKnightmon. Besides, I’ve seen that bird drink beer.”

    “So? Female Digimon can drink beer.”

    “I guess… but… men can like other men, too,” Dukemon replied, remembering what he learned about Alphamon and OuRyuumon recently. “We don’t exactly have any hard evidence either way.”

    “Oka- Sparrowmon’s looking at us,” Magnamon said, suddenly pulling away from Dukemon and smiling at the Digimon.

    Sparrowmon raised an eyebrow but saluted. “Bye, Sir Dukemon, Sir Magnamon,” Sparrowmon told them. The Digimon then turned to Grani. “Bye, Captain…”

    “Goodbye, Sparrowmon,” Grani answered courteously. “Nice work today.”

    Sparrowmon blushed and flew off with a tiny, embarrassed smile, soaring through the rain towards the castle.

    Dukemon laughed and playfully slapped Grani on the wing when the Sparrowmon was out of sight.

    Grani looked at his friend with a perplexed face. “I fail to see what’s so funny. All that Sparrowmon said was that Dynasmon’s team wasn’t seen on the way back from Lupolford. If anything, that’s a bad thing since they won’t learn what we learned now.”

    Chuckling, Dukemon shook his head. “It’s not that, you adorably oblivious thing,” he told him with a wide smirk.

    “What are you talking about, Dukemon?” Grani asked. He turned to Magnamon. “Do you know?”

    Not wanting to get involved, Magnamon smiled sheepishly and shrugged.

    “You have no idea, do you?” Dukemon teased the Zero ARMS, grinning.

    “Obviously not or else I wouldn’t be asking you,” Grani replied with some annoyance.

    “Never mind…” the crimson knight assured him, waving his hand. “Anyways… Grani. Is that Sparrowmon a guy or a girl?”

    Grani stared at him blankly. “…You can’t tell?” he asked him.

    “Well…” Dukemon replied.

    “It’s not exactly obvious,” Magnamon added.

    Grani grinned faintly. “It is to me… I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you. You will have to find out on your own.”

    “What? Why?” Dukemon protested.

    “It isn’t so fun being kept in the dark, is it?” Grani told him, giving him a playful smile before flying off towards one of the window entrances of the giant building nearby.

    “…Damn,” Dukemon said, watching as Grani disappeared through the haze of rain. “He’s too crafty for his own good sometimes.”

    “Oh well…” Magnamon muttered. He turned and looked at Dukemon as they began to walk towards the main building together, aiming to get out of the rain. “So, Dorbickmon’s in Lupolford… Do you think DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon will be there too?”

    “Maybe…” Dukemon replied. “The others will be fine. They’re all capable and they’re going in prepared.”

    “Yeah, I sure hope so,” the gold knight said as they walked through the front doors into the dry entrance hall.

    -

    Wolfmon walked down a hallway away from the dining room where OuRyuumon was being held. In his hands, he carried a tray of mostly eaten food. The crackle of torch flames and the drumming of the rain on the locked windows were melodious with his footsteps as he made his way towards the kitchen to dispose of the leftovers.

    He was nervous. The purpose of his visit to OuRyuumon wasn’t only to feed him, but to tell him about his plan. He had sent a messenger to the Royal Knights to create an inspection for that day. That way, the Royal Knights would discover OuRyuumon and their hideout, and he could remain blameless since he could say that the Royal Knights were the ones who wanted to speed up the inspection, and denying their wish would make them look suspicious. He hoped that, through that plan, OuRyuumon would be freed, DarkKnightmon and his allies would be driven out, and Lupolford would be spared from destruction.

    However, he realized that there was so much that could go wrong. If he was found out by the wrong people, the town would pay for it.

    The mayor sighed and continued walking. He just hoped that they would arrive soon.

    Wolfmon turned a corner and saw a crimson body standing in front of him, towering over the lanky Digimon.

    It was Dorbickmon.

    He cried out in surprise and horror and dropped the metal tray to the ground, causing fruit skins, pits, and bits of meat to go flying everywhere. Wolfmon backed up against the stone wall behind him and looked up at Dorbickmon with wide, terrified eyes. “D-Dorbickmon…”

    Dorbickmon laughed and folded his arms. “Didn’t mean to make you piss yourself, wolfie. I’m not that scary-lookin’, am I?”

    “N-No. You just startled me…” Wolfmon said, looking away from him. “I… thought you went with DarkKnightmon and the others. I didn’t expect you back.”

    “Nah…” Dorbickmon responded. He grinned darkly. “As much as I would have liked to, I don’t have the right skill set for what they want to do. Besides… I had some other business to take care of.”

    Wolfmon felt fear constricting his chest. Beads of sweat rolled down his arms and sides. This was the absolute last thing that he wanted. If the Royal Knights showed up while he was here, it would be a disaster. “Oh, I see…” he replied, trying not to make his anxiety obvious in his voice.

    Dorbickmon looked down and lightly nudged the metal tray on the floor with his foot. “Were those for the prisoner?”

    “Yes…” Wolfmon said, squatting down and gathering the items back onto tray.

    As the mayor bent down, Dorbickmon narrowed his eyes at him. “So… If I went and checked on him, he’d still be there?”

    Wolfmon immediately stood upright. “Of course he would!” he answered a little too quickly.

    “Then why are you so damn edgy?” Dorbickmon asked, looking the mayor up and down.

    “Like I said, you surprised me,” Wolfmon muttered, glancing away again.

    “From that? Still?” Dorbickmon questioned. He suddenly glared at him. “Bullmonshit. I can smell your sweat. There’s something you’re not telling me, wolfie.”

    “That’s ridiculous!” Wolfmon protested.

    “I’ve been a freelance mercenary long enough to know when somebody’s lying to me. I’ve taken jobs as a bodyguard, a foot soldier, hired muscle, you name it. They all lie: my clients, my targets, and my fellow mercs. You get good at picking up on Digimons’ tells. You also learn not to trust anybody…” Dorbickmon warned him. He sneered at the mayor, revealing rows of jagged dragon teeth. “And most importantly… you learn to backstab before you get backstabbed yourself.”

    He grabbed Wolfmon by the collar of his scarf and forced his back against the wall. “Now, it’d be in your best interest to start talking, puppy.”

    Wolfmon grimaced and took hold of Dorbickmon’s wrist, struggling a little. “I’m… telling the truth…!”

    Dorbickmon snarled and pressed him against the wall harder. “You know what happens, right? The terms of our deal?” he asked him. “You step out of line and I start smashing things. I know it’s raining, but I saw that the market is still pretty crowded…”

    “D-Dorbickmon, please!”

    “Then talk!” Dorbickmon shouted at him.

    Wolfmon shut his eyes. “I got a message from the Royal Knights! They moved their inspection to today! They’ll be here any minute!” he yelled desperately.

    Dorbickmon’s eyes widened and he threw Wolfmon to the side, sending him crashing to the floor with a grunt. He began to storm down the hall that Wolfmon had come from. “If you tip them off, you’re toast, and so is your city.”

    “I-I’ll try not to!” Wolfmon told him, wincing a bit as he sat up. “Where are you going?!”

    “Getting my safeguards ready,” he replied.

    With those words, Dorbickmon disappeared around a corner, leaving Wolfmon to wait and worry.

    -

    After thirty minutes, the four Royal Knights arrived in Lupolford. They touched down a little ways into the entrance to the town where they were greeted by a small crowd of mostly canine Digimon. There undoubtedly would have been more if it weren’t raining.

    Dynasmon, Sleipmon, Craniamon, and UlforceVeedramon politely made their way through the crowd, not having the luxury of time to sign autographs or speak too much with the citizens on a casual level. Before even considering asking the civilians about sightings of either their friends or foes, they needed to meet up with their spy and then go speak to Mayor Wolfmon.

    “I’d be happy to sign it later, but I’m afraid we’re very busy now,” Sleipmon told a Sangloupmon who asked for his autograph. “I’ll come find you once we’re finished.” When he was finished, he galloped up the stone street to catch up with the other three.

    “You don’t have to talk to all of them,” Craniamon informed the cavalier Digimon. “Just brush past them.”

    “That would be rude,” Sleipmon responded, “and bad for public relations.”

    “Who cares?” Craniamon replied tersely. “We’ve got more important things to think of.”

    The four walked past several market stalls, several of which were closed due to the inclement weather. The rain dripped off roofs of houses and buildings, and there was a dim flash of lightning in the distance.

    UlforceVeedramon looked around the area. “Where is—“ He paused, interrupted by the rumble of thunder. “Where is he? Should I fly around to look for him?”

    “No, that would look suspicious,” Dynasmon answered. “We’re supposed to be here on inspection, and the chances are high that we’re being watched right now.”

    Craniamon’s red, glowing eyes scanned the vicinity carefully. “Think it’s a trap?”

    “It’s safer to assume that than not,” Sleipmon surmised, subconsciously checking the amount of crossbow bolts stored on the inside of the Niflheimr.

    Dynasmon nodded and looked over his shoulder, blinking back some of the rain that got in his eyes. After doing so, he noticed a dark figure approaching them from behind. “Wait a second.”

    “Holy crap! The Royal Knights!” the figure said, running up to them.

    A black werewolf Digimon jogged up to them with a large grin on his face. He wore green camouflaged cargo pants, which were soaked through from the heavy showers, a single brown sleeve on his left arm, and a shoulder pad and two spiked knee pads. Beads of rain dripped down his scruffy black fur as he stopped in front of them.

    “Can I have your autographs?” the Digimon they recognized as ShadowWereGarurumon spoke. He gave them a swift wink to wordlessly reveal his intentions.

    “Of course,” Sleipmon told him, taking a pad of paper and a pencil from their spy. “You must be a big fan to come out on a day like today.”

    “Damn right I am,” ShadowWereGarurumon replied with a grin. He walked in close to them so that they could speak more privately. He spoke to them in a whisper. “I’m pretty sure they know you’re coming and that you’re being watched right now.”

    “Is it a trap?” Dynasmon whispered to him, his eyes looking around the area without moving his head.

    “Don’t know,” ShadowWereGarurumon answered. “Couldn’t get inside the town hall; all the windows and doors were locked.”

    “What do you know?” Craniamon asked him lowly.

    “I managed to see in through one of the shutters,” the spy explained. “Saw Captain OuRyuumon chained up inside. It was one of the rooms on the far side of the building.”

    “So we were right,” UlforceVeedramon remarked, frowning as he took the paper and pencil.

    “Was Omegamon there too?” Dynasmon asked.

    “I didn’t see ‘im. Maybe he’s being kept somewhere else inside,” ShadowWereGarurumon replied with a shrug. “By the way, I checked one of the other windows recently and heard a lot of movement inside. I would have stayed around longer, but I’m pretty sure they were steppin’ up their security.”

    “Anything else?” Craniamon asked, taking the pencil and paper to pretend to give his autograph.

    The black werewolf Digimon nodded. “That Dorbickmon’s definitely in there. Dunno about the MirageGaogamon or DarkKnightmon, though. Haven’t seen anything from either of them. None of the people I talked to around here has seen them either. I guess they’re being pretty smart about going out in the open.”

    “Which either means they’re inside or they went out…” Dynasmon deduced, scratching his chin.

    “Uh… Yeah. No kidding,” UlforceVeedramon said with a laugh. “They’re either here or they’re not. Did you figure that out all by yourself?”

    “…Shut up, Ulforce,” Dynasmon said, glaring at him and blushing a bit.

    Sleipmon finished his autograph and handed it to their spy. “Here’re the autographs.”

    “Hey! Thanks a lot! This is friggin’ awesome!” ShadowWereGarurumon said audibly, taking the piece of paper that was getting progressively wetter. “It’s a real honour!”

    “Think nothing of it,” UlforceVeedramon told him.

    “We have to get going now,” Dynasmon explained, patting his shoulder.

    “Okay, thanks again!” he said aloud. He then whispered. “And nail those bastards for me.”

    With that, the black, canine Digimon walked off, back towards the markets. The four Royal Knights looked at each other and turned around, proceeding towards the town hall that stood at the end of the large, cobbled street. They walked past several Digimon who ventured the rain to see them up close. The Royal Knights just hoped that this main street wouldn’t turn into a battle zone. There wouldn’t be enough time to evacuate the Digimon if something went wrong inside, and they couldn’t do it beforehand without signalling to their enemies that this was something more than a routine inspection.

    The harsh, metallic clamour of their twelve feet hitting the wet cobblestone sounded out as they neared their destination. Small streams of water ran under their feet through the furrows around the individual cobbles. The Royal Knights approached the ostentatious statue of MetalGarurumon X, which stood in the courtyard in front of the town hall. Without making it obvious that they were searching, the four gazed around the area, trying to see potential threats through the cascade.

    “Should one of us stay on guard out here?” Craniamon asked them in a low voice, cracking his knuckles.

    “No, let’s all go in,” Dynasmon responded. “We shouldn’t divide our forces if there’s a chance DarkKnightmon’s in there.”

    Sleipmon nodded. “We can have a four point defence that way.”

    “Fine, but we have me for that,” Craniamon remarked. “I have the strongest shield out of all of you.”

    “You still think the Avalon’s stronger than my Tensegrity Shield?” UlforceVeedramon asked with a competitive smirk.

    “I don’t think…” the dark violet knight replied confidently.

    “That’s for sure,” UlforceVeedramon said with a small chuckle.

    “Now’s not the time for that, guys,” Dynasmon said firmly, walking past the statue, towards the stone steps leading up to the door.

    “Okay. Sorry,” UlforceVeedramon apologized, following after him. He looked at the town hall and noticed something. “No guards.”

    “You’re right,” Dynasmon said, frowning as he approached the front door. He put his thick claws on the handle and pushed forwards strongly. To his surprise, the door didn’t budge outside of a slight tremor. “It’s locked.”

    Sleipmon, Craniamon, and UlforceVeedramon stepped up behind him. “Looks like they don’t want visitors,” Sleipmon observed.

    “We know why, too,” the cobalt dragon Digimon said.

    “Shh. I hear something,” Dynasmon hushed them. He pressed his head against the door and listened. He could hear muffled voices talking inside.

    Although Dynasmon couldn’t make out anything audible, he at least knew there was somebody there. He stood up straight and raised his hand, rapping his knuckles against the thick, wooden door incredibly loudly. The muffled voices stopped suddenly.

    “Hello?” Dynasmon boomed loud enough to make sure they could hear him. “It’s Dynasmon of the Royal Knights! I’m here with Sleipmon, Craniamon, and UlforceVeedramon! We have an inspection scheduled for today, remember?!”

    There were hushed voices inside suddenly. After a few moments, a voice called out. “Just a minute, please!”

    “Alright, but we’re getting soaked out here!” UlforceVeedramon reminded him.

    Dynasmon looked over his shoulder at the other three. “Be ready for anything,” he whispered.

    They nodded and waited for the door to be opened.

    After another twenty seconds, the sound of locks clicking could finally be heard and the door swung open.

    Standing there was Mayor Wolfmon, looking at the Royal Knights with a nervous smile. “Very sorry, Sirs. I didn’t realize it was locked. Please come inside and out of the rain.”

    “Sorry if we tread water inside,” Sleipmon pre-emptively apologized.

    “Strange for it to be locked in the middle of the day,” UlforceVeedramon said, moving around Dynasmon’s wing and stepping inside. “Especially when you’re expecting visitors.”

    Wolfmon nodded and backed up to allow all of them to enter. “I’m sorry. I only just got up recently. I’ve been feeling a bit sick.”

    “Sick with worry?” Craniamon asked pointedly, leering at him with his intimidating red eyes.

    “P-Pardon?”

    “Many Digimon get worried about the Royal Knights coming to inspect their affairs. Guilty or not,” Craniamon explained.

    “Y-Yes, well… I’ve got nothing to hide…” Wolfmon reassured them. “I’m not like Anubismon.”

    “We know you’re not,” Sleipmon told him. “All the same, we have to be sure. That’s why we made our inspection sooner. I hope it’s not a problem.”

    “Not at all. Like I said, I have nothing to hide,” the mayor explained, although glancing over his shoulder, behind him. Although he was incredibly nervous, he was at least relieved that the Royal Knights seemed to be playing along with the lie that they were the ones who changed the date and not him. “Is that why there are so many of you too?”

    “Yeah. Try not to take it personally,” UlforceVeedramon said, walking past him and towards one of the two doors that lead into the great hall.

    Wolfmon stiffened up and went to follow him on pure reflex, as if hoping to get in front of UlforceVeedramon to try and stop him from seeing what was in the room. Although he was the one who sent them a subtle distress signal, he was in an incredibly precarious situation, and there were so many things that could go wrong. He couldn’t let it seem like he was trying to help the Royal Knights or else Dorbickmon would start wreaking havoc. Dorbickmon knew that they were coming. The last thing that Wolfmon wanted was a huge fight in the middle of the town hall.

    To his anxiety, UlforceVeedramon opened the door and stepped inside the great hall. As the other three knights and Wolfmon walked in as well, he looked around. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. It was entirely empty except for the ornate throne.

    “I thought I heard you speaking to somebody when we first arrived,” Dynasmon said, looking around as well.

    “Oh…” Wolfmon said, tensing up a bit. He fidgeted as he tried to think up a lie. “Oh yes. That was the custodian.”

    Craniamon narrowed his eyes at him suspiciously. “If that was the custodian, then how did he get inside? You said you forgot to unlock the door.”

    Wolfmon began to sweat inside his suit again. “Err… Yeah. That’s because… he has a key. He works on the night shift, so he has to let himself in and out while I’m asleep. He must have locked it afterwards to… keep the rain out.”

    The Royal Knights looked at each other with unconvinced looks. Without another word, they walked down the long, great hall, treading water across the marble floor. They looked around the area suspiciously and allowed Wolfmon to follow behind them.

    “Awfully suspicious, isn’t he?” Craniamon whispered to the others. “I don’t like it. He’s setting us up.”

    “We don’t know that for sure,” Sleipmon whispered back.

    “Either way, just play along for now,” Dynasmon told them quietly. “We need to get to OuRyuumon.”

    “Wait a second,” UlforceVeedramon said out loud. His red eyes narrowed and he gazed at something on the far end of the hall.

    Wolfmon turned to look at what UlforceVeedramon noticed and his heart sank. It was the dark rift. He had completely forgotten about it during the rush of the past half hour. While he didn’t have anything to do with it necessarily, he realized how bad it would look to the Royal Knights. He had heard that a dark rift had caused problems in Dusk Forest a little while ago, and he also knew that they were related to DarkKnightmon in some way.

    In a panic, he turned to the Royal Knights, walking ahead and trying to position himself in front of UlforceVeedramon. “Why don’t we head up to—“

    Before he could finish, the swift Royal Knight flapped his wings and sped past him. He stopped at the end of the great hall in a matter of milliseconds. UlforceVeedramon stared at the fissure and watched dark data waft up from it. “It’s a dark rift!” he called to them.

    “What?!” Sleipmon demanded.

    “Don’t get too close to it!” Craniamon told him sharply.

    Dynasmon swerved around and grabbed Wolfmon by the arm. “You have some explaining to do, Mayor,” he told him, glaring at him with intimidating crimson eyes.

    Wolfmon’s eyes widened with horror and he stared up at the bulky Royal Knight helplessly. “I-I-I have nothing to do with that! It just cropped up several weeks ago!” he stammered.

    “And you didn’t think to report it to us?!” Dynasmon asked in a dangerous growl.

    “I couldn’t!” Wolfmon yelled, shutting his eyes as if everything was crashing down before him. “I’m sorry! I had no choice!”

    Craniamon hissed and accessed the data of his black digizoid armour to summon the Claiohm Solais double spear and the Avalon shield in his hands. “What did you do, wolf?” he demanded icily. “Is this a trap?”

    “No! Nothing!” Wolfmon pleaded, bringing his hands together and bowing his head. “I didn’t want any of this! I had to go along with it or else Dorbickmon would destroy the town! I’m sorry!”

    “Where is he?” Dynasmon asked him.

    “He’s with OuRyuumon! Down the right door! The dining room at the end of the hall! DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon are out, but there are more in the building!”

    “Get out of here! Go!” Dynasmon told him, letting go of the mayor and pushing him in the direction of the entrance.

    The Wolfmon complied and ran down the great hall with fear and guilt welling inside of him.

    “You heard him!” Dynasmon told the others, running up the marble steps and charging over to the door in question.

    Craniamon gripped his spear tightly and ran after him. Sleipmon soon followed, galloping swiftly while loading a bolt into the Muspellsheimr. As soon as UlforceVeedramon was done activating the Ulforce Sabre on his right V-Bracelet, he dashed after the three, taking up the rear.

    The four Royal Knights ran down the torch-lit hallway as fast as they could. They looked down the branching out hallways as they passed them to make sure they weren’t going to be ambushed.

    It was a long hallway, but they could see the large, wooden door at the end of it. Dynasmon grunted and sped up, clenching his fists as they closed in on it.

    “I’ve got this. Get on my ***,” he told the three behind him. He charged the door and coiled his fist back, winding it up for a massive punch.

    He released a sharp growl and drove his fist clear through the door, following up with his other set of claws. Dynasmon burst through the door and tore it apart as he ran into the room. Sleipmon, Craniamon, and UlforceVeedramon were right behind him, charging into the room after him.

    “Don’t move a damn muscle!” a voice snarled at them.

    The four Royal Knights stopped to take in their surroundings and locate the voice. In the middle of the room was OuRyuumon, standing with his hands bound above his head by a chain leading up to the ceiling. The next thing they noticed was the red and silver hand covering the end of OuRyuumon’s snout, keeping his mouth closed so that he didn’t call out. Right below his chin was a sword of violet flames, hovering over OuRyuumon’s throat.

    They saw that a crimson dragon Digimon was standing behind OuRyuumon, making the serpent’s back press against his chest while pushing his bound wings to the side. Dorbickmon was using OuRyuumon as both a shield and a hostage.

    “Move it, guys! Hurry!” Dorbickmon ordered.

    The Royal Knights saw many other Digimon standing in the room around them, moving quickly and circling around them from all sides. Among these Digimon were a BlackWarGreymon, some KaiserLeomon, two Reichmon, a DarkSuperStarmon, a black Deathmon, a Darkdramon. They appeared to be mercenaries. The Royal Knights backed towards one another and readied their weapons and attacks, prepared to defend themselves.

    OuRyuumon, while relieved to see the Royal Knights, realized that this was a very bad situation for everybody. He released a muffled snarl against Dorbickmon’s scaly palm and felt beads of sweat roll down his face and neck from both the heat of the sword and the tense situation.

    The Royals Knights found themselves surrounded by the mercenaries on all sides. They pressed their backs against one another’s as they made sure that none of them could attack them from behind, each knight ensuring that they had the others’ backs. They looked between Dorbickmon and the mercenaries with angry glares.

    “The Cimmerian Adventurers…” Dynasmon muttered, recognizing the mercenary team around them. The palms of his hands brimmed with elemental power and his shoulders flickered with energy as Wyvern threatened to come out.

    Craniamon narrowed his eyes and lifted his shield higher while holding his spear loosely in his other hand. He leered at the Darkdramon opposite to him. “Another Darkdramon, huh?”

    UlforceVeedramon’s laser sword droned and pulsated as he raised it in front of him. He glared over at Dorbickmon, as did Sleipmon, who aimed his crossbow very precisely at Dorbickmon.

    “Lower your weapons, Royal Knights…” Dorbickmon warned them with an adrenaline-filled sneer. “Or this guy gets it.”

    OuRyuumon tried to yell out to the Royal Knights and gave them a look that said he’d kill them if they threw down their arms.

    “You’re bluffing,” Dynasmon said, raising his claws higher as the mercenaries took a menacing step towards them.

    “Try me…” Dorbickmon retorted, holding the Tyrant Collbrande closer to OuRyuumon’s neck.

    A sharp breath escaped OuRyuumon’s nostrils and his claws balled up as he felt the intense heat against his scales.

    Dynasmon snarled. “****…” he whispered under his breath. He backed up, pressing his wings against UlforceVeedramon’s wings and Sleipmon’s tail. They were cornered and Dorbickmon had the advantage of a hostage. He glared angrily at the situation they found themselves in. “What the hell are we gonna do…?”
     
  8. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 23: Disorder​


    Dukemon, Magnamon, and RhodoKnightmon walked down a hallway of the castle together. The rain still poured outside as they waited with anticipation for the return of their comrades.

    “Now, Dukemon, Magnamon,” RhodoKnightmon spoke, looking over at the two knights beside him. “I need your opinions. What should I make for dinner tonight? I want to make something hearty and filling since they’ll probably be hungry once they get back from Lupolford.”

    “Uhh, beef stew?” Dukemon suggested, shrugging.

    “Hmm… Do you think that would be enough?” RhodoKnightmon asked, scratching his chin. “Dynasmon’s appetite is almost as large as some Greymons’ at times.”

    “I dunno. Throw extra vegetables and stuff in,” Dukemon told him. “If he wants more, he can always go back for seconds.”

    “Alright. I suppose that will do,” the pink armoured knight replied.

    “How do you guys think they’re doing?” Magnamon asked, looking up at the other two.

    “Hard to say…” Dukemon frowned. “Dorbickmon’s there, so they might be in for a fight…”

    “They will be perfectly fine,” RhodoKnightmon assured them. “They’re prepared, coordinated, and there are four of them.”

    “DarkKnightmon’s really strong, though. As strong as any of us are,” Magnamon responded.

    “I trust them. They don’t have to defeat him. They just have to free OuRyuumon and Omegamon and get out of there,” Dukemon said as the three turned a corner. “It’s--“

    The sound of an earth-shaking explosion thundered nearby. The three Royal Knights were nearly knocked off balance when the building trembled from the concussion.

    “Damn it!” Dukemon sputtered, his caped back hitting the nearby wall. He sneered and looked around ardently. “What the hell was that?!”

    “An explosion,” RhodoKnightmon, using the ribbons of his armour to balance himself.

    “Attack! We’re under attack!” a guard’s voice yelled from nearby.

    “What?! Impossible!” Dukemon exclaimed.

    “We need to check it out!” Magnamon said to them, running down the hallway. “To arms!”

    Dukemon nodded and raced after him, followed by RhodoKnightmon. They hurried out to the third floor terrace balcony, rushing into the rain. They ran past the colourful flowers and vibrant plants to reach the parapets. From that vantage point, they gazed over the edge to try and find out what happened. Despite the rain, they saw a cloud of dust and smoke rising up from the outer edge of the defensive wall surrounding the castle grounds. There were shouts from guards and soldiers below as everybody tried to figure out what was going on and get organized.

    Dukemon, Magnamon, and RhodoKnightmon watched as a beam of yellow light streaked through the rain and impacted a different section of the wall, creating another resounding detonation. The explosion shook the ground and buildings, its glowing energy blooming outwards and turning some of the falling drops of rain into steam. They glared and clutched the stone railing to keep themselves steady.

    Dukemon turned to the others quickly. “RhodoKnightmon, go get Alphamon and Duftmon and tell them what’s going on. Magnamon, come with me; we have to get the troops in order and take these attackers down.”

    “Right,” RhodoKnightmon answered, wasting no time in running back into the main building.

    Dukemon climbed onto the parapet, prompting Magnamon to do the same. The crimson knight lunged down to the second storey stone bridge that led from the main building to one of the guard towers. He landed on the bridge and leapfrogged off it to hop down to the ground. He landed gracefully and his red cape settled behind him as he stood up and looked around.

    Magnamon landed next to him. “Let’s get to work,” he told him. “I’ll check out the wall.”

    “Okay,” Dukemon answered, nodding to Magnamon. “Be careful.”

    Magnamon smiled calmly and gave him the ‘V’ sign before lunging off the ground and flying towards the wall.

    “Dukemon, Sir! We’re under attack!” a voice behind him yelled over the rain and voices.

    Dukemon turned around and saw a bulky Knightmon making his way through the sea of scrambling Digimon over towards him. “Captain Knightmon,” he spoke, forgoing the formalities when talking to the Captain of the Defence Forces. “Give me the situation.”

    “Unknown, sir. We’re under attack by at least two aerial enemies. Species unknown; we can’t see them through the rain. They’re strong enough to put dents in our wall though,” Knightmon replied. “Me and my leftenants are trying to get our soldiers in order. I’m sending the Castle Guards to secure the perimeter of the castle.”

    “And the Strike Forces?” Dukemon asked.

    “They’re in a mess,” Knightmon answered. “With Captain OuRyuumon gone, there’s a leadership void in their ranks. One of the leftenants is saying one thing while another is saying another thing. There’s a lot of shouting. They need a unified voice to direct them.”

    “I’ll take care of that,” the red knight explained. “Move your Shield Guards to the main building and move the Anti-Aerial Guards to a forward position with the Aerial Guards behind them for cover.”

    “Understood, sir!” Knightmon responded before another explosion rocked the foundations of their walls. The Captain spun around on his boot and ran back to his troops.

    Dukemon turned and saw a violet explosion blossom up from behind the wall, further down the length of the fortifications. He snarled and dashed down the courtyard, towards the Strike Forces barracks, where he saw many Digimon scrambling about.

    He saw two Digimon standing above the others. The first was a dragon warrior Digimon clad in fine gold armour, with a blue cape drooping from his back wetly. He stood on top of a collection of barrels, which had been in the process of being moved inside when the attack started. The Grademon yelled to the surprised, restless, and bewildered troops, trying to get them in order.

    “Aerial Strike Forces!” he yelled to the flier section of the Strike Forces, who were interspersed among the ground forces in front of him. “Move out and confront the enemy! My Ground Forces will be right behind you!”

    “I don’t think so!” a voice said from behind the Grademon leftenant. Behind him was a white gryphon Digimon with a bestial body and an eagle-like head. The HippoGriffomon flapped his broad, pristine wings and sneered at Grademon. “The Aerial Strike Forces are under my command! You haven’t been appointed as Captain OuRyuumon’s replacement!”

    “The Captain isn’t here and we’re under attack! Somebody needs to take command here!” Grademon protested to his fellow leftenant.

    “You command your own forces, then! I won’t have my fliers sent out past the defences in the thick rain to face an enemy we haven’t even identified!” HippoGriffomon retorted. “It’s too dangerous!”

    “No more dangerous than sitting around on our hands while we’re bombarded!” Grademon challenged. “I can’t send my Ground Forces out without air superiority; these enemies are obviously airborne, so I need air cover from your fliers!”

    “So, I send my fliers out to engage an unknown enemy and then they have to worry about evading friendly fire from the ground as well? Not a chance. We should bolster our defences and lay down a base of fire instead, not let the enemy draw us out of the castle,” HippoGriffomon told him firmly.

    “There won’t be a castle at this rate!” Grademon yelled at him.

    “Hey, hey! Enough, you two!” Dukemon scolded them, shoving his way through the crowd of soldiers awaiting their orders. He stopped in front of the two and looked up. “I’m taking temporary command of the Strike Forces in OuRyuumon’s absence. What we need now is order and cohesion!”

    “Yes, sir,” they both replied.

    Dukemon nodded and turned around to the collective Strike Forces. “Okay, guys and girls! Listen up! Magnamon’s out sizing up our attackers and hopefully giving them a few licks while he’s out there. Once he’s back and we figure out what we’re dealing with, then I’ll give you your orders. For now, stay sharp.” Dukemon then turned around and looked at Grademon and HippoGriffomon. “And remember, you two: compromise is the bandage that holds relationships together.”

    “…Yes, sir,” they replied again.

    “Good,” Dukemon said with a grin. He then looked forwards and noticed something further down the castle grounds. Another explosion against the exterior of the wall detonated incredibly close to their position. The resulting tremors were enough to knock Grademon off of his barrel. Dukemon quickly caught him and set him down before turning back to what he was looking at. Alphamon, Duftmon, and RhodoKnightmon were running out of the castle. “Be right back,” he told them quickly.

    Dukemon ran through the crowd, lightly pushing by them as he made his way towards the three. Once past them, he was free to run up to his fellow Royal Knights, who stood beneath one of the stone bridges leading to the wall.

    “We really should not be standing beneath this; one blast and that bridge will come crashing down on top of us,” Duftmon mused calmly, looking up.

    The three turned when Dukemon stopped in front of them. “Guys,” he greeted informally. “Good, you’re here.”

    “What’s going on here, Dukemon?” Alphamon asked him in a firm tone that carried the gravitas of the situation.

    “We’re under attack,” Dukemon replied.

    “Thank you, Dukemon, but we somehow managed to figure that part out without your help,” Duftmon sarcastically answered.

    “Who by?” Alphamon demanded.

    “Yes, who would be so brazen as to attack our own castle?” Duftmon asked, narrowing his eyes, although his voice not betraying any sense of urgency.

    “We don’t know,” Dukemon explained. “The rain’s too thick for anybody to see the attackers from the walls. All we know is that their beams pack a punch. Magnamon’s out there finding out.”

    “He had better be quick about it,” Duftmon replied.

    “Why don’t you make yourself useful, Duftmon, and go get the Strike Forces in order?” Dukemon told him. “They need somebody to boss them around.”

    “Very well. I will,” Duftmon responded, folding his arms and closing his eyes indignantly. “But not until Magnamon comes back. I want to know what we’re up against.”

    “Those mercenaries that DarkKnightmon hired, perhaps?” RhodoKnightmon proposed.

    “It’s not loud enough,” Alphamon said with a hard frown. “I sense that it’s something else. I don’t like it…”

    “I get that feeling too…” Dukemon replied. “What are the chances that DarkKnightmon’s behind this?”

    “Very likely,” Alphamon said, stepping out from under the bridge and tensing his hands. “There’s no holding back anymore. Things are escalating far too quickly for that. If you see a chance to take them down, take it.”

    “That suits me quite fine,” RhodoKnightmon replied.

    “Me as well. We should have adopted that mindset from the beginning,” Duftmon added.

    Dukemon just nodded. He began to walk after Alphamon but stopped just as he stepped back into the rain. There was a thundering of four successive explosions that flared beyond the wall, casting shadows across the courtyard briefly. He saw the familiar glint of gold armour emerge from the torrent and pass over the wall after a swift hail that it was friendly. “It’s Magnamon.”

    The three Royal Knights looked to see Magnamon flying in the rain with faint streams of smoke trailing behind him from his shoulder armour. After spotting them, Magnamon swerved sharply and somewhat unevenly. He dove down and landed in front of them, a blank, unreadable expression on his face.

    “Magnamon?” Dukemon asked him. “What did you see?”

    Magnamon didn’t reply. Instead, he bowed his head and narrowed his eyes.

    “…How bad is it?” Alphamon questioned, feeling a twinge of worry at his body language.

    “Bad…” he spoke, “but… not in the way you mean…”

    “What are you talking about?” Duftmon inquired with a frown, wishing that he would just come out with it.

    “You guys need to see this,” Magnamon explained grimly. With a wince, he turned around and flew up towards the wall.

    The Royal Knights exchanged glances but followed, Alphamon and Duftmon flying after him and Dukemon and RhodoKnightmon jumping to the set of stone stairs that led up to the wall. Magnamon landed in front of the parapets and gazed out, past the wall and into the rain. The other four knights reached him and stood next to him. They tried to see what he was talking about.

    In the haze of the dense showers, they could just make out three dark figures hovering in the sky. One flew forwards, his spear in his hand. They instantly recognized him as DarkKnightmon.

    “Of course…” Alphamon said lowly, narrowing his eyes at the Digimon. He began to build energy up within his palm.

    “That isn’t it…” Magnamon told him, his brows deeply furrowed. “It’s just those three, but…”

    On the right side of DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon emerged from the rain, the wolf head cannon on his chest opened up and leaking the yellow breath of residual energy.

    “How peculiar, the third one doesn’t look like Dorbickmon,” RhodoKnightmon remarked, trying to see the third Digimon, who was still partially veiled by the rain. “Dorbickmons can’t fly, correct?”

    “It’s not Dorbickmon…” Magnamon explained to them.

    Alphamon leered at the three figures. Something didn’t feel right to him. He didn’t know what, but he knew that something wasn’t right. “DarkKnightmon!” he yelled out.

    “Hm hm…” DarkKnightmon chuckled to himself. “Is that you, Alphamon? Good… There’s something I’d like to show you… Proof that my plans aren’t as ridiculous as you made them out to be.”

    “What the hell is this, DarkKnightmon?! You’re making a massive mistake,” Alphamon warned him.

    “I respectfully disagree…” DarkKnightmon said to him. The shadowy knight then turned to the figure on his left and spoke. “Omegamon Zwart?”

    Alphamon’s eyes widened as the black figure suddenly flew forwards, revealing himself to the Royal Knights.

    The figure showed himself to be Omegamon, but different. This wasn’t Omegamon as they knew him. His form was as black as the night and he had cold, savage, red eyes that glared at them with a baleful gaze.

    “You see? Even Omegamon has seen the light,” DarkKnightmon announced to them. “He is with me now.”

    “What…?” Dukemon asked incredulously, his voice hollow.

    “That cannot be…” RhodoKnightmon whispered.

    “He wouldn’t…” Duftmon spoke with a disbelieving scowl.

    Magnamon grimaced and looked up at Alphamon. His heart panged when he saw the distraught look of grief and horror on Alphamon’s face.

    Their blood ran cold when they realized that this wasn’t the Omegamon they knew anymore. They further froze when the black knight raised his Garuru Cannon directly at them.

    Alphamon’s heart sunk when he saw Omegamon Zwart point his cannon in their direction. “Omegamon…” he spoke hopelessly.

    Omegamon Zwart narrowed his eyes and took precise aim at him. “Garuru Cannon.”

    The cannon burst with an azure aura and fired an orb of freezing power towards the Royal Knights, freezing droplets of rain in its wake.

    -

    “What are those noises? What’s going on?!” Examon demanded.

    The bandaged dragon tried to sit up in his bed in the medical bay and stand to his feet. He heard the deep rumblings of what sounded like explosions in the distance. Down the hallways that were outside the ward, he could hear the echoes of orders being shouted to the guards. It sounded like there was a scramble order in effect.

    Duskmon stood at the door to the hallway, talking to somebody just outside. The physician frowned and nodded. “Understood. Do your best,” he told the guard he was speaking to. “I’ll continue tending to my patients, and if these attackers try to get in, then I’ll cut them down.”

    The two eyeballs on his shoulders suddenly wheeled behind him when they noticed Examon trying to get out of bed. While still facing the guard, Duskmon said, “Excuse me,” and turned around. He walked back to Examon, placed his hands of the dragon knight’s spiked shoulders and gently yet firmly forced him back onto the bed.

    “Duskmon!” Examon protested although too stiff and pained to resist too much.

    “You need to rest, Examon,” Duskmon told him unwaveringly.

    “But we’re under attack,” Examon answered, gritting his teeth.

    “You can hardly move,” the physician pointed out. “You’re still in bad shape from your encounter with Dorbickmon. In your condition, the only person you’ll end up hurting is yourself.”

    “I’ll manage,” the dragon Digimon stubbornly insisted. “It’s my job to be out there helping to defend our home. I’m a Royal Knight.”

    “And I’m a physician. It’s my job to take care of the wounded. You are one of the wounded right now.”

    Examon frowned. “Yes, but—“

    “Let me tell you, Examon. I treat the Royal Knights, soldiers, scouts, and spies on a regular basis. I get the macho ‘I’m fine, Doc. It’s just a flesh wound.’, and the ‘my friends are counting on me’ stuff all the time. You aren’t the first to want to skip out on bed rest so you can be somewhere else, and you certainly won’t be the last. I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else: either lie down or I’ll fasten you down.”

    Examon winced. “I understand, Duskmon. Normally, I wouldn’t mind resting, but don’t you think these are extenuating circumstances?”

    Duskmon walked over to a cart and began to calmly collect medical supplies from them. “If the situation is so bad that we have to send the wounded out to fight, then we’re already in big trouble,” he responded simply. “There are five Royal Knights here. Generally speaking, that’s enough to face down a small army. Not to mention the rest of our forces and our defences. They’ll be fine without your help, I’m sure.”

    Examon was still reluctant. With a sharp, irritated grunt, he lay back down on his bed. “Fine, I’ll stay… but if they breach our defences, I’m going out there to fight,” he told Duskmon authoritatively.

    “If they breach our defences, I’ll be right out there beside you,” Duskmon conceded with a light smirk.

    “Thank you,” Examon breathed, wincing slightly at both a twinge of pain in his body and the fact that he had to sit by while his friends went into battle. Still, he recognized that Duskmon had a point. He was in no shape to do anything but stationary sniping from one of the towers. At least then he would feel like he was doing something useful, but he decided to defer to the doctor’s orders. The more rational side of Examon didn’t want to risk hurting himself in case he was needed later.

    Duskmon nodded. His right shoulder eye darted behind him. “Excuse me. One of my other patients seems to have the same idea that you had. I need to go put him in his place,” he told Examon, beginning to turn around. “Get some rest.”

    Examon sighed and lay back in his bed. “Not much chance of that…”

    -

    “I said put down your damn weapons!”

    Dorbickmon’s blazing sword edged closer to OuRyuumon’s neck. The sweat trickling down it began to evaporate from the heat of the Tyrant Collbrande. Dorbickmon pressed his palm harder against OuRyuumon’s mouth and snarled at the Royal Knights.

    The Royal Knights glanced at Dorbickmon briefly before turning back to the mercenaries surrounding them. They pressed their backs against one another’s defensively.

    “Drop them or I’ll kill him!” Dorbickmon threatened them.

    “You won’t,” Craniamon challenged, shooting him a quick glare.

    “You don’t know me very well, bucket head,” the dragon mercenary retorted.

    Sleipmon looked over his shoulder at the violet knight. “Don’t push him, Craniamon,” he whispered to him. He then turned back to Dorbickmon, aiming the Muspellsheimr at him carefully, trying to get a good shot that wouldn’t risk OuRyuumon’s safety.

    “He won’t,” Craniamon said aloud, making sure that Dorbickmon could hear. “OuRyuumon’s the only thing between him and an arrow in the skull. He should surrender.”

    “You’re forgetting about my companions…” Dorbickmon responded, nodding to black-themed mercenaries surrounding the Royal Knights. “You could resist and get OuRyuumon here killed and let this cozy town become a battlefield… or you could surrender peacefully. I’m sure the Royal Knights aren’t the kinds of heroes that want to get a lot of blood on their hands…” He smirked enigmatically.

    Craniamon turned to the other knights, although making sure to keep the Darkdramon in his sight. “He’s bluffing,” he whispered to them.

    “Can we take that chance?” Sleipmon asked him in a low voice. “Maybe it would be best to play along for now.”

    “If Omegamon hasn’t broken free, do you think we could?” Craniamon countered. “I’m not going along with what that bastard wants. OuRyuumon will be fine if we can make a decisive move.”

    “And if we screw up, he’s dead,” Sleipmon argued.

    UlforceVeedramon looked over his shoulder to Dynasmon. “It’s your call, Dynasmon,” he whispered. “You’re the team leader here.”

    “Thanks. No pressure,” Dynasmon muttered, frowning deeply. He turned his head and looked over at OuRyuumon.

    Unable to speak, OuRyuumon communicated with a harsh glare and then glanced at Dorbickmon, indicating that he wanted them to kill him, even at the danger of his own life.

    Dynasmon recognized what OuRyuumon was telling him. He released a slight grimace and swore under his breath. He didn’t want to risk OuRyuumon’s life, but he realized that he couldn’t afford to let himself and the other three be taken prisoner as well. That would give DarkKnightmon an insurmountable advantage against the Royal Knights’ order, as well as compromise their position.

    He closed his eyes and thought for a few moments. Dynasmon opened them with a glare and gave Sleipmon a sneaky elbow.

    Sleipmon turned and looked at him, to which he saw Dynasmon shoot a look over at Dorbickmon. The horse knight released a tiny sigh through his nostrils and took careful aim.

    “What’s it gonna be, Royal Knights?! Your friend or your pride?” Dorbickmon asked them, gripping his sword tightly. He gestured with his head to the Cimmerian Adventurer mercenaries. “You’ve got five seconds!”

    The Cimmerian Adventurers got ready to move in on the Royal Knights. The Royal Knights stiffened and prepared to react.

    “Five!” Dorbickmon called out with a sneer. “Four--!?”

    OuRyuumon suddenly ripped his mouth away from Dorbickmon’s hand, burning his scales briefly against the Tyrant Collbrande. “FIRE!” he yelled to Sleipmon before chomping down on Dorbickmon’s hand and fingers, hard enough for his jagged teeth to pierce through his gauntlet and dig into his scales. OuRyuumon quickly released Dorbickmon’s hand, grimacing in pain from the bite.

    Dorbickmon roared in pain and ripped his hand away from OuRyuumon. “Rrragh! Damn you!” he roared, inadvertently pulling the flame-wreathed sword away from OuRyuumon’s neck from the pain and surprise of the attack.

    Sleipmon’s eyes narrowed, seeing an opening for him. “Left, OuRyuumon!” he ordered him. The bolt of the Muspellsheimr burned brightly in the tiller of the crossbow. “Bifröst!“

    Sleipmon fired the Muspellsheimr. The radiant arrow streaked across the room and pierced into Dorbickmon’s armoured, right shoulder with a refulgent burst.

    Dorbickmon cried out as he was spun around from the blast and crashed to the floor. He snarled in agony and clutched his bleeding shoulder with his blood-soaked hand. “ATTACK!”

    “Go, Ulforce!” Dynasmon yelled out, looking over at OuRyuumon for a brief moment. “Craniamon! Cover him!”

    “Already on it!” Craniamon responded, charging forwards and slashing his spear across the chest of a Reichmon.

    UlforceVeedramon nodded and took off in a cobalt blur. He flew towards OuRyuumon, his Ulforce Sabre poised behind him and whirring strongly. “Heads up, OuRyuumon!” he warned him as he closed in on him.

    OuRyuumon looked up as he saw the azure afterimage flying at him. He watched as UlforceVeedramon swept his arm forwards, causing the beam blade to curve slightly as it cut towards the chain. The sword impacted the chain, causing the segmented metal to bend and cause OuRyuumon to jerk with the wrenching motion.

    UlforceVeedramon was surprised that the chain didn’t break immediately and that it was actually holding against his Ulforce Sabre. Regardless, he pressed the laser blade against the chain harder. He could see that it was slowly but surely melting through the first chain link.

    “Come on…” he muttered. UlforceVeedramon glanced over his shoulder and noticed the black Deathmon aiming the eyes in his palms at him, getting ready to fire lasers from them. He sneered. He couldn’t bring up his Tensegrity field to defend himself and OuRyuumon while he was cutting through the chains.

    “Dragon’s Roar!” Dynasmon released a blast of condensed ice and electricity from his palms, straight into the Deathmon’s side. The explosion threw the demon into the wall and caused the room to tremble.

    “Thanks, Dynasmon!” UlforceVeedramon called over to him as he finished melting through the chains.

    Released from his forced standing position, OuRyuumon collapsed to his knees and elbows, unable to stand very well on his own, due to his tender muscles. He growled as a shock of pain surged through his body at the sudden movement. “D-Damnit…” he hissed, glaring at the ground and wishing that he was in good enough condition to help fight back. Right now, he felt like a liability.

    “Stay still,” UlforceVeedramon told OuRyuumon as he bent over him to begin cutting the chains that bound his wrists. He looked up to the other Royal Knights, who were currently engaged in combat. “Hey! I need some cover while I free his hands and wings!”

    Dynasmon was busy grappling with the BlackWarGreymon, while Craniamon was locking spears with the Darkdramon. “Sleipmon!” Dynasmon called over to the horse knight, who bashed a KaiserLeomon aside with his shield before firing a bolt from his crossbow at a charging Reichmon.

    Sleipmon turned around and loaded another arrow. “Got it covered!” he responded, galloping towards UlforceVeedramon and OuRyuumon.

    “I don’t think so!” Dorbickmon snarled, glaring at blue dragon man in front of him as he got to his knees. The ports on his breastplate glowed a fiery violet and launched two burning beams into UlforceVeedramon’s back.

    UlforceVeedramon cried out as his armour was pounded and his wings were singed, the force of the blast knocking him down on top of OuRyuumon, just narrowly missing his blade wings.

    “Ulforce!” Sleipmon called out. He narrowed his eyes and sped up his gallop. With an impressive jump, Sleipmon lunged over his two allies and drove his two front hooves into Dorbickmon’s chest, throwing him down and sending him skidding across the stone floor. Sleipmon landed beside UlforceVeedramon and looked down at him. “You okay?”

    “Yeah…” UlforceVeedramon said, although his back was smoking. He adjusted his beam sword and went back to trying to free OuRyuumon.

    “I’ll cover you,” the cavalier Digimon assured him. He turned and fired a Bifröst attack at the Darkdramon as soon as he recoiled from one of Craniamon’s attacks. Sleipmon then twisted his upper body and aimed at Dorbickmon as the dragon stood to his feet and gripped his sword.

    “Big mistake, tin cans,” Dorbickmon snarled.

    “The only one who made a mistake is you: taking one of our friends,” Sleipmon told him. He aligned his eye with the end of the Muspellsheimr and fired.

    Dorbickmon saw the bolt soaring towards him. He grunted and swiftly brought his sword down in a fiery arc. The Tyrant Collbrande collided with the arrow and ripped it apart with its violent flames. As the glowing ashes floated up in front of Dorbickmon’s face, he gritted his teeth and levelled a glared at Sleipmon. “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” he growled, unleashing a wave of fire from his mouth towards Sleipmon.

    Sleipmon sneered as the inferno swept towards him, very aware of his two comrades behind him who were relying on him to guard them. He brought his giant, red, kite shield in front of him. The Niflheimr glowed an intense blue colour and began to freeze the beads of water that clung to their forms from the rain outside. “Odin’s Breath!”

    The shield surged with frigid power, blasting ice forwards to meet the flood of fire. The elements clashed and fought against each other, the fire contending against the freezing wind and melting ice. Sleipmon grunted with effort and kept up his attack. “Hurry, Ulforce! I can only keep this up for so long!” he warned him

    “I’m almost there!” UlforceVeedramon told him. He finished cutting the bindings from OuRyuumon’s hands and proceeded to cleave through the chains around his wings. “Almost… got it!” he announced victoriously, cutting through the last link. “Sleipmon! He’ll need to go with-“

    “I know!” Sleipmon responded. “Then you’ll have to-“

    “Got it!” UlforceVeedramon replied.

    OuRyuumon grimaced and tried to push himself up, although his muscles were protesting against his every movement. He managed to get to his knees before his arms gave out and he fell back on the floor, his form absolutely exhausted from the beatings and imprisonment. “D-Damn it…” he hissed.

    “Here,” UlforceVeedramon told him, deactivating his sword and bending down to help him stand. He wrapped his arms around OuRyuumon’s long, serpentine body and hoisted him onto Sleipmon’s back, so that he was slung over him. “Hang on, okay?”

    “Yeah…” OuRyuumon replied, first rubbing his sore wrists.

    Upon backing away, UlforceVeedramon swerved to face Dynasmon. “Dynasmon! We need an exit!”

    “And fast!” Sleipmon added, his shield trembling as he struggled to contend with Dorbickmon’s advantageous element. He grunted and stopped his Odin’s Breath attack. “Ulforce! Now!”

    UlforceVeedramon dashed in front of Sleipmon, putting himself between the horse knight and Dorbickmon’s attack. He brought up his left arm and activated its V-Bracelet. “Tensegrity Shield!” Just as the inferno swept in on him, the bracer unleashed a dome-like barrier in front of him. The flames impacted the shield before splaying off into harmless embers. “Go!” he yelled to Sleipmon.

    Dynasmon grabbed the BlackWarGreymon by the face and waist and threw him across the room. The knight was about to move, but his back was struck by a painful laser blast. Although it burned and he felt the trickle of blood on his wing, the adrenaline was pumping enough for him to simply shrug it off and spin around to face the Deathmon that fired it. “I’ll give you guys an exit!” he said with an intense snarl. His pupils shrunk and his red eyes became intense and wild. “Breath of Wyvern!”

    The yellow aura dragon, Wyvern, was summoned from Dynasmon’s body, roaring as he materialized. Wyvern soared towards the exit, tearing up the floor, walls, and anything in its path as it flew. The giant dragon swept through the Deathmon and two of the KaiserLeomon, reducing them to nothing but data. Wyvern continued on, smashing through the door and destroying much of the hallway. The sound of rock and wood being ripped to pieces was overshadowed only by the dragon’s crackling power and passionate roar. When the escape route was opened up, Wyvern faded and his essence was recalled back to Dynasmon’s body.

    In its wake was a dust-filled, gaping hallway, extending into the adjacent rooms and barely holding together under the massive interior damage. As the smoke cleared, parts of the hallway’s ceiling began to crumble in chunks and pieces here and there.

    “I said give us an exit, not level the building!” UlforceVeedramon called over to him, glancing over his shoulder as a bead of sweat dripped down his face.

    “It worked, didn’t it?!” Dynasmon countered. “Go, Sleipmon! Get him out of here! We’ll cover you!”

    “What about you guys?” Sleipmon asked with concern, although getting ready to move.

    “We’ll be fine! We’ll take care of these jerks! Now, go!” Dynasmon told him.

    Sleipmon nodded, somewhat reluctantly. “Hold on,” he told OuRyuumon. With that, he broke into a full gallop towards the massive escape route that Dynasmon made. Sleipmon bashed the Niflheimr into a Reichmon that made the mistake of getting in his way, throwing him aside. He dashed out of the room otherwise unopposed. Sleipmon galloped down the debris-filled hallway, heading into the lingering smoke and dust that cloaked the area.

    OuRyuumon held onto one of Sleipmon’s wings and one of the ropes hanging off the side of his back armour. He grimaced at the bumpy ride and how it caused pain to his bruises, cuts, and tender muscles. “W-Wait a sec, Sleipmon!” he said suddenly, remembering something.

    “What is it?” Sleipmon asked, although continuing to gallop.

    “My scimitars!” OuRyuumon told him. “They took them; I need to get them back!”

    “Sorry. There’s no time for that,” Sleipmon answered apologetically. “I need to focus on getting you out of here.”

    “Yeah, but I need them, damn it! I need them to fight!” OuRyuumon protested.

    “You can’t fight in your condition anyways,” Sleipmon told him. “Look, we’ll get them back once we drive these mercenaries out of here and resecure the town.”

    “There might not be anything left of this building by then!” the dragon argued.

    “My priority is getting you out of here,” the Royal Knight insisted. He glanced over his shoulder. “Now where’s Omegamon? We need to get him next.”

    At that, OuRyuumon went quiet. He growled lowly and glared down at the floor as it flew past his vision.

    “OuRyuumon?” Sleipmon asked, growing a bit worried at the lack of a reply. “What happened with Omegamon? Do you know?”

    “…Yeah…” OuRyuumon muttered in response. “It’s not good…”

    Sleipmon slowed down as they reached the far end of the great hall. He stopped and looked at OuRyuumon with a serious look on his face. “…Tell me.”

    -

    Continued in next post
     
  9. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Continued...

    -

    UlforceVeedramon swung around and drove the Ulforce Sabre into a Reichmon’s chest, straight through his digi core. He grunted and retracted the whirring beam blade, prompting the Reichmon to burst into data.

    He turned around just in time to see the BlackWarGreymon lunge at him and slash with his Dramon Killers. The cobalt knight kicked off the floor and jumped backwards, acting just in time for the anti-Dramon weapon to rend across his chest armour without reaching his scales. He gritted his teeth behind his helmet as small shards of metal and sparks flew off from the slash.

    “Don’t delete all of them!” Dynasmon called out to Craniamon and UlforceVeedramon. He was in the middle of grappling with Dorbickmon. His left hand was gripping Dorbickmon’s right wrist, trying to stop him from bringing his blazing sword down on him, while their other hands gripped the other’s to stop their claws from striking each other. He glared deeply into Dorbickmon’s eyes. “We’ll need to question them for information on Omegamon’s location!”

    Dorbickmon laughed in Dynasmon’s face at that. Dynasmon sneered and tried to ignore the smoke that wafted into his face from Dorbickmon’s mouth. The red dragon man put more strength into his sword arm and grinned at Dynasmon as he tried to bring the sword down further. “You’ll be wasting your time!” Dorbickmon explained to him.

    “What the hell do you mean by that?” Dynasmon challenged, glaring into Dorbickmon’s eyes.

    “Omegamon…” Dorbickmon paused to pull his sword back and slash it towards Dynasmon at a low, horizontal angle. Dynasmon caught the sword in his claws and quickly deflected it away. Dorbickmon grunted and jumped backwards in order to recover into a better stance. “Omegamon isn’t the same as you remember him!” he taunted.

    Dynasmon narrowed his eyes. “What did you bastards do to him?!” he demanded. Craniamon and UlforceVeedramon briefly glanced over at their heated words.

    “Happen to see that dark rift in the great hall?” Dorbickmon asked with a smirk. He could tell by Dynasmon’s darkening expression that they had. “Well… DarkKnightmon used its power on Omegamon. It changed him… Omegamon Zwart, I think he calls himself now. Completely loyal to DarkKnightmon. And, Sovereigns, is he pissed at you guys.”

    A snarl escaped Dynasmon’s mouth. “You’re lying…”

    UlforceVeedramon swore under his breath and kept up his ferocious attack on the BlackWarGreymon. Craniamon narrowed his eyes quietly, thinking to himself as he brought up the Avalon to block a stab from the Darkdramon’s Gigastick Lance.

    Dorbickmon shot him a rivalrous smile. “Believe me. Don’t. What do I care? You’ll see sooner or later.”

    “He would never work with DarkKnightmon!” Dynasmon protested, balling up his claws furiously.

    “Weren’t you listening? He didn’t really have a choice,” Dorbickmon explained. “Don’t underestimate the power of the Dark Area.”

    “The Dark Area is used as a prison and an intermediate between deletion and reformatting!” UlforceVeedramon protested. “There’s no way we or Anubismon would allow dark data to grow in there.”

    “There’s plenty of dark data in there,” Dorbickmon explained. “But there’s a difference between ‘pure’ dark data and ‘corrupt’ dark data, I think. I dunno the science of it, but I do know that Omegamon’s with us now.”

    “He’s right,” Craniamon told them, although still glaring coldly at the Darkdramon opposite him. “Remember the Darkdramon I fought.”

    “What?” the Darkdramon asked, frowning. “I’m right here.”

    “Not you, idiot,” Craniamon retorted. “The one that was corrupted by dark data.”

    “Damn it…” Dynasmon snarled, conceding that it was possible. “He might just be saying this to throw us off the scent!”

    “Ask OuRyuumon, if you don’t believe me,” Dorbickmon told him. He swept the Tyrant Collbrande down, making the flames expand and intensity, causing the blade to grow in size. “Well, I guess you won’t be able to, since we’re going to take you three down right here!”

    “Then we have no reason to keep any of you alive,” Craniamon threatened.

    This prompted the Darkdramon and BlackWarGreymon to exchange glances with each other. They looked around and saw that they were the only two mercenaries from their team left alive. They jumped away from Craniamon and UlforceVeedramon and landed nearby each other.

    “Retreat?” Darkdramon asked his comrade.

    “And lose out on the big payment at the end of the job?” BlackWarGreymon responded.

    “We already got the incentive fee upfront, plus now we have everybody else’s share too.”

    “I dunno…”

    “It’s over. Sleipmon’s gone with the dragon; he’s going to report to the RKs and they’re gonna come down on this hideout like a tonne of bricks. If we fight here, there’s a good chance we’re gonna end up like the others. And even if we can beat these guys, once the RKs storm the place, we can say goodbye to our paycheck. DarkKnightmon and them are gonna be on the run. Let’s cut our losses and get the hell outta here.”

    “Yeah… Yeah, you’ve got a point… Covert ops and security is one thing, but we can’t take on the entire Order.”

    Darkdramon and BlackWarGreymon turned to look at Dorbickmon, who was in the middle of hacking his sword down on Dynasmon. “Hey, Dorbickmon!” the mercenaries called to him.

    Dorbickmon glanced up for a moment before doing a combat roll across the floor to avoid a heavy blast from Dynasmon. “What?!” he yelled after jumping to his feet.

    “We’re outta here! This is more than our paycheck’s worth!” Darkdramon told him, flaring his wings up and turning around.

    “If you have any sense, you’ll come with us!” the BlackWarGreymon added.

    With that, the two Cimmerian Adventurers mercenaries took off and raced down what was left of the hallway.

    “What?!” Dorbickmon demanded, snarling. “You spineless cowards! If you had a pair of balls between you, you’d get back here and fight! Damnit!”

    Craniamon narrowed his eyes as he watched the two mercenaries escape. “Are we going to just let them go?” he asked in a tone that suggested he had a bitter taste in his mouth at the idea.

    Dynasmon grunted and the elemental aura he just fired faded from his palms. “I’d rather not, but we’ve gotta be practical.”

    UlforceVeedramon nodded and walked past Craniamon, speaking lowly. “Dorbickmon’s enough to handle without having to fight those two too.”

    Craniamon grunted, conceding, but hating the thought of the three of them all facing one opponent when there were three of them to go around. “Fine.”

    “Looks like you’re all alone, Dorbickmon,” Dynasmon told him, taking a step forwards. “Surrender while you can.”

    Dorbickmon laughed and narrowed his eyes at them in a dark smirk. “You don’t know me at all. I always have another move to make,” he warned them. “That mayor should have kept his mouth shut… Did he mention what would happen to Lupolford if you intervened?”

    Dynasmon glared at him. “We won’t let you!”

    “I always have an exit strategy!” Dorbickmon roared. “Burning the Dragon!”

    Jagged columns of rock exploded through the floor, tearing through the stone and marble. Fissures and cracks snaked beneath the knights’ feet and the rock formations burst up in a shower of dirt and stone fragments, ascending all the way up through the ceiling.

    “Scatter! Get out!” Dynasmon called out to them. “He’s going to bring the whole place down!”

    “Not if I can help it,” Craniamon muttered. He dashed towards Dorbickmon, deftly evading two stone spikes that plunged from the ground. He sprinted across the fracturing floor, his spear in hand, getting ready to attack Dorbickmon, when, suddenly, a giant wall of strata pierced the floor in front of him, blocking him from getting to Dorbickmon. Dust and dirt flooded through the room from the piercing rocks and collapsing ceiling, making visibility abysmal.

    “Craniamon! Get your big *** out of there! The building’s giving way!” UlforceVeedramon called out, although neither of them could properly see each other. “There’s a hole in the wall over here!”

    “Damn it…” Craniamon grunted. Reluctantly, he ran towards UlforceVeedramon’s voice, bashing a piece of falling ceiling away with his shield, and lunging over a pillar of stone that burst from the floor. He could see a blue figure through the haze of unsettled dirt, and ran towards it. He saw UlforceVeedramon waiting for him next to a gaping hole in the wall. “Where’s Dynasmon?”

    “Dunno,” UlforceVeedramon said impatiently. “He’s already outside. Let’s go already! I don’t want to break a horn in here.”

    Craniamon nodded and dashed through the hole into another room. On the other end, he could see the wall’s blocks of stone collapsing, opening up another exit for them. “There,” he told UlforceVeedramon.

    They both ran towards the hole and burst out the other side, through the thick dirt and into the fresh air. The knights were greeted by the pouring rain, which wet their faces and pounded their armour. As they ran out, they saw Dynasmon ahead of them.

    Dynasmon spun around and looked at them with relief. “Good, you’re out. Now where--!”

    He was interrupted by the sound of crashing. The town hall began to collapse. The upper levels sagged around the rock spikes, and the walls caved in, the stone slabs and bricks toppling down in a booming crash that must have sounded like thunder in the rain. The building was imploding in on itself.

    “Get back!” Dynasmon called out.

    The Royal Knights did so, jumping away as the town hall came crashing down in a cacophony and an outward plume of billowing dust. The thick, congesting smoke washed over them, clouding their vision as their armour was pelted by small shards of stone.

    The thick dust lay heavy in the pouring rain. Dynasmon and UlforceVeedramon flew up and began flapping their broad wings to blow the smoke away. Meanwhile, Craniamon spun the Claiohm Solais over his head to create a vortex of wind, sucking the smoke in and dispersing it high into the air.

    From his aerial viewpoint, Dynasmon took the opportunity to look around as soon as the smoke and dust was cleared. He saw that the commotion had drawn curious and worried spectators; many Digimon had come out of their homes and places of work to see what was happening with the town hall.

    Dynasmon grunted. He knew Dorbickmon was still around and the mercenary’s threat was still at large in his mind. He turned to the civilian Digimon. “Everybody, get away from here!” he shouted to them. “It’s not safe! Evacuate immediately!”

    “He’s right!” UlforceVeedramon added. “Everybody leave Lupolford in a quick and orderly fashion until we contain the situation!”

    “They won’t get the chance!” a voice snarled from nearby.

    The three knights turned and saw Dorbickmon stalking over. The Tyrant Collbrande was held tightly in his claws, blazing and hissing when the rain hit the flames and turned to steam. He had a fiery, aggressive look in his eyes.

    “Give me safe passage outta here or else I start making more explosions,” he told them.

    “You’re joking,” Craniamon spoke, bringing his double spear down in front of him.

    “I’ve got a better idea: we kick your ***,” Dynasmon told him.

    Dorbickmon scoffed. “Suit yourselves…” he said. He then turned towards the town and fired blasts from the ports on his chest. The fiery beams pierced the walls of a building. It exploded from the inside in a burst of flame and debris.

    There were a few screams from the onlookers and the gathering Digimon began to run.

    “Everybody evacuate!” Dynasmon called out to them. “He has the power of a Mega level Digimon!”

    Dorbickmon fired another powerful blast, ripping up two buildings at once and reducing them to fragments, cinders, and data. He then turned and shot another blast that soared across the ground and slammed into the statue of MetalGarurumon X, which stood in the debris-ridden courtyard of the destroyed town hall. The statue exploded and the shards of rock pelted the ground and buildings surrounding it.

    “I’ve got him,” Craniamon said to the others, narrowing his eyes before charging across the courtyard towards Dorbickmon. He lunged into the air and slashed his blade down vertically as he descended.

    Dorbickmon grunted and blocked the Claiohm Solais with the Tyrant Collbrande. He put all of his muscle into resisting the attack, despite the pain and blood streaming down his shoulder wound from where Sleipmon shot him. The searing sting only served to fuel his adrenaline, feeding his draconic bloodlust and fighting abilities.

    Craniamon landed and retracted the spear, flipping it over in his hand and thrusting it with the opposite end.

    The dragon mercenary shifted to the side, largely avoiding the attack except for when the very edge of the blade sliced against his armour. Dorbickmon grabbed hold of Craniamon’s wrist and used the opportunity to slam the hilt of his sword into the knight’s face, pounding his visor.

    Craniamon staggered back but used the Avalon to block Dorbickmon’s next attack, causing flames to spread along the face of the black shield.

    “Out of my way!” Dorbickmon growled, grabbing Craniamon by the face and tackling him to the ground. He slammed the knight’s helmeted head against the cobbles in a brutal melee. He followed it up with a solid punch to the face.

    “B-Bastard!” Craniamon grunted in response, dropping his spear and shield to reach up and defend himself. He grabbed Dorbickmon’s nose horn in one hand, yanking down while he drove his other fist into the reptile’s snout.

    Dorbickmon snarled as blood oozed from his lip and nostrils, the crimson fluid mixing with the rain and falling onto Craniamon. He drove his knee into Craniamon’s groin and grabbed hold of his visor, scratching at it and trying to get his claws past the defensive covering. When this didn’t work, Dorbickmon’s chest flared up and he prepared to fire a blast onto Craniamon at point blank range.

    “Craniamon!” UlforceVeedramon called out. He tore through the rain, flapping his wings and poising his Ulforce Sabre. He slashed the wrist-mounted beam blade across Dorbickmon’s back. It seared through his armour and burned the scales underneath, prompting a roar of pain from the dragon.

    Dorbickmon scrambled to his feet, stomping his foot down on Craniamon’s abdomen when the knight tried to follow him up. He fired the blast from his chest towards UlforceVeedramon, who was flying away.

    UlforceVeedramon glanced over his shoulder at the approaching flames. He knew that if he dodged it, the attack would hit the town. The winged dragon spun around in his flight and spread his wings out, stopping himself. He brought up his left arm in front of him defensively. “Tensegrity Shield!” His multi-faced barrier projected from his V-Bracelet and surrounded him.

    The flames blasted the transparent shield, but the barrier held firm against the fiery blast. After a several moments, the attack finally faded into embers, which were snuffed out by the rain. UlforceVeedramon landed and allowed the shield to compress back into his arm bracer.

    At this, Dorbickmon smirked. He swept the Tyrant Collbrande out and stabbed it into the ground. “Burning the Dragon!”

    A massive shard of rock shot up beneath UlforceVeedramon’s feet and slammed into his back, twisting his leg, tearing some of the fabric of his body suit, and throwing him into the air painfully. UlforceVeedramon cried out with pain, but managed to catch himself in the air with his wings.

    Craniamon, who was cringing in agony at the previous beating, stabbed the Claiohm Solais at Dorbickmon. The spear stabbed into his upper leg armour, but the dragon twisted his leg so that it missed his scales, and promptly pulled away.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Dorbickmon saw something white and violet approaching, but he wasn’t able to react in time. Dynasmon plowed into him, connecting his mighty fist across Dorbickmon’s face. The punch sent Dorbickmon flying through the air and landing in a large puddle or rainwater on the ground.

    Dynasmon pulled Craniamon to his feet and ushered the knight behind him. He began to build up his attack in his hands.

    Dorbickmon sneered and propped himself up on his elbows. The inside of his mouth began to glow a bright purple as flames built up in his throat. “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” he roared, breathing a massive squall of fire towards Dynasmon.

    Craniamon grunted and pushed past Dynasmon, standing in the face of the oncoming inferno. He took a steadfast stance and brought the Avalon up in front of him, to shield himself and Dynasmon. “God Breath!”

    The shield pulsed with energy and the flames slammed into the shield, splaying outwards harmlessly around the barrier. Craniamon’s arm strained painfully as he held against the attack. He glanced to the side with his sharp, red eyes. “Ulforce!”

    “Yeah,” UlforceVeedramon complied, ignoring the cut on his outer thigh, which trickled blood down his skin-tight leggings. He shot over to Dorbickmon’s flank while the dragon was still in the middle of his attack. With the mercenary exposed mid-attack, UlforceVeedramon prepared to act. The ‘V’ crest on his chest armour began to glow with bright, holy light. “Shining V-Force!”

    Dorbickmon noticed the intense gleam in the rain and reluctantly stopped his attack. He turned in time to see the V-shaped ray descend on him. His eyes widened.

    The attack burned into his armour and caused the ground around him to explode in a flare of coruscating light.

    As Dorbickmon snarled in pain, Dynasmon ran out around Craniamon’s shield, blue and yellow energy brimming from his palms. “Dragon’s Roar!” he yelled, bringing his hands up and allowing elemental power to surge forth and spiral towards Dorbickmon.

    Dorbickmon struggled to keep his smoking form standing. He grimaced with rage and frustration, looking up and noticing the attack soaring towards him. “Damn it… Too many at once…” he snarled to himself. Dorbickmon swept the Tyrant Collbrande around and planted the blade firmly into the ground, causing the puddle of water to steam and boil when he did. “Burning the Dragon!”

    Several pillars, spikes, and outcroppings of rock burst from the ground in front of him, getting between himself and Dynasmon’s attack like a shield. The beams slammed through the thick, stony projections and exploded. The detonation sent dust, smoke, and rock blooming outwards, veiling the entire vicinity. The shroud of dirt prevented the knights from seeing anything.

    “Get back, Dynasmon. I’ll get rid of it,” Craniamon said within the cloud of dust.

    Again, Craniamon used a passive variant of his End Waltz technique: spinning his spear to create a small cyclone in order to clear the smoke away. The dense veil faded and all that was left of the protrusions were crumbling stones.

    The Royal Knights looked around for Dorbickmon, ready to defend both themselves and the town. However, Dorbickmon was nowhere in sight. They scanned the area fervently but couldn’t locate him anywhere.

    “He’s gone,” Dynasmon said, narrowing his eyes.

    “He could have gone to attack another part of the town,” UlforceVeedramon suggested.

    “Or he turned tail and ran,” Craniamon supposed.

    “We can’t let him go,” the cobalt knight responded. He looked at Dynasmon. “Should I go after him?”

    Dynasmon paused and thought to himself. He realized that Ulforce had a point about letting Dorbickmon go, but it was risky going after him. He sighed. “No, go after Sleipmon. Go with him to headquarters, tell Alphamon what happened, mobilize a brigade of the Shield Guards and send them here to defend Lupolford. Me and Craniamon will secure the town and make sure Dorbickmon doesn’t attack again.”

    “And let Dorbickmon escape again? He’s going to be a problem for us later,” UlforceVeedramon objected with an annoyed frown.

    “Our priority is protecting OuRyuumon and Lupolford. We don’t know when DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon could arrive back, so we need to stay on the defensive,” Dynasmon insisted. “We need to protect the town as quickly as possible.”

    “Fine…” UlforceVeedramon conceded.

    Craniamon turned and looked towards the pile of rubble that used to be the town hall. “You don’t think Omegamon’s in there, do you?” he asked, leering hard at the wreckage.

    “That’s another reason for you to talk to OuRyuumon, Ulforce: to see if Dorbickmon was telling the truth… though I’ve got a bad feeling that he was,” Dynasmon said with a soft grimace.

    “Yeah…” UlforceVeedramon said, flapping his wings to ascend from the ground. “Good luck, guys.”

    “You too,” Dynasmon told him. Craniamon nodded.

    “OuRyuumon owes us drinks after all this, so don’t die or anything,” UlforceVeedramon said to them with a small grin. He turned away and flew off in a blue flash, disappearing into the rain.

    Craniamon glanced over at Dynasmon. “…Can’t believe they were hiding right under our noses. Here of all places. It’s humiliating.”

    “DarkKnightmon’s smart. He must have known we wouldn’t have expected it,” Dynasmon answered. “Look on the bright side: we’ve finally had a victory. We exposed and destroyed their base of operations, we rescued OuRyuumon, and we sent Dorbickmon scampering away. That’s something to smile about, I’d say…”

    -

    “DarkKnightmon!”

    Alphamon tore through the rain, his sword gleaming intensely in his hand. His furious red eyes were fixed on the dark knight ahead of him. Rage and adrenaline pumped through his body as he pursued DarkKnightmon. He raised his free hand and fired a Digitalize of Soul attack spiritedly. The thick green blast crackled as it ripped towards his opponent.

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and flew to the side, shooting at the mighty beam with a one of his own, launched from the Twin Spear.

    The Royal Knights engaged the attackers outside of the castle wall, ushering them away from the headquarters as much as they could. Smoke and steam wafted up from the craters and gashes along the wall.

    “You capture my friend and do that to him?!” Alphamon shouted as he closed in on DarkKnightmon. “I’ve forgiven you over and over again in the past, DarkKnightmon, but not this time! This time, you’ve gone too far! And I’m going to make sure that you pay for what you’ve done!”

    “So this is what it took to make you grow a backbone, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon responded, narrowing his eyes rivalrously. “It’s too bad you didn’t have one when it counted.”

    “He was your friend too, you traitorous bastard!” Alphamon yelled, slashing his sword down onto DarkKnightmon.

    To Alphamon’s shock, a shadow moved in front of DarkKnightmon’s body and got in the way.

    Omegamon Zwart raised the Grey Sword and blocked Alphamon’s attack. He glared into the Royal Knight’s eyes. “Which is more than I can say about you,” Omegamon Zwart told him coldly.

    “Omegamon…” Alphamon said, staring at him with surprised red eyes. He pulled the Seiken Gradalpha back and halted his attack. “You still recognize me?”

    “I recognize you,” Omegamon Zwart answered, angling his blade in front of him. “Alphamon… Enemy… Liar… Traitor…”

    “What…?” Alphamon frowned. “I’m your friend, Omegamon! We’ve known each other for ages! I’m not your enemy! I’m none of those things!”

    “Then what of you and OuRyuumon?” he asked him pointedly.

    Alphamon froze. If Omegamon revealed his secret like this, it would be a disaster. Not only that, but it would put OuRyuumon in real danger; he knew that DarkKnightmon would take any opportunity to hurt him.

    “I’m your friend, Omegamon! You know me!” Alphamon pleaded. “I know you are in there somewhere!”

    Omegamon Zwart narrowed his eyes and raised the Garuru Cannon to Alphamon’s face. “Garuru--“

    “Final Elysion!”

    Dukemon, riding on Grani, cut through the rain towards them. His shield pulsed with energy and released a burning beam through the rain. Both Omegamon Zwart and DarkKnightmon turned and saw the pillar of light surging towards them. The black knights separated to avoid the attack. Dukemon lunged off Grani’s back and drove his boot into DarkKnightmon’s collar, kicking him mightily and knocking him through the air.

    Nearby, RhodoKnightmon and Magnamon cooperated to fight MirageGaogamon, while Duftmon was busy organizing the Defence Forces. Beams tore through the air from the castle walls as the Defence Forces laid down an intermittent base of fire under Duftmon’s direction.

    The crimson knight landed on the ground and looked up at Alphamon. The Lord of the Empty Seat was silhouetted against streaks of green, red, and white blasts, which targeted Omegamon Zwart. “Alphamon! I’ll handle DarkKnightmon! You keep trying to get through to Omegamon!”

    DarkKnightmon grunted and lunged out of the way as a volley of ranged attacks descended on him. After narrowly avoiding the nearby explosion, DarkKnightmon looked up at MirageGaogamon and Omegamon Zwart.

    “Omegamon Zwart! MirageGaogamon!” he called up to them. “They’re starting to get organized! I think we’ve made our point; it’s time to retreat!”

    “What?!” Alphamon protested angrily, flying towards Omegamon Zwart. “No! Omegamon! Listen to me!”

    “I’m tired of listening to you,” Omegamon Zwart told him. He aimed his cannon at Alphamon. “Garuru Cannon.”

    The muzzle pulsed with icy power and surged through the air, impacting Alphamon’s chest as soon as he drew near. Alphamon grunted in pain as he was blasted back through the air, the rainwater that coated his chest armour instantly froze into a thin layer of ice from the attack.

    Grani swooped up behind Alphamon and caught him against his underbelly. “Are you alright, Alphamon?” he asked him.

    Grimacing, Alphamon looked up to where he last saw Omegamon Zwart. To his dismay, he could see his black form disappearing into the rain. “Omegamon!” he shouted, pulling away from Grani and making to follow him.

    “Alphamon!” Duftmon called out from behind him.

    Alphamon grunted and glanced over his shoulder at him, a bit annoyed at the delay to his pursuit. He saw Duftmon standing on a parapet of the wall, his sword drawn.

    “I believe that this was just a hit-and-run attack to test our defences! They seem to be retreating for good!” Duftmon informed him. “I advise against pursuing them in this weather. They came here with a clear plan and exit strategy, and this rain will make chasing them prove futile and dangerous.”

    Alphamon narrowed his eyes. “But Omegamon’s…!”

    “I know, Alphamon,” Dukemon said to him from the ground below. “I feel the exact same way that you do. We all do. But—“

    Alphamon released a grimace of frustration and anger. “Yes. I know,” he replied, brushing the melting ice from his chest impatiently. He turned around and began to fly back towards the castle. “Secure the perimeter! Do not pursue!”

    Dukemon sighed a bit and turned to glare in the direction that DarkKnightmon, Omegamon Zwart, and MirageGaogamon retreated in. The glare softened.

    Grani floated down beside him. “Are you alright?” he asked Dukemon.

    “No… not really,” Dukemon admitted sombrely. “But I’m still going to act like it.”

    “I’m sorry…” Grani apologized, realizing how the situation must be hard for them. “You don’t actually think that Omegamon has betrayed us, do you?”

    “There’s no way Omegamon would ever do that,” Dukemon stubbornly replied. “DarkKnightmon must have done something to him.”

    “I admit it would be extremely out of character for Omegamon to turn on us,” Grani agreed, “but what else could have happened?”

    “I don’t know…” Dukemon said distantly. He turned to Grani. “Fly me up, will ya?”

    Grani lowered himself and allowed Dukemon to mount his back. Once Dukemon was standing firmly, he flew up to the castle wall, where the Royal Knights were gathered. Alphamon, Duftmon, RhodoKnightmon, and Magnamon stood together on the damaged ramparts. Dukemon jumped off Grani and landed nearby.

    “—goal seemed to be to cause disorder among the Order and gauge our reactions,” Duftmon supposed.

    “Yes, I agree,” Alphamon tersely responded. He turned away and glared sharply into the distance. “He doesn’t have the resources or power to take on the Order from the outside so he’s trying to weaken us from within using these… underhanded… tactics.”

    “That appears to be the case…” Duftmon spoke. “As a tactician, the approach is commendable, but as a knight, it lacks any honour. I am… conflicted as to how I feel about him.”

    “Easy. He’s the enemy,” Dukemon said, stepping forwards. “You all saw what he did to Omegamon.”

    “Y…Yeah…” Magnamon said, looking down.

    “Can we be sure that that was our dear Omegamon?” RhodoKnightmon asked, folding his arms. “Perhaps it was a fake?”

    “It was him. I’m certain of it,” Alphamon said adamantly, clenching his fists on the rain-soaked railing.

    “Omegamon wouldn’t betray us,” Magnamon announced. “I’m certain of that.”

    “So am I,” Dukemon agreed.

    “Perhaps, but that begs the question of what did change him. Perhaps a Digimon with the ability to manipulate the mind or emotions?” Duftmon mused.

    “I wouldn’t put anything past DarkKnightmon anymore,” Dukemon said with slitted eyes.

    “More importantly, how do we get him back?” Alphamon asked, turning back around to face them.

    “I order to find a ‘remedy’, to put it crudely, we must first understand the cause,” Duftmon responded.

    “I highly doubt any of them will just tell us,” RhodoKnightmon said. “DarkKnightmon is insisting that Omegamon joined him out of his own free will.”

    “Well, he would,” Dukemon answered. “He still thinks that he’s right and we’re wrong.”

    Magnamon nodded. “We should get back to the troops, shouldn’t we?” he suggested. “They’ll want to know what’s going on.”

    “Yes. Very well,” Alphamon said, spreading his wings and preparing to take flight.

    “Two unknowns incoming from the north!” a scout announced from further down the line.

    The Royal Knights turned towards the voice and prepared for action.

    “Hold your fire!” a second voice shouted. “It’s Sir Sleipmon and Sir UlforceVeedramon!”

    “Captain OuRyuumon’s with them!” another voice exclaimed.

    Alphamon’s eyes widened. He broke from the group and ran along the ramparts, followed by the other Royal Knights. They rushed to see them. Alphamon stopped when he saw two figures in the rain, running and flying along the outside of the damaged wall. It was Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon, with OuRyuumon draped over Sleipmon’s back.

    Relief flooded through the Royal Knights. It seemed like a foreign emotion at this point. Although they had parted on bad terms, Alphamon was pleased to see OuRyuumon again, although he wasn’t without both worry and trepidation as well.

    “Open the gate!”

    -

    A few minutes passed and the Royal Knights gathered in the courtyard just beyond the castle gate. Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon walked towards the group. OuRyuumon glanced at Alphamon uncertainly from his place on Sleipmon’s back.

    “What the hell happened here?” UlforceVeedramon asked them, turning towards the wall, which smoke and the vestiges of beam attacks still drifted and lingered from.

    “We were attacked?” Sleipmon inquired with furrowed brows.

    “By DarkKnightmon,” Alphamon replied grimly. “No casualties. A few injured.” The Lord of the Empty Seat’s gaze met with OuRyuumon’s. He looked at him for a few moments before looking back up at Sleipmon and UlforceVeedramon. “What happened with your group? Where are Dynasmon and Craniamon?”

    “Securing Lupolford,” UlforceVeedramon responded. “It was DarkKnightmon’s base all along.”

    “Dorbickmon was threatening the mayor; if he didn’t keep their secret, Dorbickmon would attack the town,” Sleipmon added.

    “They were holding OuRyuumon there,” the blue knight went on. “As you can tell, we freed him, but there was a big fight between us and Dorbickmon and some mercenaries. The town hall was destroyed and he started attacking the town, but I think we drove him off. We need to send a brigade of Shield Guards up to Lupolford in case they come back.” UlforceVeedramon glanced back at the wall. “But if…”

    “No… I doubt they’ll attack here again so soon,” Alphamon said. He glanced back at OuRyuumon.

    “Also…” Sleipmon began with a grim expression, but he stopped when he felt movement on his back.

    With a pained grunt, OuRyuumon pushed himself up and slid off Sleipmon’s back. He landed on his feet and wobbled a bit, still having trouble standing with his injuries, but he held onto Sleipmon and kept himself up.

    “Don’t strain yourself, big guy,” UlforceVeedramon told him.

    “A-Alphamon…” OuRyuumon said through pained breaths. He looked at Alphamon with a gaze that held many emotions in his eyes: sadness, guilt, and uncertainty, among many more. “It’s… about Omegamon…”

    Alphamon grimaced. “We… know,” he responded. “He attacked us along with DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon.”

    “What we don’t know is why…” Magnamon said.

    “S’not his fault…” OuRyuumon said, having to hunch over slightly from the pain in his chest. “It was DarkKnightmon…”

    “There was a dark rift in the town hall,” Sleipmon explained. “He used its dark data to corrupt Omegamon.”

    Alphamon narrowed his eyes. “…I see…” He closed them again and tried to allow himself to relax. He looked at OuRyuumon with a concerned stare. “OuRyuumon… Are you alright?”

    OuRyuumon stalled. After a moment, he spoke. “I’m okay.”

    “He was badly beaten,” Sleipmon corrected. “I think he may have a fractured rib.”

    “And he’s missing a tooth,” UlforceVeedramon added.

    “It’ll grow back…” OuRyuumon muttered.

    “He’s more concerned about getting his swords back,” UlforceVeedramon said with a chuckle.

    Alphamon smiled a bit and walked towards OuRyuumon. “I’m… glad you’re safe,” he told him. “Let me help you to the medical bay.”

    “…You sure?” OuRyuumon asked sceptically. “You’re not busy with… command stuff?”

    “We’ve got it covered,” Dukemon said, giving Alphamon a meaningful look. “You make sure OuRyuumon gets to Duskmon in one piece. And tell Examon what happened while you’re there.”

    “…Examon’s hurt?” OuRyuumon questioned.

    “He was ambushed by Dorbickmon,” RhodoKnightmon explained.

    OuRyuumon frowned.

    “You put us through a lot of trouble with your utter stupidity, I hope you realise,” Duftmon chastised him.

    However, instead of the biting comeback that everybody was expecting, OuRyuumon said, “I know… I’m sorry.”

    “…Allow me,” Alphamon said, taking OuRyuumon’s arm and gently putting it around his winged shoulders to help OuRyuumon stand.

    “Thanks…” OuRyuumon muttered in reply.

    There was an unmistakeable tension between the two, though it was only noticeable to Dukemon, who knew the truth of the matter.

    “Come on, guys,” Dukemon said. “Let’s get back to the troops and prepare a team to reinforce Lupolford. Lots to do.”

    The Royal Knights nodded and went off, leaving Alphamon to take OuRyuumon inside. The two exchanged uncertain, uncomfortable looks before slowly walking side by side towards the entrance of the main building, which two guards rushed to open for them.

    As they heard the door close behind them, they stepped into the entrance hall. Alphamon glanced at OuRyuumon and saw some remnants of dried blood caked down his face and neck, although most had been washed away by the rain. “Are you badly hurt?” he asked him.

    “No…” OuRyuumon answered, trying not to let himself wince as they walked.

    “…You’re putting on a brave face,” Alphamon told him. “I know you too well.”

    The gold dragon Digimon glanced away quietly. They walked for a few more meters before he made himself speak up. “Alphamon… I…” He paused. “I’m really sorry…” he told him, his cheeks burning. He was always bad at apologies.

    Alphamon was temporarily quiet as they walked down the hall. He looked over at OuRyuumon. “So am I, OuRyuumon… Very sorry…”

    OuRyuumon braved a look in Alphamon’s direction. “But… it’s not that simple, is it?” he said knowingly.

    Alphamon grew silent again.

    “I’m not trying to be selfish here…” he told him. “There’s a lot going on, I know. Omegamon’s, well…” He trailed off and sighed. “I just want to know where we stand…”

    The black knight looked down at the floor as he walked them up to the foyer. “…Rejoin the Order, OuRyuumon,” he told him. “Your old job. Captain of the Strike Forces… That is, if you still want to…” he sheepishly replied.

    “I do… Thanks, Alphamon,” OuRyuumon said to him. He gave a small grin. “I think Dad and I would’ve driven each other crazy if I went to work at the smithy.”

    Alphamon gave him a brief smile, although it quickly disappeared.

    OuRyuumon picked up on his body language. “But you and I…” he said, his words lingering. “We’re finished?”

    “Not ‘finished’…” Alphamon responded with a pensive sadness. “I just… think we need a break for a little while.”

    After a moment, OuRyuumon gave a brief nod. “Yeah… I think so too,” he said. “I still love you, Alphamon, but… well, the timing isn’t right, is it? …And we both said and did some things… It’s not like we can just pick up where we left off.”

    Alphamon nodded in agreement. “I still can’t quite get over…” Alphamon sighed and decided against explicitly bringing up what happened between OuRyuumon and DarkKnightmon, not wanting to start another argument. “Well, there were arrows launched from both sides; there’s a lot of mending to be done,” he said. “And I don’t think now’s the right time to do that. Not with DarkKnightmon and Omegamon and everything else that’s going on.” He sighed and looked into OuRyuumon’s violet eyes. “But I do still love you, and I’m willing to make the effort, if you are… Just… later. After some time has passed and this ordeal is over with, maybe.”

    “Yeah… I get it,” OuRyuumon answered. “I’m willing.” He grinned a bit. “Bet it’s weird seeing me so mature and agreeable, huh…? Well, when I wasn’t being used as a punching bag, I had a lot of time to think…”

    “Over-thinking can be just as bad. That’s what I’ve been doing these past several days,” Alphamon admitted.

    “Yeah, that’s you in a nutshell…” he told him, grinning weakly. OuRyuumon glanced at Alphamon. “So… we good? All things considered, I mean…”

    “All things considered… we’re good,” Alphamon responded. “Let’s just… take things slowly and focus on the tasks at hand.”

    OuRyuumon nodded. “Yeah. Deal…”

    Alphamon nodded and helped his friend down towards the medical bay. The two of them walked in silence.
     
  10. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 24 Part I: Burning the Past​


    The rain continued to flood down from the sky as DarkKnightmon flew alone towards Lupolford. He was confident; after his successful-albeit-brief attack that morning, not even the rainwater filling up his armour would sully his mood.

    His plan was coming together like he hoped, slowly but surely. He took a minor victory here, a greater victory there, and even a fleeting blow, just as long as they were beneficial to his aims in the long run. He was calculating and he was patient. As the smaller, disadvantaged opponent to the powerful, well-financed, and well-organized Order, he had to use his mind to deliver his attacks just as much as he did his spear. He had to use psychological and guerilla warfare if he wanted to topple the Order, and he already knew what his next move would be.

    He, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart had split up during their retreat from the Royal Knights’ headquarters, as a countermeasure in case they had been followed. He didn’t want to lead the Knights to his base of operations in Lupolford.

    DarkKnightmon could see the town in question in the distance. The dark silhouettes of the stone buildings were obscured by the rain, but visible enough for the knight to notice them. He headed towards it, flying at a leisurely pace.

    Upon reaching the edge of town, he stopped in the air. He sensed that something wasn’t right. The town was unnaturally quiet and he noticed the smell of damp smoke in the air. Frowning suspiciously, he flew further into the town, heading directly for the town hall. However, when he did this, he noticed that the silhouette of the town hall was mysteriously absent. DarkKnightmon just thought that the rain may have been too thick for him to see it, so he continued forwards a bit further.

    That was when he stopped. The pungent scent of smoke, dust, and ozone from attacks clotted the air. DarkKnightmon looked before him at the source and saw not the town hall, but a giant pile collapsed rubble. At the realization of what might have happened, DarkKnightmon bowed his head. His yellow eyes narrowed and his face darkened.

    Suddenly, he felt a hand grip his shoulder firmly. Right as he began to turn around, he heard a voice.

    “Sir. Come with me. Immediately,” MirageGaogamon’s voice told him. There was a sense of authority and danger in his tone. DarkKnightmon was about to speak, but the sight of something on the ground stopped him. It was Craniamon, walking down one of the adjacent streets, weapon and shield in hand, with his back to them. DarkKnightmon nodded.

    MirageGaogamon let go and flew swiftly through the air, prompting DarkKnightmon to follow after him. They soared over the buildings and headed out of town before they could be spotted.

    Despite passing the outskirts of Lupolford, MirageGaogamon didn’t slow his hurried pace. Many minutes passed and it wasn’t until about two kilometers that he finally slowed down. DarkKnightmon looked ahead of him and saw a grove of four trees sticking out in the grassy plain.

    MirageGaogamon dived down under their canopies and landed between the trees. DarkKnightmon followed him. As he drew closer, he saw Omegamon Zwart, a few leaders of the mercenary teams he hired, and Dorbickmon, who was lying against a tree, appeared to be wounded.

    DarkKnightmon set down beside MirageGaogamon and turned to Dorbickmon. “Dorbickmon. What in the hell happened?” he demanded.

    Dorbickmon looked up at DarkKnightmon with an annoyed glare. As he rested with his back against the tree trunk, he clutched the bloody arrow wound in his shoulder, trying to make sure that the flow of blood was staunched. “What happened? The slippery little **** ratted us out. That’s what happened,” he bitterly replied, spitting.

    “Wolfmon?” DarkKnightmon asked.

    “But you assured us you had him under control,” MirageGaogamon accused, narrowing his eyes at Dorbickmon.

    The wounded dragon turned his glare to MirageGaogamon. “I did. Up until your old friends turned up for an unannounced inspection. Dynasmon, Craniamon, Sleipmon, and UlforceVeedramon… They questioned him and the coward panicked and spilled everything,” he growled. “Speaking of cowards, the only mercenaries around when everything went to **** were a handful of the Cimmerian Adventurers, and they turned tail as soon as they realized that the Royal Knights were going to put up a little bit of resistance. If these guys were around like they were supposed to be, maybe we wouldn’t’ve lost our base!” he added with a nod to the nearby mercenaries.

    “I sure hope you’re not blaming us, Dorbickmon,” responded a Beowolfmon, the leader of the Licht Gruppe. The white-garbed humanoid folded his arms and leered down at the dragon. “If this is anyone’s fault, it’s the Cimmerian Adventurers. I told you we couldn’t trust those two-faced shadow dwellers. Unlike them, the Licht Gruppe actually cares about changing things for the better.”

    “If that’s true, where were you guys earlier?” Dorbickmon asked accusingly.

    “Hey, we had a job on the side,” Vikemon of the Valancers defended. The large, furry, mammal Digimon leaned against one of the other trees. “While we’re definitely against the way the RKs work, this is still a business. We have to get money in the meantime somehow while on a long job like this. Me and my team has to eat.”

    “Yeah,” agreed Triceramon X of the Dune Troopers. “We want the Royal Knights out of everybody’s business too, but we don’t do anything for free.” The green triceratops Digimon glanced over at DarkKnightmon. “Speaking of which, how the hell are we gonna get our money now that your hideout is a pile of rubble? That’s how you were going to pay us, wasn’t it? Using that Anubismon guy’s leftover money since you’re fresh out’ve the Dark Area?”

    “Good point,” Vikemon agreed, eyeing their employer. “Are you going to go ask the Royal Knights to help you unbury it?”

    “That’s enough,” MirageGaogamon warned them, taking a step forwards.

    “It’s fine, MirageGaogamon,” DarkKnightmon assured him. “It’s a perfectly understandable question, given the unfortunate circumstances.” He looked at the three mercenary leaders in question. “Do not worry. You will get the money you were promised.”

    “How?” Vikemon questioned.

    “I have estates in the Dark Area,” DarkKnightmon responded, although he didn’t go into details.

    “And just how much are these estates worth in the actual world?” challenged the sceptical dinosaur.

    DarkKnightmon turned to him. “If our partnership is going to last, you are going to have to trust me,” he explained. “I promised you payment, so you’ll get it.”

    “Not a lot of merit in the promise of an oath breaker,” Triceramon X muttered.

    At this, MirageGaogamon scowled and took a menacing step forwards. “What was that?” he threatened, moving his bladed claws forwards.

    “MirageGaogamon,” DarkKnightmon stopped him. He stepped in front of Triceramon X and stared the bulky, X-antibody dinosaur in the face. “I’ll put this to you, then. You can either trust me on my word or you can dissolve our partnership and go back with your tail between your legs to the true leader of the Dune Troopers. I’m sure he would want an explanation for why you took several others and went off independently without his permission, and why you came back with absolutely nothing to show for it. Would you rather make a name for yourself like you wanted to? Or go back to your leader who, from what I hear, is decidedly lacking in tolerance for incompetence?”

    Triceramon X grunted and his gaze strayed to the side. “Fine, but I’m holding you to your word,” he replied. “I’m getting out of here before Dynasmon makes another pass this way. Me and my team’ll be at the inn a town over when you decide what to do next.”

    “Thank you,” DarkKnightmon told him.

    MirageGaogamon cast Triceramon X a cold stare as he began to walk away, out into the rain.

    “I should get back to my Digimon as well,” Beowolfmon explained. “Where will you four be staying now?”

    “Another province in the Free Area,” DarkKnightmon responded. “Only temporarily. We need to be especially careful during this next week, in light of current events.”

    “What does this mean for your plans?” Vikemon asked.

    “All this means is that I will have to speed my plans up,” the dark knight Digimon assured them. “Don’t worry. This is just a minor setback.”

    “Good. Keep in touch,” Vikemon told him, going and walking after Triceramon X.

    Beowolfmon waited a few minutes before walking off in a different direction, careful of the Royal Knight activity in the nearby town.

    When he was gone, Omegamon Zwart turned to Dorbickmon. “How are your wounds?” he questioned.

    “Hurts, but I won’t bleed to death and I’m not losing data; I’ll be fine,” Dorbickmon responded.

    “Wonderful,” MirageGaogamon muttered sarcastically. “Our base would have been nice to keep, though.”

    “Hey, you try taking on four Royal Knights singlehanded,” Dorbickmon growled. He then smirked. “Oh, wait. You couldn’t even beat OuRyuumon, from what I heard.”

    MirageGaogamon narrowed his eyes at Dorbickmon. “You couldn’t even keep that mayor in line.”

    “Enough bickering,” Omegamon Zwart said sharply.

    Dorbickmon grunted and glanced at DarkKnightmon, who seemed to be thinking hard. “Hey, DarkKnightmon. You were bluffing before, weren’t you? About the money.”

    DarkKnightmon glanced at him wordlessly.

    “As someone with personal knowledge on mercenaries, you’re gonna need to get that cash somehow,” Dorbickmon informed him with a sideways grin. “Those Licht Gruppe guys might be crusaders for your cause, but the others? Their loyalty comes with their paycheck. That’s just how a lot of mercs operate. And, trust me, you don’t want them questioning their loyalties in the middle of a decisive fight. I’ve seen a lot of fights go bad because the mercenaries decided to defect.”

    “…They’ll get their money,” DarkKnightmon assured him. “I may not have it now, but I will once the Royal Knights fall apart. The wealth they have at their disposal will be mine. That’s how I’ll pay them off.”

    “Okay, but don’t let them hear you say that,” Dorbickmon responded. “They won’t follow you into battle on hypothetical wealth.”

    “I won’t tell them,” DarkKnightmon said firmly. “If you want to talk about hypotheticals, either everything goes to plan and we commandeer the demoralized and fractured Order as planned or we fail and it won’t matter if they’re paid anyways. The latter won’t happen.”

    “Okay… So what’s next?” Dorbickmon asked.

    “Omegamon Zwart will take you somewhere for healing. MirageGaogamon and I will go and hire more mercenary teams with our ‘hypothetical wealth’.”

    “But, sir, didn’t we gather as many as we could before?” MirageGaogamon questioned.

    “That was back when we could afford to be concerned about scruples,” DarkKnightmon answered. “Kowloon Company may be shady, but we need strength more than we do ethical associates at the moment.”

    “Kowloon? But DarkKnightmon… their reputation isn’t exactly clean…”

    “Yes, but they’re the largest mercenary company in the area or perhaps on the entire continent. They are a means to an end that we can wash our hands of once we’re done with their services. Trust me, MirageGaogamon, I don’t want to work with them, but circumstances necessitate that we do. Especially after today.”

    MirageGaogamon frowned uncertainly. “Very well...”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “One more thing, Dorbickmon… What happened to OuRyuumon?” he wondered.

    “Rescued by Sleipmon,” Dorbickmon explained.

    DarkKnightmon paused. “…Fine. Now, then. Let’s get moving before the Royal Knights reach this area.”

    -

    Five days passed since the day of the attack. The Defence Forces were on Guard Level: 2, which meant there was an increased number of patrols which stretched a greater perimeter, and more guards on duty. After the day’s relatively chaotic and slugging response, it also meant more combat drills for the soldiers.

    Masons were hard at work, repairing the wall, which took some heavy hits in the fighting. It involved dismantling the damaged sections of wall and rebuilding them from scratch.

    Additionally, there was a sizeable Royal Knight forces garrison stationed in Lupolford, to deter anybody from returning there. The scouts and spies were trying to locate DarkKnightmon’s forces in the meantime.

    The Royal Knights were preparing in any way that they could.

    In the headquarters’ small chapel, Alphamon kneeled in the nave, in front of the white altar. He faced the stained glass window, which portrayed an interpretation of Yggdrasil in magnificent splendour. On his left, he was flanked by a few, narrow, lancet windows which allowed a bit of tinted light into the humble chapel. His eyes were closed and his hands were clasped in front of him as he thought to himself.

    When his moment of private introspection was over, Alphamon stood to his feet and bowed his head for a moment. Next, he turned around and walked down the aisle, towards the chapel’s exit. He stepped out of the room and turned down the hallway.

    As he walked, Alphamon noticed a gold figured turn the next corner and walk towards him. “OuRyuumon…” he greeted with some surprise and a hint of uncertainty.

    OuRyuumon stopped upon seeing Alphamon. He had bandages wrapped around the upper third of his body, but he looked a lot better than he did several days ago. “Oh, hey, Alphamon,” he replied, blinking.

    They both stood there, waiting for the other to say something. It created an uncomfortable silence that OuRyuumon was quick to try to break.

    “Were you at the chapel?” OuRyuumon asked, looking over the black knight’s shoulder.

    “Yes, I was. …Have you come to connect with Yggdrasil?” Alphamon asked with a small, knowing smile on his face.

    “You know I don’t believe in that stuff,” OuRyuumon said with a small grin of his own. “Guess that’s another reason I won’t become a Royal Knight huh?”

    The smile on Alphamon’s face faded. “OuRyuumon…”

    “Sorry…” OuRyuumon replied, catching himself and rubbing the nape of his neck. “Bad habit.”

    “It’s fine…” Alphamon stalled. “So… What are you doing? Should you even be up?”

    “I’m feeling a lot better now. Duskmon’s just being a hard-***,” OuRyuumon said with a shrug.

    Alphamon frowned and looked at him sceptically. “Duskmon knows what he’s talking about. If he says you should rest…”

    “I’m just stretching my legs a bit,” the dragon insisted. “And I was wondering how you were doing.”

    “Fine. There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, actually,” Alphamon told him. “Can we go up to my room?”

    “Uh oh,” OuRyuumon said. “Sounds ominous already.”

    Alphamon smiled a bit. “Come on.”

    He led OuRyuumon up to the second level of the headquarters and down a hallway to his room.

    “So…” the Captain said apprehensively as he walked into Alphamon’s room. “What’s up?”

    “Sit down,” Alphamon offered, closing the door and walking to the center of the room.

    OuRyuumon hesitated but soon decided to sit down on the desk chair.

    Alphamon went and sat on his bed. He looked across at OuRyuumon. “It’s about you, me, and DarkKnightmon.”

    The dragon exhaled and glanced off to the side. “You mean when I pushed him, don’t you?” he said, sounding guilty and slightly defensive.

    “No… Not that,” Alphamon told him, although it sounded like he was holding back words. “I don’t want to linger on things that happened in the past… I’ve done too much of that lately and it hasn’t helped me at all.”

    OuRyuumon looked back at Alphamon with inquisitive violet eyes. “Then… what?”

    “Omegamon…” Alphamon spoke, his lips lingering on the name. “He still has his memories.”

    “Yeah… he does,” OuRyuumon responded, wincing.

    “He knows about you and me. That we were together,” the Lord of the Empty Seat explained. “How long until he tells DarkKnightmon? You know what DarkKnightmon would do with that… He would use it to drive a wedge between us and the other knights, between the Order and those we defend.”

    “I see your point…” OuRyuumon replied, although he was beginning to feel a sense of dread lingering in the room. “What d’you suggest?”

    “I’m not making the mistake I made with Omegamon again…” Alphamon told his resolutely. “I think we should tell the others.”

    OuRyuumon tensed up. “You mean… come out?” he asked him hesitantly.

    Alphamon nodded. “If we don’t tell them, you can be sure that DarkKnightmon will,” he said with a sigh. “It’s better that they hear it from us…” Alphamon paused and thought to himself before speaking again. “Besides… I want to tell them. I’m tired of lying to my friends.”

    “I… see…” OuRyuumon responded, the doubt obvious in his voice. Despite that, he gave Alphamon a small smile. “I’m proud of you… I always said you should do this sooner.”

    “I can’t exactly say that it’s brave… not when a sword is hovering over my head, threatening to drop at any minute,” Alphamon countered.

    “It still takes some guts, Alphamon. I know the responsibilities you have, being the leader of the Royal Knights, and the image that comes with that. I get it, you know?”

    “Thanks…” Alphamon replied. “I know it’s not fair that you’re dragged into this too, but if I’m going to confess, it needs to be the whole truth.”

    “Yeah… I know…” OuRyuumon said with a sigh of resignation. “I’ll be fine after a few drinks… Who knows? After all the jokes and teasing, maybe it’ll feel good to have this weight off my chest, finally…”

    Alphamon eyed OuRyuumon. “So… You’re with me? It would help my confidence doing it with you.”

    OuRyuumon gave Alphamon a reassuring smile. “I’m always with you, Alphamon. I’ve been your friend ever since you were a furry, little DORUmon. Of course I’m doing this with you.”

    Alphamon smiled at him graciously. “Thanks…” The smile faded a bit. “I have a confession to make first…”

    “Let me guess… You’re bi?” OuRyuumon joked.

    “Funny,” Alphamon dryly replied. “After our argument… I told Dukemon.”

    OuRyuumon’s eyes widened. “Wh-What? You… You mean…?”

    Alphamon looked down in shame. “Yeah… Everything. Including you and me. I’m sorry… I know it wasn’t my secret to tell, but I really needed to talk to somebody. I apologize…”

    OuRyuumon grimaced a bit. “Er… How did he take it?” he asked while trying to decide whether he was angry or not.

    “Dukemon has been really supportive… He’s a good friend.”

    After a few moments of thought, OuRyuumon sighed and shook his head. “It’s fine… One less person we need to tell,” he assured Alphamon. “So… when do you want to do this?”

    Alphamon paused and frowned. “…Now?” he asked, looking up at OuRyuumon. “Before we can think of excuses to procrastinate.”

    OuRyuumon sighed and dragged himself to his feet with a miserable expression on his face. “Damn… Fine… At least let me get a few beers in me first.”

    Alphamon smirked a bit and stood to his feet. “Okay. I’ll chaperone you. …I might need one to loosen my nerves too.”

    -

    An hour passed.

    A meeting had been called. Alphamon had gathered the Royal Knights and Captains to the council room to tell them of his and OuRyuumon’s ‘news’.

    He and the dragon captain stood before the knights with discomfort apparent in their stance. The deafening silence that hung over the room unnerved the two further as everybody took in the revelation. They watched with trepidation and anxiety as eyes widened and jaws dropped.

    “So… yes,” Alphamon said, feeling like his voice was a sword slicing harshly and sloppily through the silence. “I like members of both genders… in that way. OuRyuumon here’s gay -” He thumbed to the dragon beside him. OuRyuumon’s face was as red as Grani’s back and he was looking away with an embarrassed, defensive scowl. “- and we were in a relationship…”

    As his voice trailed off, the silence that he tried to stave off soon crept back over the room.

    Until…

    “I KNEW IT!” RhodoKnightmon shouted triumphantly. “I KNEW IT ALL ALONG!”

    This only served to embarrass the two more. Alphamon palmed his heated face and OuRyuumon looked like he wanted to either kill something or jump out the window.

    “You thought that Alphamon and Omegamon had a thing, if I remember right, Rhodo,” UlforceVeedramon responded with an awkward grin.

    “Oh, shush.”

    “Well, as far as I’m considered, this doesn’t change anything,” Dukemon announced to the others, walking forwards to visibly give the pair his support.

    “I… Yeah… Dukemon’s right,” Sleipmon agreed after collecting himself and his thoughts.

    “Yeah, sure…” UlforceVeedramon added, folding his arms. “I mean, we have RhodoKnightmon and nobody has a problem with him…” He glanced over at the pink knight, who folded his arms and was looking very pleased with himself. “Most of the time…” Ulforce made sure to add.

    “That’s true…” Magnamon responded, rubbing the back of his neck. “It’s not like they changed overnight or anything…”

    “It feels like it, though,” Craniamon countered, frowning to himself.

    Dynasmon stood with a foul expression on his face.

    “Craniamon,” Dukemon said disapprovingly, looking over at him.

    “It’s not as simple as you’re all making it out to be,” Craniamon retorted, leering at Dukemon. “We’re supposed to just shrug something like this off?”

    Alphamon bowed his head slightly. “I apologize for not saying anything sooner, but it’s a delicate matter.”

    “’Delicate’ nothing!” Duftmon protested with a glare. “I… can’t believe what I’m hearing! Our leader is… is…”

    “Is what?” OuRyuumon snarled defensively. “Spit it out. Or are ya choking on a furball? Well? What are we?”

    “Liars,” a voice that wasn’t Duftmon’s spoke.

    Alphamon looked over at Dynasmon, who was glaring at him with a look of betrayal in his angry red eyes.

    “Dynasmon?” Magnamon asked with surprise, looking up at the dragon man beside him.

    “How long?” Dynasmon asked, taking a step towards Alphamon. “How long have you been keeping this from us?”

    Alphamon grimaced as he saw his friend approach. He was expecting a reaction like this, especially after Omegamon. “…A few years. Roughly three years since OuRyuumon and I… started a relationship.”

    Dynasmon stared at him fleeting look of hurt rage and looked away. “Oh… Is that all?” he muttered sarcastically.

    “It isn’t as bad as it sounds, Dynasmon,” Alphamon told him in a pleading tone. “Trust me. Just-“

    “That’s rich! Trust you… You say that when you keep something this big for three years. …Trust is a two way street. You made it completely clear you don’t trust us at all.” Dynasmon walked forwards and nudged past Alphamon roughly. “Old buddy.”

    With a wince, Alphamon looked over his shoulder at the Royal Knight as he headed for the exit of the chamber. “Dynasmon…” he said, hoping to stop him. However, Dynasmon left without so much as a glance.

    “Maybe I should go after him,” Magnamon spoke with a worried frown. “He’s probably just surprised.”

    “Leave him to cool down, Magna…” Dukemon answered, his voice sounding pensive.

    “…See?” Craniamon said. “Can’t just act like nothing’s different. Perspectives change.”

    We aren’t different, Craniamon,” Alphamon told him adamantly, turning to the violet knight.

    “Oh, you’re different alright,” Duftmon sarcastically muttered.

    “Funny, I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen you with a female Digimon,” OuRyuumon shot back at Duftmon. “I bet Alphamon’s slept with more women than you ever have.”

    Alphamon rubbed his temples with annoyance. OuRyuumon wasn’t helping. “OuRyuumon…”

    “You really are a fool,” Duftmon told the dragon.

    “Least I’m not a bigot,” OuRyuumon retorted with a snarl.

    “Alphamon is our leader!” Duftmon protested. “What he does in his private life reflects upon the entire Order!”

    “You’re turning a crack into a chasm, Duftmon,” Magnamon said diplomatically. “Even if they have been keeping this a secret for awhile, it isn’t that big of a deal. Digimon respect Alphamon for his deeds, not his…” Magnamon trailed off as he sheepishly tried to think of the right word to use. “Preferences.”

    “You always have been naively optimistic, Magnamon,” Duftmon responded.

    “And you’ve always been a cynic,” Magnamon argued back.

    “Realist,” Duftmon corrected succinctly.

    “I think that’s the creed of cynics everywhere,” UlforceVeedramon said with a grin.

    Duftmon ignored him. “You should have kept your abnormal hobby to yourselves; now everybody will hear of this.”

    “It is not an abnormal hobby, Duftmon,” Alphamon countered. “If you don’t agree with it, then that’s your business. I’ve hidden who I am for far too long because I’ve been worried about what others would say or think. I’ll leave it to the members of our Order and the Digimon of the Digital World to decide what they think of me. I’ll decide my next move from there.” He folded his arms and looked at Duftmon steadily. “If you are so bothered by me, I will understand if you want to resign, although I hope that, with all that we’ve been through together, it won’t have to come to that.”

    Duftmon took on a thoughtful expression as he considered Alphamon’s words. The strategist closed his eyes. “…A resignation won’t be necessary,” he answered. “My strategic and organizational skills are a huge asset to the Order. As well, the Order of the Royal Knights is too valuable for personal differences to deter its effectiveness, especially at a sensitive time such as now. I may not agree with your… salacious inclinations… but I am willing to look past it for the sake of the Order. That’s the reason why I’m so concerned. I’m worried about the effects it will have on the Order.”

    UlforceVeedramon nudged Dukemon and leaned over to whisper. “He makes it sound like he’s doing us a favour when he really just doesn’t want to resign,” he said with a quiet laugh.

    “That’s Duftmon alright. Big brain; bigger ego,” Dukemon whispered back.

    “Thank you, Duftmon,” Alphamon said to him. “It’s just too bad that someone with as great a mind as yours chooses to keep it closed so often…”

    “Rm,” Duftmon grunted in thoughtful response. “Well. I’ve made my feelings clear. I shall retire to my room.” The leopard knight began to walk towards the doors, which were left open when Dynasmon stormed out. As he passed Alphamon and OuRyuumon, he muttered to himself. “Though it suddenly makes sense why OuRyuumon has stuck around for so long…”

    “What?!” OuRyuumon shouted upon overhearing him. “Say that again, puss-“

    “OuRyuumon,” Alphamon warned his friend. “Leave it.”

    OuRyuumon scoffed and folded his arms, reluctantly obeying.

    Duftmon turned his nose up and flicked his blond hair over his shoulder as he turned towards one of the great hall doors.

    Could have been worse…” Alphamon supposed to himself. He then turned his gaze to Craniamon. “I know this must be a shock…”

    “It is,” Craniamon tersely replied. “I can’t just accept it immediately like everybody else here. I’m sticking by you and the Order, but… I need time. To get used to the idea and get past the secrets.”

    “I understand,” Alphamon replied, nodding his head. “It’s a lot to take in. That said, nobody feels worse than I do about keeping all of you in the dark. It doesn’t reflect on how I feel about any of you.”

    “We understand it must have been tough, Alphamon,” Sleipmon assured him. “It has been a huge shock, but I think we get it.”

    Magnamon nodded in agreement. “Now more than ever, it’s important that we all stick together.”

    “…You’ve been quiet, Examon,” OuRyuumon said, eyeing him suspiciously.

    Examon rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s your own private business. I’m just the new guy,” he told them.

    “We’re equals here,” Alphamon replied. “If you have an opinion, you’re free to speak it.”

    “Thanks, but I don’t have an opinion one way or another. I won’t question who somebody chooses to love,” Examon explained.

    “Was that a dig at me?” OuRyuumon muttered.

    UlforceVeedramon laughed. “That’d mean Ex-sama had a sense of humour,” he teased the dragon. “So… you and Alphamon are a couple?”

    “Err…” Alphamon stalled and he and OuRyuumon exchanged glanced. “We’re on a break.”

    “Now, now. Lovers shouldn’t fight,” RhodoKnightmon explained.

    OuRyuumon’s eye twitched. “We said what we had to say. Let’s drop the damn subject now, okay?”

    “You’re not getting off that easily, OuRyuumon,” UlforceVeedramon said with a smirk.

    Craniamon made to leave, but he stopped when he saw a Digimon flying down the great hall towards them at a hurried pace. It was a small, owl Digimon.

    “Excuse me. I’m very sorry to interrupt, but… Grani sir?” the Falcomon asked, looking over at Zero ARMS: Grani.

    “Falcomon? What is it?” Grani asked, hovering over.

    “Uh, well…” He looked over at the other Royal Knights hesitantly, unsure if he was interrupting or not.

    “Go ahead, Falcomon,” Alphamon told him. “We’re just finishing here anyways.”

    “Very well… Thunderbirdmon is back from his patrol,” Falcomon began. “It’s the United Draconic Coalition. It’s under attack.”

    Examon stepped forwards. “What?” he asked in a low voice.

    “By who?” Alphamon followed up. “Where, exactly?”

    “The town of Wyrm’s Edge. It’s under attack by… a single Dorbickmon.”

    Examon froze.

    Dukemon turned and looked at Examon to see his stunned reaction. The dragon knight’s green eyes grew large with shock.

    “Is it the same one that we’ve dealt with?” UlforceVeedramon asked.

    “He had the scars matching your description,” Falcomon replied.

    “Thunderbirdmon’s sure he was alone? …What could he be thinking?” Alphamon wondered, rubbing his chin with his thumb and index finger.

    “I’ll deal with this,” Examon suddenly announced. “And I’d like to go alone.”

    “What?” Alphamon asked, turning towards him with surprise.

    “That’s not a good idea, Examon,” Magnamon told him.

    “Yeah,” UlforceVeedramon concurred. “You got your butt kicked by him last time.”

    “Can’t blame him for wanting payback,” Craniamon admitted, folding his arms across his broad chest. “It’s a bad idea, though. It sounds like a trap.”

    “That’s a risk I’m going to take,” Examon said with determination.

    Dukemon eyed him carefully.

    “Examon, we know that the UDC is your home, but we have to be smart about this,” RhodoKnightmon responded.

    “You don’t understand,” Examon responded, frowning. “You’re going to have to trust me.”

    “’Trust’ isn’t having a great day today,” Craniamon said pointedly, glancing at Alphamon and OuRyuumon.

    “…Tell them, Examon,” Dukemon said to him. “They should know.”

    “Dukemon…” Examon muttered in response, a bit agitated that Dukemon just made it clear that he had been hiding something.

    “Tell us what?” Sleipmon asked him.

    “Yeah, we might as well get all the secrets out now,” UlforceVeedramon said. “Alphamon? Once, I blew my nose on your cape.”

    “…Thanks for that,” Alphamon deadpanned. He turned to Examon. “Please, Examon. Ulforce is right. It’s best to have the truth, especially when DarkKnightmon will use any secret he can against us.”

    Examon frowned deeply, but nodded in compliance. “Fine… I wasn’t sure whether to say anything before…” he replied with a sigh. “Dorbickmon and I know each other.”

    Craniamon narrowed his eyes at Examon. “And you didn’t think to tell us this?” he asked him. “You’re lucky Duftmon isn’t here; he’d have thrown a fit.”

    “How do you know each other?” Alphamon asked patiently.

    Examon stalled. “…We were close friends as children.”

    “This would have been good to know awhile ago…” Magnamon said sceptically. “Why keep this from us?”

    “I was ashamed,” Examon admitted, glancing down at the floor. “It’s my fault he’s our enemy. When we were young, there was an accident where he touched my reverse scale.”

    “Ah, the gekerin…” UlforceVeedramon observed.

    “The what?” RhodoKnightmon asked.

    “It’s a special scale that Dracomons and Coredramons have,” the cobalt dragon knight explained. “It’s incredibly sensitive, so when it’s touched, it sends its owner into an uncontrollable rage.”

    Examon nodded and cringed. “So, I went wild… He wounded him severely when it happened. I should have gone for help but I… I panicked. I ran and never returned. I regret that more than anything…” Examon told them. “Now Dorbickmon’s the Digimon who he is because of that, and he wants to get revenge on me.”

    “I… see…” Alphamon replied pensively.

    Examon bowed his head. “I understand if you want to dismiss me from the Order.”

    “I don’t,” the Lord of the Empty Seat explained. “I’m sure we’ve all done things in our pasts that we regret. I know I have.” He walked up to Examon and placed his hand on the dragon’s spiked shoulder. “None of us are flawless, Examon. To be a Royal Knight is to do your very best in spite of that.”

    “Thank you, Alphamon. I appreciate that,” Examon replied gratefully. “I’d still like to go alone, though.”

    “I can’t allow that in good conscience,” Alphamon told the dragon.

    “The town he’s attacking, Wyrm’s Edge, it’s our hometown,” Examon replied. “He’s sending me a message.”

    “That’s all the more reason why I can’t let you go alone.”

    “I’ll go with him,” Dukemon proclaimed.

    Examon turned to him with surprise. “You will?”

    “Yeah, and you don’t get to argue about it.”

    Examon gave him a sideways glance before rolling his eyes with defeat. “Fine…”

    “Tread carefully,” Alphamon told them. “It could very well be an ambush set up by DarkKnightmon. If it is…”

    “Yeah, we know,” Dukemon replied, giving Alphamon a reassuring smile. “We’ll be careful.”

    “I’m afraid I can’t come with you, Dukemon,” Grani told him apologetically. “I’m very busy trying to locate our enemies.”

    “It’s fine, Grani,” the crimson knight assured him. “I need the exercise anyways.”

    “How true,” Grani teased.

    “Shut it, bird,” Dukemon answered playfully.

    “So… are we done here?” Craniamon asked.

    “Yeah, I believe so,” Alphamon responded, glancing at Craniamon uncertainly.

    Craniamon nodded and walked out silently.

    Magnamon looked at Dukemon and Examon. “Want me to come along?”

    “I think we’re okay, Magna,” Dukemon replied.

    “If you’re sure… Can’t be too careful with these guys,” Magnamon pointed out.

    “We’ll be careful,” Examon reassured him. “Wyrm’s Edge may be my hometown, but I won’t be reckless.”

    UlforceVeedramon folded his arms and grinned at Dukemon. “Then remind us again why you’re bringing Dukemon along…?”

    Dukemon gave him a sideway leer before sharply elbowing him in the arm.

    -

    The afternoon breeze swept down the sides of the Dragon Mountains in the distance, flowing across the verdant grasslands of the United Dramonic Coalition. Wafts of ashen smoke were caught up in the breeze as they drifted up from the ground.

    Dorbickmon stood before the emptied town of Wyrm’s Edge, the blazing Tyrant Collbrande sword gripped rightly in his right hand.

    Around him were the unconscious and moaning bodies of the town’s defenders, mostly ultimate level. The rest of the Digimon living there evacuated when the fighting started. The evidence of battle was clear, with Digimon-made craters and ruts littering the area outside of the town, although none of the buildings had been hit. Smoke, cinders, and embers drifted across the landscape.

    A dark grin crawled onto Dorbickmon’s face. He turned around and stared into the distance.

    “I’m waiting, Examon…” he hummed. “I know you won’t miss this, unless you really are a coward. This ends today, back where it all began.”

    -

    Continued in the next post
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  11. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 24 Part II: Burning the Past​


    -

    Examon soared over the fields of the United Dramonic Coalition, heading towards Wyrm’s Edge on the most direct route. He flew close to the ground, keeping close to Dukemon, who jogged along behind him, following Examon’s lead.

    It felt strange, coming back to the UDC after what felt like a long time. Being its protector, he knew these lands like the backs of his claws. Being back in this territory felt nostalgic, but Examon also felt like a bit of a stranger. He wondered what might have gone on in the UDC and the capital of Dragon’s Peak since he had been gone. If anything serious had happened, he hoped he would have heard about it.

    There was always that worry at the back of his mind that the Dramon thought he had abandoned them when he went to join the Royal Knights. While Examon never broke his oath to protect the UDC, he knew that going from the UDC’s sole protector to a member of the Royal Knights, who were sworn to protect most of the whole continent, was a big change for the UDC. They now had to share him with the rest of the world.

    Still, Examon still possessed strong feelings towards the United Dramonic Coalition. It was his home, and he wondered how Dorbickmon could attack it, since it was his home as well.

    Examon quietly glanced down and behind, over at Dukemon.

    Dukemon, while jogging behind him, met Examon’s gaze. “Are you mad at me?” Dukemon asked him.

    “Why would I be?” Examon coolly responded, looking forwards again.

    “Because I forced you to tell the others about Dorbickmon,” Dukemon replied. He assumed that Examon was being passive-aggressive, since Examon had barely spoken to him since they left the headquarters. “I know you told me about that in confidence, but I had to bring it up. I couldn’t let you go alone.”

    Examon didn’t respond. He readjusted the Ambrosius from its resting position on his left shoulder.

    “Besides, secrets have been tearing us apart. First, Omegamon, then OuRyuumon, now Dynasmon… We can’t afford to doubt each other when DarkKnightmon is looking for any weakness – any crack in our armour – that he can exploit,” the crimson warrior continued to explain.

    Examon’s gaze softened. He conceded a soft grunt. “…Yeah, I know,” he responded. “I know you’re right. This… thing with Dorbickmon: it’s just very personal to me. I guess I’m still having trouble letting the others into that part of my life. Some habits are hard to break.”

    “Hey, you’re doing a lot better than when you first joined the Order months ago,” Dukemon pointed out with a small grin behind his visor. “I seem to remember you flying off alone in the middle of a mission to come here to the UDC.”

    The dragon’s cheeks heated up at the shameful memory. “How do you know I wouldn’t have done that today?” Examon countered.

    “Because you’ve changed,” Dukemon told him sincerely. “You’ve adapted and you’ve grown… You’re part of the team now, Examon.”

    Examon managed to show Dukemon a small, grateful smile. “Do you think?”

    “Yeah, I do,” Dukemon responded. “It’s like Alphamon said: you’re not perfect, but none of us are. You’re doing your best, and, because of that, you’ve changed a lot of peoples’ minds about you. Ulforce… Craniamon… Maybe not Duftmon, but at least he *****es at you less. I’d say you’re fitting in with us by now, even if you are a big, awkward dragon…”

    Examon smirked. “I appreciate that, Dukemon… Thanks…”

    “That’s why I’m going to let you take on Dorbickmon alone,” Dukemon suddenly continued.

    “What?” Examon said, slowing down in surprise. He looked down at Dukemon. “Why?”

    “Because I trust you,” Dukemon explained, looking up at the dragon. “I know this is a personal thing for you. We all have our own inner demons that we need to face… Do what you need to do, but I’m going to be waiting on the wing in case I need to jump in. I’ll focus on protecting the town and making sure Dorbickmon doesn’t have any back up hidden away.”

    “Thank you, Dukemon,” Examon replied.

    “Just be careful, damnit,” Dukemon told him. “Don’t let your guard down and don’t be soft with him just because you used to be friends and you feel guilty. He’s not going to be soft on you. You can try to talk him ‘round, but be ready for a tough fight.”

    Examon nodded.

    “Good,” the white and red knight responded. He gathered the Gram in hand and pointed forwards. “I see smoke ahead.”

    “We’re nearly there,” Examon observed, a wave of nostalgia washing over him as he headed towards the town that he didn’t dare go near since that day. “Wyrm’s Edge…”

    “Let’s split up here,” Dukemon told him. “You go on ahead and I’ll go in the town from the south west side. Just keep him busy and do what you want to do for several minutes while I make sure everyone’s evacuated and position myself between him and the town.”

    “Sounds good to me,” Examon replied. “I’ll try to keep him away from the town.”

    Dukemon nodded. “Good luck,” he said as he dashed off to the left.

    Examon flapped the sentient Caledfwlch wings and continued onwards towards Wyrm’s Edge.

    As he grew closer, the smell of smoke became stronger, and the residual haze of a battle grew thicker. Examon locked and loaded an HE round shell into the Ambrosius’ firing chamber as he spread his wings and glided lower to the ground at a height of about twenty meters. To his surprise, he saw that the traces of destruction didn’t come from Wyrm’s Edge, but from the outskirts of the town. He observed smoking ruts and craters, surrounded by many unconscious and wounded bodies of the town’s defenders.

    Examon flew up through a pillar of smoke and looked down to see Dorbickmon standing on the ground, his flaming sword in hand, leering up at him. The dragon knight narrowed his eyes and swooped down.

    His broad wings flapped strongly as he neared the ground, slowing his descent and allowing him to touch down gently. Examon’s claws rested on the hilt of the Ambrosius, which lay against his shoulder. He stared across the ravaged grassland at Dorbickmon, who stared back at him.

    A smile grew on Dorbickmon’s face. “Examon!” he called over jovially. “You got my message!” His gold and violet eyes narrowed. “Then again, how could you not?”

    Examon levelled his gaze with the dragon standing twenty five meters away from him. “Dorbickmon… Why are you doing this? Why here?” he asked him.

    Dorbickmon wheeled his blazing sword in his claws. “It got your attention, didn’t it?” he said with a half-grin, speaking over the intermittent snarl of the Tyrant Collbrande. “Have you ever come back here since that day?” he asked him.

    The Royal Knight paused. He didn’t really want to answer, but he knew that he had to give Dukemon time to get into position. “…No,” he admitted.

    “Yeah, I didn’t think so,” Dorbickmon spoke with a hint of acid in his voice. “Too big of a risk of people finding out the truth about you. This is what it took to drag you back here, I guess.”

    “It wasn’t like that!” Examon protested with frustration. “I was ashamed!”

    “You were afraid you’d get caught,” Dorbickmon spat. “That I ratted you out with my dying breath and you’d be left to face the justice of the Four Great Dragons.” The dragon man then planted his sword into the ground, causing Examon to flinch at the prospect of an attack. Though no attack came, Examon remained on his guard. “But I guess you’re pretty friendly with the Four Great Dragons since you completed their Trial to become a Slayerdramon. Not to mention you were the defender of the UDC, apparently.”

    “I wouldn’t say that…” Examon refuted. “I only know them on a formal basis.”

    “Yeah, whatever…” Dorbickmon muttered, moving his sword in front of him.

    Examon lowered his lance from his shoulder, taking the shaft in his other hand. “Dorbickmon, what’s the real reason that you led me here?”

    Dorbickmon grunted through his nose. He brought his sword from the ground and pointed it at Examon. “Look behind you…” he told him.

    Examon looked over his shoulder and turned around to see what Dorbickmon was pointing at.

    Dorbickmon began to walk. “Right over there… That’s where you left me to die…” he told him, hastening his pace into a quiet jog.

    Examon grimaced, unaware that Dorbickmon was fast approaching. He stared at the place in the singed grass, remembering a similar scene of destruction all those years ago. “Dorbickmon… It wasn’t like tha-“

    Just as Dorbickmon closed in, Examon’s wings began to react on reflex. However, it was too late. Dorbickmon drove his fist into the back of Examon’s head and sent the dragon crashing onto the ground.

    Examon let out a grunt of unexpected pain and surprise as he was knocked down. He gripped his lance tightly and quickly got to his hands and knees, glancing over his shoulder.

    Dorbickmon chuckled and levelled his fiery blade with Examon. “Low blows don’t feel too good, do they? Does it make you feel angry?” he asked him chidingly.

    Ignoring the throbbing in his head, Examon stood to his feet and turned around, gripping his lance defensively. He backed up several paces to put space between himself and Dorbickmon, in case the dragon man tried to attack him again. He realized that he was now standing in the place where his gekerin was triggered. It made him feel ill-at-ease.

    “Yeah, right there, Examon…” Dorbickmon said to him. “That’s where this all began.” The dragon mercenary’s eyes narrowed. “And this is where it’s going to end.”

    Dorbickmon stabbed his sword into the ground. “Burning the Dragon!”

    The earth before him split and ruptured as strata ripped from the ground and began tearing towards Examon. Examon recoiled a step as a wall of earth came shooting up towards him. He gritted his teeth and levelled the Ambrosius at his hips. “Pendragon’s Glory!” he growled. Examon released a surge of lasers from his lance. The beam ripped through long outcropping of rocks, shattering them from the inside.

    Dorbickmon sneered and jumped to the side, dragging his blade with him, as the diffused beam pierced through the other side. Because his sword was still in the ground, Dorbickmon could still tap into the dragon veins, so he followed up with another attack. The Tyrant Collbrande pulsed briefly and the ground below Examon – the place where Dorbickmon had been struck down as a Strikedramon – exploded with rock. Four spikes burst from the ground, reaching up towards the Royal Knight to stab him.

    Examon’s wings kicked in automatically, flapping and raising Examon up into the air before the stone spikes could run him through. Despite the impressive instincts, one of the aggressive rocks slashed down Examon’s left leg as he rose up. A long cut from his upper leg down to the side of his knee formed and slowly began to ooze blood down his crimson scales. The wincing dragon released a grunt of pain as he rose into the air, beads of scarlet blood dripping down to the fractured ground below.

    Damn it,” Examon thought to himself, gripping the Ambrosius tightly as he flew into the air, swerving to the left so that he could see Dorbickmon behind the wall of stone that he had created. “His fighting style is almost opposite to mine. He fights at close to medium range and he has a massive advantage on the ground with his flame and earth-based attacks. I’m a lot better at longer ranges and in the air, but I won’t be able to talk to him if I’m flying around and trying to snipe him. If I’m going to try to convince him, then I’ll need to fight on the ground where he’s in close proximity – where he has a massive advantage against me.” Examon narrowed his eyes pensively. “I hope I’ll be able to hold out for long enough. No… I will hold out. I’m a Royal Knight. That is what I do…

    With those thoughts of resolve, Examon swooped down towards Dorbickmon at a wide curve.

    Dorbickmon turned and saw him coming in for a pass, causing him to smirk. “Yeah, bring it on, Examon!” he hollered to him. “Don’t disappoint me like last time! Let’s end this!” Dorbickmon clutched the Tyrant Collbrande tightly. “Burning the Dragon!”

    Examon narrowed his eyes as the earth became alive again. Spears of stone pierced towards them as the rocks beneath the grass molded to Dorbickmon’s will. The dragon’s Caledfwlch flapped and veered, angling Examon’s body away from the rising spikes, causing them to shoot past him. “I may not be as nimble a flier as Ulforce, but…” He pressed his claw on the trigger of the Ambrosius and pulled up. “Avalon’s Gate!”

    A cylindrical shell propelled from the lance and sailed towards Dorbickmon. The draconic mercenary gritted his teeth when he saw the shell descending towards him but, to Examon’s surprise, didn’t dodge it. Instead, flames began dancing around the gaps between his clenched teeth. “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” he roared, opening his mouth up and breathing a massive inferno into the air.

    The flames swallowed up the HE round, causing it to detonate in mid air, and continued billowing towards Examon, forcing the winged dragon to take a hard turn as he flew higher.

    “Dorbickmon! I don’t want to fight you!” Examon called down to him, making sure not to climb too high into the air. He circled around and kept his lance trained on Dorbickmon, who tore the Tyrant Collbrande from the ground and swung around to look at him.

    “That’s rich!” Dorbickmon responded, swinging his sword out to the side emphatically. At the apex of the swing, the Tyrant Collbrande swelled with flames and grew to its massive, mega-sword form. The flames of the giant sword roared and flared as it grew twenty meters long, emitting such heat that the grass directly below wilted and crumpled before burning up. “Then why the hell did you come here?!”

    “To talk to you!” Examon replied while firing a powerful laser from the Ambrosius. The pillar of crackling energy pierced down towards Dorbickmon.

    Seeing this, the ground-bound dragon lunged to the side to avoid the beam as it seared through the earth beside him before exploding. Dorbickmon grunted as he was pelted by earth and rock. He landed and swung around, heaving the weighty sword along with him, using the momentum from the jump to drag the blade through the sky towards Examon. “He says as he shoots at me!” Dorbickmon sarcastically roared in response, slashing the extended Tyrant Collbrande to try to knock Examon out of the sky.

    “You’re not exactly making it easy for me!” Examon countered, taking a sharp turn when he saw the blazing, twenty meter sword pull up behind him. Examon dove down just in time, feeling the embers brushing against the backs of his armoured wings.

    “I’d be an idiot to trust you!” Dorbickmon replied, snarling as he slammed his heavy sword into the ground, creating an earth-shaking quake. As flames exploded up from the earth, they cast a fearsome glow over Dorbickmon’s face. He glared up at Examon contemptuously. “You think one thing, say another, and then do something completely different! ‘Examon: the Dragon Emperor’. ‘Examon: the Royal Knight’. Yet you’re the guy who stabbed his best friend in the back,” Dorbickmon told him with a deep sneer. “How could anybody trust you?! You don’t even act like a dragon! You’re like a block of ice! Who knows what you’re actually thinking?! You’re not the Coredramon I used to know… but then again, I guess I never really knew him at all, so what do I know?!”

    Examon snarled a bit and began flying towards Dorbickmon from an angle. “Listen to me, Dorbickmon! I didn’t intentionally hurt you! It was an accident!”

    “Yeah, well this isn’t!” Dorbickmon retorted. The plates on his pectoral muscles glowed red before releasing two stream of fiery power from within.

    Examon grunted upon seeing the two beams sail towards him and he tried his best to pull out of the way. It’s difficult for someone with Examon’s broad wingspan to make a sharp turn on short notice while in the middle of diving, but he did what he could. He attempted to fly up and over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The two beams slammed into the armourless underside of Examon’s wings, searing the leather through to the armour before exploding.

    Examon roared with pain as his body was thrown sideways in the air from the violent explosion. On reflex, he snarled out the closest approximation of ‘Pendragon’s Glory’ that he could muster through his pained growl, and aimed the Ambrosius at Dorbickmon. The tube of the lance pumped with power and a high-powered laser blasted from the tip.

    The laser sliced across Dorbickmon’s right shoulder, cutting through his scales with burning power and sending blood spurting out and down his bicep. Ignoring the explosion behind him, Dorbickmon released a pained snarl and his eyes shrunk with rage. He drove his burning sword deeper into the ground, creating a massive trench in the grass. “Burning the Dragon!”

    Two columns of rock shot up around Examon from each side, preventing an escape route to avoid them. Examon snarled and cried out with pain as the columns of rock suddenly curled and coiled around his Caledfwlch wings, squeezing them painfully and holding him in place. Examon winced and struggled to free his wings from Dorbickmon’s rocky hold.

    Dorbickmon chuckled darkly and looked up at the helpless dragon. He began to lift the Tyrant Collbrande out of the ground. “I’ve got you right where I want you now…” he told him. “You’re wide open.”

    Examon watched as Dorbickmon began to pull up the massive sword in his hands. The blazing blade began to rise towards him. It was clear that Dorbickmon planned to slash him while he was restrained and exposed. The Royal Knight clenched his sharp teeth together as Dorbickmon began to drag the heavy sword up towards him.

    Thinking fast, Examon suddenly aimed the Ambrosius at the pillar holding his left wing. “Avalon’s Gate!” He drove the tip of the lance into the stone and fire another high explosive round from the muzzle. The shell collided with the rocky tentacle and fractured, detonating upon impact and shattering the stony outcropping. In addition to freeing his left wing, the concussion of the explosion sent Examon slamming into the opposite pillar to his right. Because of this, when the Tyrant Collbrande swept up towards Examon, it missed his form and merely singed his scales.

    With a growl of frustration, Dorbickmon continued raising the massive sword until he reached the height of his swing. “That might have worked once, but I’ll get you on the down swing!” Dorbickmon shouted to him, pulling the Tyrant Collbrande back down so that it would envelope both Examon and the remaining pillar holding him.

    Examon sneered and aimed the Ambrosius at him. “Dorbickmon!” he called to him desperately. He fired another shell at Dorbickmon while his arms were over his head, pulling his sword down mid-swing. In that position, Dorbickmon’s chest was exposed. The shell sailed towards Dorbickmon and slammed into his gut painfully, winding the dragon and causing him to hunch forwards a bit. The round then surged with electricity, which coursed through Dorbickmon’s body. A guttural yell escaped Dorbickmon’s throat as the shocking power ran through him.

    However, the momentum of his swing was too great, and his giant blade came crashing down on Examon and the pillar, shattering the rocky feature under its enormous pressure and crushing Examon into the ground.

    “Examon!” a voice called out.

    Dorbickmon collapsed to his knees, his form smoking. After successfully hitting Examon, he was forced to retract the Tyrant Collbrande to its regular size. The dragon mercenary slowly turned towards Wyrm’s Edge, where he heard the voice come from.

    To his surprise, he saw Dukemon standing there. Dukemon stood just outside of the town. The unconscious and wounded bodies of the town’s defenders that had been defeated by Dorbickmon were lying behind him, protected by the Aegis which Dukemon held in front of him.

    “What the hell…?” Dorbickmon snarled, stabbing his blade into the ground and using it as a support as he stood to his feet, ignoring the protests of his numb and quivering muscles. He glared ahead of him, at Examon.

    Examon groaned as he lay in the ditch formed by the Tyrant Collbrande. He slowly pushed himself up and used his lance to get to his knees. His wings were sore and twisted, his back was burnt and smoking, and blood trickled from the corner of his mouth and his nostrils. Despite this, Examon flapped his pained wings and flew up to ground level. “Dukemon…” he said, looking over to the crimson knight.

    “How’re you holding up?” Dukemon asked, the concern obvious in his voice as he waited for the signal to step in to help.

    “I’m fine,” Examon insisted.

    Dorbickmon scowled at Examon while keeping a wary eye on Dukemon. “So, you brought your boyfriend along?” Dorbickmon taunted the dragon. “Two against one is hardly a fair fight. I thought you were trying to prove to me that you’re honourable… or was that as much garbage as I thought it was?”

    Examon frowned in response. “The only reason Dukemon’s here is because we thought this might be a trap,” the Royal Knight assured Dorbickmon.

    “Yeah, well, it wasn’t. DarkKnightmon doesn’t even know about this. This is my own concern,” Dorbickmon replied. “So… Are you going to tell me that Sir Ponytail over there is going to just sit back and watch as we fight?”

    “That’s Sir Dukemon to you,” Dukemon pointedly replied. “And I’m not going to step in unless Examon asks me to.”

    “Oh, great,” Dorbickmon sarcastically spat. “So, as soon as he starts to lose, he’s going to call you in to replace him.”

    “No, I’m not,” Examon responded, wiping the blood from the nose on the back of his hand and levelling his gaze with Dorbickmon. “This is between you and me. Plus, I have honour. Even if I’m losing, I won’t call him in. I may be a pragmatist, but as a Royal Knight, my word isn’t something that I can just cast aside when it suits me.”

    Despite his pain, Dorbickmon manages a tiny grin. “Honour, huh?” He clenched his sword again and Examon and Dukemon began to feel small tremors in the ground. “Let’s see if you really mean it…”

    “You really don’t trust anybody, do you?” Examon asked him, frowning with a soft sadness.

    Dorbickmon tried to chuckle but it came out as just a single breath. “No, I don’t,” he told him.

    “And it’s because of me, isn’t it?” Examon questioned. “Because of what happened here.”

    Dorbickmon grew quiet. Instead of using his Burning the Dragon attack, Dorbickmon drew the Tyrant Collbrande from the earth and levelled it in front of himself. “You’re an arrogant bastard,” Dorbickmon spat. “You were just the beginning.” He swept his sword out in front of him, sending embers flying off of it. “Yeah, you might have been the worst, but as a freelance mercenary, you tend to get shafted on a regular basis, especially when you’re just starting out. You get screwed by clients, merc companies, militaries, even other freelancers. You have to grow up fast or else you’re made into loose data fast. It didn’t just come down to one act of betrayal.”

    “I’m sorry,” Examon said with a grimace.

    “No, you’re not,” Dorbickmon replied, glaring at him. “Would you shut up and fight me? Nothing pisses me off more than hypocrisy.”

    “I’m being honest,” Examon insisted with furrowed brows. “If you want to talk about hypocrisy, how many people have you betrayed while you were a mercenary?”

    Dorbickmon narrowed his eyes and went silent. After a few seconds of tense staring, he replied. “…Plenty. But at least I admit it. I don’t hide behind ‘Oh, but it wasn’t my fault!’ or ‘But I didn’t mean to!’”

    “You want me to take responsibility?” Examon asked him with a narrow leer. “That’s what I’m trying to do if you would just give me a chance.”

    Dorbickmon growled. “Alright! You want a chance?” he asked him heatedly. “Here’s your damn chance! Take it! I’m all ears!”

    Examon paused. He thought to himself carefully. He wondered what he could possibly say or do to make Dorbickmon believe him.

    Suddenly, the Ambrosius dropped to the ground beside Examon. Examon held his arms out and looked straight into Dorbickmon’s eyes. “You want to kill me, don’t you? That’s why you’re working with DarkKnightmon. Well… if letting you kill me is what it takes to show you how sorry I am for what I did, then… kill me.”

    Dorbickmon arched his eyebrow with genuine surprise. “…What?” he asked.

    Dukemon’s eyes widened. “Examon…” said the suddenly worried knight.

    “I mean it,” Examon told him, taking a deep breath.

    “Yeah, right…” Dorbickmon muttered suspiciously. “You’re bluffing. You think that I don’t have the guts to go through with it.

    Examon emphatically nudged the Ambrosius with his foot and let it roll in the grass a bit. “I’m not bluffing. Try it, if you don’t believe me. It’s only fair.”

    “Examon!” Dukemon protested. “Think about this for a second! Is he really worth it? Is this really worth it?!”

    “That day has haunted me for years, Dukemon,” Examon told him, closing his eyes. “I’ve avoided punishment for it for far too long.”

    “No, you haven’t! You’ve told me you’ve been dwelling on and feeling guilty about what happened ever since! That sounds like it’s punishment enough to me,” Dukemon angrily told him. “Why the hell do you always play the martyr?! It’s such an easy way to make yourself feel better, but you don’t think about anybody else! I thought you changed. I thought you were starting to think like a member of a team and not just a solo protector with a load of baggage!”

    “Dukemon, this is my decision!” Examon countered.

    Dukemon glared at him. “What happened to helping us change the world?!”

    Dorbickmon laughed. “You still expect me to believe you’re not bluffing? Even with this cute little performance? Well, alright!” He poised the Tyrant Collbrande in his hands and held it horizontally, pointed towards Examon, as he started charging him.

    Dukemon gripped his lance and prepared to act.

    Examon watched as Dorbickmon charged him. He thought about making amends to Dorbickmon and letting him run him through, but the closer that he got, the more the Royal Knight thought about Dukemon’s words to him. He wanted to create a better world, not more destruction. He remembered this goal. He remembered that there was more to him than just atoning for what he did to Dorbickmon. This was why he left the UDC and joined the Royal Knights; he wanted to change the world for the better.

    Dorbickmon let out a roar of raw emotion as he plunged his sword towards Examon’s chest. Examon saw the sword approaching him and he could feel his body act.

    The very tip of the burning blade plunged into Examon’s chest armour before stopping completely, the tip just burning his scales. Examon gritted his teeth with a new found resolve and pulled back strongly, flapping his wings forwards and taking several steps in reverse. When he did this, the sword was pulled out from his chest armour, and a small trickle of blood dripped down the metal.

    Both Examon and Dorbickmon stared at each other, each suddenly very still. Dukemon released a relieved breath.

    Dorbickmon looked at his sword, then at the small puncture in Examon’s armour, and then up at Examon himself. He grinned. “…See? I knew you were bluffing. You’re still a coward.”

    “I remembered that there’s still more that I have to do…” Examon sheepishly responded, realizing how that must have looked. “And if you say that I was a coward, then that means you realize that I didn’t hurt you in cold blood.”

    Dorbickmon suddenly glowered at his words.

    Then something dawned of Examon. “And also… you stopped your attack right before I pulled away…” Examon looked at Dorbickmon. “You didn’t want to kill me…”

    Dorbickmon’s eyes widened. The mercenary suddenly let out a roar and slashed his sword outwards. The Tyrant Collbrande cut across Examon’s armoured chest before he vanquished the sword in a flash of flames. Dorbickmon reached out and grabbed Examon’s neck in his hands, squeezing tightly. “THAT’S BECAUSE I WANT TO KILL YOU WITH MY BARE HANDS!” he roared at him passionately, squeezing Examon’s windpipe harder with his claws.

    Examon gasped out breathlessly and grabbed Dorbickmon’s wrists with his claws. “It’s… easier… to hate… than forgive…” he told Dorbickmon through choked breaths.

    “Die!” Dorbickmon shouted, his violet eyes feral with rage. “Die! Die! Die! Die, you son of a *****!”

    Examon reached out and grabbed Dorbickmon’s nose horn, pushing his head back. As he did this, he heard a whistling sound nearby that increased in pitch with every moment.

    “Examon! Look out!” Dukemon called out to him.

    The whistling sound became louder and nearer. Dorbickmon began to lessen and weaken his throttling of him, looking around as if he heard the noise as well.

    Suddenly, there was a massive bang nearby, and both dragons were thrown to the ground. A detonation in the trench nearby sent a cascade of dirt and fire billowing up. A mighty shockwave tore through the ground, which was already fragile from Dorbickmon’s Burning the Dragon attacks. The two dragon Digimon grunted as dirt washed over their bodies. They both got to their hands and knees, slightly disoriented.

    “Damn it… What the hell…?” Dorbickmon snarled lowly, slowly getting to his feet.

    Examon rubbed his head and winced, standing up as well. “What was that, Dukemon…?”

    “Whatever that is…” Dukemon responded, pointing into the distance.

    They looked to the grasslands far beyond Wyrm’s Edge to see what he was pointing at. Both Dorbickmon and Examon were stunned to see an army of Digimon in the distance, marching and flying towards them. The Digimon who fired at them seemed to be one of two titanic dinosaur Digimon – Apatosaurus Digimon with three cannons mounted on each of their backs. They guessed this because there seemed to be smoke drifting up from one of their cannons.

    Dorbickmon turned to Examon and Dukemon with a snarl. “Damn it! Is that your army?!” he accused them.

    “No, it’s not. We didn’t double cross you,” Dukemon replied, frowning. “We don’t have any Cannondramon in our army.” He studied the army carefully.

    “Cannondramon?” Examon asked suspiciously. “Is it the Mesozoic Kingdom? They use Cannondramon as artillery teams, don’t they?”

    “No, they wouldn’t break neutrality and invade the UDC,” Dukemon said. “Besides, there’s no way they could move a whole army from the Claw Desert up to the UDC without us knowing about it.” He squinted. “I only see Dramon… It’s the UDC…”

    Examon’s eyes widened. “The UDC…?” he asked in disbelief. “But… that’s impossible. There’s no way they could have an army like that… I was their first line of defence until several months ago and they never had forces that large…”

    Dorbickmon gritted his teeth in anger and frustration. “I didn’t hear anything about that…” he snarled to himself.

    “They must have mobilized after he started attacking,” Dukemon told Examon, gesturing to Dorbickmon. “I heard from recon that there was troop build up in the UDC recently, but I had no idea it was to this scale. I’m counting at least fifteen Megas too…”

    Examon grimaced and turned to look at Dorbickmon. “Dorbickmon…” he told him. “Get out of here.”

    “What?” Dorbickmon asked, looking at him like he was crazy.

    “Not even you can defeat all of them,” Examon explained with a hard look. “Retreat before they arrive.”

    “Did that explosion rattle your brain?” Dorbickmon eyed him suspiciously. “We were just fighting and now you’re telling me to get out of here?”

    “You didn’t want to kill me,” Examon said to him. The Royal Knight then turned to Wyrm’s Edge. “You defeated the town’s defenders, but you didn’t actually damage the town itself. You didn’t destroy a single building.” Examon looked over his shoulder and looked Dorbickmon in the eyes. “You’re not that different from when you were a Strikedramon. I believe there’s still hope for you.”

    “’Hope for me’?” Dorbickmon growled. “You patronizing little…” A muzzle burst rumbled in the distance. The mercenary hissed and looked past the Royal Knights and saw that the other Cannondramon had fired.

    Dukemon jumped back with his shield to protect the wounded. At the same time, Dorbickmon heard the whistling of a shell grow louder and he looked up to see it coming down towards him. He swore and braced himself.

    To his shock, he felt Examon suddenly push into him and tackle him down. Just as he was about to counterattack, Examon curled his wings around them like a shield and let out a pained cry as the shell collided with one of his wings and detonated. The force of the explosion sent Examon crashing on top of Dorbickmon’s chest, and heat and fire washed over his back while the shrapnel was deflected off of his wings.

    A humanoid figure flying in the air in front of the vast forces suddenly stopped and turned around to face the army. “Hold fire! There are Royal Knights!” its voiced rumbled lowly in the distance.

    As the voice echoed, Dorbickmon looked up at Examon with shock. Examon grimaced and slowly pushed himself off of Dorbickmon a bit. His wings were throbbing with pain and he was pretty sure that flying was now out of the question.

    “G-Get offa me,” Dorbickmon tersely said, pushing Examon off of him and standing to his feet. He began walking away from the dragon Royal Knight, stepping through the smoke that the explosion created. He stared at the army in the distance and rubbed his face, growling to himself. “Fine. I’m leaving. But not because you told me to.”

    Examon let out a pained groan and stood to his feet. “Sure…” he responded, at the moment more preoccupied by the pain and the smoking coming from his wings. Once he was sure that the damage wasn’t crippling, Examon turned to Dorbickmon. “You should get going now.”

    “Yeah, whatever,” Dorbickmon grunted, turning and running off without another glance.

    For a few moments, Examon watched as Dorbickmon ran off before going and picking up his Ambrosius.

    Dukemon walked over to Examon and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay?”

    “I’ll be okay. I don’t think I can fly back,” he responded calmly.

    “You let him go…” Dukemon said with a frown, turning to look at the retreating Dorbickmon. “Isn’t it a better idea to defeat him and capture him?”

    Examon quietly reviewed the suggestion. “…No. If Dorbickmon’s going to change his mind about me, it has to be his choice.”

    “It’s not just him forgiving you that we have to consider though,” Dukemon pointed out. “What about the next time DarkKnightmon uses him in an operation.”

    “I think I got through to him, Dukemon,” Examon responded. “I believe in him.”

    “You’re not exactly unbiased…” Dukemon countered. However, the crimson knight sighed. “But I said that it would be your call, so I’ll go along with it. That said, we’re going to have to tell the others… Like I said, I don’t want secrets.”

    Examon nodded with agreement. He then turned towards the approaching army with a confused and concerned expression.

    The dragon man who seemed to be giving the orders earlier was flying ahead of the army towards them, while the rest of the army appeared to have stopped its advance. As he came closer, Examon and Dukemon could begin to make out his form. The dragon man was clad from head to toe in silver plate armour. Flowing behind him as he flew was a green cape. Gripped loosely in his hand was a long, segmented scimitar.

    Examon recognized the species immediately. It was a Slayerdramon, Examon’s own Mega I form.

    The Slayerdramon landed in front of two Royal Knights and immediately bowed before them. “Examon, Dukemon, sir. I’m very sorry for that bombardment. We were out on training exercises when we encountered the fleeing townsfolk of Wyrm’s Edge. They told us that their town was under attack by a Dorbickmon. I thought I saw him with you, so I ordered the Cannondramon to fire.”

    “It’s fine. The Dorbickmon was here, but he retreated,” Dukemon explained. “He won’t be coming back.”

    The Slayerdramon stood up straight and nodded. “Thank you. I’m Junior Commander Slayerdramon.” He turned and observed the town and the wounded defenders lying near the edge of it. “It looks like your intervention saved the town.”

    Dukemon glanced at Examon, signalling that it would probably be better to stay quiet about why Dorbickmon was really there. “Yeah, I guess so.”

    Examon frowned and looked at Slayerdramon, noting what he had to do to get that form. “You passed the Trial of the Four Great Dragons…”

    The Slayerdramon couldn’t help but smile and puff his chest up proudly. “Yes, I did. Just like you, Examon, sir.”

    “When?” Examon asked him.

    “Only two months ago. I’m pretty used to the new form now,” Slayerdramon answered.

    “Two months? But the Trial of the Four Great Dragons is an annual event,” Examon said with a raised eyebrow.

    “It’s bi-annual now,” Slayerdramon explained. “The Four Great Dragons wanted more of us.”

    “Isn’t Qinglongmon one of the Four Great Dragons ruling the UDC?” Dukemon wondered, looking over at Examon. “How does he have time when he’s one of the Four Holy Beasts too?”

    “Since his priority’s the Four Holy Beasts, he’s an absentee ruler of the Four Great Dragons and only meets with them for important matters and the Trial of the Four Great Dragons. Majiramon, the dragon Deva and Qinglongmon’s servant, serves as his viceroy during his absence,” Examon explained to him. The draconic Royal Knight looked back at the Slayerdramon. “The Trial’s bi-annual… and that army? We didn’t have anything like that before.”

    “That’s not even the whole army,” Slayerdramon explained.

    “Why is the UDC militarizing?” Examon demanded. “There’s way more power here than back when I was the protector.”

    “May I speak bluntly?” Slayerdramon asked the Royal Knights. Upon seeing them nod, he continued. “That’s exactly why the decision was made to enhance our military.”

    Examon blinked. “What?”

    “We’re building up our military for defensive reasons,” the dragon warrior of the UDC explained. “After you left and joined the Royal Knights, there was a huge hole left in our defences. We…” Slayerdramon paused, wondering if he should continue. “We couldn’t rely on you completely anymore. After Anubismon’s Incursion, the Four Great Dragons felt that the UDC was vulnerable, so they decided to build up the military, taking in recruits from all provinces.”

    “That’s ridiculous,” Examon protested sharply. “I swore to defend the UDC despite being in the Royal Knights.”

    “Yes, but you have responsibilities to almost the entire continent now,” Slayerdramon tried to reason. “You can’t come to our rescue every time.”

    “We’re the Royal Knights,” Examon countered. “We help wherever it’s needed.”

    “Yeah, but… Well, we don’t want to rely on an outside power all the time. We want to be able to be self-reliant when we need to be. We just don’t want to become beholden to the Royal Knights whenever there’s trouble. It’s kind of disheartening needing to be rescued every time we’re attacked,” Slayerdramon told him. He then felt sheepish. “Sorry, I hope I’m not offending either of you.”

    Examon was silent. Dukemon, however, shook his head. “No, I guess I can understand that impulse…” he replied. He folded his arms. “So, is this the UDC’s way of telling us to stay away?”

    “No, not at all,” Slayerdramon responded. “At least, that’s not the sense I’m getting. We don’t mind if your Order still intervenes in attacks and conflicts within our territory. In fact, with your skills and technology, you’ll almost certainly do a better job than us. And my master says that we still want to maintain diplomatic ties with your Order. It’s just that, well, we need this sense of security.”

    “So, should I ask why they’ve been so secret about building the army?” Dukemon asked him.

    “I think they just didn’t want it to look like an act of aggression,” Slayerdramon replied.

    “I see…” Dukemon spoke. “We’ll need to have a talk with the Four Great Dragons at some point.” He looked at Examon. “Anyways, we need to be leaving. I can leave you to secure the town, Junior Commander?”

    “Yes, sir,” Slayerdramon responded.

    “In that case, we’ll be off,” Dukemon said. “Can you fly, Examon?”

    Examon was quiet. He didn’t want to reveal that he couldn’t fly just now in front of Slayerdramon. Not after everything that he had just said.

    Dukemon scratched his cheek with a finger sheepishly. “Uh, right…”

    “It was nice meeting you both,” Slayerdramon said with a bow. He turned around and flew into the air, flying back to his troops.

    Dukemon looked at Examon with an inquisitive expression. “…Are you okay?”

    Examon gave him a small, sad smile. “They don’t need me anymore.”

    After a moment, Dukemon placed a hand on his shoulder. “They needed you today, when Dorbickmon was here.”

    “Dorbickmon was here because of me…” Examon replied, shaking his head.

    “Examon… The UDC still needs the Royal Knights, even with an army. Do you know how long it takes to mobilize an army for combat? Days. It takes us hours to respond to a crisis. This is just to make them feel more secure,” Dukemon assured him.

    Examon sighed. “That isn’t the point, Dukemon… I made a vow to defend the United Dramonic Coalition, as their protector. That isn’t good enough for them now. They don’t trust me to save them… not like they used to. If they did, then they wouldn’t feel insecure. The Royal Knights and the UDC… I thought I could have both, but I guess I can’t.”

    Dukemon rubbed Examon’s shoulder reassuringly. “They still have us…”

    Examon gave his friend a weak smile. “…Let’s go home.”

    Dukemon nodded quietly and took Examon’s arm around his back to help him walk as they headed back towards the castle.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  12. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Author's Notes: This one's a bit long so I split it into two. I also just realized that serebii's been turning all the swear words into "****"'s, so hopefully you can figure out what swear word goes where.

    Chapter 25 Part I: The World Tree

    Examon and Dukemon stood before the rest of the Royal Knights in the war room. Upon arriving back, Examon had gone to Duskmon, where he got his leg, wings, and chest bandaged. They weren’t serious wounds, so he got away with convincing Duskmon that he needed to speak to the Royal Knights urgently. They started by telling the Royal Knights about the UDC’s new army, and then followed up with their encounter with Dorbickmon.

    The two looked around at the others. There was still a tense atmosphere weighing heavy in the air. Dynasmon stood off to the side, away from Alphamon, leaning against the wall with folded arms. Duftmon leered at them with an accusatory gaze after they explained what had happened. They had also heard that three members of the Order resigned upon hearing about Alphamon. It wasn’t a huge number, but it was more than Alphamon would have liked, and he felt guilty about it.

    “So,” Duftmon began, staring at Examon and Dukemon. He placed his hands on his hips in dissatisfaction. “What you’re telling us is that you defeated Dorbickmon but then you let him escape?”

    “No,” Dukemon spoke up. “We routed him when he saw that the UDC’s army was approaching.”

    “That seems like it would have been a tremendous opportunity to attack him and bring him down for good,” Duftmon argued. He turned his head and looked at Examon. “But apparently you two used to be friends, so I’m guessing that that is the real reason why his data is still intact.”

    “I believe that I got through to Dorbickmon,” Examon responded calmly to the accusation. “I think I can make him see that what he’s doing is wrong.”

    Duftmon scoffed and shook his head condescendingly, raising his hand to rub the bridge of his nose. “You see, Dukemon? Examon’s been around you too much. His level-headedness was one of his few good qualities and you’re turning him into a naïve fool.”

    “That’s enough, Duftmon,” Alphamon spoke, although his voice was more matter-of-fact than it was angry or annoyed.

    “Do you think that it was the right move to make, then?” Duftmon challenged, looking over at Alphamon.

    “No, I don’t,” Alphamon admitted, looking over at Examon. “But I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what was said or done. Also, Examon knows Dorbickmon better than we do. Maybe he was right, maybe he wasn’t, but it’s too late now either way.”

    Sleipmon folded his arms and looked at Examon suspiciously. “It’s a bit hypocritical, isn’t it, Examon?” he asked the dragon knight.

    “What is?” Examon asked in an icy voice.

    “The fact that you were willing to let your friend escape. If it were anybody else, you would have deleted them on the spot, but because you feel guilty about him, you let him go,” Sleipmon said pointedly.

    “So, what do you want? For me to delete him?” Examon countered, narrowing his eyes.

    “Yes!” Duftmon spoke up.

    “No,” Sleipmon replied minimally, deciding to leave that topic there.

    “That Dorbickmon is a mercenary. How are you supposed to trust him? They’re unscrupulous,” the tactician explained.

    Dynasmon grunted and stood up straight from the wall. “You have trouble trusting mercenaries, Duftmon?” he asked in a low, bitter tone, reminding them that he was a mercenary before he helped found the Order.

    “Generally speaking,” Duftmon responded unwaveringly. “Most mercenaries don’t have the principles that you have, Dynasmon.”

    “Well if you have any doubts, just say so,” Dynasmon told him. He gave a sharp glance at Alphamon. “I’m getting used to not being trusted.”

    Alphamon glanced away from the white armoured dragon. He couldn’t help but feel like Dynasmon took issue with that just to take a jab at him. “Moving on… As we were saying before, we’re almost positive that DarkKnightmon has left the Free Area.”

    “Do we know where he is or where he’s heading?” Magnamon asked.

    Alphamon looked over at Grani. “We have it on good authority that DarkKnightmon is heading north, towards the center of the continent.”

    As Alphamon activated the three dimensional, holographic war table in front of him, RhodoKnightmon looked at him. “Do we have any idea whatsoever on what his destination might be?” he questioned.

    “It’s hard to be certain,” Alphamon responded. “To gather more allies, perhaps? If he was forming another offensive, then it’s hard to imagine why he’d be moving away from us.”

    Duftmon released a pensive hum and tapped the edge of the glowing table. “Perhaps… he’s moving against our allies? The Warrior Ten?”

    “Attacking them head on would be as suicidal as attacking us head on,” Dynasmon countered.

    “Covertly, I mean, like he has been doing with us,” Duftmon clarified. “He has to know that if he tried to take us down, then the Warrior Ten would step in to help us.”

    “I don’t know…” Alphamon said doubtfully.

    “North… Maybe the ruins north of Ocean Cove?” Sleipmon suggested with concern, thinking about the ruins north of his hometown that he used to defend.

    “I’m sure he doesn’t care about your precious ruins, Sleipmon,” UlforceVeedramon said with a smile.

    “Most of his attacks have been personal,” Sleipmon argued. “Besides, those are important ruins. What if he wanted to retrieve what’s inside or desecrate or destroy them?”

    Examon couldn’t help but glance at Sleipmon. It seemed that he wasn’t the only one who was still concerned about defending his home.

    “Where was he last seen?” Craniamon asked, looking at the holographic war map that showed the map of the continent.

    Grani hovered forwards and pointed with his gold arm to a gorge that ran north. “He was spotted here, walking through the Chasm of Creation.”

    “The chasm that one of the World Tree’s roots goes through?” UlforceVeedramon asked.

    “So he passed through New Terminal,” Alphamon said with a sigh of relief, pleased that he apparently didn’t do anything to his hometown, as they would have heard about it by now.

    “Grani, I want you to send two wings of scouts after him. The fastest ones you have,” Alphamon told the Zero ARMS.

    “Can we get any idea of where he’s going from his path?” Dukemon asked, walking over to the table.

    “We can only speculate,” Alphamon responded, dragging his finger northwards, along the length of the canyon.

    The Royal Knights studied what lay north of the chasm.

    Suddenly, Alphamon contemplated UlforceVeedramon’s words and a sick feeling washed over him. “No… It can’t be that…” Alphamon dourly murmured to himself.

    “What?” Dukemon asked, looking up. The other Royal Knights looked at Alphamon questioningly and saw his increasingly worried face.

    Alphamon grimaced and looked at a giant feature that lay some distance north of the Chasm of Creation. “Not that… He wouldn’t…”

    -

    A few days later…

    DarkKnightmon walked down a dirt path leading through a dispersed forest. There was plenty of space between the trees and their vibrant, colourful canopies for the early morning light to shine through. The fragrant, earthy scent of the forest filled the fresh air and the wind swept through the leaves and branches of the trees.

    At the knight’s side walked MirageGaogamon, Omegamon Zwart, and Dorbickmon.

    “Are you sure about this, Sir?” MirageGaogamon asked DarkKnightmon with a worried, conflicted look in his eyes. “Isn’t this a little… extreme?”

    DarkKnightmon glanced over at the lupine warrior. “We were going to reach this stage sooner or later, Captain,” he responded calmly. “We’re without a base and we’re being hunted. In light of that, I have to speed up our plans.”

    “It’s not that DarkKnightmon…” MirageGaogamon half-mumbled.

    “He doubts you,” Omegamon Zwart spoke up, eyeing DarkKnightmon.

    “I do not!” MirageGaogamon protested defensively. “I’m merely… uncomfortable with this.”

    DarkKnightmon stopped and turned around, looking at MirageGaogamon, prompting everyone to stop. “I understand, MirageGaogamon. You’re a faithful follower of Yggdrasil. It is only natural to have doubts,” he diplomatically assured him.

    “Aren’t you, DarkKnightmon?” MirageGaogamon couldn’t help but ask him. “Begging your pardon, but wasn’t one of the tenets of the Royal Knights to pledge to defend Yggdrasil?”

    DarkKnightmon paused for a moment. “Of course, but there’s a time and a place for faith. I’m a realist, Captain. We must do what we have to in order to win,” the black knight explained. “Besides, the World Tree isn’t Yggdrasil itself, merely the embodiment of it.”

    “They are said to be connected…” MirageGaogamon mumbled. He tightened his gaze with upset and looked away.

    “If it pains you too much to help us, I will not force you, Captain,” DarkKnightmon explained. “Though I would be lying if I said that we didn’t need your exceptional abilities. With that said, the decision has to be yours, MirageGaogamon. Will you help us change the world like we wanted? Or is this where we part ways? I won’t hold your decision against you.”

    MirageGaogamon grimaced and stared down at his claw gauntlets. “I…” He closed his eyes and released a calming, resolute breath. “I’m with you, Sir.”

    “Thank you, Captain,” DarkKnightmon said to him with a smile behind his visor. “I knew that I could rely on you.”

    MirageGaogamon offered him a faint smile and nodded. He glanced at Omegamon Zwart and Dorbickmon. Omegamon Zwart eyed him with wary, red eyes. Dorbickmon was looking in a different direction, apparently thinking to himself silently. He had been like that for awhile.

    “And what about you, Dorbickmon?” DarkKnightmon asked, turning to the dragon mercenary.

    Dorbickmon was silent. It was as if he hadn’t heard DarkKnightmon.

    “DarkKnightmon is speaking to you,” MirageGaogamon told him with narrowed eyes.

    “…Oh, what?” Dorbickmon asked, blinking and turning to DarkKnightmon. “Did you say something?”

    “Are you feeling alright, Dorbickmon?” DarkKnightmon asked him. “You’ve been quiet ever since you met up with us this morning.”

    “Oh, it’s nothing,” Dorbickmon assured him with a dismissive wave. “Just had a rough night.”

    “Have your wounds been keeping you up?” DarkKnightmon asked, eyeing the bandages on his arm and chest.

    “Nah, I’ve had worse,” the red dragon man replied.

    “So, you don’t have any qualms about our foray to the World Tree?” he inquired.

    “I don’t believe in Yggdrasil, and Fanglongmon is supposed to be sealed pretty deep – too deep for it to make a difference - so what do I care?” Dorbickmon responded with a nonchalant smirk. “Let’s get moving.”

    “Very well,” the knight answered, moving to walk again.

    “Wait,” Omegamon Zwart said sharply, glaring suddenly.

    “What?” Dorbickmon asked, giving him a wary, sideways glance.

    “I see travellers down the path,” the former Royal Knight explained, leering down the dirt path.

    “Keep walking,” DarkKnightmon said, beginning to head down the forest trail again. “Don’t appear suspicious.”

    Dorbickmon, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart followed him, all looking down the pathway attentively.

    They could see four figures walking towards them in the distance. One was tall, two were medium-sized, and the other was pretty short. DarkKnightmon headed towards the group with a disarming disposition.

    As they grew closer, they could clearly make out their forms. The tallest of the four was humanoid man, who walked with a sort of aloof confidence in his stride. He was clad in a black, form-fitting suit and armour from neck to toe. On his feet, he wore red geta: thick, wooden, traditional sandals with a large tooth protruding from the middle of the soles. Adding to his unique apparel was a long, white jacket that he wore over his shoulders like a cape. The long coat flowed in the breeze as he walked, as did his red, brushed back, spiky hair and sideburns. Over the eyes of his humanoid face was a metal visor that glinted in the morning sun. He grinned somewhat as he looked at the group of four, causing the slim, crimson mustache above his mouth to lift as he sized them up.

    Behind the imposing Digimon were two humanoid Digimon. The female Digimon looked similar to each other, although one was taller and the other shorter. They each wore garments akin to kobluks or habits, although clothes of the taller girl were black and white while those of the shorter girl were pink and white. The one wearing black carried two silver pistols and the one wearing pink held a golden trident. The pink Digimon made a point to put her taller counterpart between herself and the four powerful travellers.

    Lastly, the shortest of the group was a small, quadrupedal dragon Digimon whose white, metallic scales shimmered in the sunlight. The teenaged dragon wore a red cape over his back; attached to the cape was a red hood and goggles, which rested on the back of his neck. The cape fluttered slightly in the wind, though less majestically than the taller Digimon’s jacket did. He tapped his dark blue claws against the ground and looked past his black nose horn at the approaching travellers with curious, excited, yellow eyes. The Digimon looked up at the man beside with a questioning look, possibly to see what he would do.

    As the two groups of four drew near, the leaders of each increased their strides and stepped out to meet the other.

    “Good morning,” DarkKnightmon said to the red-haired, strong-looking Digimon amiably.

    “Same to you,” the jacket-wearing Digimon responded, stopping in front of him and folding his arms, although still wearing a half grin.

    DarkKnightmon stopped opposite to him. “May I ask you a question?”

    “I believe you just did,” the Digimon replied. After a moment, he grinned and continued, brushing the sides of his jacket out as he placed his hands on his hips. “I don’t answer questions to Digimon I’m not introduced to.”

    “I see…” DarkKnightmon responded. He eyed the Digimon carefully for a few seconds. The knight then extended his hand. “My name is DarkKnightmon.”

    The Digimon took his hand, squeezed hard, and shook it firmly. “Gankoomon,” the warrior replied. He then let go and extended his hand to the two girls behind him. “This is Sistermon Noir and Sistermon Blanc. Companions of mine.”

    “Hiya,” the taller, darker-garbed Sistermon Noir chirped.

    “H-Hello…” the shorter, pink-wearing Sistermon Blanc meekly followed up.

    Gankoomon then turned and gestured down to the short dragon next to him. “And this is my squire—“

    “Huckmon!” the dragon known as Huckmon interrupted, eager to be the one to introduce himself. “I plan to be one of the Royal Knights one day!” he made sure to add with an enthusiastic grin.

    DarkKnightmon couldn’t help but chuckle at the youthful Digimon’s words. “Is that so…? Wonderful,” he said. Meanwhile, Omegamon Zwart leered at Huckmon.

    Gankoomon rolled his eyes behind his visor. “Yggdrasil knows why…” He glanced at the group, arched his eyebrow and angled his head to the left. “So, your question?”

    “Oh, yes. My friends and I are looking for the World Tree,” DarkKnightmon explained. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been up here; are we going in the right direction?”

    Omegamon Zwart, Dorbickmon and MirageGaogamon eyed Gankoomon, quietly hoping that he didn’t know they were fugitives.

    “Yeah, just keep heading north for about twenty kilometers,” Gankoomon said, looking over his shoulder and nodding behind him. “There’s a clearing up ahead. Once you’re there, you should be able to see the tree. It’s impossible to miss.”

    “Thank you, Gankoomon,” DarkKnightmon told him.

    Gankoomon gave him a short nod. “So, why go to the World Tree? Are you guys on a pilgrimage?” he wondered. “Tourists maybe? You don’t look like you’re from around here.”

    “Tourists,” DarkKnightmon responded. “I want to see if the view is as breathtaking as I remember it being.”

    Huckmon frowned and looked up at his mentor. “Gankoomon? What exactly is the World Tree?” he asked him.

    “You know, the Yggdrasil Tree. The giant *** one we passed yesterday,” Gankoomon explained to the teenaged dragon.

    “Yeah, but why’s it bigger than all the other trees? I couldn’t even see the top without hurting my neck.”

    Gankoomon rolled his eyes. “Weren’t you listening before?” he asked in a somewhat annoyed tone.

    “I knew you were daydreaming when we were explaining it to you,” Sistermon Noir playfully rebuked as she looked down at Huckmon. Huckmon smiled sheepishly and raised his claws to tug at his collar.

    Gankoomon sighed and folded his arms, shaking his head. “The World Tree is a holy site. Right in the center of the continent… the world even. The tree’s thought to embody Yggdrasil or, at least, its essence. To harm the World Tree would be to harm Yggdrasil itself.”

    Gankoomon unfolded his arms and turned to face Huckmon. “It’s not just important to the Yggdrasil faith, though. It’s important to the Fanglongmon faith and to the offshoot of the Yggdrasil faith that the Angelic Choirs follow too. For the Fanglongmon faith, it’s thought that the big guy himself was sealed deep beneath the tree’s roots after he split his power into four, manifesting his will into the Four Holy Beasts. That’s why they created the Neutral Zone around it, since nobody wanted to harm such an important tree through fighting… that and nobody wanted to piss off the World Tree’s guardians.”

    “Get all that, kid?” Dorbickmon added boredly.

    “Yeah,” Huckmon sheepishly responded. “But who are the World Tree’s guardians?”

    “Like I said, Digimon you don’t want to piss off,” Gankoomon replied offhandedly. “The strongest is Valdurmon.”

    DarkKnightmon eyed Gankoomon with interest. “Valdurmon… And where is he located?” he questioned.

    “Valdurmon lives on the uppermost boughs of the tree, right in the clouds,” the warrior explained. “You’ll be fine if you’re just visiting.”

    “Good to hear. He sounds like he must be a tough Digimon,” DarkKnightmon said.

    “Yup. I wouldn’t want to cross his path, and I’ve taken down some big Digimon,” Gankoomon replied, folding his arms. “Anyways, we need to get moving.”

    “As do we,” DarkKnightmon responded. He looked down at Huckmon. “I wish you the best of luck with your goal. The Royal Knights are a very prestigious group.”

    “I know,” Huckmon responded, smiling. “But Gankoomon’s a great teacher. I’ve already reached my BaoHuckmon form!”

    “Yeah, but you can’t hold it yet,” Gankoomon said, beginning to walk by the four. “Come on, kid. Girls.”

    The Sistermons and Huckmon nodded and followed after him. DarkKnightmon eyed him warily. Gankoomon caught his gaze and returned it, suddenly stopping.

    DarkKnightmon turned away from him and began to walk down the dirt path. “We should get moving, you three,” he said to them, walking before Gankoomon could follow up.

    Gankoomon gave him a suspicious glance before turning to Omegamon Zwart. “You’re a strange looking Omegamon…” he observed. “I’ve never seen one in all black… For that matter, Omegamons are pretty hard to come by to begin with. Were you formed when a BlackWarGreymon and a BlackMetalGarurumon jogressed or…?”

    “No,” Omegamon Zwart said tersely. He then walked after DarkKnightmon. “Goodbye.”

    Gankoomon raised a finger and scratched at his cheek, watching as the four travellers took off in the opposite direction. “Hm…”

    “What’s up, Gankoomon?” Sistermon Noir asked him.

    “Nothing… Just got a gut feeling all of a sudden…” Gankoomon replied.

    “Yeah? And what’s your gut saying?” she inquired.

    “That I might have just said a little too much…” he responded, tugging the hem of his jacket forward on his shoulder. “We better not go too far today.”

    “You’re the boss,” Sistermon Noir said, raising one of her guns and resting it against her shoulder. Sistermon Blanc nodded in agreement.

    Huckmon frowned and looked over his shoulder at DarkKnightmon’s group. “Are you saying you don’t trust them? They seemed so cool. They looked really strong.”

    “Yeah. Four megas. And I could tell that they were stronger than most regular mega level Digimon. That’s what bothers me. But like I said, it’s just a feeling.”

    “Your instincts are usually right,” Huckmon told him.

    Gankoomon gave the group of four a final look before turning forwards and walks away from them, down the path. “Let’s go. We’ll head west.”

    Huckmon and the Sistermons nodded and followed his lead.

    Meanwhile, DarkKnightmon continued heading north, towards the clearing that Gankoomon specified.

    “Odd fellow,” MirageGaogamon said, glancing over his shoulder at the departing group.

    “Gankoomon?” Dorbickmon spoke up. “I’ve heard of him. He’s pretty active in this part of the continent. Kind of a knight-errant sort of deal.”

    “So, he’s a mercenary with morals?” MirageGaogamon supposed pointedly.

    Dorbickmon gave MirageGaogamon a sharp glance. “Don’t get so high and mighty. Not with what we’re about to do.”

    MirageGaogamon grimaced and continued walking silently.

    “So, what’s the plan?” Dorbickmon asked, looking to DarkKnightmon. “Think we can take those guardians? They must be pretty strong if they’re guarding the World Tree.”

    “We’ll have to,” DarkKnightmon said matter-of-factly. He narrowed his eyes with cold calculation. “We defeat the guardians, set up a defensive perimeter, and take the World Tree hostage. Then, when the Royal Knights inevitably show up, we will bring them to their knees, one way or another.”

    -

    Alphamon, Dukemon, Grani, Magnamon, Dynasmon, and RhodoKnightmon flew through the air, heading north with determination. Both Dukemon and RhodoKnightmon stood on Grani’s back, after some convincing from Dukemon that speed was mandatory. Grani still felt somewhat uncomfortable letting someone other than Dukemon ride on him.

    The morning sun graced them from one side and a cool breeze hit them from the other. They were in too much of a hurry to take in the sights of the middle of the continent. Just the six of them sortied to go after DarkKnightmon. Craniamon, Duftmon, UlforceVeedramon, Sleipmon, Examon, and the Captains stayed behind at headquarters to defend it, in case this turned out to be a diversion.

    “My scouts should hopefully return to us shortly,” Grani postulated, flying alongside the Royal Knights while carrying his two passengers.

    “And if he’s going to attack the World Tree like we think?” Dukemon asked, turning his head and looking over at Alphamon. He ignored RhodoKnightmon’s hands on his shoulders, which were placed there on the pretext of keeping the pink knight balanced.

    “Now, I’m almost positive that he is. I can sense it…” Alphamon explained.

    “So can I,” Magnamon said, frowning.

    “If he is, then we need to stop him,” the Lord of the Empty Seat responded to Dukemon.

    “I still can’t believe he would stoop so low,” the gold knight bitterly spoke.

    “He already broke one oath. Why not another one?” Dynasmon muttered.

    “DarkKnightmon said he believed in Yggdrasil, but he was never that ardent in his belief,” Alphamon explained. “Even so… to go to these lengths to hurt us…”

    “We won’t let him touch a single branch,” Dukemon replied with a determined voice.

    “What if this turns out to be a feint and this was a plan to draw us away from the castle?” RhodoKnightmon inquired, trying to dodge Dukemon’s hair and cape as they blew in the wind at him.

    “The other half of the knights is stationed back there. We have scouts on standby that can call either us or them for reinforcements, depending on who needs who,” Alphamon said.

    Dukemon grimaced and rubbed the insignia on his chest. “I have a bad feeling we’re right…”

    Grani narrowed his keen eyes and began to slow down. “I can see my scouts ahead,” he informed the others.

    The group looked ahead and saw three dots in the sky, which gradually grew larger as they neared. The first Digimon that was obvious was the large, eagle form of Aquilamon. Next to him was a similar but gryphon-shaped Digimon known as Holsmon. The final scout was the golden raptor Digimon Sparrowmon, who flew ahead towards the Royal Knights.

    “Grani, Sir!” Sparrowmon cried out, rushing over, followed by the other two avian scouts.

    “Sparrowmon,” Grani exclaimed calmly, hovering in the air as his subordinate stopped in front of them. “Do you have news?”

    Aquilamon flapped his wings and halted in front of the group. “We do. Grave news,” he told them.

    “DarkKnightmon and his companions are attacking the guardians of the Yggdrasil Tree!” the alarmed Sparrowmon told them.

    Alphamon narrowed his eyes. “I knew it…” he whispered. He looked at the three members of the Reconnaissance Squadron. “Who is with him?”

    “MirageGaogamon, Dorbickmon, and… Omegamon,” Aquilamon replied with a wince.

    Alphamon closed his eyes and took a slow breath. “I see…” He then opened them, staring at the scouts with resolve. “Return to Headquarters. Tell the other Royal Knights to reinforce us, and get Captain Knightmon to tighten the defences just in case.”

    “We aren’t going to wait for them to arrive, are we?” Dukemon asked with an impatient look in his eyes.

    “No. The World Tree is in danger. We’ll go ahead of them and engage DarkKnightmon immediately,” Alphamon explained. “At the very least, we’ll keep them at bay until the others arrive, but hopefully we’ll be able to defeat them.”

    “Suits me fine,” Dynasmon replied, cracking his knuckles.

    “Me, as well,” RhodoKnightmon concurred. “It is high time that we put a stop to this.”

    Magnamon looked at the scouts. “Were there any signs of DarkKnightmon’s mercenaries?”

    “Not that we saw, Sir Magnamon,” Holsmon replied. “And we covered a pretty wide grid.”

    “We can’t entirely rule out the possibility, however,” Grani pointed out. The Zero ARMS looked at the three scouts. “Please hurry as fast as you can.”

    “Whatever you say!” Sparrowmon replied dutifully, giving Grani a lingering glance before shooting off southwards. Aquilamon and Holsmon bowed their heads at the knights before following.

    Alphamon turned and looked at his comrades. “We have to hurry. The World Tree and its guardians need us.”

    Without another word, the Royal Knights began tearing through the sky, hoping to reach the tree before it was too late.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  13. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    See the previous post for the first part

    Chapter 25 Part II: The World Tree

    Beams streaked through the air, dragging through the earth and cutting down trees explosively.

    DarkKnightmon and his team had reached their destination. As soon as they made their intentions clear, the guardians of the World Tree attacked them in defence of the sacred site. Many guardians descended to clash with them, but many were beaten down by their strength.

    DarkKnightmon levelled his Twin Spear with a plethora of different Digimon, largely Ultimate level, and fired a torrent of dark energy from the tip. The pillar of darkness soared across a large clearing in the forest, swallowing several of the defenders and blasting them away.

    The clearing itself was massive. It was nearly two kilometers in diameter, though it had to be, given what was in the center of it. Colourful, vibrant flowers littered most of the clearing, but several of them were dying under the weight and oppression of the sudden attacks.

    In the exact middle of the clearing was the titan of all trees. The World Tree. The tree was the biggest in the whole continent - perhaps in the whole of the Digital World. It could be seen from kilometers around. It was magnificent to behold. The tree was a massive yew tree that bloomed a beautiful, vibrant green colour year round. It put to shame all of the other trees around it. There were countless branches, big and small, extending from the main trunk of the tree. Some of the branches were long and thick enough to support even massive Digimon.

    DarkKnightmon and his team couldn’t even see the top of the tree, as it reached all the way up into the clouds, the highest boughs of the tree extending into the stratosphere. This was a cause of concern for them, as they were unable to spot Valdurmon through the clouds.

    Not only was the World Tree tall, but it was extremely thick as well. The cross section of the tree trunk was a few hundred meters. This grandness extended to the tree’s roots as well. The World Tree’s three roots were massive. They were one hundred meters thick at their thickest. One of the three roots protruded from the ground in the clearing and reached all the way up to the clouds in a serpentine way. The other two roots were mostly underground, with one leading into a huge, misty lake from which many rivers flowed, located in the far north of the continent, and the other one leading south, with the root piercing from one side of the Chasm of Creation to the other.

    However, the landscape was now littered with the unconscious and wounded bodies of the defenders of the World Tree. DarkKnightmon and his team fought wave after wave of defenders

    Four Moosemon were the next to jump down from the thick branches of the World Tree. “Begone, blasphemers!” one of them yelled, lunging towards Dorbickmon. “Horn Blade!”

    Dorbickmon watched as the Moosemon’s antlers glowed and become razor sharp. He swapped sword hands, swept the Tyrant Collbrande to the side, and coiled his right fist back. As the Moosemon slashed at him, Dorbickmon side stepped and cracked his fist painfully across the Moosemon’s jaw, punching him out of the air. When the Moosemon crashed into the ground and flailed in an attempt to get back up, Dorbickmon stabbed his sword into the ground. “Burning the Dragon!”

    The sword seemed to tremble in the ground from the sheer power it tapped into before pulsing with an inferno of flames. In less than a second, a block of earth burst from the ground below the Moosemon, shooting up with unbelievable speed and power. The Moosemon was propelled forty feet into the air and disappeared behind the canopies of the trees surrounding the wide clearing.

    “Oh, ****!” Dorbickmon explained with both surprise and exhilaration at the unexpected surge of power in his attack. “I must have tapped into a well of dragon veins!”

    “It’s thought that the source of the dragon veins is beneath this tree,” DarkKnightmon remarked as he struck his spear across one of the attacking Moosemon. “The place from… where the leylines cross together and originate. No… wonder your attack is amplified.”

    “Hahah!” Dorbickmon laughed with adrenaline. “I can feel its power pumping through me! This is going to be fun! Almost makes me wonder if Fanglongmon really is sealed underneath this big plant!”

    MirageGaogamon narrowed his eyes and flew speedily yet carefully around the World Tree, looping back around and slamming his plated shoulder into the side of the Moosemon that had attacked him, sending the mammal Digimon skidding across the ground and gasping for breath. The wolf warrior turned around to watch Omegamon Zwart slash his Grey Sword out, slicing it across the final Moosemon’s chest and causing the defender to cry out and collapse in a heap.

    He thought to himself quietly before flying over and landing next to DarkKnightmon. Omegamon Zwart walked over as well, cool steam still flowing from the muzzle of his arm cannon. For the first time since they arrived there, there was silence apart from the groans and moans of the wounded defenders.

    “It’s all quiet now…” MirageGaogamon observed. “Have we defeated them all?”

    “Valdurmon has not appeared yet,” Omegamon Zwart pointed out, his steely, crimson eyes scanning the clouds and branches carefully.

    “I doubt he’s up there all the time,” Dorbickmon said.

    DarkKnightmon quietly thought to himself while looking around the area. A soft breeze blew through the trees, causing the branches and leaves to rustle. On the undercurrent of the gentle sound, there was a trace of rumbling echoes in the distance.

    MirageGaogamon, having the best hearing of the four, turned around and looked up. “DarkKnigh—“

    “Aurora Undulation!” the voice thundered from above.

    Before the voice even finished, a surge of light beamed down and seared into Omegamon Zwart’s armour before he had any time to react, crushing him into the ground. The light swept out from around the fallen knight and scorched the area around him.

    “What?!” Dorbickmon growled with surprise, keeping his blade embedded in the ground.

    “It was so fast…” MirageGaogamon spoke, raising his gauntlets up and opening the wolf-like mouth on his breastplate. “I barely saw it coming…”

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and looked up. “It must be…”

    A giant, majestic, white bird burst through the clouds, diving down towards them at incredible speeds. He poised his six wings behind him as he descended from the heavens, honing in on the ones who would invade and desecrate the holy tree.

    Omegamon Zwart grunted with pain and annoyance, stabbing his Grey Sword into the ground and pushing himself up. “Valdurmon,” he spoke, glaring up at the holy bird Digimon.

    As Valdurmon grew closer, the four were able to see his form more clearly. His beautiful feathers of white and pale purple, blue, yellow and green, almost like that of an opal, shone and sparkled in the afternoon sun. The wings were emitting what looked like a holy light, in fact. His yellow beak and four-toed claws tensed up with anger and his grey eyes narrowed. Valdurmon swooped down the side of the tree. His majestic form was backed by a glory – a beautiful, rainbow-like halo that resonated around his body.

    “It’s beautiful…” MirageGaogamon said with awe.

    “Don’t be distracted,” Omegamon Zwart told him, narrowing his eyes at the bright light approaching him. He aimed his cannon at Valdurmon and waited for a good shot.

    “Who are you?!” Valdurmon demanded with a boom. He glared and flapped his wings strongly to slow his descent. The giant, holy bird stopped and hovered high above them, observing the four attackers. His light, grey eyes widened upon seeing DarkKnightmon. “DarkKnightmon?! But… What is going on here?! This is a neutral area! The World Tree is a holy site!”

    “We are well aware of that, Valdurmon,” DarkKnightmon replied matter-of-factly.

    “Then leave at once! This is a place of peace and unity!”

    “Our work here is unavoidable, I’m afraid,” DarkKnightmon explained, gazing up at him. “It would be easier for everybody involved if you just flew off and allowed us to do what we need to do.”

    “Just who do you think you’re talking to, DarkKnightmon?!” Valdurmon thundered scathingly, as if he had been insulted. “I don’t know what it is you plan to do here, but I can sense your malicious intent. It is my sworn duty to protect this tree from harm! If you plan to harm it, then you will have to go through me!”

    DarkKnightmon sighed. “Of course…” he spoke, shaking his head. The knight looked up and aimed one end of his Twin Spear at Valdurmon. “I respect your commitment, Valdurmon. It’s commendable. Unfortunately, I am determined as well.” He looked at Omegamon Zwart, MirageGaogamon and Dorbickmon, and nodded.

    “Burning the Dragon!”

    “Garuru Cannon!”

    “Full Moon Blaster!”

    DarkKnightmon watched as spears and chunks of rock burst from the ground and flew towards Valdurmon, flanked by a large, whirling sphere of freezing energy and a long, incandescent beam. DarkKnightmon added to the volley of attacks with a dark violet beam of his own, launching the shadows from his Twin Spear.

    The four attacks ascended towards Valdurmon as he looked on with a scowl. Until…

    “Purge Shine!” Valdurmon swept his six wings out in front of him. His feathers radiated a heavy, luminous aura and the glory around him intensified. The four attacks slammed into his body and exploded in a massive burst of shadows, ice, and debris.

    The cloud then cleared with a mighty flap of Valdurmon’s wings, sending trails of the shimmering vapour out with each flap. He was completely untouched by the attacks.

    “What?” DarkKnightmon asked with genuine surprise.

    “What the hell?! There’s no way he just shrugged that off when my attack is supercharged!” Dorbickmon protested with wide eyes.

    “That’s right…” Omegamon Zwart said to himself, lowering his cannon and narrowing his blood red eyes with thought. “Valdurmon’s ability… I remember it…”

    Valdurmon looked at Omegamon with surprise and then a scowl. “Omegamon… Is that…? Did you…?” The holy bird closed his eyes. “I will show you no solace.”

    “Purge Shine. His aura creates a barrier that nullifies any attack performed with evil intent,” Omegamon Zwart explained, recalling his memories privy to that of a Royal Knight.

    “Evil intent…” DarkKnightmon said to himself with a frown.

    “Is that what that was?” MirageGaogamon asked with a grimace, looking down at his hands.

    “Any attack you make against this tree can only be made with evil intent,” Valdurmon warned them. “Leave here at once and never return. Otherwise, I will be forced to crush you where you stand.”

    “**** this!” Dorbickmon snarled, gripping the Tyrant Collbrande tightly. He tapped into the well of dragon veins beneath him and forced the blazing sword to thicken and elongate to massive proportions, to the extent that Dorbickmon had to put all of his might into pulling it from the ground and keeping it steady. “Hragh!” he shouted with effort, hoisting the Tyrant Collbrande over his head. The sword stood at nearly a hundred meters tall. The flowers around him wilted and died from the sheer heat. “We don’t have to defeat him! We only have to get past him!”

    Dorbickmon released a throaty snarl and slashed the Tyrant Collbrande down towards the World Tree.

    “It’s too soon!” DarkKnightmon called out in protest, but the momentum was already too great.

    The sword fell towards the tree. However, Valdurmon was quick to act. He soared in front of the descending blade, getting between it and the tree, and unleashed more of the same aura from his form.

    “Purge Shine!” Valdurmon called out.

    The blade of purple fire hacked across Valdurmon’s body, but the flames were snuffed out as soon as they touched his aura. The massive Tyrant Collbrande simply went passed him, but continued its swing down to the ground. At the base of the tree, the flames continued on, burning into the thick bark where the tree was too low for Valdurmon’s aura to reach.

    Valdurmon’s eyes widened with rage when he saw the fire cut into the wood. Although it could have been much worse had Valdurmon not intervened, the minimal damage caused was a symbolic blow to the World Tree’s avian defender. “You will pay for that, scum!” he shouted furiously. “Aurora Undulation!”

    Just as Dorbickmon began to shorten his blade to defend himself, a blaze of light from Valdurmon’s wings already reached him and burned into him, moving at almost light speed. Dorbickmon cried out as his armour was seared and he staggered back with pain.

    Two more bursts of light then surged from Valdurmon’s body, engulfing DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart before they could react either. They were crushed into the ground, sending a wave of dirt out around them.

    MirageGaogamon groaned and rolled onto his back, his cape singed and smoking. “It’s so fast… Even I can’t avoid it once it’s fired…”

    Omegamon Zwart glared hard and pulled himself to his feet, looking over at DarkKnightmon, who did the same after a few moments of struggle.

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes. “Everybody!” he called to his comrades. “When you attack Valdurmon, don’t think about the short term. Don’t think about defeating him or attacking the World Tree when you attack. In other words, do not think about the little evil that we have to do in order to achieve greater good. When you attack him, think about our goal; think about what we want to achieve… how we wish to improve the Digital World for the better. When you strike him, strike him down with righteousness in your hearts.”

    Omegamon Zwart narrowed his eyes in what seemed like a grimace and brought his Garuru Arm up to his chest. “I… cannot,” he replied simply.

    DarkKnightmon turned and looked at Omegamon with a silent gaze. He slowly realized the extent of which Omegamon had been changed by the dark data and black digitron; he was incapable of acting out of goodness. After a moment of silence, he turned his head away from him. “…Very well.”

    “I don’t care about your damn goal!” Dorbickmon snarled as pain and anger and frustration coursed through his body. He glared through the smoke that rose from his form, up at Valdurmon. “I’m not doing this for your frigging ideal world! In fact, I think you’re just deluding yourselves that you can actually change things!”

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and turned to stare at Dorbickmon. “Think what you like. You may have given up on the world, but I have not. All I know is that you cannot defeat Valdurmon with only revenge in your heart.”

    Dorbickmon snarled and angrily slashed the ground with his sword. “Tch. Revenge…” he growled to himself. He narrowed his violet eyes balefully and glared into the flames of the Tyrant Collbrande. “I don’t even know anymore… Damn it… Damn you, Examon. Why did you have to talk to me…? Why couldn’t I just kill you?

    An agitated glare formed on Valdurmon’s face. “Enough of this,” he said, his wings radiating with brilliant light. The glory began to intensify and expand, indicating that he was ready to attack.

    “MirageGaogamon!” DarkKnightmon said to him with a strong, sincere voice. “Are you with me?!”

    “I…” MirageGaogamon stalled for a few moments. However, his eyes met DarkKnightmon’s yellow ones, and he was once again inspired by the zeal and ambition that had inspired him many years ago. MirageGaogamon’s gaze hardened with resolve and trust in DarkKnightmon. “Always, Sir.”

    “Aurora Undulation!” Valdurmon spoke.

    “Now!” DarkKnightmon called to MirageGaogamon.

    MirageGaogamon flew towards Valdurmon, drawing the holy bird’s attention as a target. The eagle Digimon turned to him and began to unleash a huge ray of light towards him. MirageGaogamon saw the attack discharge from Valdurmon’s aura and his body suddenly blurred. The burning rays washed over his body and he completely disappeared within the folds of light.

    Valdurmon watched as his attack streaked across the field in mere milliseconds, and, when brilliant light dissipated, MirageGaogamon was nowhere to be found. Satisfied that he had deleted one of the attackers, he then turned to DarkKnightmon threateningly. “I won’t ask you again.”

    “Double Crescent Mirage!” a voice shouted out from his right side.

    “What?!” Valdurmon explained, his eyes widening. “He actually dodged my light speed attack?!

    The eagle watched as two crescent moon-shaped shock waves flew towards him. He flapped his wings and spread his defensive aura, Purge Shine, out in front of himself.

    To Valdurmon’s utter shock, the crescents soared straight through his barrier and collided with his body, exploding on contact. The holy bird Digimon unleashed a winded squawk and fell backwards, his back colliding with the World Tree. He flapped his wings vigorously and tried to compose himself. “I- I don’t understand,” he stammered, panting and wincing with agony at the burning pain in his chest. “How did your attacks go through my Purge Shine?! You’re a bunch of destroyers and blasphemers who want to attack the World Tree! How can your attacks be free from evil intent?!”

    MirageGaogamon stared at him. “It’s because I believe that DarkKnightmon can create a better world – a safer world. One where Digimon will be safe from suffering. That’s what I’m fighting for.”

    “That is what I’m fighting for as well,” DarkKnightmon spoke from behind Valdurmon, raising his Twin Spear and pointing it at his back. Coldly, he fired a beam of darkness from his spear, which also managed to break through the World Tree’s protector’s Purge Shine. The dark matter and shadows slammed into Valdurmon’s back and battered him from behind. “But it isn’t just me. To create a better world, I need the strength of my comrades. I need your strength, MirageGaogamon.”

    “You have it, Sir,” MirageGaogamon assured him. The former Captain burst through the air and rend his claws down Valdurmon’s chest, ripping through surface flesh and feathers.

    Valdurmon released a deep trill of pain in response. With a twitching eye, he glared at the blue Digimon in front of him and he fought through the stinging pain in his chest. His body glowed intensely and he released an Aurora Undulation onto MirageGaogamon at point blank range. The light washed over the lupine warrior and sent him reeling into the ground with burns and fractures in his armour.

    DarkKnightmon saw an opening, as it took Valdurmon time to recharge after each attack. He began to spin the Twin Spear around in his hands. Valdurmon felt the presence looming behind him and he flapped his wings, moving sluggishly from his wounds, to turn around and counterattack. However, he wasn’t fast enough. The tendrils of shadows were already working up into a cyclone from DarkKnightmon’s weapon.

    “Treason Vortex,” DarkKnightmon spoke, spinning the Twin Spear rapidly in his nimble hands. A tornado of darkness shot from the pole arm towards Valdurmon, beginning to swallow up his giant form.

    “Rgh. Purge Shine!” Valdurmon shouted defiantly.

    The shadows around Valdurmon collided with his aura, which expanded around him to try and break free from the consuming darkness. The light and darkness contended with each other for control but the darkness soon broke through and enveloped Valdurmon completely.

    The holy bird Digimon unleashed a deep howl as his body was pounded and slashed from all sides. The shadows tore at his wings, back, legs, and chest as the black and violet vortex grew stronger and more intense, even beginning to rip at the bark and branches of the World Tree.

    DarkKnightmon finally slowed the spinning of his spear and the Treason Vortex began to fade, revealing the lacerated and badly beaten form of Valdurmon. The holy bird promptly crashed to the ground in a heap.

    The dark knight flew to the ground and looked over at where MirageGaogamon had landed. “Are you alright, Captain?”

    “F-Fine…” MirageGaogamon responded, trying his best to sit up.

    Dorbickmon frowned and walked over to the unconscious bird, lightly kicking at his giant form. “Glad that’s done. He was a real pain in the *** to deal with.”

    “Only if you have a selfish heart,” MirageGaogamon spoke, getting to his knees and looking up at Dorbickmon with heavy implications.

    “If you’ve got something to say, say it, puppy,” Dorbickmon told him, sneering at him.

    “Don’t start,” DarkKnightmon said to them. “This fight has only just begun. I’m counting on the Royal Knights showing up, so we need to stand--”

    “DarkKnightmon!” a voice resounded commandingly from behind them.

    “…united,” DarkKnightmon finished, slowly turning around.

    The other three turned to look as well.

    They saw Alphamon, descending from the sky. He summoned the glowing Seiken Gradalpha in his right hand as he flew towards the ground. Right behind him were Magnamon, Dynasmon, and Dukemon and RhodoKnightmon, who stood atop Grani.

    “Impeccable timing,” Dorbickmon growled. “DarkKnightmon?”

    “Not just yet…” DarkKnightmon replied. He turned and nodded over at the giant World Tree behind him.

    Dorbickmon nodded and stabbed his sword into the ground again, drawing draconic power from the leylines. The Tyrant Collbrande pulsed and trembled, the blade of fire growing larger and larger as Dorbickmon drew it from the earth. He then held the sword at a horizontal angle, placing the sword dangerously close to the side of the World Tree, seeming to use it as a hostage.

    At this, the Royal Knights glared. RhodoKnightmon jumped to the ground. Dynasmon landed as well, cracking his large knuckles. Magnamon, Dukemon, and Grani remained in the air.

    Alphamon’s gaze lingered on Omegamon Zwart for several seconds before he pulled his gaze away to stare at DarkKnightmon. “DarkKnightmon… What is this?” he asked him.

    “Alphamon… You’re earlier than I expected,” DarkKnightmon said to the Lord of the Empty Seat.

    “So this was to draw us out?” Alphamon asked him with a hard leer.

    “Not in it of itself, no,” the dark knight responded. “I merely knew that it was inevitable that you all would show up when this tree was threatened.”

    “That ‘tree’ is the World Tree,” Dynasmon told him with a growl to his words.

    “Whatever you’re trying to do here, DarkKnightmon, stop it. It’s pointless,” Magnamon added.

    “On the contrary, Magnamon,” DarkKnightmon assured him, aiming his Twin Spear at the group, prompting Omegamon Zwart and MirageGaogamon to ready themselves as well. Dorbickmon held his burning sword closer to the tree trunk.

    “Stop this at once, DarkKnightmon!” Alphamon warned him.

    “Disgusting. Using the World Tree as a hostage… Is there any part of your oath that you didn’t break?” Dynasmon asked him with bitter rage.

    “Yes,” DarkKnightmon responded matter-of-factly. “’I pledge my blood, my data, my heart, and my soul to the betterment of the Digital World and those who reside in it.’ The most important part, in my opinion.”

    “You’re still on about that?” Dynasmon asked him angrily. He extended his arm and gestured to the unconscious bodies of Digimon littering the clearing. “What about them? What about the World Tree: the place that so many people look to with wonder and hope?”

    “My faith isn’t what it used to be, Dynasmon. I am much more pragmatic now,” the dark knight calmly explained.

    Alphamon shook his head. “You’re different, alright… You aren’t the DarkKnightmon that I was proud to call my brother.”

    “That’s something that I’ll have to live with, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon said to him. He raised his free hand and signalled to the others. “Attack.”

    “Garuru Cannon!” Omegamon Zwart immediately called out, firing a blast of freezing energy from his cannon at Alphamon.

    “Full Moon Blaster!” MirageGaogamon howled, unleashing a stream of power from the mouth on his chest. The shimmering jet ripped across the ground towards RhodoKnightmon, who nimbly dodged it.

    Dorbickmon dug his blade into the edge of the tree before swinging the massive flames outwards, sweeping it through the air at Dukemon, Grani, and Magnamon. Magnamon dove down while Grani ascended, both narrowly missing being torched by the attack.

    Alphamon flew upwards and slashed down with his sword to propel Omegamon Zwart’s attack into the ground. Out of the corners of his eyes, he saw a pillar of shadows already flooding towards them, prompting him to shoot to the side. He winced when the stream of darkness clipped his wing, but he was spared a serious blow. He spun around and aimed his palm at DarkKnightmon, but saw that the World Tree was directly behind his opponent, prompting him to think twice. It wasn’t safe for him to use the massive variant of his Digitalize of Soul attack here, nor could Dynasmon use his Breath of Wyvern attack, as it was. There was too much risk to the World Tree and the wounded defenders.

    “Don’t let them set the tone of the fight! Pick your targets and attack! And watch your aim!” Alphamon called out to the other Royal Knights.

    “I have the doggie!” RhodoKnightmon responded, clutching one of his ribbon swords and clashing it with MirageGaogamon’s claw gauntlet. His other ribbon shot out and wrapped around MirageGaogamon’s free wrist, preventing him from stabbing him with the other one.

    Alphamon turned towards Omegamon Zwart. He knew that he had to do this. He had to get through to Omegamon somehow. However, he knew that it wouldn’t be easy. “Omegamon!” he called out, dashing towards him with his sword in his hand.

    Omegamon Zwart narrowed his eyes and raised his Grey Sword to counter him. “Alphamon…” He levelled his cannon with the charging knight and fired.

    “Digitalize of Soul!” Alphamon retaliated, launching a large beam from his left hand. The pillar of emerald power collided with the blast of ice and exploded in a flash of light blue mist and green strands. Alphamon burst through the residue of the blasts and continued charging Omegamon Zwart.

    DarkKnightmon, seeing this, began to run to intercept him, but a powerful helix of energy swept in front of him, blocking his path. He narrowed his eyes and turned to see Dynasmon glaring at him, his palms smoking with elemental power.

    “Magnamon, with me!” Dynasmon called out to the gold knight, dashing towards DarkKnightmon. “It’s time for round two!”

    “I have you covered!” Magnamon replied, taking a powerful stance in the air. “Plasma Shoot!”

    Missiles launched from Magnamon’s shoulders and steamed through the air, arcing downwards and landing in front of DarkKnightmon. The missiles exploded with small, contained bursts, sending detonations of gold and dirt flying up in DarkKnightmon’s face. The black knight recoiled with pain and disorientation.

    To his surprise, the next thing he saw was Dynasmon burst through the smoke and drive his fist into DarkKnightmon’s face. He was sent crashing onto his back, but he wasted no time in unleashing a beam of darkness from his lance. Although he made to dodge it, the shadows grazed across Dynasmon’s leg, eliciting a wince of pain from the knight.

    Snarling, Dynasmon landed and charged at DarkKnightmon. “You stubborn ***!” he growled, driving his claws towards his former friend.

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and swung his Twin Spear around in his hand before stabbing it at the oncoming dragon man. Dynasmon caught the shaft of the spear in his hand and squeezed it tightly. With his other hand, he grabbed DarkKnightmon’s face and squeezed it as well.

    Grimacing, DarkKnightmon released a muffled grunt and unleashed dark matter from his spear, coating Dynasmon’s claws before slamming into the Royal Knight himself.

    “Magnum Punch!” Magnamon shouted from behind DarkKnightmon. His fist was coated with the golden light of Miracles as it pounded into DarkKnightmon’s back with tonnes of pressure. DarkKnightmon released a winded gasp and arched his back with agony.

    Magnamon narrowed his red eyes and used the momentum to spin around, raising his foot next. “Magnum Kick!”

    Acting quickly through the pain, DarkKnightmon moved his spear behind him and blocked the powerful roundhouse kick with his blade.

    Meanwhile, Grani swerved left and right with impressive aerial manoeuvres to avoid the boulders that ripped from the ground and flew at them at daunting speeds. Dukemon stood on Grani’s back, keeping balanced as Dorbickmon kept up his Burning the Dragon attack, using his sword to hurl chunks of rock at them from the ground.

    “Final Elysion!” Dukemon shouted, the sigils on his Aegis lighting up before unleashing a thick column of power down towards Dorbickmon.

    Dorbickmon grunted and lunged away, getting thrown mid flight by the resulting explosion. The dragon landed on a roll and positioned himself at the base of the World Tree, right next to Valdurmon’s unconscious body. “Want to try that again, bucket head?!” Dorbickmon called up to him. He raised the Tyrant Collbrande over his head and extended the blade.

    Grani veered to the left suddenly as Dorbickmon tried to hit them out of the sky with the blade. Dukemon aimed his lance at Dorbickmon but faltered. “He’s using them as shields. I can’t attack him like this. Can you try to circle around, Grani?” he asked his ride.

    “It’s no good, Dukemon,” Grani responded. “You’ll have to go down there and close in on him.”

    “Looks like it,” Dukemon conceded. “But first… Dragon Driver!”

    Grani complied and suddenly swooped down into a speedy nose dive. The Zero ARMS watched as the giant Tyrant Collbrande swung towards them again. He angled his body to the side, trying to avoid the attack with as little movement as possible. The pillar of purple fire swept along Grani’s side, catching the tip of his right wing.

    The Zero ARMS grunted in pain and faltered in his flight a bit. Grani quickly caught himself, keeping himself from spinning out of control, and he pulled up as they neared the ground.

    Dorbickmon gritted his teeth as Dukemon and Grani closed in on him. “Dragon Breath Tonic Fire!” A swath of inferno poured from Dorbickmon’s mouth onto Dukemon and Grani as they shot towards him, but even the burning flames didn’t stop them. The two burst through the flames and collided with Dorbickmon, Grani’s face in Dorbickmon’s chest and Dukemon’s lance in Dorbickmon’s shoulder armour. The dragon mercenary roared out as he was thrown clear over Valdurmon’s body, hitting the ground and rolling across it unceremoniously.

    “You okay, Grani?” Dukemon asked with a wince as they began to circle around.

    “I will be fine. You should dismount now,” Grani assured him. “I will provide combat reconnaissance from overhead.”

    Dukemon nodded and lunged off Grani’s back, dropping to the ground and landing gracefully on his feet. As his cape settled against his back, the crimson knight began running towards Dorbickmon, who was standing up.

    Dorbickmon ignored the blood trickling down his left arm and brought his sword over his head, slashing it down on Dukemon. Dukemon skidded to a stop and blocked the blade with his lance. As the fire burned above him, he glared at the mercenary. “I know you’re Examon’s friend, but I’m not going to just let you attack the Yggdrasil Tree!”

    “He’s not my friend!” Dorbickmon snarled, pushing hard against Dukemon’s defence and breaking through it.

    Dukemon darted to the side as the blade slammed into the ground heavily, sending up a geyser of dirt and embers, which he protected himself against using the Aegis. “Then what happened the other day?!” Dukemon challenged. Energy began to spiral around the Gram lance as Dukemon readied his next attack. “Royal Sabre!” The power gathered at the tip of the lance and Dukemon thrust it forwards.

    “Grugh! Shut up!” Dorbickmon roared as he stabbed his sword deeper into the ground. “I don’t need life coaching from some jumped up, do-gooder tin can! Burning the Dragon!”

    A shard of jagged rock burst from the ground and pounded across Dukemon’s helmet, jerking his head upwards and causing a few shards to get into his visor. A large tendril of rock then reached up from the ground and grabbed the Gram in its coils.

    Dukemon sneered and quickly retracted the lance, using his Royal Saber attack to rip the rocks to pieces. He then plunged the Gram towards Dorbickmon again. The mercenary snarled and met his attack, and the two clashed.

    -

    The sounds of the fight echoed through the forest. The deep rumble of explosions, the screech of attacks, the sharp clanging of metal hitting metal… they all amounted to one thing: a battle in the Neutral Zone.

    Gankoomon stared through the forest with an unreadable expression. Flickers of yellow energy rose from his jacket-covered shoulders, underscored by a deep snarl.

    “Yeah… I sense it too, Hinukamui,” Gankoomon muttered to the light. He raised his hand to his visor and adjusted it. He looked above the canopies of the trees and saw smoke rising up from the base of the World Tree. “…Okay. I’m going,” he said with unwavering resolve.

    The two Sistermons looked over at him. “If you’re sure…” Sistermon Blanc said uncertainly.

    “Can we come too?” Sistermon Noir asked with an upbeat grin. “I’m dying to shoot something.”

    “No. Stay here and keep an eye on Huckmon,” Gankoomon told them.

    “What?!” Huckmon protested. “But I want to see what’s going on, Gankoomon!”

    “Tough luck. I’ll tell you when I get back,” the red-haired warrior responded.

    “I can take care of myself in a fight,” Huckmon insisted.

    “Not one of this magnitude. Now, shut it and stay here, Huckmon. That’s an order,” Gankoomon said in a voice that left no room for argument.

    Huckmon grimaced and kicked a nearby rock with frustration.

    Gankoomon turned his gaze back to the Sistermons. “Make sure he doesn’t slip away to follow me.”

    “Gotcha,” Sistermon Noir replied.

    “Be careful, Gankoomon, sir,” Sistermon Blanc told him.

    Gankoomon gave a terse nod. He turned around and made to start running, but something bright in the distance caught his eyes. “Get down!” he shouted, turning around and tackling all three of them to the ground.

    A stray beam of light cut through the forest, hacking through trees. The beam descended in its trajectory and began tearing up the ground right beside them. When the light faded, the uplifted dirt began to settle. Gankoomon turned and saw a long ditch left by the attack no more than three meters away from them.

    “Eep. That was close,” Sistermon Noir said matter-of-factly.

    “Really… c-close,” her sister said with contrastingly wide eyes.

    Gankoomon growled with anger and stood to his feet. “You three, get to a safer distance. I’ll find you when I’m done.”

    “But Gankoomon,” Huckmon began to protest.

    “GO!”

    The three stood up and began to hurry in the opposite direction from the battle. Gankoomon stood around and glared in the direction of the World Tree. As he did, the form of a massive, yellow, semi-incorporeal dragon began to rise up from his shoulders. The aura dragon had long arms, a horned, draconic head, and small wings sprouting from his back. He looked down at Gankoomon and then forwards at the distant battle with a soft growl.

    “Come on, Hinukamui,” Gankoomon said to the dragon that glimmered above him. “Let’s find out whose *** we need to kick.”

    -

    The Seiken Gradalpha met with the Grey Sword and rebounded back. The two swords then met again in the peerless sword fight. Tendrils of light flared out from the holy sword as Alphamon held against Omegamon Zwart.

    “Omegamon! It’s me, Alphamon!” Alphamon told the black knight.

    “I’m… aware,” Omegamon Zwart responded, defending against Alphamon’s strike.

    “Then you know that I’m your friend!” the leader of the Royal Knights insisted, trying his very best to get through to him.

    “No… Not my friend,” the black Omegamon answered, digging his boots into the ground and raising his Garuru Cannon. He pressed the muzzle against Alphamon’s chest and fired, causing ice to explode around the knight’s armour and send him crashing back onto his wings.

    Alphamon coughed and felt a cold numb pain in his chest. He began to sit back up, but he saw the glint of the Grey Sword as it swept through the air, descending on Alphamon. The black knight grunted and rolled to the side, causing Omegamon’s blade to slam into the ground with an explosive burst.

    After quickly getting to his feet, Alphamon spun around and slashed with his sword. The Seiken Gradalpha hummed and crackled as it swept down onto Omegamon Zwart’s Grey Sword once again. “We are friends!” Alphamon passionately said. “You’re one of the best friends that I’ve ever had!”

    “You’re a liar,” Omegamon Zwart hissed. “You lie and you lie, and I intend to cut that silver tongue of yours out.”

    “I haven’t lied to you!” Alphamon insisted.

    Omegamon Zwart recoiled from the attack and began to charge up his cannon. “Another lie.”

    After a moment of introspection, Alphamon grimaced. “Alright. I did lie to you. I didn’t know how to tell you about OuRyuumon and I. I was worried about how you would react!” he admitted.

    “Because you didn’t trust me,” Omegamon Zwart said with cool, matter-of-factness.

    “No!” Alphamon exclaimed. “I’ve always trusted you, Omegamon.”

    Omegamon scoffed and raised his Garuru Cannon, aiming it at Alphamon’s face. Without giving the Royal Knight a chance to speak again, he fired.

    This time, Alphamon was expecting the blast. He crouched down and tilted his head to the side, so that the orb of compressed power flew by him harmlessly and exploded into the trees on the other end of the clearing.

    Alphamon dispersed his sword, rushed forwards and grabbed Omegamon’s arms, holding them out so that he couldn’t attack him. Omegamon Zwart glared at him with hateful red eyes and tried to free himself from Alphamon’s grasp. “I’m sorry, Omegamon. I can’t… tell you how sorry I am,” Alphamon said to him between exerted breaths.

    Omegamon Zwart narrowed his eyes. “You’re far… too late…” The black and gold knight leaned back and brought his leg up, planting his boot firmly into Alphamon’s gut. Alphamon’s grunted as he was thrown away from his friend.

    Alphamon grimaced and clutched his throbbing chest. “Omegamon… I will do anything… to get you back. If it means I have to defeat you in battle and take you as my prisoner… then so be it,” he told him with his determination clear in his pained voice. His red eyes locked with Omegamon Zwart’s. “And if I have to use my secret weapon to defeat you, then I’ll do that too.”

    Alphamon forced himself to stand up straight. The Lord of the Empty Seat raised his right hand high into the sky, and energy began to form above his opened palm.

    This caught DarkKnightmon’s attention. As he tried to stave Dynasmon and Magnamon off with his spear, he looked across the battlefield. His eyes widened ever-so-slightly before he hardened his gaze and slammed his bladed shoulder into Dynasmon’s chest.

    A magic circle filled with meticulously designed shapes and digi letters formed over his head, spinning both clockwise and counter-clockwise at various levels in the circle. It was similar in shape to the one that Alphamon used when he jogress shinka’d with OuRyuumon, but the digi letters were different. Suddenly, Alphamon’s eyes flashed green and light poured out of the circle onto him.

    “Alpha inForce!”

    “Damn it,” DarkKnightmon muttered. “It’s too soon…”

    The light diminished and the Seiken Gradalpha was already in Alphamon’s hand. He slashed the sword down towards Omegamon Zwart in a single, grand stroke. However, before the sword of light even finished the slash, there were already a multitudes of cuts and rends hacking through Omegamon Zwart’s armour.

    Omegamon Zwart let out a snarl of pain as new slash marks cut across this armour and through his cape, ripping and burning the thick metal. He slashed his Grey Sword out but it didn’t help his defence much.

    “What the hell?!” Dorbickmon demanded, bleeding from the mouth as he punched Dukemon away. “What did he do?!”

    “He pulled out one of his trump cards,” Dukemon informed him, already pouring energy into the Aegis before unleashing a Final Elysion attack into Dorbickmon, sending him skidding along the ground, his body smoldering.

    DarkKnightmon cursed as Dorbickmon was struck down. While distracted, Dynasmon sent a Dragon’s Roar blast into DarkKnightmon’s chest, which sent him impacting the World Tree painfully. He slumped to the ground, but swiftly pulled himself back up and darted to the side before Magnamon could bring his fists down upon him.

    Looking around again while still trying to keep focused on his two opponents, DarkKnightmon spotted MirageGaogamon. MirageGaogamon’s arms were ensnared by RhodoKnightmon’s sturdy ribbons, squeezing him tightly and keeping him from attacking. DarkKnightmon glowered. He realized that the tide of battle was turning against them. He knew that they had to act before they could be defeated.

    DarkKnightmon levelled his Twin Spear at RhodoKnightmon and fired an intense blast of shadows from his weapon. The dark power howled as it ripped across the ground towards the pink knight.

    RhodoKnightmon glanced over and saw the approaching column of darkness and was forced to release MirageGaogamon from his bonds so that he was able to jump away in time. The slender Royal Knight retracted his ribbons and took them as swords in his hands when he landed.

    “It is time that we finished this up!” DarkKnightmon called to the others.

    “I’ll decide when this is finished!” Alphamon said to him, turning his attentions to DarkKnightmon briefly.

    “Will you use your Alpha inForce on me, Alphamon?!” DarkKnightmon called to him. As he did this, he looked at Omegamon Zwart and gave him a subtle nod. “You know how much it drains you to use.”

    Pieces of Omegamon Zwart’s armour fell from his form, and his body was wracked with pain, but nevertheless, he complied. While Alphamon was turned, he shot through the air, over to the World Tree.

    “Alphamon!” Grani called out to him from above.

    Alphamon sensed the movement and spun around, racing after Omegamon, but he was slowed when DarkKnightmon began firing beam after beam of dark power at him, forcing him to dodge the blasts. His eyes widened when he saw Omegamon Zwart point his Garuru Cannon at the World Tree, and he saw subzero beam energy brimming from the cannon’s muzzle. “Omegamon! Don’t do this!” he called to him.

    Omegamon Zwart glanced over briefly, but merely began building more and more power into his cannon. He took aim at the massive tree in front of him.

    “Omegamon!” Alphamon pleaded, reluctant to use his Alpha inForce to stop him, instead hoping that he could get through to Omegamon, who he knew was still in there, and make him want to stop. “Listen to me, Omegamon! This isn’t you! You’ve been brainwashed by DarkKnightmon and the power of the Dark Area! Remember who you are! Remember the oaths you took!”

    Omegamon Zwart’s gaze hardened and he looked like he was prepared to fire at the World Tree.

    “Remember, Omegamon! You pledged to defend Yggdrasil! We all did! I was there with you when we took the oath!” Alphamon told him.

    Omegamon Zwart winced subtly and lowered his cannon by just a centimeter.

    “Fire, Omegamon!” DarkKnightmon called out to him, bringing his Twin Spear down on Magnamon, who blocked the attack with his golden arm bracers.

    “Don’t listen to him! Listen to Alphamon! Your friend!” Dukemon called out, using his shield to block a stream of fire pouring from Dorbickmon’s maw.

    “Ignore the traitors! Fire, Omegamon Zwart!” DarkKnightmon insisted, jumping away from Dynasmon.

    Omegamon Zwart didn’t reply. He just hovered in the air, his cannon pointed at the magnificent tree. He didn’t fire and he didn’t pull away. He just stared at the tree in front of him, as if contemplating each and every word that entered his ears.

    “Omegamon Zwart, fire!” DarkKnightmon shouted to him.

    Omegamon Zwart grimaced. He didn’t fire. He remained completely still.

    “Damn it… MirageGaogamon! Dorbickmon!” DarkKnightmon yelled to them. “With me! Do it!”

    MirageGaogamon winced at the order, but obeyed. “Yes, Sir!”

    Dorbickmon, sporting multiple battle wounds, snarled with adrenaline and ripped past Dukemon, dragging the Tyrant Collbrande through the ground as he ran. “Leave it to me!” he shouted, ripping the massive, blazing sword from the ground and letting it tower above everyone as he lifted it into the air.

    “I think not!” RhodoKnightmon exclaimed, running over to MirageGaogamon as he prepared to fire from his chest. He extended his ribbons and wrapped one tightly around MirageGaogamon’s neck, yanking him back just as the wolf man fired the cannon in his chest. The Full Moon Blaster attack speared upwards, away from its intended destination, merely slicing through several of the World Tree’s branches, which collapsed to the ground.

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and aimed his own Twin Spear at the World Tree, prompting shock and outrage from Alphamon.

    The Lord of the Empty Seat raced towards DarkKnightmon, gripping the Seiken Gradalpha tightly, and fully intent on using his Alpha inForce to stop him.

    Magnamon glared and launched six missiles from his armour. “Plasma Shoot!”

    Dynasmon let out a frustrated roar and followed suit, summoning Wyvern from his body. “BREATH OF WYVERN!”

    The attacks shot forwards from the two Royal Knights, but they were too late. A huge pillar of shadows surged from the Twin Spear and tore through the sky towards the World Tree, just before Wyvern and the missiles collided with DarkKnightmon explosively. Despite the attacks detonating around DarkKnightmon, followed up by countless invisible strikes from Alphamon’s Alpha inForce, DarkKnightmon’s attack collided with the thick trunk of the World Tree, colliding with the wood and exploding, tearing into it.

    The Royal Knights turned and watched with mortification as the side of the World Tree exploded, creating a huge hole in the side of the massive trunk.

    DarkKnightmon grimaced and heaved with pain as fractures formed all over his armoured body, but he managed a faint smile when he saw that his attack as successful. He then turned to look at Dorbickmon through the smoke as the dragon slashed the elongated Tyrant Collbrande down.

    The blazing sword collided with the trunk and branches of the World Tree and the inferno washed over the right side of the tree. The flames burned deep into the tree and multiple branches caught fire.

    Dorbickmon then narrowed his eyes, watching as the flames spread from branch to branch, climbing up the tree, and added a double blast from his chest cannons into the side of the tree for good measure.

    DarkKnightmon panted and felt blood drip from some of the cracks in his armour. “Retreat!” he called to the others.

    The Royal Knights watched with horror and disbelief as the inferno took hold of the World Tree, only barely registering the DarkKnightmon had called for retreat.

    “No…” Alphamon whispered, staring up at the blaze with wide eyes. His gaze hardened and he turned towards Omegamon Zwart, who was already flying away, with what seemed like a grim expression on his dark face. “Omegamon!”

    Omegamon Zwart didn’t respond.

    MirageGaogamon hacked the ribbons away from him using a Double Crescent Mirage and he proceeded to retreat in a flash, not wanting to turn around and watch the burning of the World Tree.

    In the chaos, DarkKnightmon and Dorbickmon made their escape before the Royal Knights were able turn their attentions away from the present disaster. For those bleak, painstaking moments, the Royal Knights could only look on helplessly as the World Tree continued to burn.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  14. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 26: From the Ashes​


    “Right. Careful now,” an accented voice said.

    Streams of water trickled down the trunk of the World Tree and rain poured over its branches.

    At the base of the titanic tree was the Royal Knight team that had come to intercept DarkKnightmon. Along with them were several other Digimon as well.

    Several members of the Warrior Ten stood nearby. AncientMermaidmon used her water manipulation abilities to create a rain cloud, which she used to pour water on the burning branches, as well as create a steady hose of water which she used to pour over the more intense parts of the fire. AncientGreymon manipulated the fire itself, drawing the flames away from the tree and letting them fizzle out in the rain. Shurimon, the Warrior of Wood, stood by, waiting for the rest of the fire to be put out before going to try to repair the badly damaged parts of the tree. Meanwhile, he tried to revitalize the destroyed and damaged flowers. PileVolcamon stood nearby, using his own powers to shift the upturned soil over the ruts and craters caused by attacks, getting the earth ready for Shurimon.

    The rain continued to pour solely over the World Tree from the clouds above. It proved to be a fitting image, considering how mangled much of the lower part of the tree looked. All along one side, the bark and wood was burnt and many of the branches were black, broken and skeletal. Fortunately, the Warrior Ten had arrived before the inferno could climb too high up the tree or spread to too much of the other side, but the damage was still painfully obvious. Despite this, the World Tree still stood strong. Something of such great height, thickness and importance was bound to be resilient, though the scars of the attack were clear on its mighty stature.

    “I think that’s about the last of it,” AncientGreymon remarked, lifting his foreleg up to adjust the goggles on his helmet. The last of the embers were gone and the smoke dispersed in the wind.

    The giant dragon flew towards the ground and became engulfed in light, taking on his KaiserGreymon form.

    “Thank… you…” Valdurmon said weakly, still lying on the ground in pain.

    AncientMermaidmon made her way over to him, using the legs of her more humanoid form for land motion. “You’re next, big guy,” AncientMermaidmon told him with a wink before shifting into her small, pink MarineAngemon form. “I’ll get those injuries fixed in no time. Ocean Love~”

    Alphamon, Dukemon, Magnamon, Dynasmon, and RhodoKnightmon stood nearby. They did what they could to help, but, with the exception of Dynasmon, who could utilize AncientMermaidmon’s water abilities with his Dragon’s Roar attack, they didn’t have the right skill set to combat the fire. Alphamon had sent Grani to retrieve the Warrior Ten, but fortunately, a group of the Ten had already been on the way when they heard that the World Tree was under attack.

    KaiserGreymon walked over to the Royal Knights and stopped in front of them, folding his arms.

    Alphamon stood next to Dukemon, whose hands were on his shoulder to help him stand. Using the Alpha inForce was physically exhausting due to the sheer amount of skill and power it took to use. “Thanks, Kaiser,” Alphamon told him, holding his hand out towards the dragon knight.

    KaiserGreymon took Alphamon’s hand and shook it firmly. “Don’t worry about it, mate. How are you feeling?”

    “Humbled,” Alphamon said plainly.

    “Come on now. You routed the guys who did this, didn’t you?” KaiserGreymon encouraged him, placing his hands on his hips.

    “And we nearly allowed the World Tree – the embodiment of Yggdrasil - to be burnt to a crisp,” Alphamon countered. “I believe that’s called winning the battle but losing the objective.”

    “We can’t start blaming ourselves for this,” Dukemon said to Alphamon from the knight’s side. “That’s what DarkKnightmon wants. That was why DarkKnightmon attacked the tree in the first place.”

    “I know…” Alphamon said with a sigh. “You’re right. But still, I can’t help but feel at least a bit responsible.”

    “Don’t dwell on it. Learn from it. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s sound advice,” KaiserGreymon advised him. He folded his arms and took on a stern, serious expression. “So… DarkKnightmon…”

    “He’s the one who attacked us before, is he not?” PileVolcamon asked, walking over to them.

    “Yeah…” Magnamon replied sheepishly, remembering hearing that DarkKnightmon had attacked PileVolcamon and AncientKazemon when he escaped from the Dark Area. “Sorry about that.”

    “You don’t have to apologise. He may be your former teammate, but you’re not responsible for the things that he does,” the Warrior of Flames proclaimed.

    “Is that why you metal brains didn’t ask for our help at all?” MarineAngemon said, sticking her tongue out at them as she used her Ocean Love ability to heal them.

    “Yeah, you should have kept us in the loop more,” KaiserGreymon said to them. “We’ve been allies since the Heavenly War. We’re not your allies for nothing, I hope you know.”

    “We know… I guess we viewed it as a private matter,” Alphamon admitted. He looked up at the World Tree regretfully. “It’s a very private matter now…”

    “I’m a strong believer in teamwork,” KaiserGreymon exclaimed, hinting that he wanted to be involved in this matter.

    “Except when it’s you who wants to do something on your own,” the Warrior of Water playfully teased him.

    “Yeah, if this was you and your arch enemy Gaiomon, you wouldn’t have called us, I’m betting,” Dynasmon pointed out, folding his arms and looking at KaiserGreymon accusingly.

    KaiserGreymon folded his arms and gave him an annoyed look. “Hey, Mer, can you cure Dynasmon’s big mouth while you’re fixing everybody?”

    “Doubt it; I could never fix yours,” she chimed in response, finishing with Valdurmon and beginning to heal the cuts and bruises that the Royal Knights sustained. “Although, Dynasmon, you might have to remove your armour while I patch you up.” MarineAngemon looked over and stuck his tongue out at him playfully.

    Dynasmon managed a grin, despite his mood the last few days. “That can be arranged…”

    “I wouldn’t mind seeing that either,” RhodoKnightmon exclaimed, perking up. “What say you, Alphamon?” he added, hinting at the Lord of the Empty Seat now that he knew his sexual preferences.

    Alphamon sheepishly looked away. At the same time, Dynasmon’s face darkened a bit and he looked in the direction opposite from Alphamon, reminded of why he was angry at him.

    KaiserGreymon and the Warrior of Water exchanged confused glances. They were even more curious now.

    PileVolcamon cleared his throat, looking over as Shurimon began to quietly restore parts of the tree. “Anyways… DarkKnightmon attacked the World Tree, correct?” he asked the Royal Knights. “Does he aim to destroy it completely?”

    “In other words, is he coming back?” KaiserGreymon added.

    “We’re not sure,” Alphamon replied. “They did seem to only get a few shots off at the tree before we routed them. Either way, I sent Grani to the headquarters to return with OuRyuumon and a large branch of the Strike Forces and some of the Shield Guards.”

    Magnamon folded his arms and observed the World Tree. “Still. What a disaster… This isn’t going to be a good reflection on us.”

    “Nobody needs to know once Shurimon works his magic,” KaiserGreymon suggested, nodding over to the Warrior of Wood.

    “No,” Alphamon said. “Secrecy in the Order would be more damning than the fact that we let this happen to the World Tree.”

    “Now, he says…” Dynasmon scoffed.

    KaiserGreymon frowned and looked between Alphamon and Dynasmon, picking up on the increasingly obvious tension between them. “…Are you two having a row?”

    Alphamon and Dynasmon replied with ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively.

    Unsatisfied, the Warrior of Flames folded his arms. “What about?”

    “I’m guessing Kaiser doesn’t know, does he, Alphamon?” Dynasmon said, glancing over at the black knight with a sharp, challenging gaze. “Why don’t you tell him?”

    “Dynasmon…” Magnamon chastised.

    Alphamon sighed. “No, it’s okay…” he replied in a resigned voice. Despite his words, there was still a hint of trepidation in his tone. “I’m bisexual.”

    KaiserGreymon blinked. “Oh…” he spoke with shock. He took to silence for several seconds, taking his words in. “…Hey! Great!” he suddenly followed up.

    At this surprising amount of cheer, both Alphamon and Dynasmon raised an eyebrow.

    “Oooh! Really?!” MarineAngemon asked with a little too much excitement, zooming over from Dukemon to look at Alphamon. There was a mischievous glint in her large, excited eyes. “Sooo, how many guys have you slept with?”

    “I, too, would like to know!” RhodoKnightmon implored.

    With a bead of sweat rolling down from his head, Alphamon pretended not to hear them. Instead, he continued with KaiserGreymon. “You don’t mind?” he asked.

    “Hey, I’m nothing if not open-minded, thank you very much,” he protested defensively.

    Dynasmon frowned at KaiserGreymon’s words. “And the fact that he kept it a secret? I know how much you hate it whenever AncientGarurumon keeps secrets from you. That’s one of the main things that you ***** about, Kaiser. What’s different now?”

    “Yeah, sure, it annoys me a little,” the dragon Digimon admitted. “But I suppose I can understand Alphamon not wanting to say anything. I get not wanting to be labelled one thing or another. This is coming from a master of fires, by the way; I have the potential to burn down a town in a flash, so every time I’m recognized in a new place, I definitely attract a lot of worried and dirty looks.”

    “That and the fact that you often end up causing property damage while trying to save people,” MarineAngemon reminded him before shifting back into her AncientMermaidmon form.

    “That’s beside the point,” KaiserGreymon huffed.

    “I see…” Dynasmon muttered. He glanced over at Alphamon. “And what about the very idea that your friend might label you at all?”

    “Really, it wasn’t like that, Dynasmon…” Alphamon assured him, his gaze softening at the white and violet dragon knight. “But I couldn’t pick and choose who could know and who couldn’t; that wouldn’t have been fair and it was likely that somebody would have inadvertently let it slip. It either had to be everybody or nobody… and I wasn’t ready for everybody to know yet.”

    Dynasmon sighed out his nostrils and closed his eyes. “Yeah, whatever…” he said, meandering away from the group.

    Dukemon noticed Alphamon watching as Dynasmon receded. “Give him time. You know how stubborn he can get,” Dukemon said to him with a pat on his shoulder.

    “Want me to go and talk to him?” KaiserGreymon offered, stepping forwards. “I know my way around him.”

    “Better to let him cool off,” Dukemon replied. He gestured to the visibly damaged World Tree. “Besides, we have more important things to worry about right now.”

    “Like how to defend the World Tree?” RhodoKnightmon asked.

    “If that’s even his next move,” Magnamon replied. “Maybe he made his point already and won’t take this attack any further.”

    “But can we take that risk?” Alphamon responded to the gold knight. He gave KaiserGreymon a decisive look. “And don’t say, ‘who dares, wins’.”

    Before KaiserGreymon could retort, Dynasmon hurried back over to them, running through a vestigial wisp of smoke. “Somebody’s coming,” he told them quickly.

    When the group looked at him, Dynasmon pointed down the clearing. The Royal Knights and Legendary Warriors readied themselves as they turned to follow his gaze.

    A single figure, cloaked with what looked like a yellow aura stormed out of the forest and tore towards them with ardour in its stride.

    Dynasmon narrowed his eyes at the unknown Digimon and he stepped ahead of the group, summoning Wyvern from his form.

    As he did this, the yellow aura from around the incoming figure suddenly expanded, and to the group’s surprise, a yellow dragon that looked a lot like Wyvern suddenly burst from his back and hovered in the air above him.

    The Digimon extended his arm out sharply, sweeping the hem of the white jacket around his shoulders aside, and pointed accusingly at the Royal Knights. “What the hell is going on here?!” he demanded, marching up to them, unperturbed by their weapons.

    Alphamon narrowed his eyes at the humanoid Digimon, momentarily glancing up at the yellow dragon above his body. “Who are you?” he asked, quietly sizing up this Digimon and wondering what business he had here.

    KaiserGreymon blinked and stepped forwards. “Gankoomon?” he asked, recognizing the Digimon. “What are you doing here?”

    “I could ask all of you the same question,” Gankoomon responded harshly, a definite scowl on his face as he looked at each and every one of them before eyeing the burnt and damaged World Tree.

    “You know this guy, Kaiser?” Dynasmon asked him. As he looked between KaiserGreymon and Gankoomon, Wyvern peered at Hinukamui as he flew above Dynasmon’s head. Hinukamui had his eyes locked on Wyvern’s three ones. They both stared at each other with a mixture of curiosity and caution.

    KaiserGreymon nodded and folded his arms. “I’ve known Gankoomon for awhile. He’s a fellow knight-errant. A real hothead, at that.”

    “Look who’s talking,” Gankoomon responded, giving KaiserGreymon a short look through his visor.

    “Kaiser, why didn’t you tell us you had a hot friend?” AncientMermaidmon asked, giving him a sharp elbow.

    “Ow!” the dragon knight exclaimed, shooting a glare at AncientMermaidmon. “Because PileVolcamon and I are rather more attractive than he is, so I didn’t think he would be all that impressive.”

    Gankoomon looked back at the group as a whole. “I’m still waiting for an answer,” he said, tapping his foot.

    Valdurmon was about to speak up, but Alphamon took a step forwards and spoke instead. “I’m sorry if this comes across as rude, but why are you assuming that we are answerable to you?” Alphamon asked him, rather annoyed at the stance of entitlement that Gankoomon was taking towards them.

    Gankoomon glared at Alphamon and stepped up to him, pressing his finger against Alphamon’s chest. “Oh, that’s right… You’re Alphamon. The leader of the Royal Knights, right?” he asked. “I know you guys think you’re Yggdrasil’s chosen defenders of the Digital World, but don’t you usually say something about working with the ‘common Digimon’? Or is that just a load of **** like I thought?”

    Alphamon stared at him quietly, not backing down in the face of his aggressive manner. “Not at all,” he responded calmly. “We care deeply about the Digimon that we’re sworn to protect. But I don’t like the accusatory tone in which you’re speaking to us.”

    “Can’t handle a little constructive criticism?” Gankoomon asked standoffishly. “Want me to kiss your boots instead?”

    Dynasmon stepped forwards and glared at him defensively, folding his arms as he stepped up beside Alphamon. “Hey. Do you have some sort of problem with us?” he asked Gankoomon a rivalrous stare.

    “I have a problem with people who ignore my questions,” Gankoomon retorted, giving Dynasmon a look. “What happened to the World Tree?”

    “It was attacked by this guy called DarkKnightmon and his cronies,” KaiserGreymon replied. “The Royal Knights stepped in to intervene.”

    Gankoomon looked the World Tree up and down, inspecting the damage. “And they did a great job, it looks like,” he sarcastically stated.

    “And where the hell were you during all this?” Dynasmon challenged, pushing Alphamon aside to get into Gankoomon’s face.

    “Nearly getting fried by one of your stray beams,” Gankoomon returned the glare and stepped forwards, pressing his chest against Dynasmon’s. As they glared in close proximity, the two dragons above them also growled and leered at one another, protective of their respective partners.

    “Seriously. What’s your problem with the Royal Knights, Gankoomon?” Dynasmon asked him angrily.

    Gankoomon glared at him, annoyed that he casually called him by his name when he didn’t even know Dynasmon’s. “What’s your name, bull-face?”

    “Dynasmon.”

    “Okay, Dynasmon. You wanna know?” Gankoomon asked him. “My problem with you Royal Knights is that you all act so damn high and mighty. You made yourselves the defenders of the continent, but you’re all so full of yourselves. You’re all lofty, out of touch, and holier-than-thou, sealed up in that giant castle of yours. You don’t actually know what it’s like, living with regular Digimon. You don’t know what they go through. You just see them as things that are lower than you – things that need protecting, things that should be gracious whenever you step in to help for – what reason? – to make yourselves feel good? Or is it noblesse oblige?”

    Magnamon frowned at this. “Please don’t assume you know what we think,” he told them, annoyed at being generalized. “You don’t know us at all.”

    “Yeah, you’re one to talk!” Dynasmon countered. “You say that we’re arrogant, but what about you?! You act like you know everything about us, and you think you’re better than us because you live among regular Digimon or something? None of us were born Royal Knights. I used to be a mercenary too, I’ll have you know! I’ve had to take humiliating jobs just to make ends meet. Just ask KaiserGreymon! But it’s not like that makes me better than anybody else here. Show a bit of respect before you open your big mouth and make a bunch of damn assumptions.”

    “Respect is earned, lizard,” Gankoomon replied. “If you were as down to earth as you claim you are, you wouldn’t demand respect.”

    “Oh, just kiss already,” RhodoKnightmon muttered, rolling his eyes.

    “Yes, let’s all calm down here,” PileVolcamon told them, raising his hands and placing them on their shoulders.

    The two pulled away from each other and folded their arms. “Tch,” Gankoomon scoffed. The Digimon then went quiet and thought to himself. “…DarkKnightmon, huh…?” he said, more to himself than to any of them.

    “Do you know him?” Alphamon asked, raising an eyebrow.

    Gankoomon sneered and looked away with a faint grimace. “They passed by me on the way here,” he admitted. “I… gave them directions.”

    “You what?!” Dynasmon exclaimed. “You have the chrome digizoid balls to stand there blaming us when you were the one that lead them here in this first place?!”

    “Hey, I didn’t know he wanted to attack the place!” the humanoid Digimon responded fierily. “At least I’m admitting I made a mistake.”

    “So are we,” Alphamon assured him, stepping between Dynasmon and Gankoomon. “We weren’t able to fully defend the tree, and it’s our fault that he came here in the first place.”

    “And why’s that?” the jacket–clad warrior questioned.

    “DarkKnightmon was a Royal Knight a long time ago,” Magnamon spoke up. “He tried to start a coup d’etat, so we banished him to the Dark Area.”

    “Only, he recently escaped,” Dukemon added. “And now he wants to destroy our Order.”

    “So, basically, the Royal Knights’ problem is now becoming everybody else’s problem,” Gankoomon reasoned. “D’you know how many Digimon could have been hurt? It looks like a bunch of Digimon have been hurt.” He gestured to the wounded defenders of the World Tree, who were being healed by AncientMermaidmon, who took to her MarineAngemon form again when she got bored of them arguing.

    “We deeply regret that this happened,” Alphamon told him diplomatically.

    “That’s all fine and great, but what are you gonna do about it?” Gankoomon asked, placing his hands on his hips.

    “We’re going to stop him. For good, this time,” the Lord of the Empty Seat said firmly.

    “Are you sure the Royal Knights are up to it? You seem like you’ve been struggling so far,” Gankoomon pointed out. “I mean, look at you guys.” He gestured over to RhodoKnightmon. “Pink armour? I ought to give you all a lesson in manhood.”

    “A lesson in manhood? I wouldn’t mind that at all,” RhodoKnightmon said suggestively, easily brushing off the insult and smirking at Gankoomon.

    Gankoomon’s eye twitched and he turned away, scratching the back of his head with embarrassed irritation. Hinukamui couldn’t help but grin.

    “We’re up to it,” Alphamon told Gankoomon. “We’ve taken over DarkKnightmon’s base of operations so now he’s on the run. He isn’t far and we have reinforcements incoming. We’ll have the Strike Forces seal him in the Neutral Zone and finish this here.”

    “A lot of Digimon live in the Neutral Zone,” Gankoomon said with a doubtful frown.

    “I doubt he’ll still be in the zone by the time reinforcements arrive,” Dukemon pointed out. “It’s already been hours. Wounded or not, he’s probably gone, Alphamon.”

    “Unless he’s planning to attack the World Tree again. Either way, he won’t have gone far. We’ll cast our net of scouts and spies in and around this area,” Alphamon explained. “He may have damaged the Tree, but we have the initiative this time.”

    “That is of little consolation,” a voice boomed.

    The sky seemed to grow dark as thick, grey clouds gathered overhead. The dim flash of lightning flickered within these dark clouds, and the rumble of thunder echoed through the forest clearing.

    KaiserGreymon, PileVolcamon, and Shurimon all glanced over at MarineAngemon to see if she was responsible for the sudden change in weather. “Hey, it’s not me,” the Warrior of Water said, shrugging.

    The Royal Knights, Legendary Warriors, Gankoomon and Valdurmon all looked around the surrounding area and sky, looking past the World Tree’s massive trunk and canopies.

    The tumultuous, clouds suddenly began to swirl in a counter clockwise orbit. At the very center of this axis, the dark grey clouds lit up luminously and the electrical discharge of lightning began to shoot outwards into the surrounding clouds. From the epicenter of this awesome sight, emerged a giant head. The head was covered by a giant, azure helmet, decorated with jagged, yellow strands, a large, lightning bolt shaped horn, and sharp, pointed frills. Underneath the helmet was a long, flowing, white beard, and four, red eyes that leered down at the group beside the World Tree. The head further extended from the clouds, and a long, incorporeal, serpentine body followed. The snake-like body was like an aura of divine energy, similar in consistency to Wyvern and Hinukamui, but more exalted. Giant chains were wrapped precisely around the dragon’s long form, and four clawed legs, as well as eight small wings, extended from the exalted creature’s body at various places along the lengthy coils. Hovering around each of his four legs were, what seemed to be, three, pale purple digicores, making a total of twelve.

    The Royal Knights watched as the massive dragon emerged from the storm clouds. Alphamon’s eyes widened with shock. “It’s Qinglongmon…”

    “What in Fanglongmon’s name happened here?!” a second voice spoke, tearing through the sky.

    Pillars and tendrils of orange light pierced through the storm clouds, shining down resplendently. As the light fought its way through, the giant form of a glorious phoenix burst through the clouds. While not nearly as large as Qinglongmon, the phoenix Digimon was still quite big – much bigger than any of the Digimon on the ground. His eight wings flapped powerfully as he flew down as well, his body wreathed in flames that lit up the entire sky. He looked around quickly with his beaked, avian head, which was covered by a long, red, pointed helmet. Over his body, he wore a red, metal cuirass, which had a sort of turbine sticking out from the back. He flicked his almost reptilian tail irritably, the flame-like designs of which making it almost seem like an active fire. His ash-coloured mane fluttered in the breeze, resting just below a ring of six, red, floating digicores, which matched the other six around the end of his tail. His four, red eyes narrowed at the group of Digimon below. The phoenix dove down in a streak of flames, making sure that they died out before getting close to the World Tree.

    “Zhuqiaomon,” Qinglongmon acknowledged formally, glancing over at the comparatively smaller bird.

    “Do you two always have to make such dramatic entrances?” a deep, booming voice rumbled.

    “It loses its wonder after the first several times,” a second, deep voice added.

    The Digimon all turned to the forest behind them. There, they saw one giant tree standing above all but the World Tree. Its canopy shook and shuddered, as the tree appeared to be moving towards them. After a few moments, a large shape could be seen at the tree line. Two, giant, serpentine heads emerged from the forest, out into the light of the clearing. The two heads were connected to long, gold-scaled necks that lead to a single shell. The giant, tortoise-like Digimon nudged his way through the trees and stepped out into the clearing with tremor-inducing steps. Atop his thick shell was a massive tree with a thick trunk, verdant foliage, and sturdy vines. Hovering around the tree’s trunk were twelve, yellow digicores. The two serpent heads calmly turned their attention from the two Digimon up in the sky, down to group of Digimon across the clearing.

    “You just can’t appreciate it, Xuanwumon,” Zhuqiaomon argued.

    From the western part of the clearing, a fourth and final figure lunged out of the forest. A large white-furred tiger covered in blue stripes landed in the clearing gracefully. The huge feline Digimon narrowed his four, red eyes, covered by a blue helmet, and stalked towards the group. His sharp, black claws nimbly stepped around the clearing’s flowers the best that he could. His fore legs had metal shin guards over them, while his hind legs had black, metal cuffs, similar to the spiked one near the end of his tail. Like the others, he also had twelve external digicores – these ones were yellow and they orbited his torso.

    “The World Tree…” the fourth Digimon spoke in a low growl.

    “Baihumon,” Xuanwumon said, looking over with his left head. His right head then spoke. “It looks like we’re all here now.”

    “So, it’s time to find out what the hell is going on,” Zhuqiaomon said sharply.

    “The Four Holy Beasts…” Alphamon said, looking around them.

    “Ooh boy. You guys are in for it now,” AncientMermaidmon teased, looking over at the Royal Knights.

    The Four Holy Beasts grew closer to the group, nearly surrounding them with their massive bodies, dauntingly but not aggressively.

    “Step away from the tree!” Zhuqiaomon snapped at Shurimon, who was still doing his best to revitalize the damaged parts of it.

    Shurimon let out a cry of surprise and fear, blushing and quickly stepping away. “S-s-s-s-s-sorry! I was just tr-tr-tr-trying t-t-to—“

    “I don’t care!” the phoenix told him. “Who did this?!”

    “Hey!” KaiserGreymon spoke up, marching towards Zhuqiaomon and glaring up at him, not intimidated by his size or his anger. “Don’t speak to him like that!”

    “Don’t you talk to me like that, Warrior of Embers,” Zhuqiaomon warned him.

    Before KaiserGreymon could fire back, Xuanwumon spoke up. “Settle down, Suzaku,” Xuanwumon told the holy phoenix Digimon.

    “Don’t call me that in front of these Digimon, Genbu,” Zhuqiaomon heatedly replied to the two-headed tortoise, to which Xuanwumon merely chuckled.

    Qinglongmon loomed down towards the Royal Knights, looking at Alphamon in particular. “As long as we’re using our informal names now…” he mumbled. The celestial dragon gazed at Alphamon. “What happened here, Alphamon? Why is the World Tree damaged so?”

    “It wasn’t our fault, if that’s what you lot are implying,” KaiserGreymon interjected, folding his arms defensively.

    “The World Tree was attacked,” Alphamon responded. “We did our best to defend it, but…”

    “You failed,” Baihumon said bluntly, walking over and inspecting the burn marks on the tree.

    “Byakko…” Xuanwumon said to him dissuadingly.

    Qinglongmon sighed. “This Tree is a treasured site, marking the place where Fanglongmon rests - right beneath these roots. It’s his presence that makes this tree grow so high and so vibrantly, although I know the Royal Knights believe that it is Yggdrasil’s essence that does so. Although we differ in that regard, this place is still a precious place to us all. How could this have happened? Who would want to do this? An antitheist? An anarchist? Simply a Digimon of chaos with no deeper goal?”

    “It was DarkKnightmon, Seiryu,” Alphamon calmly said to Qinglongmon. “A former-Royal Knight.”

    “Him…?” Qinglongmon asked, thinking to himself. “Imperialdramon mentioned him…”

    “Imperialdramon?” Magnamon questioned curiously.

    “I’ll hunt this DarkKnightmon down and burn him to a crisp,” Zhuqiaomon seethed, his four eagle eyes squinting hard with rage.

    “Don’t be hasty, Suzaku,” Baihumon said to him.

    “We don’t know the full story yet,” Xuanwumon added.

    “What does this DarkKnightmon want?” Qinglongmon asked.

    “To bring the Royal Knights down,” Dukemon replied. “The World Tree was just collateral damage to him.”

    “It was an indirect attack on us,” Alphamon said with a nod. “We’re sorry that the World Tree was involved, but we didn’t want this any more than you four did.”

    “Unacceptable,” Baihumon rumbled. “This is your problem, so deal with it. Fast.”

    “Wrong. This becomes our problem when the World Tree starts becoming a target,” Zhuqiaomon replied.

    “This is for the Royal Knights to sort out,” Qinglongmon said, turning his large head and looking at the phoenix.

    “It looks like they’re having trouble sorting it out,” Zhuqiaomon countered. “I’ll get involved if I need to, even if you three are too idle.”

    “That won’t be necessary, Zhuqiaomon,” Alphamon insisted. “The Royal Knights will handle it.”

    “Can you be sure of that?” the vermillion bird asked with narrow eyes. “Look at the World Tree!”

    “On my oath, we will finish this once and for all,” the Lord of the Empty Seat responded with a resolute stare.

    “That’s good enough for me,” Xuanwumon assured them. His right head turned to gaze at the other three Holy Beasts. “And you three?”

    “As long as it’s dealt with,” Baihumon responded. “Soon.”

    “We will be watching closely,” Qinglongmon said with a nod.

    “Tch,” Zhuqiaomon scoffed, turning his head away. The two eyes on the near side of his face looked at the Royal Knights hostilely. “Me especially.”

    He flapped his wings vigorously and began to turn away. “I’m going to speak with my Devas. Seiryu, Genbu, Byakko? We’ll meet again.” He looked behind him at the Royal Knights a final time. “If you guys don’t stop this DarkKnightmon fellow, I will.”

    With that, Zhuqiaomon burst upwards into the sky, streaking through the clouds with a blaze of orange.

    The ensuing silence was broken by Xuanwumon’s chuckle, which caused the ground to rumble. “Excuse him. He’s always been impetuous and hotheaded,” his left head spoke.

    “And full of hot air,” the right head added.

    “I can understand his frustration,” Alphamon replied tactfully.

    “We’re just as angry about this,” Dukemon agreed, frowning noticeably.

    Xuanwumon grinned and looked at the two Royal Knights. “Will you turn those emotions into action?” one head asked.

    “And would it be wise to do so?” the other head mused. “What would be a more effective course? To rush into action, filled with – and perhaps blinded by – emotion? Or to sit back and do nothing with a clear head and a sound heart?”

    “Another one of your riddles, Genbu?” Baihumon asked Xuanwumon.

    “Merely something to meditate on,” Xuanwumon replied with a wink. He backed up and began to turn around, slowly making to head back into the forest. “Best of luck to you, Royal Knights. We will leave the action to you for now.”

    “Try to settle this problem, please,” Baihumon added, going and walking alongside Xuanwumon. “We have things that we need to do. I don’t want to see the World Tree in danger.”

    “Which reminds me,” Qinglongmon said, closing his eyes. “Can you continue with the tree, Shurimon?”

    Shurimon suddenly stood at attention, flushing. “Um. Y-Yes. Of course!” he replied, swiftly jumping over to the World Tree and beginning to rejuvenate it again.

    “And also… I believe your friends have arrived,” the dragon observed.

    The Royal Knights turned around and Xuanwumon and Baihumon stopped and glanced over. UlforceVeedramon, Duftmon, Craniamon, Sleipmon, and Examon emerged from the forest quickly.

    “So, there’s the rest of them,” Gankoomon mumbled, watching them approach with folded arms.

    The other half of the Royal Knights immediately noticed three of the Four Holy Beasts in the clearing. They reacted with varying levels of shock and surprise.

    “Qinglongmon! Baihumon! Xuanwumon!” UlforceVeedramon exclaimed, zooming through the sky and stopping in front of them to bow.

    “The Four Holy Beasts…” Craniamon mumbled, looking around at them.

    Duftmon rolled his eyes. “Ridiculous. What fool would bow to these—Mmm!?”

    Sleipmon placed his hand over Duftmon’s mouth. “Don’t insult the super-powerful, giant Digimon, Duftmon…” he advised him.

    Examon flew over and bowed as well. “Qinglongmon…”

    “Examon,” Qinglongmon replied. “Majiramon did tell me that you joined the Royal Knights.”

    Examon replied with a nod.

    Craniamon stopped in his tracks, his attention no longer on the Holy Beasts. “The World Tree…” he spoke, noticing the damage done to the World Tree

    Duftmon slipped out of Sleipmon’s grasp. “What happened to it?!” he demanded, rushing over to the Royal Knights. “How could you let it get in this state?!”

    “We will be leaving now,” Qinglongmon said, curving through the air and flying towards the sky. “I would rather not get involved, but if the World Tree becomes endangered beyond your control…”

    “Leave it with us,” Alphamon told him.

    Qinglongmon nodded and flew upwards, disappearing into the electrified clouds. It wasn’t long until Baihumon and Xuanwumon were gone as well.

    “Those four are even worse than these guys,” Gankoomon said to himself.

    “What did they want?” Craniamon asked.

    “Well it wasn’t to pat us on the back for a job well done,” Dukemon replied sarcastically.

    “Can’t exactly blame them,” Magnamon countered. “This is a really important place to the Four Holy Beasts.”

    “Anyways. We’ll be off too,” KaiserGreymon announced. He stepped away from the World Tree and evolved to his AncientGreymon form. The dragon landed on the ground with a thud. “You will contact us if you need our help, won’t you?”

    Alphamon nodded. “If we need your help,” he assured him.

    “Don’t be too proud to ask,” AncientGreymon replied as PileVolcamon and AncientMermaidmon climbed on his back. He turned and looked to Shurimon, who still used his plant powers to nurture the tree. It was taking a long time due to the sheer size of the tree. “Will you catch up with us, Shuri?”

    Shurimon nodded. “I w-won’t be too long,” he answered.

    AncientGreymon nodded and then looked at the Royal Knights. “Good luck, then. Stay safe and kick ***.”

    As the dragon of flames flew off, the newly arrived knights walked over to meet with the others.

    “This was DarkKnightmon’s doing?” Craniamon asked, walking over to the group with a frown.

    “Yeah,” Dynasmon answered bitterly.

    “And you didn’t stop him?!” Duftmon replied accusingly, turning his glare from the World Tree to Alphamon. “This is… a humiliation to the Order! We are sworn to uphold Yggdrasil’s majesty but you couldn’t even protect the World Tree!”

    “We did what we were able to,” Alphamon responded calmly.

    “Yeah,” Dukemon said, stepping forwards. “Besides, it was your idea to split us into two groups, Duftmon. If we had all been here, then we would have been able to protect the World Tree and defeat them.”

    Duftmon blinked. “That…” He sneered with anger. “And what if it had been a feint?!” he countered defensively. “Then he could have overrun the castle! My decision was strategically sound!”

    “You still sent us here with less numbers than we needed, so get off our asses about it,” Dynasmon said sharply.

    “Perhaps if you all had been more effective in combat-“ he began to argue.

    “Enough!” Alphamon exclaimed firmly. “What’s done is done. There’s no point in going over what happened repeatedly, nor is there any use in arguing in public.”

    “Don’t mind me,” Gankoomon spoke up with a grin. “I think it’s kind of funny.”

    Duftmon frowned and stepped up to Gankoomon, looking at him with a scrutinizing glare. “And who might you be?”

    “The name’s Gankoomon. And you are…?” he asked, folding his arms.

    “Duftmon of the Royal Knights. What are you doing here? This doesn’t concern you,” he told him.

    “It does now,” Gankoomon replied.

    “Pardon me?” Duftmon incredulously inquired.

    “What?” Dynasmon asked as well.

    “I’m going to make sure that you knights really do take that DarkKnightmon guy down,” Gankoomon insisted.

    “What?! The gall! Do you honestly think that you have the capabilities to fight alongside us?!” Duftmon heatedly asked.

    Gankoomon smirked confidently. “I’ll just have to prove it to you, I guess. Oh, and I’m not going to take no for an answer, so you’ll just have to lump it. Somebody has to make sure you don’t **** it up again.”

    Alphamon closed his eyes. “…Very well,” he replied. “But I expect you to adhere to whatever tactics that we develop. I can’t just have an unknown quantity going around and bringing chaos to the flow of battle. It’s too dangerous.”

    “Fine,” Gankoomon conceded with a wave of the hand. “But only if they’re good tactics.”

    Duftmon glared at him in response to the challenge to his planning abilities.

    “First, you’re complaining about us, now you want to fight with us,” Dynasmon muttered, his voice dripping with irony.

    “Hey, you told me not to judge you guys until I got to know you, so this will be my chance to get to know you,” Gankoomon retorted with a grin. “You’d be surprised how much you can learn about somebody when you fight with them.”

    “I suspect that we will learn that you’re boorish, unrefined, and haughty,” Duftmon muttered.

    “I look forward to seeing what you can do,” Dukemon assured the red-haired fighter. “Just don’t underestimate our opponents.”

    “I don’t plan to,” Gankoomon responded. He began to stride away, through the flower-filled clearing.

    “Where are you going?” Sleipmon asked, watching him as he walked.

    “There are some things I need to take care of,” he answered with a casual shrug. “Don’t worry; I’ll be back.”

    “Don’t feel obligated…” Duftmon mumbled.

    They watched as Gankoomon walked across the clearing. The knight-errant glanced over his shoulder at them before disappearing back into the forest.

    “He seems nice enough,” Sleipmon remarked.

    “You weren’t here earlier,” Dynasmon said with a half grin.

    “He’s… an interesting one,” Alphamon remarked, glancing in the direction that Gankoomon left. “Outspoken, but he has a good heart.”

    “D’you think?” Dukemon asked him.

    Alphamon nodded. “He may be brash in every sense of the word, but he was always concerned about other Digimon. I noticed that.”

    “So, another Dukemon,” Craniamon suggested.

    “Wonderful. One is already more than enough,” Duftmon added.

    Dukemon scratched his cheek awkwardly. “I’m right here, you know.”

    “I think he wants to help us, in a proud, indirect kind of way,” Magnamon pointed out with a frown. “Speaking of help, Shurimon’s done a great job on the World Tree.”

    The Royal Knights turned and looked over at the tree. The bark and the outer layers of wood on the World Tree had been restored, as had many of the branches that hadn’t been burned beyond reason. However, there was still a moderately deep crater in the near side of the tree that had taken the brunt of the attacks. While Shurimon did what he could to fix that gaping wound, restoring it entirely was just too technically difficult and required too much energy for Shurimon to fix it. The best he could do was restore some of the indentation and tidy up the rest.

    “It doesn’t matter. The damage to the tree is already done. Word is likely to get out,” Duftmon spoke.

    “Then we need to make up for it,” Dukemon announced. “By stopping DarkKnightmon. It will take more than this to defeat us.”

    Alphamon and the other Royal Knights nodded in agreement. Meanwhile, Shurimon walked over uncertainly, wiping the sweat from his brow. Instead of addressing the entire group, he walked over to Dynasmon. “Um…”

    Dynasmon turned around and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, Shuri?” he asked him.

    “I’ve done what I could. I’m sorry that I c-c-can’t do any more, but I’m running out of energy and that impact crater on the south west face of the trunk…” Shurimon trailed off. “I think that will have to repair naturally. It’s beyond my powers as the Warrior of Wood.”

    “You did great,” Dynasmon told him. “Thanks a lot for the help.”

    “Yes,” Valdurmon added, looking the tree over. “It looks much better now.”

    “D-D-Don’t mention it. I should go now,” he responded with a blush and a nod. Shurimon turned around and lunged into the air with the use of his spring-like legs. He landed amongst the flowers and, in the next bound, already made it to the tree line. In the next second, he disappeared amongst the forest’s canopies.

    “…Okay, bye,” UlforceVeedramon called out with an ironic wave at the ninja’s quick exit.

    The Royal Knights turned to each other, moving onto the next order of business.

    “What’s the plan now?” Sleipmon asked.

    “We should secure the perimeter of the World Tree,” Alphamon said. “Once Grani and OuRyuumon arrive with the Strike Forces, we’ll fan out in formation and cover the Neutral Zone.”

    “You called for the Strike Forces?” Duftmon asked, arching his eyebrow sceptically. “Is that not a bit premature? There haven’t been traces of his army, has there?”

    “I know DarkKnightmon,” Alphamon assured the tactician. “He likes to keep the pressure on and escalate it so that his opponents don’t have time to recover. He’s attacked the World Tree; he’s in the end stages of his plan. If we don’t end this soon, he will. We can’t allow him to take the initiative anymore; it’s too dangerous. We need to find him.”

    “Do you think he’ll destroy the World Tree?” Magnamon asked. “He’s shrewd; he’ll know we’ll be here.”

    “He’s practical, but he can also be daring when it suits him. He’ll have a ploy of some kind. And it would have to be effective. That’s what worries me,” Alphamon responded. “That’s why we have to search him out before he can bring the battle to us.”

    “That won’t be easy, though,” Examon pointed out.

    Duftmon nodded. “He’s using guerilla tactics. He’s stealthy, and he’s been remarkably effective in evading our scouts and spies.”

    “He’s been fairly lucky so far,” Dukemon spoke up. “But we have the best recon around. He can’t avoid us for long.”

    “He only needs to avoid us for long enough to do what he’s going to do,” Craniamon replied.

    “Craniamon’s right,” Alphamon said. “Speed will determine the outcome. Fortunately, we managed to inflict some heavy damage on him during the last skirmish, so that might have bought us some time.” The knight then winced at his words. “That sounds awful, doesn’t it?”

    “He’s the enemy,” Duftmon said. “We cannot be soft on him, whatever sentimentality some of you might have.”

    “I’m well aware,” Alphamon answered, closing his eyes. “From now on, we can’t fight them half-heartedly. They will only take advantage of our kindness and use it against us.” The black knight turned and gestured to the World Tree. “As you all can see, the stakes are too high.”

    Dukemon turned and looked at Examon. The crimson dragon glanced up and caught Dukemon’s gaze. Examon eyed him before turning his head and looking away uncomfortably.

    Dukemon knew why. Examon was thinking about Dorbickmon, and whether or not he got through to him. It would be hard for them to speak again in the middle of a battlefield, and Dukemon doubted very much that Examon wanted to fight him. On top of that, as Alphamon had said, the stakes were high. Simply talking might prove to be fatal now.

    “Anyways,” Duftmon spoke. “Those mercenaries might be easier to hunt for than DarkKnightmon. Intelligence suggests that, generally-speaking, they’re either small mercenary groups or tearaway factions from larger mercenary teams, but they should still be easier to spot. If he is mounting a final strike like you suggest, Alphamon, then they should be relatively close by.”

    Alphamon nodded. “We’ll begin our search once reinforcements arrive. For now, we’ll secure the perimeter from both ground and air.”

    “Didn’t you guys just fight with them a few hours ago?” UlforceVeedramon asked.

    “AncientMermaidmon healed us,” Dynasmon responded. “We weren’t that badly off in the first place.”

    “Maybe it’s a sign that the tide is turning in our favour?” Sleipmon suggested, trying to be optimistic.

    “If we are going to talk about the baseless theories known as ‘signs’, then the burning of the World Tree certainly wouldn’t be a favourable one,” Duftmon countered.

    UlforceVeedramon rolled his eyes. “Thanks, Duftmon. You certainly know how to inspire confidence,” he sarcastically said. “Should we get to work now?”

    The rest of the Royal Knights nodded and the group promptly went to work on their preparations. Magnamon and Dukemon walked over to Alphamon as the Royal Knights split off to encircle the area. The three walked away from the other Royal Knights.

    “Hey, Alphamon,” Dukemon said to him.

    “Yes?” the Aloof Hermit asked, looking at the two of them.

    “Do you think we should tell Imperialdramon Paladin Mode about all this?” Magnamon asked, striding beside their leader. “About DarkKnightmon, I mean.”

    “He was the one who sealed him away before,” Dukemon agreed.

    “We should, but it isn’t that simple,” Alphamon responded. “He’s off doing… whatever it is that he does. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what that is, and whenever I ask him, he’s always infuriatingly coy and evasive about it.”

    “Ah, yeah. I can imagine his grin now,” the crimson knight muttered with a dry expression.

    “Yes. And the last we have seen of him was several months ago, back before Examon was inducted as a Knight,” Alphamon added. “I wouldn’t know where to start looking, and I can’t ask Grani to search for him when his skills are needed now.”

    “I’m sure that he’ll hear that the World Tree was attacked, somehow,” Magnamon reasoned. “Perhaps he’ll search us out.”

    “Maybe… I won’t deny that I want to talk to him about all of this,” Alphamon said with a bit of weight in his words. “I’m so used to bouncing ideas off of Omegamon. I’m at a bit of a loss now that…” He trailed off.

    “We’re here if you need us,” Magnamon assured him.

    Dukemon nodded. “And we’ll need you to talk Omegamon back around. It looked like something you said got through to him today. There’s still hope, you know.”

    Alphamon smiled a bit. “I’d like to think so.”

    “There always is,” Magnamon spoke. “We’ve gotten through worse than this.” With those words, he nodded at them and took to the air, flying up and veering northwards.

    Dukemon gave Alphamon’s shoulder a pat and broke off in another direction as well, heading towards the forest.

    Alphamon watched as the two departed. When they were gone, he turned and walked up to the World Tree, placing his hand on a portion of the freshly restored bark. He closed his eyes and thought quietly to himself.

    Has it really come to this, DarkKnightmon? …Have we really drifted so far in opposite directions?

    He opened his eyes and allowed his palm to slide from the rough exterior of the tree. Alphamon turned around and began to walk away from the massive tree.

    I will stop you… for Omegamon’s sake. And for everyone else’s as well.

    -

    (Continued in the next post)
     
  15. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    (Continued from previous post)

    -

    A warm breeze blew through the mouth of a cave with an eerie whistle. The cave was shallow and embedded in the side of a tall cliff. Following the wind into the cave were four figures, staggering along.

    Dorbickmon walked in first, growling to himself. There were flames on his breath, which lit up the cave as they entered.

    Behind him were MirageGaogamon and DarkKnightmon. MirageGaogamon helped DarkKnightmon walk into the cave, holding the knight’s arm around his shoulders. DarkKnightmon’s armour was fractured and mangled in places. A few of the wide, gaping cracks in the metal dripped out blood, most of which had dried on the armour.

    Following behind them was Omegamon Zwart, who had been even more quiet than usual during their swift escape.

    “Damnit,” Dorbickmon grunted with narrow eyes. “I didn’t think they’d show up that quickly. They repelled us.”

    “It’s… fine,” DarkKnightmon responded between grunts of pain from the vicious attack that Alphamon had delivered on him. “I can work – ngh – with this turn of events…”

    “You should sit down, Sir. You’re badly hurt,” MirageGaogamon said to him, trying to gently sit him down against the cold cave wall. “Let me remove this armour so that I can dress your wounds.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded weakly and allowed MirageGaogamon to start removing his chest armour. The heavy plate was pulled off his form, revealing bloody, but largely shallow, gash marks on his chest.

    “We can’t stay here for long,” Dorbickmon told them with urgency. “Once the scouts arrive, it won’t be long ‘til they find this place. It’s a pretty obvious hideaway.”

    “If DarkKnightmon keeps losing blood, he’ll pass out,” MirageGaogamon barked at him with an annoyed glare.

    “And if the Royal Knights catch up with us, we’re screwed,” Dorbickmon countered. “We can’t fight them with these injuries.”

    “We won’t stay for long,” DarkKnightmon assured him, wincing and tensing up when MirageGaogamon began putting pressure on a slash mark across his pectoral muscle. “My data isn’t going anywhere; just apply a few bandages and I can tough it out until we reach our allies. There, we can receive shelter and healing.”

    “Fine by me,” Dorbickmon replied with a grunt, leaning against the wall and folding his arms, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his form.

    Omegamon Zwart walked over to DarkKnightmon and bowed his head with what seemed to be shame or, at least, uncertainty.

    DarkKnightmon looked up at Omegamon Zwart. “Omegamon Zwart…” he spoke, making sure to include the second word.

    “I am sorry, DarkKnightmon…” Omegamon Zwart said with a faint grimace. He replayed the event over and over in his mind. He was in front of the World Tree, his cannon was pointed straight at it. He had the opportunity, but then Alphamon tried to stop him. He didn’t take the shot. He wasn’t sure why, and it frustrated him. He felt… uneasy.

    “What happened back there?” DarkKnightmon asked, not with anger, but with a calm, understanding voice.

    “He choked, is what it looks like,” Dorbickmon spoke up.

    For once, MirageGaogamon agreed with Dorbickmon. He didn’t trust Omegamon Zwart; he was too much of an unknown quantity, having been forced to their side instead of joining them willingly. However, DarkKnightmon was invested in having Omegamon as an ally, so MirageGaogamon kept quiet and allowed Dorbickmon to be the voice that spoke out against him.

    “I… don’t know,” the black Omegamon responded, removing his Garuru Cannon in order raise his hand up to his face and rub it. “I tried to fire… I wanted to fire…” He looked down at the Garuru Cannon, which was tucked under his arm. “It was as if there was something stopping me… from inside…”

    DarkKnightmon looked at Omegamon Zwart silently, as if attempting to see into his heart and soul. Quietly, he thought to himself before closing his eyes and tensing up as pain shot through him. “I… see…” he spoke. “Don’t worry, Omegamon. It’s only natural for you to retain some misgivings about attacking the World Tree, after so many years of being beholden to it. What’s important is that you still have the resolve to fight the Royal Knights. Those who wronged you and took advantage of you. Are you still resolved to exact your justice upon them?”

    Omegamon Zwart’s gaze hardened with determination as his words. “…Yes.” He closed his fist tightly and his crimson eyes burned with restrained anger and resolve.

    “So, I can count on you?” DarkKnightmon asked him. “I like to think that I can trust you, Omegamon Zwart.”

    Trust…” he thought to himself before replying. “Yes. I will bring them down for you.” He rose his head up and looked down at DarkKnightmon with a stern stare. “I won’t fail you again. Whatever happened before… it will no longer be an issue.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded at him gratefully. “I believe you.”

    Dorbickmon glanced at them out of the corners of his eyes. “So, what’s our next move?” he asked. “They’re going to start building up defences around the tree, so…?”

    “We will go to our mercenary allies and stay out of sight for a few days. This will allow us to recover and prepare… and hopefully it will be enough time for the Royal Knights to slacken their defence around the World Tree,” DarkKnightmon explained, wincing as he lifted himself into a slightly more comfortable sitting position.

    “’Hopefully’,” Dorbickmon muttered pessimistically. “I don’t think they’re going to just put some guards on night watch around the tree after what we just did. The World Tree’s massively important; they’ll probably have whole battle groups around it.”

    “They will also want to search for us, however. I’m sure that they will want to catch us while we are busy licking our wounds, so to say,” DarkKnightmon responded. “If they want to do that, they will have to split their forces. With luck, only a manageable chunk of their forces will be left guarding the tree.”

    “Licking our wounds, huh?” Dorbickmon asked, unable to help but glance at MirageGaogamon with a ****-eating grin as the canine warrior continued to bandage DarkKnightmon.

    MirageGaogamon caught his expression and responded with a bitter, insulted glare.

    Dorbickmon shrugged it off carelessly. “So, we’re going back to the World Tree?” he mused. “To finish it off?”

    “As much as possible…” DarkKnightmon replied. “That would be a crippling blow to the Royal Knights’ credibility. Although, that is secondary to my main goal.”

    Omegamon Zwart looked at him with a stern, curious stare. “Which is…?”

    There was a sparkle in DarkKnightmon’s eye as he turned his head towards his fellow black knight. “Imperialdramon Paladin Mode…”

    Omegamon Zwart’s eyes widened ever-so-slightly. “Imperialdramon?” he inquired.

    “The founder of the Royal Knights?” MirageGaogamon asked with shock.

    “Yes…” DarkKnightmon spoke, his voice as calm as ever. “We will find him and I will take him down personally. When I defeat him, we will bring him to the World Tree and finish them both off at once. When we do that, we will destroy the very foundations of the Order in one fell swoop, and everything will come crashing down around Alphamon and his knights.” He closed his fist tightly, his eyes gleaming from the light that poured in from the mouth of the cave. “The Royal Knights will be destroyed at their cores. Their spirits will be crushed and they will submit to my will… And if, even after all that, they still stubbornly resist us, then we will simply destroy them in body as well as soul.”

    “…Yes, sir,” MirageGaogamon replied, no longer allowing himself to listen to his misgivings, instead placing his full faith in DarkKnightmon.

    Omegamon Zwart closed his eyes and nodded silently.

    Dorbickmon narrowed his eyes and glanced away, looking outside of the cave. “Sure…”

    “We have reached the end phase of the plan,” DarkKnightmon spoke, a hint of passion behind his unflappable tone. “We simply have to act intelligently and our goals will be achieved. With victory at our finger tips, we must strike like a lightning bolt, swiftly tearing through whatever stands in our way.” He planted the Twin Spear into the ground and pushed himself to his feet, despite the fact that MirageGaogamon was finishing up the bandages. A rogue drop of blood slipped from his shoulder and splashed down on his palm as he stood up.

    DarkKnightmon walked past the three and stopped at the mouth of the cave, gazing out into the forest. “Whatever it takes… I will fix this world…”

    My Digital World.”
     
  16. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 27: Initialize​



    A day had passed since the attack on the World Tree. The Royal Knights’ reinforcements had arrived and they had taken over the Neutral Zone for the time being. The Strike Forces, scouts, and spies were scouring the Neutral Zone and the areas outside of it. As a result, DarkKnightmon and his allies had to remain clandestine. They had to both evade their pursuers and search for Imperialdramon Paladin Mode at the same time. It was a difficult balancing act.

    They stood beneath the thick canopies of three trees, the branches concealing them from above and casting a large shadow over the ground. The large, flat, blue leaves shuddered in the wind as they stood against the dark grey sky.

    Dorbickmon released a tied up Butterflymon from his grasp and allowed his short, golden form to crash unceremoniously to the ground. The insect Digimon’s short arms and flat, white and blue wings were bound together by ropes. He fell on his back with a wince and looked up at his captors with defiant eyes.

    Standing before him was SkullKnightmon and DeadlyAxemon, who looked at him with contrasting degrees of intimidation. Dorbickmon walked away from the group and leaned against one of the trees, folding his arms and watching the scene from a short distance. MirageGaogamon stood on one of the higher tree branches, standing on look out and watching the skies for more scouts or soldiers. Omegamon Zwart did the same from the ground, further in the forest.

    “So…” SkullKnightmon began, his voice unthreatening even as he approached the Butterflymon’s bound body. “You are part of the Royal Knights’ Reconnaissance Squadron, I take it…”

    The Butterflymon glared at him and looked away with an angry scoff, making his feelings clear.

    “Hey now,” DeadlyAxemon said with a grin, prodding the scout’s carapace with his bladed food. “It’s rude not to talk when in a conversation. You might make me mad.”

    “Don’t be like that, DeadlyAxemon,” SkullKnightmon told him, looking at the Butterflymon. “It’s entirely understandable why he isn’t happy about this.”

    “You’re DarkKnightmon,” Butterflymon said, glaring at SkullKnightmon.

    “What am I? Chopped liver?” DeadlyAxemon spoke up, nudging him a little harder this time. “It takes more than one to digixros.”

    “DeadlyAxemon,” SkullKnightmon chastised, extended his spear arm and placing it between DeadlyAxemon and their prisoner. “Yes, I am. However, I don’t wish to hurt you.”

    “If you’re planning to use me as leverage, it’s not going to work,” he told them with an angry leer.

    “I simply want to ask you something. As soon as you tell us, we’ll leave you in peace,” SkullKnightmon assured him.

    “And if you don’t, we’ll leave you in pieces,” DeadlyAxemon warned him.

    “Ignore my foul-tempered friend,” the short knight spoke. “I won’t let anything like that happen. Trust me…”

    “Like Alphamon trusted you?” Butterflymon asked him bitterly. SkullKnightmon just stared at him patiently. The bug frowned. “So, what’s the question?”

    “Where is Imperialdramon Paladin Mode?”

    Butterflymon looked up at his captor with surprise. “Imperialdramon Paladin Mode…?” he asked. He then glared. “I have no idea.”

    “You better remember. Fast,” DeadlyAxemon warned him.

    Butterflymon grimaced. “I. Don’t. Know.”

    “Are you absolutely sure about that?” SkullKnightmon pressed.

    “If you honestly think I’d tell you anything, you must be crazy!” Butterflymon exclaimed. “I won’t betray the Royal Knights!”

    “Wrong answer,” DeadlyAxemon spoke, opening his mouth up to reveal the light of an aqueous solution building up inside his jagged maw.

    Butterflymon tensed up with fear. Sweat trickled down his exoskeleton and he looked at SkullKnightmon worriedly. “I’m just a scout!” he told with quickly. “I don’t have access to that kind of information! I barely know anything about Imperialdramon Paladin Mode!”

    “Then what do you know?” SkullKnightmon asked calmly. “Tell me and we’ll let you go.”

    Butterflymon stalled. He wondered if he had any other alternative. He didn’t even really know all that much, so he wondered if there would be any point. However, DeadlyAxemon then crawled on top of his tied up form and got face to face with the insect Digimon, his mouth now brimming with an attack. “Spill or I will.”

    Butterflymon shut his eyes tightly. “I-I think I saw him once! But I don’t even know if it was him!” he insisted desperately.

    “Where?” SkullKnightmon asked.

    “I was on patrol out west when I thought I saw him talking to Sinduramon! The Rooster Deva – Baihumon’s servant, I think! L-Like I said, I’m not positive it was him, though! And it was a month ago!”

    “Is that everything?” the short knight asked, his eyes leering at the scout from behind his visor.

    “Yes! Honest!” Butterflymon shouted, leaning his head back, fearing DeadlyAxemon’s impending attack.

    DeadlyAxemon looked over his shoulder at SkullKnightmon, who nodded. He jumped off of the bug Digimon and circled around back to his brother in arms at a wide angle. The scout breathed a sigh of relief.

    SkullKnightmon turned his back to them and frowned. “Why would he speak to Sinduramon…?” he wondered pensively. “Was he requesting an audience with Baihumon? Or perhaps the Four Holy Beasts as a whole? …It would make sense. While Imperialdramon seemed happy in taking a passive role while Alphamon lead the Royal Knights, I can’t imagine that he would just retire and live as a hermit. No, I know Imperialdramon. He would need to be involved with world affairs somehow.

    SkullKnightmon continued deliberating with himself, piecing together the bits of information that he had. “I wonder if he holds council with the Four Holy Beasts… and perhaps other deific or leader figures throughout the Digital World. Perhaps he is more involved in the Royal Knights’ affairs than we give him credit for… though Alphamon has been an able diplomat in his own right…” he mused. He looked up the trunk of the tree in front of him, his eyes resting on the swaying branches of blue leaves. “If my theory is correct, then certainly Imperialdramon would be talking with the Four Holy Beasts about our attack on the World Tree, perhaps to smooth things over… No, I’m certain he would step in. And that will be my chance. All we need is the location.

    The knight spun around on his heel and looked at DeadlyAxemon, who returned the gaze. “DigiXros!” With that, the two Digimon became engulfed in a bright, grey-tinged light as their forms fused into one another’s. DarkKnightmon became whole once again.

    Butterflymon looked up with trepidation at the menace that the Order had feared so much recently.

    “What’s the plan?” Dorbickmon asked, looking over at DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon glanced at the Butterflymon scout and made sure that he was out of earshot before replying. “We will meet up with our mercenaries again. I have a job for them,” he replied.

    “What’s that?” Dorbickmon asked him, arching his eyebrow.

    “I need them to locate and bring me Sinduramon,” DarkKnightmon plainly answered.

    “That could take some time,” Dorbickmon reminded him. “And time isn’t something that we have much of.”

    “It will be fine,” DarkKnightmon insisted. “We can evade them for another day or so. I will emphasize that they search quickly. It shouldn’t be too hard, really; the Valancers have a good information network, and Sinduramon is a loud, boisterous, magnet for attention, from what I remember of him.”

    “And you think Sinduramon will know where Imperialdramon Paladin Mode is?” the crimson mercenary asked.

    “I think so… I won’t say that I’m certain, but we don’t have the luxury of certainties, at the moment,” DarkKnightmon responded. “We need to take whatever information we can get, and do our best to make sure that we can tip the scales in our favour. Normally, I won’t take risks if I can help it, but at the same time, they are often decisive moments.”

    “Sure,” Dorbickmon muttered. “Well, it’s your call, boss.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “Let’s retrieve the others and get out of here,” he told him.

    “Hey! What about me?!” Butterflymon asked, struggling on the ground.

    DarkKnightmon glanced over at their prisoner. The very look from the knight’s standard, unreadable, gold eyes caused him to immediately regret his words. However, DarkKnightmon merely turned his back to him. “Don’t worry. One of your fellow scouts will find you sooner or later,” he told him, beginning to walk away along with Dorbickmon.

    Butterflymon winced and continued struggling. “Hey!” he called out. “Let me go!”

    “You’ll be fine,” Dorbickmon insisted with an offhanded wave, not bothering to look over his shoulder as he spoke.

    With that, DarkKnightmon and Dorbickmon walked away to collect the others and move out. And then they would begin the next stage of their plan.

    -

    The patter and rumble of footsteps, the deep flapping of wings, the rattling of armour, the shouts from one group to another… The World Tree was bustling. What was once a sacred spot of wonder, peace, and introspection, was now a military staging ground for the Royal Knights.

    “Aerial Guards, Second Wing! Spread out above the tree line!”

    “Third Scout Wing, move north in a Victory formation.”

    “First Strike Group, fan out around the east face of the tree! Seventh Strike Group, take over the Fifth’s patrol to the north west!”

    Alphamon watched as the Royal Knights and the Captains called out orders to their troops. A defensive perimeter was set up around the World Tree to protect it from a counterattack. However, it wasn’t nearly as thick as it was when the two waves of reinforcements first arrived. As more time passed, emphasis was moving from the defence of the World Tree over to scouting and patrolling, in the hopes of finding DarkKnightmon and his allies. As much as they didn’t want the World Tree to be attacked again, they also didn’t want to lose DarkKnightmon and allow him to recover enough to launch another offensive elsewhere, so the search effort was increasingly ardent and energetic.

    “Rhinomon! Move over there! You’re too exposed,” Dukemon told a gold armoured rhinoceros Digimon, pointing off to the side. The crimson knight then turned around and walked over to Alphamon.

    “Dukemon?” Alphamon asked. “Has Grani reported any findings from his scouts?”

    “He and a team are following up a lead over to the west,” Dukemon replied. “Also, one scout who was supposed to be back awhile ago hasn’t returned yet, so they’re investigating that too.”

    Alphamon turned and looked at his friend directly. “Who was this?”

    “Butterflymon,” Dukemon replied.

    “He was patrolling to the southwest, wasn’t he?” Alphamon asked.

    “Yeah… Do you want to check it out?” the red knight questioned. “The other Knights are out patrolling, and Duftmon can probably handle things here.”

    Alphamon nodded. “Yes… I think I do. I’m feeling a bit edgy with all this waiting. It would be good to put my mind to something else,” he answered. “Plus, I would feel better knowing that Butterflymon is safe. He’s usually very diligent.”

    “I’ll come with you,” Dukemon said with a slight grin. “Unless you think I’ll cramp your style.”

    Alphamon managed a smirk. “You? Of course not. Go ahead,” he replied, beginning to walk across the colourful, flowery field, through the crowds of Digimon. “Duftmon!” he hailed.

    Duftmon, who was busy talking to OuRyuumon and Knightmon, looked over. “Yes? What is it?” he wondered.

    “Dukemon and I are going to investigate something. Can you manage here for several hours?” Alphamon asked.

    “Of course,” Duftmon assured him before turning back to the Captains. OuRyuumon cast a glance over at Alphamon but soon turned back to Duftmon, listening to his tactical opinion.

    Alphamon gave him a slight nod before looking forwards and heading to the edge of the clearing with Dukemon. The two knights stepped into the forest, leaving their forces to continue their defence of the World Tree.

    -

    Evening set across the continent and it was nearing on night. The sun was setting and there was an orange-pink hue over a fifth of the sky. The rest of it was a dark blue colour, which got deeper and darker as it went east. A night breeze drifted through the wide streets of a small town. From the town, the World Tree could still be seen, towering into the sky like a great, natural pillar.

    The light of lanterns could be seen flickering inside the stained windows of a large pub. As the town was generally for larger Digimon, the buildings were designed accordingly. There were voices and raucous banter coming from inside. However, the tavern was officially closed to ‘VIPs only’. It had been for the past few days, much to the annoyance of some of the locals.

    Inside the pub was the Valancer mercenary company, who had bribed the owner and the proprietor of the pub into letting them stay there and keeping silent about the arrangement. The Valancers sat in the pub, talking and drinking as they waited. Off at a side table reserved for smaller patrons sat DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, Dorbickmon, Omegamon Zwart, and Vikemon, the Valancer’s leader.

    The Vikemon knocked back a pint of ale and released a relieved sigh. “So…” He looked at his employers.

    “How long do you suspect it will take?” DarkKnightmon asked him. “I am rather in a hurry.”

    “The chicken’s in the next town over,” Vikemon explained. “He arrived recently and it didn’t take him long to make himself known. Apparently he instigated a huge bar fight.” The white, furry mercenary leader laughed. “As for how long, well, that depends on how well he stands up against a team of twenty.”

    DarkKnightmon frowned.

    “You look like you want to go yourself, Sir,” MirageGaogamon observed after a sip of his water.

    “The Valancers can handle it,” Vikemon assured him, glugging down a gulp of beer. “You didn’t hire us for nothing. Besides, you guys have been doing so much that we’ve been getting fidgety.”

    “Don’t worry. There will be plenty for you all to do tomorrow,” DarkKnightmon replied. He closed his eyes. “Also, I know. It is just that these next few steps are the pivotal moments. Everything hinges on finding and taking down Imperialdramon quickly.”

    “From what I’ve heard, Sinduramon has the biggest mouth of all the Devas, so I doubt it’ll be too hard to get what you want out of him,” Vikemon explained.

    “As long as your mercenaries don’t **** up capturing him,” MirageGaogamon said to the mammalian mercenary with a pointed leer.

    Dorbickmon gave a short chuckle. “’Cock’. Was that a joke, MirageGaogamon?”

    “No.”

    The dragon rolled his eyes. “Of course not…”

    A fierce knocking suddenly sounded out from the front door of the tavern. It was done in a deliberate pattern as a signal to the Valancers.

    Vikemon stood up and turned towards the door. “They’re back. Let them in.”

    One of the mercenaries went and opened the giant door. DarkKnightmon watched with anticipation… The door swung open and several figures poured in. Although initially alerted at the speed at which they entered, everyone relaxed upon seeing that it was the Valancer team that had left a few hours ago. A few mercenaries walked in first, followed by a Knightmon and a Cyberdramon.

    Both mercenaries walked side by side. In their arms, they each clutched a wing with a tight, vice-like grip. Between them was a dangling body encased in spherical, violet armour, which appeared to be cracked in several places. From the top of the armour was the yellow head of a rooster whose eyes matched the red of his cockscomb, as well as the blood that trickled down his head. His eyes darted around the bar with agitation and he kept his beak tensed. From the lower ports of his armour were two, yellowed, avian legs with sharp talons. To keep him from thrashing the talons at the mercenaries, his legs had been tied together with the red kerchief that was normally tied around his neck. Just behind them was a long, vibrant, rainbow-coloured tail that dragged along the floor limply.

    A Mistymon walked in behind him, carrying a giant, golden, double-headed club, officially known as a ‘Treasure Pestle’ or Bao Chu, which belonged to Sinduramon.

    “Great! You got him!” Vikemon announced, grinning and stalking over. “Way t- wait a second.” He suddenly frowned when he noticed only two more mercenaries walk in after the Mistymon, one of them closing the door behind them. “What about the others? I sent twenty of you! Where’re the other eleven?!”

    “All dead,” the Mistymon replied angrily. He glared at Sinduramon. “He deleted them during the fight.”

    “Eleven of them?!” Vikemon snarled.

    “It wasn’t very difficult either!” Sinduramon made a point to say with a self-satisfied smirk gracing the corners of his beak.

    Vikemon sneered and walked up to the rooster Deva, glaring at him. “Well, we still got you, didn’t we?” he asked him lowly.

    “Only through sheer dumb luck,” Sinduramon taunted, looking up at him. “I had been drinking at the time. …It must be embarrassing to know that your elite team almost lost to a drunken rooster.”

    The Cyberdramon mercenary glanced at the Knightmon beside him. “Told you we should’ve used his scarf as a gag instead.”

    “Yeah, well, he didn’t scratch you,” the Knightmon replied as they both handed the prisoner to Vikemon.

    Vikemon grabbed Sinduramon by the wings and carried him over to DarkKnightmon’s table. As he approached, he slammed the rooster Deva down on top of it, his back impacting the wood tremulously.

    Dorbickmon watched as his glass of beer fell over and spilled all over the table and Sinduramon’s wing. “I was drinking that.”

    “Just grab his wings. You want something out of him, don’t you?” Vikemon said.

    Dorbickmon and Omegamon Zwart both grabbed Sinduramon’s wings and pinned him against the table, while Vikemon held down his feet.

    “I don’t like where this is going!” Sinduramon said aloud, his eye twitching.

    DarkKnightmon stood up and looked down at Sinduramon. “I just want to ask you some questions,” he said to him.

    “Somehow, I don’t think you’d send a team of mercenaries after a Deva just to ask him about current affairs or the weather,” the avian Digimon replied, leering suspiciously at DarkKnightmon. “Get to the point, tin man. What the hell do you want?”

    “Very well, then,” DarkKnightmon answered. “You’re straightforward. I won’t beat around the bush. I want to know where Imperialdramon Paladin Mode is.”

    Sinduramon closed his eyes and tilted his head up proudly. “I’m a Deva. Why would I know anything about that?” he said uncooperatively.

    “It’s precisely because you’re a Deva,” the dark knight spoke. “I know that Imperialdramon Paladin Mode is meeting with your master and the other three Holy Beasts.”

    “How do you know that?” Sinduramon challenged contentiously. DarkKnightmon smirked behind his visor upon hearing that he had been proved right. Sinduramon noticed his mistake too late and swore under his breath at the fact that his mouth had gotten ahead of his brain again. With a grimace, he added, “Hypothetically speaking.”

    “You just told him,” Dorbickmon said dryly.

    “You can’t prove that!” the rooster Deva explained, struggling in an attempt to free his wings.

    “Where are they?” DarkKnightmon asked in a calm, diplomatic voice.

    “You must be as dumb as you look if you think I would betray Lord Baihumon!” Sinduramon trilled in retort. “I am his trusted and loyal servant!”

    “Oh… I see now…” DarkKnightmon replied slyly. “I made a mistake to come to you.”

    Sinduramon nodded victoriously. “Now you’re getting it, dumb- wait... Why?” he demanded, opening his eyes and leering at DarkKnightmon suspiciously.

    “I apologize… It’s obvious to me now. …He didn’t tell you, did he?” DarkKnightmon said, looking down at Sinduramon.

    “What are you talking about? Of course he told me! I’m just not going to tell you about it!” Sinduramon insisted.

    “No, you don’t have to explain. I understand why you don’t know; I heard you have a reputation as a gossip,” the black knight mused purposefully. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you by bringing up the fact that Baihumon doesn’t trust you.”

    Sinduramon glared at him fiercely. “What are you playing at? Of course he trusts me, you mountain of scrap metal! You really don’t think I know where they are?!” he protested argumentatively, too worked up by the provocations to realize the implications of the words leaving his beak.

    “No, I don’t believe you do.”

    “Then you really are a dimwitted noble! Behind all of those sleek, refined words and posturing, you’re nothing but an empty suit of armour with an even emptier helmet!” Sinduramon remarked sharply. “Please. To think that Lord Baihumon thinks I’m a gossip.”

    “That’s only your opinion,” DarkKnightmon countered. “You’re just trying to defend your pride.”

    Narrowing his eyes, Sinduramon scoffed with anger masked by haughtiness. “Tch! Then what if I told you they were meeting in the airspace ten kilometers south of Bakhu Mountain?! I dare you to call me a liar n-“ The rooster Deva’s eyes widened with horror when his mind quickly caught up with his mouth. “-ow…”

    DarkKnightmon smirked and took a step back. If the avian Digimon’s wings were free, he would have brought one over his face in utter mortification and self-loathing. He suddenly felt like retreating into his cracked armour out of humiliation. However, his shock and distress soon morphed into rage. Sinduramon fixed a piercing, furious glare on DarkKnightmon’s calm, satisfied face. “You tricked me, you deceitful son of a *****!”

    “You’re sharp,” DarkKnightmon told him. “But, fortunately for me, your tongue is sharper.”

    Sinduramon clenched his beak with frustration. However, he regained his composure and flipped his cockscomb back. “Fine. Go there if you want,” he told them, hastily backtracking in an attempt to make it seem like he was lying about the location. “The Four Holy Beasts and Imperialdramon Paladin Mode can strike you and your cheap cronies down without losing a hair. That is, if they’re even there.”

    “That’s a chance I will have to take,” DarkKnightmon responded, turning his back to the captive Deva and calling his bluff. “Thank you, Sinduramon. You live up to your reputation, you’ll be happy to hear.”

    Sinduramon sneered at him bitterly. “I’ll be the first to dance on your memorial.”

    “I’ll remember that in a month’s time,” DarkKnightmon responded. He turned to Vikemon. “Bind him and put him in the pub cellar. If we let him go now, he’ll only warn them. I’ll free him after this business with the Royal Knights his done with.”

    Vikemon nodded and kept hold of the Deva’s legs while whistling for his subordinates to come over. “Sure you don’t want some back up? The chicken’s right when he says that they’ll be pretty tough… The five of them are as strong as the Royal Knights, if not stronger. We’ll back you up for the right price.”

    Sinduramon started struggling combatively as DarkKnightmon’s companions moved out of the way so that four of the Valancers could descend on him. “Guh! Let go of me, you filthy mongrels!” he protested energetically. “If you think I’ll let you attack my master…!”

    “Don’t worry. I have no interest in the Four Holy Beasts,” DarkKnightmon told him, heading towards the exit of the tavern.

    As Sinduramon was restrained by the mercenaries, Dorbickmon, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart followed DarkKnightmon out of the pub.

    The four stepped out into the night and strode down the wide street. While walking away from the dimly lit public house, MirageGaogamon turned to DarkKnightmon. “So, Sir… What’s the plan? How are we going to take down Imperialdramon Paladin Mode?”

    Imperialdramon…” Omegamon Zwart thought to himself with a frown. “Is he an enemy as well? …Yes, he is. I remember now.

    “Actually,” DarkKnightmon spoke. “I would like to deal with him alone.”

    “But sir!” MirageGaogamon protested.

    “Is that wise?” Omegamon Zwart asked, narrowing his eyes.

    “Sounds oddly reckless for you,” Dorbickmon added nonchalantly.

    “I realize that,” DarkKnightmon answered. “I don’t have any qualms about fighting him while he’s outnumbered, but… this is something that I must do. I need to bring him down with my own hands if I’m to feel the rightful leader of the new Royal Knights. It sounds petty, I know, but… it is a personal thing for me.”

    “If that’s what you want,” Dorbickmon indifferently replied, beginning to walk up a north, outbound road. “I guess you won’t mind if I sit this one out and hit up another bar.”

    MirageGaogamon gave Dorbickmon a leer of disapproval. “…Just be careful, Sir. We’re so close... to our goal. I don’t want you endangering yourself unnecessarily.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded and looked forwards into the scrolling night sky. “I will keep that in mind, Captain.”

    -

    Alphamon and Dukemon walked through the forest, veiled in the dark of the night. The trees were darkened with shadows, making it hard to see. However, because the trees were fairly spread out, they were able to see the stars in the night sky, as well as one of the moons. In addition to this, Alphamon walked in front, wielding the Seiken Gradalpha like a torch, using the sword of light as illumination in the night.

    They both looked around the forest keenly, trying to see any trace of the missing scout. However, they hadn’t had much luck.

    Dukemon sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “It’s getting dark. Think we should head back now? Maybe he returned already…”

    “Maybe…” Alphamon conceded, although he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to give up their search just yet.

    “We’re not going to be able to see very much,” Dukemon suggested. “Besides, shouldn’t we be back around the tree when it’s so dark?”

    “I suppose you’re right. Although the night is when DarkKnightmon is most likely to move…” Alphamon replied, turning around.

    As they were about to begin walking, a noise sounded out in the distance behind them.

    “Heeeelllp!” a faint voice seemed to call out.

    Alphamon and Dukemon both turned around and proceeded to look at each other. “Did you hear that?”

    “Yeah,” Dukemon responded.

    “Is someone there?!” the voice called out.

    Alphamon and Dukemon both jogged towards the voice. They hopped over a few roots and ran past several trees before finding them at the edge of a small clearing beneath a few blue-leaved trees. A Butterflymon lay in the center of the clearing, tied up with rope.

    “Butterflymon!” Alphamon reacted with shock at seeing the scout in such a state. He and Dukemon rushed over the bound insect Digimon.

    “S-Sir Dukemon?! Sir Alphamon?!” Butterflymon said in a mixture of relief and embarrassment. “Thank Yggdrasil you’re here…”

    “Hold very still,” Alphamon told him. He slashed the Seiken Gradalpha out in a single, precise stroke. Each coil of rope split and parted around Butterflymon while leaving his body untouched.

    As the rope fell around him, Butterflymon sighed with relief and stood up. “Th-Thank you, Sir Alphamon. I was starting to worry nobody would find me in time,” he said to them, rubbing one of his arms. “Sorry that I was caught…”

    “Don’t worry,” Alphamon told him. “Who did that to you?”

    “…It was DarkKnightmon and his team,” Butterflymon said with a grimace. “I was patrolling around here, and I thought I saw something, but they ambushed me and tied me up. He questioned me for information…” He looked up at the two knights with worry. “It… it isn’t good news.”

    “What…? What is it?” Dukemon asked, frowning with concern at his words.

    “He wanted to know where Imperialdramon Paladin Mode was…”

    The expressions of the Royal Knights filled with alarm, followed by dire anger. Alphamon glared hard and balled up his fists tightly. “No… Imperialdramon… I should have seen it…” he whispered grievously.

    “I… I’m sorry, Sir,” Butterflymon said, bowing his head with shut eyes.

    “It’s not your fault… You couldn’t help it…” Dukemon assured him, although evidently furious at the news as well.

    “No, it’s not that…” Butterflymon answered with guilt filling his voice. “I might have given him a hint to where Sir Imperialdramon Paladin Mode is.”

    Dukemon looked at him with surprise. “What? You don’t know, do you?” he asked.

    “N-No… but I mentioned that I thought I saw him a few months ago, talking to Sinduramon,” the insect scout explained. “Then he went all quiet and left.”

    Alphamon frowned. “Sinduramon… The Four Holy Beasts…” he muttered. “Are they connected to Imperialdramon…? Could it be…?”

    Dukemon turned and looked at Alphamon with a raised eyebrow. “…You think that they’re having talks over our heads.”

    “It’s… a possibility,” Alphamon replied, pensive concern in his voice. “It seems like something Imperialdramon might do, doesn’t it…?”

    “Yeah…” Dukemon admitted.

    “And in light of the attack on the World Tree…” Alphamon began, frowning harder.

    “They might be having another one. Nearby, maybe…” Dukemon replied. “And DarkKnightmon wants him.”

    “What would he want with Sir Imperialdramon Paladin Mode?” Butterflymon couldn’t help but ask.

    “To use him to destroy us,” Alphamon said gravely. “In one way or another.”

    “None of which are good…” Dukemon added, wincing.

    Alphamon turned to Butterflymon. “Can you fly?”

    The scout nodded.

    “Then come with us,” he told him. “We need to return to the others. Quickly. We have to intensify our search efforts. We can’t let him find Imperialdramon.”

    “I agree… but Imperialdramon’s pretty tough. Tough enough to beat DarkKnightmon if he had to,” Dukemon told him.

    “Yes, but we can’t underestimate DarkKnightmon. If he sees weakness, he’ll exploit it. He could use any sort of trick to get the better of Imperialdramon,” Alphamon countered.

    “You mean like his good heart?” Dukemon asked with a wince.

    Alphamon nodded. “His morals… their friendship… Omegamon… I wouldn’t put anything past DarkKnightmon anymore.”

    Dukemon sighed and made to move.

    The Lord of the Empty Seat frowned deeply and began to fly into the sky, still using his sword as a beacon for the others to follow. “Come on! We have to hurry. We need to get as many of the Royal Knights on this as possible…”

    Alphamon flew through the air and lowered his gaze. “Before it’s too late…”

    -

    Continued in the next post
     
  17. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Continued from the previous post

    -

    DarkKnightmon, MirageGaogamon, and Omegamon Zwart flew through the night sky. They soared over earthy, rocky terrain, full of crags and outcroppings. Most of the land around the Bakhu Mountain range was like that, as the ground was stony and not very fertile.

    They continued flying northwards, towards their destination. Dorbickmon followed through on his intention of staying out of the way and going to a bar. DarkKnightmon didn’t mind, as Dorbickmon couldn’t fly anyways.

    In the distance, they could see the outlines of the mountain range, though only the silhouettes, thanks to one of the moons behind them. It was too dark to see much else, especially at such a distance. They would soon see if Sinduramon was telling the truth, although DarkKnightmon was fairly certain that he had been.

    However, after another kilometer, MirageGaogamon suddenly stopped. “DarkKnightmon,” he said in a quiet but serious voice.

    DarkKnightmon and Omegamon Zwart flew to a stop behind him. “Have you picked up something?” DarkKnightmon asked him.

    “The scent of ashes…” MirageGaogamon replied, sniffing.

    The three of them looked ahead of them keenly. They weren’t able to see Imperialdramon Paladin Mode, but they definitely spotted a large, orange glow in the sky, backed by the stars and mountain peaks.

    “There,” Omegamon Zwart spoke, pointing to the fiery flicker in the distance.

    “Let’s move closer. Fly low,” DarkKnightmon told them, moving ahead and flying down.

    The others followed after him, gliding close to the ground. Their dark forms provided camouflage for them as they soared. After a few minutes, DarkKnightmon landed behind a long, ridge-like outcropping that hid them from view from above. MirageGaogamon and Omegamon Zwart landed nearby and stepped behind the cover.

    DarkKnightmon peered around the stony apex of the outcropping and stared into the sky. There, he saw the unmistakeable form of Zhuqiaomon, seeming to fly in place. He was speaking with somebody, but they were too far to hear the words, only the vibrations from Zhuqiaomon’s deep voice.

    “It’s Zhuqiaomon,” DarkKnightmon whispered.

    “Is there anybody else?” MirageGaogamon asked quietly.

    The black knight looked around the land and sky carefully. “The other three Holy Beasts aren’t there. However…” DarkKnightmon looked up to see who and what Zhuqiaomon was talking to. There was somebody in front of the holy phoenix. It was too small to make out very well, but a glint of the moonlight upon something metallic on the Digimon’s form was all the proof that DarkKnightmon needed. “Imperialdramon’s there.”

    He kept hidden but continued to watch the two in the sky. By Zhuqiaomon’s body language and the tone in his echoes, it seemed like they were finishing up their conversation.

    Zhuqiaomon nodded at Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and flapped his eight wings, flying above him and circling around. He gave the founder of the Royal Knights a final word and then began to shoot off in the night sky, his fiery form lighting it up like a massive torch.

    As the phoenix Digimon passed over them, DarkKnightmon was forced to move back behind the outcropping so that he wasn’t illuminated. When Zhuqiaomon had passed, DarkKnightmon looked out again and got ready to act.

    “Be careful, Sir,” MirageGaogamon told him.

    Omegamon Zwart looked out silently.

    DarkKnightmon nodded, able to see a white form against the sky more clearly now that the luminous Zhuqiaomon was gone. It was definitely Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. The black knight stepped out from around the stone and took off, into the air.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode flapped his white wings, beginning to fly through the night sky, initially unaware of the approaching presence.

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and gripped the Twin Spear in his hand as he ascended to attack Imperialdramon.

    Imperialdramon sensed a presence from behind him and began to slow down in his flight. As DarkKnightmon closed in on him, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode spun around and whipped his sword downwards. The Omega Blade, a huge, gold and white broadsword as long as his body, swung through the air towards DarkKnightmon. It sung as it descended, but DarkKnightmon raised the Twin Spear in time. As the two weapons clashed in a burst of sparks, the two Digimon pushed hard against the other

    They were both forced back in the air. Imperialdramon Paladin Mode took the opportunity to look at his assailant. After a brief look of surprise, Imperialdramon’s eyes narrowed. “DarkKnightmon…” he spoke.

    “Imperialdramon…” DarkKnightmon responded, looking at the white knight.

    “Have you been following me?” the Paladin Mode asked.

    “Searching for you,” the black knight said, raising his double-headed spear in front of him.

    Imperialdramon gritted his teeth. He didn’t need to ask why DarkKnightmon was looking for him. “You just won’t let it go, will you? This blood-soaked dream of yours…”

    “My dream… “ DarkKnightmon mused. “Dreams are meaningless if they’re not pursued,” he countered. “What good are dreams that are suffixed by the words ‘maybe one day…’? Without action, they’re just pleasant words.”

    “You’re going about this the wrong way!” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode told him. “If you weren’t so damn obstinate, all of this could have been avoided! But no, it had to be your way – on your terms…”

    “Nobody else listened to me. The other Royal Knights were too blinded by Alphamon and his title to think for themselves. They didn’t know what was in the best interest for the Digital World,” the dark knight Digimon responded.

    “And kidnapping, extortion, and attacking the World Tree is in the best interest of the Digital World?” Imperialdramon challenged.

    “A means to an end. Just like this is,” DarkKnightmon responded. He prepared himself to fight.

    “What happened to you, DarkKnightmon…?” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode muttered. His red eyes hardened with resolve and he gripped the Omega Blade with both hands. “I have a duty to stop you. Don’t think you can defeat me just because I haven’t been with the others. And don’t expect me to go easy on you either.”

    DarkKnightmon smirked. “This is the turning point, Imperialdramon. For the both of us. For the world.”

    “Enough,” Imperialdramon spoke commandingly. His white, draconic form was backed by the distant moon as he flapped his broad, draconic wings to hover in place. He poised his sword back, narrowed his eyes, and charged.

    The Twin Spear began to pulsate with dark energy as DarkKnightmon aimed one tip at Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. “Very well,” he said. After those words, a huge column of shadows surged from his spear towards Imperialdramon.

    Even though they were harder to see at night, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode could still make out the torrent of dark matter flooding towards him. With mighty flaps of his wings, he suddenly flew upwards, above the rush of darkness, just skimming the edges of the attack seamlessly as it passed under him. Imperialdramon held the Omega Blade behind him in one hand as he rushed towards DarkKnightmon.

    As Imperialdramon closed in on him, DarkKnightmon ceased his attack and allowed the shadows to fizzle out. He flipped the Twin Spear around in his hand and prepared to block the incoming attack. Imperialdramon Paladin Mode began to swing his sword forwards, prompting DarkKnightmon to raise his spear in an anticipated defence. However, Imperialdramon stopped the slash during mid swing, and suddenly lashed forwards with his left hand, catching DarkKnightmon off guard.

    “Splendor Blade!” Imperialdramon shouted in tandem with his punch. The golden claws of his gauntlets lit up in the dark, dazzling DarkKnightmon’s vision, before the jagged talons connected with DarkKnightmon’s helmet.

    DarkKnightmon grunted with pain as his head jerked back sharply and awkwardly. He was thrown violently backwards in the air, but not before lashing his pole arm out in a horizontal swing. The Twin Spear sliced across Imperialdramon’s torso, cutting neatly along the soft, leathery fabric covering the scales of his abdomen. The tip of the spear drew a few drops of blood, but the cut wasn’t very deep.

    Imperialdramon winced fleetingly and, this time, followed through with a slash from his sword. He raced after DarkKnightmon and lashed the Omega Blade down diagonally, which impacted his breastplate with incredible weight, managing to leave a large, narrow dent and a small gash within it. The impact was strong enough to bash DarkKnightmon downwards He pulled the sword along the armour neatly, drawing a few sparks and a shrill scraping noise as he withdrew the broadsword. Imperialdramon reared his wings back as he looped the blade around, diving down for another vertical slash.

    This time, however, DarkKnightmon was ready for the aggressive, powerful attack. He just managed to dart to the right so that the swing missed him completely. He lashed out as Imperialdramon passed him and slashed the Twin Spear across Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s left wing before ramming into him with the crescent shoulder blade on his left arm.

    Imperialdramon growled as the concave body slammed into his form and pushed him back through the air. He got ready to counterattack, but DarkKnightmon swung his arm out and forced the founder of the Royal Knights to the side. DarkKnightmon passed by him and turned around, having reversed the positions they had started the fight in.

    The white knight swung around quickly, opening up the dragon head on his chest, which started to brim with energy. “So you’re making me face the moon so the light makes you harder to see…” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode said to him.

    “Very astute,” DarkKnightmon told him, spinning the Twin Spear around in his hand. He didn’t make the pain from the gash in his armour evident. “I much prefer having you as an ally than an enemy.”

    “Same to you…” Imperialdramon said bitterly. He rushed forwards with his sword, closing the distance on DarkKnightmon. The opened port within his chest armour suddenly began to surge and bristle with black lightning. “Hyper Prominence!”

    A thick, crackling stream of the dark electricity tore through the air and descended on DarkKnightmon. The black knight tried to avoid it, but the blast was too wide, and the lightning coursed through his armoured form.

    DarkKnightmon released a restrained shout of pain as his muscles trembled and contracted. Despite the agony of the attack, he managed to raise his Twin Spear and fire a shot off from it.

    Imperialdramon narrowed his eyes at the oncoming rush of darkness and reared his sword over his head. He slashed down right as the blast approached him, cutting the beam of shadows down the middle. The holy knight snarled as he held against the attack, but managed to completely part it after five seconds.

    When the shadows faded, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode looked up again. To his surprise, DarkKnightmon was nowhere to be found.

    He sneered to himself and looked around warily, doing his best to cover every axis. He gripped the Omega Blade readily, and prepared his claws and cannon just in case.

    Suddenly, a cut opened up on the dragon knight’s muscular tail, spurting out a bit of blood and sending an intense stinging pain shooting up the appendage.

    “Air Slicer!” a voice echoed from nearby.

    Imperialdramon grunted in pain and swung around, slashing his blade. However, there was nobody behind him and he only succeeded in cleaving the night air. As he did that, another slice cut across the backs of his wings agonizingly.

    “Grah!” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode shouted out, spinning around and firing another strong Hyper Prominence blast from his chest, sending black lightning shooting through the sky.

    “Spear Needle!” a voice said from below.

    A short figure lunged through the air with amazing speed and planted the two lances on his arms into Imperialdramon’s covered back before jumping off with a kick.

    The white armoured dragon arched his back with pain but managed to retaliate with anger. He garbled out the attack name ‘Splendor Blade’ and cuffed his claws down SkullKnightmon’s lower body, tearing the armour of his leg.

    So he split into his component parts,” he thought to himself with a pained wince. “That’s why it seems like he’s everywhere at once. Their teamwork is-!

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode whirled around upon seeing something out of the corner of his eye, above him and to his side.

    “Aqua Rage!” DeadlyAxemon roared, descending towards him and releasing a flood of a brightly coloured liquid from his mouth.

    As the downpour of liquid fell towards him Imperialdramon lashed out his sword and darted to the left, slashing the attack away. He successfully avoided the attack, but some of the liquid that landed on his sword attempted to eat away at the durable metal with an audible hiss.

    He made a lunge for the speedy DeadlyAxemon, knowing he had trouble turning sharply and would be forced to fall near the dragon knight. Imperialdramon watch the dark blur approach and he coiled his sword back and made ready to cleave him out of the air. However, he hesitated when he felt a presence behind him.

    “Breast-eye Wink!” SkullKnightmon spoke, shooting up from the ground towards Imperialdramon. The two red eyes on the armour of his chest suddenly launched crimson beams, which burned into Paladin Mode’s back.

    Despite his smoking back, Imperialdramon spun around and drove the Omega Blade into SkullKnightmon’s side, bashing him aside violently. He then continued spinning at for a full rotation, hoping to catch DeadlyAxemon with his sword as well.

    However, DeadlyAxemon closed in on him too quickly. “Aqua Rage!” he announced again, swiftly spewing the corrosive liquid onto Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s chest. The dragon snarled as the solution burned and stung his form, causing him to writhe a bit and recoil.

    “Aqua Regia!” DeadlyAxemon followed up. DeadlyAxemon’s body suddenly morphed into a liquid in mid air. His aqueous form splattered onto Imperialdramon’s body in a sticky, viscous state, causing the dragon knight to have trouble moving. It was difficult to get DeadlyAxemon off of him.

    “Rrgh. Damn it,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode swore with annoyance as he tried to remove the thick, consuming liquid from himself.

    SkullKnightmon landed on the ground, panting from pain from the last attack. He felt a massive bruise forming under his armour, and perhaps the warm trickle of blood. However, he wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. He bounded off the ground again and made a direct path towards Imperialdramon.

    “Breast-eye Wink!” SkullKnightmon said, releasing another set of twin beams from his armour.

    Imperialdramon hissed as the beams exploded against his legs while he was occupied. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that SkullKnightmon was still coming. Deciding that he had had enough, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode focused his energies on his chest cannon: one of the parts that DeadlyAxemon was covering with his liquefied self.

    “Hyper Prominence!” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode announced. The cannon roared with power and unleashed a violent stream of dark electricity into DeadlyAxemon at point blank range.

    With a screech of agony, DeadlyAxemon pulled his liquid state away from Imperialdramon and morphed back into his body. He fell to the ground with a crash. His form shuddered and writhed on the ground and his data flickered dangerously.

    “DeadlyAxemon!” SkullKnightmon called out with concern. He narrowed his eyes and continued his speedy charge.

    However, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode was ready for him. He whirled his body around, through the smoke that cloaked him, and reared his foot back. “Imperial Kick!” he shouted, whipping his leg around and cracking his boot across SkullKnightmon’s face with incredible strength.

    SkullKnightmon gasped and fell to the rocky ground like a meteor. His body hit the ground in a burst of dirt.

    Imperialdramon panted a bit and took the moment of reprieve to recover and decide his next move.

    As he did that, SkullKnightmon pulled himself to his feet and staggered over to his partner, who was in rough shape.

    “Are you alright?” SkullKnightmon asked, looking down at DeadlyAxemon, who lay on the ground and groaned.

    “I’ll live…” he answered, his voice hoarse. His data continued to flicker.

    “He’s caught on to our tactics. It’s time we digixrosed to compose ourselves,” SkullKnightmon advised him, though also knowing that DeadlyAxemon might not survive another attack like that last one, and wanting to prevent losing him.

    DeadlyAxemon snarled and forced himself to stand to his feet. “Yeah… Let’s go DarkKnightmon… Finish him with brute force.”

    SkullKnightmon nodded and began to glow with light, as did DeadlyAxemon. “DigiXros!”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode turned to look at the sudden light illuminating the darkness from below. He watched as the two partners became DarkKnightmon again and knew that he had to act. As the port within the dragon head on his armour breathed residual strands of electricity, a massive cannon emerged from the opening. Imperialdramon gripped the huge cannon steadily and aimed it at DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon looked up and saw that the cannon pointed at him was already building up a dark power within it. He narrowed his eyes and flew into the air, prompting Imperialdramon Paladin Mode to pivot and follow his movements with his aim. The dragon made sure not to lose him in the dark of the night.

    DarkKnightmon sped up, causing the white knight to begin to lead him. The black knight flew at a curve, bending through the air.

    Imperialdramon felt that his cannon was ready to fire a full blast. He gripped the handles in his hands and looked at DarkKnightmon with a fine gaze. “Giga De--”

    “Wait!” DarkKnightmon beseeched him, suddenly stopping between Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and the mountain range.

    Caught off guard by this, Imperialdramon halted his action temporarily, against his better judgment. He raised his eye ridge curiously but sceptically, eyeing DarkKnightmon.

    “You don’t want to do that, Imperialdramon…” DarkKnightmon advised.

    Imperialdramon eyed him suspiciously. “What?”

    “Bakhu Mountain is right behind me,” the dark knight informed him. “If you fire that, you’ll cause an avalanche, if not completely obliterate the mountain. The town of Bakhu that’s built alongside the mountain will be crushed. You wouldn’t want to be the cause of that.”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode glared at him. “Damn it. He’s right… I can’t fire at him while he’s between me and that mountain, and he knows that,” he thought to himself. He hesitated retracting the cannon, not wanting to show that he was backing down, but he decided that he had no choice. “I’ll have to fight him hand-to-hand.

    The founder of the Royal Knights flapped his sore wings and tore through the dark sky towards DarkKnightmon. DarkKnightmon saw this and smiled calmly. He began to spin the Twin Spear around in his hands tempestuously. Spirals of darkness began to shoot out from the rapid whirling of the lance. Soon, a full funnel of shadows had formed and it soared through the air towards Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. “Treason Vortex!”

    “Hyper Prominence!” Imperialdramon countered, releasing a powerful surge of black lightning bolts towards the dark, violet cyclone.

    The crackling, staggered strands of electricity slammed into the whirlwind en masse. The two forces pounded into each other with nearly equal force. Shadows and lightning exploded outwards in a giant explosion that ripped up rock and dust on the ground below.

    Not letting DarkKnightmon use the cover of the explosion this time, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode raced forwards. He shot through the residual darkness of the blast and made a direct route for the former Royal Knight. DarkKnightmon saw Imperialdramon diving towards him. He narrowed his eyes coldly and charged him straight back.

    “Twin Spear!” DarkKnightmon shouted, thrusting his lance towards Imperialdramon Paladin Mode as they closed in on one another.

    “Omega Blade!” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode retorted, stabbing his broadsword forwards.

    Both blades struck true, the tips of each weapon digging into the other’s armour. The sharp end of the Twin Spear pierced into the cheek of the armoured dragon head of Imperialdramon’s breastplate, sending fractures forming through the white metal as the pole arm dug deeper and perforated his outer scales. Meanwhile, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s Omega Blade cut through DarkKnightmon’s armour right between his armoured collar and the crest on his chest, slicing across his clavicle.

    Both warriors grimaced with pain and swiftly retracted their blades from one another to counterattack, drawing blood from the wounds in the process.

    “Don’t think that you can beat a Mega III, DarkKnightmon! Splendor Blade!” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode called out, driving his left claws into DarkKnightmon’s chest.

    DarkKnightmon’s back arched and the breath left his lungs, but he fought through the pain enough to strike back. He drove his spiked knee into Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s bleeding gut, exacerbating the fresh wound.

    Imperialdramon let out a sharp gurgle of pain, but responded with a solid uppercut across DarkKnightmon’s face.

    Grunting and feeling blood spurt into the inside of his visor, DarkKnightmon responded to the brutal melee they found themselves in. “Shoulder Blade!” he whispered in an adrenaline-fueled state. He lashed his left arm out and slashed the crescent blade on his shoulder into Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s form. He then spun around, his cape flipping up and somewhat obstructing the dragon’s vision as he whirled around and drove the thick, metal base of the Twin Spear across Imperialdramon’s face.

    Imperialdramon growled and fell to the side, although he flapped his wings vigorously to keep himself in the air. He spat out a mouthful of blood and snarled at his foe. “DarkKnightmon…” His crimson eyes gleamed with anger and he rushed DarkKnightmon, slashing his sword down. “You can’t win!”

    DarkKnightmon sneered and struggled to bring his pole arm up in time, just narrowly blocking the deadly strike. The sword rebounded off and DarkKnightmon lashed his arm outwards, swinging the Twin Spear at Imperialdramon at a wide, sweeping arc.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode recovered quickly, blocking the spear with the flat side of his blade. He then cut downwards, ripping the tip of the holy blade through DarkKnightmon’s golden crest and further down through the armour, cutting a gash through the left ‘eye’ of the skull motif.

    Pain seared his chest as the tip of the sword cut through skin and sent fragments of metal flying out. However, it failed to strike deep thanks to his armour’s thick protection. DarkKnightmon’s arm had been forced down by the attack, but that was all. It provided him with an opportunity to strike back. He angled the Twin Spear and thrust it towards Imperialdramon’s chest.

    Imperialdramon gritted his teeth and grabbed the shaft of the Twin Spear with his left hand, halting the impending stab before it hit his armour. In his right hand, he continued to hold the Omega Blade, which was still embedded in DarkKnightmon’s armour. He contemplated running DarkKnightmon through with his sword then and there.

    However, a sly gleam flashed in DarkKnightmon’s cold eyes. The Twin Spear surged with dark energy, which washed over Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s arm, wing, and half of his body. The dragon knight let out a pained cry as he was forced back through the air, spinning around slightly from the concussion of the blast. But even as the shadows burned at his form, he swung around and slapped his large, blue tail across DarkKnightmon’s face, causing the dark knight’s head to jerk to the side. He followed up by rearing his sword arm way back and then hurling it forwards at a horizontal axis.

    DarkKnightmon’s eyes widened as he saw the Omega Blade gleam in the moonlight as it sliced through the air towards him. He raised the blade on his left arm upwards to block the attack, only just nearly catching the sword inside the concave metal. However, the extreme might of the attack sent him hurdling through the air. He tried to strike out with the Twin Spear, but Imperialdramon Paladin Mode kicked it aside with a high, mid-air kick.

    The Twin Spear nearly flew out of DarkKnightmon’s grasp, but he was just able to hold onto it. However, his arm was forced away from his body, and he was completely exposed when Imperialdramon Paladin Mode lunged at him again.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode flapped his pained wings strongly, flying so that his body was right over DarkKnightmon as they flew through the air. He flipped the Omega Blade over in his hands, preparing to stab it down in an overhand grip. At the same time, the chipped dragon head on his chest opened its maw up and began to brim with raging energy.

    DarkKnightmon saw the two impending attacks before him. He was unable to do anything to defend himself from them.

    Imperialdramon grunted and began to stab downwards while releasing the Hyper Prominence blast from his chest.

    “Garuru Cannon!” a voice sounded out.

    A bright, blue light suddenly illuminated the darkness to Imperialdramon’s side. He halted his attack in response to the voice, the radiance, and the growing hissing sound to his right. He looked over just in time to see an orb of blue energy tear through the darkness and collide with him.

    “Gragh!” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode sputtered as the sphere slammed into him and detonated in a massive burst of ice and power.

    The blue explosion lit up the night sky and sent both Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and DarkKnightmon hurdling apart, although Imperialdramon took the brunt of the explosion.

    As he was rocked by the blast, the Omega Blade slipped from his frigid fingers. Despite the freezing numbness in the right side he did his best to fly with just his left wing, attempting to fly after the sword and catch it in time.

    However, he felt something round, cold, and metal press right against his back. His eyes narrowed with realisation.

    “Garuru Cannon,” the voice spoke from behind him.

    The cannon exploded with power at point blank range. The glowing discharge of energy exploded against Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s back in a severe, dominating blast of power. The ice coated his back and the explosion sent him crashing to the rocky ground below. Imperialdramon hit the ground with his upper body, landing face down on the craggy terrain. The Omega Blade fell and clattered to the ground nearby.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode grimaced and weakly lifted his head up. He got to his hands and knees, trying to push himself up. As he began to rise, he glanced over his shoulder, into the night sky. He saw a familiar, black armoured figure hovering above him.

    “O…mega…mon…” he murmured.

    Omegamon Zwart looked down at him with cold, unreadable, crimson eyes. He raised his Garuru Arm.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode grimaced and reached his bloodied, partially frozen arm out, towards the Omega Blade. His fingers neared the sword’s hilt…

    “Garuru Cannon,” Omegamon Zwart spoke again, launching a high powered shot from his cannon arm.

    The burst of energy slammed into Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s back, crushing him into the ground decisively. The entire back side of his form was frozen by the attack.

    Despite the numb, freezing pain throughout his body, Imperialdramon continued to resist. He flexed his bloodied, white wings and shattered the coating of ice that covered them. After a quick glance to the side, he saw that the Omega Blade was covered by many inches of ice and pinned to the ground. He snarled deeply and began to push himself up on trembling arms stubbornly.

    He looked up and locked eyes with Omegamon Zwart. “Ome… Omegamon… It’s… me…” he tried to reason, even with his rapidly declining strength.

    Omegamon Zwart’s red eyes gleamed with cold fury. “I know.” He aimed the cannon at Imperialdramon Paladin Mode once again. Before he fired, he stared deeply into the dragon knight’s eyes. “That’s why…” he whispered.

    His ebony features flashed with blue as he fired a new sphere of ice from his cannon.

    Imperialdramon made a final, determined stand. Despite the layers of ice coating his body, he lunged for the Omega Blade and stabbed his glowing claws through the ice, shattering it. He managed to grab hold of the sword, which began to glow…

    But then the attack impacted with his body and exploded. He was crushed into the ground, forming another deep crater beside the previous one.

    However, Omegamon Zwart didn’t let up. He fired another blast into Imperialdramon, and then another. Explosion after explosion hammered and crushed Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s body. Omegamon was originally a Mega II, but as Omegamon Zwart, augmented by the powers of darkness, his power almost reached that of Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s. Imperialdramon felt the full strength of this power in every agonizing blast. Each new explosion of power and ice drove him deeper and deeper. Each layer of ice over him shattered before forming anew with the next one.

    Omegamon Zwart continued the merciless attack, blasting continuously for ten more seconds before finally lowering his cannon.

    The frosty breath, dust, and smoke wafted up from the bottom of the ice-encrusted crater. Imperialdramon Paladin Mode lay at the bottom, unmoving.

    Omegamon Zwart stared at him wordlessly for a few moments. He then descended and landed at the edge of the impact crater, peering into it to see if he needed to hit him with another attack. He didn’t. Imperialdramon was unconscious and completely still.

    DarkKnightmon flew over and landed beside Omegamon Zwart with an icy, stern gaze. “That was unnecessary, Omegamon Zwart.”

    “What’s unnecessary is dueling him along when MirageGaogamon and I were here,” Omegamon Zwart countered. “You were losing, so I hit him when he wasn’t expecting it.”

    “That’s arguable…” DarkKnightmon responded. He turned and stepped into the hole, dotted with tiny ice crystals. The dark knight stood over the body of Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and watched as the ice along his winged back began to melt and fracture. “However… I suppose I let my sentimentality get the better of me. The job is done, and that’s what matters.”

    He bent down and picked Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s heavy form up, lugging him over the shoulder that wasn’t wounded.

    MirageGaogamon walked over. “DarkKnightmon… Are you alright?” he asked, noticing the various rends in his armour.

    “Yes… None of the cuts are very deep. I can’t let them slow me down,” DarkKnightmon replied, holding Imperialdramon with one hand, and his Twin Spear with the other. He was downplaying the actual pain that he felt, as well as the severity of some of the wounds that he had received, but they weren’t able to tell by the tone of his voice.

    “You managed to beat Sir Imperialdramon…” MirageGaogamon said, frowning a little. “What now?”

    “Now, I need you to go and fetch Dorbickmon along with the equipment that he has with him,” the dark knight told him.

    MirageGaogamon nodded dutifully.

    “And also…” DarkKnightmon began ominously. “Gather our army of mercenaries.”

    “Sir…” MirageGaogamon responded.

    “So… it’s time,” Omegamon Zwart spoke, his blood red eyes staring into DarkKnightmon’s. After a moment, his eyes trailed over to Imperialdramon thoughtfully.

    DarkKnightmon closed his eyes. “Yes…” he replied in dark repose. “We advance on the World Tree tonight. We’ll attack at first light and subjugate through force whoever tries to resist. By this time tomorrow, the myth of the Royal Knights will be over and I will be free to start my own Order. And then… then finally… everything will change.”

    DarkKnightmon looked over his shoulder at the unconscious Imperialdramon Paladin Mode resting on it.

    “Isn’t that right, Imperialdramon?”
     
  18. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Chapter 28: The Battle of the World Tree​


    Morning broke and the deep blue hue of the night began to recede. The stars and moons faded in the distance as the sun emerged from the horizon, though it was still too low to be seen through the forest of the Neutral Zone. A quiet breeze blew through across the multi-coloured, flower-filled clearing. The colossal World Tree stood at its center, its evergreen leaves shuddering.

    At the base of the World Tree’s trunk slept countless members of the Order’s military. Many guards who were on night duty patrolled the clearing or perched on the tree’s massive branches for a nice vantage point. The Royal Knights, minus Duftmon, were out all night, scouring the area with the Reconnaissance Squadron and some of the Aerial Strike Forces for DarkKnightmon before he could find Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. Little did they know, they were already too late.

    Duftmon got up from the root he was lying on. He thought he heard something from the distance, but that wasn’t the reason he was up. He woke up punctually early to start the day before others even realized it started. Even his internal body clock worked as precisely and methodically as the rest of his body did. However, there was a feeling inside of him that he couldn’t place, and that irritated him greatly.

    However, he had work to do. As the only Royal Knight present and as the lead strategist, he was in charge of all of the World Tree forces. He walked past several sleeping soldiers and approached one of the guards. “You. What do you have to report? Have the Royal Knights returned yet?” he questioned him.

    “No, sir. They haven’t,” the armoured, quadrupedal body of a Maildramon said. He wore a blue band with the Royal Knight’s coat of arms around his foreleg. This was worn, in varying colours, by all soldiers of the Royal Knight’s Order while they were on a military expedition and expecting to see combat. It served as a friend-or-foe indicator so that, in a chaotic melee, the soldiers would be able to tell who their allies were so that they wouldn’t attack them. They also served an organizational purpose, as each colour represented a different division of the Order: red for the Strike Forces, blue for the Defence Forces, and so on. “As for a report…”

    “Duftmon, there’s a problem,” somebody said from behind him.

    Duftmon turned and looked over his shoulder with an arched eyebrow. OuRyuumon walked over along with his Grademon leftenant who headed the Ground Forces. Both wore red arm bands. “What is it?” Duftmon asked.

    OuRyuumon looked at Grademon to tell Duftmon what he had told him. Grademon stepped up beside the Maildramon and looked at the tactician. “Several of my soldiers haven’t returned from their patrols. They were doing area recon deep in the forest.”

    “Hm…” Duftmon said with a frown. “How many? Which sectors?”

    “Ten,” OuRyuumon spoke up for his leftenant. “Sectors Zeta Lambda, Zeta Mu, and Zeta Nu.”

    “All around the same area…” Duftmon spoke, turning and looking towards the north of the World Tree, viewing past the giant root that spiralled into the sky.

    “They were at the outer reaches of the search area,” Grademon replied. “We sent some others to see where they went, but—“

    “Wait!” OuRyuumon said suddenly, his violet eyes hardening and glancing around keenly. He drew his Gairyu swords, which they had managed to salvage from the ruins of the Lupolford town hall, from his belt and gripped them tightly. “Do you feel that?”

    Duftmon frowned and pulled himself from his thoughts, beginning to utilize his perceptive senses to see what OuRyuumon was talking about. He glanced around and listened carefully. There was a soft thundering in the distance that seemed to grow gradually louder. In tandem with the foreboding rumbling in the distance was a trembling in the earth.

    “Yes…” Duftmon replied, suddenly glaring. “It is coming from the north…”

    OuRyuumon snarled and whirled his scimitars around in his claws. “It’s the sound of an army marching…”

    Suddenly the tremors became violent. It was no longer the footsteps of an army causing the quakes in the ground. It felt as though the subterranean rocks were splitting apart beneath their feet. Several of the guards fell over from the sudden earthquake, and many began to be roused from their sleep. OuRyuumon snarled and flew into the air while Duftmon used his cat-like balance to keep himself steady.

    “To arms!” Duftmon shouted, running and fetching his sword, the Shoumetsu no Tsurugi, from beside the World Tree.

    The guards and soldiers began to move about quickly in an attempt to find out what was going on. A voice roared out with adrenaline from the northern tree line, echoing across the clearing.

    “BURNING THE DRAGON!”

    A flood of flames burst from within the dark edge of the forest, swelling upwards. Then, the earth beneath the clearing quavered tumultuously. A crimson dragon man stood at the edge of the clearing, his flaming sword planted firmly in the ground. Dorbickmon’s yellow and violet eyes were wide with intensity, stimulation and power as he tapped into the source of the leylines, beneath the World Tree. The extreme power that the well of dragon veins held fed into his attack.

    Massive stone pillars, spikes, and tendrils suddenly burst from the ground inside the army’s ranks, sending dirt, grass, rocks, and Digimon flying into the air. The rocky protrusions burst up all over the clearing, causing chaos, confusion and panic. The soldiers, guards and scouts evaded the ejections of earth and strata as they shot upwards. They tried to ascertain the whereabouts of the attackers, gather their weapons and armour, and try to organize all at the same time.

    “Get up! Scramble!” OuRyuumon shouted to his groggy and bewildered Strike Forces, pointing the Gairyu Udaijin towards the north part of the clearing. “Form up! Move your asses! Don’t let a bunch of pebbles scare you!”

    Duftmon began to race across the clearing with his rapier in his hand. “They’re attacking from the north!” Duftmon shouted. “Leftenant Rapidmon! Form your Aerial Guards up along the right flank in a left echelon! Leftenant Grademon, go with him with a brigade of the Shield Guards! Once in formation, hold the line!”

    “You heard him, Leftenant!” Captain OuRyuumon called out to Grademon. “I’ll take the Ground Forces over – ****!” He suddenly swerved his flexible body around a pillar of rock that shot up right in front of him. “- to the left flank!”

    “Sir!” they replied, racing to gather their troops.

    Duftmon looked over his shoulder at OuRyuumon as he ran, dodging the thrown body of one of their soldiers as it landed nearby. “Take HippoGriffmon and the Aerial Strike Forces too! When they reach the clearing and move to attack the right flank, move up in a hook manoeuvre!”

    OuRyuumon nodded and turned forwards, slashing his twin scimitars downwards. “Eiseiryuojin!” he shouted, firing a blast of golden energy from the Gairyus which blasted through an incoming pillar, shattering it to pieces.

    Dorbickmon scanned the area, holding the Tyrant Collbrande in place, and watching to see how they all reacted. He heard the thunderous footsteps of DarkKnightmon’s mercenary army growing louder behind him, and he knew that it was almost time. The dragon man watched the Royal Knights’ forces beginning to split off to the sides, and he saw only Duftmon and a few stragglers in front of him, in the middle. Duftmon was the only Royal Knight among the forces that he was able to see. He wondered if Examon would show up.

    “So, these are your tactics, huh?” Dorbickmon said in a growling, adrenaline-fueled voice. “I wonder how much I can screw them up…!” He focused his Burning the Dragon attack precisely, feeling the leylines’ energies flowing through him. He concentrated the earth formation in his mind and then he pushed.

    Three tendrils of thick rock burst up beneath Duftmon as the Royal Knight ran towards him, catching him in their folds. Duftmon sneered as he was pushed into the air and held there by the stony coils. Despite this impediment, he continued to call out orders to the troops.

    “Scouts!” he shouted, looking over his winged shoulder. “Align behind the right flank! Send two teams to the south west and south east to locate the other Royal Knights and check for enemy flankers! Go! Posthaste!”

    “I’m not done yet!” Dorbickmon growled. His eyes burned with intensity and he pressed harder into his Burning the Dragon attack.

    Two rows of thick rock burst from the flowery grass and rose into the air on each side of the World Tree. One wall rose up forty feet into the air, separating the Royal Knight’s right flank – the Defence Forces – from the open middle where Duftmon was. The other wall rose up to the same height right near the left flank – the Strike Forces – also separating them from the middle, as well as impeding them from their manoeuvre. The middle lane was about forty five meters across from one wall to the other.

    Duftmon watched with anger as the two walls separated the two flanks from meeting each other, keeping them from him as well. He tried to move his arms and legs to free himself from the coils of the stony outcropping that Dorbickmon had summoned.

    “Okay!” Dorbickmon yelled, looking over his shoulder and panting with effort. “All yours, DarkKnightmon! I’d say you got ten minutes before all hell breaks loose!”

    “Thank you,” DarkKnightmon replied, bursting from the canopies of the dark forest, his black form backed against the dark, emerging, dawn light in the sky.

    He flew towards the World Tree with steady resolve. Hanging over his shoulder was the weakened, wounded form of Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. Imperialdramon’s upper body, minus his wings, was bound with chrome digizoid chains, which made sure to cover the white, draconic mouth on his breastplate so that it wouldn’t open up and fire any attacks.

    Flying behind DarkKnightmon was Omegamon Zwart and MirageGaogamon, who followed him down the empty lane which served as a direct, unobstructed route to the base of the World Tree.

    Duftmon saw that Imperialdramon Paladin Mode had been captured and he couldn’t help but scowl. “Damn it,” he whispered in frustration, trying harder to free himself. He looked up just in time to see Omegamon Zwart look over. Their eyes locked tensely.

    However, Omegamon Zwart bypassed him and followed DarkKnightmon to the World Tree. Duftmon sneered and looked forwards. Gazing deep into the forest, he could hear the sounds of an army growing closer, and he could begin to see their ranks approaching in the distance. On the other sides of the two walls, he could hear the sounds of more earth and outcropping shooting up from the ground, as well as the pained cries from of the soldiers. The tactician sneered and wrenched his right arm loose from one of the coils. He clutched the Shoumetsu no Tsurugi and raised his arm up.

    “Aussterben!” he exclaimed. He slashed the rapier down along the rocky coils, unleashing an arc of energy from the sword’s tip. The arc tore through the rocky monolith and caused it to collapse around him, freeing him from its hold.

    Duftmon growled and flew out of the crumbling mass of stone, ascending up into the sky. He raised his sword again and the forward-pointing crossguard of the Shoumetsu no Tsurugi suddenly bent so that it pointed backwards, becoming the Hakai no Tsurugi. Duftmon pointed the rapier at Dorbickmon, and the tip began to swell with dark energy.

    “Ernste Welle!” Duftmon spoke, unleashing a pillar of violet power from his sword. The surge of explosive energy tore through the sky and descended towards the dragon man.

    Dorbickmon saw the beam rush towards him. He grunted and was forced to rip the Tyrant Collbrande from the ground, letting the blazing sword grow to four times his height. He thrust the blade forwards against the dark beam, and the two held against one another for a few seconds before forcing the other to split apart in a burst of flames and energy.

    Duftmon didn’t wait around. He swerved one eighty degrees and began shooting through the sky after DarkKnightmon and the others.

    Dorbickmon glanced past the wafts of embers and smoke. He saw Duftmon give pursuit and he let his sword of flames shrink to its regular size. “Hey! Dog!” he called out to MirageGaogamon with a booming voice. MirageGaogamon bristled and looked over his shoulder. Dorbickmon grinned and pointed at Duftmon. “Make yourself useful and chase the cat!”

    MirageGaogamon narrowed his eyes and glanced at DarkKnightmon. “I’ll deal with him.”

    “Please,” DarkKnightmon said. As MirageGaogamon disappeared in a flash of blue, he continued towards the World Tree with Omegamon Zwart and Imperialdramon.

    Duftmon sneered as MirageGaogamon’s afterimage vanished in front of him. He realized that the wolf Digimon was going to keep him from reaching DarkKnightmon. He also took into account MirageGaogamon’s speed. Before he could respond, MirageGaogamon crashed into his side and tackled him into the stone wall beside the Royal Knights’ right flank.

    MiragaGaogamon then kicked off and sped upwards into the air. Duftmon winced and pulled himself from the wall, flapping his aching wings. The leopard knight glanced up to see where MirageGaogamon had gone. Next, he glanced over to his right, towards the forest. The army of mercenaries had arrived. Digimon, big and small, champion to mega, piled out of the forest. They charged around the outer edges of the wall to attack the Royal Knights forces, which were still separated from the middle lane.

    “Come on, guys!” Vikemon shouted, passing Dorbickmon as he charged the Royal Knights’ left flank with his Valancers. “Kick ***! There’re huge bags of cash waiting for us after this battle!”

    “Are we allowed to kill any of ‘em boss?” one of his mercenaries asked.

    “DarkKnightmon said we can if we have to. So if they don’t go down easy, make ‘em data!” Vikemon responded, barrelling towards the formation of Strike Forces with his dual morning stars.

    “Even the Royal Knights?!” another shouted.

    “If you have the digizoid balls to try!” Vikemon shouted with a berserker laugh before plowing into the Order’s ranks and sending soldiers flying with a single swing of his arm.

    Meanwhile, Beowolfmon charged the Royal Knights’ right flank with the Licht Gruppe. “For the hope and light of the Digital World!” he cried out to his followers. He fired a salvo of several missiles from the cannon port on his left arm, and they flew towards the tight defence of the Shield Guards.

    Both Vikemon and Beowolfmon’s mercenary teams were backed up by a flood of other mercenaries. They were a team that DarkKnightmon recently hired: Kowloon Company. They were one of the largest and most notorious mercenary companies on the continent. It took DarkKnightmon a lot of haggling and insistent promises to get them to agree join him for a later payment. At this point, he had discarded his scruples about hiring Kowloon when he realized that their might was invaluable to his cause. Lately, more and more he justified discarding his morals by citing pragmatism, it seemed. As a result, he now secured waves of reinforcements that came pouring through the forests after the Valancers and Licht Gruppe.

    Duftmon narrowed his eyes at the development and turned his head up to see the azure blur rushing through the morning sky towards him. MirageGaogamon rushed towards him, but, this time, Duftmon was ready. MirageGaogamon slashed his clawed gauntlet at the leopard knight.

    Duftmon caught the gauntlet with his sword, which pressed between two of the bladed claws and held against him. He glared at MirageGaogamon with a look of disdain. “I don’t have time for you, mongrel; I have field tactics to execute!”

    He drove his boot into MirageGaogamon’s abdomen and kicked him away. He then slashed the Shoumatsu no Tsurugi downwards. “Aussterben!”

    A dark arc of energy ripped from the sword slammed into MirageGaogamon, throwing him backwards with a jolt.

    “Mode Change: Leopard Mode!” Duftmon spoke. He shifted into his Duftmon: Leopard Mode form and began running horizontally along the face of the nearby stone wall. The brown, four-legged feline then leapt from the wall onto a stone pillar jutting from the ground, and then down to the ground itself.

    Duftmon: Leopard Mode glanced over his shoulder and saw the blur of MirageGaogamon zigzagging towards him. “See how you like this… Eroberung!” Duftmon swiped his tail out and released a multitude of energy mines into the sky. They floated to various places in the air in a staggered formation. MirageGaogamon moved sharply out of the way as he found himself heading straight towards one, but, in doing so, he inadvertently impacted his back against another mine behind him. The explosion pulsed against his back and threw him into another mine in front of him, creating another explosion that send him hurdling into a nearby outcropping.

    As the stone spike split into two and MirageGaogamon fell towards the ground, Duftmon: Leopard Mode turned his nose up. “Hmph. Your speed isn’t so favourable now, is it?”

    MirageGaogamon caught himself before hitting the ground and began shooting towards Duftmon once again.

    -

    Meanwhile, DarkKnightmon and Omegamon Zwart approached the massive base of the World Tree. Ignoring the sounds of battle that came from out of sight, beyond the manufactured walls of rock, the two Digimon walked up to the thick trunk of the tree.

    “It didn’t take them long to repair it,” DarkKnightmon mused to himself as he stepped up to the bark with Imperialdramon Paladin Mode in tow. “But this time…”

    He reached up and hoisted the bound body of Imperialdramon from off his shoulder, lifting him down and standing him against the World Tree’s base. Imperialdramon raised his head weakly and leered at DarkKnightmon. He had been drifting in and out of consciousness since dawn broke, but now Imperialdramon was fully aware.

    The blue dragon man felt a strong, numb feeling in his arms, body, wings, tail, and parts of his legs. He knew it wasn’t from the chains, and it wasn’t from the freezing energy that Omegamon Zwart had attacked him with. Instead, his scales felt warm and tingling, and his muscles felt as if they weren’t his own. He couldn’t move them at all; it felt as if most of his body was asleep. He released a weak, frustrated grunt. “Why am I so numb…?”

    “Omegamon rubbed your body with weeping dragon flowers,” DarkKnightmon explained. “Their pollen contains a strong paralyzing agent that only affects dragon Digimon.”

    Imperialdramon scoffed and glanced aside. “Then are these digizoid chains really necessary…?”

    “I can never be too careful with you…” the dark knight responded matter-of-factly.

    The founder of the Royal Knights raised his head and stared at DarkKnightmon beseechingly. “DarkKnightmon… Think about what you’re doing right now…” he reasoned, forced to lean his chained body against the wooden trunk to keep himself standing. He looked into DarkKnightmon’s eyes.

    “I have done nothing but think about this, Imperialdramon,” DarkKnightmon responded in a cold, aloof voice. “Nothing you say will stop me. Not when I’m so close. All of this is necessary.”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode closed his eyes in disappointment. “None of this is necessary…” he whispered.

    DarkKnightmon turned away. “Hold him in place, Omegamon Zwart. Hard,” he ordered.

    The black form of Omegamon Zwart stepped up to Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and dropped his Garuru Arm and Grey Arm to the ground. He pressed his hands against Imperialdramon’s chained body and held him firmly against the trunk.

    Face to face with Omegamon Zwart, Imperialdramon looked into his hard, callous, red eyes. “Omegamon…” he spoke.

    Omegamon Zwart’s gaze hardened further. “What?”

    “This isn’t you…” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode told him in a soft voice. “It’s not you at all…”

    At this, Omegamon sneered. “What would you know about me?” Omegamon Zwart asked him roughly, pressing against him harder. “You left years ago to do who knows what! You’ve never been around, so what give you the right to say that?”

    “Come on… We’re old friends, aren’t we…? From long before the Royal Knights were formed,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode responded with a ghost of a grin. “Do you even remember that…?”

    “I remember. All of it. You still left,” Omegamon Zwart countered tersely. “For an old friend, you sure were quick to abandon us… me. …Just like Alphamon did.”

    “…Is that what you think?” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode asked, closing his eyes and bowing his head with a sad smile. “DarkKnightmon really did a number on you…”

    “No,” Omegamon Zwart responded, moving his face closer and glaring hard at Imperialdramon’s. “He just opened my eyes… Before, I was too soft… too forgiving… I denied my own feelings for the sake of others. I put aside the pain and anger that I felt because it was expected of me. I was the faithful friend, after all...” His red eyes narrowed coldly. “When you left. When Alphamon lied to me. Do you think they hurt any less because I was kind, loyal, and understanding...?!”

    The smile disappeared and Imperialdramon Paladin Mode opened his eyes. “Omegamon…” he spoke, affected by his words.

    “Zwart. I’m a new Digimon now,” he corrected succinctly.

    “I didn’t turn my back on you…” Imperialdramon explained to him. “The reasons I left after the Order was formed had nothing to do with you at all.”

    “’Nothing to do with me’?” Omegamon Zwart asked him, leering harder at him. “How can you possibly claim that?”

    Imperialdramon weakly frowned. “What…?”

    “Did you even once think to talk to me about it? That, perhaps, I might not be okay with one of my closest friends leaving with hardly a trace?” the ebony paladin continued. “No, Imperialdramon. You just assumed that I wouldn’t mind. You didn’t take my feelings into account at all. It was all about your plans.”

    The winged warrior winced at this. “I…” He lowered his head, pulling his eyes down from Omegamon Zwart’s challenging gaze. “…I didn’t know you felt that way.”

    “Of course you didn’t,” Omegamon answered calmly. “You never thought to ask. None of you ever do… None except for DarkKnightmon.”

    As they spoke, DarkKnightmon opened up a long bag that he had carried with them.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode stared pensively at Omegamon’s chest. “Even if what you’re saying is true, DarkKnightmon’s manipulating your feelings,” he told him, looking up at him again.

    “You mean like Alphamon did?” the black knight asked. “Though, I suppose you don’t know what I mean, having been gone for so long.”

    DarkKnightmon couldn’t help but glance over his shoulder at them.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode frowned. “Alphamon isn’t like that. You know this…”

    “I thought I did… None of us really knew him. …’The Lord of the Empty Seat’. ‘The Aloof Hermit’. Those titles are fitting, considering how much he truly closes himself off to everyone. It went deeper than even I thought, and I was supposed to be one of his closest, most trusted friends,” the black Omegamon explained. His gaze lowered. “But he was closed off to all but OuRyuumon.”

    “What are you talking about?” Imperialdramon asked him, pressing the back of his head against the World Tree.

    “Did you think they were just childhood friends?” Omegamon Zwart questioned. “OuRyuumon’s the one who he shares his heart with. Shares his bed with. All those years that I thought he trusted me… He didn’t even tell me that secret. Apparently I wasn’t even worth that much to him.”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode was silent. DarkKnightmon, too, stood up and turned around in surprise and fascination. He contemplated Omegamon Zwart’s words silently and carefully.

    “…We all have the right to secrets,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode spoke, composing himself.

    “Are you just saying that because you feel it’s expected of you? Or because making excuses for him makes his lies easier to swallow?” the black knight asked. “Don’t you feel anything, Imperialdramon?”

    “He will in a moment,” DarkKnightmon said, stepping forwards with two, long objects in his hands. “Focus on holding him. I’m afraid this will hurt, Imperialdramon.”

    Omegamon Zwart nodded and grabbed Imperialdramon by the chains, shoving him hard against the tree so only his toes touched the ground.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode glared at DarkKnightmon as he approached. “DarkKnigh—AHH!”

    DarkKnightmon stabbed the Omega Blade into the middle of Imperialdramon’s right wing, piercing it through and ripping an agonized bellow from the white knight’s throat. The huge sword stabbed deep into the trunk of the World Tree, pinning the wing against the bark. Imperialdramon strained hard against the chains and Omegamon’s hold in agony. The cannon port on his chest tried to open up but to no avail.

    DarkKnightmon then walked around to the other side and thrust another, albeit regular, sword through Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s left wing and into the World Tree. A second shout escaped his mouth. Omegamon Zwart released him and Imperialdramon sagged forwards, although he was unable to fall due to being pinned up to the tree by the blades in his wings.

    Imperialdramon panted hoarsely and sweat rolled down his blue scales. He raised his head weakly and glared at DarkKnightmon. His wings twitched and quivered at the sheer pain that flooded through them. His crimson blood matted their silver-white feathers and trickled down their scales to the wing tips. He had to keep himself backed against the tree and standing on his toes to keep the fabric of his wings from ripping anymore.

    The sounds of battle echoed in the distance. The rumbles and shrieks of attacks and the clamor of weapons sounded out beyond the earth walls. DarkKnightmon stepped towards Imperialdramon so that he was directly in front of him. He raised his extended arm towards the bound knight and aimed one head of the Twin Spear at him. He eyed him coldly. “Omegamon Zwart. You may leave to join the battle. I won’t force you to watch this.”

    A pained, angry hiss escaped Imperialdramon’s tensed mouth. He darted his hardened, red eyes over to Omegamon Zwart. “Omegamon… You asked me if I felt anything about what you told me… Sure I did… but Alphamon’s my friend. And so are you,” he told him, a mixture of pain and emotion in his voice. “Do you feel anything when you see this?”

    Omegamon Zwart stared at him.

    Wordlessly, he bent down and picked up his Grey Arm and Garuru Arm, placing them back on his arms. He turned away and began to walk away from him.

    However, after a few steps, he stopped. Omegamon turned and looked over his shoulder at Imperialdramon, as if he was going to say something. He seemed like he was going to turn around, but he had second thoughts. He frowned and looked forwards again, seemingly conflicted. After a few, quiet seconds, Omegamon Zwart closed his eyes and shook his head before flying into the air.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s gaze softened as Omegamon flew away. He bowed his head sadly. After a moment, he slowly raised it to stare at DarkKnightmon. “So… this is it,” he spoke with a short, ironic, mirthless laugh. “Are you really going to kill me, DarkKnightmon?

    DarkKnightmon’s hard expression didn’t change. “You and the World Tree. In the same blast.”

    “I never thought it… would be you. Back when I created the Royal Knights, I never… could have guessed it would… turn out this way,” he said between twinges of pain. “You had… such a good heart.”

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and began to pump shadows into the tip of his spear as he charged up the attack. “It has to be done.”

    Imperialdramon eyed the Twin Spear as darkness poured through its shaft, causing it to brim with dark energy. He then looked up, into DarkKnightmon’s eyes. “You act cold, but it’s just a cover… You don’t really want to do this, do you?”

    “Of course I do,” DarkKnightmon answered, a bit of strength in his normally level, deep voice. “You’re as sentimental and optimistic as Alphamon if you think that I don’t want to cut these binding chains tethering the Royal Knights. This faith… your ideals… They’re both the symbols of the Order, as well as their greatest flaws. They hold the Order back. And losing you both will cause the Order to crumble irreparably. That’s why I want to do this.”

    “So, do it,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode challenged him.

    DarkKnightmon sneered and gripped the Twin Spear harder, preparing the attack. “Very well…”

    “I don’t think you can go through with it,” the white knight replied.

    “And what makes you think that?” DarkKnightmon retorted, the Twin Spear now trembling with the power of a massive attack.

    “Because there’s still goodness inside you, DarkKnightmon…” Imperialdramon spoke with a small smile.

    DarkKnightmon glared and raised his spear to fire. The black and violet shadows began to drift from the tip of the Twin Spear as he prepared to launch the destructive beam.

    He narrowed his gaze at the bound Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and was about to fire…

    But he hesitated.

    Before he could decide whether or not to go through with it, there was a chorus of cheers from the battlegrounds, as well as a decided amount of noise from behind them, to the south of the World Tree.

    “The Royal Knights are here!” a scout shouted.

    DarkKnightmon’s eyes widened somewhat and he took a few steps away to try and look around the side of the World Tree.

    The Royal Knights rushed along the sides of the World Tree, along with the rest of the Reconnaissance Squadron and the Strike Forces that were helping their search. At the same time as this, the stone wall to the left started to come crashing down at the far end, blasted down by some of the Strike Forces. Not long after, the Defence Forces, broke through the right wall and caused it to collapse in a heap of smoke. With these barriers down, the battles began to spill over into the previously unoccupied middle lane, with both flanks moving closer and closer together.

    “Damn it,” DarkKnightmon hissed. He spun his spear around and raised the opposite end towards the sky. The tip pulsed and shot a weaker beam high into the grey sky, piercing through some of the World Tree’s branches in the process.

    Alphamon, who was heading the charge of the reinforcements, lead them into the battle. “Charge up down the middle of the battlefield between those collapsed walls! Reinforce those flanks!” he ordered. As he flew forwards, he caught sight of the dark blast as he rounded the huge trunk of the World Tree. This drew his attention to DarkKnightmon. Alphamon stopped in his tracks when he saw Imperialdramon Paladin Mode chained and pinned against the tree. “Imperialdramon!” he exclaimed.

    Alphamon glared and began to dive towards the two, the Seiken Gradalpha in one hand, and a Digitalize of Soul beam charging up in the other.

    “You hesitated,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode said to DarkKnightmon. “I was right.”

    DarkKnightmon sneered and pointed the charged end of the Twin Spear back at Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. “I was waiting for an audience,” he countered, making ready to fire.

    Alphamon readied his blast as well. “Digitalize of-- !”

    Before he could fire at DarkKnightmon, Omegamon Zwart flew up, directly in front of him. He slashed the Grey Sword. Alphamon slashed his holy sword defensively, locking blades with the black warrior. “Omegamon…” he murmured. Alphamon glanced over his shoulder for help, and saw several of the Royal Knights moving to join the fray. “Sleipmon!” he yelled out. “Help Imperialdramon!”

    Sleipmon turned and flew over, spotting DarkKnightmon and Imperialdramon Paladin Mode at the base of the tree. He flew past Alphamon and Omegamon Zwart as they struggled and raised his Muspellsheimr crossbow to line it up with his eye. When he was satisfied with his shot, he fired.

    “Bifröst!”

    An incandescent bolt of light from the crossbow launched and pierced through the air towards DarkKnightmon. DarkKnightmon, seeing the light shooting at him out of the corners of his eyes, fired before it could hit him. However, Sleipmon’s attack was slightly faster. The bolt slammed into his right hand with remarkable accuracy, fracturing the back of his gauntlet and forcing the Twin Spear way out to the side as he fired.

    DarkKnightmon’s arm was forced across his chest from the impact, causing his spear to bend to the side even further than his arm. The Twin Spear fired an immense column of darkness, but it was wildly off target. The beam ripped along the edge of the World Tree’s trunk, causing a deep trench in the wood, but it completely missed Imperialdramon Paladin Mode, and it didn’t to the damage to the tree that he intended.

    The dark knight scoffed with irritation and looked up to see Sleipmon descending towards him. “Fool,” he whispered, slashing the Twin Spear out again.

    “Bifröst!” Sleipmon shouted again, firing another arrow from his crossbow at DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon jumped back in time to avoid being struck. The resplendent arrow landed in front of him and exploded in a burst of light. He counterattacked by raising his spear and unleashing a dark beam towards Sleipmon.

    Sleipmon continued on, even as the consuming stream of shadows hurdled towards him. He raised the Niflheimr shield up in front of him, bracing himself for the attack. The dark energy slammed into his shield, but the immensely durable red digizoid held firm. He was steadfast against the attack, and the shadows only proved to strain his arm as the tendrils of darkness parted around the Niflheimr.

    The attack dissipated and Sleipmon descended to the ground right in front of Imperialdramon. He held his shield in front of them defensively and aimed his crossbow at DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon sneered at this obstruction. He glanced over his shoulder to see how the battle was progressing. The Royal Knights’ reinforcements were pouring into the middle patch of the field, and the battle was spreading into it was well. He began to wonder if his signal worked. He looked ahead at Sleipmon and Imperialdramon. “I’ll have time for them later. Right now, I have to make sure the flow of the battle goes in our favour,” he thought to himself.

    He looked over his shoulder to the east of the World Tree. He could see the trees begin to shake and rattle, and the din of thunderous footsteps became an undertone to the clamour of battle.

    A horde of dinosaur Digimon flooded out from the right flank, headed by Triceramon X at the front of the stampede. It was the Dune Troopers – or at least a splinter section of them. They were mercenaries from the Mesozoic Kingdom.

    Good. They came,” DarkKnightmon thought with a breath of relief at seeing his wave of reinforcements. With that notion, he jumped away before Sleipmon could fire another arrow. He sprinted across the field as the Royal Knights’ reinforcements closed in on him from both sides. He slashed his spear along them as he went, and plowed through anybody who got in his way.

    Sleipmon sneered and turned away from him, towards Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. “Sir Imperialdramon Paladin Mode,” he said with concern, still on a formal basis with him as he had only met him once before. He eyed the bloody, trembling wings still pinned to the tree by the two swords.

    Imperialdramon raised his bowed head a little. “Just ‘Imperialdramon’, Sleipmon…” he told him with a very faint, lighthearted look in his eyes.

    “I’ll get you down from there,” Sleipmon assured him, approaching the Omega Blade jutting out of the tree.

    “That would be nice of you…” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode replied.

    Sleipmon reached out and placed his left hand on the Omega Blade gently, careful not to move it and unnecessarily cause Imperialdramon any pain. He then extended his right hand and took hold of the hilt of the other sword that dug into Imperialdramon’s left wing. “I’ll try to make this quick,” he explained. Upon seeing the white knight nod, Sleipmon dug his six hooves into the grass and readied himself to pull strongly. When he was happy with his grip and foothold, he pulled the swords out sharply.

    As Sleipmon ripped the blades from the bark and Imperialdramon’s wings, Imperialdramon let out a hoarse gasp of pain and he collapsed to his knees, freed from their hold. He doubled over and panted, his wings tensing and furling up. Sleipmon caught himself from stumbling back from the pull and looked down at the Royal Knights’ founder with a wince. “I’m sorry about that. Are you alright?” he asked.

    Imperialdramon gave a short nod. “Thanks…”

    Sleipmon nodded and dropped both blades to the ground. He approached the dragon man and bent down to see if he could undo the chains, but he wasn’t sure where to start. They were chrome digizoid and sealed by a lock. At the same time, his attention was drawn towards the pack of dinosaurs charging towards the battlefield from the west. He grimaced uncertainly and looked at Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. “I’m… not sure that—“

    “I’ll be fine,” Imperialdramon insisted, already realizing the dilemma. “Just do what you need to do.”

    Sleipmon nodded again and turned towards the right. “I’ll protect this approach from those flankers.” He raised his left arm and aimed the Muspellsheimr at them. “And you and the World Tree along with it.”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode looked up with a grin, despite his obvious pain. “Okay. If you need me to nudge them with my wings, just say so…”

    -

    Continued in the next post
     
  19. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Continued from the previous post

    -

    “Grey Sword!”

    Omegamon Zwart’s blade burst with fire and descended on Alphamon. Alphamon sneered and blocked the sword with his Seiken Gradalpha, causing the blade of light to waver and intensify.

    “Omegamon, stop this!” Alphamon told him, grunting and pushing back against his sword.

    Omegamon Zwart merely narrowed his eyes and pulled the Grey Sword away, instead, bringing up his Garuru Cannon and aiming it at Alphamon. “Garuru Cannon!”

    Alphamon grunted and raised his left hand. “Digitalize of Soul!”

    The two attacks fired right into one another and exploded, throwing each combatant back. Alphamon winced when his back collided with the trunk of the World Tree. It didn’t take long for him to recover, but the same was true for Omegamon, who was already rushing him with his Grey Sword.

    Alphamon kicked off the trunk and flew to the side, dodging the slash, which ended with the Grey Sword hacking deep into the tree, drawing glowing sap from within it. Omegamon Zwart winced and pulled his sword from the wood, racing after Alphamon aggressively.

    “Just listen to me, Omegamon! Let me talk to you!” Alphamon insisted. Omegamon Zwart ignored Alphamon as he rushed towards him. He closed in on him quickly, poising the Grey Sword back. With a frustrated sneer, Alphamon outstretched his palm. “Digitalize of Soul!”

    An emerald flash burst from his hand and crashed into Omegamon Zwart’s chest plate, just enough to throw him back through the air.

    Omegamon Zwart stopped himself in the air and raised his cannon immediately, swiftly getting Alphamon in his sights.

    “Garuru Cann—“ Omegamon suddenly stopped and turned his head, looking at something off to the side with a look of shock.

    “Sorry, Megz!” Dynasmon said, diving in and slamming his massive fist into Omegamon Zwart’s face. Omegamon Zwart released a shout of pain as he was pummelled backwards.

    Alphamon lowered his sword slightly and looked at Dynasmon with surprise. “Dynasmon…” he said with a touch of gratefulness in his voice.

    Dynasmon turned and looked over his shoulder at Alphamon. “…I’ve still got your back, Alphamon,” he assured him.

    Alphamon smiled. “I never doubted that for a moment,” he insisted.

    A half grin formed on Dynasmon’s face. “Someone has to save your butt on a regular basis,” he said. However, Dynasmon grew serious again and looked over at Omegamon Zwart. “Want help with him?”

    “No, thank you… I think this is something I need to do alone,” Alphamon said. He paused and glanced down for a second before looking back at Dynasmon. “But you’ll be the first one I come to if I do.”

    Dynasmon nodded. “Okay… I’ll go bail out Duftmon,” he said, looking over to where Duftmon was fighting MirageGaogamon.

    “Be safe,” Alphamon told him, flying past the dragon to engage Omegamon Zwart. Omegamon Zwart recovered and met Alphamon in a dazzling clash of blades.

    “You too…” Dynasmon spoke quietly, eyeing them before shooting off, up the battlefield. As he flew through the cluttered sky, he glanced to the side and noticed the Dune Troopers coming in closer from the right flank. Duftmon would be pivotal in coming up with counter-tactics.

    Ahead of him, Duftmon: Leopard Mode leapt off of a pillar of rock just before it shattered, destroyed by MirageGaogamon’s Double Crescent Mirage attack. He bounded through the air, swerved sharply to fly towards the blue warrior. “Blockade!” he spoke, rushing at MirageGaogamon.

    “Gale Claw!” MirageGaogamon countered, going to meet his attack. The two passed by each other, nicking the other with their blades in a burst of sparks. They then turned around and clashed again, and then again.

    On the third pass, MirageGaogamon spun around while flying and aimed the cannon in his chest. The wolf-like jaws opened up and energy began to gather within its maw. “Full Moon Blaster!”

    Right as MirageGaogamon began to fire, he felt something linger behind him. Suddenly, Dynasmon came up around him, moving up and hooking his shoulders back in a powerful restrictive hold. Dynasmon then swung MirageGaogamon to the side and forced him to fire at the charging Dune Troopers.

    MirageGaogamon growled and immediately cut off his attack after it fired, so only a small portion of the beam slammed into their ranks.

    “Once a traitor, always a traitor, eh, MirageGaogamon?” Dynasmon said to him.

    “Dynasmon…” MirageGaogamon muttered. He swung his lower body up and then lashed his foot backwards, kicking Dynasmon’s chest hard enough to make him let go.

    Dynasmon winced a bit and released him. He flapped his large wings and flew back, aiming his hands. “Dragon’s Roar!” Wind and electricity surged from the gems in his palms and exploded on contact with MirageGaogamon’s back, throwing him to the ground below.

    The white and purple Royal Knight turned towards Duftmon: Leopard Mode. “You’re welcome, Duftmon.”

    Duftmon mode changed back into his usual humanoid form and flew over to Dynasmon. “I had it under control.”

    “Yeah, well, now maybe you can do something about that,” Dynasmon said, nodding over to the Dune Troopers as they fast approached the Royal Knights’ right flank.

    Duftmon nodded, his mind working quickly. He then began scanning the battlefield. Sleipmon was at the base of the World Tree, protecting it and Imperialdramon Paladin Mode while firing at the Dune Troopers. Examon was flying high in the air, also sniping at the wave of dinosaur reinforcements, as well as the mercenaries who weren’t in the thick of the fighting. Magnamon was with the Strike Forces on the left, firing into the mercenaries’ ground troops, while UlforceVeedramon fought their aerial forces. RhodoKnightmon was busy in the thick of the fighting against the Kowloon mercenaries, while Dukemon flew on Grani’s back, firing from above until the fighting got too thick. Alphamon was occupied with Omegamon Zwart. This left, Craniamon, who seemed to be drifting from one part of the battlefield to another, taking down large opponents.

    “Craniamon!” Duftmon called out to him. “Deal with MirageGaogamon!”

    Craniamon turned around and looked up at Duftmon, and then down to locate MirageGaogamon. He gave a short nod and dashed over to the recovering warrior. He lunged high into the air and slashed the Claiohm Solais down on him mightily. MirageGaogamon’s eyes widened and he had to use his speed to dodge it, although part of his cape was cleaved off in the process. Craniamon then whipped the other end of his double-headed spear up, slashing the blade up MirageGaogamon’s armour and knocking him backwards.

    With MirageGaogamon now occupied, Duftmon turned to Dynasmon. “I need you to go out on the flank to meet those dinosaur Digimon before they tear into the Defence Forces. I require time to reorganize the battle formations to account for those reinforcements. Can you handle them?”

    Dynasmon grinned confidently. “Who do you think you’re talking to?” he asked him.

    “A reckless fool,” Duftmon replied. “Now, go. Give me as much time as possible.”

    Dynasmon nodded and began to fly out to the east. After several seconds of flying, he stopped and turned around. “This is where you call after me and say, ‘Be careful!’!” Dynasmon said with a wider grin.

    Duftmon glanced over with a raised eyebrow. “…Yes, yes,” he muttered with a dismissive wave. He then flew off in the air to organize the troops.

    The dragon man chuckled and turned around, beginning to fly easy again. As he flew, he unleashed a beam from his left palm that swallowed up a Piccolomon from the Licht Gruppe. He dove down and landed in an empty part of the clearing, standing between the charging Dune Troopers and the Defence Forces, who were currently fighting the Licht Gruppe and Kowloon Company that came from the north.

    Dynasmon looked ahead of him with hard eyes. He hadn’t been able to count before, but the Dune Trooper reinforcements numbered at least a hundred. Being mercenaries from the Mesozoic Kingdom, they were mostly all big, bulky dinosaurs.

    The Dune Troopers charged across the huge clearing in a daunting stampede. The flowers and grass were trampled underfoot, and the ground trembled and shuddered at the sheer weight of their stomping. Many Digimon would falter, being forced to stand up to a throng of charging dinosaurs. However, Dynasmon was steadfast. He glared his red, adrenaline-filled eyes at the charging horde. The dinosaur Digimon roared and snarled as they stampeded, intent on breaking right through the Royal Knights’ ranks.

    Dynasmon closed his eyes and his form began to glow blue as draconic energy drifted up from his body. The aura began to take shape in the form of a giant wyvern, which drifted up from Dynasmon’s body and flapped his broad wings. Wyvern growled lowly and glared his three eyes at the ferocious charge.

    “Breath… of… Wyvern!” Dynasmon shouted, his eyes snapping open glaring wildly.

    Wyvern screeched deeply and flapped his wings rapidly, taking off and rushing the horde of dinosaur Digimon. The white, incandescent dragon dove down and swept across the Dune Troopers’ ranks. A massive explosion erupted in the middle of the charge, sending energy, dinosaurs, and fractured data blasting up in an outwards burst. The detonation of draconic energy created a massive crater in the clearing and sent a powerful shockwave tearing through the ground.

    The savage attack took out nearly twenty percent of the Dune Troopers, but they kept charging. The gap in their ranks filled in as more dinosaur Digimon took the places of the ones that were deleted.

    A squadron of Pteramon flying over the charging dinosaurs began to pivot their bodies down towards Dynasmon. “Side Winder!” they called out. A multitude of missiles from under their armoured wings began to hiss before launching into the air. Countless missiles steamed through the air and descended on Dynasmon while he was still recovering from using the Breath of Wyvern attack.

    Dynasmon grunted and raised his arms to brace himself from the incoming explosions.

    “Jishin! Kaminari! Kaji! Oyaji!” A strong voice shouted from nearby, each word punctuated emphatically.

    Suddenly, a yellow aura dragon ripped through the air, sweeping through the descending missiles and detonating them in mid air before they could hit Dynasmon. Dynasmon looked up with shock. “What the hell…? I recognize that thing…”

    The yellow dragon then turned and soared towards the Pteramon, enveloping them in his destructive energy. One of the Pteramon, who turned to flee the dragon was promptly thrown out of the sky by the creature’s claws. Then, it struck down violently with his fists on several of the charging dinosaur Digimon. The dragon then dissipated into wafts of energy and began to drift back across the clearing to where it came from.

    “I have to say, Royal Knight, you’ve impressed me,” the voice said from beside him.

    Dynasmon turned his head with surprise. Standing next to him was Gankoomon, who stood, facing the approaching stampede with folded arms. Hinukamui gathered back on his shoulders after returning from his attack, and looked over at Dynasmon.

    “Gankoomon?” he asked, blinking.

    “Bull-face,” Gankoomon responded with a grin. “You may be an ***, but you’ve got balls of chrome digizoid to stand up to these guys by yourself. Like I said, I’m impressed.”

    “That’s high praise coming from the guy who was tearing us a new one a few days ago,” Dynasmon said, giving him a sideways glance.

    “I’m an honest guy,” Gankoomon answered with a shrug. “You were pretentious dicks before. Now you’re pretentious dicks that I’m beginning to respect.”

    “Thanks, I think,” Dynasmon answered, though managing a smirk of his own. “And you’re here because…?”

    “I did say that I was coming back,” the red-haired warrior explained. “Besides, it looks like you could use some help against these desert lizards.”

    “Nah, I’ve got it covered,” Dynasmon said, once again summoning Wyvern from his body. Wyvern rose into the air, flapping his wings and glancing over at Hinukamui.

    Hinukamui eyed Wyvern competitively and rose from Gankoomon’s back to match his size, making a point to puff his aura chest out. Gankoomon grinned and looked at Dynasmon. “Tough luck. You’re stuck with me, Bull-face.”

    “That’s ‘Dynasmon’, loud mouth,” Dynasmon responded as he directed Wyvern to attack. “And if you find you can’t keep, I think I saw some Champion-level Digimon over that way who might be closer to your skill level. Don’t worry; I won’t make fun of you.”

    Gankoomon laughed as Hinukamui got ready to attack too. “Let me show you what a real man can do.”

    “Breath of Wyvern!”

    “Jishin! Kaminari! Kaji! Oyaji!”

    Both Wyvern and Hinukamui flew forwards, side-by-side, soaring at the Dune Troopers at the mass of reptiles closed in on them. The two aura dragons nudged each other before both splitting off and descending on the army of mercenaries. Two massive explosions formed into one, sending a blinding light spilling out from the point of impact. The combined power was enough to send even some of the heaviest of the dinosaur Digimon flying into the air and bursting into data.

    Triceramon X, the leader of that group of Dune Troopers, growled as heat, power, and dirt washed over him and his remaining mercenaries. “Damn it! Keep charging! We’re almost there!” he ordered, dashing to the center to fill the gap. He was making a direct run for Dynasmon and Gankoomon.

    Dynasmon and Gankoomon both glanced at each other and burst into a run, eager to meet the Triceramon X’s charge. As the stampede closed in on them, they both lunged at Triceramon X.

    “Tekken Seisai!” Gankoomon shouted, his fists burning with energy.

    They rushed forwards and each planted a fist into the Triceramon X’s armoured face, stopping his full charge in his tracks. When Triceramon X stumbled back with a cry, the two warriors both turned towards the other mercenaries.

    “Dragon’s Roar!” Dynasmon shouted, firing a spiral blast of ice and earth aura at the nearby dinosaurs.

    “Chabudai Gaeshi!” Gankoomon yelled. He reached into the ground with his hand, causing it to suddenly become hard. He then ripped up a large slab of solid ground that had the consistency of chrome digizoid and held it over his head like it was a table. Dynasmon raised a curious brow at the sight and watched as Gankoomon threw it mightily at the mercenaries. The chunk of earth slammed into them and sent them flying.

    “That’s new,” Dynasmon mused.

    Gankoomon shot a smirk at him. “Impressed? Well, keep watching, Royal Knight,” he told him, rushing towards their enemies.

    “Yeah. I would, but I’ll be a little busy showing you up,” Dynasmon replied, grabbing Triceramon X by his horns and using his enormous strength to lift the dinosaur over his head. He then swung the massive dinosaur around and flung him into his fellow mercenaries.

    “We’ll see…” Gankoomon said, a competitive glint in his visor.

    The two then continued in their melee with the Dune Troopers, punching and blasting away.

    -

    Dorbickmon watched from the tree line as the battle unfolded in front of him. The Digimon the Royal Knights’ Order and the mercenaries railed against each other in a bitter, bloody battle. He would slash a soldier away whenever they tried to rush him, but he wasn’t actively partaking in the battle very much.

    He was still shaken by what happened between him and Examon. He began to care less about this battle; Examon wasn’t there and he wasn’t getting any payment out of this like the other mercenaries.

    However, he suddenly stepped forwards when he saw the Royal Knights arrive with their reinforcements. He watched the grey, morning sky and the massive boughs of the World Tree carefully. As the Royal Knights came to the aid of their soldiers, Dorbickmon looked around at them alertly.

    He then snarled and gripped the Tyrant Collbrande in his hand. He had spotted Examon in the sky, shooting with his lance-rifle hybrid. Upon seeing the draconic Royal Knight, Dorbickmon burst into a sprint.

    “Burning the Dragon!” Dorbickmon yelled, dragging his fiery blade through the ground as he ran.

    A flat pillar shot up among the Royal Knights’ ranks, throwing several soldiers into the air. Then another, slightly higher pillar burst out of the ground behind it, followed by another and another, creating a staircase into the sky. Dorbickmon pulled his blade from the ground and bounded onto the first pillar. He then jumped onto the next pillar and continued on, lunging from column to column, until he reached the highest one. Dorbickmon leapt from the rock outcropping in a mighty jump.

    Examon finished firing a laser from the Ambrosius straight into a collection of Licht Gruppe mercenaries. As the laser dissipated and the breath of energy wafted from the lance’s tip, Examon turned around to investigate the noise he heard behind him. To his shock, he saw Dorbickmon lunging towards him. “Dorbick-?!”

    Dorbickmon crashed into Examon, cutting at the armoured edge of his wing with the Tyrant Collbrande. He grabbed Examon by the snout and forced him into a free fall. Examon struggled with Dorbickmon in the air, trying to free the Ambrosius from being trapped between their armoured bodies. The Caledfwlch wings tried to flap powerfully, but at the awkward angle combined with Dorbickmon’s added weight and struggling, they couldn’t right Examon in time. Examon crashed into the ground on his back.

    As Dorbickmon crashed down on top of him, Examon’s horns dug into the ground and blood shot out of his nostrils. Luckily for him, his wings cushioned him from the worst of the fall, but he still felt a sharp pain in his head and face. Examon lashed his arm out and pushed Dorbickmon’s hand from his snout and shoved back against Dorbickmon’s superior weight.

    Dorbickmon resisted, pushing Examon back into the ground with an angry snarl. “You bastard…” he growled at him, glaring down at the dragon knight beneath him. “What are you doing to me?! You’re messing with my damn head!”

    Examon grunted and swung the Ambrosius out, using it to throw Dorbickmon off of him. He pulled himself to his feet quickly, using his tail to steady himself and ignoring the trickle of blood down the front of his snout. “What…?” he asked him.

    “Nothing! Just shut your mouth, Examon,” Dorbickmon told him, holding the Tyrant Collbrande vertically in front of him. “This time, we’re finishing this for good. No distractions.”

    Examon winced and lifted the Ambrosius slowly. “Dorbickmon… I know you don’t really—“

    “Shut up and fight me!” Dorbickmon shouted, dashing forwards and swiping his fiery blade down.

    -

    Meanwhile, another showdown took place beneath the umbrella-like branches of the World Tree. Alphamon and Omegamon Zwart faced off in a bitter duel.

    Omegamon Zwart launched a powerful blast from his cannon. The orb sailed towards Alphamon, but the leader of the Royal Knights quickly slashed the icy burst aside with the Seiken Gradalpha sword. Mist and steam wisped in front of him as he brought the sword of light out to the side. Alphamon gazed across the airspace at Omegamon with a determined look in his eyes.

    “Omegamon...” he said.

    “Would you stop it already?” Omegamon Zwart hissed, flying towards him. “It’s becoming pathetic. I have had enough of your and Imperialdramon’s excuses.”

    “I don’t care,” Alphamon replied, swerving through the sky towards his friend. “I’m your friend so it’s my duty to get through to you!”

    Omegamon Zwart scoffed at the notion. He closed in on Alphamon and hacked his blade down towards the knight.

    Alphamon tore his sword up and blocked the Grey Sword from hitting him. “I’ll defeat you, Omegamon, if that’s what it takes. I’ll bring you down,” he told him, though the pain was obvious in his words. He stared into Omegamon Zwart’s eyes, his sword shimmering with light as it held against Omegamon Zwart’s sword.

    “If you think you can,” Omegamon Zwart responded icily. He brought the Garuru Cannon up to Alphamon’s chest at point blank range.

    Alphamon grabbed hold of the cannon and forced Omegamon’s arm out to the side. The cannon fired and the blast whizzed past Alphamon’s wing, slamming into a branch of the World Tree. The branch shattered and crashed to the ground heavily. Omegamon Zwart sneered and drove his black knee into Alphamon’s gut. Alphamon winced and doubled over, but he retaliated with a mighty swing of his arm. He cracked his gauntleted knuckles across Omegamon’s face.

    Omegamon grimaced and staggered to the side from the painful blow. Despite this, he retaliated by smashing the rim of the Garuru Cannon across Alphamon’s face. As Alphamon recoiled in shooting pain, Omegamon took the opportunity to fire another large blast from his cannon straight into Alphamon’s chest. The Lord of the Empty Seat let out a garbled yell as the sub zero energy ripped against his armour. Tiny fissures formed in Alphamon’s chest plate.

    “I am stronger than before in this form, Alphamon,” Omegamon Zwart told him, eyeing Alphamon lowly. “I defeated Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. You can’t win.”

    “That’s what you think…” Alphamon said, panting a bit as the ice melted off his armour. He raised his sword and pointed it at Omegamon Zwart. “You’re not strong like that, Omegamon. Is using the powers of evil as might really strength? The old you wouldn’t think so.”

    “What powers of evil?” Omegamon Zwart responded, narrowing his eyes and stabbing his Grey Sword at Alphamon’s chest. “Don’t preach at me!”

    Alphamon manoeuvred his wings to swerve to the side and avoid the stab. With a grimace, he reluctantly swept the Seiken Gradalpha down Omegamon Zwart’s left arm, cutting into his black armour and burning across his bicep. Omegamon Zwart winced with pain and shot the Garuru Cannon around to fire at Alphamon. The blast, hastily aimed, slammed into Alphamon’s shin.

    A shock of pain shot up Alphamon’s leg. With a pained breath, he aimed his left palm with Omegamon’s chest. “Digitalize of Soul!” His hand exploded with emerald energy and slammed into Omegamon’s chest.

    The dark knight was thrown away from Alphamon by the blast. Omegamon Zwart winced and glanced down at his chest, noticing visible damage in his armour as well. Wafts of black energy seemed to permeate the cracks.

    “DarkKnightmon corrupted you, Omegamon!” Alphamon attempted to explain. “He used the negative energies of the Dark Area to make you that way!”

    “So what if he did?” Omegamon Zwart countered. “I prefer it this way. No longer will my nature be taken advantage of.”

    “You aren’t thinking clearly, Omegamon. That… darkness… is distorting your emotions – it’s bringing out the worst in you!”

    “Doesn’t that mean it was always there to begin with?” Omegamon reasoned, narrowing his sanguine eyes.

    “They say the greatest good is susceptible to the greatest evil,” Alphamon replied, frowning hard. He gripped the Seiken Gradalpha tightly in his hand. “You aren’t like this, Omegamon! We all have negative feelings, sure, but the dark data has taken you over! You aren’t in control, even if you feel like you are!”

    “I’m more in control than I ever was,” Omegamon Zwart argued. “I’m free to remove you from my life, Alphamon.” He raised his Garuru Arm. “Garuru Cannon!” The black knight began pumping shot after shot from his cannon towards Alphamon.

    Alphamon sneered and flew out of the way to dodge one shot, and then swiftly swerved to avoid another and another. One of the blasts clipped his wing and another glanced across his leg, turning the metal frigid. Alphamon narrowed his eyes and unleashed several blasts from his palm towards Omegamon Zwart.

    Omegamon Zwart began to evade his counterattack as well, doing his best to dodge the powerful streaks of green light. He blocked one well placed shot with the side of Grey Sword, causing it to splay out into several smaller greens that burned across the edges of his armour and cape. He then blocked another shot with the Grey Shield on his shoulder. He rushed Alphamon aggressively. “Grey Sword!”

    “Seiken Gradalpha!” Alphamon countered, blitzing Omegamon in response.

    Their blades clashed in a burst of light strong enough to send a shockwave rippling out.

    “Why don’t you use your Alpha inForce…?” Omegamon Zwart challenged him

    “Because then I won’t be able to talk to you,” Alphamon responded.

    “Talking is useless,” he countered. “I know… what I’m doing.”

    “You’re not… in control at all, Omegamon,” Alphamon told him though strained growl as he held against Omegamon Zwart’s mighty attack.

    “More in control than… when I was your friend…” Omegamon Zwart argued, pushing hard against the holy blade.

    “That isn’t true…” Alphamon responded, grunting with effort. “I never took you for granted, Omegamon!”

    “Then what did you take me for?!” Omegamon asked him, his anger deepening and his strength increasing. “Someone who trusted you but couldn’t be trusted himself?! Or maybe a potential back up when things went badly with OuRyuumon… You took me for those, didn’t you?!”

    Alphamon grimaced at his words. “I… I’m sorry about that,” he mumbled to him with shame and regret gracing his tone.

    Omegamon Zwart growled and swung his Grey Sword around, pulling it away from the hold and slashing it down Alphamon’s left arm. Alphamon let out a snarl of agony as the blade ripped through his armour and tore across his flesh. Drops of crimson blood cascaded out when the blade exited along Alphamon’s forearm.

    With rage, Alphamon lashed out with his sword, driving the glowing hilt of his sword and his fist into the unarmoured part of Omegamon Zwart’s abdomen. The corrupted knight let out an angry cry when the light burned through the fabric and into his chest.

    Omegamon Zwart raised his Garuru Cannon and fired it into Alphamon’s chest at point blank range. The icy orb drilled into his chest armour, tearing away large pieces of metal and blasting into his chest.

    Alphamon’s eyes widened with pain and he was pushed back in the sky. He looked down the muzzle of the Garuru Cannon and saw that more white-blue energy was forming in the throat of the cannon. Despite the numb pain in his form, Alphamon acted decisively. He swung the Seiken Gradalpha down and cleaved straight through the snout of the Garuru Cannon, burning through the metal just above Omegamon’s finger tips. The cannon split in two, but Omegamon Zwart’s hand remained intact.

    Omegamon Zwart reacted with shock and silent rage when he saw that his Garuru Cannon had been destroyed. “…Alphamon!” he shouted, drilling his now-free fist into Alphamon’s face.

    Despite the pang of blood in his mouth, Alphamon took the attack, and raised his wounded arm to grab hold of Omegamon’s wrist. He then swung his sword out again and slammed it into the Grey Sword to keep it from attacking him. Alphamon took the opportunity to stare at Omegamon. “Omegamon… You’re still in there somewhere. I know you are!”

    Omegamon Zwart glared at him. “Let go of me…”

    “You need to break free…” Alphamon continued, ignoring his words and struggle of protest.

    Omegamon winced and wrenched his left arm free from Alphamon. He raised it up and slashed it down Alphamon’s chest viciously. The blade cleaved through what remained of his fractured chest armour and proceeded to slice a long gash diagonally down Alphamon’s chest.

    “You don’t know anything!” Omegamon Zwart shouted, his red eyes burning with fury.

    A tight, agonized grimace formed on Alphamon’s face as blood trickled down his chest. However, he fought through it and grabbed hold on Omegamon’s sword arm, holding it tightly so that he wouldn’t slash him again. He held Omegamon’s wrists tightly and forced his arms out.

    “I know you, Omegamon!” Alphamon shouted desperately.

    “You like to think you do!” the black Omegamon countered vehemently. “You think you can see into everybody’s souls, but you only see what you want to see! You want everybody to fill a convenient role for you! ‘Never mind Omegamon. He’ll always be there no matter what I do…’ That’s what you always believed!”

    “That isn’t true…” Alphamon responded, narrowing his eyes. “…If I really took you for granted, then why didn’t you stand up and say something!?”

    “Because I was weak!”

    He gripped Omegamon’s wrists tighter. “I don’t believe you, Omegamon! You didn’t help me and support me because I expected it of you! It wasn’t because you were weak! You stood by my side because you and I are friends! That’s the reason why I’m standing beside you now, damn it!” He leaned his face towards Omegamon Zwart and locked eyes with him intensely. “I care about you! And if you really don’t understand that, then you aren’t Omegamon!”

    Omegamon’s eyes widened at those passionate words. However, his look of shock soon morphed into a cold, angry leer. “You’re wasting… your time.”

    Alphamon’s gaze hardened. “No, I’m not. You know I’m right. And I know that you’re in there…” he told him resolutely. “I remember, Omegamon… You wouldn’t fire on the World Tree before. You remembered what it meant to be a Royal Knight!”

    Omegamon Zwart was silent.

    “’I pledge my blood… my data… my heart… and my soul to the betterment of the Digital World and those who reside in it…’” Alphamon begun, staring into Omegamon’s eyes.

    Omegamon looked at him with shock.

    Alphamon kept up the firm stare and continued. “’…to Yggdrasil, and, most of all…” He gripped Omegamon’s wrists a bit more softly. “’…to each other.’”

    Omegamon Zwart grimaced with pain and confusion and emotion. “’I am a Royal Knight… and this is my oath…’” he whispered, finishing the pledge. Suddenly, he ripped his hands away and grabbed his forehead with his right hand. “Be quiet! Enough!” he shouted as if trying to repress something inside of himself.

    He slashed the Grey Sword out towards Alphamon’s face. Alphamon raised his hand and calmly caught it in his palm just before it could strike his helmet, emerald power emanating from his hand to cushion his hand from the blade.

    “Omegamon… I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you about OuRyuumon and I.”

    Omegamon Zwart winced as he glared at Alphamon. He pulled his Grey Sword back.

    “…I was scared,” Alphamon admitted, his gaze softening. “Not of how you would react. Not because I thought you would tell the others… I was scared because I waited for so long. At first, when I became involved with OuRyuumon, yes, I didn’t want to tell anybody. …Even you. But it was because of me – my fears, my insecurities – not because of you or any of the others. I was still coming to terms with being in love with one of my closest friends…”

    Alphamon closed his eyes. “I put off telling you. I had always planned to, but… the longer that I waited, the harder it became to do. And the longer that I waited, the worse I knew it would sound, precisely because I didn’t tell you for so long. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Alphamon then opened his eyes and grinned sadly. “It was a self-fulfilling prophecy… Baronmon from Auguria told me that if I didn’t tell you the truth, I would lose you. …That was precisely what happened. I lost you… And that was the one thing that I wanted to prevent from the very beginning.”

    Omegamon Zwart grimaced and lowered his blade. “Alphamon…”

    “I have never felt worse than I did when I realized how much I hurt you…” Alphamon explained, his eyes moistening with emotion. “I’m… so sorry.”

    Omegamon Zwart’s gaze hardened and he began to poise the Grey Sword again. He contemplated stabbing Alphamon with it, but he suddenly had trouble doing so. In fact, the blade was trembling. “Damn… you… Why couldn’t you have just said something before…?” he muttered, wincing with pain. “You’re… weak…”

    “Sometimes…” Alphamon admitted, staring at him. “And you know my weaknesses better than anybody. I take too much on my own shoulders and I don’t let anybody else in… Does that sound right…?”

    “Stubborn fool…” Omegamon added, rubbing his temples as his head and body ached.

    “You make me stronger, Omegamon… You always have,” Alphamon said to him. He moved forwards and placed his hand on Omegamon Zwart’s armoured, black chest. “We love you, Omegamon. Come back to us.”

    Omegamon continued to rub his forehead with his palm over his face. As he did, a single tear trickled out from underneath it and dripped down from his hidden eyes.

    Despite this, he began to slowly raise his Grey Sword. He pulled it back and aimed it with Alphamon’s chest.

    “It’s… too late now…” Omegamon Zwart whispered, his eyes hidden by shadows. “I can’t break free…”

    He stabbed the Grey Sword forwards. The tip of blade embedded itself in Alphamon’s armour.

    As the blade dug into Alphamon’s chest, he reached out and grabbed the nose horn of the Grey Sword and began to try and push it back out. Blood dripped from the wound and Alphamon felt immense pain tearing through his body, but he stubbornly resisted. “You… can…” Alphamon whispered hoarsely, pushing the blade back with trembling arms. He unleashed a snarl of agony and effort. “I can… save you…”

    “You can’t!” Omegamon Zwart said bitterly. “I’m filled with hate… darkness… I can still feel it, even though…”

    “If there’s an ‘even though’… then there’s still hope!” Alphamon insisted, pulling the Grey Sword out of his armour, the sharp tip dripping with his blood.

    Omegamon Zwart’s Grey Arm dropped limply to his side. He looked down hopelessly.

    “I’ll… purify you…” Alphamon said, reaching in front of him and forming an intricate circle between them. The Royal Knight reached in and pulled the Seiken Gradalpha out in a flash of holy light. “It’s the only thing I can think of...”

    Omegamon Zwart just looked up at him. He didn’t resist.

    “I’m sorry, Omegamon… This is going to hurt…” Alphamon told him apologetically. He pointed the Seiken Gradalpha at Omegamon Zwart and created another, larger magical symbol in the air. The circle was as big as the black warrior and its insides were filled with Digi-letters, marks, and several smaller circles.

    Alphamon then moved behind Omegamon Zwart and created a second circle behind him. The corrupted knight watched as Alphamon continued to make another circle on his left, and a final one on his right side. Omegamon hovered, unmoving, surrounded by the magical, rotating sigils.

    Omegamon Zwart lifted his head as Alphamon flew back in front of him. He stared the wounded knight in the eyes, looking through the glowing circle between them. “Do it… Before I lose myself again… I trust you…”

    Alphamon’s gaze softened and he slowly approached with his sword. “Just like I trust you, Omegamon…” he gently replied.

    He gripped the Seiken Gradalpha in both hands and pulled it back behind his waist. As he angled the sword horizontally, he did his best to ignore the burning cuts and slashes on his body. “Seiken Gradalpha!” he shouted.

    He stabbed the sword of light precisely into the center of the glowing circle in front of him. As soon as the blade pierces past the magical barrier, light began to surge out from the circle. The beams of light impacted the other three sigils around Omegamon Zwart and ricocheted off one another. Every time the light hit one of the circles, it reflected again and intensified, until Omegamon Zwart’s whole body was encased a vertical beam of light.

    The light burned into his form, affecting his data at its very core. Omegamon Zwart released a howl of agony as his body was enveloped in the burning, holy light. He felt the dark data rip away from his own data, causing a horrible pain flooding through his whole body as he was purified. The roar of torture and anguish began to lessen as the dark data was forcibly expelled from Omegamon Zwart’s body.

    It wounded Alphamon to hear the pained cry of his friend, but he held his ethereal blade in place regardless. He poured his energy into the purification process, concentrating the light that shone from the Seiken Gradalpha. The light continued to beam at Omegamon Zwart from every angle for fifteen more seconds before Alphamon carefully withdrew the sword of light from the circle before them.

    The magical circles suddenly disappeared and the light began to fade away. Alphamon tried to see past the fading light to see if Omegamon was okay. He began to worry that the attempted purge of darkness might have been too much for his body to take.

    The light dispersed and Omegamon hovered in the air before him. His body was smoking and exhausted. However… his body was white again. His Garuru Arm and Grey Arm were restored to their blue and orange hues. Omegamon floated in his place, looking like his old self again.

    However, Omegamon faltered. His body began to drop towards the ground. Alphamon dismissed the Seiken Gradalpha in a flash of light and swooped down after him. The black knight reached out and caught the white one in his arms, holding him in a tight embrace as he lifted him up into the air.

    “Alpha… mon…” Omegamon whispered exhaustedly. He leaned forwards against Alphamon’s battle-worn and bloody body. “I’m sorry…” He closed his tearful, blue eyes and placed his face on Alphamon’s metal shoulder plate.

    “Me too,” Alphamon whispered to him, gently rubbing his caped back. He pulled his head back and looked down at Omegamon. “Don’t worry about it right now, though. You need to rest, my friend.”

    Omegamon nodded weakly and pulled away, although still too sore and shattered to fly on his own. Alphamon placed Omegamon’s unharmed arm over his shoulder and began to fly him towards the base of the World Tree.

    There, Sleipmon was still firing precise shots into enemy Digimon, incapacitating them as he defended Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and the World Tree. Alphamon poised his wings back and descended towards him.

    “Sleipmon!” Alphamon hailed, so that the cavalier Digimon didn’t mistake him for a flanking enemy.

    Sleipmon fired a bolt from his crossbow and glanced over his shoulder. Upon seeing that Omegamon’s regular form was restored, his purple eyes lit up with delight. However, he only allowed for that brief moment of happiness before turning forwards and firing at a Pegasusmon from the Licht Gruppe.

    Alphamon landed gently beside Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. Once there, he gently set Omegamon down close to him. The black knight looked at Imperialdramon’s wounded and chained form. “Are you okay, Imperialdramon?” he asked him with concern.

    “Don’t sweat it, Alphamon,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode insisted with a slight grin. “I’m pretty tough.”

    “Should I at least free you?” he asked, arching his eyebrow.

    “I’ll be fine,” Imperialdramon insisted. “The chains are pure chrome digizoid, so it’ll take you several minutes, even with your sword. You should use that time aiding in the battle instead. I don’t think I’d be able to stand, let alone fight, anyways. Not after the beating this one gave me.” He nodded over to Omegamon with a soft grin.

    Omegamon shut his eyes and looked away in shame.

    “Very well… If you’re sure,” Alphamon said.

    Sleipmon looked over at Alphamon and noticed all of the slashes in his armour, as well as the blood trickling down from some spots. “Should you be fighting in your condition?”

    “I’ll be okay, Sleipmon. Just protect them,” Alphamon told him. He nodded at the group before turning around and flying into the air.

    As Alphamon left to rejoin the fight, a silence overtook Omegamon and Imperialdramon Paladin Mode.

    Despite his extreme disorientation and weakness from the purge, Omegamon still remembered all of the things that he did while he was Omegamon Zwart. This included attacking Imperialdramon and turning his back on him. He didn’t feel worthy to be lying beside him.

    A sensation suddenly tingled in his right arm. He opened his eyes and looked over at his Garuru Arm. To his surprise, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s somewhat bloodied and numbed tail was curled around the muzzle of Omegamon’s Garuru Cannon, squeezing it gently. He looked up at Imperialdramon Paladin Mode.

    Imperialdramon smiled at him. “I’m glad you’re back to normal, Omegamon…”

    Omegamon was shocked at his forgiving words. “Imperialdramon… but…”

    “We… both did things we regret…” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode told him. “Let’s put it down to experience, okay?”

    Omegamon closed his eyes and nodded. He was too weak to do anything else. “…Thank you. You’re a very good friend, Imperialdramon.”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode smirked. “Don’t get all sappy.” He then nodded at the giant tree behind them. “…Seriously, I’m getting the World Tree’s sap all over my wings here.”

    The white Royal Knight managed a small, faint smile at his words. He then looked into the distant battle, wishing that he could step in and try to make up for everything that had happened with him.

    Those thoughts continued as the bloody battle stormed on.
     
  20. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    Author's Notes: Second last full chapter here. It's extra long so I'm splitting it into two parts.

    Chapter 29: The Light of Friendship (Part I)​



    The Battle of the World Tree continued to rage. As the grey clouds pervaded the sky with a sense of foreboding, aerial Digimon filled it with the colourful streams of attacks. Explosions tore across the clearing and felled trees within the surrounding forest. A few stray attacks occasionally hit the World Tree, causing its massive branches to tremble and its evergreen leaves to fall. Yells, roars, and the sounds of battle echoed through the air.

    There were now three ‘zones’ of battle. One was primarily between the Strike Forces and the Valancers, a second was between parts of the Defence Forces and the Licht Gruppe, and the third was between the rest of the Defence Forces and the Dune Troopers. The Royal Knights and their reinforcements supported these three areas of battle, as did Kowloon Company and DarkKnightmon’s forces.

    Energy, sparks, flames, blood, and data burst out at various points in the fierce battlefield.

    Magnamon released a barrage of missiles from his shoulders into a crowd of Kowloon mercenaries, blowing them up in several golden detonations. He then swooped down and delivered a powerful Magnum Kick to an enemy Valkyrimon’s face.

    “How are you holding up, RhodoKnightmon?!” he called over, glancing over his shoulder.

    RhodoKnightmon held his bladed ribbon in one of his hand while he readied the Pile Bunker in the other. “Just fine, Magna!” RhodoKnightmon responded, elegantly slashing his blade down a BlackMetalGreymon’s chest. “Urgent Fear!” He extended his arm out to the side, so that the Pile Bunker pointed directly at a lunging Diaboromon. The Pile Bunker vibrated and pulsed, releasing a shock wave that decimated the Diaboromon instantly.

    Magnamon released a concentrated gold beam from his armour into a DinoBeemon, felling the Digimon instantly. He frowned and flew up into the sky, inspecting the surrounding battle. He saw UlforceVeedramon aiding the Strike Forces out to the left.

    The blue dragon knight sliced his Ulforce Sabres through the chest and cannon of a Z’dGarurumon. UlforceVeedramon then spun around and took off in the battlefield in a cobalt flash, making it hard for Magnamon to keep track of him. He was able to catch glimpses every so often, occasionally seeing him fire his ‘Shining V Force’ attack, but not much else. Magnamon then turned around to see how Dynasmon was doing. The dragon man seemed to be tearing through the brigade of dinosaur mercenaries alongside Gankoomon.

    Not far off, Duftmon flew in the sky, directing the flow of battle while also participating from a range, firing various ranged attacks from his rapier. Every so often, Magnamon was able to see Dukemon fighting atop Grani, firing beams and stabbing at the aerial mercenaries.

    Magnamon continued quickly looking around the carnage. He wasn’t able to see Examon anywhere. There were too many different Digimon of varying sizes around, so it was easy to get lost in the battle. However, he did notice Craniamon duelling MirageGaogamon in the distance, near a cracked spire of stone.

    “Behind you, Magnamon!” RhodoKnightmon called out to him.

    Magnamon spun around and saw the crimson spear of DarkKnightmon swing down towards him. Luckily for Magnamon, his instincts were quick enough for him to react. He brought up his gold digizoid arm bracers and blocked the slash by crossing them over his head.

    DarkKnightmon responded by driving his boot into Magnamon’s chest, driving him back. He then fired a beam from his Twin Spear straight into him, blasting him to the ground.

    The gold knight grimaced as his back struck the ground hard. However, he wasn’t down for long. “Plasma Shoot!” he said, firing a string of missiles at DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon didn’t stick around to fight Magnamon. He continued charging across the battlefield, dodging the missiles that landed right behind him. He narrowly missed the gold explosions as they detonated in mid air. DarkKnightmon drove his spear through the back of Garudamon and then pulled it out. After doing so, he dashed past and headed straight towards the left flank where OuRyuumon and the Strike Forces were.

    -

    Dynasmon decked a DinoRexmon with a crushing punch, sending the large, green dinosaur crashing to the ground. When the mercenary crumpled at his feet with a hefty thud, the Royal Knight turned around. He had several shallow cuts along his wings, biceps, and back, along with various scuffs and scratches along his armour.

    He saw Gankoomon several feet away, who had just knocked unconscious the Triceramon X leader. Dynasmon saw a Gaiomon sneaking up behind him with his swords. The Royal Knight raised his claws, preparing to fire a beam before Gankoomon was attacked.

    Before he could, Gankoomon spun around to face the Gaiomon. “Tekken Seisai!” As he whirled around, he drove his burning fist into the Gaiomon’s face, the sheer force knocking the dragon warrior off of his feet. Hinukamui then emerged from Gankoomon’s back, raised his fists up, and smashed the Digimon into the ground hard. The Gaiomon didn’t get up.

    “Not bad,” Dynasmon said to him.

    Gankoomon grinned and put a hand of one of the cuts on his arm. “You’re holding up better than I thought too.”

    “Naturally,” Dynasmon answered, smirking. “I’m a Royal Knight.”

    “Uh huh,” Gankoomon said, rolling his eyes behind his visor. “S’that your friend over there?” He pointed behind Dynasmon.

    Dynasmon turned around and saw Craniamon fighting MirageGaogamon twenty meters away.

    “Full Moon Blaster!” MirageGaogamon released a stream of white power from his chest cannon towards Craniamon.

    Craniamon grinned and raised his shield up in front of him. “God Breath!” he spoke. The Avalon glowed for a moment. The beam slammed into the shield and splintered off when it hit the impregnable barrier. The lasers either fizzled out of tore into the nearby ground and outcropping.

    MirageGaogamon used his speed and shot towards Craniamon from behind, hoping to take advantage of the distraction. He rushed towards the violet-armoured knight and thrust forwards with his claw gauntlets. However, even with his extreme speed, MirageGaogamon found himself slamming into an invisible barrier. He let out a shout of pain and surprise, and staggered backwards inelegantly.

    Craniamon glanced over his shoulder. “Valiant try,” he said insincerely. He spun around and ripped one edge of the Claiohm Solais across MirageGaogamon’s crest, cutting into the metal wolf head protruding from his armour.

    “You should have expected a traitor to try and stab you in the back,” Dynasmon told Craniamon, flying over to them. His claws brimmed with elemental power.

    “Stay out of this, Dynasmon,” Craniamon said to him, glancing at the dragon knight. “I’m duelling him.”

    “I want to take over,” he said, landing beside Craniamon and leering at MirageGaogamon. MirageGaogamon raised his claws and eyed Dynasmon warily.

    “Too bad,” Craniamon replied resolutely.

    “So, I guess you don’t want to prove Gankoomon wrong, after all?” Dynasmon proposed, looking over at the skull-themed warrior.

    “Wrong about?” he asked, intrigued.

    “He said you looked like you were only suited for one-on-one combat. He didn’t think you could handle crowds,” Dynasmon explained to him.

    Craniamon grunted and stood up straight. He turned around and began to head towards where Gankoomon was. “I know you’re lying, Dynasmon,” Craniamon spoke, although he walked towards the collection of savage dinosaurs all the same. “If you’re not done by the time I’m back, I’m taking over.”

    “Gotcha,” Dynasmon replied lightly. However, his expression darkened as he observed MirageGaogamon, who panted. “MirageGaogamon…” he said to him, glaring.

    “Sir Dynasmon…” MirageGaogamon replied, standing up straighter but refusing to lower his stance at all.

    “Why bother with the ‘Sir’?” Dynasmon asked, taking a step towards him. “You’re not part of the Order anymore. You betrayed us a long time ago.”

    “Because I still respect you,” the lupine warrior answered, taking a few cautious steps away from the nearby crag.

    “You respect me so much that you helped DarkKnightmon backstab us and try to take over the Order… twice,” the Royal Knight said bitterly.

    “It’s nothing personal,” MirageGaogamon spoke, slowly circling Dynasmon. “I believe that Sir DarkKnightmon’s way is better.”

    “How can you say it’s nothing personal?!” Dynasmon retorted, eyeing him warily. “Of course it’s personal when you turn your back on people who you’re supposed to care about! I never thought that you would be able to separate your loyalties, your feelings and your actions into neat little compartments like DarkKnightmon does.”

    “I don’t,” MirageGaogamon insisted. “It hurt me to move against the Royal Knights, but my loyalty lies with DarkKnightmon. We understand each other. Our goals are one. We both want to create a better world than the one that exists now. He knows how much it means to me.”

    “Because of what happened to your family?” Dynasmon challenged. “You idiot… He’s using you! You don’t know how manipulative DarkKnightmon can be!”

    “No, he isn’t,” MirageGaogamon said firmly. “You have a bias against him because of what happened. You value loyalty above all else, so when somebody breaches your sense of loyalty, you write them off.”

    “Sorry if I don’t take kindly to people betraying me, kidnapping and trying to kill my friends!” the violet dragon knight shot back. He dashed forwards and thrust his open palm at MirageGaogamon.

    MirageGaogamon disappeared quickly, causing Dynasmon to only hit his afterimage. He reappeared behind Dynasmon and slashed down his back with his claws.

    Dynasmon snarled with pain as the metal tore against his armour and scales. He whirled around and struck MirageGaogamon with a mighty backhand. He then aimed his palm at the airborne warrior and fired. “Dragon’s Roar!” Energy ripped from his palm and exploded against MirageGaogamon’s chest, sending him skidding across the grass.

    MirageGaogamon winced greatly as he came to a stop. He crossed his arms in front of his body. “Double Crescent Mirage!” he shouted, unleashing shockwaves outwards as he swept his arms out.

    Dynasmon sneered and raised his arms to block against the attack. The arcs sliced through the air and slammed into his arms, chipping his armour. He was pushed back in the grass, but managed to keep his foothold. He lowered his gaze and lowered his arms, clenching his fists tightly. “Looks like I’m going to have to knock some sense into you, Captain.”

    MirageGaogamon stood to his feet and brushed a clump of grass off of his shoulder. “If you insist, I’ll have to oblige.” He readied his claws and opened the slightly damaged cannon on his chest. “Sir Dynasmon…”

    -

    “Stay still, you stupid snake!”

    Vikemon slammed one of his huge morning stars into the ground in an attempt to hit OuRyuumon. OuRyuumon nimbly swerved his serpentine body and dodged the spiked head of the heavy mace.

    The two fought along the left flank, where the Valancers were having it out with the Strike Forces. The smell of blood, fire, energy attacks, and data was thick across the chaotic battlefield.

    OuRyuumon smirked and circled around the comparatively sluggish Digimon. He plunged one of his scimitars towards Vikemon’s back, but the mammal Digimon turned around and blocked it with the shield on his shoulder.

    “You’re going to have to do better than that!” Vikemon taunted. He spun around as lashed one of his spiked maces out horizontally.

    OuRyuumon agilely arched his body over the incoming morning star and sliced one of his bladed wings across his fur. To the dragon’s surprise, the blade merely brushed off. He was sure that he hit him directly and that his blades weren’t at all dull, so he deduced that this Vikemon had really durable fur that acted like a chain mail.

    Vikemon dropped one of his Mjöllnir morning starts and reached out to grab OuRyuumon by his tail. He suddenly jerked down with enormous strength and sent OuRyuumon crashing to the ground. The gold dragon hit the ground with a wince.

    The mercenary continued to hold him by the tail, and raised his morning star over his head, ready to cave OuRyuumon in with it. Sensing this, OuRyuumon whipped the end of his tail around and stabbed the bladed tip into the large hand that held his tail.

    With a curse of pain, Vikemon released him but continued to bring the weighty mace down on him. With his tail free, OuRyuumon rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding being crushed by the spiked metal that embedded itself in the ground next to him. OuRyuumon flapped his wings and flew into the air to avoid being struck again. As he flew away, Vikemon lashed out with another strike, this time successfully hitting OuRyuumon’s tail. His tail whipped outwards painfully and one of the spikes opened a cut along its side.

    OuRyuumon sneered and circled around, the adrenaline pumping through his body. He slashed the Gairyu scimitars down, the blades crackling with power. “Eiseiryuoujin!” he growled, shooting blasts of energy from his swords. They slammed into Vikemon’s chest and exploded.

    Vikemon stumbled backwards and glared up at the dragon. “That’s it, snake!” He slammed his morning stars into the ground and released a blast of freezing energy out from around him. “Arctic Blizzard!”

    The cold aura swept out around Vikemon, the temperatures decreasing rapidly. The blades of grass and flowers froze instantly, and OuRyuumon could begin to feel his scales going numb.

    “Damn it,” OuRyuumon hissed as his body heat dropped and frost began to form on his armour. His violet eyes hardened and he started to envelope his own body with golden power. “Ougai!” he roared, his form taking on a golden glow. He tore towards Vikemon, ripping up the earth and ground beneath him and forming a blast of terra following in his wake. He contended against the freezing power of Vikemon’s attack with the warmth of his own. OuRyuumon cut across the ground and slammed into Vikemon with his swords and wings.

    OuRyuumon sliced into him and struggled against his fur with his raging power. Vikemon released a roar of agony when the dragon finally sent burning energy and steel shooting out of his back. When OuRyuumon tore through Vikemon’s disintegrating body and soared up into the air, his blades dripping with blood.

    Panting a bit as the rest of the data dispersed beneath him, OuRyuumon looked around the battlefield. “Push forward, Strike Forces! Their line is breaking!” OuRyuumon yelled to his subordinates.

    “Captain!” Grademon called out to him.

    “What?!” OuRyuumon asked, looking down and eyeing the golden dragon man.

    “It’s UlforceVeedramon!” Grademon said, pointing.

    OuRyuumon gazed to where he was pointing. To his shock, he saw UlforceVeedramon locked in bitter combat with DarkKnightmon.

    UlforceVeedramon had several relatively deep cuts along his wings and arms. He held his Ulforce Sabres up to block another of DarkKnightmon’s attacks.

    “Not… as good as the rumours say you are,” UlforceVeedramon taunted, wincing a bit as he held against DarkKnightmon’s Twin Spear.

    “Fools believe rumours,” DarkKnightmon answered, retracting his lance. He nimbly parried a swift stab of one of UlforceVeedramon’s Ulforce Sabres. “But I’m still as strong as any of the Royal Knights.”

    Emphatically, DarkKnightmon swung the Twin Spear around and drove the wide base of the spear into UlforceVeedramon’s face, causing his head to jerk back. As he staggered back, DarkKnightmon pointed his lance at him. He unleashed a blast of shadows from the weapon.

    “Rgh. Tensegrity Shield!” UlforceVeedramon countered, bringing his left arm up. A barrier burst from the V-Bracelet and formed around the cobalt knight’s body, protecting him completely from the blast. While inside, the ‘V’ on his chest began to glow dazzlingly. He dropped the barrier as soon as the dark power faded away, firing from his chest immediately upon doing so. “Shining V Force!”

    A v-shaped ray beamed from his chest and burned into DarkKnightmon’s armoured form. The resulting blast sent the two shooting away from each other.

    Using his attack as cover, UlforceVeedramon flapped his wings and flew into the air rapidly, his body moving like a blur. He circled through the airspace swiftly, cutting down any enemy flier that was in his way. He then looped back around and began to charge DarkKnightmon, his body becoming encased in a draconic aura. The more that he sped up towards DarkKnightmon, the more aura that formed around him.

    “Dragon Impulse X!” UlforceVeedramon shouted out as he rushed DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon saw the blue comet surging towards him. He quickly rose his spear and fired a steady beam directly into UlforceVeedramon. The stream of darkness slammed into UlforceVeedramon and parted around his approaching form. The aura seemed to be cushioning the blast for him, but he was still slowed down by the continuous surge of dark energy that washed over his form.

    UlforceVeedramon growled as he was forced to fight against the attack, removing any speed that he previously had during that attack. He burst out of the side of the flame, only vestiges of his draconic aura still around his form. The V on his chest burned brightly again as he prepared a back up attack. “Shining…!”

    DarkKnightmon lunged towards UlforceVeedramon, who was forced to respond quickly.

    “V Force!” UlforceVeedramon released another beam from his crest.

    Expecting this, DarkKnightmon ducked under its wide blast range just in time, saving himself despite parts of his came beginning to burn. He rushed UlforceVeedramon, who prepared to stab with his Ulforce Sabre.

    DarkKnightmon ripped the Twin Spear across the exposed part of UlforceVeedramon’s chest, tearing through the scales of his abdomen.

    UlforceVeedramon let out a roar of pain, but followed through with his attack. He stabbed his laser blade down through DarkKnightmon’s armoured shoulder.

    Glaring with agony as the beam sword burned his skin, DarkKnightmon recoiled so that the sword was pulled out of his shoulder armour. He then drove his bladed, metal boot into UlforceVeedramon’s bleeding gut and kicked him out of the air. UlforceVeedramon fell to the ground with a crash.

    DarkKnightmon straightened himself up again, preparing to attack UlforceVeedramon decisively. But he noticed something out of the corner of his eye and turned to look.

    Two blasts slammed into DarkKnightmon’s body, tearing against his plate armour and sending pain shooting up his form. Growling with pain, DarkKnightmon recovered from the attack and swept the Twin Spear out. Flying straight towards him was the unmistakeable form of OuRyuumon.

    “You bastard!” OuRyuumon roared, tearing towards him. He closed in on DarkKnightmon and slashed his scimitars down.

    DarkKnightmon blocked the attack with the side of his double-headed lance. “OuRyuumon…” he spoke calmly, although pain was clear in his voice. “Just… the Digimon I was looking for…”

    “The feeling’s mutual!” OuRyuumon retorted, pulling one of his scimitars back and stabbing it towards DarkKnightmon’s neck.

    DarkKnightmon tilted his head to the side sharply, causing the blade to scrape the side of his neck armour. “Hoping to finish the job…?” he asked with veiled contempt gracing his meditative tone. “There are no tall buildings around here to throw me from.”

    “Don’t need one!” OuRyuumon fired back, shooting to the side as DarkKnightmon plunged his Twin Spear towards his lean body. “I’m… a better fighter than you are!” He growled and stabbed the Gairyu Udaijin down towards the gap in DarkKnightmon’s collar.

    The dark knight flipped his spear up to knock the descending to the blade off its trajectory. He then slashed the Twin Spear upwards, causing the tip to slice up along OuRyuumon’s body. As the snarling dragon stumbled back, DarkKnightmon poised the lance and glared at OuRyuumon. “No, you’re only mouthier than I am,” he answered.

    OuRyuumon sneered and slashed his right sword down. “Eiseiryuoujin!” he shouted, ripping a shockwave from his blade towards DarkKnightmon. DarkKnightmon swept his weapon out and deflected the attack with an explosion. As the explosion detonated, OuRyuumon then swiped his left sword, unleashing a second blast. This blast DarkKnightmon was less prepared for, and it slammed into his chest, causing the grass to burst up under him from the sheer concussion of the impact.

    Grunting with pain, a fracture formed on the golden crest of DarkKnightmon’s chest armour.

    “I am gonna kill you this time, DarkKnightmon,” OuRyuumon told him, his swords smoking with energy. “And I can’t wait.”

    “You’re mistaken…” DarkKnightmon answered coldly. “I’m not going to let a petty, petulant, brute-of-a-worm like you stop me. There’s no place for somebody like you in the world I’m going to create.”

    “You’re just an arrogant, condescending traitor. Don’t act like you’re so morally superior!” OuRyuumon shot back. “I only tried to kill you because you were going to do the same to Alphamon!”

    “And we all know why that is,” DarkKnightmon answered enigmatically.

    “What?” OuRyuumon demanded, his violet eyes growing hard and narrow.

    “Because of how much Alphamon means to you,” the black knight supposed.

    “What the hell are you talking about?” the gold dragon defensively asked.

    DarkKnightmon smirked. “I really am surprised, OuRyuumon; I underestimated you…” he told him smugly. “I didn’t think you were capable of keeping a secret for more than ten seconds, but you proved me wrong. You hid your homosexuality so well.”

    As DarkKnightmon spoke, OuRyuumon’s eyes widened and blood began to rush into his face. He bore his teeth with anger and embarrassment at the fact that DarkKnightmon found out. “What…?” he asked him, scowling with rage. “You… Omegamon said something while he was brainwashed, didn’t he?! You aren’t smart enough to realize by yourself.”

    DarkKnightmon brushed the insult aside. “Looking back, it makes so much sense,” he explained. “Your dogged, almost pathetic loyalty to Alphamon… It was all because you wanted him in bed.”

    OuRyuumon snarled and lunged at DarkKnightmon. “Don’t generalize me, bastard!” he shouted, his body becoming surrounded with golden power. “Ougai!”

    The serpentine dragon ripped through the air towards DarkKnightmon. The fallen knight responded by raising his spear and launching a flood of dark energy from its crimson metal. The darkness hit OuRyuumon and split around him in strands, pushing him back, but he fought through it stubbornly. He tore through the shadows and tackled into DarkKnightmon, knocking him onto his back. As OuRyuumon landed on him and made to stab him, DarkKnightmon promptly kicked him off.

    As soon as OuRyuumon crashed to the ground, he moved to the side, narrowly avoiding being run through by a stab of DarkKnightmon’s lance. Both warriors scrambled to their feet and backed away from one another.

    “You and Alphamon…” DarkKnightmon breathed. “For all of his qualities, he has terrible taste in lovers.”

    OuRyuumon sneered. “Jealous?” he asked.

    “’Jealous’?” DarkKnightmon repeated incredulously. “Do you honestly think I care at all?”

    “I’m not sure about you…” OuRyuumon said lowly.

    Suddenly, DarkKnightmon couldn’t help but chuckle. “I see… So, that’s it. You were jealous of me. Threatened. That’s why you detested me.”

    “You’re generalizing again! I can’t stand you because you’re a smug, arrogant, treacherous prick!” OuRyuumon countered, glowering balefully.

    “And what if I told you that Alphamon and I were lovers?” DarkKnightmon lied, enjoying messing with OuRyuumon’s head.

    OuRyuumon froze momentarily. However, he began to sneer disbelievingly. “You’re lying…” he argued.

    “I’m sure if you thought about it carefully, you will come out with the right answer,” DarkKnightmon supposed with an enigmatic shrug. “Either way, you won’t be around long enough to ask Alphamon yourself.”

    “Oh yeah?” OuRyuumon contentiously asked.

    “Yes…” the black knight replied. “I’m going to kill you, OuRyuumon. I’m going to delete you and rip you away from Alphamon.”

    At this, OuRyuumon growled and gripped his swords tightly.

    DarkKnightmon stared at OuRyuumon darkly. “I will completely break Alphamon. The death of his lover will be the act that finally destroys his willpower. That will turn the tide of battle in my favour.”

    “Tch…” OuRyuumon scoffed. He closed his eyes and stood up straight. “The joke’s on you, *******! Alphamon and I aren’t even together anymore!” OuRyuumon retorted, taking a bit of enjoyment in getting the better of DarkKnightmon.

    “Oh…?” DarkKnightmon asked, smirking behind his helmet. “So, Alphamon finally saw sense, did he? Good. I’m glad that I was able to do him a favour by telling him the truth about you and what you did. I’m happy that he dumped you by the wayside like the trash that you are. …I’m going to eliminate you regardless.”

    OuRyuumon looked like he wanted to rip DarkKnightmon in half. His teeth were clenched and his arms shaking with rage. “You’re going to have a hell of a time trying!” the dragon responded.

    Without warning, OuRyuumon burst towards him. “Eiseiryuoujin!” he snarled, swiping his sword down. Power pulsed from the blade and soared towards DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon swept the Twin Spear out, deflecting the powerful attack, which spun into the ground nearby with an explosion. As earth cascaded out from the blast, OuRyuumon followed up with a stab of his sword. He plunged his left scimitar forwards and embedded the tip in DarkKnightmon’s armour. The sword stabbed into the right ‘eye’ of DarkKnightmon’s skull-shaped armour. As he tried to shove the blade in deep, it was met with resistance from the surrounding breast plate.

    Although wincing with pain as the sword began to break his skin and go deeper, DarkKnightmon took the opportunity of OuRyuumon being stuck in front of him. He lashed out and grabbed OuRyuumon by his face, holding him in place. DarkKnightmon then drove the Twin Spear into OuRyuumon’s chest armour.

    OuRyuumon released a strong snarl and was forced to pull away, withdrawing the Gairyu Sadaijin from DarkKnightmon’s body. As the two weapons left each other’s forms, blood oozed out and trickled down their chests.

    However, DarkKnightmon wasn’t finished. He jumped up and unleashed a mighty axe kick down on OuRyuumon’s face with the metal heel of his boot. Grunting and staggering back, OuRyuumon swiftly counterattacked. He cut his scimitar across the back of DarkKnightmon’s raised leg before flying into the air for manoeuvrability. OuRyuumon avoided a stab from DarkKnightmon’s spear as he ascended and arched down to quickly drive his blades in and out of DarkKnightmon’s back armour, more to hurt than to kill.

    DarkKnightmon’s back arched with pain and a gasp escaped his throat. Knowing that OuRyuumon was more agile than him, he knew that he had to counter this advantage. He whipped his double-headed lance out behind him and sliced across OuRyuumon’s tail. He went on to raise the Twin Spear over his head and spin it around rapidly. “Treason Vortex!”

    OuRyuumon snarled at the tornado of dark energy forming behind him. He flapped his wings to fly away, but the air flow and strands of shadows pulled him back, sucking him into it. DarkKnightmon calmly watched as he increased the speed of his spinning, forcing OuRyuumon into the black cyclone.

    “D-Damn it…” OuRyuumon grunted, trying his best to pull himself out of the violent, crackling vortex. His form took on a gold aura and he tried to force his way out of its hold. “Ouga-argh!” he sputtered, interrupted as a dark tendril wrapped around his neck and pulled him directly into the funnel of dark power. Roars of pain were torn from OuRyuumon’s throat as he was bombarded on all sides by the merciless, black energy.

    DarkKnightmon intensified the attack, wanting to do as much damage to him as possible.

    After many seconds, the attack finally started to subside. OuRyuumon burst out of the weakening cyclic pillar of shadows, darkness seeping from the numerous cracks in his armour. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth and he glared down at DarkKnightmon with wild, furious eyes. He swooped down and slammed into DarkKnightmon. He started bashing DarkKnightmon’s face with the hilt of his left sword. As he unleashed this violent beating, he pulled the Gairyu Udaijin back and stabbed it into DarkKnightmon’s side, causing it to cut along his skin when the knight moved at the last minute.

    DarkKnightmon winced as his face was subjected to a vicious pummelling. Despite the numb stinging in his face, he angled his head to the side so that OuRyuumon missed one of the bashes. He then pitched his head forwards and drove his metal helmet into OuRyuumon’s snout, head butting him hard.

    OuRyuumon was forced to take a couple steps back. As blood seeped from his nostrils and onto his lips, he glared deeply into DarkKnightmon’s eyes. DarkKnightmon returned the glare with a subdued yet passionate, baleful look in his monochrome, yellow eyes. Then he moved his arm…

    OuRyuumon’s violet eyes widened and a gasp escaped his mouth. He looked down to see the Twin Spear embed itself deep in his chest. The spear went halfway into OuRyuumon’s serpent-like chest before stopping completely.

    Blood trickled from the wound and began to roll along the underside of the crimson lance. DarkKnightmon stared at OuRyuumon coldly before pulling the weapon out roughly, causing more crimson liquid to seep from the wound. OuRyuumon’s form jerked and he dropped his left scimitar to the ground.

    “B… Bastard…” OuRyuumon hissed. A feral, adrenaline-filled fury overtook his previously stunned expression. Despite the brutal wound, the dragon still had enough strength in him to lunge at DarkKnightmon. Shocked by OuRyuumon’s ferocity and ability to act after such a wound, DarkKnightmon didn’t have time to defend himself. OuRyuumon tore towards DarkKnightmon, raising his remaining blade. He plunged the Gairyu Udaijin deep into DarkKnightmon’s collar, hard enough to go straight through and burst out the other side.

    DarkKnightmon’s eyes shot open and he released an uncharacteristic howl of pain as the sword impaled just below and to the left of his neck. He snarled and drove his fist right into OuRyuumon’s fresh chest wound, pulling a raspy, agonized roar from OuRyuumon’s throat. “You… stupid… FOOL!” DarkKnightmon scathed, grabbing OuRyuumon by the neck with his free arm, ignoring the trembling sword sticking out of his body. He squeezed and held OuRyuumon back at arm’s length. “Imbecile… You stubborn, insufferable, little halfwit… You… don’t know when to stop. You never know when to stop…”

    He tightened his fingers around OuRyuumon’s thick windpipe. “You always open your big mouth, spouting out garbage. You always act without thinking about the consequences! Why… Why would Alphamon keep you around for so long?” DarkKnightmon asked, sneering at him darkly.

    OuRyuumon released a choked gasp. “Because… we care about… each other…” he sputtered between staggered breaths, weakly raising his arms and grabbing OuRyuumon’s hand, digging at his gauntlet with his claws. He locked eyes with DarkKnightmon. “Something… you’ll never understand…”

    DarkKnightmon narrowed his eyes and pressed the tip of the Twin Spear against OuRyuumon’s upper body. “Then he’s an even bigger fool than you are… Twin Spear!”

    The Twin Spear surged with darkness and engulfed OuRyuumon’s body completely, tearing into his armour and scales. OuRyuumon was surrounded in the attack’s shadowy folds and thrown through the air violently. The attack itself consumed several others as well, both soldier and mercenary, reducing them to data.

    OuRyuumon crashed to the ground and skidded across the grass, soil, and mud until he came to a stop at the end of the ditch that the beam had created. He didn’t move.

    DarkKnightmon sneered and lifted his left arm up. He gripped the blade of the Gairyu Udaijin, which was still sticking through his body, and pulled it out forcefully. He grimaced with pain and felt blood begin to wet the inside of his breast plate. The dark knight dropped the sword to the ground and began to walk towards OuRyuumon. His eyes seemed to glow red with a silent fury as he stepped towards the gold dragon with determination in his stride.

    “Captain OuRyuumon!” a Bullmon shouted, dashing over and getting in between DarkKnightmon and OuRyuumon. He glared at DarkKnightmon and kicked at the ground, preparing to charge him.

    As the Bullmon charged him, DarkKnightmon merely continued walking at the same pace. The horned Digimon closed in on him, lashing at him with his horns. “Matador Dash!”

    As the Bullmon was about to gore him, DarkKnightmon casually stepped aside. He slashed the Twin Spear out and ripped it along the Bullmon’s side. The soldier of the Order crashed to the ground in a heap of dust before bursting into data.

    As the data spread behind him, DarkKnightmon just continued walking towards OuRyuumon, ignoring all else. He approached the dragon with his weapon in hand.

    OuRyuumon lay on the ground, bruised and bleeding badly, especially from the stab wound in his chest. He breathed heavily and grimaced with pain, hardly able to move. He glanced up at DarkKnightmon with an adversarial glare. He tried to speak but could only manage a sharp hiss of pain.

    “Finally at a loss for words?” DarkKnightmon asked him, raising the Twin Spear and aiming it at OuRyuumon’s face. “Let’s make it permanent.”

    OuRyuumon gritted his teeth and sneered up at DarkKnightmon defiantly.

    “Farewell, OuRyuumon… Send my regards to the Dark Area.”

    A beam surged through the air and illuminated OuRyuumon’s form with bright light.

    The blast of emerald power slammed into DarkKnightmon, throwing him far away from OuRyuumon, leaving the gold dragon momentarily surprised.

    Alphamon flew over and landed beside OuRyuumon, his palm smoking and his blade of light in his hand. “OuRyuumon!” he exclaimed, looking down at OuRyuumon’s badly wounded form with worry.

    “Alpha…mon…” OuRyuumon rasped, gazing up at him.

    Alphamon kneeled down beside him, looking him over while still keeping an eye out for DarkKnightmon. “You’re going to be okay,” he assured him.

    OuRyuumon grimaced and tensed up at a jolt of agony. “D-Don’t… think so…” he replied with sombreness behind his strained words. “Not gonna last… much longer. Data’s barely holding together…”

    Alphamon took hold of OuRyuumon’s clawed hand and squeezed it, his eyes growing wider and more concerned. “No! I’m not going to lose you, OuRyuumon!” he retorted stubbornly.

    “No… Don’t worry ‘bout me…” OuRyuumon said to him, a tiny smile growing on his face. “I’m done holding you back…”

    The black knight glared into OuRyuumon’s eyes with passion. “You never held me back, damnit!”

    “Didn’t I?” OuRyuumon asked him. “You were always… the smarter, more responsible one…” He closed his watering eyes. “I always got us into trouble… made problems for you… started fights… but you still put up with me.”

    Alphamon shut his eyes tightly, restraining the tears that threatened to form in his eyes. “I didn’t ‘put up’ with you, OuRyuumon! Stop talking like this! Stop bringing these feelings up now like this is the last time we’ll ever see each other!” he demanded, clasping OuRyuumon’s hand with both of his now.

    “Isn’t it…?” OuRyuumon asked, opening his eyes and staring up at Alphamon. He smiled contently. “I love yo—“

    “No!” Alphamon shouted angrily, snapping his moist eyes open and glaring down at him. “The OuRyuumon I know wouldn’t give up like this! He wouldn’t just lie down and die!” he challenged him. “When did you get to be so weak?! Where’s the stubborn, resilient, passionate OuRyuumon who’s my best friend?! Where’s the OuRyuumon that I grew to love?!”

    OuRyuumon stared up at him with shock. “Alphamon…” he whispered. “But…” He looked down at his body and began to see fractures forming around the deep stab wound in his chest.

    “There’s still a way…” Alphamon said with resolve. “There’s a way to save you…” He looked into OuRyuumon’s eyes. “Ouryuken… I’ll be able to share my data with you in that form.”

    OuRyuumon released a sharp hiss of pain as his body momentarily seized up. “Rrgh… B-But… it broke… We broke… the jogress… Can we even… do it again?”

    “We can…” Alphamon said to him. “I trust in you, OuRyuumon… Things may have happened between us recently, but I believe in our bond. I believe that our hearts can beat as one once again…”

    The golden dragon’s eyes widened. “…I…” His gaze softened. “So do I…” he spoke in response. He gave a broken smile as he squeezed Alphamon’s hand. “I’ve been… so selfish before…”

    Alphamon closed his eyes, clasping his claws in response. “So have I… But together we can move forwards, can’t we?” He gathered OuRyuumon’s upper body in his arms and began to bring him towards his chest.

    OuRyuumon released a sigh as their bloodied, broken bodies pressed against one another. The Digicore Interface on his head began to glow brightly. “Yeah… we can…”

    The Digicore Interface that was on Alphamon’s brow flared up as well, resonating with OuRyuumon’s. Between them, an intense flare of light began to form and grow. Alphamon’s eyes opened and glowed brightly as he summoned a large, magical circle of Digi-letters between their bodies. The incorporeal circle rested between them and began to coruscate brightly.

    “Alphamon!”

    “OuRyuumon…”

    “Jogress Shinka!”

    DarkKnightmon pulled his body up from the ground and turned to gaze at the piercing radiance. His eyes widened with disbelief and rage. Grunting, DarkKnightmon began to sprint towards the two, bringing up his spear and aiming it at them. “No! I won’t allow it!” he yelled, firing a massive beam of darkness into them.

    The shadows impacted the evolution but merely splintered off into tendrils, unable to break through the light and touch them as the evolution took place. The light suddenly intensified and completely annihilated DarkKnightmon’s blast entirely.

    From within the light emerged Alphamon: Ouryuken. His majestic wings shimmered in the dim morning light, his cape flowed behind him, and the giant pole arm, Ouryuken, hung at his side. Despite the evolution, his wounds weren’t healed or his energy restored, but he received a tremendous boost in power and data capacity, which helped to mitigate that disadvantage somewhat.

    Alphamon: Ouryuken stepped out and pointed the sword at DarkKnightmon. “DarkKnightmon…” he spoke authoritatively.

    DarkKnightmon sneered. “Alphamon… Again and again you stand in my way… Why do you stifle me?! Don’t you see the bigger picture?!”

    Alphamon: Ouryuken just stared at him firmly and silently, his form still encased with holy light.

    DarkKnightmon gripped the Twin Spear and narrowed his eyes. “…Very well. I’ve given you chance after chance to step aside. My patience has run out,” he explained. “I’ll kill you, Alphamon. Even in that form, I’ll kill you. I don’t wish to, but you leave me no choice now. If you stand in my way when my goal is within my grasp, then you must be deleted.”

    “Then there’s nothing left to say,” Alphamon told him. He spread his wings and lifted himself up, poising the Ouryuken behind him.

    “I suppose not…” DarkKnightmon replied, lifting himself into the air as well.

    The two black knights stared at the other before shooting towards one another on a collision course. Alphamon swept the Ouryuken down and DarkKnightmon thrust the Twin Spear forwards as the two Digimon met in a bitter, explosive clash…
     

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