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

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    Default A Dragon in Shining Armour (PG-15) (Digimon)

    A Dragon in Shining Armour


    Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon. However, I do own these characters and this original universe.

    Rating: PG-15/T/14A for violence, mature themes, and swearing.

    Also, I'm using the Japanese names mostly for the Digimon species and their attacks. For some reason it just seemed to 'fit' more, even though I usually use the English names.

    As a note, all the "(Continued)" labels in the chapter list signify the chapter going over the character limit and forcing me to split the chapter into two posts. The "(Part I)" and "(Part II)" labels signify intentional chapter splits, as each part is chapter-length.


    Awards:
    Best Non-Pokémon Chaptered Fic (2014)

    Chapter List:

    Prologue: Alpha
    Chapter 1: The Invitation
    Chapter 2: The Royal Knights
    Chapter 3: Duking It Out
    Chapter 4: A Conflict of Interest - (Continued)
    Chapter 5: Effort
    Chapter 6: ...Yet So Far
    Chapter 7: The Duke of Hazard
    Chapter 8: Adversary (Part I), (Part II)
    Chapter 9: The Matter of Trust (Part I), (Part II)
    Chapter 10: Waiting on a Miracle (Part I), (Part II)
    Chapter 11: Protocol (Part I) - (Continued), (Part II)
    Chapter 12: Like Night and Day (Part I) - (Continued), (Part II) - (Continued)
    Chapter 13: Beware the Black Night - (Continued)
    Chapter 14: Spectres of the Past
    Chapter 15: The Immortal Champion (Part I), (Part II) - (Continued), (Part III) - (Continued)
    Interlude
    Chapter 16: A Crack in the Armour
    Chapter 17: Shifting the Balance - (Continued)
    Chapter 18: Bonds
    Chapter 19: Omega
    Chapter 20: The Daydream of a Digicore - (Continued)
    Chapter 21: Decisive Action
    Chapter 22: The Gathering Storm
    Chapter 23: Disorder - (Continued)
    Chapter 24: Burning the Past (Part I), (Part II)
    Chapter 25: The World Tree (Part I), (Part II)
    Chapter 26: From the Ashes - (Continued)
    Chapter 27: Initialize - (Continued)
    Chapter 28: The Battle of the World Tree - (Continued)
    Chapter 29: The Light of Friendship (Part I), (Part II) - (Continued)




    Prologue: Alpha


    The full moon shone down on the stone parapets of a gigantic castle, which stood many stories tall in the middle of an ocean of lush, green grassland. Wind swept through the clumps of long grass, creating waves of wind that could be seen from the castle’s sleek and clean ramparts. There were eight tall, cylindrical towers at each corner of the castle, which were topped with open, flat, walled roofs for sentries to keep guard from.

    A black figure stood on the castle’s ramparts, staring down at the moat, in which one of the Digital World’s moons was reflected. He watched as the moon was distorted by the ripples created from the gentle wind.

    The humanoid digimon was clad in ebony black armour from head to toe, and the moon’s light caused the armour’s gold trimmings to glisten. Two metal wing-like features protruded from his back and the night breeze caused his white and blue cape that rested between them to flutter and ruffle gently. The ruby eyes behind his helmet were deep in thought about the situation at hand. They stared down at the moon in the moat until the sound of movement behind him got his attention.

    “So this is where you went,” a voice said from behind him. “Alphamon.”

    The digimon in question, Alphamon, turned around to see another knight directly behind him, walking over to the castle wall from a stone bridge to the main building. The speaker was a humanoid digimon, like himself, except instead of black plate armour, he had white, with some purple streaks and a curious symbol on his chest. He had a skinny form, particularly his waist and arms, which were garbed in black, leather fabric. Like Alphamon, he had a white cape, except the interior was red instead of blue.

    “Omegamon...” Alphamon spoke, his voice deeper, to his second-in-command. “You’re up late.”

    “As are you,” Omegamon responded, walking up to his side and looking out over the wall. “You’re still thinking about it?”

    “No... I think I’ve made my choice,” the black knight responded. “It’s an... unorthodox one. Some of the others will probably be uncomfortable with it.”

    “Whatever it is, I’m sure they will get used to your choice eventually,” the white knight spoke, looking over at him with his green eyes. “We all trust your judgement, Lord of the Empty Seat. Me especially.”

    Alphamon smiled slightly. “You say that now...”

    “They got used to Sleipmon, didn’t they?” Omegamon asked, putting a hand on Alphamon’s shoulder.

    “I suppose you’re right.” Alphamon turned to him, returning the stare. “I’m satisfied with my choice, even if they aren’t. I fear we’ll need his exceptional abilities in the future.”

    “You think the cloud of evil is looming, Alphamon?”

    Alphamon looked at him with a slight smile. “Isn’t it always, Omegamon?”
    Last edited by Griff4815; 4th May 2015 at 7:41 PM.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

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    Chapter 1: The Invitation


    A light gust of wind swept across a wide, grassy field of the Digital World below. This world was filled with all sorts of different lands and terrains. There were thick forests, frigid tundra, arid deserts, and beautiful mountains. Only Digimon, creatures of all shapes and sizes, lived in this world. The species of Digimon varied widely, ranging from small fish to medium-sized mammals to large dragons. Some lived in societies while others roamed the land. Generally speaking, the world tended to be peaceful, as many digimon weren’t out looking for a fight. However... some were.

    A crimson, bipedal dragon hovered high above the clouds as he looked down at the Digital World. He used his broad, sentient Caledfwlch wings to keep him aloft. From his vantage point in the sky, he looked down the length of his Ambrosius lance and breathed calmly.

    His name was Examon and he was the defender of the United Dramonic Coalition.

    In that moment, Examon wasn’t just admiring the view. There were five digimon in the process of invading the United Dramonic Coaltion’s territory, and he had already determined that they weren’t just there for a friendly visit. It wasn’t the first time this place had been attacked by bandits or invaders...

    The crimson dragon digimon watched a large, orange, dinosaur digimon known as MetalGreymon stomp across the plain of grass. The species of MetalGreymon were that of cyborg theropods, as evident by his large metal claw and the large missile port on his chest. He hulking dinosaur stomped forwards at a steady pace.

    “Come on, guys!” the MetalGreymon shouted, looking over his metal shoulder, to the four digimon behind him. They were all cyberbiotic, like MetalGreymon was.

    “On my way!” said an orange, serpent-like dragon known as a Megadramon.

    Beside him was a grey, slightly more refined variation of Megadramon, Gigadramon. “Understood,” Gigadramon replied, flying forwards.

    Walking under the two dragons was another ferocious robotic dinosaur digimon known as MetalTyrannomon. He nodded and followed after MetalGreymon.

    Lastly, there was a crimson dinosaur with white hair and blades on his arms: a WarGrowlmon. “Got it, Boss!” he said to MetalGreymon.

    Ahead of them was a small village comprised of about thirty huts and houses varying between one and two stories. That was their destination.

    “Let’s take everything they got!” the MetalGreymon rumbled, grinning savagely. The metal cover concealing the missile ports on his chest suddenly swung open, revealing the cannon holes. “Giga Destroyer!”

    Two black missiles with snarling mouths launched from MetalGreymon’s breast and soared through the air with a high-pitched screaming sound. The local dragon digimon (‘dramon’, they are colloquially called) of the village saw these five bandits attacking and either began to flee for their lives or put themselves between the raiders and the village to defend it.

    Screams and cries of the digimon sounded out as they saw both the missiles and the raiders charging towards their village. Many scrambled to get away as they couldn’t hope to face up to five strong Ultimate levels. Others, however, determined to protect their village at all costs, ran out to defend.

    “Not more raiders!” a Flamedramon villager shouted frantically, running out of his large hut to defend the town.

    The green, draconic form of a Coredramon ran up beside him, with emerald flames coming from his mouth. “They’re Ultimates this time! I sure hope that we can hold them off until- AH! Look!” he yelled, pointing with fear towards the two gigantic missiles headed their way.

    As the two missiles closed in, whistling as they approached, the two digimon could only raise their arms over their faces to protect themselves from the explosions that were soon to come. Being mere Champion levels, they knew that they probably wouldn’t survive the blasts.

    “Pendragon’s Glory!” a calm voice called out from the sky, echoing down to the ground.

    Examon’s two lasers plummeted down from the inside of a cloud and blasted clear through the two giant missiles. Flamedramon and Coredramon watched as the explosives detonated in mid air before they could get close to the village. The explosions blew them backwards and rattled a few of the village’s structures, but they were all spared injury and damage.

    MetalGreymon’s eye twitched with disbelief at his unexpected misfortune. “What the heck?!” he demanded, looking upwards at the cloud.

    The Megadramon raider looked up as well, his cannons raised. “I think i--!“ His voice was cut off when a third emerald laser pierced through the top of his helmet, killing him instantly and causing him to burst into data.

    “No!” the Gigadramon beside him shouted, horrified.

    “Megadramon!” MetalGreymon yelled in fury.

    “Pendragon’s Glory!” the voice repeated.

    Another high-powered laser blasted down and ripped through the Gigadramon’s chest, annihilating his digicore. The Gigadramon slumped forwards in the air with a gasp. His arms and tail went slack and, from the cannons that made up his hands, two missiles fired aimlessly downwards.

    The MetalGreymon leader gritted his teeth as the Gigadramon’s deletion was accentuated by the two explosions in the grass below the data cloud. “Damn it!” he roared, drowning out the voice of their assailant as it spoke again. He looked to the remaining land-bound bandits, pointing his giant metal claw towards the cloud where the laser beams fired from. “MetalTyrannomon! WarGrowlmon! Fire at that cloud! Kill whoever’s in it!”

    “R-Right,” the MetalTyrannomon agreed, though noticeably shaken at two of his comrades being taken down so easily. “Nuclear Laser!”

    While preparing two more missiles to fire, MetalGreymon watched as MetalTyrannomon raised his left arm. MetalTyrannomon fired strong blasts of dark blue energy from the cannon in his palm into the thick of the cloud, despite not knowing who he was aiming at. However, MetalGreymon noticed that his other bandit, WarGrowlmon, wasn’t attacking.

    “WarGrowlmon! Is your hair in your ears again?! I said to fire!” MetalGreymon yelled, turning to him. He noticed that the WarGrowlmon was looking down at a sparking hole that was made in his upper body armour, just around the cannons.

    “M-MetalGreymon,” he said, looking down at the puncture with obvious worry. “Boss, there’s something wrong. I got hit; this weird bullet or shell went into my armour and I can feel it doing som- AH!”

    The virus-carrying shell that had pierced inside his machinery activated abruptly. WarGrowlmon let out a cry of pain as electricity suddenly surged through his body, his metal parts serving to conduct the shock further. He reared his head back with a roar before the electrocution became too much for his body. His muscles seized up and his legs buckled, the large dinosaur crashing down on his chest. He lay there unconscious, though his leg and tail still twitched.

    MetalGreymon watched with disbelief as another raider was taken out no more than fifteen seconds after the last one. “That’s it!” he roared, the ports on his chest smoking. “Blow him out of the sky, MetalTyrannomon! Giga Destroyer!”

    “What does it look like I’m doing?!” MetalTyrannomon replied frantically. He shot his Nuclear Laser attack wildly at the cloud high above them. “How is it hitting us so accurately from so far away?!”

    “Just keep suppressing and I’ll blow him away!” MetalGreymon replied, watching as his two missiles flew from his chest at high speeds towards the single cloud over head.

    Several seconds later, the low-hanging cloud exploded and the white mist was blown outwards in a fiery bloom.

    “...Think you got him?” MetalTyrannomon asked, squinting his eyes. “Maybe there was more than one. I can’t see...”

    “Damn well better did,” the dinosaur bandit spat.

    The grey dinosaur, however, wasn’t convinced. He kept watching the sky until his eyes finally widened. “I see something!” he shouted, raising his cannon-infused hands in the thing’s direction.

    MetalGreymon growled and looked up, his blue eyes scanning the sky. He saw it too. A dot falling away from the explosion like a comet. He grinned. “Hah! I told you I’d get him!”

    MetalTyrannomon kept watching it as it came closer. “...It’s falling this way! I-It’s red! It’s descending three times faster than either Megadramon or Gigadramon could!”

    MetalGreymon’s smirk disappeared and he started to back up with fear as Examon plummeted towards them, coming nearer and nearer. He could start to make out the creature’s body. It was a crimson red dragon man. His massive wings were plated with glistening silver armour and his wingspan was cloaked around his body. While too far away for MetalGreymon to see properly, the red dragon digimon had several horns coming out of his head and his long, whip-like tail was shuddering in the wind behind him. With his wings tucked in, it was clear he was freefalling on purpose.

    “Draconic Impact!” the dragon digimon shouted, plummeting towards them like a determined meteor.

    MetalGreymon’s eyes widened and he backed up further as the enemy approached at high velocity. “He’s going to ram us! Shoot him!”

    “Nuclear Laser!” MetalTyrannomon roared, wide-eyed as the digimon rapidly approached. The lasers hit the dragon’s folded wings but they glanced off due to the digimon’s speed. Upon seeing his attacks do nothing, MetalTyrannomon’s fear took over and he turned around and tried to run away.

    “Boss!” the dinosaur bandit yelled, futilely trying to run away from the plummeting dragon. The large dragon digimon slammed into him, crushing him into the ground with enough force to delete MetalTyrannomon and send out a powerful shockwave out from the point of impact. The blast caused dirt and grass to explode into the air and it knocked MetalGreymon onto his tail.

    Wincing, the remaining dinosaur raider quickly got to his feet and saw before him a large cloud of dust coming from a crater.

    “Wh...Who are you?!” MetalGreymon demanded.

    The dragon digimon walked up and out of the crater, his broad wings outstretched and a long, black lance that doubled as a rifle in his right claws. He stared at the bandit with calm, green eyes. “My name is Examon. I’m the defender of this area,” he explained in a cool but growly voice, narrowing his eyes. “Leave now and you’ll live...”

    The dinosaur, however, refused to back down. He dug his feet in and glared. Examon returned it, not moving either. The two found themselves in a stand off.

    “You’re just a puny salamander!” MetalGreymon growled. “Not even you can withstand this! Giga Destroyer!”

    Smoke exploded from the cannon ports and two gigantic missiles screeched as they flew through the air towards Examon. Examon gritted his jagged teeth as they approached. Before hitting him, he managed to quickly cloak the armoured wings called ‘Caledfwlch’ around him.

    MetalGreymon watched as the two missiles exploded on contact; they detonated into a massive fireball which incinerated the surrounding grass. A small grin formed on his face as he was absolutely positive he hit his target.

    “Did I kill him?” he asked gleefully while the heat and wind from the explosion blew his hair back.

    The cyborg dinosaur looked into the black smoke and raging flames, looking for signs of life. When he didn’t see anything in the miniature mushroom cloud, he sighed with relief. “Good... The flying newt’s toast...”

    He was about to turn around, but saw the sun reflect off of something within the thick haze of smoke. His eyes widened with fear and he looked towards the where the center of the explosion was. “No...” he gasped. The wind blew the smoke back, first, to reveal the tip of a metal lance pointed at him. He followed the lance leading back to inside its owner, hidden inside a protective tent created by his sentient, armoured wings.

    Although Examon’s wings smoked, they were plated with chrome digizoid, a highly durable metal. MetalGreymon watched as Examon slowly opened his wings, revealing himself to be completely unharmed.

    “Not possible,” MetalGreymon gasped, his eyes wide.

    “You’re outclassed,” Examon spoke, narrowing his green eyes slightly while raising his Ambrosius lance a precise few degrees. “Avalon’s Gate!”

    A shell exploded from the muzzle of the Ambrosius and shot towards MetalGreymon. It detonated on contact with MetalGreymon’s neck and the remaining shards dug into his orange scales. The raider winced slightly with pain and took a step back, but remained standing. Expecting to be killed, MetalGreymon was initially surprised, but it soon turned to joy. “Hah! You may have good range and defense, but your offense s-ugh!” The MetalGreymon’s body suddenly tensed up, his muscles contracting tightly. “Wh... Wha’s gu’in’ on?!” he demanded, collapsing to his knees. His head, arms, and tail drooped and his tongue hung out of his mouth.

    “That’s special ammunition. That particular shell’s shrapnel is infected with a virus meant to incapacitate you by affecting your muscles,” Examon explained coolly. The crimson dragon man raised his lance and rested it on his spiked shoulder. “You will be unconscious in a few moments.”

    The MetalGreymon gave an incoherent sentence of protest before his eyes slowly closed and he fell forwards. He hit the grassy plain with a crash and lay there, unmoving.

    Cheers resounded into the air from the guards of the nearby village. Examon raised an eyebrow and turned, seeing various digimon run over to him.

    “Examon!” Flamedramon shouted graciously, jogging up to him.

    “You made it just in time!” Coredramon said, his beaming face mimicked by the several other dramon behind him. “Thanks a lot!”

    Examon grunted and looked over to the WarGrowlmon and MetalGreymon. “I left two of them alive... I don’t feel right about deleting them while they’re unconscious.”

    “We could probably take them to the jail in the region’s capital,” Coredramon explained, looking at the dragon warrior with starry eyes. “You made it seem so easy.”

    “I guess they haven’t seen an Examon before,” Examon humbly replied in a calm voice. “They underestimated me because they didn’t know I’m a Mega II level. If they had been five Mega levels, it wouldn’t have been so easy.”

    Flamedramon smiled and nodded. “Still, you sure saved our-!” His eyes widened upon seeing something behind Examon. “B-Behind, you, Examon!”

    Examon gritted his teeth and started to turn, his grip around the Ambrosius’ trigger tightening. He was sure that the two raiders had been knocked out for a good hour. The dragon turned completely and aimed the lance on reflex upon seeing a figure walking across the grassland towards them.

    At first glance, he noticed that the digimon was much shorter than the previous raiders; he looked around Examon’s size if not shorter. He had a humanoid body and was clad in pristine, white plate armour. The armour had shimmering, crimson plates at the shoulders, elbows, and knees. The wind blew and caused the lengthy strands of white hair flowing out from the back of his knight-like helmet to bluster in the wind, in the same direction as his long, fluttering, red cape. He also had two red belts buckled around his torso.

    However, the dragon digimon’s eyes were drawn to the long, conical lance in the digimon’s right hand and the large, dome-like shield in his left. Examon narrowed eyes and got into a defensive stance, his sentient wings fanning out to protect the dragon digimon behind him. He aimed the Ambrosius at the knight digimon.

    Examon wasn’t sure why, but something about him made him think this approaching digimon was draconic in nature. Maybe it was the red, metal, dragon ears that decorated his helmet. Even if he was a dragon digimon, Examon didn’t want to take any chances, especially given how strong and confident the digimon looked.

    To his surprise, after raising his lance, the digimon cast down his shield and stuck his own lance deep into the ground. Examon watched the knight raise his arms to signal that he was submitting and meant no ill-will. As the digimon continued to approach, leaving the range of his weapon and shield, Examon slowly lowered the Ambrosius and walked towards him to meet him.

    “So...” the knight said in a slightly gruff but noble voice. He stopped a few meters away from Examon and looked at him with golden eyes. “Your name is Examon. The one they call ‘the Dragon Emperor’.”

    “I am...” Examon replied sceptically, though his lance was lowered enough that the tip touched the ground. “Though it’s really just something they like to call me around here. I’m not an emperor by any stretch... I just protect these lands from hostile and evil digimon. ...Who are you?”

    “Dukemon. Dukemon of the Royal Knights,” he explained with a polite smile, lowering his hands.

    Examon’s eyes widened slightly. “The... Royal Knights...?” he asked in disbelief. He had heard of the Royal Knights several times. They were an order of knightly digimon who worked together to keep order and peace within the Digital World, often battling strong and evil enemies. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they were famous.

    “That’s right,” he replied. Dukemon turned and looked at the unconscious WarGrowlmon and MetalGreymon raiders. “You’ve been busy. Want me to take these two troublemakers off of your hands?”

    “...You didn’t come all the way here just for that,” Examon replied.

    “Okay, I’ll get to the point,” Dukemon said, grinning slightly. “I’m here under orders from Alphamon, the leader of the Royal Knights. He’s summoning you to our headquarters.”

    Examon raised an eyebrow. “...Me? What could he want with me?”

    “M-Mister Dukemon,” Flamedramon spoke up nervously. “Examon’s not in any trouble, is he?”

    “The opposite,” Dukemon explained, taking an envelope which was secured inside the two belts around his waist. He offered the piece of paper to Examon, who nodded and took it. On it was Digicode that translated to “To Examon”. The dragon turned the envelope over and saw that it had been closed with Alphamon’s personal seal.

    He opened it and began reading.

    “Alphamon heard of your skills in protecting this area. Between you and me, I think he wants to recruit you as one of the Royal Knights,” the Royal Knight explained as Examon read.

    “...What?” Examon asked, his eyes widening.

    “Examon? A Royal Knight?” Coredramon asked, liking the idea.

    “...So, will you join me?” Dukemon asked with a friendly smile. “By the look on your face, I can tell that I was right.”

    Examon looked down and frowned in thought. “I’m... honoured by the invitation, but...” he looked to the villagers. “I can’t leave. I have a duty to protect the dragon digimon of this land.”

    “I admire your sense of duty, Examon, but think about it...” Dukemon said. “By joining the Royal Knights, you’ll not only be able to protect this area, but you’ll also be able to protect the entire world. I watched the fight just a few minutes ago and you have already proved your worth to me. And, of course, this territory, the United Dramonic Coalition, will continue to receive the full protection of the Royal Knights, but at a greater priority level with you around.”

    Examon studied him carefully before closing his eyes in thought. He knew Dukemon had a point and joining the Royal Knights felt like a good opportunity for him. A part of him felt a bit reluctant, as his sense of duty urged him to continue to protect this land specifically. However, as Dukemon said, he would still be able to do that as part of the Royal Knights.

    He continued to ponder it. It wasn’t as though he had any close friends or family within the United Dramonic Coalition, only acquaintances. Examon had always been a bit of a loner, even after assuming the unofficial role as region’s protector. He always wanted to be a part of an elite team like the Royal Knights and he felt he would be able to get a lot done if he did.

    “...Okay. I accept,” he answered with a light grin.

    Dukemon folded his arms and nodded approvingly, a small smile present behind his helmet. “I’m glad, Examon,” he said. He then chuckled slightly. “OuRyuumon is going to love this...”

    The white and red knight outstretched a hand towards him amiably. Examon, slightly surprised, looked down at the hand for a moment. He then smiled and took it in his claws, shaking it firmly.

    The dragon digimon turned towards the nearby guards and civilians. “Will you all be okay?”

    Flamedramon nodded. “If anything, this’ll be better for us. I’ll be sure to tell King at the capital.”

    Examon nodded quietly and looked back to Dukemon. “When do we leave?” he asked.

    The Royal Knight shook his claws and then released them, taking his arm back. “Now. Unless you need more time...”

    “Now’s fine,” Examon replied. He frowned and looked over at the two unconscious digimon. “Except...”

    Turning in towards them as well, Dukemon folded his arms. “Ah, right. Our esteemed friends here...” he mused. “...I’ll take the WarGrowlmon and you take the MetalGreymon. There will be a cozy spot in our dungeon for them.” He glanced at Examon with a smirk.

    With a restrained smile, Examon walked over to the MetalGreymon, hoisted his tail over his shoulder and began the painstaking process of dragging him. Examon may have been a Mega level, but the MetalGreymon raider was still incredibly heavy.

    He glanced over and saw Dukemon doing the same as him, dragging the WarGrowlmon by the tail after fastening the lance and shield he dropped to his back. Examon couldn’t help but be impressed that the knight was actually overtaking him despite being slightly smaller and lower in level than him. “I guess that’s why he’s a Royal Knight,” Examon said to himself, under his breath.

    “Did you say something?” Dukemon asked, poking his head above the WarGrowlmon’s tail to look over at him.

    “Nothing,” the dragon answered.

    Examon looked at the letter in his hand and smiled to himself. “So... I’m going to become a Royal Knight...
    Last edited by Griff4815; 21st October 2012 at 6:00 PM.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  3. #3
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    Hmm. Well I suppose I'll review this. Please excuse whatever sense I don't make. I'm running a fever. Ahem...

    I liked your first part, the prologue. Though I think it would benefit from a central perspective rather than third-person omniscient. I think that would also help the first chapter. Since at first we're closer to MetalGreymon than anyone else. I actually feel closer to MetalGreymon in the first chapter than I do to Examon, especially since you start with him.

    Anyway, it seems you put a lot of emphasis on level designations. Champion-this and Ultimate-that and Mega/2-whatnot. It kinda breaks the story's flow.

    You're also very analytical, especially with regards to portraying time. Using phrases like "fifteen seconds" and "seconds later" only serves to highlight the exact amount of time, and I don't think that's what you're intending. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're going for a sense of speed and quickness. It's better to use fast-abstract time rather than fast-analytical time. Fast-abstract is always faster.

    Then there's stuff like this:
    A heavy, clawed foot stomped down and crushed the blades of grass underneath. The foot belonged to a large, orange, dinosaur digimon known as MetalGreymon. The species of MetalGreymon were that of cyborg theropods, as evident by his large metal claw and the large missile port on his chest. He removed his foot from the grass and stomped forwards at a steady pace.
    I don't feel any sense of directionality here. No point of view. It's very writer-heavy and a cumbersome way of saying "MetalGreymon stomped forward."

    A light gust of wind swept across a wide, grassy field of the Digital World. This world was filled with all sorts of different lands and terrains. There were thick forests, frigid tundra, arid deserts, and beautiful mountains, to name a few examples. Only Digimon, creatures of all shapes and sizes, lived in this world. The species of Digimon varied widely, ranging from small fish to medium-sized mammals to large dragons. Some lived in societies while others roamed the land. Generally speaking, the world tended to be peaceful, as many digimon weren’t out looking for a fight.
    It kills me that you used the phrase in Red. It just kills me. You're trying to paint a picture of an entire world here, and the red is such an awful way to do it. You're world-building here. You need to bring the readers into this place, fill their minds with it. It isn't enough to tell them what's in the world. You need to show them and make them feel it. Also, take out the striked parts. It'll flow better. And then the regular bolded portions should be rewritten to fit the style of the piece.

    And that's what I think you need to find. The style of your writing is all over the place. Half the time it's computer-analytical (which I find pretty dull for fiction-writing, especially sci-fi/fantasy), and the other half it's...just not there. A lot of a style comes from the voice of your protagonist, who I assume is going to be Examon.

    The language of the story needs to come from the emotional world of Examon. Is he up in the sky counting how many seconds are between his laser shots? Unlikely, but if so, then the rest of the piece needs to be just as analytical, to a meticulous degree. That has to become part of his overall character and quirks. Throw in percentages and exact measurements (don't over-do it, but do it consistently). But I think if you evolve Examon's character, the style will become more apparent.

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

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    Hmm... Yeah, I think I see your point. My writing style is definately my weakest point, as I think it's probably kind of unengaging, and the flow is often rather awkward, but I'm not entirely sure how to improve all that. I see what you're saying about connecting to the characters, but I'm not sure how to tying the characters and how they feel to perspective and to narrating what's going on.

    Thanks for the review. I'll make what corrections I can right now.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  5. #5
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    The way to develop and understand style is by reading...a lot.

    But basically, the style, the language and diction you use need to come from Examon. If he's your central character, the story revolves around him. It's a close-third person POV around Examon. So the language needs to be language that he would use, or at least close to it.

    If you want to see what I mean, check out my first post in Planeswalkers. I have three characters, each with very different voices and personalities and styles. And each section with them is, I think, very different sounding.

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

  6. #6
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    Chapter 2: The Royal Knights

    Examon and Dukemon grunted with effort as they dragged their unconscious prisoners over the lush, far-reaching grasslands. The red dragon clenched his teeth, stopping for a moment to arch his stiff back. He winced at the uncomfortable popping noises.

    Dukemon, who was leading the way, stopped as well and looked over his shoulder at Examon. “How are you holding up?” he asked with a light smirk that Examon was growing familiar with.

    “Just fine,” Examon assured him.

    “Think of it as training,” the crimson knight replied. “We could always switch if you want the lighter one.”

    “Really. I’m fine...” he replied. He could feel his toe claws digging into the cool grass and dirt as he began pulling the MetalGreymon raider again. He started to grow more conscious of himself. He was wondering if he was fit to be in the presence of Alphamon and the others. Meeting the Royal Knights would essentially be more important than any job interview he could think of and at this rate, he would be sweaty and treading dirt through their headquarters. Examon wasn’t normally overly concerned with his appearance or hygiene, especially since he lived in a region inhabited by Dramon, but this day was different. Very different. This meant having the ability and means to protect more than just his home region. If all went well, he would be able to prevent destruction all over the world, bringing it even closer to peace. Or so he hoped.

    As they started moving, Examon looked into the distance to see a gigantic castle, which he could assume was the Royal Knights’ headquarters by what looked like the Royal Knights’ flag flying over one of the towers. This was the first time he left the United Dramonic Coalition’s general territory since arriving there. He certainly hadn’t been in this area before. “Is that your headquarters?” Examon asked, motioning with his head towards the impressive castle.

    “That’s right,” Dukemon said, his gold eyes seeming fixed on it as he continued to pull the WarGrowlmon. “It’s also our home.”

    “Is it?” Examon asked, speeding up so he could look over at him.

    Dukemon nodded and looked over at the him with an eyebrow raised, as Examon could see through the helmet’s eye slits. “That’s not a problem for you, is it?”

    “No,” he replied, calmly. “I don’t have any emotional attachment to my house in the United Dramonic Coalition. It was just a place to sleep.”

    Dukemon grinned at him slightly, though it was barely visible behind his metal visor. “You don’t have to act cool to impress me, you know.”

    “Who’s acting?” Examon asked, returning a small grin. He was amused by Dukemon’s thought process. However, Dukemon wasn’t entirely wrong. Examon did want to show that he was serious about joining the Royal Knights.

    Chuckling, Dukemon led them further towards the castle. The Royal Knights’ headquarters was an amazing sight to behold. The stronghold was built higher and grander than any building Examon had ever seen. Its craftsmanship was extraordinary. The walls were awe-inspiring enough, standing tall and appeared home to various digimon patrolling them on the ramparts. The thing that caught Examon’s attention the most was the giant building beyond the walls, in the inner portion of the castle. The main building stood taller than the walls and with three tall spires around it. Two of the towers were near each side of the entrance and one was near the back of the stone keep. There were several stone bridges connecting the main building, the watch towers, and the ramparts to one another. It was clear that this was for easier mobility from place to place.

    As they grew nearer to the primary gate, across from the deep moat, Examon could see more of the headquarters. The main building itself had a number of balconies and walkways, as well as entrances and exits for those able to fly, like himself. The structure’s top appeared level and gave foundation to a wide, octagonal shaped building. The castle’s coat of arms, which he assumed was the symbol of the Royal Knights, was flown from a flag at the top of the building.

    “It’s incredible,” Examon spoke, although the stiff muscles in his back and winged arms distracted him slightly.

    “You’ll get used to it,” Dukemon answered. His voice then became a bit fonder. “That said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

    The dragon glanced at Dukemon and smiled faintly. “You enjoy being a Royal Knight, then?”

    Dukemon closed his eyes and nodded. “You could say that... though it would be an understatement.”

    “I see... This is a bit embarrassing...”

    “What is?” Dukemon asked, looking over at him.

    “I don’t know as much about you Royal Knights as I probably should, given that I’m going to become one...” Examon admitted. “I know vague details... that you all protect the world and have beaten some tough opponents before, but...”

    Smiling, Dukemon shook his head dismissively. “Well, at least you’re honest. I respect that...” he replied. “Those blanks will be filled in soon enough, Examon.”

    Examon nodded. “...And the other knights? What are they like?” he questioned, both curious and apprehensive at the idea of meeting all the other Royal Knights.

    “They all have different personalities,” Dukemon said, seeming to pick up on his hesitation. “Everybody gets along with people differently. Somebody who I think is stuck up could end up being your closest friend for all I know.”

    “I guess that’s true...” Examon replied.

    As the two of them headed towards the lowered drawbridge, Examon was surprised to see a group of broad, armour-wearing, humanoid digimon run over. One of ran up to Dukemon and bowed his head respectfully.

    “Sir Dukemon. You’re back,” the Knightmon replied.

    Dukemon nodded and suddenly let go of the unconscious WarGrowlmon’s tail, letting it slide off his shoulder and hit the ground. “I didn’t mean to be late. I was helping Examon here,” he explained, prompting Examon to nod politely at them when the group of Knightmon looked over.

    The Knightmon, who seemed to have seniority over the other ones, looked over at the MetalGreymon and WarGrowlmon lying in the grass. “Sir Dukemon, who are they...?”

    “Raiders,” Dukemon explained bluntly. “Put them in chains and lock them up. Don’t forget to deactivate their weapon systems too.”

    “Right away,” the Knightmon replied dutifully, nodding to his men.

    Examon released the MetalGreymon’s tail and sighed with relief now that he didn’t have to drag him anymore.

    “By the way, guys,” Dukemon added, prompting the Knightmon to stop what they were doing and look at him. “This, here, is Examon. He’s going to be joining us, so treat him like you would any other Royal Knight.”

    A few of the Knightmon looked at Examon and then seemed to cast silent glances between one another. However, they all nodded at Dukemon. “Of course. It’s an honour to meet you, Sir Examon.”

    “Likewise...” Examon replied, although he couldn’t help but pick up on some discomfort from the Knightmon. It made him feel uncertain all of a sudden. Was it because he’s a dragon? Dukemon was draconic, but he at least looked humanoid, like they did. Examon started to wonder if the other knights were all strictly humanoid as well, and if his species would cause a fuss. He shook his head with a dismissive waver. They had probably never seen an Examon before, like the raiders.

    Dukemon put his gauntlet on Examon’s spiked shoulder and pulled him slightly, urging him along. “One good thing about being a Royal Knight is that you don’t have to do everything by yourself anymore,” he explained.

    “Guess I’ll have to get used to that...” Examon muttered, glancing at Dukemon’s hand on his shoulder and suddenly noticing how informal the knight was around him. Being a Royal Knight, he expected Dukemon to be more... sophisticated. He couldn’t really complain though, as it made him more comfortable at the idea of joining the Royal Knights, if only slightly.

    Dukemon looked over and grinned at him as they passed through the gate and into the courtyard which was adorned with cobblestones. “It took me some getting used to too.”

    The draconic knight led the dragon towards the broad, guarded entrance of the main building. The two Knightmon guards went to open the door for them, but Dukemon raised his hand, gesturing them to stop so he could do it himself. “We’re knights, guys, not kings. We can handle a door,” Dukemon said to them. The knight shot a grin at Examon. “They’re new too.”

    The two Knightmon apologized and went back to their posts as Dukemon opened the door, walking inside with Examon following. They stepped into the entrance hall and Examon looked around at the new environment. The first thing he noticed was the feeling of a soft rug against the soles of his scaled feet. The rug was draped along the long, stone hall, leading to another door at the top of some stairs at the opposite end. There were a few windows and sconces for holding torches along the stone wall of the hall, but not much else.

    Examon started walking forwards, following Dukemon down the hall. As he had a very long, skinny tail, it was often awkward. It alternated between whipping and dragging behind him as he walked. Suddenly, he felt a sharp, incredibly intense pain at the end of his tail. Examon heard himself let out a cross between a yelp and a roar.

    In his great pain, he noticed Dukemon spin around with alarm. Examon then quickly turned, himself, nearly tripping over his taut tail, to see that the two Knightmon guards had closed the front doors on his tail. He heard two cries of worry suddenly sound out from the other side of the doors. The doors in question suddenly swung open to reveal the two Knightmon guards bowing their heads with their eyes shut tight.

    “We’re sorry! We’re sorry! Sorry! We’re so very sorry!” they stammered with fear and embarrassment.

    Dukemon couldn’t help but laugh and look over at Examon, who was quickly pulling his tail over to hold the sore point and inspect the damage. Pain shot up the troublesome appendage upon grazing the tender scales with his claw, causing him to wince.

    “Better your tail than my hair,” Dukemon said, turning his head to show and point at the long strands of white hair coming from his helmet. “It wouldn’t be the first time it had happened.”

    “Grm...” Examon snarled lightly, his face blushing deeply at the fact he reacted so dramatically... even if it did hurt like hell. Even so, he should have handled that much better. He hoped that next time he wouldn’t make such a fool of himself. “Don’t... worry about it...” he mumbled, looking over his shoulder at the two Knightmon to show them that he had no hard feelings. He hoped that Dukemon couldn’t see his flushed face due to his already red scales.

    “Are you alright?” the Royal Knight asked, though grinning, making Examon worry that he might have noticed. “That long tail must be cumbersome. I know my hair and cape can be at times.”

    “I was just surprised. That’s all,” the hopefully-soon-to-be knight insisted, letting go of his tail and flicking it to test out the sore muscles. “And it can be... The difference is, you can cut your hair and choose not to wear a cape.”

    “That’s true... but I won’t,” Dukemon replied, winking at him before starting to walk up the stairs. “I like the way they look.”

    Despite his pain, Examon managed a smirk and followed him until they reached the top of the short flight of stairs. He stopped behind Dukemon when the knight halted in front of more wide, reinforced, wooden double doors. “What’s in there?” Examon asked curiously.

    Dukemon walked to the doors and pulled them open, his red cape flowing from the gust of air and nearly hitting Examon in the face when he did. “The foyer,” he explained. “The entrance room to the main building of the castle. This building has pretty much everything we need to live here.”

    Examon looked at him with heightened curiosity. “Oh?”

    Nodding, Dukemon explained. “Yeah. We have plenty of bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining hall, the council room, bathrooms with working plumbing, a medical bay, a leisure room, a chapel to Yggdrasil, the war room, a library, the dungeons, the sparring room and gym, a communications room, the computers room, and other stuff too.”

    “That’s a lot...” he observed.

    “Well, we do live here, after all,” the Royal Knight replied. Dukemon then walked through the doors and into the wide room.

    Following, Examon looked around to take in his surroundings. They stood in a large, octagonal room with doors on each wall except for the two diagonal walls next to the door they just walked in. Also in an octagonal shape were the ten, stone grey pillars circling the open center of the room. They stretched up to the tall, stone ceiling overhead. Examon took a step forwards and felt his bare, clawed feet touch a cool, smooth, marble floor, causing a very soothing feeling against his scales. The floor’s design was a mixture of greys, dark blues, and greens.

    Scanning the room, Examon saw that the two doors on the side walls led to hallways, and the two doors on the far diagonal walls led to stairs. Between those was a large set of opened double doors which led to a long, wide hall.

    He also noticed three other things in the foyer. Digimon.

    There were three digimon off to the right side standing between two of the pillars, chatting.

    Dukemon walked to the center of the room, grabbing their attention. Examon cautiously followed in into the open part of the foyer.

    “Hey there, guys,” Dukemon greeted, recognizing these unknown digimon.

    Examon walked forward slightly, but kept his distance from them, partially because he didn’t want to seem too familiar with them and partially to scope them out. He guessed that was just a habit of his.

    He watched Dukemon walk up to the trio of what looked like knights.

    “Heya, Dukemon,” one of them said. Examon looked at the speaker, the tallest of the four knights. He was largely humanoid in form but had distinctive dragon characteristics, like the two large horns on his head and the two wings – blue on the outside and pink on the inside – protruding from his back. He also wore extravagant – almost noble-looking – armour with a large golden V-crest on it. As blue as his armour were his fingerless gloves and tights. He also appeared to have a white, form-fitting suit underneath everything else, as Examon couldn’t tell why the exposed parts of his body weren’t the same colour as his blue wings.

    “Where have you been? I was trying to find you this morning,” another voice said, diverting Examon’s attention to the digimon, a quite short knight who, like the other one, had draconic characteristics, such as his reptilian body and tail. In terms of height, he was only as tall as their shoulders, but he wore flashy, golden armour over most of his body, which made sure he would never be overlooked.

    With a claw, he idly scratched a piece of his armour, which protected his face, feet, chest, shoulders, arms and groin. The shoulder and waist plates also seemed to have curious-looking turbines inside them, though they weren’t on at the moment. Unlike his two counterparts, he wasn’t wearing anything under his armour, which was obvious since the scales of his chest, upper legs, and biceps were exposed. Examon knew that this digimon was definitely of the Veemon-line. He suspected the other one might be, too.

    “Special mission from Alphamon,” Dukemon explained to them. He looked over his shoulder gesturing towards Examon. “I was supposed to find this guy.”

    The third knight looked over towards Examon; if Examon had been a less composed digimon than he was, he might have been intimidated by the digimon’s appearance. The knight was donning royal purple armour, which seemed unique to Examon for some reason. He also noticed that the digimon was wearing form-fitting, violet clothing underneath his armour. The humanoid knight seemed to have a skull motif to his armour, as there was a skull on top of the sash hanging from his waist between his legs, on his two shoulder plates, and his helmeted face was also skull-like, making him fearsome... except for the two purple tassels coming from his helmet.

    “And... what does Alphamon want with him, exactly?” the violet knight asked, looking at Examon with scrutiny.

    Examon cleared his throat. “My name is Examon,” he introduced himself, hoping they would do the same. “It’s an honour to meet you.”

    The short, gold-armoured knight was the first one to reply. “I’m Magnamon,” he responded. The knight walked over and outstretched his hand, to which Examon courteously shook it. “It’s nice to meet you too, Examon.”

    “Examon...” the blue, winged knight echoed, as if he found the name familiar. “Uh, well, my name’s UlforceVeedramon. Ulforce for short.”

    “Craniamon,” the purple knight introduced himself tersely. He placed his gloved hands on his hips and eyed Examon with his piercing red eyes. “So what are you doing here, if you don’t mind answering?”

    “Don’t be so rude to our guests, Craniamon,” Magnamon chastised, looking over his shoulder.

    “It’s fine,” Examon reassured them. He met eyes with Dukemon and nodded at him.

    “Alphamon invited Examon here to become the newest member of the Royal Knights,” Dukemon explained.

    “...Huh?” questioned Magnamon, turning around to look at Dukemon.

    “What?” Craniamon demanded, looking between Dukemon and Examon. “This dragon is to be a Royal Knight?”

    After his initial shock, UlforceVeedramon glanced over at Craniamon. “Hey, Craniamon. Three other dragon Royal Knights standing right here, you know,” he reminded him with some humour in his voice.

    “You three may be draconic, but you at least look like knights,” Craniamon replied, frowning. “Adding a full blown dragon to our ranks tarnishes our status as knights. What’s next? Sea serpent digimon?”

    Magnamon sighed and shook his head. “This is the Sleipmon argument all over again. Just because he’s a horse-man digimon... If this is Alphamon’s decision, then that’s good enough for me.”

    “Me too,” Dukemon agreed, folding his arms and nodding. “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” he added, to which Craniamon seemed to scoff at himself. Examon wasn’t sure why, but he could have sworn he saw Dukemon grimace slightly in response to Craniamon’s reaction.

    It was then that UlforceVeedramon’s face seemed to light up at something. “Oh, I remember now. Examon! You’re the so-called ‘Dragon Emperor’, right?” he said. His voice was sarcastic and standoffish. Examon, who was suddenly having second thoughts about coming here, turned to UlforceVeedramon, who continued.

    “With a title like that, I guess the rest of us dragon digimon have to defer to you, don’t we? I guess since you’re that much better than us you get to have that title, don’t you?” UlforceVeedramon spoke sarcastically, smirking slightly. “As a dragon digimon who’s apparently beneath you, I suppose I should call you ‘Ex-sama’. Does that sound acceptable, your majesty?”

    “Ulforce,” Dukemon warned, casting a glare at the blue dragon. UlforceVeedramon merely grinned in response.

    Examon gritted his teeth. He couldn’t understand why they were reacting with so much hostility to him. Were his social skills that bad that he already made enemies of half of the knights he had met?

    “I’m not an emperor of anybody,” Examon replied, staring at UlforceVeedramon. With two out of the four Royal Knights already resistant to his joining, he could only imagine how the rest of them would respond. He turned to Dukemon next and bowed his head apologetically. “Maybe this was a mistake, Dukemon. Tell Alphamon that I’m grateful for the opportunity, but-“

    “Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” Dukemon replied sharply, narrowing his eyes at him. “Craniamon has his spear up his rear, and Ulforce teases everybody. Just ignore them; I thought you had tougher scales than that.”

    Magnamon nodded in agreement. “You’ll fit in in no time, Examon. You would only hate yourself later for passing up such an opportunity.”

    Examon raised his head and looked between the two. They did bring up good points. He felt he was better than to let a few derisive words keep him from putting himself in a position where he could help protect the world. Craniamon and UlforceVeedramon may be Royal Knights, but they were just digimon like him too.

    “You’re right, Dukemon,” Examon answered. He turned to Craniamon and UlforceVeedramon calmly. “Whatever your first impressions are of me, I hope that you’ll be able to look past them and work together with me in the future.”

    He noticed Magnamon smile and Dukemon nodded approvingly.

    “I prefer to work alone,” Craniamon responded, turning and walking towards the opened double doors across from the entrance.

    UlforceVeedramon smiled and went to follow him. “Well, Ex-sama, if you do become a Royal Knight, I know one person who’s not going to be happy about it,” he said with a slight chuckle before going through the doorway.

    “Come on, Examon. This way,” Dukemon said, following Craniamon and UlforceVeedramon.

    “Who does he mean?” Examon asked, looking down at Magnamon, who was walking beside him.

    “OuRyuumon,” Magnamon answered.

    “Is he one of the Royal Knights?” he asked him, remembering Dukemon mention his name when they first met.

    “No. He wants to be though. He and Alphamon are very close friends,” the Royal Knight explained. “He might as well be a Royal Knight since he’s fought with us before and stays here at the castle, but it isn’t official.”

    “If he and Alphamon are such close friends, then why isn’t he a Royal Knight?”

    Magnamon smiled. “If one thing can be said about Alphamon, it’s that he’s fair and impartial. That’s part of why he’s such a good leader. And that’s why I trust him in choosing you as a Royal Knight,” he told him. “As for why OuRyuumon isn’t a Royal Knight... Well, I don’t know Alphamon’s reasons, but my guess is that it’s his hotheadedness. Sure, Dukemon may be hotheaded at times too, but OuRyuumon is much harder to control when he gets worked up.”

    Dukemon glanced over his shoulder but kept walking. Examon turned his head forwards. “I see,” he responded, walking out of the foyer and into a grand hall.

    The hall around them was an amazing sight to behold. It was long and wide with a tall ceiling. In fact, Examon figured that the path from the entrance of the main building to here was large enough for even a MegaSeadramon to pass through without getting stuck. Again, he felt cold, marble tiles beneath his feet, but this time they were a golden beige colour, much like the walls and ceiling of the great hall. The whole room was very open, with zero furniture. There was another set of large double doors at the end of the hall, along with two smaller doors on the far ends of the side walls.

    “Where are we going?” Examon questioned, looking around calmly, though inwardly he was impressed by the beautiful designs on the floor and walls.

    “The council room,” Dukemon explained, looking over his shoulder again. “It’s where we discuss official matters.”

    Magnamon nodded. “The rest of the knights should be there; we were being summoned for a meeting when you and Dukemon arrived. I guess we know what it’s about now.”

    “Didn’t mean to ruin the surprise,” Examon said with a calmed voice, glancing over at Magnamon with a raised eyebrow.

    The short knight gave a soft chuckle. “I think that adding a knight to our ranks is enough excitement on its own.”

    Examon smiled slightly and looked forward, channeling his bravery and confidence. For as long as the hall was, it didn’t feel as though it took long to reach its end, as he saw Dukemon, who wasn’t far ahead, pass through the doorway at the end of the great hall. Examon’s heart was calm as he walked with Magnamon into what he was told was the council room.

    As soon as Examon walked in the room, he noticed a stark difference in setting. The glamour of the great hall wasn’t found in this room. The walls and floor were made of grey stone, giving the room a feeling of formal earnest and gravity. The next thing that caught his eye was a giant stained glass window at the back of the room, opposite from Examon. It glowed with white light as the sun shone in from outside. It reached from the floor to the ceiling and the picture was stunning. Displayed in the window was a picture of a digimon – a blue scaled dragon man by the look of it, not unlike Magnamon. However, he was taller and wore pristine white armour. If it weren’t for the white colour of the armour and the wings, he would have said it was an Imperialdramon Fighter Mode, a digimon of the Veemon line like Magnamon and UlforceVeedramon. No, he was pretty sure he heard of another digimon similar, but much more rare: Imperialdramon Paladin Mode.

    The window depicted him in a heroic stance, one arm arched with his fist clenched tight with determination, and the other arm pointing up with a large sword raised in the air. The sword’s blade was etched with digicode. It said “Initialize”.

    “I’m glad you’re all here,” a strong, but low voice said, bringing Examon’s thoughts back down to earth. He was embarrassed at himself for allowing himself to be distracted by the culture shock, though he didn’t let that show.

    Examon looked down from the window to the middle of the room. There was a large, circular table at the centre, made from the whitest stone. Around it were many seats, most of them with digimon sitting in them. At the far end of the round table, a knight in black armour stood up from his seat. The seat to his right was occupied by a white knight, who appeared to be looking at the standing digimon with some surprise on his face.

    “I see you managed to find him, Dukemon,” he said, looking at Dukemon who stopped walking and stood still.

    “That’s right,” Dukemon replied. “And when I did, he was in the process of taking down two raiders. I would say you picked well, Alphamon.” The crimson knight looked over his shoulder at Examon, giving him what he assumed was a grin behind his helmet.

    The black Royal Knight named Alphamon nodded. He looked past Dukemon and into Examon’s eyes. “Greetings, Examon. I’m grateful that you accepted my invitation,” he said, his voice disarming and warm.

    “The honour is all mine,” Examon responded, bowing his head with genuine humility and respect.

    “My name is Alphamon, and these are the Royal Knights,” he explained, gently waving an arm out in front of him to gesture to the other digimon sitting around the table.

    “Uhh... Alphamon... Who is this digimon?” a voice said.

    Examon looked up and saw a brownish-gold dragon digimon looking over at him. He stood on short, rather stubby legs, but his long, serpent-like body made him quite tall, as tall as Examon even. Behind his long arms were large, black metal wings protruding from his back. He also had hair that was a dull purple colour, oddly.

    UlforceVeedramon chuckled a bit and sat down in an empty chair. “This ought to be a good show. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Ex-sama.”

    Alphamon looked over to the serpentine digimon. “OuRyuumon?” he said to him before looking to the others. “Royal Knights?” He locked eyes with Examon. “This is Examon. The newest and eleventh member of the Royal Knights. Make him feel welcome.”

    “What?! This is preposterous!” a voice shouted out.

    Great,” Examon thought as he turned towards the voice. “More outrage.”

    Glaring at him were two green eyes behind a blue mask, which was under a leopard-themed helmet. The humanoid knight had brown and white armour, a blonde mane of hair, and two small, white wings. Drooping over the sides of his chair were the ends of a long, red scarf tied around his waist and a brown tail with a yellow orb at the end. “Alphamon, what possessed you to enlist him as a member?”

    “An Examon?” a different, male, yet slightly effeminate, voice spoke. Examon looked over and saw a knight that he could only describe as flamboyant. Any male knight who wears pink armour from head to toe can only be described as such. He also had several long yellow ribbons coming out of his armour. “Another very, very strange choice for a new Royal Knight you’ve made, Alphie. Such a dragon seems obscure for our team, but at least he’s good-looking.”

    Examon blinked in surprise at that last comment. “Well... that’s better than nothing, I guess,” he figured.

    “A-Alphamon... You can’t be serious!” shouted the dragon digimon that Examon now knew was called OuRyuumon. “Him?! Why him?!”

    “Stop it, you guys,” Dukemon said with some fire in his voice, glaring at the knights who protested.

    “We’ll talk later, OuRyuumon,” Alphamon said to him, glancing over. He sighed and rubbed his head. “What part of ‘make him feel welcome’ was so difficult to understand?” he asked in a dry, exasperated voice.

    “Hmph,” OuRyuumon grunted, casting a glare at Examon as he stormed out of the council room and into the great hall.

    “I told you, Omegamon,” Alphamon spoke to the white armoured digimon beside him.

    “Give them time,” Omegamon responded.

    Examon frowned at the commotion his presence caused. He certainly never had this effect back in the United Dramonic Coalition. This setting seemed like an acquired taste to him now. He hoped that the knights would warm to him after a few days, but he really couldn’t guarantee that from the way things looked now.

    He looked at the remaining two knights who really hadn’t reacted strongly to the announcement. One was a white and gold armoured humanoid digimon with draconic features like light violet scales and leathery, purple wings. He also seemed to have red orbs in the palms on his hands.

    The final Royal Knight was a surprise to Examon. The knight had the upper body of a man and the lower body and head of a horse, except he had six legs. He was clad in red armour and had large, golden ornamentations coming from his back. Adding to Examon’s surprise, he also had purple hair much like OuRyuumon did. He also seemed to be sitting very awkwardly in his small chair, as he was half sitting and half standing due to his six legs.

    Examon wondered if that digimon went through the same resistance as he did or not. The horse man digimon looked over at Examon and smiled, giving him a warm nod. Examon allowed a smile and returned the nod.

    The shock and surprise seemed to die down and the atmosphere settled. Alphamon took this opportunity to speak again. “Okay, everyone... If you’re all done marring Examon’s perception of how kind and noble the Royal Knights are,” he began, casting a particular glance to Craniamon, UlforceVeedramon, and the brown knight, “why don’t we all introduce ourselves?” Alphamon sat back down and took a drink from the glass in front of him before looking at Examon. “You’ve already met Dukemon and I...”

    Examon nodded politely. “Magnamon, UlforceVeedramon, and Craniamon as well,” he explained.

    The white knight that sat at Alphamon’s right nodded to him. “My name is Omegamon. It’s an honour to meet you and I look forward to seeing what you can do.”

    The pink knight who apparently found Examon attractive spoke up. “Well, it should be interesting to have you among our ranks, Examon. My name is RhodoKnightmon, but just ‘Rhodo’ will be fine as well,” he replied, looking at Examon carefully. “What massive wings you carry. You know what they say about a digimon with big wings, don’t you?”

    “Let’s assume he does, Rhodo,” the white armoured, purple dragon man said, standing up and nodding at Examon. “I’m Dynasmon. Good to have you with us.”

    “Duftmon,” the brown, feline-like knight said shortly, folding his arms. “Chief tactician of the Royal Knights.”

    Lastly, the red-armoured, horse knight spoke up. “And I’m Sleipmon. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said, a smile forming. “It will be nice not to be the newest member anymore.”

    Examon nodded to all of them. “It’s an honour to meet you all and to be chosen to join you. I hope we can become friends in the future.”

    Alphamon nodded and stood up. “You can all get acquainted later. For now, I need to speak with Examon in private to get him settled in. This meeting is over.”

    Nods came from around the round table and the Royal Knights rose to their feet, walking towards the door behind Examon. Examon tucked his wings in slightly as they started to pass, some not looking at him while others giving him nods or smiles. As they walked by him he felt Dukemon’s hand pat the spikes on his shoulder. Examon looked over and Dukemon gave him a reassuring nod, which Examon appreciated.

    A few seconds later, only Alphamon and himself remained in the council room. Examon couldn’t help but glance up at the stained glass window of the Imperialdramon Paladin Mode again. “Who is that?” he asked.

    Alphamon looked over his shoulder and wing, looking up at it. “Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. He was the founder of the Royal Knights.”

    “Is he the leader, then?” Examon questioned, walking over to Alphamon.

    “No. That role fell to me,” he explained, smiling a bit. “I have the title of Lord of the Empty Seat... That said, here at the Royal Knights, we treat each other as our equals. I respect the opinions of each member.”

    “Equal?” Examon asked. He certainly didn’t feel like the others’ equal, given the lukewarm reception he received.

    “Don’t mind them. They’ll warm to you after awhile,” Alphamon explained. “I expected such reactions when I decided to make you our eleventh member. A few of the knights have strong personalities along with more traditional views on what the Royal Knights should be. Sleipmon received a similar treatment, but now he’s a fully integrated member of the Royal Knights who has tight bonds with most of them. ...I don’t know why Ulforce is icy towards you, though; he’s one of the more progressive knights...”

    Examon grinned slightly. “I don’t think he likes my title of ‘Dragon Emperor’... I never even liked that title. They just called me that to scare potential bandits and raiders.”

    Nodding, Alphamon took his seat, the one that had its back to the window and faced the door, and looked over at him. “Well, you’ll be fine, Examon. Now, there’s a lot of business we need to get to. You might want to sit down; this will take awhile.”

    Examon took one of the seats that had been unoccupied, eager to get started. “I’m ready when you are, Alphamon...”

    -

    His black, metal body dashed down the dark hall. He could hear the clanging of his paws against the floor as he ran. His eyes and sensors were on full alert.

    “Where is he?” he growled under his breath while running as fast as his strong and fast legs could take him.

    Finally, he turned into a room and saw the familiar body of a two-legged jackal digimon with big wings and long black hair. The fast wolf digimon screeched to a stop.

    “Bro! Bro! Anubismon!” he shouted, panting.

    The digimon turned towards him with a raised eyebrow. “BlackMetalGarurumon?” he asked, sounding as calm as ever. “What’s up?”

    “It’s Examon!” BlackMetalGarurumon explained enthusiastically, rearing up on his hind legs for a moment to emphasize his excitement.

    “What now?” Anubismon asked, narrowing his red eyes at him. “Did he kill those raiders we sent in to probe the territory?”

    “No! Well! Yeah! Well! Sort of!” BlackMetalGarurumon tried to explain as clear as he could.

    “...Slow down, brother,” Anubismon scolded, seeming annoyed at him again.

    “He killed three of them and the other two were taken prisoner, but that’s only the bad news!”

    “...So what’s the good news? Aside from the fact that we won’t have to worry about paying those screw ups now.”

    BlackMetalGarurumon grinned widely. “Well, y’see. When I was watching them, after the fight, this other guy came over to Examon. ...It was Dukemon from the Royal Knights.”

    “...Dukemon?” Anubismon asked.

    BlackMetalGarurumon nodded. “So, I watched from a distance, listening in with my range listening device, and Dukemon said that they wanted Examon to join the Royal Knights!”

    “...Great for him. And this is good for us how?” BlackMetalGarurumon’s brother questioned.

    “He agreed and is going with them! Which means that he won’t be around to protect the United Dramonic Coalition! We’ll be able to move in like you wanted!” BlackMetalGarurumon explained.

    A grin appeared on Anubismon’s face, causing BlackMetaGarurumon to be just as pleased. “Good work...” he said.

    Happy with himself, BlackMetalGarurumon outstretched his paw and started examining it like it was no big deal. “Yeah, well...” he said coolly, he thought, at least. He then looked up at Anubismon. “Hey, why do we want to take control of that place again? It’s full of smelly dragons. Why do you think they’d accept canine digimon as leaders?”

    “They might not, but it won’t matter,” Anubismon explained. “The only reason all those factions of dragons banded together and formed the United Dramonic Coalition was so that they could all benefit from Examon’s protection. Now that he’s abandoned them to join the Royal Knights, that coalition will break apart easily due to in-fighting. And if we go in and attack them and take over, they’ll be too weak to resist our rule. Then, instead of Examon, they’ll be united under us, BlackMetalGarurumon.”

    “I don’t really get the details, but I don’t mind blowing digimon up if that’s what you think will work best,” BlackMetalGarurumon replied, smiling.

    Anubismon chuckled softly. “That’s what you’re best at. Now come on, brother. Let’s start planning our next move...”
    Last edited by Griff4815; 2nd April 2012 at 7:23 PM.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  7. #7
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    All around a better chapter than what came before. Just want to say that off the bat in case I forget after ripping into it mercilessly.

    There were still a few issues I took with style. One that hit me right away was this:
    Examon and Dukemon grunted with effort as they dragged their unconscious prisoners over the lush, far-reaching grasslands. The red dragon digimon clenched his teeth, stopping for a moment to arch his stiff back, hearing various uncomfortable popping noises as a result.
    The bold just blares "scientific paper". It's cumbersomely worded, especially connected to the first part of the sentence. It would flow better as "The red dragon clenched his teeth, stopping for a moment to arch his stiff back. He winced at the uncomfortable popping noises."

    And then this:
    His black, metal, wolfy body dashed down the dark hall. He could hear the clanging and banging and pattering of his paws against the floor as he ran. His eyes and sensors were on full alert.
    "Wolfy" Griff? Really? You can do better. As for the second part. This is more in line with what I said last review in that the language and writing needs to come from the central character. Would BlackMetalGarurumon really be thinking that he "could hear the clanging and banging and pattering of his paws"? Why would he? Isn't that a normal, everyday occurrence? Do you interrupt your train of thought to consider your footsteps?

    But I don't want to beat a dead horse. Style and these sorts of decisions are those that just get easier and more clear with time.

    I think my biggest issue was with the sheer number of characters. 11 Royal Knights, some Knightmon, and OwRyumon. Then Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon. It was especially difficult with the knights, since they're all together and we're trying so hard to keep track of the knight and his personality and his physical description.

    Other than that though, I like the way this is progressing.

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

  8. #8
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    Anubismon grinned as he flew through the air above BlackMetalGarurumon. He looked down at his brother to see the black, four-legged lupine digimon look up at him.

    “That went the way you wanted, right, bro?” BlackMetalGarurumon asked.

    Anubismon nodded and looked at the significantly larger, riverside town several kilometers ahead of them. That was their next target. “Yes. Good work. I just hope the rest of them surrender that easily,” he said. “You did a good job at not killing anybody who stood in our way. Keep doing that, if you can.”

    “Sure thing, but why?” BlackMetalGarurumon asked.

    “The less they hate us, the better. I want the mines, remember? If they see us as benevolent leaders, they’ll be much more willing to work under us and we won’t have to worry as much about uprisings,” Anubismon explained, looking down at him. “Until we get richer, we only have so many cards we can play before the Royal Knights start becoming a problem.”

    “That’s a smart way of looking at it,” BlackMetalGarurumon explained, looking up and sticking his tongue out. “I guess you got the brains in the family while I got the brawn and the good looks.”

    Anubismon rolled his eyes.

    BlackMetalGarurumon chuckled. After a moment, the black, cyborg wolf blinked and then his eyes slowly widened. “Anubismon! Look out!”

    “Pendragon’s Glory!”

    Anubismon turned his head upwards and could see a red gleam. He then felt blinding pain as a laser burned straight through his wing, sending blood and brown feathers flying out. Anubismon let out a cry of pain and plummeted to the ground.

    BlackMetalGarurumon snarled and went to action. He skidded to a stop in the grass and caught Anubismon on his back.

    “D-Damn it...” Anubismon growled, his voice wracked with pain as he gripped his brother’s back. “Who did that?!”

    BlackMetalGarurumon looked up to see who their assailant was. His eyes widened again. “I-It’s Examon!”

    “What?!” Anubismon demanded, snarling in pain as looked up as well. Indeed, Examon was flying high in the sky with the Ambrosius pointed at them. “He was supposed to be with the Royal Knights!”

    “Get off, Anubismon!” BlackMetalGarurumon commanded. “I’ll take him down.”

    Anubismon grunted and dismounted, landing on a knee so he could inspect the damage to his wing. With that, BlackMetalGarurumon took off in a gallop. He glared up at Examon and he heard the clicking sounds of his munitions locking into place. “You’ll pay for hurting my brother! I’m not holding back! Metal Howling!”

    Examon tensed slightly with anticipation. “So these are the two attackers...”

    The metal coverings on BlackMetalGarurumon’s forelegs suddenly opened up and revealed a multitude of red-tipped missiles inside them. Also, a massive missile emerged from a hidden port on his back. Examon watched as the black wolf’s wings extended and he started to fly. Smoke then erupted from BlackMetalGarurumon’s forelegs, shoulders, and back, as the missiles started to launch.

    Examon’s eyes narrowed with concentration as he was amassed by a barrage of missiles from BlackMetalGarurumon’s legs. “Don’t fail me, wings,” Examon thought to the sentient Caledfwlch.

    In the face of the intimidating missile salvo, Examon’s wings flapped hard in front of him as the missiles closed in. The Caledfwilch pumped the air and Examon flew backwards, putting space between himself and the missiles. With room to breathe, he raised the Ambrosius.

    “Avalon’s Gate!” A cylindrical shell fired from the lance towards the hail of red missiles rising from the ground to engulf him. The shell impacted one of the missiles, causing it to explode. Examon’s shell then exploded from the missile’s detonation, bursting into a giant ball of flames. The fire swathed outwards and engulfed several other missiles, causing them to detonate prematurely and cause their neighbouring explosives to do the same in a big chain reaction of fire, ice, water and metal.

    Examon grunted at the heat against his scales and the Caledfwlch instinctively folded in front of his body to protect him with their chrome digizoid armour. He felt himself be thrown back slightly by the blast, but soon he opened up his wings. When he did, he saw BlackMetalGarurumon flying under the explosion, rising at a steep angle.

    “I’m not done with you yet, dragon!” BlackMetalGarurumon shouted. The six missiles on his shoulders let loose and sailed towards him at high speeds.

    Examon tried to raise his lance to attack, but he was still too busy recovering to be able to do it quick enough. His wings folded in front of him once again and the six sharp missiles hit his armour, pounding against it before exploding. The Royal Knight let out a stifled growl as the six detonations rocked and charred his chrome digizoid armour and threw him back in the air.

    He opened his wings slightly, hoping to counterattack, but when he did, he saw the massive missile of BlackMetalGarurumon’s back launching towards him. Before he could do anything else, the giant missile hit his wings and exploded, covering his wings with solid ice.

    Examon grunted. He couldn’t move his wings at all. He began to fall.

    BlackMetalGarurumon let out a triumphant laugh. “Hah! Got you, dragon!”

    The dragon in question narrowed his eyes and started tilting himself in the air so that he was falling headfirst towards BlackMetalGarurumon. “That’s what you think,” he muttered. “Draconic Impact.”

    Examon suddenly started falling faster, like a boulder. The metal of his armour began to heat up due to the friction of him falling. With the heated armour, the ice sealing his wings began to melt, and soon Examon’s body was glowing red.

    BlackMetalGarurumon’s eyes widened as Examon plummeted towards him at a speed he couldn’t avoid. He tried his best to turn, but Examon slammed into the lupine cyborg hard and sent him hurdling towards the ground. He landed hard on his back and his body dug into the ground. Even with the successful hit, Examon continued to fall towards BlackMetalGarurumon, aiming to hit him with the full power of the attack.

    “No!” Anubismon yelled from nearby. “Amemit!”

    A nebulous form of a shadow creature suddenly emerged in thin air in front of Anubismon before shooting quickly towards Examon, slamming into him and throwing him off course, away from BlackMetalGarurumon. Examon grunted and opened his wings – continuing the attack wouldn’t have been worth it like that. Instead he swung the Ambrosius around and aimed it at BlackMetalGarurumon.

    “Garuru Tomahawk!” the wolf shouted before Examon could fire. The port on his underbelly opened up and fired another huge missile towards Examon.

    The Royal Knight flapped his wings hard and avoided it. “Avalon’s Gate!” he countered, firing a shell that hit BlackMetalGarurumon’s leg and sent electricity coursing through his body. BlackMetalGarurumon howled in pain, his entire body conducting the electricity.

    Examon swooped down and landed in front of BlackMetalGarurumon. He drove the Ambrosius back and prepared to impale the wolf.

    He drove it forward.

    “Pyramid Power!”

    The Ambrosius’ tip ricocheted off something hard and deflected, instead digging into the ground. Examon let out a growl of surprise, suddenly immense pressure and tightness around him. He turned his head and saw that Anubismon had summoned a pyramid-shaped barrier of light around Examon, trapping him inside it and cutting him off from BlackMetalGarurumon.

    Anubismon growled and held his wing, running over. “BlackMetalGarurumon! We’re retreating!” he demanded, hissing as he approached.

    BlackMetalGarurumon groaned and rolled over onto his stomach so that he could stand up. He glanced at the Royal Knight enclosed within the transparent, golden barrier. “But bro! We have him!” he protested.

    “It won’t hold him forever. We can’t defeat him like this!” Anubismon argued, jumping onto BlackMetalGarurumon’s back before he had a chance to argue further.

    “...Fine,” the wolf agreed with some reluctance. He stuck his tongue out and made an immature face at Examon before running off, back in the direction they came.

    Examon flushed and gave a long snarl of anger, trying to fight against the pyramidal barrier around him, which was especially tight due to the large wings on Examon’s back and arms, as well as the lengthy Ambrosius lance.

    “Damn it,” he growled, pushing against the barrier with his wings. He couldn’t budge his wings or reposition his lance to strike out against the walls. “I can hardly move in this thing.”

    Knowing it would be a long, awkward, and embarrassing struggle otherwise, Examon decided to try and think of an alternate solution. He sat down and took the metal magazine out of the Ambrosius and gently emptied out the shells. “Maybe I can modify one of these to neutralize the barrier,” he mumbled to himself.

    Examon suddenly heard a tapping behind him. “Thinking outside the box, I see?” a familiar voice said.

    Examon’s eyes widened and he felt his insides drop. “Oh, Fanglongmon, no,” he thought, feeling blood surging to his face. He reluctantly looked over his shoulder. UlforceVeedramon was standing outside the pyramid trap, smiling and waving. UlforceVeedramon’s smile could only be described as a ****-eating grin.

    The dragon’s crimson face grew even redder as he blushed hard. UlforceVeedramon was the absolute last knight that he wanted seeing him like this.

    “Quite the pickle you’ve gotten yourself into, Ex-sama,” UlforceVeedramon said, turning around and leaning with his back against the barrier, folding his arms. “And I’m guessing Dynasmon, Craniamon and Duftmon don’t know you’re here...”

    In embarrassment, Examon put his hand on the top of his snout and rubbed his temples. “UlforceVeedramon... I know how this looks, and you probably think that I think I’m too good to follow orders, but I couldn’t just leave the digimon here to get attacked,” he explained, slowly and awkwardly turning around in the pyramid.

    UlforceVeedramon looked over his shoulder at Examon. “I get what you were trying to do... but you forgot about Rule Three of the Royal Knights’ Code of Conduct. ‘A Royal Knight will not abandon another Royal Knight in his time of need.’ I’ll spare you the lecture, Ex-sama, because I know you’re going to get a load of them once we go back to headquarters.” He smiled a bit.

    Examon sighed, turning his head in a hope that the cobalt knight couldn’t see him embarrassment. “...Can you help me out then?” he asked, glancing at UlforceVeedramon, embarrassed at himself for asking that.

    UlforceVeedramon unfolded his arms, stood up straight and turned to face Examon. “If I hear a ‘please’...” he teased, smiling wider.

    “...I thought you said a Royal Knight had to help another Royal Knight in their time of need,” Examon responded, giving him a bland, not amused stare.

    “Yeah, but it never hurts to be polite, does it?” Ulforce said with a chuckle.

    “...I’ll be okay,” Examon said, going back to fiddling with the shell in his hand. It was more because he didn’t want to hear UlforceVeedramon’s teasing and gloating than not wanting to be polite. Plus, a part of him wanted to show that he wasn’t as incompetent as the current situation made him seem.

    UlforceVeedramon laughed and knocked on the barrier. “Oh, don’t be like that, Ex-sama. You won’t have to be trapped like a tin of sardines any longer.” The blue dragon man held out his left arm and the large bracer around his wrist began to glow. “Stand back and brace yourself okay? Tensegrity Shield!”

    A geometric barrier of energy suddenly extended from Ulforce’s wrist and impacted the pyramidal barrier. Upon contact, Ulforce’s Tensegrity shield caused the barrier to be repelled, and with a swing of his arm, the shield smashed the barrier and caused it to disintegrate.

    Examon let out a sigh and outstretched his wings. “I appreciate the assistance... though I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken me too long,” he said.

    Ulforce grinned and folded his arms. “If that’s what you want to tell yourself...”

    The red dragon grunted a bit. “Seriously, Ulforce... Thank you. Most of all, for coming here.”

    “Please, you’ll make me blush,” UlforceVeedramon said with a laugh, flapping his wings and getting airborne. “It’s just a shame I had to help you instead of looking for the attackers.” Examon winced a bit. UlforceVeedramon glanced at him. “Come on, let’s head back to the headquarters. Alphamon’s not going to be happy about this.”

    Examon’s wince became a grimace. “This isn’t going to be easy... Time to face my punishment.”

    -

    “You stupid, selfish, incompetent, unreliable, foolish IDIOT!”

    Examon grimaced. He stood in the war room along with the Royal Knights and OuRyuumon. Before him was Duftmon, glaring at Examon with such intensity that Examon was sure he’d burst a blood vessel. He, Dynasmon, and Craniamon had more dirt on their armour than the rest of the knights did. Around Craniamon’s forearm, near the elbow, was a white cloth with a few spots of blood, covering a small cut under a tear in his violet suit. Craniamon looked almost as annoyed and frustrated as Duftmon did; he glared daggers at Examon.

    “...I apologize,” Examon said humbly, glancing more at Alphamon than Duftmon. UlforceVeedramon had to tell the others what had happened. Examon didn’t blame him; he was planning to tell the truth anyways.

    “And that makes what you did alright?” Duftmon asked, sneering. “We were depending on you for support fire! Your leaving on nothing but a whim screwed up my entire plan and compromised the mission! And Craniamon’s wound is proof of that!” The leopard knight couldn’t help but growl.

    “I know...” Examon calmly replied. “I regret it, but I couldn’t just leave them.”

    “Yet according to your report, UlforceVeedramon arrived only three minutes after you drove the two invaders off,” Duftmon said, narrowing his eyes. “If you hadn’t left your position, he would have been able to show up and take care of them. Instead, our team had more trouble, the Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon escaped, and you ended up confined in a box.”

    Examon flushed. On the last comment, he heard OuRyuumon snickering in the background. “...I didn’t know that at the time,” he said.

    “That’s not an excuse!” Duftmon growled. The brown knight turned towards Alphamon. “I told you, Alphamon. I said that he would be trouble, but you didn’t listen. Now we have an overgrown newt among our ranks who thinks that he can just ignore tactics and do whatever he pleases! You had better deal with this, Alphamon.”

    Alphamon narrowed his red eyes at Duftmon a bit. Duftmon pushed Examon aside, seething, and stormed out of the room in a huff.

    “Duftmon!” Dukemon protested, wincing slightly at the situation. The white and red knight looked over at Examon, who grimaced.

    Alphamon sighed as Duftmon left. Omegamon looked at the Lord of the Empty Seat and then at Examon. He took a step forward, but found Alphamon’s hand blocking him.

    “No. I’ll do it,” Alphamon said. Omegamon nodded and leaned against the table next to him. Alphamon walked forwards.

    Examon turned back towards Alphamon and saw a black gauntlet heading towards his face. Before he could react, Alphamon’s fist collided with his snout. Examon let out a growl of surprise and was sent flying through the air from the force, and crashing to the floor, on his back.

    “A-Alphamon!” Dukemon said with shock, going over to where Examon landed.

    Examon grunted with pain and felt blood trickle out of his nostrils for the second time that day. He felt stinging in his eyes and throbbing in his nose from the violent blow to his snout.

    Alphamon ignored the pain in his fist and walked calmly over to Examon. With an unreadable expression, Alphamon bent down and grabbed hold of the sharp tips of Examon’s wings. He then pulled, gently heaving Examon onto his feet before letting go. He looked into Examon’s eyes.

    “Examon...” Alphamon began, his voice calm yet disappointed. “As much as I hate to say it, Duftmon’s right. You’re an idiot.”

    Dukemon grimaced a bit, “Alphamon, wait a second.”

    Alphamon raised his hand at Dukemon, urging him not to speak. Even when doing that, he didn’t take his eyes off of Examon. “Let me say this, Dukemon...”

    Dukemon sighed, but nodded.

    The black armoured leader of the Royal Knights continued staring at Examon. “I know your heart was in the right place, but you going off on your own did screw up Duftmon’s plan. I know better than anybody how insufferable he can be, but his tactics are very good; they ensure the safety of us knight as well as the digimon who we protect,” Alphamon explained. “These aren’t all going to be easy missions like this last one, Examon. You can’t go off and jeopardize the plans; lives hang in the balance. I know you don’t want to be the cause of an innocent digimon or a fellow knight’s death.”

    Examon grimaced and looked away. “I don’t... I’m sorry, Alphamon.”

    Alphamon sighed. “It’s not just that...” he said. “Examon... I know that you’re used to doing your own thing. You have always worked alone in protecting the UDC. However... you’re a Royal Knight now. You can’t just go off and work alone. You have to be a team player. You have to have the other Knights’ backs as much as they have to have your back. We’re a team, Examon.” Alphamon turned and looked at Craniamon, who folded his arms, wincing slightly. “Even Craniamon puts the lone wolf thing aside for the good of the team and the missions.”

    Examon looked down, shame in his eyes.

    Alphamon placed his hand on Examon’s spiked shoulder. “I know that you care for the UDC, but there have been times where each of us have had to put more important missions over ones involving our homes. It wasn’t easy, but it was our duty to the world. Do you understand that, Examon?”

    The reply was a nod. “I... apologize,” he spoke.

    The black knight squeezed his shoulder and then let go. “I know you won’t do something like this again...” He smiled slightly. “Go get some rest, Examon. Oh... and I’m also taking you off the next three missions so you have some time to get used to things.”

    Examon nodded, accepting the punishment. He turned to the others. “It... won’t happen again,” he said to them, nodding before walking out.

    Dukemon watched Examon leave and frowned. He approached Alphamon and looked at him. “Alphamon... it wasn’t his fault, you know. Well, not entirely...” Dukemon explained. “When I gave him your invitation, I told him that the United Dramonic Coalition would have top priority. I wanted to make sure that he joined...”

    Alphamon sighed and rubbed his temples. “I see... Still, that doesn’t excuse his actions. I’m reprimanding him the same way that I would you or anybody else,” he explained.

    Dukemon nodded. “Yeah, I know...” he looked at Alphamon. “Mind if I go talk to him?”

    “Not at all,” Alphamon replied. “You can all get some rest.”

    “Great!” RhodoKnightmon said. “I’ll get started on dinner.”

    -

    Within a small yet long room, there were rows of benches. There were two rows of five benches going down the length of the room. At the end of the room there was an altar, with a large painted glass window of a white, polygon-shaped figure in a vaguely humanoid – almost angel-like - shape. Its head had a large, red eye. This was a chapel dedicated to the god Yggdrasil.

    In one of these pews sat Examon. Examon closed his eyes and bowed his head slightly. Behind him, the door creaked open and the sound of heavy footsteps along with the rattling of armour echoed through the hallowed room of worship.

    Examon opened his eyes and saw Dukemon walk in.

    “Mind if I join you?” he asked, slipping in and sitting down beside him, leaning back against Examon’s wing before he could respond.

    “By all means...” Examon replied, looking over with a heavy expression.

    Dukemon frowned and put his hand on Examon’s shoulder. “I’m sorry about all that, Examon. I didn’t think a situation like that would happen...”

    The dragon knight shook his horned head reassuringly. “No, I deserved everything I got... I shouldn’t have broken off from the group,” Examon explained. “I have a lot to get used to now that I’m a Royal Knight... Alphamon was right. I can’t just do everything solo... and I have to realize that I’m protecting the world, not just the UDC...” Examon closed his eyes. “I just hope I can do that.”

    Dukemon smiled a bit. “I’ll help you,” he told him. “...So what are you doing here? Praying to Yggdrasil?”

    Examon returned the tiny smile. “I guess so... To be honest, I was raised believing in Fanglongmon. Don’t tell anybody, though. I am already different enough,” Examon said with a barely noticeable trace of humour in his voice.

    However, Dukemon seemed to pick up on it enough to laugh. “Yeah? Well, that’s something you and Ulforce have in common.”

    Examon nodded but sighed. “I guess I didn’t make any friends earlier...”

    “Yeah...” Dukemon agreed. “Duftmon’s probably isolating himself in the library, and Craniamon’s probably on a training binge, but just give things time. Make sure you’re extra impressive and cooperative on your next mission.”

    With a nod, the dragon leaned back and cracked his stiff neck. “I suppose...”

    -

    Meanwhile, Alphamon stood in front of the bright, glowing screen of the monitor in the communications room. He stood alone in the dark room, lit only by the screen, staring at the person on the other end of the video feed.

    “...Did anyone ever tell you that you kind of look like a rabbit?” said an excited voice.

    Alphamon glared at the figure on the screen, which happened to be KaiserGreymon of the Warrior Ten. “...You did. Several times, KaiserGreymon...” Alphamon responded with an exasperated sigh.

    “Oh. Right,” the black dragon man responded, folding his arms across his chest. “Bad day?”

    “Just exhausting...” Alphamon said. “You’re lucky to have such an open-minded group of digimon.”

    “Why do you say that?” KaiserGreymon asked, looking slightly uneasy.

    “You don’t have Duftmon questioning your every move,” Alphamon replied with a small grin.

    KaiserGreymon grinned as well. “No, I just have AncientGarurumon questioning my every move...” he responded. “Right. Anyways. Let’s get down to business, shall we?”

    Alphamon nodded. “Yes, let’s. I was wondering why you wanted to talk with me in private...” he said to the Warrior of Flame, folding his arms.

    “I’ve heard rumours...” KaiserGreymon spoke.

    “About the recent raids?” Alphamon asked.

    KaiserGreymon shook his head. “No. Nothing to do with that. Something bigger...” he said gravely. “Bigger than my group of the Warrior Ten and your order of the Royal Knights, even.”

    Alphamon’s expression turned graver. “...Like what?”

    “I don’t exactly know...” KaiserGreymon said with a shrug. “But apparently a Baronmon made a big stir in the nearby town.”

    “Baronmon...” Alphamon mused, rubbing his chin. “They can supposedly see the future, can’t they?”

    KaiserGreymon shrugged. “If you believe that nonsense. I sure don’t,” he replied.

    “But you wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me if you weren’t concerned,” Alphamon said.

    “...It’s just a feeling I’m getting in my gut,” KaiserGreymon explained, frowning.

    Alphamon nodded. He felt the same feeling of unease himself from time to time. Maybe it was innate. “Well... What did the Baronmon say?” he questioned.

    KaiserGreymon folded his arms and looked at Alphamon. “Apparently he kept on repeating the same thing...”

    Alphamon raised an eyebrow. “...What?”

    “Beware the black night...”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Chapter 5: Effort


    The clamour of relaxed and hungry chatter filled the air. A week had passed and it was the end of another hot and tiresome day of work, and the knights enjoyed the cool shelter of the castle’s cafeteria. The Royal Knights, as well as many of the other inhabitants of the castle, occupied a very spacious room filled with many tables and seats.

    Along one wall was a long, stone bar that separated the dining area from the kitchen. Digimon lined up alongside it, stopping at a large window where food was being served from. Two Knightmon in aprons manned the window, occasionally bringing out new food from the kitchen once they ran out of one thing. There were several different foods to choose from: meats, fish, vegetables, pasta, bread, and beverages.

    Duftmon, Craniamon, Dynasmon, and Dukemon sat at a table with their meals, either focusing on eating or talking over the commotion around them.

    Dynasmon stabbed his fork into a slab of meat, lifted it up and took a bite out of it. “I have to say, Rhodo really outdid himself with this meat this time,” he said with a grin and a mouthful of meat.

    “And your table manners are as appalling as ever,” Duftmon muttered, eyeing Dynasmon’s eating habits with a look of disgust. The leopard digimon looked down and went back to meticulously cutting his piece of fish before bringing it up and into his mouth, and then dabbing his mouth formally with his napkin.

    “How’s the wound doing, Craniamon?” Dukemon asked, looking across from him at the violet knight. He grinned a bit. “I don’t know how you gave it time to heal with all that training you’ve done recently.”

    “Hmph,” Craniamon replied. He stretched out his arm, flexing it in and out experimentally. “It’s healed enough. I still can’t believe that that measly Gryphomon got in that lucky shot...” he said.

    “Lucky shot. Right,” Dukemon chuckled, tearing off a piece of bread.

    Dynasmon grinned and looked over at Craniamon. “Hey, don’t try so hard. Nobody’s perfect,” he explained.

    “I suppose you would know,” Duftmon muttered, not looking up at him.

    Dynasmon gave Duftmon a flat look before flicking a piece of potato right between Duftmon’s eyes. Duftmon paused and slowly raised his eyes, fixing a cold glare on Dynasmon, who was now grinning widely.

    Dukemon stifled a chuckle, but his smile soon faded upon noticing Examon walk through the crowd. He watched as the new Royal Knight took his tray of food to a table off to the side that had nobody sitting at it.

    “Poor guy,” Dynasmon said, following Dukemon’s gaze over to Examon. “Not very sociable, is he?”

    “He probably still feels bad about last week,” Dukemon explained.

    Craniamon and Duftmon both turned around, looking over their shoulders to see what their fellow knights were talking about. Upon seeing Examon, their expressions bent into frowns.

    “He should,” Craniamon said, turning around and going back to eating.

    “It serves him right,” Duftmon agreed, nodding. “That plan was flawless.”

    Craniamon glanced over at Duftmon. “Apparently it wasn’t. You didn’t account for a dragon who thinks he knows better,” he explained.

    Duftmon narrowed his eyes. “That’s hardly my fault,” he replied.

    Dynasmon sighed and shook his head, shaking his meat-garnished fork at them, inadvertently getting some of its juices on Duftmon’s salad. “You two aren’t exactly making it easy for Examon to get comfortable and fit in.”

    Duftmon narrowed his eyes and daintily removed a juice-covered piece of lettuce from his bowl with disgust. “Would you rather I lie about the way I feel about him?” he asked.

    Dynasmon grinned. “...Yes? But we all know you can’t lie to save your life.”

    “I wouldn’t let myself be put in a situation where I would need to lie to save my life,” Duftmon answered.

    Meanwhile, the crimson knight Dukemon shook his head and looked over at Examon. “I think I’ll go join him,” he said, standing up with his tray.

    Dynasmon looked up at Dukemon. “Want me to come along?”

    “Don’t worry about it, Dynasmon. I just want to have a chat with him,” Dukemon replied, smiling reassuringly. “I appreciate the offer though.”

    Dynasmon nodded as Dukemon left their table. “Well, if he wants to waste his breath...” Duftmon muttered.

    “Hey, he spent his time talking to you two, didn’t he?” Dynasmon joked.

    Dukemon proceeded around passing digimon over to the side of the cafeteria. He sat down on a wooden seat across the table from Examon, looking at him with a grin. Examon looked up at him curiously.

    “Remember how you said you’d try to be more of a team player?” Dukemon asked, smiling at Examon a little.

    Examon raised his eyebrow, not sure what Dukemon was getting at. “...Yes?”

    “Well, you know, Examon... sitting all alone at a table isn’t a very good start.”

    Examon rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Oh, right... Force of habit, I guess,” he replied, looking around. “Besides, I didn’t think anybody would want to sit with me after what I did last week.”

    Dukemon smiled a bit. “Hey, there’s me, for one,” the red Royal Knight replied. “There’s them.” He looked over to a table where Magnamon, Sleipmon, and UlforceVeedramon was sitting. “Sleipmon and Magnamon like you, right? And you and Ulforce have been getting along better. ...The more you think of yourself as an oddball, the more others will agree that you are. Prove them wrong by making an effort; Yggdrasil knows that we have more quirky Royal Knights than you.”

    Examon grinned slightly. “...I suppose you’re right. I’ll try to,” he answered. “You make it seem so easy, though, Dukemon. You’re so relaxed and there’s no reason for anybody to have second thoughts about being your friend.”

    Dukemon looked down for a moment, but then looked back up with a smile, scratching at his cheek with his index finger as he did. “...Yeah. I suppose. Though not everybody likes my hotheadedness, which, I admit, is very understandable,” Dukemon said.

    “And not everybody likes my taciturn nature,” Examon said, grinning.

    “So we both have flaws; I’m doing okay, aren’t I?” Dukemon asked with a smile. “You know I’m right, Examon.”

    Examon rolled his eyes and stood up. “Okay, okay,” he said, though smiling. “I’ll go try making friends.”

    The large dragon man took his tray of food and began to walk over to the table that Magnamon, Sleipmon, and UlforceVeedramon were sitting at, seeing a vacant seat beside UlforceVeedramon. As Examon walked away, Dukemon stood up at the table. His gold eyes looked down and he rubbed at his chest slightly. Without another word, Dukemon turned and walked towards the exit.

    Examon, meanwhile, approached the table with a bit of uncertainty. “Erm... Excuse me,” he spoke, getting the three Royal Knights’ attention. “May I join you?”

    “Oh, heyyyy, Ex-sama!” UlforceVeedramon greeted with a teasing smile. “Couldn’t find your throne?”

    Magnamon glared at the larger blue knight. “Ulforce... Of course you can, Examon.”

    Examon nodded and sat down beside UlforceVeedramon, although he was slightly uncomfortable with the fact that their large wings were touching the other’s. Nevertheless, he grinned at UlforceVeedramon. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll survive...” he replied.

    UlforceVeedramon chuckled, enjoying the fact that Examon could laugh at himself. “Well, I’d say that that pyramid incident last week was actually a blessing in disguise. It brought you down a few pegs, so now you should be able to fit in with us better,” he said with a grin.

    Examon’s cheeks tinted. “Yeah, but you don’t have to keep bringing it up...”

    Sleipmon chuckled and ate a forkful of carrots. “Don’t mind Ulforce. Once he gets his teeth into something juicy like that, he won’t let go. Like the time Magnamon here almost drowned,” he explained.

    “Sleipmon!” Magnamon protested, but it was too late.

    UlforceVeedramon laughed and looked at Magnamon. “Oh yeah! You were splashing around. And I remember that cute little scream you made while you were sinking,” he said with a chuckle. He then went on to mimic the scream Magnamon made. UlforceVeedramon went out of his way make the mock-scream sound exaggeratedly high-pitched and girly.

    Sleipmon grinned widely. “I hear that for Magnamon’s birthday that year, UlforceVeedramon bought him a pair of water wings.”

    As a favour to Magnamon, Examon tried his best not to chuckle. Magnamon’s face was bright red with embarrassment and he was glaring daggers at UlforceVeedramon. “You are dead, Ulforce,” he said, putting his gold helmet on to cover his blushing.

    Examon rubbed the back of his neck. “...Well... why don’t we settle all our differences with that ‘pool’ game?”

    Sleipmon raised an eyebrow curiously but smiled. “You want to play, Examon?” he asked, enjoying the idea.

    Examon nodded. “I’d... like to learn, if you guys are willing to teach me.”

    UlforceVeedramon smiled. “Sure! Competition’s been pretty stale, recently.” He cast a grin at Magnamon, who frowned harder.

    “I’m in,” Magnamon agreed, very eager to put UlforceVeedramon in his place.

    “Great!” Sleipmon said, standing up and smiling. “Then let’s go show Examon how it’s done.”

    -

    A few tables away, Alphamon, Omegamon, and OuRyuumon sat and finished up eating their meals while talking. Alphamon and OuRyuumon sat on one side, and Omegamon sat on the other, across from Alphamon.

    Omegamon watched as Examon, UlforceVeedramon, Magnamon, and Sleipmon all stood up and began heading for the exit. The white knight turned back to Alphamon with a faint grin.

    Alphamon smirked at Omegamon and put his fork down. “Have something to say, Omegamon? ‘I told you so’, maybe...?” the black knight asked his friend.

    “Well, you have to admit, Alphamon, he’s doing better than before. For the most part, they have warmed up to him...” Omegamon responded.

    “So his first mission back was a good one. Big deal!” OuRyuumon said, glaring at Examon as he left with the other three. “He still screwed up that first mission pretty good.”

    “A few of the knights, notwithstanding... “ Alphamon said, grinning at Omegamon.

    “It’s still progress, OuRyuumon,” Omegamon said, before taking a sip of water. “I bet you two will be friends sooner than you think.”

    OuRyuumon laughed out loud mockingly. “Hahahah! Me and Exa-twit? Yeah, right!” the tall, gold dragon retorted, snickering. “Maybe I’ll trade in my swords for a broom and go become somebody’s maid while I’m at it!”

    Out of the corners of his eyes, Alphamon glanced at OuRyuumon. The image of OuRyuumon dressed up in a maid’s uniform had entered his mind, making him grin. “Maybe...” he spoke, subtly teasing him.

    OuRyuumon nudged Alphamon’s arm with his elbow, his gold scales tinting red slightly. Omegamon raised an eyebrow in confusion but remained silent. OuRyuumon cleared his throat. “Anyways, enough about Examon; I don’t want to lose the delicious supper RhodoKnightmon made.”

    “What?” a voice said. They looked up and saw RhodoKnightmon, who was wearing a rose-themed apron, walking over to their table. “A compliment on my cooking from OuRyuumon? Well then, it must be especially good tonight.”

    “You’ve outdone yourself, as usual, Rhodo,” Alphamon told the pink knight, wiping his own mouth with his napkin before folding it and putting it on the table.

    “And you’re such a gentleman, as usual, Alphamon,” RhodoKnightmon responded, smiling. He looked over at OuRyuumon. “You could learn a thing or two from him, OuRyuumon.”

    OuRyuumon flushed a bit at RhodoKnightmon’s words, wondering what exactly he was implying. He hoped it wasn’t what he thought it was. “What’s that supposed to mean?!” he demanded defensively.

    “It means, my tall, lavender-haired friend, that your manners are virtually non-existent,” RhodoKnightmon explained.

    “For the last time, my hair is not lavender!” OuRyuumon protested, probably more passionately than he should have.

    “It is so. And anyways, what’s wrong with Examon?” Rhodo asked. “Have you not seen his toned muscles and sculpted physique?”

    “No, I haven’t! I mean... I have, but... I’m not gay, unlike you!” OuRyuumon finished, blushing quite a bit. Alphamon struggled not to roll his eyes at OuRyuumon’s clumsy cover up. “I just don’t think he deserves to be a Royal Knight!”

    Omegamon looked over at OuRyuumon. “What will it take for you to accept him?”

    “Well... making me a Royal Knight wouldn’t hurt,” OuRyuumon mumbled, glancing at Alphamon beside him.

    “We’ve talked about this, OuRyuumon...” Alphamon spoke, glancing at him back, tilting his head to look up at the tall dragon digimon.

    “Yeah, yeah...” OuRyuumon muttered indignantly, looking away.

    Despite his words, OuRyuumon moved his claws and took Alphamon’s hand, gripping it tightly and warmly, under the table and hidden from Omegamon and RhodoKnightmon’s view. Alphamon’s expression didn’t change, but he squeezed his lover’s hand back tenderly.

    A few seconds later, once he was satisfied, OuRyuumon let go of Alphamon’s hand and turned to him as if nothing happened. “What were you telling Omegamon and I before? You said you were talking to KaiserGreymon about something?”

    “Oh!” RhodoKnightmon interjected. “Was he trying to see if you were a bunny digimon again?”

    “No,” Alphamon said flatly, although the rabbit topic had come up... much to his annoyance.

    RhodoKnightmon put his hands on his hips and frowned, looking at Alphamon. “You know, you and KaiserGreymon would make a good couple. You’re both big, strong, handsome leaders...”

    “Except for the fact that I’m straight,” Alphamon spoke casually. “And I’m sure KaiserGreymon is, as well.”

    “And, no, they wouldn’t make a good couple!” OuRyuumon blurted out.

    RhodoKnightmon turned to OuRyuumon. “Then what do you think?” he asked the tall dragon. “KaiserGreymon and AncientGarurumon? Or Alphamon and Omegamon, here?”

    Omegamon flushed and nearly spat out his mouthful of stew, but luckily had enough self control to swallow it. “Rhodo! Enough of your relationship fantasies!”

    Alphamon nodded and glanced at the pink knight. “Yeah. We’re just friends.”

    “Then why don’t you find yourself a girlfriend, Alphamon?” Rhodo asked.

    For a brief moment, Alphamon stalled. “I’m far too busy for a relationship,” he explained, not looking at OuRyuumon at all through any part of the conversation.

    “...Haven’t we gotten kind of off-topic here?” OuRyuumon asked, a flat expression painted on his face as he tapped his claws on the table with annoyance.

    Alphamon nodded. “KaiserGreymon said he heard a rumour. Something about a Baronmon supposedly having a prophetic vision and then saying ‘Beware the black night’.”

    “Sounds ominous,” RhodoKnightmon mused.

    “Do you put any merit in it?” Omegamon asked, looking at Alphamon with curiosity.

    “I’m not sure yet...” he admitted. “However, it had KaiserGreymon concerned, and that’s enough to make me concerned. I think I’m going to travel out to the village tomorrow and see for myself what the Baronmon has to say.”

    “I’ll come!” OuRyuumon decided. He then grinned excitedly. “Maybe there will be some thugs whose butts I’ll get to kick.”

    “I’ll come as well,” Omegamon said to him.

    Alphamon looked at RhodoKnightmon. “Rhodo, can you tell Dukemon he’s in charge while we’re gone?”

    “Not a problem, Alphamon,” RhodoKnightmon replied. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to cooking. There’s many chatty mouths to feed.”

    OuRyuumon glanced at Omegamon. He was a bit annoyed that the white knight as coming along too. He was hoping to get a bit of alone time with Alphamon. However, he wasn’t too bothered; he could just make time to be with Alphamon on the trip. He doubted that Omegamon would be hanging around them the entire time, even if he and Alphamon were close. “So, I guess it’s just the three of us, huh?”

    Alphamon nodded. “I don’t want to pull any of the others away from their duties. Besides, the three of us are more than enough for a simple thing like this.”

    OuRyuumon nodded and stood up from the table. “Okay, well, I’m gonna go relax. Later, guys,” he said, walking away from them.

    Omegamon watched as OuRyuumon left, and then turned to Alphamon. “If there’s one thing he could stand to do, it’s relax...”

    Alphamon grinned. “It’s just too bad that fighting is one of the things that helps him do just that.”

    -

    A long, slender, wooden rod collided with a white sphere with a satisfying ‘thwack’ and sent the ball colliding with a red one, knocking it straight into a side pocket of the rectangular pool table. Bent forward over the table, Examon pulled the stick back and stood up straight. He propped the pool stick up and rested it on his shoulder and collar like he would his lance.

    He, Sleipmon, UlforceVeedramon, and Magnamon stood in the leisure room. He heard Sleipmon give an impressed whistle and trot closer to the table. Examon turned to him and noticed Magnamon grinning smugly at UlforceVeedramon, who had a disbelieving look on his face.

    “Are you sure you’ve never played before, Examon?” Sleipmon asked him, looking at the balls remaining on the pool table. Examon had two whereas UlforceVeedramon still had five.

    “How are you so good?!” UlforceVeedramon demanded, looking across the table at Examon. “You’ve never played before, but you’re almost as good as Dukemon?!”

    “It’s nothing really,” Examon insisted, letting his pool stick fall into his other claws as he turned to face his opponent. “It’s just like aiming a lance, except lighter. My experience with my Ambrosius is probably why I picked up on it so quickly.”

    Sleipmon folded his arms and nodded, seeming to think. “That could be why Dukemon’s so good at pool as well.”

    “Not so unbeatable now, are you, Ulforce?” Magnamon asked, smiling.

    UlforceVeedramon shot the smaller blue digimon a glare. “He hasn’t won yet,” he said as he leaned forward to ready his shot. “And I’m still better than you, my pint-sized friend.”

    Magnamon rolled his eyes and went back to sitting on a chair. Examon observed as UlforceVeedramon very precisely aimed his next shot. It was obvious that he was getting serious now.

    “Hmm...” Examon accidentally said aloud as he thought of something. Upon seeing Magnamon’s and Sleipmon’s glances, he decided to voice the thoughts. “Is Dukemon always so kind?”

    “Kind?” Sleipmon asked before giving Examon a smile. “Well, he believes that everybody should be treated fairly. It’s something I agree with... I haven’t been around as long as Alphamon, Omegamon or Dukemon, but I do know that, yes, Dukemon is very kind.”

    Magnamon nodded in agreement. But then he seemed to think of something else. “As long as you don’t make him mad... “ he added.

    Examon frowned. “Everybody says he has a fiery temper, but I haven’t seen much of that, myself,” he explained, still watching as UlforceVeedramon readied his shot.

    Sleipmon rubbed the back of his head as he took on a sheepish expression. “I didn’t believe it at first either. Give it a few weeks, Examon,” he explained, smiling.

    “I don’t doubt you, but still...” Examon replied, remembering how nice and supportive Dukemon had been.

    “Guys...” UlforceVeedramon said unsurely, glancing over at the three.

    Magnamon rubbed his chin in thought. “Do you think the anger has to do with--“

    UlforceVeedramon’s eyes widened. “Magnamon! Don’t mention that! What if he walks in again?!”

    At that moment, a tall figure appeared in the doorway, right in Ulforce’s view. “Hey, guys-“ the voice began to say.

    “Yah!” UlforceVeedramon shouted in surprise, the jolt making him hit the cue ball with the pool stick hard. The blue dragon man’s eye twitched when the white ball flew off the table and impacted painfully with the figure’s face. UlforceVeedramon gulped, as the ball seemed to stick there for a few seconds before falling to the ground.

    “...OW! What the hell, Ulforce?! Don’t you know how to aim?! Yggdrasil!” the figure demanded, storming into the room. As the digimon walked into the light, Examon saw that it wasn’t Dukemon, but OuRyuumon.

    Upon seeing that it wasn’t Dukemon, UlforceVeedramon sighed with relief. “Oh... It’s just you, OuRyuumon...”

    OuRyuumon’s eye twitched and he balled up his fists with anger. “What do you mean, ‘just me’?!”

    “He just thought that you were somebody else, is all,” Examon explained, reiterating for UlforceVeedramon since the sentence came out rather badly.

    “Who asked you, *******?!” OuRyuumon snapped at him.

    Examon narrowed his eyes a little but remained calm in the face of OuRyuumon’s ire and insults. “...Do you have a problem with me, OuRyuumon?”

    “Wow, and you figured it out all by yourself, too!” OuRyuumon said. “Yeah, maybe I do!”

    UlforceVeedramon smiled a bit. “Okay, Goldy. Just relax. You’ll burst a blood vessel.”

    “Why?” Examon asked the tall, gold dragon, looking into his angry, purple irises questioningly.

    OuRyuumon stomped up to him and poked Examon’s chest with his claw. “Okay. You want to know?! I should be a Royal Knight right now. Not you!”

    “So you’re jealous that I was made a Royal Knight?”

    “I’m not jealous! I’m pissed off that Alphamon made somebody like you a Royal Knight over somebody like me!” OuRyuumon snarled.

    “It’s his choice, isn’t it?” Examon countered. “Aren’t you his friend?”

    OuRyuumon sneered. “Don’t act like you know something about me and him! You’ve been here for, what, a week? I’ve known Alphamon for years!”

    Examon folded his arms, getting more and more annoyed at all the wrath he had been receiving. “Maybe it’s because Alphamon knows you so well that he knows making you a Royal Knight would be a bad idea...” he retorted.

    Magnamon and Sleipmon exchanged looks. This was the first time they had witnessed Examon stand up for himself instead of turning the other cheek. UlforceVeedramon just watched with a smile.

    OuRyuumon clenched his fists, looking like he was ready to attack Examon. “Why you!”

    “OuRyuumon!” a stern voice boomed from behind him, the commanding tone causing everyone in the room to stiffen or flinch a bit.

    OuRyuumon lowered his fists and looked over his shoulder. Alphamon stood in the doorway, staring at them disapprovingly while folding his arms across his chest. “Alphamon...” he spoke, a faint hint of nervousness in his tone. However, his confidence returned and he folded his arms back at him in defiance. “...What?”

    “Both of you, stop. You’re on a team whether you like it or not. Act like teammates,” Alphamon ordered unshakably.

    Examon nodded quietly in response, while OuRyuumon gave a ‘hmph’.

    Alphamon looked at OuRyuumon specifically. “Come with me. Now. We need to talk.”

    “Whatever...” OuRyuumon muttered, walking over to the shorter knight. He looked over his shoulder and gave Examon a final glare before following Alphamon out into the hallway.

    Once in the hallway, Alphamon led him down the corridor towards the wing of the castle where their living quarters were. “OuRyuumon...” the Lord of the Empty Seat said in a disapproving, exasperated tone, making it clear that he wasn’t happy with the dragon’s behaviour.

    “...What?” OuRyuumon asked, folding his arms as he followed. He couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the situation.

    “You know what,” Alphamon told him, walking down a connecting corridor that led to the hallways where the Royal Knights’ rooms were.

    OuRyuumon grunted and looked off to the side. “Yeah. You’re mad that I yelled at your precious new knight,” he said with obvious resentment.

    Alphamon let out an audible sigh and continued walking. “You know I don’t play favourites, OuRyuumon...”

    “No, only non-favourites.”

    Alphamon was silent as he opened the doorway to his room and turned around to look at OuRyuumon with a firm gaze. “Get in...”

    OuRyuumon narrowed his eyes. “What if I don’t- !” The shorter digimon interrupted him by grabbing OuRyuumon’s wrist and yanking him in the room. “H-Hey!”

    OuRyuumon stumbled into a large, spacious bedroom. In the room was a large, lavish bed, a desk with several documents on it, a bookshelf, a dresser, and an armour and weapons rack, among other things.

    Closing the door behind them, Alphamon looked into OuRyuumon’s milky violet eyes. “Please, OuRyuumon... This isn’t all about Examon... I don’t need another person questioning my decision over and over again. Duftmon pretty much already thinks that I’m unfit to lead the Royal Knights. Craniamon thinks I made a bad decision too. If you, one of my closest friends, second guesses me too...”

    OuRyuumon frowned a bit. “...Just ‘one of your closest friends’...?” he asked him.

    Alphamon smiled a little at him. “Much more...” he replied. “But the others don’t know about us.”

    “I know...” OuRyuumon said with a sigh. He looked back into Alphamon’s eyes. “It’s not like I’m going around calling you a bad leader or anything... In fact... you’re a great leader. It’s just I don’t like that damn Examon guy.”

    “You don’t like him? Or you don’t like the fact that he’s a Royal Knight and you’re not?” Alphamon asked knowingly.

    OuRyuumon didn’t respond for a few moments. “...Both! Whatever. Does it matter?”

    “You can try to like him... And if you can’t do that, can you at least try to be civil with him? For the sake of the team? Because that attitude you showed in there isn’t the makings of a Royal Knight, OuRyuumon...”

    The serpentine dragon grimaced and glared a bit at Alphamon.

    “...Please, OuRyuumon,” Alphamon said in a gentler tone, knowing he made a misstep. “I’m not asking you as your leader. I’m asking you as your lover... As a personal favour to me, can you please just try to get along with him?”

    After a several, long moments of thought, OuRyuumon folded his arms and looked away. “...I’ll try,” he decided. He looked down at the black-armoured Royal Knight in front of him. “But... only because I love you...” A small, warm smile formed on the dragon’s face.

    Alphamon returned the grin kindly. “Thank you,” he answered, stepping forward and wrapping his arms around OuRyuumon’s lean body, looking up at the tall dragon digimon. “I love you too...”

    He leaned up and planted a tender kiss on OuRyuumon’s lips, which the dragon man immediately returned, sighing contently.

    “Alphamon...” OuRyuumon murmured affectionately. He placed one hand on Alphamon’s shoulder and the other behind the knight’s head, pulling him deeper into the kiss.

    Alphamon intensified the kiss and continued it for several weighty moments, before pulling away and looking up at OuRyuumon with a tiny smirk. OuRyuumon returned the excited, mischievous grin, looking down at his lover. “I get the feeling you want something more than just a talk, Alphamon...”

    The Royal Knight smiled a bit wider. “I may be the Lord of the Empty Seat, but I’m not the Lord of the Empty Bed...” he replied.

    OuRyuumon chuckled and his claws started playing with the buckles and fasteners of Alphamon’s armour. “Oh, I know that all too well...”

    Without another word, the two resumed their passionate kiss and OuRyuumon hastily began to remove the armour from Alphamon’s body. As that happened, Alphamon pulled off OuRyuumon’s gloves and arm bracers while leading his dragon over to the bed.

    -

    A long, unrestrained moan echoed through a dimly lit room. The air was heavy with the aroma of sweat, and shaky breaths filled the silence between the groans and grunts.

    “I’m almost finished...” a voice said from behind.

    Anubismon nodded weakly and winced in pain as a needle and surgical thread entered his wing once again and pulled the skin underneath the feathers closer together. Behind him was a Wizardmon, who was stitching up the large hole in Anubismon’s wing that Examon had made.

    BlackMetalGarurumon watched with a frown. “I’m going get him for this...” he growled.

    “No,” Anubismon said through a hiss of pain and discomfort. “We... stick to the plan, brother...”

    “You sure...?” BlackMetalGarurumon asked.

    Anubismon glared hard in front of him, clenching his fists tightly. “We have to now... We weren’t supposed to be driven back. Now, it’s only a matter of time before the Royal Knights connect the two of us to the attack.”

    “That means they’ll come here to our town and castle to arrest us!” BlackMetalGarurumon said.

    “Not if we attack the UDC and get a firm foothold there,” Anubismon growled. “I’m not going to let this be all for nothing. Not when I have so much to gain.”

    BlackMetalGarurumon frowned at him, watching as the Wizardmon physician finished stitching his wing and wrapped some bandages around it. “Whatever you decide to do, Master Anubismon, you shouldn’t use that wing for several days,” the Wizardmon said.

    “Damnit... Fine. Thanks,” he hissed, nodding at the Wizardmon to signal him to leave. The Wizardmon nodded and left, closing the door behind him.

    “Uh... but Bro?” BlackMetalGarurumon questioned. “They’re going to be expecting us now. Both the Dramons and the Royal Knights. I don’t think the two of us can win, even if we are pretty damn strong. Besides, you’ve got a screwed up wing!”

    “It won’t just be the two of us...” Anubismon explained, grunting in pain as he moved his wounded wing slightly.

    “...It won’t?”

    Anubismon shook his head, his eyes darkening. “Now... it’s all or nothing...” he muttered. “I’m using up the family fortune... All of it. If we just sit around and let ourselves be arrested, it would just be wasted anyways... Going to pay the strongest mercenaries I can find to fight for us. We’re going to attack the United Dramonic Coalition with everything at my disposal...”

    Anubismon grinned darkly and stood to his feet.

    “Nobody, not even the Royal Knights, are going to stand in my way...”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Chapter 6: ...Yet So Far


    The tip of the sun slowly emerged over the green horizon of the grassland and trees. The morning sky was painted with a warm pink and gold colour, providing a satisfying contrast to the still-dark landscape; it was a beautiful sight to behold.

    Dukemon smiled slightly as the sun continued to come into view. It was beginning to force the prevailing darkness of the night to retreat in its wake. The rays of the bright star hit the knight’s golden-yellow eyes as he watched, looking over the parapet of one of the castle’s terraces.

    Instead of his usual white armour and red cape, Dukemon was wearing black pants that were buckled by one of the red belts that he wore with his armour, as well as a white t-shirt that was tight and form-fitting enough to show the outlines of his chest and arm muscles. Emblazoned on the center of the shirt was a black, trefoil symbol of a triangle with three triangles branching off from the center one’s vertices. Around the center was a circle. It was the same shape as the ones on the center of his cuirass and on his knee guards. Dukemon knew this as the Digital Hazard symbol... However, three more triangles were added as well, surrounding each side of the center, upside down triangle, seeming to make a bigger one from the four. It was the same symbol as the one on his helmet and the center of his Aegis shield. It was known as the Zero Unit.

    Dukemon, like many of the Royal Knights, wore casual clothes when they were off duty. While carrying around plate armour was good exercise, it wasted energy needlessly, and, especially on hot days, caused one to get pretty damn sweaty, which is why Dukemon and others preferred to wear light, casual clothes unless necessary to do otherwise. Plus, wearing clothes was more comfortable and less cumbersome, and Dukemon liked the way the wind felt against his scales. They typically received their clothes from the same digimons who mended their capes, tapestries, and other textile needs.

    The breeze in question, still cool from the night, blew against Dukemon, flowing through his long, white hair and across his red scales. He leaned forward on one of the parapets as he looked from the tall terrace, overlooking the castle wall and much of the land past it. In the distance, he saw a familiar crimson shape flying towards him. A smile grew on his face.

    A large, metal, bird-like dragon that was as tall as Dukemon flew over and landed on a nearby parapet with a ‘clang’. On his red body was gold lining, the same colour as his arms. He looked over at Dukemon with his blue eyes. “Hello, old friend,” he said calmly. “Watching the sunrise again?”

    Dukemon grinned and turned around, folding his arms and leaning back against the stone behind him. “Hey, Grani,” he greeted, looking at the large dragon. “How did your patrol go?”

    His official designation was Zero ARMS: Grani, but he was usually referred to as just “Grani”. Despite being sentient, Grani was not a digimon. Although not digimon, Zero ARMS were digital lifeforms who typically served other digimon. Dukemon and Grani shared a close bond with one another and Dukemon was the only digimon who Grani would permit to ride him. Apart from Dukemon and Grani, no digimon knew how the two met.

    “Nothing of interest,” Grani replied with a sigh. The large dragon turned around and faced the same way Dukemon did, towards the emerging sun. “Though, at least the patrol wasn’t a complete waste; I got to see a nice sunrise...”

    Dukemon grinned. “Yeah... My favourite part of the day. The light appearing and getting rid of the darkness of the night,” he mused.

    Grani looked over at Dukemon and smiled. “I know...” After a few moments, the large Zero ARMS looked forwards again. “You seem to be close with Examon, I’ve noticed.”

    “Yeah...” Dukemon replied, looking over. “...You’re not jealous, are you?” he teased.

    Chuckling lightly, Grani shook his head. “I’m glad that you have another person who you trust,” he replied, and, after a second, adding, “...and who trusts you.”

    “Well, I guess I kind of empathise with the guy.” The light grin disappeared from Dukemon’s face. “...I haven’t told him yet.”

    Grani tilted his head curiously. “Oh?”

    Dukemon shook his head and sighed. “For all I know, one of the others already said something to him and he’s just really good at hiding it,” he replied. “I was hoping to get him to trust me before confessing about it. That way, it might not be as big of an issue.”

    “That’s true, but the longer you wait, the more the chances the other Knights have to talk...” Grani explained. The dragon moved closer to Dukemon and looked at him more closely. “However, if he’s truly your friend, then it shouldn’t be an issue at all.”

    A frown formed on Dukemon’s face. “All of the Royal Knights are my friends, Grani - and, yes, I’m even counting Duftmon – it’s just that not all of them are understanding like you are.”

    “You don’t know that. Just because Duftmon has no tact and no social skills, doesn’t mean they all feel the way he does,” Grani retorted.

    “That’s easy to say...” the knight muttered. He then smiled lightly at Grani. “But I’m not going to let it affect me. I’ve got a job to do and that doesn’t include feeling sorry for myself.”

    Grani smiled and nodded positively. “There’s the Dukemon I like to see,” he said. He blinked when a thought emerged. “Ah, that’s right. You’re in charge while Alphamon, Omegamon, and OuRyuumon are gone, aren’t you?”

    Dukemon nodded and placed his hands on his hips, and he felt his fingers against the smooth leather of his red belt as they grazed it. “That’s right. They left last night under the cover of night.”

    Grani nodded. “So what’s your plan for the day? I mean... I’m assuming you have thought that far ahead, correct...?” he asked in a teasing tone.

    Dukemon laughed. “Oh, you’re hilarious. Unless something comes up, it’s going to be hard training today. Oh, and I want your scouts to-”

    “Are we interrupting?” a voice said from the door behind them that led into the castle from the balcony.

    Dukemon and Grani both turned their heads and saw the pink and violet humanoid forms of RhodoKnightmon and Craniamon.

    Dukemon folded his arms across his chest. “The fact that you cut me off mid-sentence should have been a clue, Rhodo,” he replied, smirking.

    Grani observed the two Royal Knights carefully, noticing that, unlike Dukemon, they were wearing their armour at such an early hour. “You’re both armoured up already?”

    Craniamon nodded. “There’s a new stance I’m trying to perfect,” he explained.

    “’Perfect’ being the operative word with you...” Dukemon added in jest, looking at the purple knight.

    “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Craniamon responded, his voice sounding as composed as ever.

    “It is when you have impossibly high standards,” Dukemon countered.

    “Tch. Whatever, Dukemon,” he said, turning and looking at the crimson knight sideways. “Some of us like our spearsmanship to be more than just ‘decent’.”

    Dukemon turned around fully to look at him. “Those sound like fighting words.”

    Craniamon grinned and faced him as well, preparing to remove his gauntlet. “Then let’s make a morning of it.”

    “You’re on.”

    RhodoKnightmon stepped between the two and raised his hands. “Now, now. Put your belts back on, boys. That is, unless I should get a ruler out...”

    “...That won’t be necessary, Rhodo,” Craniamon answered, shuddering at the thought of RhodoKnightmon being anywhere near him with a ruler.

    “...Yeah,” Dukemon agreed, flushing when he realized he got carried away. “I guess I forgot I’m supposed to be in charge.”

    “Mm,” RhodoKnightmon said, nodding and smiling. “So do you have something worked out for the day, Dukemon?” he asked curiously. He then clasped his hands together with excitement. “A beach day, perhaps?!”

    Dukemon grinned. “Don’t get your hopes up.”

    The pink knight’s body drooped melodramatically. “Aww... I thought you would be more lenient than Alphamon is...”

    “Sorry. You can say goodbye to ‘relaxed Dukemon’ until they get back. It’s my job to be responsible,” Dukemon explained.

    “Shouldn’t that always be your job?” Craniamon asked him, raising his eyebrow.

    Dukemon folded his arms. “Well, yes. More responsible then,” he replied, ignoring the fact that Grani was rolling his eyes.

    “So what does our esteemed leader have planned?” Craniamon inquired in a tongue-in-cheek way.

    Dukemon opened his mouth and felt the words about to leave his lips, but a calling from the sky behind him diverted his attention.

    “Grani, sir!” a voice shot through the air.

    The four knights watched as a Pteramon, one of Grani’s subordinates, swooped down and hovered in front of them, taking a few moments to catch his breath. “What is it, Pteramon?” Grani asked him patiently.

    “Grani, sir!” he panted, a bit frantic and looking as though he was struggling to suck in wind. “Big attack. Got spotted. Lots of Megas!”

    Dukemon raised an eyebrow. “An attack?” he asked. He looked to Grani, who was in charge of the Royal Knights’ Reconnaissance Squadrons.

    “Where?” Grani asked him with a faint sense of urgency in his typically calm voice.

    The Pteramon scout shut his eyes in an attempt to recall. “Um... Mu... four, Tau seven. Yeah! The Mu-Tau sector. Coordinates: Mu four, Tau seven. I counted at least eight Megas and they were moving fast!“

    “Mu-Tau...” Craniamon mused to himself. “That’s...”

    Dukemon’s eyes widened slightly as he came to realize where that was. “The United Dramonic Coalition...”

    -

    “Will this take long?”

    Duftmon stood beside Magnamon in the computer room. They were both watching as MetallifeKuwagamon typed away on the computer at an impressive speed.

    “Don’t rush him, Duftmon,” Magnamon said, glancing over at him for a moment before looking back at the screen.

    Duftmon gave an indignant ‘humph’ and, with a jerk of his head, flicked his hair quickly to the side when he didn’t like how it rested against his back. Once satisfied, he looked at the screen to see MetallifeKuwagamon going through a database of files.

    “Hmm... Do you think this might be him, Magnamon?” MetallifeKuwagamon asked, pressing a few keys and opening a file of an Anubismon.

    Duftmon started reading the digicode that was written in the file, as did Magnamon. “Could be. Examon might be able to recognize him,” Magnamon explained. “Maybe I should go get him.”

    “No need,” Duftmon replied to the shorter knight. “It’s him.”

    Magnamon looked at Duftmon. “You’re sure?”

    Duftmon nodded, continuing to scan the page. “Brother: BlackMetalGarurumon. And their father was a MetalGarurumon X who was the mayor of Lupolford, one of the independent states in the Free Area. This Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon inherited their father’s position and wealth upon his death and now Anubismon is the acting mayor of that particular free state, with BlackMetalGarurumon serving as his bodyguard. There have been rumours that he has had dealings with mercenaries, but during our inspections we had found nothing out of the ordinary and deemed the rumours unsubstantiated.”

    “Maybe we were wrong,” Magnamon muttered to himself.

    Duftmon scoffed, not dignifying Magnamon’s words with a response. “But why would they attack the UDC, and with just the two of them?”

    “We can all go and ask them together,” a voice said from the door.

    The three digimon turned towards the sound of the familiar tone. Indeed, Dukemon, who was wearing in his armour, stood in the doorway with a serious expression on his face. “Dukemon...” Duftmon said.

    “What do you mean?” Magnamon asked.

    “They and ten other Mega level digimon are on their way to the UDC’s capital. We have to stop them,” Dukemon explained, leaving no room for argument. “Duftmon, the scout will tell you what he saw and where. I need you to come up with a plan. ...You don’t have any objections, do you?” he asked, an almost accusing tone in his voice.

    Duftmon looked at Dukemon curiously. “Twelve Mega levels are attacking the United Dramonic Coalition,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Why would I object to a counterattack?”

    “Because Ex- nevermind. Good,” Dukemon replied, biting his tongue on whatever he was going to say.

    “Twelve Megas, huh?” Magnamon asked. “It looks like we’re going to be outnumbered.”

    Dukemon nodded, but didn’t seem concerned. “I’m bringing Grani along this time, Duftmon. We can’t waste any time; we’re heading to the war room now, so you can talk to the Pteramon who saw them on the way.”

    “Numbers don’t decide the victor,” Duftmon told Magnamon, striding past him towards the exit.

    Magnamon looked up at Dukemon. “Does Examon know yet?”

    Dukemon shook his head and followed Duftmon. “Soon enough... I’m hoping he reacts better than he did last time.”

    Magnamon nodded and walked alongside their temporary leader. “So do I.”

    -

    In the center of the war room, Dukemon stood next to Duftmon, staring down at the 3D map table in front of them. Examon stood patiently beside Magnamon, waiting as the other knights entered the war room as well. He assumed that this was another mission. It seemed to him that it was a big one, considering that all the Royal Knights were being gathered, save for Alphamon, Omegamon, and OuRyuumon. Those three were away doing something that Examon could only guess about.

    His belief that the mission was a large one was enforced by the fact that Dukemon’s friend Grani was there too. He knew that Grani was in charge of scouting and patrols, but he didn’t know that he would go out on combat missions as well.

    Examon looked around and saw RhodoKnightmon, Dynasmon, Craniamon, Sleipmon, and UlforceVeedramon all come in one after the other.

    “What’s up, Dukemon?” Dynasmon asked. “By the looks of it, we’re not having a simple day of training anymore...”

    “Sorry to disappoint you, Dynasmon,” Dukemon replied, “but we have a pressing mission that we need to debrief you all about.”

    RhodoKnightmon sighed. “What a shame. I guess there really won’t be a beach day, then…” He placed his hands on his hips and looked at Dukemon and Duftmon. “What is the mission, then?”

    Dukemon looked at all of the knights, scanning them, before his eyes finally rested on Examon. “The United Dramonic Coalition is under attack,” he explained, looking at Examon as if to inspect his reaction.

    For the slightest moment, Examon felt his eyes widen with worry and surprise, but that was all. A second later his facial muscles relaxed and he looked as composed and calm as he usually did.

    Magnamon and Sleipmon turned to look at Examon as well. Examon exhaled and spoke up. “…Is it the Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon again?” he asked, his voice steady.

    “My scout reported that he did see an Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon among the group,” Grani answered.

    Sleipmon frowned and folded his arms. “Group? How many are there?”

    “Twelve Megas,” Duftmon spoke.

    Craniamon nodded and clenched his fists. “Then there’s more than enough for all of us,” he spoke with what sounded like veiled excitement.

    Examon looked at Dukemon and Duftmon. “But… are there any other missions of higher priority to consider?” he asked, surprising the knights.

    Dukemon grinned proudly and turned to Duftmon, who blinked in surprise. Duftmon folded his arms and looked away. “…Well… no. An invasion of this size is of the utmost priority. That should be fairly obvious,” he replied, seeming unwilling to show even a little bit of his begrudging approval.

    “So, aside from the two canines who gave Ex-sama trouble, what are the other ten we’re going up against? More puppies?” asked UlforceVeedramon with a playful smile.

    Duftmon shook his head. “There’s no theme here. It’s a mixture of random digimon. Given that we now know who Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon are, we can assume that they’ve hired these ten mercenaries.”

    Dukemon nodded in agreement. “Given how Examon pushed them back the last time they tried to attack, I think they either underestimated him or didn’t expect him to be there that first time. That’s why they’ve brought so much muscle this time around,” he explained.

    Examon also nodded. “It’s also possible they thought we would figure out who they were after the failed attack and come to apprehend them, so this is their final gambit,” he suggested.

    “But what do they want with the UDC?” Dynasmon asked.

    “That’s irrelevant,” Duftmon spoke impatiently. “All we need to focus on now is how to proceed. I have the tactics worked out.”

    “So let’s hear it, Duftmon,” Dynasmon said.

    Duftmon nodded and approached the map table. “We have to work quickly, as they’re already far into UCD territory. We need to intercept them with haste and power,” he explained. He looked at Examon. “Dragon, I want you to be with the advance team this time. You know the area and your flying speed is decent.”

    UlforceVeedramon grinned. “’His flying speed is ‘decent’? That’s big compliment from Duftmon, considering what an uptight grouch he us,” he added with a laugh.

    Duftmon glared at the blue knight and began to get flustered. “It is not! I was simply stating the purely objective facts,” he said, huffily folding his arms and glaring even harder at him.

    Dynasmon smirked at the events. “Come on, Ulforce. You know that Duftmon would never be intentionally nice,” he chimed in.

    UlforceVeedramon chuckled. “Silly me.”

    “Okay, okay,” Dukemon said, hoping to reel them back in to the topic at hand. “Let’s get back to the tactics before you make Duftmon burst a vein.”

    “Thank you,” Duftmon said, the irritation obvious in his voice. After a moment, he shook it off and became utterly focused on the tactics. “Let’s get this done quickly. I won’t be repeating myself.”

    The Royal Knights nodded and gathered close around the table so they could all hear. With the band of hostile digimon on the move, they knew that that time wasn’t a luxury they had.

    “We’ll begin with the first team…”

    -

    Anubismon flew over the fifth Dramon village that they subdued that day. He looked below him; there were wounded and beaten up Dramon digimon lying on the ground and streets. The stone and wood buildings had holes smashed in them and many doors were kicked down.

    Anubismon, with his arms folded, drummed his fingers against his bicep impatiently, and he occasionally looked over his shoulders to scan the horizon. BlackMetalGarurumon hovered in the air beside him and looked at Anubismon, frowning. He looked down at the ground.

    “Hey, guys! Get a move on!” BlackMetalGarurumon barked at the ten Mega level mercenaries that they had hired to help them with the UDC invasion. “You can get your loot at the capital once we take it!”

    A black, humanoid dragon digimon with massive claws walked out of one of the houses and looked up at them. “Fine. There’s nothing worth taking anyways,” the BlackWarGreymon replied, taking flight again.

    The other nine mercenaries who were scattered around the village began to head out as well, all in the same direction. In the far distance, the vast, stone city of the United Dramonic Coalition’s capital could be seen. Tall towers and countless buildings made for an enticing silhouette, standing before an even more enticing backdrop of a huge mountain range. They were giant, stone titans, green with grass and dirt at the base, and a few of them white with snow on the higher peaks. They were a beautiful sight... but what Anubismon cared about wasn’t the view, but the mines and gem deposits of the precious blue diamante and green malachite that lay in the mountains. This was what he wanted, and that capital city was his destination.

    “I don’t think I like these mercenary guys,” BlackMetalGarurumon muttered to his brother. “They drove a hard bargain.”

    “Because they know we’re desperate,” Anubismon replied, flying forwards. “If we fail here, we’re finished. However, at least they’re behaving and not killing any of the digimon we come across.”

    There was a silent moment between them. Anubismon looked over at BlackMetalGarurumon, who flew beside him. “...I’m sorry that my insatiable ambitions dragged you into this, brother,” he spoke, a tinge of warmth in his normally calm voice.

    For a moment, BlackMetalGarurumon blinked and looked at him with some surprise. It wasn’t long until a playful grin grew on his face. “Ahh, I don’t mind, bro,” he responded. “Just as long as I get to blow some stuff up. You know that I go stir-crazy in that castle of ours.”

    Anubismon nodded. “...That said, I don’t intend for us to lose,” he said, glancing at his brother. “As long as we can get to the city before being spotted by the Royal Knight’s scouts, we’ll be fine. It won’t be hard to secure it; only the most foolish of the Dramon would dare stand against twelve Mega digimon, and I know that most Mega level Dramon leave and venture elsewhere in the world after digivolving.”

    “Except Examon,” BlackMetalGarurumon added.

    He narrowed his eyes at the name. Anubismon’s wing still wasn’t completely healed from that laser blast. “He is irritating... He may be a Mega II, but these mercenary digimon I’ve hired are skilled fighters too. He’s no more skilled than the other Royal Knights. You see, brother, once we take the city, we’ll have the advantage. We’ll be able to take up defensive positions and, with all of the civilians around, we’ll be able to attack them, but they’ll have trouble attacking us since they won’t want any of the Dramon in the city to be caught up in their attacks.”

    “Gotcha...” BlackMetalGarurumon answered. “Well... as long as we’re getting our money’s worth from these losers.”

    Anubismon rolled his eyes. “Try not to let them hear you calling them that...” he said.

    He looked around at the ten mercenaries who were either flying or running in front of them. The team consisted of a BlackWarGreymon, a Boltmon, a Reapermon, a DinoRexmon, a Lykamon, a Regulumon, a Gryphomon, a Devitamamon, a ChaosPiedmon, and a ChaosWarGreymon. There weren’t as many mercenaries as he’d hoped for, but he thought it would be enough.

    Anubismon watched as the Boltmon led the charge towards the city. However, his brother’s voice distracted him.

    “How’s your wing?” BlackMetalGarurumon asked him, looking over at the wound.

    “I’ll be fine...” Anubismon replied, closing his eyes. It would take just a few more minutes until they would reach the city. Anubismon thought to himself calmly, listening to the sounds around him. He heard the soft wind, several heavy footsteps and his own wing beats.

    But then his ear twitched, hearing an unknown sound.

    “Hey, what is that?” the sound of one of the mercenaries’ voices – the Gryphomon, Anubismon thought – spoke.

    Anubismon opened his eyes to see what the sound was and what the Gryphomon was talking about. He watched as the Boltmon at the front of the group came to a stop and turned his head to the left, also curious.

    He heard the odd ‘whoosh’ing sound get louder, like it was closing in on them. All Anubismon saw was a streak of blue wash over the Boltmon and then the large, green mercenary was gone, sent flying through the air and crashing to the grass thirty meters away. It all happened in less than a second.

    Anubismon’s eyes widened, jerking his head to the right to watch the Boltmon tumbling across the grass. He then turned to BlackMetalGarurumon.

    “What the hell was that?!” he demanded.

    “I-I don’t know!” BlackMetalGarurumon answered, dumbly blinking in disbelief. “It was too fast for me to get a reading on!”

    “I didn’t see a thing! What happened to him?!” the Reapermon shouted out.

    Again, Anubismon heard a whooshing sound drawing near, but it was deeper and heavier. “No... It can’t be...” he whispered, his expression becoming a grimace. “We’re under attack by...!”

    Before he could finish, something caught Anubismon’s eyes in the sky above him. However, instead of a flash of blue like before, this time he saw a flicker of crimson coming down from the sky.

    “GE--” before Anubismon could warn them, a red, glowing meteor came plummeting down, faster than the sound barrier. The falling crimson object hit the Gryphonmon in mid-air, swatting him out of the sky like a fly and crushing him into ground completely. When the draconic shape slammed into the ground on top of the helpless mercenary, the impact caused the ground to fissure and crater in, and a massive shockwave exploded around him, sending Anubismon, his brother, and the mercenaries flying off of their feet or tumbling in the air at the violent blast.

    Anubismon grunted and flapped his wings strongly to catch himself. He looked back at where he last saw the Gryphonmon. All that remained was a large, fiery crater that rained down pieces of tossed up dirt. He saw no Gryphonmon. Instead, the familiar form of a crimson dragon man emerged from the crater, his armour red hot from the atmospheric friction.

    Anubismon glared at the dragon digimon. He knew who it was immediately. “You...” he growled at Examon. All of the mercenaries besides the deleted Gryphonmon readied their weapons, preparing for battle.

    Examon calmly stepped onto the grass and gripped the Ambrosius lance in his hands. “...Not just me...” he replied.

    “The Ray of Victory!” a voice shouted from somewhere nearby.

    Anubismon turned earnestly towards the voice and saw the unmistakable form of UlforceVeedramon hovering in the air, the golden ‘V’ on his chest armour glowing brightly. An intense beam in the shape of a V burst from his chest and slammed into the ChaosPiedmon, causing the mercenary to cry out in pain as he was sent flying.

    As the bright, azure light subsided, UlforceVeedramon grinned and gave them the V-sign with his hand. “Were you expecting somebody else~?” he asked playfully as he activated the Ulforce Sabre on his V-Bracelet.

    “The Royal Knights!” the BlackWarGreymon growled, running at UlforceVeedramon with his Dramon Killers at the ready. “DIIIIIIEEEE!”

    “Final Elysian!” a third voice shouted from above.

    Anubismon looked up to see Dukemon flying through the air as he stood on top of his large, red, dragon steed, Zero ARMS: Grani. Dukemon’s Aegis shield glowed brightly before releasing a pillar of holy light that came crashing down on the BlackWarGreymon before he could get anywhere near UlforceVeedramon.

    “Did you think we’d let you get away with this in our own backyard?” Dukemon asked them as Grani circled around.

    Anubismon snarled angrily at his luck and the entire situation. “Attack! Defeat them! Take these three down!”

    “I think you’ll find there’s more than just three of us,” Dukemon explained with a grin.

    “Bifröst!” a deep voice, accompanied by a rapid, horse-like gallop, bellowed from behind them. The ChaosWarGreymon spun around only to find a hail of arrows coming at him at lightning fast speeds. In that brief, vulnerable second, he expected to be pierced full of holes. However, each arrow grazed him, cutting across the scales at his elbows, knees and ankles.

    The ChaosWarGreymon snarled, feeling a numb pain where he had been hit, but not much else. “What the hell kind of aim was tha-- Hey!” He looked down at his wounds and saw that ice was beginning to emerge from of them. A thick layer of ice froze the dripping blood and hardened around his ankles, knees, and elbows, freezing his joints in place. “D-Damn it. What is this?!” he demanded, unable to move his limbs.

    It only took a few seconds for gravity to weigh him down and force the mercenary to fall on his back. Soon, the crossbow-wielding Sleipmon galloped over and appeared in his vision. The last thing the ChaosWarGreymon saw before the darkness of unconsciousness was a hoof flying towards his face.

    Anubismon looked around himself in troubled disbelief. There were four Royal Knights here before he could even react. In the distance, he could see the silhouettes of Dynasmon, RhodoKnightmon, Craniamon, Duftmon, and Magnamon all quickly approaching in a tactical formation. He knew it wouldn’t be long until they descended on the flustered group as well. “No...” he whispered.

    “Pendragon’s Glory!” Examon’s voice called out from in front of him, snapping Anubismon out of his trance. Anubismon looked towards the dragon Royal Knight and saw the Ambrosius aimed straight at him. He saw the lance’s muzzle flash with energy and all he could do was inhale sharply as the laser burst from the Ambrosius and shot towards him.

    “BRO!” BlackMetalGarurumon shouted, lunging through the air and tackling Anubismon out of the way. The laser grazed BlackMetalGarurumon, searing into the armour at the back of his neck, but the cyborg wolf managed to spare Anubismon from getting shot in the head. The black digimon winced in pain and landed on the ground on top of Anubismon, standing over him protectively.

    BlackMetalGarurumon turned towards Examon with a snarl, his red eyes glowing with anger. “Nobody does that to my brother!” he barked, hopping off Anubismon and walking towards Examon. “I’m going to freeze your wings and then blow them to bits for that! Metal Howling!”

    The missile ports on MetalGarurumon’s front legs opened up and sent a storm of missiles flying towards Examon at an incredibly short range for a missile attack.

    Examon backed up and aimed his lance at them, preparing to shoot the explosive shells down as his wing moved to create a shield in front of him.

    “Final Elysian!” Dukemon’s voice shouted as he circled around on top of Grani. A think blast of light surged from his shield and swallowed the missiles before they could touch Examon, making them explode in a detonation of ice. Examon looked up at Dukemon in surprise. Dukemon grinned and nodded at him. Examon returned the nod.

    BlackMetalGarurumon growled deeply and glared at Dukemon. “Damn interfering hero-wannabe!” he snapped, launching the six missiles from his shoulders up at Dukemon and Grani after they passed by.

    “Hang on tight, Dukemon,” Grani calmly said to his passenger, who nodded. Grani turned to the left sharply, angling his body so that the missiles missed them and flew harmlessly into the air. He then started to dive back towards BlackMetalGarurumon, allowing Dukemon to attack him again.

    “Lightning Joust!” Dukemon shouted, sending streams of electricity towards the wolf digimon.

    BlackMetalGarurumon merely ignored him, jumping out of the way of the attack and sprinting in Examon’s direction.

    Examon grunted and started to fly upwards, knowing that he wasn’t suited for close quarters combat against high speed digimon.

    “I don’t think so!” the black wolf cyborg shouted. He lunged into the air and chomped down hard, digging his teeth into Examon’s ankle. BlackMetalGarurumon didn’t use his wings to support himself, allowing gravity to set in so that his weight would drag Examon down and also increase the pain.

    Examon tried his best to suppress a garbled shout from the pain of the teeth digging into his scales and drawing blood. While rapidly flapping the Caledfwlch wings, Examon raised his other foot and began kicking his toe claws into BlackMetalGarurumon’s face to try and shake him off. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t effective against a metal digimon. Instead, he aimed the Ambrosius and stabbed the lance into BlackMetalGarurumon’s hind leg, past the metal layer. “Avalon’s Gate!” Examon shouted, sending a shell into the leg he had stabbed. The shell exploded in a fiery blaze and forced BlackMetalGarurumon to let go of the leg and fall towards the ground.

    “D-Damn...! Garuru Tomahawk!” he shouted, firing a giant missile from his chest as he fell.

    Examon quickly tried to brace himself and the missile exploded against him, sending ice all over his giant wing and blasting him to the ground.

    As the two fought, Anubismon slowly got to his feet. Still in a bit of a daze, he looked around himself, taking everything in. Nine Royal Knights were now fighting his team of mercenaries. And they seemed to be winning. He watched as RhodoKnightmon slashed the Boltmon down with his blade-like ribbons. Dynasmon threw the Reapermon over his head, and Craniamon had his spear locked in a duel against the BlackWarGreymon.

    Anubismon slowly began to frown. “This... wasn’t supposed to happen...” he mumbled. “We were supposed to win...”

    “No...” He clenched his fists and glared up at Dukemon, flapping his wings furiously as he rose to meet him and Grani. “I am going to win!” Anubismon shouted. “Amemit!”

    Dukemon tensed slightly when Anubismon appeared right in front of their path, not expecting his sudden burst of vigor and determination. Anubismon released a shadowy creature from his bracelets which was sent slamming into Dukemon’s chest, throwing him off of Grani.

    Grani swooped down to let Dukemon land on him. Dukemon landed upright and quickly aimed his lance at Anubismon. “Lightning Joust!”

    Anubismon swiftly dove down and narrowly avoided the bolts of electricity that came from the lance. He flapped his wings and watched as Dukemon and Grani circled around, charging straight for him. “Fools,” he muttered. “Amemit!”

    Once again, he unleashed the savage shadow creature from his body straight towards Dukemon and Grani.

    “Dukemon,” Grani said, watching as the black spectre swiftly closed in on them.

    “Two seconds,” Dukemon replied, knowing what Grani was thinking just by the way he spoke.

    After two seconds Dukemon lunged off of Grani while Grani dipped down, Dukemon jumping over the Amemit and Grani diving under it. Three seconds later Dukemon landed back on Grani and the two of them charged Anubismon aggressively. Anubismon’s shock and worry was written all over his face as the two closed in.

    Dukemon swung his arm out and slammed his giant shield into Anubismon’s face while Grani rammed into him, sending him flying.

    While Anubismon was stunned by the powerful blows he managed to catch himself before he fell to the ground. “D-Damn...” he snarled. After a few seconds to allow himself to recover, Anubismon flew up in front of their path, his body cloaked with the darkness of his Amemit attack. “Take this! Amemit!”

    A particularly large version of the shadow creature burst from his body and slammed into Dukemon, knocking him off Grani.

    “Dukemon!” Grani shouted, suddenly diving down to catch him, but Anubismon had other plans.

    “Pyramid Power!” he snarled, diving down as well while drawing a triangle with his claws. Around Grani appeared a barrier in the shape of a pyramid which the dragon crashed into, preventing him from going after Dukemon.

    “Grani!” Dukemon called to him.

    “I’ll deal with him later,” Anubismon told him, flying down towards Dukemon swiftly. “Amemit!”

    The creature once against slammed into Dukemon, sending him flying faster towards the ground. Dukemon growled and righted himself, landing on his feet and skidding backwards across the grass, but still remaining in a battle stance. “Don’t bother, Anubismon,” Dukemon told him, raising his Gram lance and Aegis shield. “You have to know you can’t win. It’ll be easier for everybody if you just surrendered.”

    “No... Not after all this!” Anubismon replied. “Amemit!”

    “Final Elysian!” Dukemon retaliated, sending his beam crashing into Anubismon’s attack.

    -

    Examon growled internally at the coldness around his right wing. The armoured outside was completely coated with ice from BlackMetalGarurumon’s attack. He tried to shake it off but couldn’t, which rendered him confined to the ground until he could.

    He knew that this wasn’t a good position for him to be in, especially with BlackMetalGarurumon stalking him. All it would take is one well aimed ice attack from the digimon and Examon knew he could be in deep trouble.

    “What’s wrooonnng?” BlackMetalGarurumon asked, taunting his foe. “Oh yeah! You lizards aren’t very good with the cold, are you? Now you know you picked the wrong guys to mess with!”

    Examon narrowed his eyes, keeping Ambrosius at the ready. He knew that it was only a matter of time before the other mercenaries were defeated. Then it would be all nine of the Royal Knights against him. Examon wasn’t looking for any glory in fighting him. He just wanted to make sure that the capital was safe, and the best bet was by stalling until BlackMetalGarurumon was outnumbered.

    However, that plan was put into jeopardy when BlackMetalGarurumon went on the offensive again. “This is it, dragon breath! Metal Howling!”

    The cyberbiotic wolf charged at Examon and all of the missile ports on his body opened. Countless amounts of missiles screeched as they launched from BlackMetalGarurumon, sending smoke flying every which way.

    Examon grunted with annoyance when the smoke blocked him from seeing all of the approaching missiles. “Grrgh. Avalon’s Gate!”

    Examon loaded the ammunition, raised his lance and fired repeatedly into the air at any missile that he saw. The shells that he launched from the Ambrosius were special shells that he prepared and loaded precisely because he knew he would be fighting against BlackMetalGarurumon again. They were anti-air shells.

    The shells exploded prematurely, scattering countless ball bearings and pieces of shrapnel into the descending missiles, allowing him to take out three or four at once. He watched as the ball bearings pierced through several shells, making them explode in bursts of liquid nitrogen and ice, but he wasn’t able to hit all of them.

    Several missiles descended and exploded around him sending ice biting at his scales. He hissed quietly in pain as the final missile hit in front of him, sending ice flying up, but he was able to block it with his wing.

    Then there was silence... He looked around cautiously. Smoke exhaust from the missiles floated in front of him. Examon couldn’t see BlackMetalGarurumon anywhere... he was blocked by the smokescreen.

    Where is he...?” Examon thought. The dragon knight frowned. “That’s it.” With a large heave, Examon swung his left wing, fanning the air in front of him strongly. The smoke started to be blown back, revealing what was behind him.

    Suddenly, BlackMetalGarurumon pounced out of the receding smoke, dashing at Examon with savage anger in his face. He lunged, just as Anubismon turned around to look at him after suddenly being knocked back by Dukemon.

    Examon’s eyes widened, seeing BlackMetalGarurumon’s teeth aimed for his neck. He took a step backwards and raised the Ambrosius, the sharp tip poised. He then stabbed the lance forwards.

    Anubismon’s mouth slowly gaped open as he watched Examon’s lance pierce into BlackMetalGarurumon’s underbelly and emerge out his back. BlackMetalGarurumon suddenly weakened in mid-air and ceased his attack. He fell on top of Examon, his weight forcing the Royal Knight to fall on his back.

    Examon panted and looked at BlackMetalGarurumon, seeing that the Ambrosius was running him through, and his blood was dripping down the lance’s metal shaft. He expected to see anger in BlackMetalGarurumon’s face, but instead he saw what looked like sadness.

    Anubismon watched, horrified. He let out a shaky breath, turning around completely from his fight with Dukemon. He took a few steps towards his wounded brother. “Black...MetalGarurumon...” he spoke with uncharacteristic emotion and sadness in his voice.

    BlackMetalGarurumon slumped forwards on the lance and slowly looked over his shoulder to his distraught brother.

    “Anubis...mon...”

    He gave Anubismon a sad smile before bursting into data.

    Anubismon let out a pained breath and stared, watching BlackMetalGarurumon’s data disperse into the air. He just kept gazing at the spot where he was with sadness, pain, and disbelief.

    Dukemon watched Anubismon with a grimace. He had plenty of opportunities to attack him during those painful moments, but that was something that Dukemon would never allow himself to do. It went against his morals, and he could see the Anubismon’s pain.

    After a few moments, Sleipmon walked over and helped Examon up. The rest of the Royal Knights began to gather, having apprehended or deleted the rest of the mercenaries. Anubismon was the only one left standing.

    “...Surrender,” Dukemon said to him in a sympathetic tone. “Let’s end this...”

    Anubismon kept his back to Dukemon. “...’Surrender’...?” he asked, his voice flat and defeated. Anubismon slowly turned around and glared at Dukemon, showing him the rage and hatred in his tear-stained eyes. “I won’t surrender. But I WILL END THIS! AMEMIT!” he shouted, sending shadow after shadow at Dukemon in a mad frenzy.

    Dukemon cursed and raised the Aegis, blocking each attack with the mighty shield. “Cut it out! You’ve lost!” he shouted as the black shadows of the Amemit tried to get past his shield.

    “Stop this! Enough digimon have died today!” Sleipmon shouted to Anubismon, hoping to get him to surrender.

    “You mean like my brother!” Anubismon snapped, glaring balefully at Dukemon. He continued to approach Dukemon, each attack that he threw getting more and more powerful, feeding off of his rage.

    “Do you think he’d want you dying too?!” Dukemon retorted, backing up. It was clear by the way that he held the Aegis that even he was having trouble blocking each blow as the power increased.

    “SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” Anubismon snapped, finally dashing forward and bashing the Aegis aside. Before Dukemon could stab with his lance, Anubismon shoved the Gram aside and aimed his hands at Dukemon’s face. “Amemit!”

    But before Anubismon could fire his attack at point blank range into Dukemon, Dukemon drove his foot into Anubismon’s chest and sent him staggering backwards.

    It was in that brief moment of calm that Dukemon noticed something.

    “You’re bleeding...” he said to Anubismon.

    Despite his fury and sorrow, Anubismon allowed himself to look down. He didn’t remember getting hit. To his surprise, there were four small holes in his fur. They looked like they had been there for several minutes, considering that there were already small streams of blood trickling down his fur to his white robes.

    “But...” he murmured with stunned confusion.

    “I didn’t do that...” Dukemon said to himself, confused and disheartened.

    Examon’s stared at the two. “...They’re from the ball bearings in my ammunition. He must have been hit when I was firing into the smoke...” he explained.

    Anubismon suddenly felt the pain begin to appear now that his adrenaline was disappearing. He had wondered why his attacks just then weren’t as strong as they should have been. He gave a weak frown of anger.

    “Amemit...” he said weakly, firing another blast towards Dukemon, who easily blocked the much weaker blast and sighed.

    After a few seconds, Anubismon fell to his knees and leaned forwards onto his hands. “Why...?” he murmured, feeling data particles slowly leave his body. Dukemon looked down and gave another sigh at the situation. Sleipmon grimaced and looked away, his eyes lingering on Examon for a moment. However, Examon looked as calm and stoic as Duftmon did.

    Anubismon slowly looked up, ahead of him. Tears were running down his face to his chin, but he had a weak smile on his face, even as his data began to leave him. It was a sad grin.

    “Do you know what I should have done, BlackMetalGarurumon...?” he whispered. “I should have sent the mercenaries... to attack somewhere else, while...” He trailed off.

    As Anubismon’s data left him in greater amounts, he spoke once more. “Br...Brother... Why did I want more...?” With those last words, the rest of his body turned into data and scattered into the air.

    The Royal Knights took a moment and were silent, if not out of respect for Anubismon himself, than out of respect for the situation or just not knowing what to say.

    After several seconds, Dukemon spoke up. “...Okay, Knights,” he announced, with some weight and gravitas in his voice. “Let’s clean up and head back. Mission accomplished...”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  11. #11
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    Dec 2006
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    Chapter 7: The Duke of Hazard

    The Royal Knights headed down the path towards their castle as they headed back from their mission in the United Dramonic Coalition. Some walked by foot while others flew by wing; whichever was easier for them at the time.

    They had taken the subdued mercenaries to the dungeons in the UDC’s capital city. Examon assured them that the prison was strong enough to hold them. The nine had received many thanks from the city’s civilians upon doing so.

    Examon looked around at the other knights as he walked. There had been a quiet, sombre atmosphere on the part of some of the knights on the trip back. Dukemon and Sleipmon had been particularly quiet.

    “That wasn’t so hard,” UlforceVeedramon finally spoke up, wanting to break the silence as they approached the lowered drawbridge that connected the outside fields to the castle gate.

    “What did you expect?” Duftmon responded coolly. “The only time things don’t go smoothly is when somebody screws up.” The leopard knight made it a point to gaze at Examon with the last few words.

    Examon chose to ignore him. “Hopefully this will deter anybody else from attacking there for awhile,” he added. He looked up at his friend, who was sitting on Grani’s back, resting with his arm on a knee and his other leg hanging over the Zero ARMS’ side. “Hmm, Dukemon?”

    Dukemon didn’t reply. It looked as if he hadn’t heard Examon; he continued staring forwards like he was lost in his thoughts. Grani glanced up at Dukemon, noticing his state.

    “Dukemon,” Grani spoke, glancing up.

    “What? Huh?” Dukemon asked, blinking. He looked at Grani and then down at Examon. “Oh, yeah...”

    Before Examon could do anything else, Craniamon spoke up, folding his arms as he passed under the castle gate. “Those mercenaries were a joke. I didn’t even break a sweat from that fight...”

    “Really?” Dynasmon asked with a grin. “Because I can smell your BO from here,” he joked, prompting a laugh from Ulforce.

    “Yeah. Maybe you should ask Rhodo to help make you smell nice and pretty with that expensive deodorant he gets shipped here,” Ulforce added with a laugh.

    RhodoKnightmon beamed with excitement and turned to Craniamon. “Ooh, can I, Craniamon? We can have a spa day!”

    “...I’ll pass,” Craniamon deadpanned.

    “Let’s just all hit the showers and then go see Doctor Duskmon, guys,” Dukemon told them, still sitting on Grani as they headed through the courtyard towards the main entrance to the castle.

    Duftmon raised an eyebrow. “Why do you need to shower? You were on Grani the whole time,” he pointed out, apathetic as to how that may have come across.

    “Grani or not, I was still fighting against a crazed Anubismon,” Dukemon answered with a small grin, trying not to let Duftmon get under his scales.

    I wouldn’t be happy if Examon stole my victory blow,” Craniamon added, remembering that it was Examon who fatally wounded Anubismon even though Dukemon was fighting him.

    Magnamon couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “We know, Craniamon...”

    Sleipmon, on the other hand, just frowned deeper, trotting quietly at the back of the group. Examon slowed his pace slightly so that he could walk beside the horse-man knight. The crimson dragon looked over at Sleipmon with a puzzled expression. “Sleipmon?”

    Sleipmon glanced over at him. “...Hm?”

    “Is everything okay?” Examon questioned.

    The cavalier shook his head quietly. “...I was just thinking about those digimon who were deleted, I guess...”

    “...Why?” Examon asked him curiously, not meaning to sound as callous as he did.

    Sleipmon slowed to a stop, looking down a bit. Examon took a few steps before noticing that Sleipmon wasn’t beside him anymore, prompting him to turn around to look at the centaur knight.

    “...When we first met, you told me that you hated the idea of digimon killing digimon too, Examon,” Sleipmon spoke, glancing up at the dragon. “Did you mean that?”

    Examon raised an eyebrow. “Yes... I do hate the idea of innocent digimon being killed, Sleipmon,” he responded, unsure as to what Sleipmon was getting at.

    “Only ‘innocent’ digimon?” Sleipmon asked, disheartened. “So you don’t feel guilty at all for killing that BlackMetalGarurumon or Anubismon?”

    Examon frowned at the question. “They were attacking my home... They hired digimon who hurt Dramon and destroyed villages. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel guilty about reformatting them.”

    “Duftmon uses that word...” Sleipmon said, frowning. “’Reformatting’ is more impersonal than ‘killing’...”

    Examon rubbed the back of his neck, feeling like he was upsetting Sleipmon without even knowing how he was doing it. “...Are you angry at me, Sleipmon?” he asked unsurely.

    After a few moments, Sleipmon sighed. “No...” he spoke, his voice heavy. “I guess I’m just a little disappointed. I know I can’t push my values on you, but I was hoping that I had found another knight who felt the same way I did. You see, I make sure to only neutralize my enemies; I don’t kill them.”

    Examon nodded a little, remembering seeing a knocked out ChaosWarGreymon with the signs of Sleipmon’s handiwork. “...Isn’t that a bit impractical?” he asked.

    Sleipmon smiled slightly as if it wasn’t the first time he had been asked that. “A bit... but it’s worth it to me. Besides, I have good aim.”

    “...If you don’t mind me asking, why?” Examon inquired, curious as to why Sleipmon went to all the trouble.

    Sleipmon gave Examon a sad smile and started walking past him. “Because life’s too precious...” he replied, trotting after the other knights.

    Examon frowned a bit and watched as Sleipmon went. “But they’re reformatted into digi-eggs after they’re deleted...” he thought to himself, going to follow Sleipmon inside.

    -

    The Royal Knights approached the headquarters’ main entrance, stopping in front of the broad, wooden doors.

    Grani looked up at Dukemon, who was still sitting on his back. “Could you get off now, Dukemon?”

    “I, Dukemon, request that you, Grani, carry me in,” Dukemon replied with a playful smirk.

    Grani gave him a blank, incredulous frown. “...I will help you off, acting leader of the Royal Knights,” he dryly said. Grani tilted his body so that Dukemon began to slide off his metal back.

    Dukemon chuckled and jumped down, landing gracefully. “Okay, okay. Sheesh.”

    Duftmon folded his arms and looked at Dukemon with an unamused stare. Dukemon ignored the look and opened the doors before the Knightmon guards could get to them. Grani and the other knights followed him into the long, stone hallway.

    Examon quickly made his way to one of the two sides of Dukemon that wasn’t taken by Grani. The last thing he wanted was his tail getting jammed in the closing doors again. He turned to look at Dukemon. “So, Dukemon--“

    “Okay, Knights,” Dukemon suddenly started, cutting Examon off despite hearing the dragon speak. “With that Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon gone, we need to decide what to do with their stuff, namely their position, castle and their riches. They don’t have any family, and even if they did, those two were criminals, so... We should appoint a new mayor that we trust, give them the castle, and redistribute whatever riches the two had.”

    Duftmon suddenly increased his stride and walked up beside Dukemon, getting in between him and Examon. “Are you sure that you’re qualified to make that decision, Dukemon?” the leopard knight asked, frowning.

    Grani’s eyes narrowed and he cast an annoyed glare at Duftmon.

    “...I’m in charge when Alphamon and Omegamon aren’t available,” Dukemon replied guardedly, glancing sideways at Duftmon.

    “That, I know,” Duftmon said, folding his arms.

    Grani’s gaze hardened. “Then you should also know that there’s a reason why he’s third-in-command,” he explained in Dukemon’s defence.

    “Grani...” Dukemon said, trying to dissuade him. He didn’t want a fight between the two.

    Duftmon muttered something under his breath and slowed down, going back to walking behind them. Magnamon elbowed the brown knight’s arm. “Sometimes I wonder if you’re trying to be a jerk...” Magnamon said to him with a frown.

    “What...?” Duftmon answered in question, raising his eyebrow.

    Dynasmon shook his head as the group entered the foyer. “So, showers,” he said, turning and left and heading down a hallway.

    “Mm. See you all in a bit,” RhodoKnightmon replied, heading down a different hallway.

    “Where’s he headed?” Examon asked, following the Royal Knights towards the shower room.

    “Rhodo showers in the spa room,” Dukemon replied, glancing at Examon.

    “...He doesn’t strike me as the shy type,” the dragon knight commented.

    Dukemon grinned. “It’s quite the opposite.”

    UlforceVeedramon laughed as well. “We make Rhodo shower separately from us because he kept checking us out and making comments. It made some of the Knights uncomfortable and embarrassed,” he said, glancing at Duftmon, Craniamon, Magnamon, and Dynasmon.

    “I’ve seen you turn pretty red too, Ulforce,” Dynasmon countered.

    “It’s not like Duftmon showers with us anyways,” Craniamon said, glancing at the leopard knight.

    “Hmph...” Duftmon mumbled, folding his arms and glancing away. “Forgive me if I’d rather not shower while surrounded by naked men. And dragons.”

    Dynasmon smirked. “Would you if we were women?” he questioned, teasing.

    “No,” Duftmon answered bluntly, walking past them and continuing down the hall when they reached the entrance to the showers.

    “He’s so uptight...” Craniamon mused, walking into the stone room that was filled with several wooden racks and a series of metal lockers. He started by taking off his gauntlets and placing them on an armour rack. After that, he took off his chest armour, leggings, and then his bodysuit before walking into a larger room branching off from the locker room where the showers and drains were located. Examon, Magnamon, UlforceVeedramon, Sleipmon, and Dynasmon all undressed as well. They hung their armour up, walked into the other room and turned on the showers. Steam already began to fill up the tiled room.

    Dukemon was in the process of taking off his cape when Grani hovered up to him. Dukemon hung his cape up and turned to him. “Grani?” he asked curiously.

    “Dukemon...” Granis said, his voice low enough for the other knights not to hear without trying.

    “Uh oh. I know that tone of voice,” Dukemon said, grinning a little as he started unbuckling the belts around his waist. “What is it, Grani?”

    Grani frowned at Dukemon as the Royal Knight removed his chest armour. “You make it sound like I’m your nagging advisor or something,” he commented in response.

    “I prefer to call you my ‘emotionally-invested best friend who has many opinions’,” Dukemon replied, smiling. “...So what do you want to say, Grani?”

    Grani looked away as Dukemon removed his armoured boots and leggings. “I think you should tell Examon...”

    Dukemon’s smile faded. “Ah...”

    “It’s better he hears it from you, Dukemon,” Grani explained. “Do you really think that Duftmon will paint the issue in such a positive light?”

    “No, but...” Dukemon sighed. “How do I even tell him something like this?”

    “You’ve done it before,” Grani pointed out.

    “With mixed reactions...” he reminded him.

    “Still...” Grani sighed. “You trust him, don’t you?”

    Dukemon nodded. “Yeah...”

    “I’m sure he trusts you too. So, it shouldn’t be an issue if you tell him. If anything, it will deepen your trust with each other,” the Zero ARMS said.

    Dukemon frowned but nodded. “...I’ll tell him when I can,” he replied. Dukemon’s easygoing smile returned. “Now get out of here and let me shower in peace. You pervert.”

    Grani rolled his eyes but smiled and flew out. “Good luck, Dukemon,” he said to himself as he left.

    Dukemon walked into the tiled, steam-filled room, feeling the wet floor beneath his feet. He walked over to the other knights and stood beneath a faucet, between Examon and Craniamon. The warm water hit his red scales and trickled down, the heat soothing his sore and tired muscles. A relaxed sigh escaped his mouth and he put his head under the water.

    “Hey, what took you, Dukemon?” Magnamon asked, looking over as he washed himself.

    “Oh, I was just talking with Grani,” Dukemon answered.

    “Speaking of Grani, looks like he had trouble with Anubismon’s pyramid barrier attack too,” UlforceVeedramon said with a chuckle. He looked over at Examon and winked. “Must be a red dragon thing, hmm, Ex-sama?”

    Examon tinted slightly but gave a slight grin. “I’m just happy I wasn’t the only one...” he replied, prompting a few chuckles. To his surprise, Dukemon wasn’t one of the ones who cracked a grin.

    Examon frowned and looked at him carefully. Dukemon was usually one of the first ones to give a laugh to a joke, but Examon noticed that he seemed different ever since the end of the mission. He wondered if Dukemon was upset for the same reason Sleipmon had been. Examon hoped not; Dukemon was his closest friend here, and he didn’t want to have disappointed him too.

    “Dukemon?” Examon asked him, lowly enough so only Dukemon could hear.

    Dukemon blinked, snapped out of his thoughts, and quickly turned to him. “Uh, what is it, Examon?” he asked quickly, taken off guard by the dragon.

    “Is something bothering you? It looks like you have something on your mind,” he asked, curiously.

    The question caused Dukemon’s muscles to tense up. He wondered if Examon knew he was hiding something. Maybe he knew the details already. Dukemon wasn’t prepared to tell Examon yet. He was planning to lead up to it, but now that Examon asked him so suddenly...

    “What? No. Nothing, Examon,” Dukemon replied sheepishly, too taken by surprise to tell him the truth. “Why do you ask?”

    “You seemed uncharacteristically quiet today,” Examon said to him.

    Dukemon gave him a slight smile. “I’m just tired. Plus, I have to seem more like a leader while the others are away.”

    Examon nodded with a faint smile of his own and put his claw on Dukemon’s shoulder. “You’re doing a good job at being our leader, in my opinion...” he told him, his voice reassuring.

    The smile on Dukemon’s face grew wider and more sincere. “...Thank you,” Dukemon replied. The crimson knight looked down and frowned. “You know... Examon--“

    “Hey, Dukemon! Ex-sama! Are you two done?” UlforceVeedramon’s voice called out.

    Dukemon turned, looking over his shoulder, to see UlforceVeedramon walking into the locker room and wrapping a towel around his waist. The other knights had finished their showers and were drying off as well.

    “Err, yeah! Coming!” Dukemon said, turning around and quickly walking over to them. “Come on, Examon. There are things to do.”

    Examon frowned and watched Dukemon as he walked away. “Hmm...” he hummed to himself before going to join them. “Is that really it...?”

    -

    Hours later, Dukemon stood in the computer room of the castle, overseeing one of MetallifeKuwagamon’s scans. It was one of the many duties that he held as the Royal Knights’ acting leader. Dukemon’s golden-yellow eyes squinted as a bright light emitted from the giant screen in front of him.

    MetallifeKuwagamon typed on the keyboard rapidly, inputting digicode letters into the computer as his eyes scanned the giant-screened monitor carefully.

    The computer room was aesthetically very similar to the communications room. It had a very large monitor mounted on the stone wall so that many people could see the screen. However, the computer that sat in the corner of the room was much larger than the one in the communications room, and definitely larger than any of the Knights’ personal computers. It was the Royal Knights’ master computer and it looked like a giant, intricate machine with countless wires running into the wall. Aside from that, there wasn’t much else in the room aside from a few chairs; there weren’t even any windows, as the room was located in the middle of the castle.

    Magnamon stood behind them, watching as well. Instead of his usual gold digizoid armour, which he wore on the mission in the morning, Magnamon wore more leisurely clothes. He was garbed in black shorts which had a hole in the back for his tail to stick through. Along with that was a yellow t-shirt with a darker gold symbol on the front. The symbol was that of an ‘M’ shape, with the ends branching inwards sharply. Beneath each of the two branches was a triangle with the vertex pointing away from the branch. Both above and below the ‘M’ was a diamond shape. The symbol was the Crest of Miracles.

    Finally, a message on the screen popped up and MetallifeKuwagamon’s typing stopped. The gold, humanoid insect sighed softly and looked over his shoulder up at Dukemon.

    “I’ve finished scanning the data map of our region of the Digital World, Dukemon, sir,” he explained. “There have been no digital abnormalities or disturbances, according to our central DADAR system.”

    Dukemon nodded and placed his hands on his hips. “I know that detects uncharacteristic changes in data, like unnatural evolutions and massive increases or decreases in power and what have you, but what does that stand for again?”

    Magnamon stepped forwards, walking up to MetallifeKuwagamon’s other side. “Data Detection and Ranging,” he explained. “I’m still impressed that MetallifeKuwagamon invented the system.”

    Dukemon smiled and looked down at the insect digimon. “Yeah. You’re the unsung hero of the Royal Knights, with all the stuff you do for us.”

    Looking away, MetallifeKuwagamon blushed. “Not really... And I only co-invented the DADAR system. Shurimon of the Warrior Ten did a lot of the work too,” he insisted.

    “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Metallife,” Magnamon said to him, smiling. He looked at both him and Dukemon. “Well, I guess that’s it for now. Shall we, Dukemon?”

    With a nod, Dukemon said his goodbye to MetallifeKuwagamon and walked out of the computer room into the stone corridor. Magnamon followed him out and walked beside him. They noticed that the torches on the wall sconces were now lit.

    “What time is it, Magnamon?” Dukemon asked, looking at his shorter companion.

    “It must be around sunset now...” Magnamon replied, frowning. “Later than I expected. Why don’t we go and get something to eat? Rhodo is probably in the kitchen by now.”

    Dukemon was silent for a moment. He frowned weakly and maintained his swift, purposeful stride. “...You go ahead. I still have things I need to do,” he answered.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Dukemon could see Magnamon arch an eyebrow and fold his arms. “You’ve been working ever since we got out of the showers. You can take a break to get something to eat, you know,” Magnamon told him.

    “Really, I’m okay,” Dukemon said, glancing over more directly. “I’m not hungry.”

    Magnamon sighed and looked at him, disbelievingly. “We’ve all had a tiring day with that mission in the morning, before we could even eat breakfast or lunch. Don’t try and tell me that your stomach hasn’t been growling all day, because I’ve heard it,” he said with a small smile.

    “I’m fine...” Dukemon insisted stubbornly. His voice grew a bit sharper, him hoping that Magnamon would get the message. His eyes narrowed slightly as his irritation grew.

    “Come on, Dukemon,” Magnamon said, looking up at him. “You’ve been acting weird and I think you should take a break. Even Alphamon and Omegamon take breaks for meals when they’re in charge. Or are you afraid that Duftmon will take jibes at you for not being vigilant?”

    Dukemon growled and quickly turned to Magnamon in aggravation. “Damn it, Magna, I told you I’m fine!” he snapped.

    Magnamon initially blinked in surprise, but soon he shrunk back and looked forwards, hurt. “...Alright. Sorry...” he murmured softly, beginning to speed up his walking pace.

    Within a matter of seconds, Dukemon calmed down and guilt immediately overcame him. He grimaced and walked faster, getting in front of Magnamon and turning to face him. “Magnamon, stop...” he spoke, his voice gentle and humble. Dukemon placed his hands softly on the shorter knight’s shoulders and looked down into his eyes.

    “I’m sorry...” Dukemon told him, wincing in shame. “I’m... on edge today. There’s a lot on my mind. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you...”

    Magnamon looked up at him expressionlessly. After a few moments, he gave Dukemon a small, reassuring smile, and raised his hand onto Dukemon’s. “It’s okay... but I want you to tell me what’s wrong.”

    Dukemon nodded gratefully and removed his hands, going back to walking beside Magnamon, who started heading in the direction of the cafeteria. “Duftmon is partially to do with it... but only partially.”

    “Then what’s the main reason?” Magnamon asked curiously. Dukemon frowned to himself and didn’t answer, thinking to himself carefully. “You know you can trust me.”

    The crimson knight sighed and nodded, reluctantly conceding that he would tell Magnamon. “It’s... Grani thinks I should tell Examon...” he told him.

    Magnamon looked curious. “Tell Examon what?” he asked for clarification.

    Dukemon frowned. “You know what...” he replied, a bitter tone leaving his tongue. “The thing about me that you know, and Duftmon knows, and all the rest of the Knights know...”

    The Royal Knight of Miracles looked forwards and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Oh... That...”

    Dukemon looked at Magnamon out of the corners of his eyes while continuing to walk with him. “Yeah... Do you think that Duftmon or one of the others has told him yet?”

    “I doubt it... Duftmon is too averted to Examon to gossip to him,” Magnamon said, chuckling slightly.

    With a small grin, Dukemon nodded. “Duftmon’s comments haven’t exactly been helping either...“

    “You know how he is, Dukemon,” Magnamon replied. “He’s critical of everything, not just your leadership; it’s sort of his job as a tactician. ...However, that doesn’t exactly excuse his horrible social skills. Just ignore him.”

    “It’s easy to say, but it’s not so easy to do when he’s constantly undermining you with those self-satisfied comments,” Dukemon muttered.

    “Just try your best. Don’t give him the satisfaction of letting him get under your scales.” Magnamon raised an eyebrow. “Is that why you’re still in your armour? You don’t want anybody thinking that you’re not taking your job seriously?”

    Dukemon half-shrugged. “Maybe...” Ahead of them, he saw the entrance to the cafeteria. “...About the first problem, what do you think I should do?” he asked, though not thrilled about outwardly showing uncertainty when he was supposed to be their current leader.

    “I think you should tell him,” Magnamon replied, walking inside the cafeteria and looking around. “And here’s your chance to do it,” he said, looking over at something in particular.

    Dukemon looked over to see what Magnamon was looking at, and he saw Examon sitting at a table with UlforceVeedramon and Craniamon.

    “You go talk to him and I’ll get us both something to eat from Rhodo,” Magnamon told him, walking over to the line of digimon.

    With an unsure nod, Dukemon looked over to the three’s table.

    “...Well... you have to tell him about yourself at some point, Dukemon...” he thought to himself. He steeled himself and tried to build his confidence, starting to walk over to him. “Grani’s right. It will come out eventually. It might as well be from your own mouth.

    Dukemon sighed a bit, his feet dragging slightly as he neared Examon’s table. It seemed to take forever to get there. He was dreading the coming conversation; he always did.

    He almost winced when he saw UlforceVeedramon look up and notice him.

    “Hey, Dukemon. There you are,” UlforceVeedramon said, smiling from his place beside Craniamon.

    Dukemon felt his heart sink a bit.

    Examon, who was sitting across from UlforceVeedramon, turned and looked over his shoulder at Dukemon. “Would you like to join u--“

    The dragon cut himself short. Dukemon walked right past their table, his nerves getting the better of him, and walked over and sat down at Duftmon, Dynasmon, and Sleipmon’s table, which was beside theirs. Dukemon sat beside the large body of Sleipmon, shielding himself from the other table, and mentally cursed himself.

    Damn it, Dukemon. You’re supposed to be the acting leader of the Royal Knights, but you can’t even face Examon?” he thought to himself in frustration.

    “Hello, Dukemon,” Sleipmon greeted. “You sure have been busy today.”

    “Though free enough that he can sit down and have a meal, apparently...” Duftmon quipped, superiorly.

    Dukemon stifled a growl, trying to maintain his cool. “...Would you rather I was starving?” he countered, glancing across the table at Duftmon. “Digimon can’t think straight when they’re hungry, isn’t that right?”

    Duftmon gave a ‘hmph’. “I was merely saying. There’s no need to be so defensive.”

    Dynasmon smiled and elbowed Duftmon. “People wouldn’t need to get so defensive if you weren’t so ‘offensive’,” he said half-jokingly.

    “Dynasmon has a point,” Sleipmon agreed before eating a forkful of carrots.

    “Oh, please,” Duftmon scoffed dismissively.

    As the three Royal Knights at the table bantered and argued, Dukemon stared quietly at the empty spot on the table in front of him. Without knowing it, his hand raised and gripped the center of his armoured chest.

    Before he knew it, a tray of food slid into view and rested in front of him. Dukemon blinked, feeling a tap on his shoulder, and he turned to see a blue claw poking him. His gaze followed the arm to its owner: Magnamon.

    Magnamon looked at him with an arched eyebrow. He leaned down towards him (which wasn’t very far, given his short stature), speaking in a low voice. “Uh, Dukemon? What are you doing?” he asked quietly. “I thought you were going to tell him.”

    “Later...” Dukemon replied, glancing away. “I could do without the other Knights’ commentary while I’m talking to him.”

    Magnamon looked unconvinced but he stood up straight and decided not to push the issue. “Okay...” The blue dragon man held his own tray of food and turned towards Examon, Craniamon, and UlforceVeedramon’s table, hoping to take the empty seat beside Examon. Instead, he noticed RhodoKnightmon sitting down in his place. “Rhodo! You took my seat!” he complained.

    RhodoKnightmon crossed a leg over the other and turned towards Magnamon, grinning behind his helmet. “I didn’t see your name on it, cutie,” he teased in a sing song voice.

    Magnamon growled, his eye twitching with annoyance at being called that. “I am not cute, Rhodo! For the last time!” he barked, clutching his tray of food tightly.

    “Oh, but you are when you’re all flustered like that,” RhodoKnightmon told him. “Both you and OuRyuumon have the cutest tantrums, Magna.”

    The Royal Knight of Miracles blushed further. “No I... rrrgh,” he cut himself off, knowing that if he rose to the teasing, he might just prove RhodoKnightmon’s point. Magnamon collected himself and took on a dignified manner, turning and walking over to sit at the empty table next to Dukemon’s.

    RhodoKnightmon looked over at him. “You don’t have to sit all the way over there, Magna. There’s plenty of room on my lap,” he said, using his playful tone again.

    Magnamon ignored him and looked away, though blushing at the teasing. “I would rather sit here, Rhodo...”

    Dukemon grinned a bit, thankful for the temporary distraction from his thoughts. He raised the visor of his helmet so that he could begin eating.

    “Shouldn’t you be in the kitchen, RhodoKnightmon?” Craniamon asked, looking over to him.

    “Hm? Oh, no,” RhodoKnightmon answered, eating with one hand and absent-mindedly twirling the end of Examon’s long tail with the other hand. Apparently, he didn’t know or care about the obvious discomfort on Examon’s face. “I finished my cooking, but there’s still enough food stocked up for the kitchen helpers to continue serving. I finally get to relax now.”

    “Well, at least you’re not the only one relaxing,” Duftmon spoke in response, giving a passing glance to Dukemon.

    Dukemon stopped moving his fork mid-bite, pausing to give a Duftmon a fiery stare. After a moment, he closed his mouth around the food and swallowed it.

    “So, Dukemon,” UlforceVeedramon said, looking over at him from his table. “Do you know where Alphamon, Omegamon, and OuRyuumon went? I mean, they must have told you when they put you in command while they were gone, right?”

    “Yeah, they did,” Dukemon said succinctly.

    “Where?”

    “Sorry. I can’t disclose that,” he answered.

    “Oh, come on,” Duftmon complained. “How are you privy to such information and the rest of us are not?”

    Dukemon closed his eyes and placed his fork down on the tray, getting progressively more irritated by Duftmon and his condescending tone. “Because I am...”

    Duftmon frowned and folded his arms. “Is that so? So much for that ‘all Royal Knights are equal’ rule you go around preaching all the time.”

    The rumbling of an emerging growl could be felt in the center of Dukemon’s throat. “...What of it?”

    “You’re so quick to stand up and say that to me whenever you can, but now, because you think that you’re in charge, you get to withhold information and give all the orders, even though you were just like us yesterday? This is a temporary promotion, mind you,” Duftmon spoke, leering at Dukemon coldly and calculatingly.

    Dukemon’s eyes snapped open and his pupils shrunk within his gold irises. He glowered at Duftmon with a more fearsome appearance instead of his usual warm, inviting one. “We are all equal,” Dukemon said harshly. “There’s no such thing as a promotion within the Royal Knights. I’m no better than anybody here, and neither are you, despite what you might think. The only reason I’m not telling you is because Alphamon asked me not to.”

    Duftmon frowned. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

    The crimson knight took a calming breath, trying not to let himself get worked up. “It means that you obviously think that you can do a better job than I can. You probably think you can do a better job than Alphamon, even.”

    “Hmph. I never said that, but now that you mention it, you did make some basic errors.”

    Dukemon stood up. “Yeah. I’m sure you think so. Just because you can make some skillful tactics, you suddenly think you’re better than everybody else and you can run the entire Royal Knight order! I’ve been a Royal Knight longer than you have and have twice the experience you do, you know,” he told Duftmon, his tone calm, but some obvious anger hidden behind his words.

    Duftmon’s eyes narrowed piercingly at Dukemon. “Yes, and twice the temper. And not to mention the Digital--“

    Dukemon snarled with rage and abruptly reached across the table. He grabbed Duftmon by the collar and dragged him over the table, causing the four trays of food to come crashing to the ground and spilling on digimons’ laps. Dukemon glared into Duftmon’s eyes, whose body was half on the table and half held in the air by Dukemon’s clenched fist.

    “I’ve had enough of you, Duftmon! You’re an arrogant, smug, condescending, intolerant, petulant brat!” Dukemon barked, glowering face to face with the shocked leopard knight. “You’ve been taking shots at me and undermining my leadership all day! If you honestly think that you can do a better job, I’d like to see it! Because to be a good leader, you need to be able to trust people, and that’s something that you will never know how to do!”

    Though shocked, Duftmon held Dukemon’s wrists on reflex and gripped them firmly, staring into Dukemon’s narrow eyes with his wide, green ones.”Y-You...” he stammered.

    Dukemon’s grip on Duftmon’s collar tightened and he held him closer to his face, glaring deeper.

    “Dukemon!” Magnamon protested, jumping up and running over and holding Dukemon’s right hand.

    “Stop it!” Sleipmon agreed, grabbing Dukemon’s left arm and pulling.

    Sleipmon and Magnamon pulled Dukemon back while Dynasmon pulled Duftmon back across the table before a fight could break out.

    Dukemon let go of Duftmon and growled, stepping back. Breathing hard, he looked around at the faces of the shocked and worried Royal Knights.

    “E...Excuse me,” Dukemon quickly said, grimacing with shame and pulling away from Magnamon and Sleipmon. He turned and quickly walked past the Royal Knights and whoever else might have been watching, his cape waving behind him as he left the cafeteria as quickly as he could.

    Several of the knights relaxed slightly and looked around uncomfortably after the tense scene. Duftmon was visibly flustered as he stood up and tried to wipe the food and sauce from his chest, arms, and hair.

    Examon frowned thoughtfully, watching as Dukemon disappeared into the corridor.

    -

    The sun had set and the stars and moons appeared in the sky once again, acting as the sole providers of light for the night. In his room, Dukemon sat on the edge of his bed. Instead of his armour, he wore the white t-shirt and black pants he had worn early that morning. He was hunched over the leggings of his armour, which were on his lap. Using the glow of his computer and a torch on the wall as light, he cleaned the metal leggings with a damp cloth, trying to remove the food that spilled on them several minutes ago during his outburst at Duftmon.

    Dukemon scrubbed the metal earnestly, trying his best to remove all traces of muck and filth. He winced and washed harder, stubbornly when he saw another blemish. There was a scrap of food between his upper leg armour and his knee-guard that he couldn’t quite reach, no matter how hard he tried. It was stuck right behind the familiar symbol engraved in the red metal...

    Suddenly there was a slow, calm knocking at the door. Dukemon looked up from his work and looked over.

    “...Who is it?” Dukemon asked, grimacing. He knew that somebody would come to talk to him. He guessed that it was Magnamon.

    The door open and inside the room walked a large dragon, who closed the door behind him carefully.

    Dukemon was a little surprised at the sight. “Examon...”

    “Am I interrupting...?” Examon asked, his voice cautious.

    Dukemon turned his head away from Examon and looked forward. “...If I said yes, would you leave me be?”

    “Is that what you want?” Examon questioned, prepared to do just that if Dukemon wished.

    “...I don’t know,” Dukemon said with a reluctant sigh.

    Examon walked over to him. “...So I guess what I saw was that temper of yours I kept hearing about.”

    Silence followed. Dukemon stood up and walked to a window, leaning forwards against the stone sill and looking out into the night sky. “...Is that all you’ve heard about me?” he finally asked, his voice grave.

    Raising an eyebrow curiously, Examon took a step closer. “What do you mean?”

    “I’m sure the others must have been talking after I snapped at Duftmon,” Dukemon said lowly, narrowing his eyes. “Or maybe you already know...”

    “Know what, Dukemon?” Examon asked.

    Dukemon turned around and looked at him. In Examon’s eyes, he could see that the dragon was being sincere. “I guess you really don’t know, do you...?”

    Shaking his head, Examon sat down on Dukemon’s bed and moved his wing to make room for Dukemon to sit as well. “What’s going on with you, Dukemon? You’ve been acting weird all day. Especially ten minutes ago.”

    Sighing, Dukemon reluctantly took the spot beside Examon, though he looked away. “It’s complicated...”

    Examon’s gaze softened. “Dukemon, if there’s something bothering you...” he began. He exhaled through his nostrils and stalled. “Well... you’ve helped me with my problems before. I like to think that you trust me enough to let me help you with yours...”

    He looked at Examon. ”I...” he began uncertainly, frowning. “There’s... something wrong with me.”

    “Something wrong? ...Like what? Are you sick?” Examon asked with slight concern in his tone.

    “Not exactly.” He reached over and took the leg armour he had been washing. With his other hand, he pointed to the symbol on the poleyn - the knee guard. “Do you know what this symbol is, Examon?”

    Examon thought for a few moments but shook his head. “I have seen it around, but no...”

    Dukemon sighed. “It’s... the Digital Hazard symbol.” He turned to look at Examon with a look of insecurity that he had never shown Examon before. “I have... the Digital Hazard.”

    “Digital Hazard...? What is that?”

    “Basically... I’m dangerous,” Dukemon explained, smiling sadly. “The safety of those around me depends on my stability. It’s a curse, really.”

    Examon started to grow concerned, worried even. “I don’t understand...”

    “To have the Digital Hazard is to have the capability of extremely destructive and deadly power...” Dukemon told him, looking down. “If my balance and stability ever were to collapse... I don’t know.”

    Dukemon looked over, out the window, into the dark night sky. “Maybe I would go on a rampage or turn into a terrible monster bent on destroying the Digital World. I would never want that in my life, but it could happen even just by accident. I constantly feel like I’m walking on eggshells...”

    “D-...Dukemon...” Examon said, looking at him with shock.

    “To know that my existence itself has a chance to be dangerous to others... I hate it.” Dukemon grimaced. “I’m a Royal Knight. It’s my job to protect the Digital World. I’m devoted to defending the world, the innocent digimon in it, and my fellow Royal Knights. I took an oath to protect, yet I have this potential for destruction... Is my hotheadedness and temper because of the Digital Hazard? Or is it just my natural personality? I don’t know. ...And all that isn’t even the worst thing about it, if you can believe it...”

    Examon was silent.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I... I wanted you to trust me first. I didn’t want you getting this preconceived idea of me in your head before getting to know the real me.”

    “Dukemon,” Examon said sharply, grabbing Dukemon’s attention and prompting him to look over. Dukemon blinked when he saw Examon’s firm stare.

    The dragon spoke, softer this time. “You’re the first friend that I’ve had in a very long time... From the first time we met, when you gave me the invitation to join the Royal Knights, you never questioned me, be it my personality or my appearance. You always stood up for me to those who doubted and disliked me,” he explained.

    Examon placed his clawed hand on Dukemon’s shoulder, gripping it reassuringly. “Digital Hazard or not, you’re the same Dukemon. If you think that I’d judge you because of this, you’re wrong,” he told him. He thought to himself. “Besides... I can sort of relate to you, in a way.

    Dukemon stared at him disbelievingly. “Are you serious?”

    Examon smiled lightly at him. “When am I not...?” he replied. “And... you’re far too kind and good to ever have to worry about succumbing to the Digital Hazard. I trust you, Dukemon. It shouldn’t even be an issue in your mind. Besides, all digimon have the potential to be destructive or evil. You said yourself that you want to protect the world, so that should be the end of any doubt.”

    Dukemon’s surprise turned into a big, warm and gracious smile. “I... Thank you, Examon... I mean it.” He placed his hand on Examon’s which was resting on his shoulder. “You don’t know how much that means to me.”

    Examon smiled and removed his hand, shaking his head dismissively. ”It’s nothing you wouldn’t do if the situations were reversed...” he assured him.

    The crimson knight looked down and then back up at Examon. “Are you just saying this to make me feel better?”

    “I meant every word, Dukemon,” Examon told him honestly.

    Dukemon nodded slowly. He grinned, feeling like a small weight had been lifted. “Then, thank you...”

    Examon nodded.

    After a few moments of silence, Dukemon stood up and gave a groan of protest. “I guess I should go apologize to Duftmon... even if he did deserve it,” he grumbled.

    “That should be fun...” Examon sarcastically muttered.

    Dukemon chuckled. “You’re telling me...”

    -

    Later that night, Dukemon stood out on the balcony where he had watched the sun, leaning forwards on the parapet as he looked out into the distance. A large silhouette flew past one of the large moons, getting Dukemon’s attention. The crimson knight smiled lightly when Grani swooped down and landed beside him.

    “Hey, Grani,” he greeted.

    “Hello, Dukemon,” Grani replied.

    “Checking up on me?” Dukemon asked, looking over with a warm grin at the red dragon.

    “I hear you throttled a certain leopard in a tray full of mashed potatoes,” Grani said with a chuckle.

    “He was asking for it,” Dukemon said, chuckling too. “And, yes, I tried apologizing, but you know how he gets all pouty and huffy when he’s mad.”

    Grani smiled. “Let me guess, he’s in his room or the library.”

    “Library. Nose buried in a book. That was after about an hour of washing his hair,” Dukemon said, smiling.

    Grani laughed and turned to face Dukemon. “So, you’re in a better mood. Did you talk to Examon about the Digital Hazard?”

    Dukemon nodded. “Yeah... He was actually really supportive about it. And I trust him that he was being genuine.”

    “I’m glad...” Grani told him. “You know, I’m sure most of the others feel the same way that Examon does.”

    “Yeah... maybe.”

    Grani smiled softly. “Well, I told you that you can trust him.”

    “Yeah...”

    A soft silence followed. The large, draconic Zero ARMS looked forwards. “So... What’s the plan for tomorrow, acting leader?”

    Dukemon grinned and looked off into the distance as well.

    “I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Author's Note: Okay, so I've decided to post Chapter 8 in two parts. This is because I'm already at thirteen pages in Word and I'm not even halfway done. So, I'm splitting the chapter up because I don't want the chapter to be too long.


    Chapter 8: Adversary (Part I)


    The low drone of an engine and an incessant, mechanical clatter, like the ticking of cogs in a machine, resounded through the dark forest. A pair of tank treads rolled over a hollow log that blocked a barely beaten trail in the wooded area, snapping the wood in two. The treads belonged to a draconic digimon with a light blue-purple scale colour. Only his upper body was like that of a dragon, as his entire lower body was a brown and green plated tank. He was armed to the teeth with machine guns, chain guns, cannons, and other armaments.

    The Tankdramon looked around the shadowy woods warily. It was the middle of daylight out, but the thick canopy of the countless trees made it seem more like dusk in the forest. The branches and leaves were blocking the sunlight from hitting the forest floor. He supposed that was the reason why it was called Dusk Forest.

    The Tankdramon growled to himself. He couldn’t help but feel edgy as he drove through the ominous, threatening terrain. He didn’t know what sort of digimon might have made their home in there. Not friendly ones, he guessed.

    “I’d hate to see what this place is like at night...” he mumbled to himself. Tankdramon loaded and cocked his built-in machine guns, just in case.

    The only sounds he could hear were the ones that he was creating as he travelled down the path. The silence only served to fuel his paranoia.

    Tankdramon’s keen eyes darted back and forth as he looked around. “This is ridiculous... I’m a well trained ultimate level digimon who can more than hold his own in a fight. What do I have to worry about? A tree attacking me? Pshht,” Tankdramon told himself, chuckling slightly and trying to put himself at ease.

    “Still... What kind of selfish, Numemon-brained dweeb thinks it’s a good idea to send a Tankdramon on a job in the forest?” he murmured, frowning in annoyance. “There’s no manoeuvrability, it’s fricking dark, and I’m going to be picking leaves and twigs out of my treads for weeks!”

    He gritted his teeth. “Guess it’s partially my fault for taking the job in the first place. I can see why he didn’t want to go himself. Still not sure what exactly it is that the guy wants me to find, though... What’s he mean by ‘abnormalities’? Could he be any vaguer?”

    Without noticing, Tankdramon started treading off of the path and heading away from it, going in a different direction in the forest. It was so dark that he could barely see the path, let alone where it curved; anywhere that wasn’t blocked by trees was good enough for him.

    “It’d be easier if I could just blow all these trees down. What I wouldn’t give just for a bit of light,” he continued to speak, trying to fill the nervous silence with words.

    Tankdramon tread over some underbrush. “Maybe just one tree, just to light things up a little bit,” he spoke, stopping in his tracks and aiming his cannons.

    Before he could fire, he started to feel strange. He felt a tingling sensation in his tank treads. This was especially weird to him because he wasn’t supposed to feel very much in his machine parts, at least not in the actual metal.

    The feeling grew and it was an odd, invigorating sensation. Tankdramon felt a new found surge of energy in his muscles, and it felt like his gears were moving twice as fast. His mind worked faster and the numb, tingling feeling washed through him. It was intoxicating.

    “Wh... What’s going on...? Why do I feel so weird?” he asked himself.

    Tankdramon blinked in surprise and looked over his side. He saw a black crack in the ground, right underneath his tank treads. It was a skinny fissure that anybody could walk on and be none the wiser. It was thin but it was very deep.

    “What... is that...?” Tankdramon asked, panting and grunting. Sweat started to run down his chest from the overwhelming sensations he felt within himself. It started to cause him discomfort. “This is... getting weird...”

    Tankdramon continued to look at the crack in the ground. His body suddenly started to glow, illuminating the ground around him. Thanks to the light, he could see a dark aura rising up from inside of the crack. Shadowy tendrils rose up from the crevice and took hold of him, grabbing his limbs, cannons and treads.

    “Wh-What! Hey! St-Stop!” he shouted, his fear rising. His eyes widened and his heart pumped rapidly. “Blast Gatling!”

    His machine guns opened fire and he shot desperately, the muzzle flashes lighting up the forest like candles flickering in the wind. However, the shadows and darkness were unaffected, the bullets shooting through the aura harmlessly as it consumed his body.

    Tankdramon let out a gasp, arching his head back as if he were sinking in water. “Stop it! Whatever this is, j-just stop!” he shouted, eyes wide as a mixture of light and darkness enveloped his body. The surge of energy within him grew and he felt stronger and stronger.

    However, that didn’t stop him from letting out a scream as the shadows overtook him completely.

    -

    A day later...

    Craniamon stood in a grassy field within the defensive walls of the Royal Knight’s headquarters. Clad in his violet, “black digizoid” armour, he held his trusty, double-sided spear, the Claiohm Solais, in his right hand. It was poised and at the ready. In his left hand, Craniamon held the large kite shield, the Avalon.

    The Royal Knight watched patiently as Examon circled in the sky above, like a vulture. Without warning, Examon’s voice echoed and he fired a powerful green laser from the Ambrosius lance in his claws, aiming right at Craniamon.

    The pillar of energy came striking down towards Craniamon, but the violet knight grunted and raised the Avalon. “God Breath!” Craniamon responded, a barrier forming around the shield and covering him completely. The Pendragon’s Glory attack that Examon fired merely hit the barrier and was deflected off. It slammed into the nearby grass instead.

    “You were close that time, Examon!” a voice yelled off from the side.

    Dynasmon and Magnamon watched from the side of the field. Craniamon and Examon were in the middle of a practice battle in the training grounds, using the safety program for their weaponry, of course. The training grounds were extremely wide, so whoever was using them could really let loose when practicing their attacks. It also provided lots of manoeuvrability in practice battles like the one that Craniamon and Examon were currently in.

    Dynasmon uncapped his hands from his mouth and turned to Magnamon. “You’re really betting on Examon?” he asked with a smile. “I mean, I’m not taking anything away from Examon, but Craniamon’s the most defence oriented of the Knights. There’s no way any of Examon’s shots are getting past that shield.”

    Magnamon grinned. “Ye of little faith,” he responded, folding his arms. “I’m a believer in the underdog.”

    “You would need to be.” Dynasmon measured Magnamon’s height with a hand and smirked. Magnamon rolled his eyes and went back to watching the fight.

    As the barrier dissipated, Craniamon lowered his shield slightly and watched as Examon swerved in the air. He grinned behind his helmet confidently. “You don’t stand a chance, dragon... I have the upper hand here. I’m far too defended with Avalon for your long ranged attacks to hit me. The only chance you have is to get up close and fight me spear-to-spear, and, even then, I’m faster than you; you’re not as manoeuvrable with those bulky, awkward wings,” Craniamon thought to himself.

    Examon suddenly swooped down and dove towards the ground. Craniamon bent his legs and got ready to jump in case Examon was performing his Draconic Impact attack, but Craniamon doubted that he had enough altitude to do that with any effect.

    Instead of slamming into the ground, Examon flapped his wings in wide strokes. He stopped his abrupt descent and landed gently on the ground, twenty meters away. The dragon raised his lance and took careful aim. “Avalon’s Gate,” he spoke. A cylindrical shell burst from the muzzle of his lance and flew towards Craniamon.

    Craniamon scoffed and narrowed his eyes. “Predictable. Bad form,” he muttered, lifting his double edged spear.

    The Claiohm Solais shimmered in the sunlight as Craniamon raised it over his head and spun it around, giving it momentum. When the shell closed in on him, Craniamon slashed his weapon down vertically, cleaving the metal canister down the middle. The knight quickly stepped back and pulled his shield in front of himself, expecting an explosion of some sort. Instead, he heard a hissing sound.

    Thick, white smoke burst from the ammunition shell and surrounded Craniamon, completely obstructing his vision. “Damn it!” Craniamon hissed, realizing Examon’s plan.

    Before he could let the dragon act on the plan, Craniamon jumped far back so that he was outside of the thick haze. He gripped his spear and shield more guardedly, glaring into the cloud of smoke. Then he heard a powerful flap of Examon’s wings and felt a gust of wind. Examon blew the smoke upon him once again.

    “You think that’ll work?” he asked aloud. “End Waltz!” Craniamon started spinning the Claiohm Solais above his head rapidly. It was fast enough that electricity began to discharge from the blades.

    Craniamon swung the spear while the blades were at an angle, creating a vacuum of wind and electricity around himself. The smoke started to swirl around him before being released, getting pulled away from Craniamon’s surroundings so that it didn’t hinder him. He was using the Claiohm Solais like a giant fan.

    When the smoke was almost entirely cleared away, Craniamon gripped his spear tightly and stopped spinning it. A tendril of electricity jumped from one end of the blade to the other.

    The last bit of smoke cleared away, just in time for Craniamon to see Examon charging him, his spear steady as if he was jousting. Craniamon was initially surprised, but he soon grinned, drew his weapon back, and raised the Avalon shield. His plan was clear in his mind. Examon would attack, be repelled by the Avalon’s barrier, and would be completely open to Craniamon’s counterattack.

    Examon dashed at him, poised his lance, and thrust it at Craniamon. He gripped his spear tightly and smirked. “God Breath!”

    The omnidirectional barrier burst from his shield and surrounded him. Craniamon counted the seconds down from three, but, at the back of his mind, found it strange that he didn’t hear any grunt from Examon or felt any reverberations in the barrier from the impact.

    After the three seconds, Craniamon moved his shield to the side and prepared for his attack. His eyes widened when he saw Examon standing in front of him, his lance aimed right for him. “What?!” he thought to himself in confused horror. And then he realised. Examon stopped the thrust of his lance before it could hit his barrier and be deflected.

    Craniamon stubbornly moved to attack Examon, but Examon already pulled the trigger. “Pendragon’s Glory.”

    The emerald beam exploded against Craniamon’s chest and sent a surge of electricity running through him, knocking the Royal Knight flat on his back.

    “And he wins!” Magnamon cheered from the side of the field.

    “That’s too bad,” Dynasmon said, folding his arms due to losing his competition with Magnamon.

    Examon exhaled and planted his lance in the ground, walking over to Craniamon. “That was a good match,” he said to him. He outstretched his clawed hand to Craniamon, offering to pull him. “Looks like I beat you for once.”

    Grimacing, Craniamon propped himself up on his elbows and saw Examon standing over him, his hand extended. Craniamon just stared in disbelief. “How could that lizard beat me...?” he wondered.

    After a moment of staring, Craniamon blushed in embarrassment and backhanded Examon’s hand away. Examon recoiled his hand in surprise and watched Craniamon stand up on his own.

    “...What’s wrong?” Examon asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Nothing. Just leave me alone,” Craniamon answered, glaring and storming past him.

    Dynasmon put his hands on his hips as Craniamon approached. “Hey, I was rooting for you, you kno--“

    “Out of my way,” Craniamon spat, pushing through them and walking towards the other side of the training ground, which was more towards the castle.

    “...Someone’s in a lousy mood,” Dynasmon muttered, turning to look at Magnamon.

    Magnamon turned and watched Craniamon walk away. He looked on as Craniamon stood in the training ground and started performing complex spear techniques on a very durable practice dummy.

    “He’s going to be doing that for awhile,” Magnamon said with a sigh.

    Examon walked over to them, resting his lance on his shoulder. “What’s his problem?” Examon asked. “Is it that big of a deal that I beat him once out of the five times he beat me?”

    Dynasmon turned to Examon. “It’s nothing personal. He just... doesn’t really take losing very well.”

    “Or even just making a mistake at all,” Magnamon added. “Like getting injured on a mission.”

    Examon frowned. He watched as Craniamon either trained with or was taking his anger out on the practice dummy; he wasn’t sure which. “That’s ridiculous... No digimon is perfect.”

    Dynasmon folded his arms and glanced at Examon. “No, but he sure is trying to be...”

    -

    A few hours later, Dukemon called a meeting in the war room. He gathered all eight of the present Royal Knights, not counting himself. MetallifeKuwagamon and Grani were present as well. The knights waited with baited breath.

    “What’s this about, Dukemon?” Craniamon asked, folding his arms and looking particularly sour.

    “I’ve gathered you here so I can debrief all of you,” Dukemon responded.

    “Oh, good,” RhodoKnightmon said, smiling to himself. “I do enjoy seeing you guys without your briefs.”

    “That joke’s gotten old after the thousandth time, Rhodo,” UlforceVeedramon chuckled.

    “Who’s joking?” Rhodo replied with a wink.

    Dukemon sighed, smirking faintly. “Rhodo, if you’d be so kind as to not speak for the rest of this meeting, things would go along a lot more quickly.”

    Duftmon stepped forwards. “For once, Dukemon, I agree with you,” he said, walking up to Dukemon and hoping they could get down to business. “So, what’s the situation?”

    “We’re not entirely sure,” Dukemon admitted. When he saw Duftmon open his mouth to comment, the acting leader quickly continued. “And that’s because it has to do with Dusk Forest. The tree canopies are so thick that our aerial scouts can’t see what’s happening below.” He looked to Grani, the leader of the recon squadron, who nodded in agreement.

    “Dusk Forest?” Craniamon asked.

    “I haven’t heard of it,” Examon murmured.

    Dukemon walked over to the tactics interface table in the middle of the room and pressed a few buttons on it. He brought up a vague, three dimensional representation of the map of Dusk Forest and the surrounding areas. “It’s a relatively small forest between two provinces in the Free Area. It’s very dark, there’s no visibility from the air, and the whole forest is really sort of a mystery, even to us,” Dukemon explained.

    “That explains why the topographical map is next to useless for rendering it, I suppose,” Duftmon said, looking at the nondescript map of the forest on the table.

    “Yeah,” Dukemon said. “Due to its small size and insignificance, we’ve never really had a reason to care about the forest before now.”

    “So why now?” Sleipmon questioned.

    Dukemon folded his arms and turned to MetallifeKuwagamon. “Want to tell us what you’ve found?”

    MetallifeKuwagamon nodded and rubbed the back of his metal neck with his hand. “Well... the data map scan was running and then the DADAR system has detected a huge increase in data taking place somewhere inside Dusk Forest.”

    “What sort of increase in data, Metallife?” Dynasmon asked. “Are you sure it wasn’t just a random evolution?”

    “No, I don’t think so... The spike in data was too fast. And it took place in a region containing abnormal amounts of data. The region with the unnatural variation in data was so small - only about a meter in length - that even the sharpest eyed digimon would overlook it unless the map was zoomed in. That’s the strange part.”

    “That’s not all, correct?” Duftmon asked.

    Grani floated forwards. “One of my scouts heard something when he was patrolling near the village closest to Dusk Forest. Apparently a few digimon have disappeared inside the forest recently. There have also been strange noises and flashes coming from the forest as well,” the Zero ARMS explained.

    “Ooowoo... Do you think it’s haunted by Phantomon and Bakemon?” UlforceVeedramon joked.

    “We think it’s more likely that somebody digivolved unnaturally and isn’t handling their new evolution very well,” Dukemon explained. “I want two of you to go investigate.”

    Craniamon stepped forwards. “I’ll go,” he said, his voice not leaving any room for disagreement.

    RhodoKnightmon put his hands on his hips. “Why don’t we send a squad of our forces to go instead?” he asked, feeling rather lazy at the moment.

    “Because we don’t know what we’re up against,” Dukemon replied. “We don’t have any intel or recon on anything inside Dusk Forest. If it really is an evil or out-of-control digimon, then I don’t want to risk any of their lives. I want the best to be there.”

    “And that’s why I’m going,” Craniamon insisted, folding his arms. “And I’m going alone.”

    Dukemon frowned. “I said two, Craniamon,” he replied. “One of the others is going with you.”

    “No. I’ll be fine. I can take care of it by myself,” the violet knight retorted firmly.

    “And I say somebody’s going with you, tough guy,” Dukemon responded, just as stubbornly. “Examon, you go with him.”

    “Him?” Duftmon asked, incredulous at the idea.

    Craniamon sneered. He stared with determination at the crimson Royal Knight, narrowing his gaze a bit. “Don’t you trust me? Don’t you think I can handle it?” he asked, not taking no for an answer.

    Dukemon sighed. “Yeah, of course I do,” he insisted. “What I don’t trust is that forest. We don’t know what we’re up against and four eyes are better than two since you’ll be looking for that unnatural data source as well.”

    “My two eyes are fine,” Craniamon responded, his voice cool. He turned to look at Examon. “And I don’t want or need him to hold my hand.”

    “But that would be so cute!” RhodoKnightmon chimed in.

    “Cram it, Rhodo,” Craniamon replied coldly. “Look, I’m doing this mission alone. Examon would only get in the way anyways.”

    Before Dukemon could protest, Duftmon spoke up. “While I think Craniamon’s petty, solitary, independent streak is foolish and moronic, he does make a good point that Examon would be useless in the forest. His wings in addition to the trees would make for poor manoeuvrability on his part, and the trees would block his ranged attacks.”

    “Then Rhodo or somebody can go with you instead,” Dukemon said, his voice showing his slight, growing irritation at all the back-talk.

    RhodoKnightmon sank back behind Sleipmon. “No, I believe Examon should go...” he insisted.

    The dragon in question took a step forwards. “I can do more than just long-ranged and aerial bombardment,” Examon responded, looking at Duftmon. “I can hold my own in a close quarters fight.” He glanced over at Craniamon. “I think I have proven that today...”

    Craniamon glared at Examon icily. “I don’t want Rhodo or Magnamon or anybody coming. Especially not the dragon...”

    Examon met Craniamon’s cold glare with a cool one of his own. “This is just because I beat you in that practice duel today, isn’t it?” he spoke, folding his arms. “You’re really going to make things difficult for us because of your wounded pride?”

    Craniamon’s eyes narrowed and he clenched his fists. “Oh, foolish me. It’s not as if you would ever jeopardize a mission because of your personal feelings, isn’t that right, Examon?” he responded acidly, remembering back when Examon abandoned his post to help the United Dramonic Coalition. “Hypocrite.”

    “Enough!” Dukemon shouted, silencing the room. “We’re the Royal Knights! Protectors of the Digital World! We should be focused on the task at hand and working together, not bickering over petty things,” he spoke passionately.

    “That’s rich, considering yesterday,” Duftmon muttered under his breath.

    Dukemon took a deep breath. He tried his best to do what Alphamon would do if he were here... though his version was a bit fierier than Alphamon’s. He looked at the knights, his eyes resting on Craniamon and Examon. “Look, you two. I know that we’re all equal here, but in situations like this, the leader, which is me in this case, has the final say in the matter. And I say you two are going together.”

    “Despite Examon’s body type?” Duftmon asked.

    Dukemon nodded. “Examon says he’s capable. Besides, they can take the time to sort out their issues,” he said sternly. “...Well, Examon? Craniamon?”

    The environment in the war room was tense. After a few moments, Examon nodded. “...Fine by me.”

    Craniamon sneered with grudging defeat. “...Whatever.”

    “Good,” Dukemon said. “Now, since we don’t have much information on Dusk Forest, you two will be going in there without any tactics planned. You two are going to have to think on your toes and help each other. That shouldn’t be a problem for two Royal Knights, right?”

    “I’ll do my best, Dukemon,” Examon assured him.

    “I’m not babysitting the dragon,” Craniamon said steadily, looking over at Examon.

    “I don’t expect you to,” Examon replied, his voice calm.

    Dukemon sighed and closed the map. “You two shouldn’t have any trouble getting to the province; it’s not very far. You can head out now,” he said, concluding that debriefing. “And good luck.”

    Examon and Craniamon nodded, turning around and heading out of the war room. Craniamon looked over at his dragon partner. “I’m not picking up any of your dead weight.”

    Examon’s brow furrowed. “I’ll be fine without your help,” he assured the violet Royal Knight.

    Craniamon grunted. “I was thinking that exact thing myself...”

    -

    After two hours of travel, Craniamon and Examon arrived outside of a village that bordered the mysterious Dusk Forest. It was a small, humble village of a hundred or so buildings of various sizes, constructed to accommodate the differing sizes of digimon. A small river and grass separated the town from the border of Dusk Forest. The huge, thick trees made most passersby feel small, and the dense canopies of the trees made the forest seem dark and ominous even from the outside looking in.

    The journey from the Royal Knights’ headquarters to this village had been an awkward, uncomfortable one. Neither Examon nor Craniamon spoke to the other for the whole two hours. Craniamon simply walked at a brisk pace while Examon flew overhead, about thirty feet off the ground. For most, the silence would have been deafening, but both Examon and Craniamon seemed to embrace the quiet and the alone time.

    It wasn’t until now, when they walked up the path to the village, did Examon speak about something that been bothering him for the last twenty minutes.

    “Dusk Forest is north of our headquarters. Why did you lead us all the way up to this village that’s north of the forest? Wouldn’t entering at the south end of the forest have been faster?” Examon asked Craniamon as he landed and started travelling on foot.

    “Because the abnormality in data is much closer to the north side of the forest,” Craniamon replied curtly.

    “So it will be easier to investigate that site?” Examon guessed.

    Craniamon nodded shortly. “That’s the first priority. It’ll be easier to do that from this route since it’s closer and we’re going into the forest essentially blind.”

    “Are you worried about an ambush from whatever’s in there?” Examon asked.

    “’Worried’ isn’t the word I would use,” Craniamon answered, continuing down the path.

    “But is it a possibility?” the dragon asked. “We do have to prepare for what we can to make up for what we can’t.”

    Craniamon grunted. “You sound like Duftmon... While tactics and preparations are fine and I’m sure they help a little, the outcome of a battle is decided in the moment of the actual fight. The skills and instincts of a strong combatant can get the better of any strategy. That’s why, when a plan falls apart, a knight needs to know how to think on their feet.”

    Examon sighed and rested his lance on his shoulder, letting his wings relax as he followed Craniamon. “Fair enough, but I prefer preparation to adaptation, myself...”

    “You’re free to wait in the village while I do the mission myself, you know,” Craniamon told him, secretly hoping that he would take him up on the offer.

    “...No,” Examon replied, answering as Craniamon expected he would. “And you didn’t answer my question. Can we expect an ambush?”

    Craniamon glanced over his shoulder at the dragon digimon. “I doubt that, if Dukemon’s right about a digimon going wild from an evolution. Digimon like that are impulsive and unstable; they’re not about to lay any clever strategies or traps while they’re completely out of control.”

    Examon slowly looked away. “I suppose you’re right about that...” he spoke softly.

    The silence ensued, lasting for about a minute until the duo reached the village. They walked under an aged, cracked, wooden arch that served as the official western entrance to the village. As they entered, the two digimon caught some stares and incited some excited mumbles and whispers between the village’s residences. Digimon started to emerge from their homes to gawk at the prestigious-looking outsiders.

    A short, blue dragon with small, red wings and horns walked up to Craniamon and Examon curiously. “Excuse me. Are you Royal Knights...?” he questioned, asking what most of the digimon there were thinking.

    “Yes,” Craniamon replied, looking down at the Dracomon. “We’re here to investigate Dusk Forest.”

    Examon looked at the Dracomon lingeringly, almost as if nostalgic. After a moment, he focused again and nodded. “Does anybody know anything?”

    “Just that the digimon who have gone into the forest recently haven’t come out,” the Dracomon replied.

    Craniamon couldn’t help but notice a short humanoid digimon dressed in wizard’s robes. He seemed to be tugging at his collar with a finger, a concerned expression engraved on his face. Craniamon turned to him with a raised eyebrow. “Hey, you. The Wizardmon. Do you know something?” he asked.

    Examon turned with surprise towards the Wizardmon, wondering why Craniamon thought that he, in particular, would know something when there were several other digimon around them.

    “Well... kind of...” the Wizardmon replied meekly as he took a step back.

    On the inside, Examon was surprised. Was Craniamon more observant than he gave him credit for? He walked over to the Wizardmon, following Craniamon. “Can you tell us?”

    Wizardmon looked between the two Royal Knights uncertainly, obviously intimidated by the two Royal Knights standing over him, looking at him for answers. “Uh, y-yes... Well... It started when I put out an open call for mercenaries.”

    “Mercenaries?” Craniamon asked, frowning as he remembered the ones that they had to deal with in the United Dramonic Coaltion.

    Wizardmon winced at Craniamon’s reaction, knowing how it must have sounded to the knight, and quickly tried to amend his statement. “I-I don’t mean ‘mercenaries’. Or at least not the bad kind. I-I just mean I needed hired muscle. Or adventurers who do jobs for money. Lots of non-evil digimon do that sort of thing.”

    “Yes, we know. You’re not on trial here,” Craniamon said with narrowed eyes that made the Wizardmon feel like he was, indeed, on trial.

    “Please, continue,” Examon spoke.

    Wizardmon nodded. “Well, so... this Tankdramon who was in the area was the first to answer the call. I told him what I needed him to do. He said he’d take the job and went into the forest. He was the first digimon who didn’t come out...” he explained, looking down guiltily. “I feel terrible.”

    “You don’t know what happened to him?” Examon asked.

    “No... The same thing that happened to the other few digimon who followed in his footsteps... err, “tanksteps”, I presume...” Wizardmon answered.

    “What was this ‘job’ you wanted him to do?” Craniamon inquired.

    Wizardmon looked up at Craniamon. “Oh, well, uh... It’s a little hard to explain. You see, I’ve started doing some research on Dusk Forest. Some digimon have reported having uncharacteristic mood swings, surges of adrenaline and energy, tingling sensations, and feelings of euphoria while in the forest. I started to wonder if it was from a certain type of pollen or leaf, or if it was from the lack of sunlight entering the forest, or if it was, maybe, some sort of unnatural occurrence.”

    “So you hired him to investigate the forest?” Craniamon asked. When the Wizardmon nodded, the Royal Knight frowned. “Why didn’t you do it yourself? If you’re into researching, isn’t it better to do it with your own two eyes?” he questioned.

    The short mage digimon blushed and looked down. “...I’m sort of... afraid to go in there...” he confessed, pulling his wizard hat down so that his face was more covered. He felt ashamed of admitting that in the face of brave warriors like the Royal Knights.

    “...I see,” Craniamon answered, less than amused. He looked in the direction of the dark forest. “You said that the Tankdramon was the first digimon to disappear in there. Has there been anything weird about the forest prior to that?”

    “No,” Wizardmon explained. “Not aside from those feelings digimon described. But before that, digimon could safely pass from one side of the forest to the other and enter and exit it as they pleased. Now everybody’s afraid to go near it and they can see flashes inside the forest every so often.”

    “The flashes and noises started when digimon began disappearing?” Examon asked.

    Wizardmon nodded. “Yes...”

    “We’ll find out what’s going on and take care of it,” Craniamon told him. Examon nodded in agreement.

    “Thank you,” Wizardmon replied graciously. He then pointed to a path that lead from the village to a small bridge that spanned the river separating the town from Dusk Forest. “That path will lead you to the forest.”

    Examon nodded and started heading down the path, Craniamon at his side. As they started to approach the bridge, Examon looked at Craniamon. “Craniamon...” he spoke.

    Craniamon looked over, questioningly. “What?”

    “I know you and I aren’t on the best terms, but let’s put our personal feelings aside for the sake of the mission,” he said.

    “...That’s fine with me,” Craniamon replied, looking forwards, at the forest. “You stay out of my way and I’ll stay out of yours. It’s easier that way.”

    Examon glanced at the purple knight. He knew Dukemon would want them to maintain a level of teamwork, but Examon was used to working alone and Craniamon seemed to prefer to do so as well. Maybe things would be easier if they just worked separately.

    “Okay then...” he responded.

    The two Royal Knights continued walking in silence, towards the dim and shadowy forest. They followed the path into the woods before disappearing from sight.

    -

    Within Dusk Forest, a soft wind swept through the trees. The thick, luscious canopies rustled in the breeze. The leaves trembled, letting small rays of light appear within the forest for moments before disappearing again, returning the forest to a dull state of near-darkness.

    One ray of light shone down on a branch of a tree and was reflected off by something clear, causing it to shimmer in the dark. The light shone through the visor and hit a yellow eye. The eye narrowed until it became shrouded in darkness once again.

    Standing on the branch of the tree was a tall, bipedal creature. It was clad in a dark blue armour from head to toe that allowed it to hide in the shade of the forest without even trying. Not even the clear visor on its face stood out. The wind blew again, making the digimon’s red hair and strong tail waft with the wind. Four skinny, metal shafts extended behind it, one from each shoulder and hip. The rods emitted a strange, white-blue emanation, an aura that gave the appearance of wings.

    The digimon jumped from the branch, causing the ‘wings’ to intensify before it landed on the ground. It released a decidedly male snarl and raised the giant lance that was affixed to his right arm. The back of the lance branched off in three directions, separate from the digimon’s elbow. The end of the lance was adorned with a giant metal spike extending from it. On the outside of the digimon’s lance arm, two decorative eyes glowed in an eerie yellow gleam, and gas or steam was expelled from the lance.

    The digimon stepped backwards, seemingly morphing into the thick foliage behind him. He released another soft snarl and disappeared into the darkness completely.
    Last edited by Griff4815; 13th February 2013 at 6:14 PM.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  13. #13
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    Dec 2006
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    The second half of Chapter 8 is here, now that I'm done my exams.


    Chapter 8: Adversary (Part II)


    With every passing minute, the two Royal Knights traveled deeper and deeper into Dusk Forest. Craniamon walked at the front, glancing down at the ground every five seconds. He gripped his double-bladed spear, Claiohm Solais, tightly in his hand as he traipsed through the soft mud and soil of the forest floor.

    Examon followed behind him, his lance, Ambrosius, also placed firmly in his claws, at the ready in case they were attacked.

    True to its name, Dusk Forest gave the illusion of nightfall. The thick canopies, the broad, clustered branches, and the densely-packed trees all served to block out the afternoon sunlight from reaching the forest floor. This darkness made Craniamon and Examon all the more guarded. They didn’t know what was in here or where it was.

    Examon looked around them, past the trees, with his finely-honed eyes. The multiple pillars of thick tree trunks went farther than his eyes could see, which wasn’t far due to the dark of the forest. Branches and vines dangled from the higher parts of the trees, swaying gently in the wind as the breeze blew through the canopies. Aside from those things, Examon couldn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.

    Dusk Forest had an earthy smell of dirt and bark, and all was silent except for the sound of their footsteps and soft breaths. Examon felt mud and twigs beneath his scaled feet and between his toe claws. He had to keep his wings folded poised back so that they pointed behind him. As much as he didn’t like to admit it, Duftmon may have been right about him not being the best choice to join Craniamon. With the closely aggregated trees, his manoevrability was severely restricted, and he definitely couldn’t fly. It was too late now, though, so he continued on after the violet knight.

    Craniamon continued leading Examon in a specific direction. He looked down at the ground again, following two shallow, patterned furrows that were engraved in the mud and dirt. At the bottom of the crevices were flattened leaves, branches, and even logs, which had been split in three. The two grooves continued in a mostly straight line and were marked by the destruction of whatever got in their way.

    “Is the trail still strong?” Examon asked, looking ahead at Craniamon. They had been following these tracks for about half an hour.

    Craniamon nodded. “We’re lucky that Wizardmon’s hired muscle was a Tankdramon,” he replied. “Since he’s about as graceful as a drunken Armageddemon, his tracks are easy to follow, even in here.”

    Examon stepped over a log that had been snapped in half by the Tankdramon. “I see what you mean.”

    Another silence ensued. It was a regular occurrence now. Neither had much to say to the other unless one of them had a question.

    Examon looked down at the Ambrosius and removed the magazine from the lance-rifle hybrid. He then lifted the Ambrosius up and rested it on the wing muscles protruding from his back so that he could free up his claws. He started taking rounds of ammunition out of the magazine before putting the shells back in in a different order, with a shell that was colour-coded white in the first slot.

    Craniamon suddenly spoke up again. “He went off the trail,” the senior Royal Knight announced, stopping.

    The dragon knight removed his lance from the resting place on his wings and locked the magazine back into the Ambrosius’ chamber. “He did?” he asked, walking up to Craniamon’s side while locking a round into place with a deep, satisfying, metallic clicking noise.

    Craniamon pointed at the ground with one of the ends of his spear. The dirt path curved to the left, but Tankdramon’s tracks kept going forwards into the thick, cluttered underbrush. “It must have been too dark for him to notice that the path curved,” he added.

    “So do we follow his tracks or the path?” Examon questioned, looking at Craniamon.

    “Considering that the Tankdramon was the first one to disappear…” Craniamon trailed off and just followed the Tankdramon’s tracks deeper into the forest. Examon followed him.

    The two continued walking through the foliage, following the trail of crushed plants and wood. Examon watched Craniamon as he walked. Ever since he joined the Royal Knights, Examon was never able to read Craniamon very easily. While he wasn’t particularly good at reading the other Royal Knights either, or even other digimon in general, there were a lot of things that he didn’t understand about Craniamon.

    Superficially, the two of them seemed to have similar personalities. They were both calm and collected digimon, but that seemed to be where the similarities ended. Examon knew that they had different ways of doing things. What Examon didn’t know was why Craniamon didn’t seem to care for him. Was it because he was a dragon or was it something else?

    “How did you know?” Craniamon suddenly said.

    The draconic Royal Knight looked at him with surprise, and saw that Craniamon was still walking, not even looking over his shoulder at him. “…Know what?” he responded curiously.

    “Know-“

    Examon saw a flicker of white in his peripheral vision. “Hold it!” he interrupted sharply, jerking his head to the left. The bright flare vanished before Examon could even focus his eyes on it.

    Craniamon immediately stopped and turned around. “What?” he asked, his weapon already poised for action.

    “Over there,” Examon said, pointing with the Ambrosius into the dark of the forest. “I saw a flash of white.”

    Frowning, Craniamon turned towards where Examon had indicated. His red eyes gazed long and hard, around the tree trunks, at the canopies overhead, everywhere in that direction. After several moments, his weapon lowered and his muscles slackened.

    “It was nothing,” Craniamon said with finality, turning back towards Tankdramon’s tracks. “It was probably a foxfire or a wisp of data.”

    Examon frowned. His eyes remained on where he thought he saw the flash. “…I’m not so sure. Remember, Grani said that there were flashes within the forest. Maybe it was the abnormal data that MetallifeKuwagamon detected.”

    “Forget about that…” Craniamon said.

    He turned to Craniamon and saw that he had stopped and was staring down at the ground. “What?” he asked curiously, walking over to him. He went up beside him and looked down to see what he was looking at.

    The two broad furrows in the ground suddenly came to an end, as did the trail of crushed foliage.

    “The Tankdramon’s tracks stop here,” Craniamon explained, crouching and digging his spear into the ground for balance.

    “And that’s not all,” Examon said, bending down. He took something between his claws and showed it to Craniamon.

    Craniamon looked at Examon’s claws and saw a hollow golden cylinder. “Bullet casings,” he said, looking around the immediate area and seeing countless more.

    “He was shooting at something,” Examon spoke, flicking the casing away. “But what?”

    A deafening silence followed, lasting for several seconds.

    “…Do you feel that?” Craniamon asked, looking at Examon.

    Examon nodded, frowning weakly. “I feel… strange. Lightheaded, almost…” he said, feeling mild, energetic sensations in his head and body that caused him unease.

    “As do I,” Craniamon said, standing up again. He took a few steps backwards, away from where the tank tracks stopped. “And now it’s gone…”

    The crimson knight backed up to where Craniamon was as well. Sure enough, the discomforting feelings dissipated. “This was what Wizardmon was talking about,” he muttered.

    Craniamon nodded in agreement. “But what’s causing...?” Craniamon trailed off and walked over to the end of the tracks. He knelt down, keeping himself steady with his shield, and raised an eyebrow with interest. “What do we have here?”

    Examon tilted his head and walked over to Craniamon, peering over his shoulder. He looked down and saw a short but deep fissure in the ground, at the bottom of Tankdramon’s tread furrow. For a crack so skinny, Examon was surprised that it could go so deep. He also noticed that there seemed to be a faint black aura emanating from inside it.

    Looking at it curiously, Craniamon extended his hand and placed it within the dark aura. He felt a strong tingling sensation in his hand. After several moments, he noticed the dark data start to condense and form physical tendrils that tried to grab his hand. Craniamon quickly but calmly pulled his limb away.

    “This is the data abnormality that Metallife’s scan detected,” Craniamon observed.

    “But that’s not typical data,” Examon added, noticing how strange and sinister the aura looked.

    Craniamon shook his head. “It’s not…” he responded coolly. “That fissure is producing dark data.”

    “Dark data?” Examon asked. “But how does that connect to the Tankdramon who disappeared here? He was firing at something.”

    Craniamon slowly stood to his feet and turned. “Yes, but-“

    As Craniamon turned around, he saw the bright, white radiance of four flares standing out against the dark backdrop of the forest. A terrible crackling sound ripped through the air and the glowing aura was blocked from view as something black surged towards them.

    “Get back!” Craniamon shouted, dashing ahead of Examon and raising his shield. “God Breath!”

    Energy pulsed from the Avalon and a transparent, omnidirectional barrier surrounded the two Royal Knights. They watched as a blast of dark energy slammed against the defensive field before splitting off in several directions. The strands of the dark matter tore up the ground in gusts of dirt and leaves, and ripped through trees effortlessly.

    As the barrier was showered with bark, it dissipated after three seconds. By then, Examon had already aimed the Ambrosius. “Avalon’s Gate!”

    He fired a shell from his lance down a path that was unobstructed by trees. The round sailed to the left of where the attack came from and it exploded in a blast of light, illuminating and revealing the assailant completely.

    The dark blue digimon gave a roar of protest as the bright flare irritated his eyes, which were so used to the shade of the forest. He was forced to squint and intensified his radiant wings, flying away from the light and into the darkness.

    “What was that?” Craniamon asked, shielding his eyes with his shield. When the flare died down, he lowered the Avalon slightly and readied his spear.

    “A Darkdramon,” Examon answered knowingly, his lance also poised. “I’ve seen a few in the United Dramonic Coalition.”

    “Great. Can you tell me anything useful about them?” Craniamon asked, his eyes darting around the area rapidly, trying to see where the Darkdramon went.

    “…Darkdramon is the evolved form of Tankdramon,” Examon explained with a certain weight in his voice.

    Craniamon’s eyes widened with realization. “It’s all starting to make sense…” he spoke. “Dukemon was right.”

    “Something’s wrong, though…” Examon murmured.

    “What?” Craniamon started to ask but he was interrupted by a snarl behind them.

    “Dark Roar!”

    Craniamon spun around and saw another blast of dark matter heading straight for them. He didn’t have time to bring up another barrier with God Breath, so he made do with the Avalon itself. He held the shield sturdily in front of him and felt the attack slam against the durable metal. Craniamon held steady while the blast struggled against the Avalon, although it managed to push Craniamon back a few centimeters.

    “Craniamon!” Examon called out, pointing the Ambrosius towards Darkdramon and aiming steadily.

    “Don’t you dare, dragon!” Craniamon called back at Examon, having to speak loudly over the sound of the energy roaring against the shield. He looked over his shoulder, fixing a meaningful glare, as tendrils of dark energy separated around the shield. “He’s my opponent!”

    Examon lowered the Ambrosius a bit and looked at him incredulously. “What?! Don’t be ridiculous!”

    “Just back off,” Craniamon spoke, bashing the rest of the energy away with his shield when the attack ended. The dark matter crackled and wafted in front of Craniamon for a few seconds before it dissipated. The violet knight glared coldly at the Darkdramon in front of him. “Is that all?” he taunted, rotating the Claiohm Solais in his hand a single time.

    Darkdramon snarled deeply, staring back at Craniamon. He bent his head down, took a low stance, and charged at the Royal Knight. Darkdramon dashed forwards, poising the Gigastick Lance that was affixed to his right arm. Midway through his run, Darkdramon dug his foot into the ground and lunged at Craniamon at an arc. He thrust the lance with determined vigor.

    The long, pointed, metal spear was met with the blunt face of Craniamon’s shield. Sparks cascaded as the tip screeched across the sturdy, black metal of the Avalon. Craniamon swung his left arm out, pushing the shield to force Darkdramon’s lance away from him while also creating an opening. The knight brought the Claiohm Solais over his head and swung the blade down towards Darkdramon just as quickly. To his surprise, Darkdramon darted in the direction Craniamon pushed his arm, quick enough to avoid even his wings getting grazed.

    As Darkdramon dodged the vertical slice, he jumped backwards to put space between him and Craniamon. He saw that Craniamon still hadn’t recovered from the previous block, so he started pumping dark energy into the Gigastick Lance. The dark matter crackled as it built up at the tip of the spear.

    “Dark Roar!” he shouted, firing a blast of shadowy power at Craniamon.

    Craniamon grunted as he twisted his body, swiftly spinning around and slamming the attack with the Avalon. He winced in pain as his arm was wracked from the pressure of the blow, but he managed to protect himself and block the attack. The orb split into several pieces and slammed into the ground, tearing a tree down in the process.

    Steam hissed as it was expelled from vents on the lance. Darkdramon growled in frustration. His wings intensified and he started flying at Craniamon.

    The Royal Knight narrowed his eyes and started spinning his spear in his right hand with deft fingerwork. “Time to take him down,” he muttered, twirling his Claiohm Solais at a rapid speed. “End Waltz!”

    Electricity coursed from the blades and engulfed Darkdramon, stopping him in his tracks. Darkdramon roared with protest and dropped to the ground, landing on his knees when his legs buckled on impact.

    Craniamon dashed towards him, holding the spear behind him as he ran, and then swung the weapon around, leveling the blade with the dark dragon. Darkdramon suddenly sprang to his feet and spun so that his back faced Craniamon. He raised his arm and blocked the Claiohm Solais with his lance. With Craniamon’s attack halted, Darkdramon used the opportunity to slam his tail into Craniamon’s gut. Craniamon staggered back from the blow and the serrated blade on the tip of Darkdramon’s tail tore the sash that hung from his waist.

    With anger, Craniamon bashed Darkdramon with the side of his shield, knocking him to the side violently. He then swung his right arm and nailed the dragon in the face with his massive gauntlet. Next he pulled his fist back and slammed the side of the Claiohm Solais’ metal hilt into Darkdramon’s green visor, causing him to stumble backwards several steps.

    Craniamon lowered his arms and observed Darkdramon to see how he fared after the beating he received. Darkdramon was still standing upright but his arms and head were slumped forwards and he appeared to barely be able to keep on his feet. The dragon released a weak growl of pain as blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.

    After a few moments, Craniamon stabbed the Claiohm Solais into the ground before dropping his shield as well. “This next blow will knock him out,” he muttered to himself. The Royal Knight charged at Darkdramon. As he ran, he pulled his clenched fist back for a powerful knockout punch.

    “Craniamon, wait!” Examon called out. “What are you doing?!”

    Craniamon ignored him and reared his arm back completely as he closed in on the Darkdramon. As he swung his fist forwards, a sinister glint flickered in Darkdramon’s eye behind the visor. The dark dragon suddenly became more alert and he raised the Gigastick Lance, aiming at Craniamon’s chest.

    “Pendragon’s Glory!” Examon’s voice called out.

    A short beam ripped from the Ambrosius and cut across Craniamon’s path, searing Darkdramon’s right arm. In pain, Darkdramon roared and recoiled, pulling his lance-bearing arm back and away from Craniamon. Distracted by the beam, Craniamon stopped his punch and skidded to a stop, immediately becoming defensive when Darkdramon became so lively.

    Darkdramon snarled and jumped up, slamming his foot into Craniamon’s chest armour and using him like a spring board to propel himself backwards into the air. The wounded dragon’s wings flared up intensely and he started to fly away quickly.

    “No,” Examon whispered, firing a shell at Darkdramon only for it to hit one of the many trees. Darkdramon dipped and dived around the trees with impressive flight skills, using the thick tree trunks as cover. It wasn’t long until he was completely gone from sight into the shade of Dusk Forest.

    Craniamon growled and swung around to face Examon. “What were you thinking?!” he demanded.

    “Me?” Examon responded, sounding a little defensive.

    “No, that tree behind you. Yes, you!” Craniamon spat, storming over to Examon. He got up to him and stared at him coldly. “I told you to stay out of my duel, lizard.”

    Examon narrowed his green eyes, locking them with Craniamon’s red ones. “We’re here to complete a mission, not win duels,” he responded calmly. “You can do that at the training grounds at home.”

    “Our mission would be complete right now if you hadn’t stuck your big snout in and screwed up my attack,” Craniamon told him icily. “And now the Darkdramon escaped.”

    “He was getting ready to stab you while feigning defeat. If you hadn’t recklessly rushed him without your equipment, I wouldn’t have needed to,” Examon countered. “Knowing your impossible pride, I don’t expect any gratitude.”

    “There’s nothing to be grateful for. Do you honestly think that he could have taken down a Royal Knight?” Craniamon asked him.

    Examon looked in the direction the Darkdramon escaped to. “…You’re underestimating him.”

    You’re underestimating me,” Craniamon said tersely, turning around. He glanced over his shoulder. “And when I say ‘stay out my duel’ I mean in it.” The knight started to walk towards his spear and shield.

    “That seems to be all you care about... Being a perfect warrior,” Examon spoke after him. “Our missions are just secondary to that, aren’t they?”

    Craniamon stopped in his tracks. “...The fact that I’m even working with you proves how much I care about this mission,” he said, not looking behind him to make eye contact with Examon. “But I do not need your help. You’re only getting in the way, like I suspected you would.”

    Examon merely grunted. “...Let’s get moving. He already has a large lead on us,” he said, walking in the direction Darkdramon fled.

    “Fine,” Craniamon complied, picking up his equipment and walking as well.

    So then the two Royal Knights walked further into the forest in silence.

    -

    Half an hour passed and the duo still hadn’t seen either scale or hair of Darkdramon. It was too easy for him to blend in with the surroundings as long as he didn’t activate his wings.

    Examon and Craniamon trudged through a patch of muck before getting back to solid dirt. Craniamon looked down at his muddy, black digizoid boots with annoyance. He then went back to looking around.

    “See anything?” he asked Examon, though sounding like he’d rather be anywhere else at that moment.

    “Nothing,” Examon responded, looking around warily. “You?”

    “No,” Craniamon replied. After a few more moments of silence, he sighed. Things were tense enough as they were without this rivalry, and they said they would act professionally with one another, so Craniamon attempted to make an effort. “...So this Tankdramon guy stumbled across that dark data-producing fissure and digivolved to Darkdramon.”

    “It looks that way,” the crimson dragon answered. “Except he’s not a crazed, rampant digimon like we thought... He seems... smarter. Like he still has his wits about him. He’s tactical when he fights.”

    “He did seem savvier than a rampant evolution,” Craniamon admitted. “But he’s still attacking us for no reason, and it sounds like that Tankdramon wouldn’t have done that.”

    “We’ll have to report this to someone more knowledgable,” Examon said.

    “...We can assume that Darkdramon was probably responsible for the other digimon disappearing,” the violet knight added.

    “So how do we deal with him?” Examon asked the more senior Royal Knight.

    Craniamon glanced at Examon. “Protocol for dealing with rampant digimon is to incapacitate them only unless absolutely necessary. We don’t want to kill them for something that’s not their fault, but we can’t have them killing other digimon while on a rampage either. We need to knock him down to his regular Tankdramon form where he’ll be more stable.”

    Examon nodded. He slowly looked at Craniamon. “...What did you mean before? Before Darkdramon attacked us, when you asked ‘how did you know?’”

    “It’s nothing...” Craniamon replied. After a few moments of silence, he could tell that Examon was still looking at him. He sighed. “In our training battle this morning, how did you know to stop that lance thrust before I used God Breath? Is my technique that predictable?” he couldn’t help but ask him.

    Examon thought about his answer for several seconds. It would be gratifying to tell him that it was predictable, with the way Craniamon had been acting for much of the trip.

    “...No,” Examon finally said, opting to be honest instead. He was never one to ruffle somebody’s feathers for the sake of it anyways. “I knew to stop because... it made the most sense, in that moment, for you to bring up your barrier as I stabbed.”

    “I see...” Craniamon answered thoughtfully.

    “Dark Roar!” a voice roared out from behind them. Examon jerked his head to the side and looked over his shoulder. He saw the familiar glow of Darkdramon’s wings along with the strong flicker of dark matter coursing towards them.

    “Craniamon!” Examon called to him, running over to the knight as his sentient Caledfwlch wings went into action. The blast of black energy slammed into Examon’s back as his right wing stretched out to shield Craniamon.

    Despite the fact that his wings where protected by chrome digizoid, the orb split on impact with Examon’s wing and a strand of dark matter ripped across the upper part of Examon’s right leg, cutting into the scales. He let out a snarl of pain and forced himself to keep his leg from buckling under the searing wound.

    Though initially shocked, Craniamon soon sneered and moved around Examon’s large form, spinning his spear rapidly. “End Waltz!” he shouted, slashing the blade diagonally. A shockwave ripped through the air and collided with Darkdramon, blasting him backwards with such intensity that he was forced to retreat to the shadows.

    The Royal Knight eyed the darkness for a few moments before turning back to Examon, inspecting him. There was a large but relatively shallow gash at the back of Examon’s leg. Blood trickled down, mixing with the red of Examon’s scales.

    Examon’s leg started to give way, but Craniamon hurried over and caught him, slinging Examon’s winged arm over his shoulders to help him stand. “It’s not safe for us here,” Craniamon told him calmly, supporting him and holding him up. “We need to get somewhere where we have an advantage.”

    He started to walk quickly, helping Examon along at the same pace as him. “You can keep up?” he asked Examon, not looking at him.

    Although wincing, Examon nodded and kept pace with him, dragging the Ambrosius in his free hand. He would have felt better if Craniamon didn’t have to keep his spear against him as they walked, but he knew it couldn’t be helped.

    They walked for several minutes in silence. Examon did his best to ignore the sharp pain that came withe every second step. Hearing Examon’s pained breaths, Craniamon glanced over at him. “I don’t have any way to bandage the wound,” he explained. “You should go back to the town for medical treatment.”

    Examon shook his head slowly. “I’m fine... It’s not that bad,” he responded.

    Craniamon looked ahead of them, making sure that he was alert in case they were ambushed again. “Suit yourself...” he answered.

    The dragon knight looked around at the surroundings as well, though he couldn’t help but look over at Craniamon for a moment. “...I thought you said that you wouldn’t carry my dead weight,” he spoke, a bit of levity in his growly voice.

    Craniamon looked away from Examon sheepishly. “...Rule three of the Royal Knights’ Code. A Royal Knight never leaves another Royal Knight in his time of need,” he explained, though still not making eye contact with Examon.

    “I see...” Examon replied.

    “There’s light ahead,” Craniamon said, thankful for the change of subject. Ahead of them they could see light emanating from behind several trees, like a torch in the night. A few rays of light managed to find their way through a small opening in the forest’s thick canopy.

    Craniamon headed in that direction, ushering Examon with him. He manoeuvred them around trees and over thick roots and underbrush. As they grew nearer, Craniamon saw that it was a small clearing offering them much needed space and light. Countless leaves and coniferous needles cluttered the ground. The breach in the trees was only three times the length of Examon’s wingspan from tip-to-tip, but it offered a welcome break to the claustrophobic clutter of the countless trees in the forest. Since Darkdramon used the forest to his advantage so well, it offered a pleasant alternative to the two Royal Knights.

    “Good,” Craniamon spoke, walking them into the clearing and squinting at the light that shone down from overhead. “Just as I suspected. We can get our bearings here. This is the best defensive area for us.”

    Examon nodded in agreement. “We have room to manoeuvre finally.”

    Craniamon dropped his Claiohm Solais and Avalon to the ground near the edge of the clearing. “You’re still bleeding. Let’s see if I can at least staunch that,” Craniamon told him.

    The dragon gently lowered the Ambrosius to the ground before dropping it and nodding. Craniamon walked Examon over to the center of the clearing, where there was more light. They got to the middle and stepped on a particularly dense assortment of leaves and needles covering the ground. Suddenly, there was a loud crashing sound from nearby.

    The two Royal Knights immediately looked in that direction and were about to run back and grab their weapons, thinking that it was Darkdramon. But before they could even make a move, they felt something come up beneath them and their feet fly out from under them. A net of thick vines attached to a falling boulder surrounded them and pulled them off the ground. They Royal Knights gave a yell of surprise as the net hoisted them towards the trees.

    Craniamon came crashing down on top of Examon who fell with his back against the bottom of the net. His large wings and tail bent with the folding vines and sent the two into a mess of struggling limbs. Examon growled in pain, both from the agonizing twisting of his wounded leg due to the sudden movement and from the pressure of the heavy Craniamon on top of him.

    “What in Yggdrasil’s name is this?!” Craniamon demanded angrily, pushing against Examon to try and get upright in the net, but finding it exceedingly difficult due to gravity and the fact that Examon’s limbs were splayed everywhere.

    “A trap,” Examon responded with a grimace.

    “I know that, fool!” Craniamon shot back furiously. The violet knight struggled and tried to pull himself out, attempting to pull the top of the net open, but found that he couldn’t.

    Examon gave a pained snarl as Craniamon put his full weight on his body while trying to free them. “Move off of me,” Examon told him, pushing against the knight.

    “I can’t,” Craniamon answered, trying his best to move in a way that he wasn’t on Examon. He ended up leaning against the inside of one of Examon’s wings while trying to put distance between himself and the dragon.

    Examon turned his head and looked through one of the gaps in the net, seeing their weapons lying over by the grass where they left them. “Our weapons...” he murmured.

    Craniamon followed his gaze and stared hopelessly out at the Claiohm Solais, the only thing he had that could cut through the vines. “D...Damn it...” he hissed, seething.

    Wincing, the dragon knight looked up at the Royal Knight on top of him. “This must be Darkdramon’s doing...” he told him.

    “But that can’t be!” Craniamon protested, squeezing one of the vines. “That wasn’t a natural digivolution!”

    “That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s mindless and out of control. He digivolved using that source of dark data but he’s retained at least some sentience. He’s smart enough to use guerilla tactics on us,” Examon answered, starting to notice that the normally calm and collected Craniamon was anything but that.

    Craniamon sneered and looked away from Examon. Even though the dragon knight was in the same situation as him, he wished that Examon couldn’t see him. “No... No, no, NO!” he shouted. Craniamon slammed his arms against the sides of the net in frustration. “Damn it!”

    “Craniamon?” Examon asked, looking at him with a confused frown.

    “This can’t be! How did we end up like this?!” he growled, his eyes filled with loathing and frustration. “We’re supposed to be the Royal Knights! Not some two-bit, rookie adventurers!”

    Examon raised an eyebrow. “Because we fell into this trap? It was well hidden. I’m not happy either, but everybody makes mistakes. Just relax and think about this and we’ll be able to free ourselves in no time.”

    “We’re above this,” Craniamon growled, turning and staring at Examon with a hard gaze. “You don’t understand.”

    Examon returned the look with a calm, silent one. “...You’re right. I don’t understand,” he replied. “I don’t understand why you made such a big deal this morning when I beat you in that sparring match, and I don’t understand why you’re making such a big deal now. If it’s perfection... well, perfection is impossible, Craniamon. Nobody is perfect.”

    Craniamon was silent. All he did was observe the dragon below him quietly, leaving the only audible sound that of the stretched vines creaking in the wind. Finally, he spoke.

    “Why did you join the Royal Knights, Examon?” Craniamon asked, looking at him earnestly.

    The dragon digimon blinked in surprise, the seemingly obscure question taking him off guard. “I... joined because...” He stalled for a moment, reflecting on his answer. “I joined because I wanted to be able to to protect the Digital World and all of the good digimon in it.”

    After a few moments, Examon looked at him meaningfully. “When I was a Coredramon, I lived alone in the Dragon Mountains. Ever since then, I trained myself in body, mind, and skill. By the time I was a Slayerdramon, I rejoined society and lived in the capital of the United Dramonic Coalition. I decided to use my abilities to protect the area from attackers,” the draconic Royal Knight elaborated. “When I received the invitation from Alphamon, I decided that I wanted to use my abilities to do the same for the whole world.”

    “I see...” Craniamon spoke, looking at him thoughtfully. “I joined the Royal Knights because... the Royal Knights were the finest digimon around. I wanted to be one of the finest.”

    “One of the finest?” Examon asked.

    “The Royal Knights are composed of some of the strongest digimon in the world. They’re the most powerful, the most magnanimous, and the most respected. I wanted to be just like them... no, I wanted to be one of them,” Craniamon explained. “I jumped at the chance when given the invitation.”

    “You joned around the same time Ulforce did, correct?” the other knight questioned, his hand fiddling with something behind him as he did.

    Craniamon nodded.

    “So you joined because you wanted to be the best... Isn’t that a little egotistical when the order has a higher purpose?” Examon asked him.

    “Just because I have personal goals, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the core principles of the Royal Knights,” Craniamon retorted. “I care about helping other digimon. That’s part of the reason why I respect them so much.”

    “And why are you mentioning all this now?”

    Craniamon frowned and looked away. “It’s... complex, dragon,” he muttered. “In my eyes, the Royal Knights are the finest digimon around. Now that I’m one of them, I expect... a lot of myself. To do anything less than my best would be a disservice to the others.”

    “I see...” Examon frowned. He could understand Craniamon’s thoughts. He wanted to give nothing but his best to the Royal Knights as well. “And is that why you’re against me being one of the Royal Knights?”

    The more senior Royal Knight sighed. “I admit being uneasy about you joining because of your species... I was the same way with Sleipmon, but he’s since proved himself to me.”

    “I haven’t proved myself yet?” Examon asked, raising an eyebrow.

    Craniamon looked away silently, not giving him an answer. “...At any rate... it wasn’t you I was angry at this morning when I lost. It was nothing personal.”

    “Then who were you angry at?” he asked.

    The violet Royal Knight grunted. “You’re a smart guy. You can figure it out,” Craniamon replied dismissively, not wanting to continue the issue any longer.

    Suddenly, the net burst and Examon and Craniamon fell through the bottom. Examon landed on his back and Craniamon landed on top of Examon, making the dragon groan with pain again.

    Craniamon quickly pulled himself to his feet and looked up. “What in the...?” he asked in confusion.

    Examon grinned softly and held up his hand, sticking one of his long, jagged claws up for Craniamon to see. “Perhaps you’re glad I’m a dragon digimon now...” he told him with some lightness.

    Craniamon looked at him and swiftly realized that Examon must have been cutting the vines with his claws while they were talking. Slowly, a warm smirk grew on Craniamon’s face, behind his helmet. “Perhaps...” he replied. He outstretched his hand to Examon.

    Examon reached up and grasped his hand. Craniamon then pulled him up with a strong heave. “Let’s not mention this incident when we return home from the mission. Ulforce would have a field day,” Craniamon said, glancing away sheepishly.

    “Agreed...”

    “Dark Roar!” a familiar voice shouted from the darkness of the surrounding forest. Examon turned abruptly and saw a crackling orb of power shooting towards them. He raised his chrome digizoid-plated wing and blocked the blast of dark matter before it could hit either Craniamon or himself. The attack pounded against his wing, but the armour held up and it was repelled.

    Craniamon lunged over to their weapons, which lay in the grass. He landed on a knee and picked up the Ambrosius. “Examon!” Examon turned towards Craniamon’s voice just as the knight picked up and tossed the lance to him. Examon caught it in his claws and looked at the Royal Knight. “Let’s take this guy down,” Craniamon told him.

    Examon grinned and nodded. “We have to think on our feet in times like this, right?” he asked him, turning towards the direction the attack came from. He could see only darkness in the forest surrounding the clearing. This would be an obstacle they would have to overcome “Avalon’s Gate!”

    A shell ripped from the muzzle of the Ambrosius, towards the forest. The shell soon burst apart and released a multitude of ball bearings that ripped into the forest, shredding the bark on trees and suppressing Darkdramon.

    “End Waltz!” Craniamon shouted, spinning his spear rapidly in front of him. A cyclone of sonic power and electricity coursed from the weapon and surged into the forest, lighting up the shadows and tearing down the obstructive trees with its power.

    Darkdramon flew out into the open clearing in order to avoid the attack, not even stopping for a breath before commencing his attack. The dark dragon swooped down, his glowing, incorporeal wings stretching wide. Both he and Examon raised their lances, ready to clash with one another.

    Craniamon jumped over and landed beside Examon. He wasted no time in raising the Avalon shield in front of them. “God Breath!”

    Examon watched with mild surprise as the clear, spherical force field engulfed the both of them, just in time for Darkdramon to stab the Gigastick Lance.

    The piked tip of Darkdramon’s lance slammed against the barrier, causing a tiny ripple in it, before Darkdramon was forced back powerfully and sent staggering in reverse.

    Seeing a chance for himself, Examon dashed forwards and plunged his spear at his foe. The two tips of the Ambrosius pounded against Darkdramon’s armour, tearing against the blue chest plate and making a terrible screeching noise.

    Darkdramon stumbled back further, but took a wild swing with his arm, like a right hook punch but using his lance. The Gigastick swiped towards Examon’s head, but Examon’s left wing went into action on instinct and blocked the blow for him.

    As that happened, Examon leveled his lance at Darkdramon’s body. “Pendragon’s Glory!” The tip of the Ambrosius flashed and fired a smaller-than-usual beam into Darkdramon’s chest, blowing him off of his feet.

    Although in obvious pain, Darkdramon’s wings burned brightly and he was able to right himself in the air. The digimon performed a backwards aerial loop and used the momentum to charge at them. “Dark Roar!” he shouted, firing an ebony blast right in front of the Royal Knights. The power exploded into the ground, kicking up dirt and leaves all around them, blocking their vision.

    “Craniamon!” Examon called out, seeing Darkdramon’s lance stab towards them. Examon dodged to the left and blindly returned the thrust. On the other side of the thick veil of debris, Darkdramon avoided the stab and plunged his lance towards Craniamon.

    Craniamon blocked the thrust with his shield and slashed the Claiohm Solais, meeting Darkdramon’s own slash after the savage dragon retracted his weapon.

    “Dark Roar!” The Gigastick Lance unleashed another thick blast. It slammed into the two knights as they braced themselves, sending them skidding backwards along the dirt.

    “Stubborn bastard,” Craniamon muttered. “Let’s end this, Examon; I have a plan.”

    “What is it?” Examon asked, moving closer to Craniamon so that he can hear it.

    “Just make sure that you have the right shell loaded in that lance of yours,” the knight replied, moving away from him.

    Examon raised an eyebrow and watched as Craniamon stored the Avalon in his armour in a flash of black data. He then started spinning the Claiohm Solais over his head with both of his hands. With both hands at work, the double-ended spear revolved faster, building up more electricity at a quicker rate. It was then that Examon understood what Craniamon wanted.

    The red dragon turned towards Darkdramon, who started charging at them. “Avalon’s Gate!” Examon fired a shell from his lance, more to expel unwanted ammo than anything. Darkdramon used his lance to swat away the incoming shell, causing it to explode in a ball of flame. Undeterred, Darkdramon dodged around it and continued dashing at them.

    Examon raised the Ambrosius and took finer aim with it. He knew this was the shell they needed. He always knew the order of the ammunition that was stored in the Ambrosius’ magazine. He looked over at Craniamon, who looked back at him.

    “Now!” Craniamon called to him. “End Waltz!”

    Craniamon lowered the angle of his spinning spear and started unleashing electricity from the blades. The electricity surged and surrounded Darkdramon, slamming into him and stopping him dead in his tracks. The dark dragon let out a roar as the electricity coursed through his muscles and circuits, holding him in place.

    “Avalon’s Gate!” Examon chimed in, firing the shell from his weapon. The ammunition sailed through the air before slamming into Darkdramon’s chest, releasing a powerful electrical current.

    Darkdramon roared in pain as the dual electrical attacks surged into him. He fired a last ditch Dark Roar attack into the ground in front of him, creating a small and ineffectual explosion. It wasn’t until after the dirt and leaves that were kicked up from the blast settled could Darkdramon be seen lying on his back, unconscious.

    Craniamon grabbed his spear tightly, immediately stopping it from spinning. He and Examon walked over to the downed Darkdramon to inspect him. The data of Darkdramon’s outer armour and scales began to blur. They broke apart into dispersed data and his whole body glowed. Darkdramon reverted back to his unconscious Tankdramon form.

    Examon sighed with relief. “Finally.”

    “Agreed,” Craniamon spoke, observing the large, unconscious tank-bound dragon in front of them.

    “Now how do we get him back to town like this?”

    -

    Over an hour later, Examon and Craniamon had returned to the village with Tankdramon in tow. After much inspection, Examon had figured out how to switch Tankdramon’s gears to neutral so that Craniamon could pull him more easily. As Craniamon did that, Examon flew out of the clearing and gave Craniamon directions back to the village from overhead.

    It took about another thirty minutes for Tankdramon to be treated by the village healer and be woken up. Finally, he was awake, albeit very confused. The two Royal Knights, along with the Wizardmon and many other villagers stood around him.

    “What...?” the Tankdramon asked groggily, rubbing his face with his claws. “I did what?!”

    “You had an unnatural evolution that consumed you with darkness,” Examon explained.

    “And likely reformatted the digimon who entered the forest after you,” Craniamon added, staring at him coldly.

    The Tankdramon’s eyes widened with horror and he quickly put his claws out in front of himself disarmingly. “Wh-What?! But the last thing I remember was getting grabbed by this dark stuff that came out of the ground! I didn’t mean to do anything! I was just trying to do the job that he gave me!” he insisted desperately, pointing at the Wizardmon. The Wizardmon gulped and backed up.

    After a few moments of staring at Tankdramon, Craniamon nodded. “We know. It was beyond your control, so you won’t be held accountable.”

    Tankdramon sighed with relief. He scratched the bridge of his snout with the claws. “Egh. I can’t believe this. I knew the bits I’d get paid would be more trouble than they’re worth...” Tankdramon grumbled. He then turned to Wizardmon. “I still get paid, right?”

    “...Sure,” the Wizardmon replied, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. He felt sort of bad for the Tankdramon, even though it was the Royal Knights, not him, who told him all about the fissure in the ground. Plus, he was a little scared of him.

    Examon idly prodded the bandage on his leg wound as he waited. He turned to Craniamon. “Is there anything else before we head back?” he asked.

    Craniamon nodded and turned to the townspeople. “Nobody is permitted inside the forest for safety purposes,” he told them. “We’re going to report back to the others and then launch an official investigation into our discovery. Is that understood?”

    There were nods all around.

    “Then we’ll keep in touch.” Craniamon said. He turned to Examon and nodded. “Let’s head back.”

    Examon nodded and the two knights started walking away from the village. Without another glance back, they passed under the arch at the edge of the edge of the town and headed onto the dirt path. They walked back in the direction of their headquarters, this time with much less tension between them than when they came.

    -

    It was night by the time the two Royal Knights arrived back at the castle. Dukemon summoned them, as well as the other Royal Knights, MetallifeKuwagamon, and Grani, to the council room, which resided at the end of the great hall.

    The nine knights sat around the white, round table in the pristine council room, the area illuminated by torches. Although Dukemon was currently acting in Alphamon’s place, he didn’t dare presume to sit in Alphamon’s seat – the Siege Perilous. Grani floated behind Dukemon, and MetallifeKuwagamon stood nearby.

    Examon sat in his seat at the Royal Knights’ official council table. It still took some getting used to sitting there. It was still a surreal feeling to him; he wondered how long it would take until it felt natural. Craniamon sat next to him, as they would be at the center of the discussion.

    Dukemon looked over at the two of them. “So, Craniamon, Examon. What did you two find?” he asked.

    “MetallifeKuwagamon was right about there being a small area of abnormal data in Dusk Forest,” Examon replied.

    Craniamon nodded curtly. “It was releasing traces of dark data,” he added. “A Wizardmon in the village north of the forest said that digimon were feeling strange sensations as they passed through the forest. We can confirm that it was because they were in the proximity of the fissure.”

    “It was also the dark data that caused a Tankdramon to unnaturally digivolve into Darkdramon, so your predictions were mostly right,” Examon said, looking at Dukemon.

    “’Mostly’?” Dukemon asked.

    “We discovered that, while he did digivolve unnaturally, he didn’t turn into a mindless, out of control digimon from the instability of his new form. He was very aggressive and attacked good digimon, but he was intelligent and cunning,” Examon said. “We wondered if that had something to do with the way he evolved.”

    “I see...” Dukemon said, contemplative. “We’ll have to look into that forest. And the Darkdramon?”

    “We took him down,” Craniamon replied firmly.

    “The both of you did?” Dukemon asked, a small grin forming on his face.

    “Well, I did most of the work,” Craniamon spoke, glancing over at Examon.

    Examon gave a small smirk.

    Dukemon smiled and stood up. “Okay, well, that should do it for tonight. Go see Duskmon and type up your mission reports when you can. Then get some rest. Sound good?”

    The two knights nodded and stood up from their seats. The other knights followed suit.

    Dynasmon, Duftmon, and Magnamon approached Dukemon. “Have you heard from Alphamon and the others?” Duftmon asked him.

    “I haven’t,” Dukemon replied. “But it’s only been a few days and they’ve gone to one of the farther provinces in the Free Area. You don’t need to worry.”

    “That’s good,” Magnamon said.

    Dynasmon nodded and looked over his shoulder at Examon and Craniamon as they walked out into the great hall together. “So, those two didn’t kill each other, it seems like.”

    “I wonder what happened,” Magnamon mused, looking over as well.

    Dukemon grinned, satisfied that his hope was realized. “I don’t know... but you can’t argue with results.”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  14. #14
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    Dec 2006
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    (Author's Note: This was another long chapter so I had to split it down the middle too.)


    Chapter 9: The Matter of Trust (Part I)


    “Are we there yet?” a voice asked tiredly.

    “No,” two annoyed voices replied in unison.

    OuRyuumon sighed with boredom as he walked behind Alphamon and Omegamon, who were walking in step with each other.

    It was the day after they had left their castle to go investigate the rumour that KaiserGreymon had mentioned to Alphamon. The three had been travelling for nearly two days since they had left in the middle of the night before. The town was northwards, near the middle of the continent, and was close to the midpoint between the Royal Knights’ and the Warrior Ten’s areas of operation as a result.

    The tall, gold dragon trudged along a dirt path that was flanked by long, grassy fields on both sides. The fields and road stretched far, and there wasn’t much else to look at. Up ahead, off to the left of the path, there was a small river that curved to the left, but that was about it.

    The warm, afternoon sun beat down on his back, particularly on his black wings which doubled as blades. These wings - the Gaiba Daimeijin - were jagged, crescent-shaped, and had a large, ornamentally-designed, hollow slot in the middle of each wing. He kept his large, fearsome scimitars - the Gairyu swords - in a custom-fitted belt around his serpentine waist, since he got tired of carrying them in his hands. Due to his small legs, he was struggling to keep up with the black and white knights ahead of him.

    Omegamon looked over his shoulder at the winged serpent lagging behind them. “You know, it would go faster if you flew,” the white knight advised, looking down at OuRyuumon’s stubby legs.

    OuRyuumon folded his arms and frowned at him. “I’ve been flying for the past five hours,” he replied, a little annoyed. “My wings need a break.”

    “We can all take a break after another kilometer’s walk,” Alphamon told them while stretching the unique looking wings on his back. “Okay?”

    “That sounds fine,” Omegamon agreed.

    “Okay,” OuRyuumon replied, speeding up to jog beside Alphamon. “So why exactly are we doing the Warrior Ten’s dirty work? Their headquarters is closer to this village than ours is, even if it is still inside the Free Area. It’s in one of the Free Area’s border provinces, right?”

    Alphamon nodded. “I wanted to see for myself,” he replied. “Besides, KaiserGreymon said that they were too busy and he thought that it would be a wild goose chase anyways.”

    “And you don’t think it is?” Omegamon asked, looking over at his friend.

    The black knight didn’t respond initially. He wasn’t entirely sure what he thought. It could be meaningless gossip for all he knew. However, he had an instinctive, weighty feeling that something wasn’t right. He couldn’t quite place it, which was why he was reluctant to give a response.

    “I’m not sure,” he finally replied. He turned his head to the side to face OuRyuumon, who had started flying again after getting fed up with trying to keep pace with the two longer-legged Royal Knights. “Besides, I thought you wanted to come.”

    “I did, but I didn’t expect it to be so far,” OuRyuumon answered, glancing back at Alphamon.

    “Just be glad you have wings,” Alphamon teased, glancing back at OuRyuumon’s short legs. OuRyuumon huffed and gave Alphamon a light punch on the arm, prompting a chuckle from the knight.

    Omegamon looked over at the two digimon thoughtfully. Silently, he looked forwards, his blue eyes gazing down the road. It was then that he saw something in the distance.

    “Alphamon,” he spoke, looking back at him.

    Alphamon nodded, spotting it as well. They saw several figures in the distance. At the range they were at, they could only see the silhouettes of the figures.

    “What is that?” OuRyuumon asked, squinting his eyes and sticking his neck out to try and get a better look. The three sped up their pace slightly to try and get closer, hoping to scope out the situation.

    After a minute of speed walking and flying, they could clearly see the situation that had unfolded. There was a large, wooden wagon stopped in the middle of the dirt road. The digimon who had been pulling the wagon was a Unimon: a large, white, winged unicorn with grey wings, a yellow mane, and red, metal, horned helmet over the top half of his face.

    Next to the cart, lying on the ground was a winged serpent. Although he lacked the arms and legs that OuRyuumon had, he was draconic in nature. He had blue scales all over his body except of the two red wings on his back. Around his neck he had a roughed-up mane of what looked like orange fur or feathers. Somewhat similar to the Unimon, he had a helmet-like feature on the top half of his face. It was somewhat similar to bone. Two horns of the same material protruded backwards from behind his eyes, giving a menacing appearance. However, the nervous expression on the Airdramon’s face was anything but intimidating.

    There were four other digimon there. They surrounded the cart as well the Unimon and Airdramon. One was a burly, bipedal lion digimon garbed in black pants and a black gakuran jacket worn over his shoulders. A stem of a plant rested in his mouth, which gave the Unimon a fearsome, toothy sneer as he held a large tanto sword against the Unimon’s throat.

    “Keep him down,” the BanchoLeomon said, turning to a large, bug digimon who stood over the Airdramon, pinning him down.

    The bug was a giant, red beetle digimon with a red exoskeleton, a fearsome set of teeth, four arms which he used to hold down the winged serpent, and a large, axe-like horn that sparked with electricity. “Got it,” the red AtlurKabuterimon replied.

    In the back of the wagon there were two digimon rummaging through the freight’s contents. One was a short, wooden digimon shaped like the stump of a fallen tree, except he had two large arms, two smaller arms, and four roots for legs. The other was a tall, lanky, brown rabbit digimon. He was garbed in white stockings, red armour around his waist, and puffy, white armour that covered his upper body and collar. The Antylamon was much more efficient than the Woodmon at sorting through the cart’s inventory due to his long arms and bulky hands. The two digimon took valuables from the cart and threw them into bags.

    “Highway robbers,” Omegamon murmured to the other two, who nodded.

    Through the protected eye slit of his visor, the Unimon noticed the three digimon down the road. However, he made as if he hadn’t noticed them, not wanting to draw the brigands’ attention to them.

    “Stop stealing my client’s belongings,” he told the BanchoLeomon with as much courage as he could muster in the face of the Mega level.

    “Shut up, pony boy,” the BanchoLeomon ordered. He pressed the edge of the blade harder against the Unimon’s neck, forcing the winged unicorn to grimace.

    Alphamon turned to OuRyuumon and pointed upwards, towards the sky. OuRyuumon drew his Gairyu scimitars from his belt and nodded. With impressive height and agility, the ryu leapt into the sky. He flapped his bladed wings and soared in a circle before shooting upwards aerobatically.

    The black-armoured Royal Knight then turned to his white-armoured companion. “Omegamon, let’s go greet them.”

    Omegamon nodded and stepped forwards, stretching his arms out and pointing his gauntlets away from both himself and Alphamon. A long, impressive, black and silver sword suddenly extended from the mouth of the Greymon head-shaped gauntlet on his left hand. Likewise, a giant, black cannon swiftly emerged from the mouth of the Garurumon head-shaped gauntlet of his right hand.

    Alphamon began walking next to Omegamon. He collected a small amount of emerald energy inside his palm as they travelled down the road towards the wagon.

    The AtlurKabuterimon looked up from the Airdramon, sensing something. He noticed the two knights approaching them with care. “BanchoLeomon, we have guests,” he told their boss.

    “Oh?” BanchoLeomon said, looking over his shoulder. He raised his furry eyebrow upon seeing Alphamon and Omegamon and suddenly became guarded, his fur bristling slightly. He frowned and gripped his tanto tighter. “Are those...?”

    The Woodmon and Antylamon also stopped what they were doing and looked over from the sides of the cart. The Airdramon hostage twisted his head to the side in order to look at them as well. Suddenly, the winged serpent shouted out to them. “Help! They’re robbing us and taking all of my things! Stop- AGH!” The Airdramon’s pleas were interrupted with a sharp punch to his side, courtesy of the AtlurKabuterimon.

    Alphamon approached them slowly and in a seemingly nonconfrontational manner. “Is this true?” he asked, looking at the BanchoLeomon and easily deducing that he was the leader.

    The BanchoLeomon slowly removed the blade from the Unimon’s neck and pointed it towards the two Royal Knights. “What’s it to you?” he asked with hostility, glaring at them.

    The Woodmon and Antylamon jumped over the right side of the wagon. The latter of the two, the tall, fearsome rabbit, transformed his forearms into axes. He stepped ahead of the Woodmon and prepared for a fight.

    Alphamon stopped a few meters from the wagon and he could sense Omegamon stand next to him. He stared at the BanchoLeomon bandit hard. “I’ll get to the point. We’re the Royal Knights and you’re in violation of the law of the land. Specifically robbery with the use of deadly abilities and unprovoked assault. Either surrender or suffer the consequences,” he told him with unquestionable authority in his voice.

    The BanchoLeomon stalled for a few moments before scowling and gripping his sword tightly in his hand, turning to face the two knights fully. “Eat ****, ponces!”

    Alphamon looked at him carefully. “...So be it,” he answered. The knight raised his left hand high into the air.

    The four bandits tensed up and braced themselves, expecting him to be starting an attack of some sort. However, they were surprised when no attack came.

    “The hell?” BanchoLeomon said with a mocking laugh. He spat out the twig in his mouth and gave a toothy grin to the Lord of the Empty Seat. “Is that it? Cool. Then why don’t you--”

    “Surprise!” a voice shouted from behind them.

    OuRyuumon swooped down from the sky and landed behind the Woodmon. Before he even touched the ground, he slashed his dual scimitars vertically and split the tree stump digimon right down the middle. The Woodmon didn’t have so much as a chance to react before he burst into a cloud of data. OuRyuumon then soared through the Woodmon’s dispersing data and assaulted the Antylamon.

    The rabbit bandit was hardly given the chance to defend himself, let alone widen his eyes at his comrade’s sudden deletion. He raised his axe arms and defended against OuRyuumon’s initial attack, blocking his blades and then responding with a desperate slash of his own.

    OuRyuumon nimbly swerved to the side, avoiding the slash, and he twisted his long, serpentine body so that his upper body was behind the Antylamon. Just as the rabbit was turning, he savagely plunged his swords into the robber’s armour and through his body. The Antylamon gave a cry of pain before joining the Woodmon in a cloud of data particles.

    “What?!” BanchoLeomon demanded, his eyes widening at seeing the third attacker.

    “Damnit!” the AtlurKabuterimon swore, his crackling horn now brimming with electricity. “Horn Buster!”

    Omegamon promptly raised the cannon of the Garuru Arm and aimed it at the AtlurKabuterimon. “Garuru Cannon!”

    The cannon exploded with a blast of blueish-white power. The Airdramon let out a cry of fear when he saw the beam sailing towards both him and the aggressive insect bandit. He shut his eyes tightly when it closed in on them, and he felt the cold bite of the blast against the scales of his underbelly. The noise of the beam passing over him drowned his scream, but, much to his surprise, he felt no pain. When the noise and the sense of cold faded, the Airdramon slowly opened his eyes. To his shock and pleasure, he was unharmed. On the opposite end, the AtlurKabuterimon who had been on top of him was nowhere to be found.

    Omegamon lowered his smoking cannon and turned to Alphamon, who stepped towards the BanchoLeomon calmly.

    BanchoLeomon nervously stepped back until he felt his back against the wood of the wagon. He glanced around. To his left was the Unimon and to his right was the grass off the path, leading to the rushing river. It looked like a good escape route; however, he knew that OuRyuumon was right around the corner of the wagon.

    He looked back at Alphamon, who walked towards him. The Royal Knight’s hand suddenly became shrouded in intense brightness as he threatened to summon his holy sword of light - the Seiken Grade Alpha. “I won’t ask you again,” Alphamon spoke imposingly, narrowing his eyes.

    BanchoLeomon snarled and pressed his back harder against the wagon. “Damnit...” he whispered, knowing he had to get out of this somehow. Suddenly, he got an idea. He turned to the Unimon and slashed his upper front leg with his sword. A streak of red quickly formed in the Unimon’s grey fur, following the wake of his blade.

    Feeling the burning pain of the fresh cut, the Unimon reared up and whinnied in pain, kicking his front hooves and causing a distracting commotion. BanchoLeomon then sprinted to the right, heading off the road and onto the grass, towards the river.

    “HEY!” OuRyuumon shouted, flying after him swiftly. The dragon slashed with his right sword towards the lion man digimon.

    Anticipating this, BanchoLeomon threw off his gakuran jacket, which sat on his shoulders, letting it fly into OuRyuumon’s sword and face.

    As the OuRyuumon tried to throw the jacket out of his vision, Alphamon saw that the bandit had a chance of getting away. He charged after quick digimon, running at an impressive speed under all of his armour. A green aura built up in Alphamon’s hand as he chased BanchoLeomon.

    “Digitalize of Soul!” Alphamon called out.

    As a pillar of emerald power pulsed from Alphamon’s hand towards his foe, BanchoLeomon lunged off of the grassy bank and dove into the river. Alphamon’s beam tore a trench through the bank and ripped over the top of the river.

    Luckily for BanchoLeomon, he had been underwater at the time, and was already swimming downstream as fast as he possibly could.

    Omegamon ran over to the bank and aimed his cannon at the lion, who was getting further and further since he reached a point where the river curved away from the initially parallel road. “Garuru Cannon!” he spoke.

    Alphamon ran up beside him and raised his hand. “Digitalize of Soul!”

    The two attacks burst from the respective knights’ right hands and soared into the river, creating a huge explosion of water. However, there was no indication that they hit BanchoLeomon with their attacks.

    “Did you get him?! We shouldn’t let him get away!” OuRyuumon said, running over.

    “There’s no point chasing him,” Omegamon replied, lowering his cannon. “He’s too far now and I doubt we’d be able to catch up.”

    OuRyuumon glanced at them, not completely satisfied with Omegamon’s answer. “What do you think, Alphamon?” OuRyuumon asked, turning to him.

    Alphamon frowned and watched the river. “As much as I’d hate to leave someone like that out there... Omegamon’s right. Besides, he isn’t our mission, and we can’t leave that guy like that,” Alphamon replied, turning towards the wounded Unimon.

    OuRyuumon sighed. “Can I at least fly after him a bit while you two stay here? If I can’t reach him I’ll come straight back.”

    Alphamon complied with a glance to the dragon. “Just don’t go far,” he told him. “And be careful.”

    OuRyuumon nodded and took into the air, flying over the river.

    Omegamon looked at Alphamon and then turned, walking back to the wagon. Alphamon watched OuRyuumon for a few moments before following Omegamon.

    “Thank you, thank you!” the Airdramon spoke, bowing his head as Alphamon and Omegamon returned to them. “I thought those guys were gonna kill us!”

    “Think nothing of it,” Alphamon answered, walking over to the limping Unimon. He examined the bloody gash staining the digimon’s upper right leg. “Are you okay?” he asked.

    “I’ve been better,” the Unimon replied, grimacing with pain as he looked down at his leg, which he was forced to raise to take pressure off of it. A few trickles of blood dripped down from the gash all the way to his knee.

    “I’ll get you some water and something to bandage your wound,” Alphamon told him. He turned around and started walking back towards the river.

    “Thank you,” he replied hoarsely.

    Omegamon retracted his Grey Sword and Garuru Cannon and proceeded to remove his gauntlets. He walked over and put his hand against the wound to try to staunch the bleeding. “What happened?” he asked them as he put pressure on the gash.

    The Airdramon flew over to Omegamon’s side. He made a point not to look at the gory wound by looking at Omegamon’s face; he didn’t want to embarrass himself by passing out in front of the Royal Knight. “W-Well, I’m moving to a new town to the south of my old village. The problem is that I can’t carry all of my things on my own, for obvious reasons.” He nodded with his head to his two wings, noting his lack of limbs to carry anything that heavy. “So I hired Unimon here to move everything for me. We were travelling down this road when those bandits jumped out from that river bank and ambushed us,” he explained. He looked at Omegamon sheepishly. “You have really good aim, by the way.”

    Omegamon smiled a bit. “At that close range, maybe,” he said with a humble tone.

    Meanwhile, Alphamon kneeled by the river and filled his canteen with water. When it was more or less filled, he pressed his left palm underneath the metal canteen. A green aura radiated weakly from his hand, heating up the metal bottle and boiling the water within to purify it. Once steam started rising from the mouth of the canteen, he dipped the bottle back into the river to cool it down again.

    After placing his thumb over the mouth of the bottle, Alphamon stood up and looked down the river. He saw the familiar form of OuRyuumon flying towards him.

    “Any luck?” he asked as OuRyuumon closed in and descended, although he already knew the answer.

    OuRyuumon landed on the riverbank and sighed, shaking his head with disappointment. “He’s gone,” he replied, panting a bit.

    The serpentine dragon walked over to Alphamon, a smirk growing on his face. He circled around and approached Alphamon from behind. Before Alphamon could begin to turn around, he placed his claws on Alphamon’s wings, rubbing them gently. The tall OuRyuumon leaned his head over Alphamon’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. “But my adrenaline’s pumping. Isn’t yours?” he asked, his hands slowly snaking down from Alphamon’s wings to caress his sides.

    “OuRyuumon, stop it,” Alphamon quickly said, turning around sharply and moving his body away from OuRyuumon’s claws as a result. He frowned and delivered a meaningful stare into OuRyuumon’s eyes. “Not in public...”

    OuRyuumon rolled his eyes and retracted his hands. “Yeah, yeah...” he responded with a flat, unamused voice. “Yggdrasil forbid that somebody finds out you’re attracted to guys along with girls.”

    Alphamon folded his arms and raised an eyebrow at OuRyuumon accusingly. “And how many digimon – not counting myself – know you’re gay, exactly? Well?”

    The tall, gold dragon flushed. He folded his arms as well and glanced away in a mixture of annoyance and embarrassment. “Y-yeah, well... Whatever,“ he murmured. His violet eyes returned to looking at Alphamon. “I know we ‘have’ to keep our relationship a secret, but I don’t understand why. I mean, I’m not comfortable with digimon knowing I like guys, but that’s a personal decision. I don’t understand why you can’t be open about it.”

    “It’s complicated,” Alphamon answered, looking away.

    “Is it?” OuRyuumon asked. “RhodoKnightmon is openly gay. Really, really openly gay. But the other knights hardly care. Sure, it makes Duftmon and some of them uncomfortable when he flirts with them and stuff, but it doesn’t make him any less of a knight in anybody’s eyes.”

    “It’s different for me,” Alphamon told him firmly. “I’m not just a member of the Royal Knights. I’m the leader of the Royal Knights. It’s expected that I’m...”

    “’Normal’?” OuRyuumon asked, frowning at Alphamon.

    Alphamon stalled before finally giving a sigh. “In the eyes of somebody like Duftmon... yes,” he answered, a slight bit of shame gracing his voice. “He already tries to undermine me every chance he gets. It would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s not just him either. I don’t know how the other knights would react. Craniamon, Dynasmon, Examon, Sleipmon, maybe even Dukemon or Magnamon. Not to mention the rest of the members of the castle and the digimon of the continent.”

    “Honestly, Alphamon, who cares?” OuRyuumon asked, staring at him hard. “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be talking, but still!”

    Alphamon returned OuRyuumon’s stare, looking at him with a serious gaze. “Why do you hide your sexuality?”

    OuRyuumon blinked, taken aback by the question initially. “Because... well, I don’t want people sticking their noses in my business!” he replied sharply, folding his arms.

    “...And why else?” Alphamon asked knowingly. He was well aware that there was more to it than just that.

    The dragon’s eyes slowly looked away and he felt blood rush to his face. “...I don’t want anybody making fun of me,” he muttered in a barely audible voice.

    “You think people will think less of you if they know...” Alphamon mused, a point hiding behind his words. “Now, imagine you’re the leader and the public face of a team whose task is to protect the Digital World. Having a label is the last thing I need. The Royal Knights need to be taken seriously.”

    “But RhodoKnightmon-“ OuRyuumon protested.

    “Is RhodoKnightmon,” the black armoured Royal Knight replied. “And I’m Alphamon, the Lord of the Empty Seat. I was the first one that Imperialdramon Paladin Mode came to when we founded the order. I’m the one who has to look after the other Royal Knights, settle their differences, deal with all sorts of digimon on a daily basis among other things.”

    “And you think that being bisexual changes that?” the dragon asked.

    “Yes... Not everybody is open-minded.”

    OuRyuumon sneered. “I know, but being bi is just one aspect of your personality. You’re still noble, brave, kind, fair, loving...” the dragon spoke, his gaze softening warmly as he looked at Alphamon. “It doesn’t define you.”

    “Just like Examon being a dragon doesn’t define him in Duftmon’s eyes?” Alphamon said dryly, giving OuRyuumon a bland look. “A label’s a label. Besides, that isn’t the only reason... How would it look if everyone knew you and me were lovers? They’d think you received your position for that reason alone.”

    OuRyuumon grumbled, annoyed that he had a point. “Yeah, fine. I get it...” he muttered in response. He looked at Alphamon carefully. “And those are the only reasons?”

    “Yes,” Alphamon replied quickly and succinctly. He turned and started walking up the riverbank towards the grass, heading back to the Unimon with the water he promised him.

    Omegamon looked over, seeing the black knight approaching. “Alphamon, you took awhile,” he said, moving his hand off of the Unimon’s wound.

    Alphamon walked over to the wagon and looked at the bloody gash on the limping Unimon. “Sorry. OuRyuumon returned and reported what he found – or didn’t find, rather,” Alphamon told his friend, although not looking at Omegamon and focusing solely on pouring the water over the wound as he replied.

    Omegamon nodded, having no reason not to believe him.

    “So... that bandit’s still out there?” the Airdramon asked nervously.

    “He is, but the rest of his gang is gone. He’ll be licking his wounds for awhile, and we’ll see if we have him in our database whenever we return the headquarters,” Alphamon told him. He reached behind himself and grabbed his cape, tearing a piece off and wrapping the blue and white fabric tightly around the Unimon’s wound. “This is the best we can do, I’m afraid. Can you make it to the next town?”

    “Thanks,” the Unimon said, wincing slightly. He looked down at his tensed, bandaged leg and gave the ground an experimental tap to gauge the pain. He grimaced. “I can fly there, but I have to leave the wagon. I can’t pull it like this...”

    “What am I supposed to do now?” the Airdramon asked with worry. “I’m not strong enough to pull this thing!”

    Both Alphamon and Omegamon started to think about a possible solution while OuRyuumon came walking over.

    “...Unimon, are there other digimon with your job at the place you came from?” Omegamon asked, looking at the winged horse.

    “Back at the town, yes,” he replied, craning his head to look at Omegamon. “At Auguria, I mean.”

    “Auguria?” Alphamon asked, looking at him with mild surprise. “That’s where we’re headed.”

    “Lucky for us,” Omegamon said while using what was left in his own water bottle to wash the blood from his hand. “We can get to the village and hire another haulier to come back here and move the wagon. Unimon, you can come with us. I’m assuming there’s a physician in Auguria?”

    Unimon nodded, grunting a bit as he got himself out of the harness that allowed him to pull the wagon with his whole body. “There is,” he gave a slight, though somewhat pained grin. “There’s a few witch doctors this time of year too.”

    “Witch doctors…?” Alphamon asked, raising his eyebrow with confusion.

    “The Spring Festival’s going on right now,” he explained to the knights. “Some real characters turn up at festivals like this. Lots of show offs and attention seekers.”

    Omegamon sighed and looked at Alphamon, wondering if he too realized the implications of what Unimon said. “Fortune tellers and psychics too, I’m guessing.”

    “Allegedly,” the Unimon said, flapping his red wings and pulling himself off the ground with a grunt.

    “…We’ll see when we get there,” Alphamon said, avoiding Omegamon’s look.

    Omegamon nodded, although he was no longer expecting to find anything important once they arrived in Auguria. They at least had to escort the Unimon there, though.

    “H-Hey!” Airdramon said, looking at them nervously. “What about me? What if that BanchoLeomon guy comes back madder than ever?!”

    Before Alphamon could do anything, the white knight beside him turned to OuRyuumon. “OuRyuumon, do you mind staying here with him and his wagon?” Omegamon asked.

    OuRyuumon, who was busy wiping the blood and sap from his sword onto the nearby grass, stood up and glanced over at him. “Nah. I need to rest my wings and legs anyways,” he replied offhandedly.

    Alphamon frowned slightly. He gave an uncertain glance at Omegamon before turning back to OuRyuumon. “And can you wash those in the river instead?” he asked, to which OuRyuumon rolled his eyes.

    “I’m ready when you all are, Royal Knights, sirs,” the Unimon told them, evidently not really sure how formally he was supposed to address them.

    “Okay, let’s get going. Lead the way, Unimon,” Alphamon said, turning around and walking past the wagon. Omegamon looked at Alphamon and walked after him, trailing quietly as they followed the Unimon down the road.

    -

    The two Royal Knights walked for a good thirty minutes down the path. Their Unimon guide managed to be flying alright, but they could tell he was still in pain. It was around that time that they could see the village of Auguria less than a kilometer ahead of them.

    It seemed like a fairly standard village from the outside. There were no noticeable landmarks, aside from the river that ran beside the left end of the small community. It was the same river that they had seen earlier, when they came across the wagon. Unfortunately for them, the town was upstream from the river, so they couldn’t hope to find that BanchoLeomon bandit that escaped down it.

    There were about two hundred to three hundred buildings in the town. They were all of various sizes, but none were big enough to particularly stand out against the rest of them. However, as they drew closer to Auguria, they did notice a series of colourful tents and booths off to the south and east ends of the village, as well as all sorts of decorations and stands within the village itself. The whole village seemed to give off the vibe of good cheer and celebration.

    “So that’s the Spring Festival?” Omegamon asked, looking up at Unimon.

    “Yeah, that’s it,” Unimon replied, turning his head and looking around as they started to enter the festivity’s area. “It doesn’t really interest me personally, but maybe you’ll find something you’ll like.”

    “Perhaps…” Omegamon said thoughtfully as they started walking by the first of the tents. The whole area was bustling with smiling and rambunctious digimon all of whom were enjoying the fun.

    There seemed to be plenty of food stands and festival games set up all around the area. There were several tents of various varieties, including palm reading and fortunetelling. Omegamon couldn’t help but become further suspicious about the credibility of this rumour.

    He also noticed things like a wrestling competition, an archery competition, ring tossing and ball throwing games and the like. There were many other attractions like a kissing booth and he saw the draconic form of an Imperialdramon Dragon Mode who was flying around both kids and some adult digimon for exciting, airborne rides. Omegamon also noticed that there was a large tub of water with a plank over it which was set up as a dunk tank. He dreaded what OuRyuumon would do when he arrived there. “If that dragon signs me up for either the kissing booth or the dunk tank, I might just have to stretch out his body and use it for a noose,” he thought with a worried grimace.

    They continued walking past the tents and stands. While the area was lively, Omegamon knew that the Spring Festival was much bigger in more populous areas. It didn’t take them long before they started to enter the actual village.

    To his surprise (and relief), he and Alphamon went largely unnoticed, except for the occasional stare, double-take, and whisper. Everybody else seemed too enraptured in the festivities to pay them much attention. Perhaps they thought they were somebody else or maybe dressed up in costume for the festival.

    He and Alphamon walked past several buildings, still following the Unimon. Now that they were in the actual village of Auguria, things had calmed down a bit, though it was still relatively lively.

    “Out of curiosity, what brings you here?” the Unimon asked, glancing down at them as he headed for the transportation business he worked at.

    “Just unofficial business,” Alphamon replied, sounding like he was being intentionally vague.

    It was then that Omegamon began to wonder about his friend. Until he spoke, Omegamon had nearly forgotten that Alphamon was with him, since the knight had been so silent the whole time. He turned to Alphamon curiously. “Is everything okay, Alphamon?” he asked him, taking the digimon by surprise. “You’ve been quiet since we left the wagon.”

    “Yes, Omegamon,” Alphamon replied, although it took a few seconds to look him in the eye. “I’ve just been thinking.”

    “About whether or not the rumour’s true? And if it is, whether the Baronmon has any credibility?” Omegamon questioned.

    Alphamon nodded. “Still… we’ve come all this way; it would be a waste not to check it out,” he responded.

    “I guess that’s true,” Omegamon said.

    Ahead of them, Unimon flapped his wings in front of him to stop himself from flying forwards. He turned and looked at the two knights. “I can go ahead and find someone to pull the cart. Then I’ll go and see the doctor. Why don’t you two go do whatever you came to do, knights, sirs?” he said to them.

    “We’re going to wait for our friend before we do that,” Alphamon replied, looking up at him.

    “In that case, why don’t you go and wait at the inn? I can pay for your rooms and expenses,” Unimon suggested. “It’s the least I can do for you guys driving off those thieves.”

    “That’s very generous of you,” Alphamon said, smiling slightly behind his helmet. “Thank you. We won’t be staying more than a night.”

    The Unimon nodded. “Okay. The inn’s just over there,” he replied, nodding with his head in the direction of the building. “I’ll get my friend to tell your friend where you guys will be staying.”

    “Thank you,” Omegamon replied. When the Unimon flew off in a different direction, he turned to Alphamon. “Should we wait there for OuRyuumon? …Or do you want to go play some carnival games?” he asked with a small grin.

    Alphamon gave a soft chuckle. “Let’s just go to the inn. We never did get to have that break,” he replied, beginning to walk down the simple dirt road.

    Omegamon followed him. He preferred that option much more than the other one anyways. They walked to a large building about three stories high. It was clearly defined by the large sign that read “Come Inn”. The two couldn’t help but exchange glances at the awful pun.

    “Let’s… go in…” Alphamon said, though he suddenly felt kind of dirty for playing into the sign’s wishes with his response.

    “Let’s…” Omegamon agreed, walking with Alphamon towards the front entrance. Due to his gauntlets covering his hands, Omegamon stood back so Alphamon could open the door for them.

    The wooden door opened after a light push. They walked in and were immediately greeted by the warm, cozy atmosphere. There was a large room filled with several tables and booths arranged in a tidy, accessible manner, as well as a well stocked bar on the opposite end. Around the room were several lanterns, though none of them were lit yet. The knights could hear the low chatter of socializing digimon filling the air.

    Off to the right of them was the front desk. There they noticed a portly, golden bug digimon sitting behind the desk, doing several things at once with his three pairs of hands. The Kongoumon looked up at them and smiled as the two Royal Knights walked over. “Hello, there. What can I do for you this afternoon?” he asked. His red eyes looked between Alphamon and Omegamon curiously. “Are you… Royal Knights?” he asked.

    “We are,” Alphamon told him. He began to notice his nervousness around them. It wasn’t an unusual response to their presence. Many digimon, both innocent and not-so-innocent ones, were anxious around the Royal Knights, worried that the Royal Knights were there to arrest them or something. “Don’t worry. We’re just here for a place to stay. Three single, medium rooms, please. For myself, Omegamon, and OuRyuumon. Unimon said that he’d cover the bill?”

    “Oh, of course,” the Kongoumon innkeeper said, smiling at them. He used three of his hands to pick out three keys and handed them to Alphamon. “Rooms fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. Second floor, at the end of the hall. Please enjoy your stay.”

    “Thank you,” Alphamon replied, taking the keys and handing one to Omegamon.

    They walked over to the stairs beside the front desk and headed up to the second floor of the inn. The stairs led to a long hallway with several halls branching off from it, leading to several different rooms. Alphamon and Omegamon walked down the main hallway to the very end and then turned left down a shorter corridor. At the end of it there were three rooms with their designated numbers.

    “Which room do you want?” Alphamon asked, walking down the hallway and unlocking each of the three doors. There was a door on the left wall, a door on the right wall, and a door at the end of the hall. Upon opening the doors and looking inside, it looked like they were all the same size with the same amount of furniture and accommodations. The only differences were the placement of the furniture and the bathrooms.

    “It doesn’t matter to me,” Omegamon replied. He turned and looked at the room on the left wall. “I guess I’ll take fifteen.”

    “I’ll take sixteen, then,” Alphamon said. “Which leaves OuRyuumon with seventeen.” He took Omegamon’s key ring in his fingers and hung it around one of the horns on Omegamon’s Grey Arm. He then nodded at Omegamon and walked into room sixteen, the one at the end of the hallway.

    Omegamon smiled a bit and followed Alphamon into his room. Inside, it wasn’t a particularly lavish set up. The basic necessities for a bedroom were there. There was a large, comfortable looking bed with warm bed sheets and soft pillows. There was also a table with two chairs and a door leading to the bathroom.

    Alphamon sat down at the table and Omegamon seated himself across from him. Omegamon adjusted his cape so that he wasn’t sitting on it and he began removing his gauntlets. “What do you expect we’ll find here, Alphamon?” he asked the black knight while looking at him.

    “I’m not sure,” Alphamon admitted, leaning forwards on the table and staring down at the smooth wood surface. “Possibly nothing. We’ll find out for ourselves when OuRyuumon arrives…”

    Omegamon nodded. For a few seconds, he stared at Alphamon quietly. “And you’re sure everything’s alright?” he asked, inspecting him carefully. “You would tell me if something was troubling you, correct?”

    Alphamon closed his eyes. It took all of his willpower not to wince or look away or show any admission of guilt, despite how he really felt. “Of course, Omegamon. You know I would,” he assured him, opening his eyes and finally looking up at the knight. “I’m fine, really.”

    Omegamon nodded at him and stood up. “In that case, I’m going to head to my room and get out of this armour until OuRyuumon gets here,” he explained, collecting his gauntlets in his arms. Omegamon smiled at his friend. “Though it’s possible he might get distracted by the festival games on the way here.”

    “True,” Alphamon replied with a grin. “I’ll just be in my room. Or downstairs, asking the patrons about where we can find the Baronmon.”

    Omegamon nodded. “Good idea.” With that, he walked out of Alphamon’s room and went into his own room, closing the doors behind him.

    Once Omegamon had left, Alphamon looked down with a soft frown. “I hate lying to you,” he thought silently to himself.

    He exhaled weightily and stood up, walking over to his bed and sitting down on the soft mattress. It felt good to try and relax, as they had been on their feet all day. Still, he glanced at the door that Omegamon had left through.

    Well, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
    Last edited by Griff4815; 25th March 2013 at 10:25 PM.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  15. #15
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    Dec 2006
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    (Author's note: Here's the second half)


    The Matter of Trust (Part II)


    An hour or two had passed and the day was now into the late afternoon. The festival area was much less crowded now, but there were still several digimon there and the attractions were still mostly open.

    OuRyuumon had since arrived in Auguria after about an hour. As Omegamon expected, he was distracted by the Spring Festival once arriving at the village. He eventually met up with his two companions at the inn.

    The three set off into the village. They took advantage of the diminishing crowds to begin their search for the Baronmon. The trio set out down the main path with Alphamon leading the way.

    “So, what have you been doing since you arrived, OuRyuumon?” Omegamon asked, looking over at the dragon as they trailed Alphamon. “I doubt you missed the inn since it was right up the street from the entrance.”

    “Oh, I’ve been at the dunk tank,” the purple-haired dragon responded with a very self-satisfied smile. “Who knew that dunking that Bullmon mayor guy would be so much fun?!”

    “…You’re terrible,” Omegamon said flatly, looking at him with a stony expression.

    OuRyuumon smirked widely at him. “You know, the stand had a signup sheet for volunteers to be dunked. I’m starting to think… wouldn’t a kind and charitable knight like yourself want to lend your services to the community?” he teased.

    Omegamon tensed up and looked forwards quickly. He blushed a bit and suddenly sped up to walk beside Alphamon. “S-So, this Baronmon we’re supposed to find…” he began in a hurried voice.

    Alphamon grinned a bit and glanced over at him. “Yes, Omegamon?” he asked. He knew how much his second-in-command hated public speaking and even just being the center of attention. He decided to go along with Omegamon’s changing of the subject and not add to OuRyuumon’s teasing this time.

    “Is he a local or is he out in the festival area?” Omegamon asked, composing himself again.

    “Yeah, I saw a few so-called ‘psychic’ and fortuneteller tents on my way in. I bet they’re all frauds,” OuRyuumon replied, flying up to Alphamon’s other side. “In fact, I bet this guy’s going to be a fake too.”

    “Don’t prejudge, OuRyuumon,” Alphamon told him, glancing over at the dragon. “Baronmon have been known to have some form of future sight.”

    “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he’s not nuts or lying about his visions for attention,” OuRyuumon retorted, folding his arms. He let out a scoff. “I mean, seriously? ‘Beware the black night’? For all we know, he’s foreseeing himself after he accidentally locked himself in his basement or something. It doesn’t necessarily mean the sun’s going to disappear and giant evil digimon are going to lay waste to the land.”

    “He’s not exactly wrong…” Omegamon said, much to Alphamon’s surprise that he agreed with OuRyuumon about something. “Digimon with psychic abilities have been known to occasionally embellish or even make up stories for greater publicity or for profit. And their visions are often vague and hard to decode.”

    “Besides,” OuRyuumon added. “I went to a fortuneteller when I got here. He said digimon like me who are born under the sign of Zhuqiaomon are passionate, reckless, and impulsive.”

    “…You are passionate, reckless, and impulsive,” Alphamon pointed out dryly.

    “Yeah, but I was born under the sign of Qinglongmon,” OuRyuumon replied with a grin.

    Alphamon rolled his eyes. “Anyways, as for your question about the Baronmon, Omegamon, the patrons at the inn’s bar said he was a local. Apparently he’s a respected one too,” he replied.

    OuRyuumon shrugged dismissively. “Small towns and villages are always more superstitious than city digimon,” he retorted.

    “Let’s wait until we actually meet him before making any judgments,” Alphamon said, glancing at the dragon flying next to him.

    Omegamon nodded. “That’s fair,” he replied. He decided to leave his gauntlets back in his locked room, as he didn’t think it was necessary to bring them to the seer’s hut.

    “That’s it up ahead,” Alphamon told them, looking at a medium-sized, single story hut at the end of the street. It sat at one of the ends of the village and about twenty meters behind the hut was the river. The knights could hear the sounds of tumultuous water flowing down the river as they walked towards the building.

    They approached the building and noticed that it looked much more humble and old fashioned than the other buildings around the village. Alphamon took the initiative and knocked on the door of the house slowly and shortly, but with force behind each thump.

    “Come in,” a voice said from inside.

    Alphamon pushed the door open and walked inside. The strong smell of incense entered their nostrils as soon as they entered. Upon walking in and taking just a single glance around, they could tell that the place was full of interesting baubles. Hanging around the main room were things like glass orbs, talismans, strange pendulums and dream catchers. In the center of the room was a large circular table surrounded by cushioned chairs. Just in front of that was a square mat with pillows for sitting arranged neatly around it. Off to the side of the room was a large desk with several things on it like magical stones, charms, statuettes, and labeled jars filled with unknown contents, possibly herbs or medicinal things. There were also more standard things on the desk such as paper, quills, and a lamp. Next to the deck was a bookshelf crammed full of books, journals, and scrolls, not to mention other curios like the various charms, crystals, and mystical objects that seemed to be all over the room.

    OuRyuumon walked around Alphamon and ended up banging his head on a pendulum that had been swinging back and forth rhythmically. He scowled and grabbed the metal orb, stopping it in his claws.

    Standing up from the desk was a short humanoid digimon garbed in green clothes and an orange cape. He turned towards them, showing the knights his blue, demonic face. With the short, curved tusks coming out of his mouth, he looked like he should be threatening, but his voice, composure, and expression were warm and welcoming. On top of his head he wore some sort of red, stylized, ceremonial headdress. However, his most noticeable feature was his third eye, which looked at them from the center of his forehead.

    “Hello, Royal Knights,” Baronmon said, smiling a bit. He didn’t seem that surprised to see them.

    “Ah hah!” OuRyuumon declared triumphantly, pointing his finger at the seer. “I’m not a Royal Knight!”

    “…And OuRyuumon,” Baronmon added dryly, calmly walking over to them.

    Ignoring OuRyuumon’s grumbling, Alphamon nodded at the alleged soothsayer and politely offered his hand. “Greetings, ‘Baronmon’, correct?” he asked, shaking his hand.

    The Baronmon nodded, looking up at the Royal Knight. “I’m honoured, Lord of the Empty Seat.”

    “Call me Alphamon. Please,” the black knight responded, withdrawing his hand. “We’re only here unofficially.”

    “Ah, an unofficial visit. Interesting. Please, sit down,” Baronmon said, waving his arm out towards the chairs around the large table.

    “Thank you,” Omegamon said. The three visitors sat down at the table and Baronmon walked around it and sat across from them. Due to his height, OuRyuumon was feeling very crammed in at the table.

    Baronmon put his gloved hands on the table and folded them. “So what unofficially brings you here?” he asked, looking at the three studiously.

    “If you’re psychic, can’t you tell?” OuRyuumon inquired, raising an eyebrow and folding his arms.

    Baronmon chuckled softly. “It doesn’t quite work like that,” he explained, looking at OuRyuumon. “I can’t read minds. I can merely glimpse into the future now and again. I knew that you three were coming, but not why.”

    “Uh huh…” the gold dragon spoke, sounding unconvinced.

    “I know you must find that difficult to believe with the… circus of so-called psychics outside the village,” the Baronmon spoke.

    “We’re not here to judge,” Alphamon told him. “However, we are here to investigate what happened several days ago.”

    “Several days ago…?” Baronmon asked, thinking back.

    “Apparently you made a large fuss in the village, saying ‘Beware the black night’ over and over?” Alphamon asked uncertainly. “…Or were we lead astray by a false rumour?”

    Omegamon looked at the seer quietly and studiously. OuRyuumon was busy looking around at all the strange trinkets in the room.

    Baronmon winced a bit. He started shifting uncomfortably in his chair. “O-Oh… that…” he mumbled. Be brought his hand up and tugged at his collar. “That was… nothing.”

    “But it did happen, correct?” Alphamon asked with a thoughtful frown.

    “Yes…” the Baronmon replied, looking down. “H-However, that was… Not all of my future sight is clear. The visions are often murky and ambiguous. I saw something and I overreacted in the heat of the moment. Having these visions is often a very deep and emotional experience, you see.”

    Omegamon and OuRyuumon frowned. Alphamon, however, was quiet. He stared at him with pensive crimson eyes. “…What did you see?” he finally asked him.

    Baronmon closed his eyes, trying to remember. “Everything was dark… In the ground, there was a hole. An abyss. It felt… destructive and cold. A digimon cloaked with shadow and hatred rose up. There was vengeance in his heart,” he explained, his voice dire. He felt a chill up his spine as he recalled the dream. “…However, it may have been nothing. I was in a half-awake state after it. I didn’t know what I was saying and I probably made a bigger deal out of it than I should have. I didn’t mean to worry anybody.”

    “It’s alright,” Omegamon said, closing his eyes. “At least you’re honest.”

    “So you don’t think this is anything worth worrying about, basically,” OuRyuumon said, looking at Baronmon.

    Baronmon stalled. “…No. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish dreams from visions. This is one of those times.”

    “Are you sure about that…?” Alphamon asked, raising his eyebrow as he gazed at the seer. “The way you described it was so vivid.”

    Baronmon nodded and looked away. “I’m sure it’s nothing, Sir Alphamon,” he assured the knight. “I’m sorry if you’ve wasted a trip.”

    Omegamon shook his head. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he responded. The white knight turned to Alphamon, who was quiet.

    OuRyuumon, who was looking kind of uninterested, suddenly spoke up. “Hey, if that’s all, can you give us our fortunes?” the dragon asked, grinning a bit.

    Baronmon kept himself from rolling his three eyes and instead closed them. “…You will make a pleasant discovery tomorrow, OuRyuumon,” he told him.

    OuRyuumon grinned wider. “Yeah? What?” he asked.

    “You’ll have to wait and find out,” the Baronmon answered.

    “Not too convenient,” the serpentine ryu muttered sarcastically.

    Omegamon then stood up from his seat, followed by OuRyuumon. “Thank you for humouring our questions,” he told him.

    “Not a problem,” Baronmon told them, standing up. “Please, you’re free to take any of my products that are under fifty bits.”

    The white knight raised his hands, trying to dissuade the seer. “There’s no need-“

    “Do you have any body lotion?” OuRyuumon eagerly interrupted.

    Omegamon looked at the dragon with surprise. “Why do you need body lotion…?” he asked, folding his arms and raising an eyebrow.

    “N-No reason,” OuRyuumon quickly lied, looking away. He glanced at Alphamon for a single second. “I’ll just take that.” He pointed his claw randomly at a yellow potion bottle with a price tag on it.

    “…That’s an herbal potion that makes digimon more fertile for reproduction,” the Baronmon told him with a completely straight face.

    The hut was silent for several tense moments. OuRyuumon’s cheeks burned red as his blood rushed into his face. His eye twitched and he spun around. Without another word, he stormed out of the hut in embarrassment.

    Omegamon’s face flushed as well. He gave the Baronmon a swift nod goodbye and quickly followed OuRyuumon outside.

    Alphamon smirked at the Baronmon as he stood to his feet. “That’s one way to get them out of here…” he replied. His smile quickly disappeared and he looked at the seer with a serious expression. “Baronmon… Are you sure about the vision? You’re saying it’s a dream, but apparently you caused quite the stir for it to be only a dream.”

    Baronmon winced and looked away from the knight. “Maybe it felt more serious at first, but on reflection, I’m sure it was just a nightmare. I may be a seer, but I’ve never had prophetic dreams that affected anything more than the digimon of Auguria and the occasional visitors. My visions can’t predict things on a continental scale. No, I’m sure it was just a bad but vivid dream.”

    Alphamon frowned. “…If you’re sure,” he spoke with uncertainty in his voice. “Thank you for your time.” With that, Alphamon turned around and began walking towards the door.

    “…Sir Alphamon, wait,” Baronmon suddenly said from behind him.

    Alphamon stopped in his tracks and turned around. He looked down at the short digimon curiously. “Yes?”

    “I did have a vision about you…” Baronmon told him, looking at the knight with a serious look in his eyes. “I feel obligated to tell you.”

    “You did? What is it?” the Royal Knight asked, raising his eyebrow.

    “It’s that… You need to be careful about what Omegamon finds out…” he said to Alphamon. “If he discovers whatever it is you’re hiding from him, he’ll be hurt badly… Your bond with him may be broken.”

    Alphamon grimaced and turned away. He was quiet for a moment.

    “I know.” Alphamon spoke solemnly, turning his caped back to the seer. “…Thank you.”

    Baronmon nodded. “I wish you luck, Sir Alphamon.”

    Alphamon turned his head and gave him a nod of farewell. He then walked out of the hut, opting to decline the digimon’s offer of taking a free item. Waiting outside were Omegamon and OuRyuumon, who looked up as soon as Alphamon appeared.

    “Well this trip was a waste of time,” OuRyuumon complained, beginning to walk down the road now that Alphamon was there.

    “It would have been worse if we ignored it and it was true,” Omegamon responded, walking with him. “At least we know it was a false alarm and he didn’t try to play us for fools by saying it was a real vision.”

    “He claims it isn’t real vision,” Alphamon spoke lowly.

    Omegamon and OuRyuumon turned their heads to look at him in astonishment. “What?! Are you feeling alright, Alphamon? You must be sick if you actually believe it’s a real vision,” OuRyuumon said, slowing down and putting his hand on Alphamon’s helmeted forehead.

    Alphamon gently swatted his hand away. “That Baronmon undeniably has a form of future sight, like many of his species do. I witnessed it myself when you two were outside,” he replied.

    “What did he say?” Omegamon asked, looking into Alphamon’s eyes.

    Alphamon looked away from his friend’s gaze. “…It doesn’t matter,” he replied.

    “Even so, why would he himself say that it was nothing but a regular dream? He knows his mind better than we do, Alphamon,” Omegamon said.

    “Maybe, but… I’m not sure. I feel like he’s doubting himself. Or maybe he felt persecuted by us,” Alphamon retorted.

    OuRyuumon sighed and placed his hand on Alphamon’s shoulder. “Look, Alphamon. I know you don’t want this trip to seem like it was a waste of time, but you’re looking for things that aren’t there. When even the seer says he was full of it, then I think it’s time to call it a day. Besides, there’s still a festival here, so it’s not a complete waste. Right, Omegamon?”

    Omegamon nodded. “None of us could have known whether the rumour was true or not.”

    Alphamon frowned and shrugged off OuRyuumon’s hand. “That’s not it…” he spoke, though it felt like his two friends had already made up their minds, so he knew he was fighting a losing battle. He sighed. “There’s only so much I could do with the information that Baronmon provided us with anyways. Maybe we should call it a day.

    OuRyuumon walked ahead of Alphamon. “Come on. Let’s head back to the inn for some supper. Remember, we’re on Unimon’s tab, so we can really dig in.”

    “It’s not very knightly taking advantage of someone’s kind offer, OuRyuumon,” Omegamon scolded, glancing over at the dragon. “You want to be a Royal Knight, don’t you?”

    “Yeah, yeah…” OuRyuumon murmured, rolling his purple eyes.

    Alphamon quietly followed them as they talked and headed back towards the inn. He fixed his eyes on Omegamon and watched him with a subtle grimace. “I’ve kept OuRyuumon and I a secret from you for this long… It’s too late to tell you now. Baronmon just confirmed what I already knew. I need to keep lying to you for your own sake, my good friend…

    -

    The trio sat in a booth in the inn. There was a warm, hearty ambience that was accentuated by the fiery lamps hanging from the ceiling. They had been lit since the sun set and the night overtook the village.

    The knights chose to sit near a corner, not wanting too much attention since they didn’t want to be signing autographs for an hour. Luckily for them, the inn didn’t seem to be too crowded except for over near the bar.

    Omegamon pushed his freshly emptied plate forwards and dabbed his mouth with a napkin.

    “I still don’t know where you pack away all that food,” OuRyuumon teased with a raised eyebrow. He raised his tail under the table and using the tip to poke Omegamon’s skinny torso to prove his point.

    “Well, he is part Greymon,” Alphamon joked, looking at Omegamon with a small, teasing grin

    The white knight tinted a bit and smacked OuRyuumon’s tail away. “I have a high metabolism…” he replied, glaring at them in embarrassment.

    Alphamon chuckled and looked out the window. Through the glass, he could see the darkness of the evening and the starry sky that started to emerge. He then looked down at his half-finished food. “Why don’t you go for your usual night walk now, Omegamon?” Alphamon asked, looking over at him. “It looks like OuRyuumon and I are going to be here for awhile.”

    Omegamon nodded. “I think I’ll do that, actually,” he responded, slipping out of the cushioned booth and standing up. “I was meaning to look around the village anyways.”

    “Have fun,” OuRyuumon said to him before biting down on his fork. “And go for a long one. It’s not like there’s much else to do this evening.”

    “That’s true,” Omegamon replied. “I’ll see you two later.” He gave them a polite nod and turned to walk to the exit.

    “Hasn’t that guy had enough walking today?” OuRyuumon asked, glancing down at the knight beside him.

    “It relaxes him,” Alphamon explained. He raised his fork and ate the potatoes resting on top of it.

    “I’m going to need something to relax me tonight. It’s going to be a boring evening and I’m too tired to walk,” OuRyuumon replied with an annoyed groan as he looked at Alphamon. His eyes then trailed down to look at the knight’s lap and his spread legs. He then grinned, as if getting an idea. “You know what we could do…” he said, trailing off to let Alphamon fill in the blanks.

    Alphamon slowly turned to him and saw a familiar look in OuRyuumon’s eyes. He blushed a bit and gave him a bland stare. “I thought you were too tired to do anything…” he replied dryly.

    “Hey, you’d be the one doing all the work,” OuRyuumon told him, his grin growing wider.

    “No,” the Royal Knight replied firmly. “Omegamon’s room is right next to mine and across the hall from yours. He or somebody else will hear us.”

    “He’s out on his walk and there’s nobody else staying near our rooms,” OuRyuumon explained. He reached his claws down and started rubbing at the gap in Alphamon’s thigh armour. “Come oooonnnn…”

    Alphamon gasped softly and grabbed OuRyuumon’s hand, pulling it away from him. “O-OuRyuumon! Not here!” he said with a sharp glare.

    “Then in your room?” OuRyuumon asked with a wide smirk.

    Alphamon flushed deeper. “…Fine,” he said with mild irritation, although it wouldn’t entirely be a chore for him either. “But let’s hurry.”

    OuRyuumon grinned victoriously and stood up, getting out of the booth. “See? I knew you couldn’t wait.”

    The Royal Knight rolled his eyes and stood up too. “Come on, OuRyuumon…” he said, starting to head over to the stairs leading to the second level.

    -

    “Alphamon… That was amazing,” OuRyuumon spoke, panting slightly.

    The air of the room was thick and hot with the release of body heat and the scent of sweat. Alphamon and OuRyuumon lay in the bed of Alphamon’s room. Scattered heedlessly beside the bed were sections of black and gold armour belonging to the two digimon.

    OuRyuumon’s long, serpentine body lay with his back against the soft mattress. His body was stretched out and relaxed. Alphamon lay on top of OuRyuumon’s long chest; the bed sheets were modestly draped over Alphamon’s back, covering their naked bodies up to their necks. All that could be seen were their shoulders, necks, heads, and OuRyuumon’s tail swaying about in pleasure as it stuck out from the bed sheets at the other end of the bed.

    Alphamon lay with his elbows on OuRyuumon’s wings while he bent his head down and kissed OuRyuumon’s neck. OuRyuumon kissed Alphamon’s neck in return. He tightened his embrace around Alphamon’s chest, pulling him closer and gripping Alphamon’s back warmly.

    “I’m glad you liked it,” Alphamon replied with a grin. He leaned down and kissed OuRyuumon lovingly.

    The gold dragon closed his eyes and returned the soft kiss, blushing under his cheek scales.

    Alphamon smiled warmly at the dragon. “OuRyuumon…“

    “Alphamon?” Omegamon’s voice suddenly called out from outside the door. The door knob began to jiggle.

    Alphamon’s red eyes widened with absolute horror and his heart sunk to the bottom of his chest in the matter of seconds. Almost nothing scared the Lord of the Empty Seat, but this was one of the very few things that sent his heart into overdrive. The Royal Knight perked his body up and stopped all movement, becoming like an awkwardly positioned statue. He slowly turned his head, looking over his shoulder towards the door.

    The knight was absolutely mortified when he saw the door begin to open. He could see Omegamon’s white hand through the widening crack and that was all it took.

    OuRyuumon looked up at him in confusion, having not heard Omegamon’s voice and wondering why he stopped when things were going so nicely. “…Alphamo- MMM!”

    Alphamon ripped the pillow out from underneath OuRyuumon’s head and slammed it down on top of him, using the big cushion to hide OuRyuumon’s head and neck. Alphamon immediately lowered himself down on top of the dragon, covering his body with his own bigger one. He rested an arm on top of the pillow in sheer desperation, trying to make as if he was the only person in the bed.

    OuRyuumon, of course, wasn’t the least bit happy about being nearly crushed and smothered. He let out a series of muffled yells and he flailed his arms, legs and tail around wildly, trying to get Alphamon off of him.

    Omegamon walked in and raised an eyebrow. The room was dark, but he saw Alphamon lying on his stomach underneath the bed sheets. He seemed to be moving around under the blankets restlessly. “…Alphamon?” he asked. “Are you alright? I thought I heard some strange noises coming from here.”

    Alphamon gave a wide, sheepish grin. He prayed to Yggdrasil that Omegamon didn’t notice all the blood that had pooled in his face from immense blushing. “Hah hah. Yes! I was just… doing stretches,” he told him with a nervous smirk. Meanwhile, underneath the covers, he was doing his best to try and keep OuRyuumon from thrashing his limps around, all while trying to make sure that the covers and pillow concealed his bedmate. All OuRyuumon’s movement only made Alphamon blush and grimace more.

    “…Stretches?” Omegamon asked. He couldn’t help but blink.

    “Y-Yes… Bed stretches,” Alphamon assured him. He angled his body to pin one of OuRyuumon’s arms down while he used his free arm to grab OuRyuumon’s other wrist and hold it in place. He felt like he might as well be doing some bizarre stretch routine; he had to pin OuRyuumon’s wings down with his elbows and put his knees against OuRyuumon’s thighs to keep him still there too.

    He then grimaced when he remembered OuRyuumon’s tail was still whipping around outside of the sheets. He hooked the long tail with his foot and quickly pulled it underneath the sheets again, just as Omegamon looked towards the foot of the bed. He ignored the sting when the tail started lashing against his leg. Alphamon really hoped that Omegamon would leave soon. He didn’t want to keep OuRyuumon under there too long.

    He smiled at Omegamon uneasily. “So… I’m fine, Omegamon. Go back to your room,” he told him, way too nervous to be as subtle as he’d like to be while lying. He just wanted him out as soon as possible.

    “Err… very well,” Omegamon said with a nod. He couldn’t help but notice how… unusual Alphamon was acting right then, but he had no reason to press the issue. “Goodnight,” he said before turning around and beginning to close the door.

    “Goodnight,” Alphamon replied with a relieved sigh. When he saw Omegamon’s back to them and the door nearly closed, he quickly removed the pillow from OuRyuumon’s head so that he could breathe again.

    OuRyuumon gasped for air and glared at Alphamon furiously. “ALPHA- MMM?!”

    His shout stopped Omegamon in his tracks. The white knight quickly swung around and opened the door again. Alphamon panicked and quickly covered OuRyuumon’s mouth with the pillow again.

    “…Pardon?” Omegamon questioned, raising an eyebrow.

    “Nothing!” Alphamon insisted, raising his arm and making as if he had just been yawning. “I was just yawning.” Again, he had to go back to keeping OuRyuumon from moving.

    “O…kay,” Omegamon responded uncertainly. “Also, do you know where OuRyuumon is? He isn’t in his room.”

    “I’m not sure. Try the bar,” Alphamon told him hurriedly and succinctly. Beads of sweat dripped down his red face as he spoke.

    “I just came from there,” Omegamon explained.

    “Then he’s probably out for a night flight,” the Royal Knight said to him.

    Omegamon silently looked at Alphamon and then glanced down at the floor beside the bed. His blue eyes lingered there for a few moments before looking back up at his friend. “…I see. In that case, I’ll go get some sleep.”

    Without another word, Omegamon turned around and closed Alphamon’s door behind him completely. Alphamon waited several moments until he heard the door to Omegamon’s room close too. Just to be sure, he waited a few more seconds before removing the pillow from OuRyuumon and shushing him immediately.

    OuRyuumon sucked in air and coughed, glaring at Alphamon. “Damnit! What the hell was that, Alphamon?!” he demanded, although quieter than he would have liked. He panted hard and narrowed his eyes. “I could have died, you know! What in Yggdrasil’s name were you doing?! I don’t like it that rough!”

    “Sorry,” Alphamon apologized sheepishly. He glanced nervously over at the closed door. “Omegamon came in so I panicked and tried to hide you.”

    OuRyuumon blinked. “That’s what happened?!” he asked. He looked over the opposite side of the bed. “Damn it, you should have just said so and I would have slithered over to the bathroom.”

    “I acted on impulse…” Alphamon answered. He then grinned at OuRyuumon dryly. “Besides, I personally know how long you can hold your breath for…”

    OuRyuumon blushed and looked away. “Very funny…” he muttered, glancing over at Alphamon with embarrassment.

    The dragon then frowned. “Wait… I know Omegamon doesn’t know about our relationship, and you don’t want anybody knowing, but why’d you freak out so much when it’s just Omegamon? I mean, I’ve never seen you get so nervous. It’s not like it was Duftmon who came in. You’re like as close to Omegamon as you are to me. It’s not like he would make a big deal about it, right?”

    Alphamon pulled back and looked away, sitting up and wrapping his lower body in the blanket. “I… don’t know about that,” he responded, grimacing a little.

    “…What?” OuRyuumon asked, his violet eyes widening with surprise. “He’s one of your best friends! Now, I may not like him a hundred percent of the time, but I at least know he’s not a bigot.”

    “I know he’s not a bigot, OuRyuumon,” Alphamon replied, sighing. “That’s not it.”

    “Then what?” OuRyuumon inquired. “Do you not trust him?”

    Alphamon was silent for a few seconds, thinking to himself quietly about his answer. “It’s complicated…” he told him.

    OuRyuumon frowned and looked at Alphamon silently. He saw the trepidation in Alphamon’s eyes. “…I know there’s something going on, Alphamon. The only reason I can think of that you would want to keep it from him so much is if you didn’t trust him.”

    After several moments, Alphamon answered. “That’s not exactly it…” he explained, looking down at his lap.

    “Well then?” OuRyuumon asked, getting impatient at Alphamon’s beating around the bush.

    “It’s not that I don’t trust him, OuRyuumon,” the knight spoke, looking down. “It’s that… how can I tell him now, after so long?”

    “What do you mean?” the gold dragon asked, moving closer to him.

    “You and I have been in a relationship for several years now,” Alphamon said. “Now, how would you feel if I told you I was keeping something this big from you – my trusted friend – for all those years?”

    “Well…” OuRyuumon thought to himself. “I guess… I’d feel bad. It’d feel like you didn’t trust me enough to confide in me. Like you thought I’d go blabbing to everybody else or I’d judge you or something.”

    “Exactly,” Alphamon said, sighing. “That’s why I can’t tell him now. Omegamon will think I don’t trust him, even when I do.”

    “I knew there was another reason why you didn’t want people to know,” OuRyuumon said. “So, if you trust him, why didn’t you tell him when you first found out you were bisexual?”

    Alphamon frowned. “I couldn’t. I… wasn’t brave enough,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.

    “You? Not brave enough?” OuRyuumon laughed. “That’s hard to believe.”

    “You know as well as I do that there are different types of bravery,” Alphamon said to the dragon knowingly. “I’ve seen you face four mega level digimon with your bare claws, but I remember how scared you were when you confessed your feelings to me…”

    OuRyuumon blushed and looked away. “I g-guess…” he muttered. He frowned and scratched his violet-haired head. “But Alphamon, you don’t know for sure that Omegamon will react that way if you tell him you’re bi. You just have to word it right, and I know how good you are with words.”

    “Baronmon told me that Omegamon would be deeply wounded if I told him,” Alphamon replied. He reached over and held OuRyuumon’s hand.

    OuRyuumon couldn’t help but stare at Alphamon in surprise at his words, but he nonetheless squeezed the hand back. “So he knows…? A-At any rate! That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s right. Omegamon’s a calm, rational guy, isn’t he? He wouldn’t overreact like I would if you told him, I’m pretty sure.” The dragon let go of Alphamon’s hand and folded his arms across his chest. “Besides, what if he finds out on his own? That would be even worse. We’ve already had a lot of close calls with our secret relationship and Omegamon’s pretty smart. I hate to say it, but there’s a good chance he’ll find out eventually.”

    “I don’t know, OuRyuumon…” Alphamon said with a frown. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should pick my moment and tell him.”

    “Yeah,” OuRyuumon replied with a smile. He then rubbed the back of his head. “…Except maybe just tell him you’re bi and keep me out of it for now.”

    Alphamon gave a small, uncertain smile. “I’ll see. I still haven’t decided what to do yet.”

    OuRyuumon gave him a sly smile. “How about we go for another--“

    “I’m going to have a shower,” Alphamon retorted, sliding off the bed and walking over to the bathroom.

    “…Damn it,” OuRyuumon huffed.

    -

    The stars sparkled in the night sky. Two half moons shone down rays of reflected moonlight from above, casting dim light across the town of Auguria. However, the light lessened considerably when a cloud blocked one of the moons from view.

    Omegamon stood at the edge of town, staring up into the night sky. There was a sad grimace in his blue eyes as he looked up at the moon.

    “Why, Alphamon…?” he whispered. Pain laced the two words.

    -

    ”O…kay,” Omegamon responded uncertainly as he looked at Alphamon from the doorway of Alphamon’s room. Alphamon seemed very guarded as he lay on his chest, underneath the covers of his bed. Omegamon wondered why he was acting so strangely. “Also, do you know where OuRyuumon is? He isn’t in his room,” he asked, remembering seeing OuRyuumon’s room devoid of the dragon when he walked by.

    “I’m not sure. Try the bar,” Alphamon told him hurriedly and succinctly.

    “I just came from there,” Omegamon explained. He noticed that Alphamon seemed a bit flustered.

    “Then he’s probably out for a night flight,” the Royal Knight said to him.

    Omegamon frowned. It didn’t seem likely to him. He didn’t see OuRyuumon while he was out walking, and OuRyuumon was talking about how he just wanted to relax that evening.

    It was then that Omegamon noticed something strange. On the floor beside the bed, he could see OuRyuumon’s arm bracers mixed in with Alphamon’s armour. They unquestionably belonged to the dragon. He also noticed other pieces of OuRyuumon’s scattered here and there. Omegamon blinked and frowned with confusion. He looked back up at Alphamon. “…I see. In that case, I’ll go get some sleep.”

    Omegamon turned around and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. He then closed the door to his own room, although he himself stayed out in the hallway. He made it sound like he went into his room, while he actually stayed in the hall to listen in. The knight felt a little guilty for eavesdropping, but he knew Alphamon was acting very strangely. He also knew that OuRyuumon had been in the room, yet Alphamon told him that he didn’t know where he was. It was enough cause for suspicion.

    He stood near the closed door and leaned in, listening. He heard a series of gasps and coughs from inside.

    “Damnit! What the hell was that, Alphamon?!” OuRyuumon’s voice asked lowly, though still loud enough for Omegamon to hear. “I could have died, you know! What the Yggdrasil’s name were you doing?! I don’t like it that rough!”

    “Sorry,” Alphamon apologized. “Omegamon came in so I panicked and tried to hide you.”

    Omegamon blinked in shock at Alphamon’s words. He was surprised and confused. Why would Alphamon of all digimon panic because of him? Why would he hide OuRyuumon from him? Also, what did OuRyuumon mean by not liking ‘it’ that rough?

    “That’s what happened?!” OuRyuumon asked. “Damn it, you should have just said so and I would have slithered over to the bathroom.”

    “I acted on impulse…” Alphamon answered. “Besides, I personally know how long you can hold your breath for…”

    OuRyuumon blushed and looked away. “Very funny…”

    Omegamon frowned and continued listening. He wanted to know what they were talking about.

    “Wait… I know Omegamon doesn’t know about our relationship, and you don’t want anybody knowing, but why’d you freak out so much when it’s just Omegamon? I mean, I’ve never seen you get so nervous. It’s not like it was Duftmon who came in. You’re like as close to Omegamon as you are to me. It’s not like he would make a big deal about it, right?” OuRyuumon asked.

    Relationship?” Omegamon thought to himself. “Then that means…

    Omegamon’s eyes widened with absolute shock. Alphamon and OuRyuumon were in a relationship…? Together? He took a step away from the door, staring at it with dismay and bewilderment. Not only did it shock him to his core, but he also felt himself blush with embarrassment.

    “I… don’t know about that,” Alphamon responded, sounding very unsure of himself.

    Those words were enough to snap Omegamon out of his daze. He frowned with shock and confusion. Alphamon sounded like he thought Omegamon would fly off the handle and berate him or something. He wondered why Alphamon would think that. It made him feel a tinge of pain in his chest.

    “…What?” OuRyuumon asked. “He’s one of your best friends! Now, I may not like him a hundred percent of the time, but I at least know he’s not a bigot.”

    Omegamon wondered if that’s what Alphamon thought of him. He truly hoped it wasn’t. Omegamon’s mind was going into overdrive as he processed all of this information and all the new questions that entered his mind. At the very least, it was strange to hear OuRyuumon sticking up for him.

    “I know he’s not a bigot, OuRyuumon,” Alphamon replied with an audible sigh. That put Omegamon’s mind at rest slightly. “That’s not it.”

    “Then what?” OuRyuumon inquired, asking the question that Omegamon was wondering as well. “Do you not trust him?”

    The white knight then heard silence from Alphamon. The silence was deafening. What Alphamon didn’t say revealed much more to Omegamon than anything that Alphamon did say. Omegamon grimaced with pain as he felt the sharp ache in his heart return tenfold.

    “…It’s complicated,” Alphamon spoke, further compounding Omegamon’s fear and sorrow.

    Omegamon cringed and looked away from the door. “That wasn’t a denial, Alphamon…” he whispered sadly.

    “…I know there’s something going on, Alphamon. The only reason I can think of that you would want to keep it from him so much is if you didn’t trust him,” he heard OuRyuumon speak.

    Silence again.

    Omegamon shut his eyes and turned away from the door. That was all he could allow himself to hear. As much as he wanted to stay and prove his fear wrong, he didn’t want to hear Alphamon’s answer.

    His expression was now that of a deeply hurt grimace as he listened to his best friend’s words or lack thereof. Omegamon backed away from Alphamon’s door and stared at it with sad, blue eyes. Though his gaze lingered for a few moments, he slowly turned around and began striding swiftly down the hallway, heading for the first floor of the inn.


    -

    Omegamon clenched his fists as he reflected on what he overheard. He reflected on his relationship with Alphamon.

    How long had they been the closest of friends? How many battles and fights had they fought side-by-side next to the other? They always helped and protected one another both in combat and out of combat. He thought they had a deep bond of trust, possibly one greater than any other of the Royal Knights.

    Now he found out that it was a lie. That Alphamon didn’t trust him enough to tell him about that secret. He didn’t understand why. Did Alphamon think that he would betray his confidence? Did Alphamon think he would think Alphamon being in a relationship with another male would make him uncomfortable?

    He didn’t know. All Omegamon knew was the strong, wounded feeling he felt from his best friend not being able to trust him.

    “I’m sorry you feel that way, Alphamon,” Omegamon said to himself as he stared up at the night sky. “I suppose… we’re not as close as I thought… or hoped.”

    -

    A new day emerged with the arrival of dawn. After a long night, the village of Auguria was starting to come to life again. Villagers and visitors were starting to set up the festival again for another fun-filled day.

    Alphamon and OuRyuumon stood outside of the village among the tents, watching the digimon at work while they waited.

    “How long until Omegamon gets here?” OuRyuumon asked, folding his arms. “I want to get this long trip back over with.”

    “He said to give him half an hour about twenty minutes ago,” Alphamon replied, looking around. “He won’t be too long.”

    “Aaaagh,” OuRyuumon groaned impatiently. “In that case, I’m going to go look around the tents and stands. Let me know when he gets here.”

    Alphamon nodded as OuRyuumon walked off and disappeared behind a nearby tent. He stood and waited patiently.

    After a few minutes, he noticed something in the distance. He saw a familiar gleam of white armour up against the backdrop of red cloth. He smiled a bit upon seeing Omegamon walking out of the village towards him. The white knight passed a few digimon and traipsed up to Alphamon.

    Alphamon inspected him. Omegamon’s eyes looked tired behind his helmet, as if he hadn’t gotten much sleep. In fact, his whole demeanour was slow and forced. “Omegamon?” he asked with concern. “Did you not sleep well?”

    Omegamon closed his eyes silently. Alphamon didn’t say anything, as it looked like Omegamon was thinking. Finally, the knight opened his eyes and looked into Alphamon’s.

    “I have a confession to make to you, Alphamon,” Omegamon told him, his voice calm but with a tinge of sadness. “I’m going to tell you because I trust you…”

    Alphamon raised an eyebrow at him but nodded. “Of course, Omegamon. What is it?” he asked curiously.

    Omegamon nodded, continuing to lock eyes with Alphamon. “I listened in on your conversation with OuRyuumon last night. The one in your room…” he explained with a weighty tone.

    Alphamon’s face slowly morphed into one of absolute dread. His heart began thumping like a drum and his stomach felt like it was being crushed. “Y-You… what…?” he whispered, his mouth dry and his voice hoarse with shock.

    Omegamon closed his eyes and bowed his head. “I apologize…” he said to Alphamon. “I hope that you won’t lose any more trust in me.”

    “O-Omegamon…” Alphamon said, his uncharacteristic anxiety showing in his voice. “How much did you hear…?”

    Omegamon opened his eyes. “I heard enough,” he replied, though there was no resentment or animosity. There was, however, sadness. Omegamon looked at him with a genuine look in his eyes. “You don’t have to worry, Alphamon. On my honour as a Royal Knight, I promise I won’t tell anybody about you and OuRyuumon. Your private life is no business of the Royal Knights…”

    “Wait,” Alphamon stammered, although he wasn’t sure what he could possibly say.

    Omegamon sighed. “You have my word that your secret’s safe,” he told him. Omegamon cringed lightly and looked away. “Whether you believe me or not…”

    Alphamon grimaced. His heart stung with regret and guilt. This was the last thing that he wanted. His racing mind tried to wonder how this could have happened and what he could do to make things right. “Omegamon, please, let me explain myself,” he pleaded.

    In that moment, OuRyuumon walked over to them with a big smile on his face. He was carrying three paper cones between his claws. “Hey, guys!” he said with a happily oblivious expression on his face. “Look what I found! Snow cones!” He extended his arms and put them between Alphamon and Omegamon. “I got one for each of us.”

    Alphamon and Omegamon stared at each other with sad expressions. Before Alphamon could say anything else, Omegamon grimaced and turned around. He started walking down the dirt path that they arrived in Auguria from, his cape fluttering in the wind, behind him.

    Alphamon looked away with regret. “I guess at least one of Baronmon’s prophecies came true,” he whispered dejectedly.

    OuRyuumon blinked with confusion and looked between him and Omegamon, who continued walking. “What…?”

    Alphamon turned to OuRyuumon and looked down at the ice treats in his claws. “No thank you, OuRyuumon. I’m not hungry…” he told him. Alphamon started walking down the path too, following Omegamon but making no effort to try and catch up. He didn’t see the point right now. “Let’s just start heading home.”

    “Err… Sure,” OuRyuumon replied, following him and taking a bite out of his snow cone.

    With that, the three walked down the path with noticeable space between the three of them. It would be a long, tense journey back to the Royal Knight Headquarters…
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  16. #16
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    One thing that really sticks out is just how much blushing the Royal Knights seem to do, Omegamon in particular. I mean...he blushes when OwRyumon talks about putting him in a dunk-tank. Is that really blush-worthy? There's more blushing going on in this chapter than I did throughout Middle and High School.

    "You can call yourself whatever you want.
    Soldier. Leader. Patriot. Revolutionary. It doesn't matter.
    At our core we're all the same thing.
    Monsters."

  17. #17
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    Heh. Maybe. I hadn't really noticed. I was trying to convey that he doesn't really enjoy being in the spotlight, but maybe there's another way I can go about doing that.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  18. #18
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    Author's Note: I completely forgot to update the Serebii version here. Oops.

    Split into two parts again.


    Chapter 10: Waiting on a Miracle


    It was morning at the Royal Knights’ headquarters. The sun poured into the bedroom from the window and warmed the dark blue bed sheets covering the bed. A soft, temperate wind also flowed in through the wide opening.

    Magnamon lay in the bed, awake and staring up at the ceiling, just thinking to himself. He felt the breeze blow across his scales, reminding him that he should stop lying around and get ready for the day. With a soft grunt, he forced himself to sit up and slide out from under the covers. Wearing just grey pyjama pants, Magnamon stood up and stretched his muscles.

    It was time to start his daily morning routine. He went out of his room and walked down the corridor, heading towards the end where the bathroom was. To his relief, the door was open, signifying that he didn’t have to wait for anybody. Magnamon walked in, closed the door, and brushed his teeth. Once he was done, he took a nice, relaxing shower. He wrapped a towel around his waist and carried his pyjama pants back to his room.

    Once he was dry, he threw his wet towel in the laundry hamper and went to collect his armour from the rack in the corner of his room. The blue dragon man carried his golden armour over to the mirror beside his dresser. First, he pulled on the armour that covered his hip and groin area. He took a moment to adjust it for comfort. Next, he slid his feet into his boots. He proceeded to fasten his chest armour around his shoulders and upper body before securely attaching the long shoulder guards. Magnamon slid his bracers on his arms and finished his set off by putting his helmet over his head.

    Magnamon looked in the mirror. He meticulously adjusted his armour and examined how it looked in his reflection. When he was satisfied, he nodded and walked over to the door.

    He placed his hand on the doorknob and opened the door. “Today’s going to be a good day,” he said to himself, opening it and walking out into the hall.

    -

    Alphamon strode down the dirt path quietly. He heard OuRyuumon’s deep wing beats behind him, along with the occasional comment from the dragon. He was far more concerned about the Royal Knight far ahead of him. Omegamon continued leading the way with a considerable distance between himself and Alphamon.

    It had been a day since they left Auguria, and they had stopped only to sleep for the night. Alphamon and Omegamon hadn’t exchanged a single word since the events yesterday. The only real contact they had was saying something like: ‘Let’s set up camp’ or ‘I’m taking a break.’ The reason for this was that Omegamon was still wounded over his conclusion about Alphamon, and Alphamon wanted to give Omegamon space and didn’t want to make the matters worse with a confrontation until he decided what he should do.

    OuRyuumon flew up beside Alphamon and stared at him accusingly. “Okay, Alphamon. I’m not stupid. I know there’s something going on between you and Omegamon. You two barely said two words to each other since yesterday,” he said, folding his arms and frowning. He went on to examine Alphamon’s face. “…You told him.”

    “Worse,” Alphamon said, looking ahead at Omegamon to make sure that he was out of earshot. “The night before last, he overheard us…”

    “Overheard us…?” OuRyuumon asked, thinking to himself. Suddenly, his face dropped. “You don’t mean…”

    Alphamon nodded with a cringe, still feeling guilty over it. “I don’t know what part he heard, but he thinks the worst now,” he explained.

    OuRyuumon took on a determined frown that made it look like he wasn’t going to leave things the way they were. “Hey, Ome--“

    Alphamon reached over and cupped his hand over OuRyuumon’s mouth. “Shh. Don’t, OuRyuumon,” he whispered harshly.

    The dragon let out a muffled cry and quickly pulled Alphamon’s hand off. He turned to him with a glare. “What are you doing?” he asked him sharply. “This is all just a big misunderstanding. Omegamon just got the wrong end of the stick, didn’t he?”

    “It’s not that simple,” Alphamon replied. “Even if I explained to him that I do trust him, I’m not sure that he would believe me right now. It would sound like I’m backpedaling since he knows that I know that he knows. And there’s still the fact that I’ve kept this from him for how long.”

    OuRyuumon frowned and folded his arms. “You could always lie and tell him that we hooked up recently, so you really didn’t have the chance to say anything,” he suggested.

    Alphamon shook his head. “No. I couldn’t do that. Besides, we don’t know what parts of the conversation he heard. Lying would probably just make matters worse,” he explained with a sigh.

    “Are you sure you can’t just go talk to him?” OuRyuumon asked.

    “Yes, I’m sure,” Alphamon said firmly. “It’s still too soon. I need to pick my moment.” He turned to OuRyuumon. “And, please, I don’t want you to talk to him either.”

    “What? You think I’ll run my mouth off?” OuRyuumon asked him with a flat stare and tone.

    Alphamon smiled a bit and patted his shoulder. “You and I both know that diplomacy isn’t your strong suit.”

    OuRyuumon rolled his eyes. “Fine. I won’t,” he replied dismissively, nonchalantly waving his hand. “Anyways, when do you think we’ll get back to HQ?”

    “Probably around midnight,” Alphamon responded.

    “How do you think Dukemon and the others are doing?” the winged serpent digimon questioned.

    Alphamon closed his eyes. “I’m sure they’re doing just fine.”

    -

    Magnamon strode down the hall with a confident gait. He was ready for any challenge that revealed itself to him that day.

    “Heeeey, short stuff,” a familiar voice chimed from behind him.

    Almost any challenge…

    Magnamon stopped and closed his eyes, making a point to ignore the typical height joke. “Ulforce…” he said in a restrained voice. “Good morning.”

    UlforceVeedramon walked up beside him and patted his shoulder. “Yeah, you too,” he said in an upbeat voice.

    Magnamon noticed that, unlike himself, UlforceVeedramon wasn’t wearing his armour. Instead, he wore a white t-shirt that had a large, gold ‘V’ on it. His large blue and pink wings protruded from the back of the t-shirt, through long slits that were made to fit his wings. He also wore the yellow pair of shorts that he owned. “You’re not dressed for a mission,” Magnamon pointed out. “You don’t think we’ll have anything today?”

    “You know how it is, Magna,” UlforceVeedramon replied casually, wearing a smile on his face. “The bad guys aren’t going to stir something up every single day just to give us something to do. If there’s a debriefing, then I’ll put my armour on.”

    Magnamon folded his arms and walked beside him. “Why bother? Isn’t your armour not very cumbersome, with blue chrome digizoid being so light and all?” he asked him curiously.

    “Yeah, but it’s still hard and less comfortable than clothes. Plus, that tight body suit kind of chafes after awhile,” UlforceVeedramon explained, referring to the white, scale-tight suit that he wore over his blue scales when in his armour.

    “I’d rather not hear about that,” the shorter Royal Knight replied, giving a sideways glance to the winged dragon man. “Way too much information.”

    UlforceVeedramon chuckled and patted Magnamon’s head, serving to irritate the digimon as it once again made reference to his height. “Anyways, that’s the long and short of it,” he joked, grinning down at his comrade.

    Magnamon’s eye twitched. Another height joke. He took a breath and closed his eyes. He wanted to make sure that he didn’t rise to it, even if it did get under his scales. He didn’t want to give Ulforce the satisfaction. This was an important day to him, which was all the more reason why he tried to ignore the comments.

    “So…” Magnamon spoke, trying to change the subject while making the point that he was ignoring the teasing. “What are your plans for the day if there are no missions, patrols or meetings or anything?”

    “Hum…” UlforceVeedramon mused aloud, folding his arms and visibly thinking. “I don’t know. The usual? It’s not like today is any different from any other day,” he replied with a carefree smile.

    Magnamon frowned a little to himself. “Oh…” he replied. He did a relatively good job at hiding the slight disappointment in his voice. Magnamon turned, looking back at UlforceVeedramon. “I see.”

    UlforceVeedramon nodded and flashed a quick smile at him. “What about you?” he asked.

    “Um… Me?” Magnamon echoed. “Well… Not very much. I might train a little with one of the others or go read a book in the library.”

    “Don’t read too much or you might turn into Duftmon,” UlforceVeedramon joked with a light chuckle. He then looked Magnamon over. “Well… a pint-sized Duftmon.” He smirked.

    Magnamon didn’t. He looked forwards and clenched his fists for a few moments before finally releasing a calming breath. “Yes, well… Sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere peaceful and quiet,” he said pointedly, his eyes glancing sideways to his comrade.

    “To each his own, I suppose,” UlforceVeedramon said, turning a corner and remaining oblivious to Magnamon’s double meaning.

    Down the next corridor, they saw Dukemon and Dynasmon standing and talking. Dynasmon was the first to notice them and he gave the two a smile. Dynasmon was dressed in a white t-shirt, on top of which he wore a big, black, leather jacket that rested on his large body. Finally, on his legs he wore dark violet dress pants.

    Dukemon turned around as well and smiled. He was also in his regular attire of his white shirt and black pants.

    “Good morning, Ulforce. Magnamon,” the crimson knight greeted, giving Magnamon a warm grin.

    Despite his increasing annoyance at Ulforce, Magnamon smiled back at them. “Good morning,” he answered.

    “What’s the plan for the day, Dukemon?” UlforceVeedramon asked, looking at the acting leader.

    “Well,” Dukemon began, turning and looking at Dynasmon. “As I was telling Dynasmon, Grani says the scouts haven’t seen or heard anything of interest during the night, and nothing has been brought to our attention so far.”

    “So it’s going to be a slow day,” Dynasmon said, returning the look to Dukemon.

    Dukemon nodded. “Unless anything comes up during the morning or afternoon, that is. For now, we can do what we want,” he told them.

    UlforceVeedramon turned and looked at Magnamon. “See, Magna? Looks like you can do a little reading, after all. Or you could even have a tiny nap,” he explained, smiling at him.

    Magnamon gritted his teeth. That was it.

    “’Little’? ‘Tiny’?” he asked, his voice suddenly growing low and brimming with scathing annoyance.

    “Hm?” Ulforce questioned, looking at him curiously, wondering why exactly Magnamon’s voice sounded so threatening all of a sudden.

    Really, Ulforce?” he said, turning to him with a glare. “Can’t you be a little bit more creative if you’re going to tease me? The height jokes get boring after hearing a hundred of them per day,” he said acidly, taking the blue knight by surprise.

    “What…? But I wasn’t that time…” UlforceVeedramon insisted. Nevertheless, a grin formed on his face, and, against his better judgment, he went for another one. “No need to have such a ‘short’ temper, Magna,” he chuckled, extending his hand and patting Magnamon’s head.

    Magnamon’s eyes narrowed as a surge of rage overtook him. He suddenly reached up and grabbed UlforceVeedramon’s wrist, twisting it painfully and forcefully removing Ulforce’s hand from his head. UlforceVeedramon let out a cry of surprise and pain, quickly wrenching his hand from Magnamon’s grasp. Due to Ulforce’s sudden withdrawal, one of Magnamon’s claws sliced through the blue scales on the back of his hand as he pulled away, drawing blood after a few seconds. UlforceVeedramon swore and clutched his stinging hand.

    “I’ve had it!” Magnamon shouted, looking up at UlforceVeedramon with a glare. “You’re the most annoying Digimon that I have ever met! I have tried to put up with it, but you keep on treating me like a joke! Okay. I’m short! Haha. Very funny. I get it! Well, I have news for you, UlforceVeedramon: I’ve been a Royal Knight longer than you have! So, treat me with a little respect!”

    “What are you talking about?!” UlforceVeedramon retorted, anger rising in his voice due to the sudden pain in his hand, although he was more confused than anything. It was shocking to him that Magnamon was reacting so strongly.

    “I’m talking about you and your need to poke fun at everyone!” Magnamon barked, a slight growl in his words. “Is that how you prop your ego up or something? I don’t know how you became a knight when you’re this immature.”

    Dukemon and Dynasmon exchanged concerned looks and stepped in between the two before this could get out of hand. “Magnamon, take it easy,” Dukemon told him, putting a hand on one of his clenched fists.

    Magnamon yanked his claws away from Dukemon and turned around, his back facing the three. “Just tell him to stay out of my way,” he said to Dukemon and Dynasmon.

    With those words, he let out a cross between a snarl and a huff and started walking down the corridor that he came from.

    Dukemon made to go after him, but he felt Dynasmon’s claws on his shoulder, halting him. “Just let him cool down, Dukemon,” Dynasmon advised him.

    Dukemon sighed and nodded, his muscles relaxing. He turned to UlforceVeedramon, as did Dynasmon. “Just how much were you making fun of him, Ulforce?” he asked with an accusatory tone.

    UlforceVeedramon just kept looking at where Magnamon had been standing, stunned by the fierce outburst. “I wasn’t…” he murmured, still holding the cut on his hand. “I only made a few quips. Nothing he hadn’t heard before…”

    “It sounds like it was one too many,” Dynasmon said, folding his arms. “You can be a bit much sometimes, Ulforce.”

    “Yeah, but…” UlforceVeedramon spoke uncertainly. He grimaced.

    Dukemon took UlforceVeedramon’s hand and lifted it up so that he could inspect the wound on the back of his hand. There was a long streak of red on his blue scales, with crimson liquid smeared around cut. “You’re hurt,” he observed. “It’s not very deep, but you should still go to Duskmon to get it cleaned up.”

    “It’s fine, Dukemon,” UlforceVeedramon told him, without the usual levity in his voice.

    “It’s still an order,” Dukemon replied, smiling slightly. “Go see our favourite physician; I’ll be checking with him to make sure that you did. Also, just stay out of Magnamon’s way for a little while. I’ll talk to him, alright?”

    UlforceVeedramon nodded quietly and turned around, walking down the corridor where he was initially headed.

    Dukemon and Dynasmon watched as the blue dragon man walked away until he turned a corner and disappeared from sight. Dukemon sighed and turned to his friend. “I’m starting to realize how Alphamon feels,” he admitted. “It’s not easy being a leader and having to help sort out everybody’s problems.”

    Dynasmon chuckled a bit. “I can tell. You already look a few years older. Not to mention more mature,” he teased.

    The red knight smirked and nudged Dynasmon’s arm with his elbow as they started to walk down the corridor in the direction that Magnamon went.

    “So what do you think the problem is?” Dynasmon asked, wondering about Magnamon’s outburst. “Did UlforceVeedramon just make one too many short jokes?”

    Dukemon folded his arms and frowned in thought. “It’s hard to say. I don’t know if he’s just having a bad day or if it’s today itself that’s the problem.”

    “Today?” Dynasmon asked. He then blinked. “Oh, yeah. That is today, isn’t it?”

    “Yeah,” Dukemon replied. “That could explain why he’s a bit… uptight.”

    The purple dragon knight nodded. “Well, acting leader, what are you planning to do about it?” he asked with a grin, looking over at Dukemon as they walked.

    “Hmm… Well, Craniamon and Examon have been getting along better ever since I sent them on that mission together. Maybe that’s what Magnamon and Ulforce need to clear the bad air between them,” Dukemon explained.

    “One problem,” Dynasmon pointed out, raising a claw. “You said that there weren’t any missions to be done today.”

    “Oh yeah…” Dukemon muttered. “Then maybe I’ll send them on a patrol together or get them to do a training exercise.”

    “That won’t be as effective though,” Dynasmon said. “Maybe you can wait until a real mission comes around.”

    “That could be anywhere between a day to a few weeks. And while we wait, they’ll be stewing in their bad feelings,” Dukemon replied.

    “Or it might just blow over by itself.”

    The acting leader of the Royal Knights shrugged. “Maybe I’ll just get UlforceVeedramon to apologize.”

    Dynasmon grinned. “Are you sure he can do that without insulting him all over again?” he asked. He then looked forwards and grinned when something caught his eyes. “Uh oh. We’re in for it now.”

    Dukemon looked up and saw the familiar form of Duftmon walking towards them in his usual brisk, irritated gait. “I wonder what I did this time,” he said, prompting a chuckle from both of them.

    Duftmon walked up to them and stopped, folding his arms. “Good morning, Dukemon. Dynasmon,” he greeted, although it looked as if he was having anything but a good morning.

    “Good morning, Duftmon,” Dukemon replied. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

    “I have a complaint that I would like to bring to your attention,” Duftmon explained, looking at Dukemon.

    “Is that so?” he replied, sounding thoroughly unsurprised.

    “Did somebody touch your pristine hair after your shower again?” Dynasmon asked with a large grin. He reached his claws over towards the leopard knight’s hair, threatening to poke it.

    Duftmon nonchalantly slapped Dynasmon’s hand away. “No,” he said, sounding briefly annoyed. “As a matter of fact, it’s worse.”

    “What could possibly be worse?” Dynasmon asked with a wide smirk at Dukemon.

    Duftmon folded his arms. “Somebody removed the ‘rules and etiquette’ list that I put up on the doors of the library. Also, somebody failed to adhere to said list by putting several books back in their incorrect places. I would like you to look into this, Dukemon,” he told him calmly.

    Dukemon looked at Duftmon with the blandest stare. “My empathy for Alphamon just turned into sympathy,” he muttered.

    Dynasmon put his claws into the pockets on his jacket. “’Rules and etiquette’ list?” he asked. “You mean that list that says things like ‘No talking in the library’ and ‘You must put all of the books back in alphabetical order and in their proper categories based on genre’?”

    “Yes. Exactly,” Duftmon said, looking at Dynasmon with a sharp glare.

    “Well, it wasn’t me,” Dynasmon said, grinning as he put his hands up in front of himself.

    “Don’t worry. You’re the last person I would suspect to be involved in any book-related crimes,” Duftmon quipped. “That would involve going near the castle library for once.”

    Dynasmon stuck his tongue out at him. “If they’re called ‘book-related crimes’… then they’re not actually crimes. Did this dastardly culprit put a ‘K’ book in the ‘J’ section?” he countered with a laugh.

    “The wrong genre, nitwit,” Duftmon retorted. “Explain to me how a guide on projectile trajectories fits into the category of ‘historical nonfiction’. However, I doubt that you could.”

    Dukemon raised his hand before the two could go deeper into their argument. “Look, Duftmon,” he said, prompting the knight to turn and look at him. “It’s the castle library, not your personal library. Even if you do use it the most, you can’t make rules for it, and everyone else can’t be expected to adhere to your unofficial rules just to appease your OCD.”

    “Hmph,” Duftmon scoffed. “I am not obsessive-compulsive. I simply show an adherence to organization and order. They make life more efficient and they’re also a major factor as to why my strategies are flawless. Chaos and disorder are unacceptable.”

    “Even so, my point still stands,” Dukemon replied. “If somebody puts a book or scroll in the wrong spot, just move it back yourself. You always do anyways.”

    “Very well,” Duftmon reluctantly complied. As he turned around to walk away, he gave Dukemon a lingering glance. “The leadership here has gotten lax as of late…”

    With that, he started walking back down the corridor. Dukemon shook his head and chuckled.

    “Careful, Duftmon!” Dynasmon called out after him. “That almost sounded like you were complimenting Alphamon!”

    Duftmon stopped walking. After a few moments, he started walking again, grumbling to himself.

    Dynasmon chuckled and looked at Dukemon. “That could have been worse.”

    Dukemon grinned. “On the contrary, I don’t know how Alphamon stands it.”

    “Well, you’re handling him a lot better now,” Dynasmon pointed out. “You didn’t try to pummel him or anything.”

    “If it’s just Duftmon being Duftmon, I can handle it,” Dukemon replied. “It’s when he starts making personal attacks on Digimon like Examon or Sleipmon, for example, that he angers me.”

    Dynasmon nodded understandingly. “It’s easier just to ignore it or laugh it off,” he said. “At least, that’s what I do. I can’t see him changing anytime soon, can you?”

    “Not really…” Dukemon admitted.

    It was then that Dukemon could see a flash of red out of the corner of his eye. He turned and saw Grani flying down the wide, stone corridor towards them.

    Dukemon smiled. “Hey, Grani!”

    “Dukemon,” he said, stopping in front of them sharply. He gave Dynasmon a brief nod before looking at Dukemon with a sense of urgency. “I need to speak with you.”

    “Is something wrong?” Dukemon asked, his smile being replaced with a concerned frown.

    “It’s one of my scouts,” Grani explained. “There may be a problem.”

    -

    Last night…

    One of the Digital World’s moons glowed dimly, illuminating the night if only a little. The scattered cloud drifted through the starry sky, occasionally floating over and concealing the moon. One cloud slowly passed by, allowing it to emerge once again. It cast an eerie light down on the ruins below, creating an even more ominous atmosphere.

    The ruins stood in a level grassland, neighbour only to the occasional tree sprouting up in the grass. There wasn’t anything else but grass around for kilometers. The stone vestiges were that of a hollowed out keep, worn down by weather. It was unclear whether the keep had been destroyed by time or by a digimon attack long ago. The unkempt grass and vegetation began to overgrow and crawl up some of the ruins. Half of the ruined keep had collapsed, leaving only a semicircular stone exterior and a few walls and staircases leading up to the low, fifteen-foot ramparts.

    However, in the middle of the hollowed ruins was the flickering of a small campfire. Amidst the crackling of the flames were the faint sounds of harsh whispers.

    “Put that out!” whispered a long, reddish-orange, winged serpent digimon, who lay on the ground beside a large rock. The flames reflected off the metal helmet that sat on his horned, draconic head. The helmet seemed to be made of the same metal that made up his hands, which were a cross between cannons, claws, and mechanized clamps.

    “But I can’t sleep,” the digimon sitting by the campfire replied, looking over at the Megadramon. A black-furred, bipedal, canine digimon sat cross-legged in front of the fire. The cyborg wolf had metal fists and a jetpack attached to his back.

    The Megadramon sighed. “Then go walk around until you’re tired. You’re putting a big target on our hideout with that fire,” he explained.

    “I don’t know,” the BlackMachGaogamon replied, scratching the fur on his neck with a finger. “Nobody’s going to be out here in the middle of the night.”

    “What about the Royal Knights’ patrols? Cripes, you can be dense sometimes,” Megadramon said.

    “We’re still in the middle of nowhere,” BlackMachGaogamon insisted. He looked around at the other digimon who were sleeping in the ruins. There was a large, purple horse man digimon who slept with his arms around an oversized conch shell: an Indaramon, a green, humanoid bug digimon: a JewelBeemon, and a four-armed, four-winged chimera digimon whose body seemed to be made up of all sorts of digimon parts: a Chimairamon. BlackMachGaogamon turned back to Megadramon. “They wouldn’t patrol all the way out here, would they?”

    “Look, just put it out,” Megadramon ordered. “We don’t exactly have many Mega levels here if a Royal Knight decides to pay us a visit. BanchoLeomon put me in charge while he and the others were gone, so what I say goes.”

    “Not anymore,” a husky voice spoke.

    Megadramon quickly got off of the ground and BlackMachGaogamon swung around. A dark figure walked past the stone wall and was revealed by the light of the campfire. The fire revealed the figure to be BanchoLeomon. He raised his bandage-wrapped foot and stomped it down on the fire, snuffing it out in a plume of cinders and smoke.

    “BanchoLeomon!” Megadramon exclaimed in surprise, waking the other three sleeping digimon up from their slumbers.

    It was then that he and BlackMachGaogamon noticed that BanchoLeomon was clutching his left bicep and wincing in pain.

    “Boss, you’re hurt,” BlackMachGaogamon said, seeing the burn marks on his arm.

    BanchoLeomon turned his head and spat. “Worse… I lost my favourite jacket,” he hissed, playing off the concern about his wounds.

    “Where are the others?” Indaramon asked, walking over and looking around.

    “Dead,” he spat.

    “What?! The JewelBeemon bandit asked in shock. “What do you mean ‘dead’?!”

    “What the hell do you think I mean?!” BanchoLeomon growled. “I mean dead. Deleted. Reformatted. Fertilizing the grass with their data particles.”

    “What happened?!” Megadramon demanded.

    BanchoLeomon snorted. “It was those damn Royal Knight pricks,” he snarled, clenching his fists with anger. “They showed up just as we were doing one of our robberies.”

    “The Royal Knights?” the Chimairamon bandit asked. “What ones?”

    “Alphamon and Omegamon,” BanchoLeomon told them. “Some OuRyuumon guy was there too.”

    “How’d you escape?” BlackMachGaogamon asked.

    “Once they killed the others, I had to make a dash for the river. They tried to stop me, but I managed to get away. That was when I got these,” he explained, pointing to the burns on his arm. “I kept swimming downstream until I was close enough that I could walk back here.”

    “Damn do-gooder tin cans,” JewelBeemon muttered.

    BanchoLeomon let out a ‘hmph’ and turned his head. He looked up at the night sky in thought. In his peripheral vision he could see the moon. It was in that moment that something passed over the moon, blocking out its light for only a moment.

    BanchoLeomon tensed up. It was way too quick for it to be a cloud. The lion man slowly and calmly turned to Megadramon. “Megadramon…” he spoke, his voice deep and serious. “Don’t look.”

    “Don’t look at what?” Megadramon asked, frowning in confusion at him.

    “Behind me…” BanchoLeomon spoke in a low voice. “We have a guest. Don’t make it look like you’re looking.”

    Megadramon’s face dropped, but he slowly nodded. He kept facing BanchoLeomon, while his eyes subtly looked past him, into the night sky. He could see stars and clouds disappearing and then reappearing as the figure passed in front of them. He could make out the silhouette of a large eagle digimon as the figure passed in front of a cloud for a second.

    “Can you take ‘im down…?” BanchoLeomon asked him.

    Megadramon nodded as he locked his missiles into place. “Just waiting for him to circle around again…” he replied.

    The winged serpent patiently waited as the flying digimon in the distance came around for another pass. It felt as if it was taking hours. When he could see that the eagle digimon was heading in the direction that they were in, he nodded to BanchoLeomon.

    BanchoLeomon nodded slowly. He then dropped, swiftly ducking.

    Megadramon sprung into action. He rapidly brought up his claws and aimed the cannons at the digimon. “Genocide Attack!” he shouted. His cannons exploded with terrifying whistling sounds as clusters of organic missiles ripped from each cannon. There were seven missiles in each cluster, each grey missile grinning savagely as they sailed through the air. They fanned out during their flight, making them harder for the giant bird to avoid.

    The Aquilamon who had been stalking them saw the missiles shooting towards him and his eyes widened. He pulled himself into a nosedive in a desperate attempt to avoid them.

    However, Megadramon fired off a third Genocide attack, sending another cluster of missiles lower than the other two. They headed right for the red, horned eagle’s flight path, giving him zero room to escape.

    Aquilamon cursed under his breath. Even with the wind sailing past his ears, he could still hear the shrieks of the missiles growing closer and closer. He pulled up and flapped his wings violently, stopping his descent. He looked towards the incoming missiles and glared. He had only a matter of seconds to defend himself.

    He opened his beak and let out a deep, eagle-like trill. “Blast Laser!” he shouted, releasing a single ring of supersonic power from his beak. The wave slammed into the lead missile, right as it closed in on him. The missile crumpled before detonating, creating a heavy blast that engulfed Aquilamon. The large bird was thrown back and the other began exploding, some right in front of him and some hitting him. The explosions ripped through the sky like fireworks.

    Megadramon watched with a grin as the Aquilamon was blasted out of the air and sent crashing to the ground. “Bull’s eye,” he said, lowering his smoking cannons once it was clear that the bird wasn’t getting back up.

    BanchoLeomon smirked. “Come on. Let’s go see what we’ve caught…”

    -

    Magnamon walked down the castle corridor that led to the war room. He was pleased that he had decided to wear his armour that day, after all. To Magnamon, it looked like he was right to, as it saved him time while UlforceVeedramon would have to get changed.

    However, he didn’t want to think about that name or that digimon. It only served to anger him. Instead, he thought about what this meeting was about. It was obviously a mission, since they were being called to the war room, but he wondered what it was this time.

    Magnamon heard two sets of footsteps behind him. One belonged to RhodoKnightmon and the other belonged to Craniamon.

    “Do you know what this mission is about, RhodoKnightmon?” Craniamon asked him.

    “I’m not sure,” RhodoKnightmon replied. “Though I did hear that one of Grani’s scouts disappeared last night. Perhaps it has to do with that?”

    Magnamon frowned and thought to himself. After a few seconds, he glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t try to get this mission, Craniamon,” he told him in a firm tone that wasn’t often heard from Magnamon. “Please…”

    Craniamon looked at Magnamon silently for several moments before folding his arms. “…If you insist.”

    “You giving up a mission willingly?” RhodoKnightmon asked, looking at Craniamon. “What’s next? Duftmon inviting me to bed?”

    Craniamon rolled his eyes. “I may love the challenge, but I’m not greedy,” he replied. He eyed Magnamon carefully. “Besides… it wouldn’t feel right.”

    “Well, we’ll see what Dukemon has to say. He might have a preference for which of us goes,” RhodoKnightmon reminded him.

    “True,” Craniamon said.

    Magnamon continued walking, adjusting his arm bracers as he went. The three Royal Knights approached the war room. Magnamon felt his insides tense when he saw a familiar figure in the door. It was UlforceVeedramon, dressed in his suit and armour. He seemed to be waiting for them.

    UlforceVeedramon stiffened up and became more attentive when he saw Magnamon walking towards him. “Hey, Magnamon,” he spoke up, trying to start a dialogue with him after what happened earlier.

    Magnamon turned his head away and ignored him as he passed by and entered the war room.

    Craniamon raised an eyebrow and exchanged looks with RhodoKnightmon before they both looked at UlforceVeedramon. “What was that about?” Craniamon asked him.

    “Nevermind,” UlforceVeedramon muttered dejectedly, walking in and heading to the opposite side of the room that Magnamon went to.

    Craniamon shrugged and walked in to join the others with RhodoKnightmon.

    Dukemon stood on the opposite side of the room next to Grani, both on the other end of the map table. “That looks like everybody,” Dukemon said. He looked around at the gathered knights, though his eyes rested on Magnamon the longest. “Let’s get down to business.”

    Sleipmon stepped forwards a few steps so that he stood next to Examon. “What’s up, Dukemon?” he asked.

    Dukemon turned to his winged friend. “Do you want to take this, Grani?” he asked the Zero ARMS.

    Grani nodded and gestured to the 3D topographical map that was brought up on the map table. It showed largely flat grassland with a river at the far end of the table. “Last night, one of my scouts was assigned to patrol this sector. Typically it’s a fairly quiet area with mostly grass fields and one or two small villages. There are very few areas of interest or little history of notable activity. It used to be a border of a kingdom, so there’s a few old keeps and lookout towers, but that was ages ago and those structures are long abandoned and dilapidated.”

    “So what’s the problem?” Duftmon asked impatiently.

    “That scout – Aquilamon – hasn’t returned and his shift ended in the middle of last night,” Grani replied.

    “Perhaps he found an inn at one of the villages you mentioned,” RhodoKnightmon suggested.

    UlforceVeedramon grinned. “Yeah. Maybe he had a few too many drinks and found a cute girl,” he suggested.

    “Take this seriously, will you,” Magnamon muttered, although not looking at Ulforce.

    The dragon man in question rubbed the back of his neck and looked down with a sheepish expression.

    “No,” Grani replied. “Aquilamon was always punctual and professional. That would be unbelievably out of character for him.”

    “So what do you suggest?” Examon asked, looking at Grani curiously.

    Grani turned to look at him. “There was something else. Another of my scouts, who was patrolling the adjacent sector, said she thought she heard a series of explosions coming from that area. When she went to investigate, she said she could definitely smell smoke and gunpowder.”

    “Did she not look around for him?” Duftmon asked.

    “She did for about a half hour before deciding to return and report this to me,” Grani explained.

    “What do you think happened?” Sleipmon asked.

    “I can only hope that he’s not badly hurt or worse…” Grani said with a hint of worry in his voice.

    “It sounds like he might have come across something that he shouldn’t have,” Dukemon suggested, placing his hand on Grani’s back. “Bandits, maybe?”

    “It is possible,” Duftmon supposed to himself. He folded his arms and thought. “It’s a pretty quiet area, as you said. What better place for bandits to make their hideout than a place that receives minimal patrols? Suppose Aquilamon came across them and the bandits took him down to ensure their secrecy.”

    “That thought crossed my mind,” Grani concurred. He nodded to Dukemon, who swiped his hand across the map table, causing it to zoom in to a specific location. He then pressed a button that highlighted a multiple of points on the map with red indicators. They were all clustered together in somewhat of a pattern. “These markers are where my scout said she saw the impact craters from the explosions. It was also this area where the smell of smoke and gunpowder was the strongest. As you can see, they fall in somewhat of a linear pattern, all just south of this abandoned keep up here.”

    “So, if we’re going by that logic, we can guess that the missiles were fired from the keep, and that the keep is the bandits’ hideout,” Dukemon added.

    “What if there are no bandits?” RhodoKnightmon asked. “This is all just supposition, after all.”

    “We still need to look for Aquilamon,” Dukemon replied. “Or at least figure out what happened.”

    Grani nodded. “We don’t need any fancy tactics for this. Just a careful reconnaissance mission. And there’s a chance that it could become a rescue mission,” he explained.

    Dukemon nodded in agreement. “Be prepared for that possibility, so err on the side of caution. Aquilamon could have been captured,” he advised. He looked around at the knights. “I want two of you to go. I’ll leave the planning to you.”

    “Who?” Examon asked, looking around.

    “Magnamon and UlforceVeedramon. I want you two to go,” Dukemon said, looking at the two of them. “At approximately midnight tonight.”

    Magnamon stared at Dukemon blandly. “…I don’t think so,” he replied. “At least, not with him.”

    Dukemon looked at him with surprise. “…What?”

    “I know what you’re trying to do, Dukemon,” Magnamon said, frowning and folding his arms. “It’s the same thing that you did with Craniamon and Examon. You want me and him to work together so that we can sort out our differences.”

    Craniamon swerved to look at Dukemon with outrage. “…That’s what that was about?!”

    “It may have worked in that case, but it’s a very dangerous game to play when Aquilamon could be a hostage,” Magnamon reminded him.

    Dukemon folded his arms. Now that he had been called out on it, he couldn’t bring himself to lie. “I was thinking more of getting two birds with one stone. No pun intended…”

    Magnamon sneered. “I don’t want to work with him, Dukemon. I refuse to!” he firmly told him. “I don’t need his help. I can do this on my own.”

    “Magnamon…” Dukemon said, sounding a cross between disapproving and attempting to make him see what he was saying.

    “I’m a Royal Knight for a reason!” Magnamon stubbornly said. “I may be short and not as buff as most of you, but I can more than hold my own by myself. I wasn’t picked to be a Royal Knight just because I’m cute or funny or whatever you want to call me. I’m sure that’s easy to forget.”

    UlforceVeedramon started walking over to him. “Magna, I never said tha--“

    “Yes, you did,” Magnamon sharply interrupted, turning to stare at him. “You did every time you made one of your stupid little jokes. And before you call me overly sensitive, I know that I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by you.”

    The other Royal Knights looked away uncomfortably, not wanting to confirm or deny the claim. They didn’t want to get involved in the feud.

    “He has a point,” Duftmon spoke up.

    Well, not including Duftmon, that is.

    “So, no, Ulforce. You’re not coming with me,” Magnamon told him.

    Dukemon decided to step in and try to put things right. “You don’t get a choice, Magnamon,” Dukemon angrily spoke, raising his voice.

    Magnamon growled and pivoted, locking eyes with him.

    “You’re acting childish. Either you two sort this out and go on the mission together or I’ll pick somebody else to go instead,” Dukemon said, glaring back at him.

    Magnamon turned away. “…Fine,” he muttered. Before Dukemon or UlforceVeedramon could get another word in edge-wise, Magnamon stormed out of the war room in a silent huff.

    Dukemon sighed and raised his hand to rub his forehead.

    Dynasmon noticed Dukemon’s action and smirked. “Now you really are starting to look like Alphamon,” he teased.

    “What does he do about the headaches?” Dukemon muttered to himself. He looked up at the Royal Knights. “Well, that’s that, I guess. Meeting dismissed. Everyone but Ulforce can go about their day.”

    As the Royal Knights started to clear out of the war room, UlforceVeedramon rubbed the back of his neck. “What should I do, Dukemon?” he asked, hoping for some sort of advice.

    “Be as agreeable as possible,” Dukemon replied, walking over and patting his shoulder. “I don’t quite know what’s going on in Magnamon’s head right now, but I do know that he doesn’t usually stay angry for very long… Just don’t give him a reason to be angry at you.”

    “Don’t you think he’s overreacting a bit?” UlforceVeedramon asked. “He’s acting like I broke his favourite toy.”

    “Yeah, you have a point,” Dukemon conceded, sighing. “But I also know that he’s feeling this way for a reason…”

    “Yeah…” UlforceVeedramon murmured, scratching at his bandaged hand. “We’ll just try and focus on Aquilamon.”

    Dukemon nodded. “Go do whatever you need to do to prepare.”

    UlforceVeedramon smiled a bit. “Hopefully these eleven hours will fly by…”

    (Continued in the next post)
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  19. #19
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    Dec 2006
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    Nine hours later, UlforceVeedramon strode down one of the castle hallways, looking around intently. The sun had set since set, and torches guided the way through the headquarters. It was about the time that UlforceVeedramon and Magnamon needed to start getting ready to set out.

    “Where is he…?” Ulforce muttered to himself, peering into almost every room and corridor that he passed.

    He speed walked to the end of the passageway before turning around the corner, heading into the staircase that led down to the first floor. “Woah!” he exclaimed, staggering back suddenly.

    Sleipmon instinctively reared back on his four hind legs and trotted backwards before bringing his front legs down. “Sorry, Ulforce. Nearly trampled you there,” he said, smiling sheepishly as he rubbed the nape of his neck.

    “It’s okay,” Ulforce insisted, smiling a little. “Uhh… Have you seen Magnamon? We have to head out soon.”

    “Sorry. I haven’t,” Sleipmon replied. “Do you want help looking for him?”

    “Yeah, sure,” UlforceVeedramon replied.

    Sleipmon turned around on the stairs and began to head back down, UlforceVeedramon following behind him. “I take it you checked his room?” Sleipmon asked, looking over his shoulder.

    “I just came from there,” Ulforce replied, fiddling with the V-Bracelets on his wrists.

    “Oh. Well, he wasn’t in the library. I was just in there,” Sleipmon explained.

    “I checked nearly everywhere,” the cobalt knight said, frowning.

    Sleipmon walked out of the bottom of the staircase and into the castle foyer. “Do you think he’s avoiding you?”

    “Probably…” UlforceVeedramon admitted.

    “Mind if I ask what happened?” the cavalier asked him.

    “It’s a long story,” the dragon replied, walking past him and leaning against one of the pillars. “Just put it down to me having a big mouth.”

    Sleipmon nodded. “Well… why don’t we ask one of the guards? It’s possible that he went outside.”

    UlforceVeedramon nodded. “Good idea,” he said, walking from the foyer into the stone hall that led to the exit.

    Sleipmon walked alongside him, sauntering down the stairs. They reached the end of the hall and Sleipmon pulled the doors open. The Knightmon flanking the door on each side perked up and stood at attention as the two walked out.

    UlforceVeedramon looked at them. “Hey, guys?” he asked.

    “Yes, Sir UlforceVeedramon, Sir Sleipmon?” one of them replied.

    “Did you see Magnamon anywhere?” the blue Royal Knight queried.

    “Yes,” the Knightmon guard replied.

    UlforceVeedramon looked at Sleipmon with a grin before looking back at him. “Great. Where?”

    The Knightmon pointed forwards, into the dark blue of the night. UlforceVeedramon followed his finger and saw that he was pointing to the front gate of the wall. “He left through there. About an hour ago,” the guard explained.

    “When we asked, he said that he was going to do a mission with this really serious voice,” the other guard added.

    UlforceVeedramon’s heart dropped.

    “…Crap.”

    -

    Magnamon walked through the dead of night, backed only by the stars in the sky. He stealthily trekked through a grass field, making use of the few pieces of concealment that he could. He felt the cool, night wind quietly whistle as it blew across the field and swept across his scales. Ahead of him, he could see the moon beaming down on the landscape, making it slightly easier for him to see in the dark. He wasn’t especially partial to night missions, since his armour and attacks were anything but stealthy, but Magnamon was a Royal Knight, so he didn’t let it bother him. There was a job to do and Magnamon was determined to do it.

    I’ll show them…” he thought to himself, frowning as he walked. “I’ll complete this mission alone. I don’t need Ulforce’s or any of their help. I’ll remind them why I was made a Royal Knight…

    A few minutes passed and Magnamon stopped behind a large tree. He could make out something up ahead of him. About forty meters in front of him, he could make out a medium-sized formation of stone. It was a large piece of wall that had collapsed and eroded on each side at the front, making it look more like a precarious stack of stone bricks and mortar than a wall.

    Behind it, Magnamon could see a more identifiable stone structure. The semi-circular ruins of a structure, flanked on each side by stairs that led up to a second level where the ramparts were. The ramparts didn’t go very far, as they were caved in after several meters in each direction too.

    Magnamon smiled to himself. That had to be the ruined keep that Grani mentioned. He recognized the shape from the map. Now that he found it, he had to see if he could find Aquilamon, and possibly the supposed bandits as well.

    The Royal Knight silently traipsed out from behind the tree, going forwards so that he was concealed by the shadow of the destroyed wall, which the moon cast in his direction. He slinked along the wall, making sure that his armour didn’t scrape against the rough rock. When he reached the end of the wall, he slowly peered out, looking through a gap that had been created whenever the stone had given way.

    He looked at what was past the wall and saw grass and shrubs littering the ground between the wall he was at and the more dominant ruins of the keep. The darkness concealed most of what lay beneath the hollowed out guard post, but Magnamon thought that he could make out what looked like an extinguished campfire. He could definitely smell smoke and ashes on the wind.

    Deciding it was safe to be a bit more adventurous, Magnamon looked around the wall further. It was then that he noticed something to the left, on the other side of the wall. He saw a large, bird-like foot, complete with sharp talons. He turned his head, following the foot. It was attached to a leg, which was attached to a large body of red feathers.

    Magnamon’s eyes widened. It was the Aquilamon scout. He looked the bird over and saw that Aquilamon was lying on his side, his body tied up with rope so that he wouldn’t be able to fly away. Tufts of his feathers were ruffled up here and there, and there was more than one cut on his body.

    So, they were right,” Magnamon thought to himself, his eyebrows furrowing.

    The Royal Knight immediately went on the defensive. He shrunk back behind the cover of the wall and looked around cautiously. He knew there were bandits around now, and he wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t ambush him. After looking all around him, he was satisfied that they weren’t nearby.

    Well, I found Aquilamon now…” Magnamon thought to himself. He shook his head and looked up with an air of determination about him. “No… I won’t go back. Not yet. This isn’t a recon mission anymore. Now it’s a rescue mission, and I’ll be the one who rescues him,” he told himself. “I’m the Knight of Miracles, after all.

    With that, Magnamon quickly stepped out from behind the wall and crept behind the bound Aquilamon, so that he was concealed between the ruined wall and the bird’s back. The Aquilamon, who had been unable to sleep given his predicament, glanced behind him when he noticed something moving. His face lit up with surprise and relief when he recognized the Royal Knight. “Wha?” he murmured lowly, “Magnamon, Sir?”

    “Shh,” Magnamon hushed him in a whisper. “Don’t draw attention. I’ll get you out of here.”

    Aquilamon gave him a look of agreement.

    “First, where are the bandits?” Magnamon questioned, getting behind his head and attempting to see over it.

    Aquilamon nodded with his head towards the shadowed semi circle of ruins and the ramparts, which stood about twenty meters away, opposite to them.

    “How many are there?” Magnamon whispered.

    “Six,” Aquilamon whispered in response. “A BanchoLeomon, a Megadramon, a BlackMachGaogamon, a JewelBeemon, a Chimairamon, and an Indaramon. The Chimairamon could be a Mega too; I can’t tell.” He looked at Magnamon out of the corner of his eagle eyes. “Are you alone?”

    “I can handle them,” Magnamon assured him. “Don’t underestimate me.”

    “I wasn’t, sir,” the avian digimon whispered.

    Magnamon gazed towards the ruins. “…I’ll untie you afterwards. It’s important that I can ambush them before they see me. I can’t do that when they see you flying away.”

    Aquilamon nodded. “Don’t worry about me,” he said in assurance.

    Magnamon gave him a comforting pat on the back before walking out from behind the eagle digimon. He treaded through the grass carefully, looking around guardedly but giving special attention to the dark alcove created by the ruins.

    He slowly walked to the left, trying to approach the rubble-lined recess in a way that made his approach more concealed. He didn’t know where the bandits were positioned, so he had to be careful. At the back of his mind he started to think that this would be easier if Ulforce were here, but he quickly discarded that notion. He was a Royal Knight; things were expected to be testing.

    As he grew closer to the ruins, he could begin to hear hushed voices. He slowly took cover behind one of the two stone staircases which led up to the ramparts, the other of which being located symmetrically on the opposite side of the dark recess. It separated him from the alcove, where the voices were coming from.

    “I’m getting tired of looking at that overgrown pigeon over there,” the JewelBeemon said, glancing over at the bound Aquilamon down by the wall.

    “So, go to sleep,” Indaramon said, sitting up. He nodded to the Megadramon. “We’re not tired anyways. We’ll keep an eye on chicken legs.”

    “Whatever,” the JewelBeemon said. “I don’t know why we’re even keeping him anyways.”

    “Duh. As a hostage,” Megadramon responded. “You heard what he said when BanchoLeomon was roughing him up; he’s a scout for the Royal Knights.”

    “So? Does he think the Royal Knights are gonna pay ransom for him? Doubt it. It’s more likely that they’re going to come after us,” JewelBeemon said, frowning.

    “I doubt they’ll send the whole team after us,” Indaramon said. “I’m sure the boss knows what he’s doing.”

    “I sure hope so,” JewelBeemon muttered. “Those other Royal Knights took out AtlurKabuterimon, Woodmon, and Antylamon. I’d rather not end up like them too…”

    “Maybe he’s using the bird as bait,” Megadramon suggested. “They send a Royal Knight or something looking for him and then we all ambush that guy.”

    “If that’s the plan, you’re all doing a terrible job,” a voice said.

    The three bandits all jerked their heads towards the unfamiliar voice. It came from deep into the dark alcove, but as far as they knew, only the other sleeping bandits were in there. Megadramon then looked up and his eyes widened.

    There was a figure standing on top of the ramparts. All they could see of him was a dark silhouette standing against the bright, full moon behind him. The silhouette stood in a heroic, yet intimidating pose, his arms folded and pivoted slightly sideways as he loomed over the bandits below.

    “What the hell?!” Indaramon demanded.

    Megadramon squinted and looked closer. “It’s Magnamon!”

    “That’s right. And nobody captures a member of my Order and gets away with it,” Magnamon said, glaring. The turbines in his shoulder and hip guards began to rev up, sending out golden particles as they turned to their attack function. “Plasma Shoot!”

    A flurry of missiles launched from the missile ports in Magnamon’s shoulder guards and hip guards. They were small in size, but the missiles soared through the air at high speeds, all eight of the missiles descending on the bandits aggregated within the alcove.

    A series of eight explosions bloomed in bursts of fire, torn up grass and gold radiance. He had made sure to aim around the bandits. The blasts rocked the bandits below, knocking them around like ping pong balls before sending them skidding across the grass and dirt. Magnamon jumped backwards onto the rampart as the heat and fire rose and the last vestiges of the keep collapsed in a cloud of smoke and dust.

    Magnamon looked down at smoke-filled alcove. He could hear the yells and growls of the bandits as they struggled to orient themselves. The Royal Knight was about to jump down to use the smoke and confusion to his advantage, but he wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

    A figure lunged through the smoke, all the way up to the top of the fifteen foot wall where Magnamon stood. BanchoLeomon emerged and slashed vertically downwards with his Dankon sword. “Shishi Raouzan!” he roared, swiping down the tanto strongly.

    Magnamon dashed to the side, narrowly avoiding being cleaved. The sword slammed into the stone ramparts and sent large fractures all the way down the wall. The stones below began to burst outwards, the wall beginning to collapse.

    Magnamon sneered and jumped backwards, into the air, as he angled his missile ports. “Plasma Shoot!” he shouted, unleashing a second salvo of missiles, straight into the wall where the BanchoLeomon was standing. Just as the missiles hit their mark, BanchoLeomon leapt away as well. The ordnance exploded, shattering what little left there was of the wall in bursts of stone. Shards and fragments of rock showered the ground and a second dust cloud emerged.

    The Royal Knight landed amidst the fog of dust and sediment, on his guard now more than ever. He could hardly see around him due to the thick haze, but he knew that the bandits wouldn’t be able to see either.

    He dashed through the smoke, his clawed fists raised.

    “Boss!” Megadramon’s voice called out. “BlackMachGaogamon’s unconscious! I can’t find Magnamon or anyone else!”

    “I’m over here!” Indaramon’s voice sounded out. The voice came from somewhere in front of Magnamon, so he began to head towards it.

    “Use your wings to blow away the smoke, idiot!” BanchoLeomon told Megadramon.

    Magnamon scowled a bit. He had been hoping to take advantage of the smoke cover, but it looked like he would have to improvise. He felt a heavy blast of wind as Megadramon beat his wings. The smoke and dust soon wafted away, revealing the land and its occupants once again.

    When the smoke was blown off to the side, Magnamon could see Indaramon standing tall, several meters in front of him. The horse digimon turned around and spotted Magnamon with a look of surprise. “Over here!” he yelled to the others.

    Magnamon made a point to attack before the bandits could come to Indaramon’s assistance.

    “Plasma Shoot!”

    Four missiles whistled as they launched from the ports in Magnamon’s armour. They sailed through the air towards Indaramon.

    The horse bandit seemed fazed only for a second. As the missiles closed in on him, he quickly picked up his giant shell from the ground, pointing the mouth of it towards the oncoming projectiles.

    Magnamon watched curiously as the missiles disappeared inside the shell, not even exploding once inside. Indaramon grinned and aimed the shell back at Magnamon. “Adhomukha!” Indaramon shouted.

    Magnamon’s own missiles launched out of the conch shell back at him. The dragon dove out of the way, narrowly missing getting hit. The missiles exploded behind him and the blast sent him tumbling forwards.

    “Try that again, Royal Numbskull,” Indaramon taunted.

    Magnamon sneered in mild annoyance. He charged at the bandit in a full speed run. Indaramon responded by slipping one of his giant arms into the cloth straps around the Bao Bei shell, intending to use it as a melee weapon, if need be.

    As Magnamon closed in on him, Indaramon raised the shell high above his head, preparing to bring it down with a mighty crash. Once Magnamon was in range, he drove the giant shell down.

    Magnamon lunged into the air, right at the descending shell. While he was airborne, he put all of his momentum into a swinging kick. “Magnum Kick!” As the shell fell on him like a club, Magnamon kicked with every ounce of power that he had. His golden boot slammed into the shell before it could hit him and continued through it. Fractures formed throughout the shell, and, as Magnamon’s foot passed through it, the whole thing shattered.

    “No!” Indaramon shouted with frustration and disbelief.

    Magnamon then charged at Indaramon. “Magnum Punch!” he growled, driving his fist right into Indaramon’s snout.

    The bandit stumbled backwards, nearly knocked off of his feet. Magnamon followed up with a vertical kick to the horse’s chin. Immediately after, he drove his fist into his jaw. He punched and kicked the Indaramon repeatedly, not giving him a chance to right himself or even take a breath.

    “Magnum Punch!” Magnamon reared his arm back and slammed his clawed knuckles across Indaramon’s face a final time. Indaramon’s head jerked with the punch and the bandit slowly came crashing down on his back. He didn’t get back up.

    That’s two down,” Magnamon thought, landing back on the ground. “Four left…

    “Heat Viper!” a voice roared.

    A greenish blast slammed into Magnamon’s back, sending him flying through the air and crashing into a pile of stone rubble. Magnamon growled in pain, feeling the strong burning sensation still clinging his to back. He slowly flipped over and sat up, looking to see who hit him.

    The ground trembled when the huge Chimairamon landed, the chimera’s mouth steaming with power.

    That hurt…” Magnamon thought, wincing a bit. “He’s a Mega level Chimairamon. I can feel it. I’m up against two Mega level digimon.

    BanchoLeomon walked through a cloud of smoke, followed by JewelBeemon. He looked at Magnamon with a grin. “You’re all alone, are you?” he asked, grinning. “Just like I hoped.”

    Magnamon stood to his feet and glared at him. “You’re the leader of this pack of bandits?” he asked. “What do you want?”

    BanchoLeomon smirked. “What does any bandit want? Money! Digits!” he said with a chuckle. His face then grew serious. “A little bit of revenge for what your tin can friends did earlier would be nice too…”

    “What?” Magnamon asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Never you mind, midget,” the BanchoLeomon taunted. “Just know that you may be a Royal Knight, but you’re outnumbered.”

    Magnamon scoffed. “I’ve beaten a lot more than four digimon at once before.”

    BanchoLeomon pointed his sword at Magnamon. “Maybe! But never underestimate three Megas.”

    Magnamon frowned. “Three? Only two of you are Mega level digimon.”

    The lion bandit leader grinned and turned to JewelBeemon. JewelBeemon walked forwards with a smirk, slowly becoming engulfed in the light of evolution. What stepped out of the light was large, four-legged insect digimon who was as black as the night around him. He had four wings sprouting out of his back and two clawed arms. The GranKuwagamon had two long pincers coming out of his jaws. The only things that made him stand out against the darkness were white stripes ornamenting his body and the orange hair coming from his head.

    A GranKuwagamon…” Magnamon thought to himself with growing concern. “Three Megas…” He clenched his fists tightly. “One by one, I would be able to defeat them no problem, but with all of them ganging up on me at once… it’s going to be harder…

    “Genocide Attack!” a voice suddenly screeched from behind him, taking advantage of the situation as he was absorbed in his doubts and what was in front of him.

    Magnamon tensed up and started to swing around, but he was too late to do anything. The maximum salvo of Megadramon’s missiles slammed into him, hitting his armour and the ground around him. Magnamon let out a surprised shout as the explosions blasted him into the air.

    “Now! Attack!” BanchoLeomon shouted, jumping into action.

    Magnamon landed on the ground in a roll, making sure that he would land back on his feet. As soon as he was able to look up, he saw BanchoLeomon descending on him with his sword. Magnamon grunted and sprang to his feet, quickly crossing his arms to block the slash with his gold chrome digizoid arm bracers.

    “Magnum Kick!” he responded as he kept holding against the sword. He drove his foot towards BanchoLeomon, but the lion man pounced in reverse before the kick could connect with his waist.

    “Heat Viper!” Chimairamon roared suddenly.

    The ball of power plummeted onto Magnamon, who couldn’t recover in time to defend himself. The green blast detonated around him, consuming the Royal Knight in the burning energy. Magnamon growled in pain as he was thrown into the air, still swathed in flames.

    Chimairamon wasted no time in following him. The giant chimera digimon swooped over him and raised his Kuwagamon arm. He then slammed the hard, exoskeleton-encased arm down on Magnamon’s body, hammering him painfully to the ground.

    Magnamon let out a gasp of pain as the wind left his lungs. Wincing as he tried to get to his hands and knees in a bid to try and defend himself, he soon felt another blast of Chimairamon’s Heat Viper attack crush him further into the ground. A growl of pain was torn from this throat as the detonation surged against his back. When it faded, he spat the earthy taste of dirt from his mouth and slowly stood to his feet. He was in pain and panting from his exhaustion.

    “Flash Bancho Punch!” BanchoLeomon’s voice resounded from behind him.

    Magnamon turned around, raising his sore arms to defend himself, but his movements were too sluggish in the pained state that he was in. BanchoLeomon’s fist connected with Magnamon’s metal mask, energy exploding outwards from BanchoLeomon’s knuckles upon contact, and sent him skidding across the ground on his back. Luckily his helmet absorbed a lot of the hit, but Magnamon still felt concussed and exhausted from the blow.

    Magnamon grimaced, slowly trying to prop himself up on their elbows. “They’re working so well as a team… They’re not letting me have even a second to breathe. The attacks are relentless,” he thought to himself. “If I could just… have a few seconds to counterattack…

    Before he could even begin to stand, he saw Chimairamon’s SkullGreymon arm swing down and bash him against the ground again. The skeletal arm then collected Magnamon in his grip, the bony fingers curling around his body. Magnamon growled, trying to fight against the hand, attempting to get one or both of his arms out of Chimairamon’s hold. However, Chimairamon gave Magnamon a tight, crushing squeeze, causing the dragon digimon to give a sharp groan of pain.

    Have to… use that attack…” Magnamon thought under a pained grimace. “If I could just--!

    Before he could finish that thought, Chimairamon let go, violently throwing Magnamon through the air. Magnamon felt his back collide with something hard and painful. Before he could turn to see what it was, he felt two long, hard, black things clamp tightly around his biceps. He looked down and saw that they were GranKuwagamon’s pincers binding him like a vice. GranKuwagamon then grabbed Magnamon’s wrists in his claws and pinned them to his sides as well.

    Magnamon grimaced and struggled against the insect desperately. “Damn it…!”

    BanchoLeomon grinned. “Get the rope, Chimairamon,” he told the bandit. “Now we have our real hostage.”

    “What?!” Magnamon demanded, glaring at the lion furiously.

    “Maybe the Royal Knights wouldn’t pay ransom for a scout, but what about for a fellow Royal Knight?” the BanchoLeomon suggested. “That would be a handsome sum of Digits for somebody like you.”

    “You’re even stupider than you look,” Magnamon replied matter-of-factly. “They would never give in to those kinds of underhanded tactics.”

    “No?” BanchoLeomon asked, raising an eyebrow. “Well, too bad. We need something to show for the destruction of our hideout and the deletion of three of our comrades. Maybe we’ll just sell you to the highest bidder. You Royal Knights have made a lot of enemies over the years, haven’t you? Maybe somebody who really hates you will pay a nice amount of money for you.”

    “I haven’t lost yet,” Magnamon retorted, fighting stubbornly against the GranKuwagamon’s hold. “It will take more than this to take down a Royal Knight!”

    “Oh?” GranKuwagamon asked, crushing his arms tighter with his strong pincers. It took everything Magnamon had not to elicit any show of pain.

    “We’ll see,” Chimairamon said, approaching him with rope stretched out in his hands.

    Magnamon clenched his teeth, watching as the bandit grew closer. “Do I have enough energy for that attack?” Magnamon asked himself, feeling a tinge of nervousness in his heart. “If I don’t… that’s it. I’ll have made a complete fool of myself. Worse than that, actually. I’ll be a burden to my friends when they need to come and rescue me. And for what…? To spite UlforceVeedramon? What was I thinking…?

    The Royal Knight gave a soft sigh, watching as Chimairamon closed in and readied the rope. “I just have to time this right…” he thought, trying to stay as calm as possible.

    Magnamon looked up and glared at the Chimairamon. The Chimairamon smirked, unaware that Magnamon was slowly activating the turbines in his armour.

    Suddenly, there was a flash of cobalt blue behind Chimairamon. Chimairamon’s smirk disappeared and his expression turned into one of shock and pain. The rope dropped from his hands.

    BanchoLeomon raised an eyebrow and looked at the stunned chimera digimon. “Chimairamon? What are you waiting for?” he asked him. “Tie him up already.”

    The hybrid creature didn’t reply. It was then that BanchoLeomon noticed a deep gash running through Chimairamon’s back, leaking data into the air. “What?!” he demanded.

    Within moments, Chimairamon burst into data particles.

    Magnamon blinked in shock and confusion. That wasn’t his doing; he was still building up power for his attack, as evident by the gold particles slowly drifting out of his shoulder and hip armour.

    “What the hell was that?!” GranKuwagamon demanded, looking around but not letting go of Magnamon.

    “Oh,” a voice said calmly. “That was me. Sorry.”

    Magnamon’s eyes widened. He knew that voice…

    He turned to look to the left and saw a familiar azure form. UlforceVeedramon turned around, the Ulforce Sabres on his arms activated and glowing. He gave Magnamon a small grin.

    “UlforceVeedramon…” Magnamon said, the surprise obvious in his voice.

    “Another Royal Knight!?” BanchoLeomon roared.

    “Rule Three of the Royal Knights’ Code!” UlforceVeedramon replied with a wry smile. “A Royal Knight never leaves another Royal Knight in his time of need!”

    “Get him!” BanchoLeomon ordered Megadramon, lunging UlforceVeedramon as well. “Aim for his torso! He doesn’t have armour there!”

    “Ultimate Slicer!” Megadramon snarled, diving down to meet UlforceVeedramon, clamping his jagged claws together to use them for cutting.

    UlforceVeedramon grinned calmly and raised his Ulforce Sabres. “Oh, you noticed? All the girls stare at my midriff too.”

    “Ulforce!” Magnamon called out to him. “Get him over here!”

    UlforceVeedramon nodded. Due to his extreme swiftness, he was able to deftly avoid Megadramon’s slash. He darted past him and grabbed Megadramon’s long tail. With a sharp heave, Ulforce yanked him hard towards where Magnamon and GranKuwagamon were, sending him flying back in that direction. When Megadramon attempted to right himself, UlforceVeedramon deactivated one of his swords and slammed his fist into Megadramon’s chest, pushing him harder in that direction.

    Megadramon winced and counterattacked on pure impulse. “Genocide Attack!” he roared, pumping a flurry of bombs from his cannons.

    UlforceVeedramon grimaced and recoiled, quickly bringing up his left arm. “Tensegrity Shield!” he shouted, hastily activating the multidirectional barrier from his left V-Bracelet.

    The hexagonal force field expanded all around the Royal Knight. The barrage of missiles slammed into the barrier and exploded, battering the sturdy barrier and ripping up grass and dirt everywhere outside of it.

    BanchoLeomon lunged out of the way, nearly caught up in one of the explosions. “Watch where you’re shooting, you idiot!” he reprimanded him.

    It was then that GranKuwagamon noticed that there was something going on with his captive. Magnamon was engulfed in a golden aura and it kept on getting thicker. “B-Boss!” GranKuwagamon said loudly, gaining the BanchoLeomon’s attention. “What’s he doing?!”

    “I don’t know, but stop him!” BanchoLeomon commanded, looking between them and UlforceVeedramon.

    GranKuwagamon snarled and started tightening his grip even more, now cutting off the circulation to Magnamon’s arms.

    Although Magnamon grimaced in pain, he refused to cease the emission of the golden aura. The light lit up the darkness around them with a brilliant gold glow. He turned to look at UlforceVeedramon with determination in his eyes. “Ul… force. Now!” he yelled to him.

    “Understood!” UlforceVeedramon replied with a nod. He turned to the Megadramon who was still reeling and trying hard to get his bearings. The V-shaped crest on his blue digizoid armour began gleaming brightly, adding another light to the dark. “The Ray of Victory!”

    A v-shaped ray of intense light surged from the crest on his chest. It slammed into Megadramon, searing him and throwing him the rest of the way towards Magnamon. As soon as he was near, Magnamon snarled and focused, putting much of his energy into what he was about to do next.

    “Extreme Jihad!”

    Magnamon tilted his head back and wrenched his wrists free from GranKuwagamon. The golden aura around his body suddenly burst and swelled outwards in every direction. It swallowed both GranKuwagamon and Megadramon up in the light of Miracles and melted them away.

    BanchoLeomon swung around, shielding his eyes with his arms as the light approached him. “WHAAAT?!” he roared as the golden radiance flooded towards him, lighting up the night with an eerily beautiful glow.

    After a minute, the light began to subside. The conscious bandits were gone and there was nothing left around Magnamon but a crater in the ground. Magnamon hovered in the air for a few moments, before suddenly dropping. He fell towards the ground, completely exhausted from the attack.

    He knew he was going to hit the ground, and it was probably going to hurt. However, to his surprise, he felt himself land softly. UlforceVeedramon had swooped down and caught Magnamon in his arms before he could hit the ground. Magnamon opened his eyes and looked up at him, smiling weakly. UlforceVeedramon gave him an honest smile and flew him back up to completely destroyed ruins.

    He landed on the ground and gently put Magnamon down on the grass.

    “Did we get them all…?” Magnamon asked weakly.

    UlforceVeedramon looked around the area. “I think so…” he replied.

    “Aquilamon’s okay?” Magnamon questioned, trying to get up.

    UlforceVeedramon tried to push him back down. “He’s fine,” he replied, looking over his shoulder to where the bound eagle was trying to blink the spots out of his eyes after the bright attack that Magnamon performed.

    Magnamon nodded silently. He soon found himself grimacing and looking away in shame. “If you want to laugh at me, you can. I deserve it,” he replied guiltily.

    UlforceVeedramon sighed and sat down cross-legged across from him. “I don’t want to laugh at you, Magnamon…” he told him. “I just want to know what’s going on in that head of yours. You were like a different digimon today. I know I’m to blame, but…”

    The Royal Knight looked up at UlforceVeedramon with embarrassment. “It’s more me than you, Ulforce…” he told him. He found himself forced to look away again as he said the words. “I’m… insecure,” he admitted in a sheepish voice.

    “Insecure?” UlforceVeedramon asked.

    Magnamon nodded. “About my height. About my supposed ‘cuteness’,” he explained, giving a bit of an ironic yet sad grin. “About my place as a Royal Knight… All the jokes made me start to question myself. If my friends can’t take me seriously, how will anybody else be able to? How am I worthy to be a Royal Knight if I’m a joke?”

    “Nobody thinks that you’re a joke, Magnamon…” UlforceVeedramon told him honestly.

    “Not even you?” Magnamon asked.

    UlforceVeedramon sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “So that’s what all this was about? You running off to prove yourself?”

    After a moment, Magnamon slowly nodded. “It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m supposed to be level headed, yet I got myself into that situation,” he said, his embarrassment hidden behind his helmet. “It’s the truth though… I went off alone to prove that I could complete the mission without you.”

    “I see…” the winged knight responded carefully, looking over at Magnamon.

    Magnamon grimaced. “It was so childish and reckless. I don’t know, Ulforce. Maybe it’s today. I suppose the jokes really got under my scales and I somehow got it in my head that I needed to prove that I was worthy to be a Royal Knight or something like that,” he explained.

    UlforceVeedramon gazed at him with a meaningful look in his eyes. “You don’t need to prove yourself to anybody, Magnamon,” he told him. “Everybody respects you.” UlforceVeedramon paused for a minute. “Especially me.”

    “You do?” Magnamon asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Yeah… I know I’m not very good at showing how I really feel,” UlforceVeedramon told him sheepishly. “But to be perfectly honest, you’re the digimon who I respect the most out of the Royal Knights.” When he saw Magnamon’s surprised expression, he smiled a bit. “Yeah, yeah. I know. Anyways, you remember when I first joined the Royal Knights, right? You were the one I had my first practice session with.”

    “I remember…” Magnamon said, wondering where this was going.

    UlforceVeedramon grinned a bit. “I remember when I first saw that you were my opponent. I remember how cocky I was. I thought you were just this short, lanky dragon in pretty armour while I was this big, fast, flying master,” he recalled.

    “…Get to your point,” Magnamon told him with a flat, warning glance.

    Ulforce chuckled. “And then you completely dominated me in that practice fight. I mean, you wiped the floor with me,” UlforceVeedramon said. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how someone of your stature could do that so easily. It was then that I realized that there was a lot more to you than meets the eye. You immediately gained my respect that day.”

    “I… never knew that,” Magnamon replied, sounding genuinely surprised.

    UlforceVeedramon nodded, still rubbing the back of his neck. “I owe you an apology, Magnamon. A series of them, it sounds like. I’m sorry if I offended you with any jokes I made. I really didn’t mean to be insulting or condescending,” he told him.

    Magnamon grimaced. “Ulforce. You don’t have to do that…” he answered.

    “Yeah, I do…” Ulforce said, frowning. “I don’t make jokes to make you feel bad about yourself. I tease you because… well, because you’re my friend. I guess it’s my weird way of showing you that I like you. It’s the same reason I tease the others too… I know it’s not the best way of showing my affection. I don’t mean any offence to anyone when I do it, but I guess that’s not always that obvious, is it? …I’ll try to hold back on it,” he offered with a smile.

    “No…” Magnamon replied, smiling a bit. “You wouldn’t be Ulforce if you did that.”

    Ulforce grinned. “Well… just tell me whenever you want me to shut up,” he told him.

    Magnamon’s smile grew wider. “I will hold you to that,” he joked.

    Ulforce gave a soft laugh before quieting down. “…By the way, I know that today is the anniversary of your induction into the Royal Knights,” he told him.

    Blinking with surprise, Magnamon slowly sat up. “You do…?”

    “Yeah…” Ulforce replied. “I suppose today is why you felt so much pressure, isn’t it?”

    Magnamon nodded and sighed. “I’m sure that has something to do with it, yes,” he responded. He then frowned as he remembered their encounter in the morning. “Why did you pretend that you didn’t know today was my induction anniversary?”

    “We were going to have a small celebration for you in the cafeteria this evening. But since you didn’t show up due to coming here early, well…” UlforceVeedramon awkwardly scratched his cheek, grinning a bit. “I guess in retrospect, I should have known today wasn’t a good day to poke fun and play games with you.”

    Magnamon shook his head. “I should be apologizing to you, Ulforce. I’ve been horrible to you all day. I had no right to be,” he told him, looking down in shame. His eyes fell on UlforceVeedramon’s bandaged hand, making him remember accidentally scratching him earlier. He grimaced. “…I’m really sorry,” he said softly.

    UlforceVeedramon grinned. “Hey… Let’s just say we both did stupid things, we both forgive each other, and leave it at that, okay? I’m sure neither of us wants a big, sappy moment, do we?” he said lightheartedly.

    Magnamon chuckled a bit. “Okay, then. That sounds fine to me.” A grimace of pain then grew on his face. “Rrr… “

    “Are you okay?” Ulforce asked with some concern.

    “Yes. I’m fine,” Magnamon insisted. “It’s nothing serious. I’m just sore all over…”

    “Then it looks like you could use some help when we head back to the headquarters,” UlforceVeedramon observed.

    Magnamon opened his mouth to protest, but he thought better of it and nodded. “Very well.”

    UlforceVeedramon stood up and offered his hand. Magnamon took it and was pulled up to his feet. Magnamon looked past UlforceVeedramon to where Aquilamon was still lying. “I guess we had better—“

    “HEY!” a voice called out from behind them.

    As they turned around, a tall figure swooped down from the sky and landed in front of them. The two Royal Knights immediately reacted. UlforceVeedramon activated the Ulforce Sabre on his right V-Bracelet, and Magnamon raised his fists.

    They then stopped and looked in surprise when Ulforce’s beam sword illuminated the figure. It was OuRyuumon.

    “Hey, hey, take it easy!” OuRyuumon said, raising his hands in front of him. “Is that any way to welcome us back?”

    “Ou…Ryuumon?” UlforceVeedramon asked, turning off his sword.

    “What are you doing here…?” Magnamon questioned, raising an eyebrow. “I thought you were with Alphamon and Omegamon.”

    “I am!” OuRyuumon replied. He then took on a wide smirk. “They’re just tying up a loose end…”

    “So you three are coming back?” UlforceVeedramon asked.

    “Yeah,” OuRyuumon said. “We were heading back towards the headquarters when we saw this bright gold light in the distance, so we decided we better check it out. I guess that was you?” he asked, looking at Magnamon.

    “Yeah…” Magnamon responded, glancing up at Ulforce.

    It was then that OuRyuumon looked behind them, noticing something. “…Why is Aquilamon tied up?” he asked, tilting his head.

    “It’s a long story,” Magnamon replied. “Can you go free him, Ulforce?”

    UlforceVeedramon nodded and walked over to the scout, who had been patiently waiting. After cutting him loose, they rejoined Magnamon and OuRyuumon. The four turned towards the destroyed ruins and saw Alphamon and Omegamon walking towards them, dragging the unconscious figure of BanchoLeomon. They dropped him beside the knocked out BlackMachGaogamon and Indaramon before walking over to the gathered group.

    “I didn’t expect we’d catch up with him again so soon,” Alphamon said with a small grin, turning to look at the captured bandit. He then smiled at the group. “Hello, UlforceVeedramon, Magnamon, Aquilamon,” he greeted. “It feels like it’s been awhile, hasn’t it?”

    “Alphamon, Omegamon…” Magnamon greeted with a nod and a smile. “I thought I got him with my Extreme Jihad attack.”

    “I thought that was you,” Omegamon said, looking at Magnamon.

    Alphamon nodded. “That BanchoLeomon is a slippery one. He escaped from us the other day as well. He must have been fleeing when he ran right into us a few minutes ago.”

    “Is that so…?” Magnamon said.

    Alphamon frowned when he noticed the state that Magnamon was in. “You’re hurt. What exactly happened here?”

    UlforceVeedramon spoke up. “Aquilamon got captured when he came across this bandit hideout. Magnamon and I went to rescue him. They were pretty tough though.”

    Magnamon grimaced. “Actually… I went in ahead of Ulforce,” he admitted, not wanting Ulforce to lie for him.

    “I see,” Alphamon responded. “Let’s talk about it on the way back to the castle. Omegamon, OuRyuumon, can you help carry those?” he said, looking at the unconscious bandits.

    Omegamon nodded quietly, walking with OuRyuumon over to them. Before doing the same, Alphamon looked at Aquilamon. “Are you fit to carry Magnamon on your back?”

    “I can manage that, yes,” Aquilamon said with an affirmative nod.

    Alphamon nodded. “Good. Let’s start heading back then.”

    -

    About an hour later, the group of six arrived back at the Royal Knights’ headquarters. They handed the captured bandits over to the jailor for temporary holding at the headquarters until they could transfer them to the main prison in the territory. Despite the late hour, the Royal Knights back at the castle were still up, awaiting Magnamon’s return. They were pleasantly surprised when they saw Alphamon, Omegamon and OuRyuumon with them as well.

    “Alphamon!” Dukemon greeted, walking over with a broad smile.

    Alphamon grinned as he entered the grand hall and walked up to Dukemon, shaking his hand. “Nice to see you again, Dukemon. How have you been holding up?”

    “Fairly good,” Dukemon replied. “With that said, I won’t be sad to hand the leader position back to you.”

    Alphamon chuckled. “It’s harder than it looks, isn’t it?”

    “It’s nice you see you all back,” Duftmon said, though the sentiment hardly showed in his voice. “However, what exactly were you three doing?”

    “I’ll address that in the meeting tomorrow, Duftmon,” Alphamon told him.

    “I hope you will,” Duftmon said, folding his arms.

    Alphamon smiled. “I actually missed your impossibly high standards and your snide comments,” he remarked with a short laugh.

    Duftmon looked away, although glancing at Alphamon for a brief moment. “…Hmph…”

    “He’s so cute when he’s indignant,” Dukemon laughed. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders as the mantle of leader was returned to Alphamon. He no longer had to be so professional all the time, and he could act more informal like he preferred. However, Dukemon felt respect for Alphamon for having to assume that role all the time. It was no small task.

    “You should go see Duskmon about those injuries, Magnamon,” Examon advised, noticing the bruises on his arms and chest.

    “Ah ah!” RhodoKnightmon said, stepping forwards. “Not so fast.”

    “What?” Magnamon said, raising an eyebrow.

    “You never showed up in the cafeteria for that celebration we were having for you,” Dynasmon said, folding his arms. “I’m sure all of us feel that our induction anniversaries are special days for us, so we’re not about to let you go without celebrating with us.”

    “And I’m not about to waste all of that delicious food that I made!” RhodoKnightmon insisted.

    Magnamon frowned, thinking it over a little. He didn’t want to be any more trouble today, but it sounded like they went to a lot of effort.

    UlforceVeedramon placed his hand on Magnamon’s shoulder, smiling down at him. “Come on, Magnamon. I bet you’re hungry after all that.”

    Magnamon smiled a bit, prompting Dukemon to take on a pleased expression. It looked like they had patched things up.

    “Well…” Magnamon said, appearing to be tentatively compliant.

    “I think you mean ‘why yes, I would love to!’” RhodoKnightmon insisted. “I won’t take no for an answer, so come along already, you!”

    Magnamon let out a shout of surprise as RhodoKnightmon extended and wrapped one of his long, yellow ribbons around Magnamon’s arms and upper body, impatiently dragging him down the hall towards the cafeteria. Magnamon growled and struggled against him, not liking what was happening one bit.

    “H-Hey! Stop this! I said stop! …RHODOKNIGHTMON!”
    Last edited by Griff4815; 23rd December 2013 at 1:48 PM.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  20. #20
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    Author's Notes: Like the previous few, I split Chapter 11 into two parts. However, like what happened with "Adversary", I'm not finished the second part yet, but hopefully soon. I intend to finish Part II by early January at the latest, so stay tuned.

    Edit: Due to the character limit on Serebii, I have to spit Part I into two posts. It's kind of troublesome. The whole chapter might end up being four posts in total, but it's not as long as it seems.

    Chapter 11: Protocol (Part I)


    Despite the late night prior, which included Magnamon and UlforceVeedramon’s mission, Alphamon, Omegamon, and OuRyuumon’s arrival home, and a small induction anniversary party for Magnamon, it was an early day for the Royal Knights. Alphamon and Dukemon called for a meeting just after the break of dawn so that they could each explain to the other party what had took place while Alphamon’s group was gone.

    “Why so early?” Dynasmon complained, rubbing a sleep-addled eye with one of his large hands. He sluggishly trudged down the great hall towards the council room, as if he just managed to drag himself out of bed.

    Walking in front of him were RhodoKnightmon and Sleipmon. RhodoKnightmon looked over his shoulder at Dynasmon. “Whining is not an attractive quality, Dynasmon.”

    “That’s a lot coming from you, Rhodo,” Dynasmon grumbled, shooting a tired look at him. “You’re the laziest one out of all of us!”

    “Not first thing in the morning,” RhodoKnightmon chimed in reply, waggling his index finger.

    Sleipmon smiled. “It’s not so bad,” he said to Dynasmon. “We’ve gotten up earlier before.”

    Dynasmon groaned, tiredly skulking after the two. “We went to bed so late though! And I was having such a nice dream…” he said, muttering the last part to himself.

    “Oh?” RhodoKnightmon asked, looking over with interest. “I presume it was about moi.”

    Dynasmon shuddered at the thought. “Only in my nightmares…”

    Still smiling, Sleipmon trotted forwards and entered the council room. There, the rest of the Royal Knights were present and already seated at the white, circular table.

    “Good morning, you three,” Alphamon greeted from the Siege Perilous.

    “Good morning,” Sleipmon replied, walking over and taking his seat next to Examon, who gave a polite nod.

    “Is it even morning yet?” Dynasmon muttered, tiredly dragging his feet over to his seat.

    Dukemon chuckled slightly. “Still not a morning Digimon, Dynasmon?” he asked upon seeing how groggy he was.

    “Ugh. Can I go back to bed and have Wyvern take my place?” Dynasmon asked, referring to the dragon who he summons for his Breath of Wyvern attack.

    “If that weren’t so ridiculous, it would be an intriguing notion,” Duftmon spoke, glancing at the violet dragon man sitting next to him. “At the very least, that beast would be better mannered than you are.”

    “I’ll respond to that after my nap,” Dynasmon murmured, slumping in his chair a bit.

    Alphamon cleared his throat, commanding the knights’ attention back to him. “Wake up, Dynasmon. This is an important meeting. We need to go over our findings over the past week.”

    “There’s a lot here on our end,” Dukemon explained. “We’ve logged our reports on the computer database, but it’s still worth bringing up.”

    The Lord of the Empty Seat nodded at Dukemon. “Okay, then. Why don’t you start and, afterwards, I’ll tell everyone what we were doing.”

    “Okay,” the former acting leader replied. “Well, remember the Anubismon and BlackMetalGarurumon that Examon came across in the United Dramonic Coalition?”

    “When he ran off from his mission,” Duftmon felt the need to add.

    Dukemon chose to ignore the comment. “The day after you three left, they hired a bunch of Mega-level mercenaries and attacked the UDC. We intervened and they were all either captured or killed.”

    Sleipmon grimaced minutely and cast a short glance towards the dragon sitting next to him. Examon didn’t notice.

    “It turned out the two were from Lupolford,” Magnamon added. He tried to avoid the temptation to claw at the bandages that had been applied to his chest several hours ago.

    “Lupolford of the Free Area?” Alphamon asked, raising an eyebrow upon recognizing the name of the town. After a moment’s pause, he frowned. “I vaguely remember Anubismon now. He inherited the title of mayor from his father, didn’t he?”

    “Looks like he did have dealings with mercenaries after all,” Omegamon said lowly.

    “Hmph,” Duftmon grunted, folding his arms. “In any case, all’s well that ends well; Examon killed the two brothers in combat and we installed a new, morally upstanding Digimon as the current mayor of Lupolford.”

    “I suppose that’s for the better,” Alphamon said with a nod. “But why attack the UDC?”

    “We never did figure that out…” Examon spoke up, frowning.

    “Greed, ambition, resentment, restlessness, simply evil. Take your pick of reasons,” Craniamon spoke. “Those are usually why any tin-pot warlord tries to attack another group.”

    “Well,” Dukemon spoke up. “With twelve Megas and the fact that Examon was no longer solely protecting the UDC, they could have hypothetically pulled the attack off, right, Examon?” He turned to Examon for his opinion, given that he was from the UDC.

    Examon nodded. “Hypothetically. There are a lot of Ultimate level Digimon, but there aren’t an abundance of Mega level Digimon in the United Dramonic Coalition. Most Digimon from the UDC who achieve Mega level end up leaving to try and achieve greater things.”

    Craniamon nodded. “When Digimon reach that level of power, they want to try and carve their name into the history of the world…” he said, almost as if he knew first hand.

    “I suppose there’s not as much left for a Mega level Digimon in the UDC,” Alphamon mused. “I guess that goes for the Free Area too, if we’re trying to put meaning to Anubismon’s actions.”

    “That depends on the sort of Digimon they are,” Examon offered.

    “Perhaps,” Alphamon responded.

    “It’s just a shame that it had to end the way it did,” Sleipmon added somberly, recounting the foray’s tragic end.

    Alphamon glanced at Sleipmon and then looked back at Examon. “Yes, well, it’s no use trying to guess these things. What else happened while we were gone, Dukemon?”

    “Yeah, this is the more pressing topic…” Dukemon said, a thoughtful frown growing on his face. “The DADAR system detected a data anomaly up in Dusk Forest. A surge of data, to be exact. We suspected it might have been a bad evolution, so I sent Craniamon and Examon up there to check it out.”

    “We were right, but it was more than we expected,” Craniamon spoke up. “A Tankdramon had some sort of dark evolution and became a Darkdramon.”

    “How was it more than you expected?” Omegamon asked. “Did things not go smoothly?”

    “We subdued him in the end,” Examon explained. “The problem was that he was more than a Digimon going on a mindless rampage. He was completely out of character for the Tankdramon and he was attacking us, but he was conscious enough to set traps and use hit-and-run tactics. He was smart…”

    “He dark digivolved when he ran over this rift in the earth that was pouring out dark data. He said it took him over and he blacked out completely until after we forced him to revert back from his Darkdramon form,” Craniamon added. “It was that rift in the ground – or more correctly – the dark data coming out of it that forced him to have a bad evolution.”

    Alphamon’s eyes widened slightly. “I… see. That’s worrisome... Did you follow up on it?” he asked with concern.

    “We had our guys seal off all of Dusk Forest,” Dukemon explained. “We’re investigating the rift now.”

    “Let me read all of your findings. It’s possible that this could be more severe than it looks,” Alphamon said with a serious look in his red eyes.

    “Uh. Sure…” Dukemon answered, a bit perturbed by the direness in Alphamon’s words.

    After a few moments silence, Alphamon sighed softly. “Is there anything else?”

    “You already know about what happened yesterday night, so nothing else of major consequence,” Dukemon explained, shrugging.

    “You conveniently forgot to mention that you lashed out at me on one occasion,” Duftmon reminded him pointedly.

    Dukemon rolled his eyes. “I did apologise…” he replied. He then added in his mind, “And you did provoke me…

    “Any sane Digimon would lash out at you!” OuRyuumon chimed in. He walked into the council room from the great hall and went over to stand near Alphamon.

    “You could hardly be described as a ‘sane Digimon’,” Duftmon spoke, glancing at OuRyuumon for a single moment before turning his attention elsewhere.

    “Same goes for you, kitty cat,” OuRyuumon shot back with a tightening glare.

    Before the argument could continue, Alphamon looked at OuRyuumon and spoke up. “OuRyuumon, if you’re going to attend these meetings, you could at least come in on time,” he said dryly.

    “Sorry, Alphamon,” OuRyuumon muttered, though he didn’t sound like he meant it.

    Omegamon glanced away during their interaction. “So, I guess it’s our turn… Alphamon?” he said, looking at Alphamon to lead the explanation as for why they left.

    “Right…” Alphamon spoke, nodding slightly and turning to the rest of the Royal Knights. “The night before we left, I was talking to KaiserGreymon over the computer. We were updating each other on recent happenings and such.”

    “Oh, I remember you mentioning that,” RhodoKnightmon spoke up. “Something about a prophetic Baronmon dramatically screaming, ’Beware the black night!’”

    “It wasn’t quite that exaggerated, but yes. KaiserGreymon told me a rumour about a Baronmon in the town of Auguria making such comments,” Alphamon replied. “I had a bad feeling about it, so I decided we should go up and investigate. That night, I left for Auguria with Omegamon and OuRyuumon, as you all know.”

    “Why tell Dukemon to keep it from us?” Duftmon asked, raising an eyebrow and leaning forwards on the table.

    “I promise, I didn’t keep it from you all because I don’t trust you,” Alphamon said reassuringly. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Omegamon folds his arms and close his eyes. He had to pause momentarily before continuing. “It wasn’t a guarded secret or anything. I just didn’t want to distract you all from your duties in case it was nothing. That’s why I brought only myself and these two.”

    “That’s fair enough,” Sleipmon replied. “So, was it nothing?”

    “Yes,” Omegamon succinctly said.

    “Less than nothing,” OuRyuumon added, placing his hands on his hips. “He admitted himself that it was basically just a dream, not a prophecy, and he overreacted.”

    Alphamon frowned and kept quiet. He still had his doubts about what Baronmon insisted, but he didn’t have any actual proof to back up his instinct, so he didn’t feel like they were worth mentioning.

    “Tch,” Duftmon scoffed, shaking his head. “Honestly, I don’t know what you expected. A prophecy… Please…”

    “Some Digimon species do have the power of foresight, Duftmon,” Alphamon told him, looking over at the leopard knight. “’Foolish are those who keep their minds closed.’ I believe one of your favourite strategists said that, didn’t he?” he said with a veiled smirk.

    “Hmph…” Duftmon grunted quietly.

    “I’m sorry you had a wasted trip,” Sleipmon said to him.

    “It wasn’t a complete waste,” OuRyuumon explained, starting to grin. “We got to annihilate some bandits, and the Spring Festival was in Auguria.”

    “The Spring Festival?” Dynasmon asked excitedly, suddenly looking a bit more awake. “I love going to that!”

    “Don’t worry. A larger one is coming to our region in a few weeks,” OuRyuumon said to him, evidently pleased at the idea of going to another one.

    “So,” Dukemon spoke up, changing the topic. “Apart from that, did anything else happen while you three were in Auguria?”

    Alphamon, OuRyuumon, and Omegamon all went quiet. Omegamon looked away from the two lovers with a very subtle wince. OuRyuumon in contrast, not known for being subtle, turned to look at Omegamon to see what his reaction would be and if he’d tell everybody or not.

    Before anybody could begin to pick up on the pause, Alphamon spoke out. “No. Not particularly,” he replied with his usual calm, confident voice.

    “Yeah, what he said,” OuRyuumon confirmed in a cross between his usual voice and a mutter.

    Omegamon nodded silently.

    Alphamon stood up in his seat. “I think that’s everything. UlforceVeedramon, Magnamon, you two need to write up your reports on the mission last night, and Omegamon and I have to write our own reports to write about the Auguria journey, as well as read up on all of the reports we missed from all of you.”

    As the Royal Knights began standing up in their seats, the double doors to the council room opened and the black form of a horse man trotted in.

    “I’m sorry to interrupt, sirs,” the black KnightChessmon said, bowing his head apologetically.

    “We were just finishing anyways,” Alphamon assured him. “Yes, KnightChessmon?”

    “There’s a messenger waiting to see you. He’s here on behalf of the mayor of Mossridge,” KnightChessmon explained.

    “Ah. It must be about our upcoming inspection,” the Lord of the Empty Seat said. “Send him in.”

    As KnightChessmon nodded and left to fetch the messenger, Examon turned to Sleipmon. “Inspection?” he asked curiously.

    “Yeah,” Sleipmon replied. “You must have heard that this is one of our duties.”

    “I have, but what does it involve?” Examon inquired.

    “Essentially, some of us Royal Knights are tasked with going down to the semi-autonomous towns in the Free Area at regular intervals in time. While at the town in question, we do an inspection. During an inspection, we talk to both city officials and Digimon living in the town. This is to make sure that everything is going smoothly. We find out if there are any needs or grievances of the Digimon there, we check for corruption and breaches of the law, and we basically make sure that everything is in order,” Sleipmon explained.

    Alphamon nodded. “That’s part of the agreement for living in the Free Area. The towns abide by our laws and pay us fair taxes so that we can afford to defend and administer the area, and, in exchange, the towns are autonomous without borders and rulers; only municipal governments headed by mayors exist, so they can run things in the towns. Also, they’re in close proximity to us so they can better enjoy the safety and sense of security of our protection, and the towns can trade freely with each other without the extra cost of tariffs. That is the Free Area,” he explained.

    Examon nodded. “So it’s not too different from the United Dramonic Coalition; where it’s a bunch of states that have banded together for safety and security,” he said.

    “Sort of,” Alphamon replied. “Except it’s a bit different since the UDC’s states fused together to form one large federal nation, which has a central government in the capital: Dragon’s Peak.”

    “That’s true…” Examon mused.

    The sound of trotting hooves grew closer once again. The knights turned towards the door and saw KnightChessmon return with a short, red-feathered bird Digimon flying behind him. Once inside the council room, the Hawkmon landed and adjusted the white feathers on his head.

    “Salutations, Royal Knights,” the Hawkmon said, bowing his head slightly.

    “Greetings, Mister Hawkmon,” Alphamon replied. “You are here on behalf of the mayor of Mossridge? Moosemon, isn’t it?”

    “Yes,” Hawkmon responded, looking up at the comparatively tall knight.

    “Is there a problem?” Alphamon asked.

    “No, no problem,” the winged messenger said. “The mayor was just hoping that we could have the inspection sooner than planned.”

    “Sooner? Why sooner?” Duftmon asked suspiciously.

    “Well… the official statement is that he has family coming to visit from out of the region, but, between us, Moosemon gets very stressed and impatient waiting for these inspections. I think he just wants to get it out of the way,” Hawkmon admitted.

    “I see…” Alphamon said with a pensive expression. “Well, I think we can do that. How about later today?”

    “That sounds terrific. You’re very generous, Alphamon,” Hawkmon told him. “I will go and tell him.”

    “Safe travels,” Alphamon told him, nodding as KnightChessmon started leading the messenger out of the room. Once they were gone and the doors were closed behind them, Alphamon turned to the Royal Knights. “Two of you should do. I would go myself, but, like I said, I’m very busy already. Omegamon is as well.”

    Sleipmon raised his hand. “I’ll go,” he offered with a smile. Sleipmon enjoyed inspections more than most of the other Royal Knights did. They were relaxing, low-stress missions. He enjoyed talking to the various Digimon in the towns, and, more importantly, there was never a deletion during an inspection to date.

    “Does anybody else volunteer?” Alphamon asked, looking around the table.

    Dukemon spoke up. “Examon, Craniamon, and I are going to go up to Dusk Forest to see how the investigation there is going.”

    Magnamon was about to offer his hand, but UlforceVeedramon grabbed his wrist. “You need bed rest, remember?” he told the knight of Miracles.

    “Fine…” he muttered reluctantly.

    “Hmm…” Alphamon looked around the table. “…RhodoKnightmon. How about you join Sleipmon?” he suggested.

    RhodoKnightmon turned and pointed at himself. “Me?” he asked, surprised. “…I would rather not, but thank you all the same.”

    Alphamon stared at him flatly. “Can you give me a good reason?” he asked, folding his arms.

    “The potatoes in the pantry are about to go bad?” RhodoKnightmon offered, shrugging sheepishly.

    “You’re going, Rhodo,” Alphamon told him.

    “But Alphamon!” RhodoKnightmon protested, standing up. “Can’t you send somebody else?”

    “Why don’t you want to go with Sleipmon?” the leader of the knights asked matter-of-factly.

    “Hm? It has nothing to do with Sleipmon,” the pink Royal Knight insisted. “He’s quite cute, it’s--”

    “Then you won’t mind going with him,” Alphamon interrupted, smirking a bit. “I know you’re just being lazy, RhodoKnightmon. Treat this with the same respect that you would any high-priority mission.”

    “Oh, fine,” RhodoKnightmon huffed, folding his arms.

    Sleipmon slipped his hand under his purple hair and rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s fine with me. When should we leave, Alphamon?”

    “Let’s say after lunch. Everybody else, do as you please,” Alphamon directed. He turned to Magnamon. “Except you. Duskmon did say that you needed to rest for a day or so.”

    “Remind me to go and get beat up by scruffy bandits too…” RhodoKnightmon muttered, walking away from his seat. “Then perhaps I’ll be able to take it easy as well.”

    Sleipmon started heading out of the council room alongside RhodoKnightmon and the other Royal Knights. “Oh, it’s not so bad, Rhodo,” he insisted. “It’s not like we have to sprint out to save a burning village.”

    “At least in that case the physical labour would be worth it,” RhodoKnightmon responded.

    “I don’t understand you sometimes,” Sleipmon said, smiling and looking at the knight. “You’re lazy, but you would rather go on a physically exhausting mission to defeat bandits than you would to go on a relatively relaxed walk to Mossridge for an inspection.”

    “It’s cost-effectiveness, Sleipmon,” Rhodo replied. “Defeating bandits is more important than a routine inspection. Therefore, the extra effort put towards defeating the bandits is more justified than the effort put towards doing the inspection.”

    “If you say so,” Sleipmon replied. “I look at it as a nice break, personally.”

    “Wonderful. You can do all the work, then,” RhodoKnightmon answered flippantly.

    The horse knight rolled his eyes and shook his head. “You could at least try to enjoy yourself…”

    “Well…” the flamboyant knight mused. “Taking your shirt off might help my outlook.”

    Sleipmon stared at him blandly. “Maybe this will be a long journey after all…”

    -

    It was now the early afternoon and the two Royal Knights had set out on their task. Sleipmon trotted down a dirt path leading south from the castle as the midday sun beat down on him from behind.

    “You know, I don’t think this is what Alphamon meant when he said for you to travel with me,” Sleipmon said, looking over his shoulder with annoyance.

    On top of Sleipmon’s back, RhodoKnightmon was lying down comfortably with his legs crossed and his hands resting behind his head, using the humanoid part of Sleipmon’s back, as well as the long, purple hair covering it, as a pillow. “Oh, that’s quite alright. He doesn’t always expect us to take him literally.”

    Sleipmon frowned at him. Being used as a steed felt degrading to him. “Can’t you walk, Rhodo?” he asked, a touch of irritation in his voice.

    “I’m sure I could if I put my mind to it,” RhodoKnightmon replied facetiously, though he made no evidence that he was going to be moving anytime soon.

    Sleipmon glared at him emphatically. “So, would you please put your mind to it?” he asked.

    “I’m afraid I don’t see what the big deal is,” RhodoKnightmon said, looking up at him. “I’m fairly light and you’re big and strong. I know for a fact how fit you are, actually.”

    “That’s because you check everyone out so much,” Sleipmon answered flatly.

    “I am lucky to be on a team with so many attractive guys, aren’t I?” RhodoKnightmon said dreamily. “Anyways, it’s not as if I’m as heavy as Dynasmon or Craniamon.”

    “You also have legs,” Sleipmon reminded him. “What happens if a Digimon passes us while we’re walking? How would it look? Two Royal Knights: one who’s too lazy to walk, and the other being used as a mode of transportation. We would look ridiculous! That would be a big blow to our public image, not to mention our self-respect.”

    RhodoKnightmon sighed and sat up. “Well, you could always gallop so that nobody sees us and we arrive at Mossridge swiftly. You’re one of the fastest Royal Knights when it comes to ground speed, are you not?”

    “I don’t want to gallop,” Sleipmon mumbled, folding his arms. “I’m not arriving in town with you on my back, Rhodo.”

    “And you call me lazy,” RhodoKnightmon said, smirking. “Come on, Sleipmon! Put those six legs to work! Mush!” With that, RhodoKnightmon brought his hand down and gave Sleipmon a firm, lingering slap on his rear.

    Sleipmon stopped dead in his tracks, a look of violation quickly forming on his face. He slowly turned his head to glare at RhodoKnightmon.

    The next thing RhodoKnightmon knew, he was flying through the air, landing face-first in the grass. The pink knight groaned and pulled his face out of the dirt, a few clumps of earth and plant life falling from his helmet.

    Sleipmon lowered hind legs, having successfully bucked RhodoKnightmon off of his back. He placed his hands on his hips and smirked with satisfaction.

    RhodoKnightmon pushed himself up before standing to his feet and brushing off his armour and sashes. “Well, that was uncalled for…”

    “And that was one grope too many,” Sleipmon replied understatedly. “You’re definitely walking now.”

    The Royal Knight sighed and walked back over to Sleipmon. “Oh, very well. I suppose I don’t have a choice now, do I?”

    “That’s good. Thanks,” Sleipmon said, walking again at a relaxed canter.

    RhodoKnightmon casually walked behind him, shamelessly checking him out as he followed. “Well, at least there’s a nice view, I suppose…

    (Continued in the next post.)]
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  21. #21
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    (Continued...)

    Just under an hour later, the two Royal Knights approached the town of Mossridge.

    It had the better half of five hundred buildings by the look of it. The town stood on the east bank of a river flowing in from the north or north west. The landscape around the town was fairly level, and a slightly deeper shade of green than the grasslands around the Royal Knights’ territory. There were a couple farms here and there for crop production, and a few bridges spanning and a watermill flanking the river.

    As RhodoKnightmon and Sleipmon walked past a chapel dedicated to Yggdrasil on the outskirts of town, they could begin to see Digimon occupying the streets inside of Mossridge.

    Sleipmon smiled as they entered the city. They received surprised and excited looks from the townspeople that they passed. Sleipmon nodded at them politely.

    RhodoKnightmon was less enthusiastic, just walking beside Sleipmon and looking around. “So, we’re heading to the mayor’s office. Let’s not stay here longer than we need to; I need to be home to supervise supper,” he said to Sleipmon.

    “Don’t be impatient, Rhodo,” Sleipmon replied to him, although not turning to the knight as he addressed the slowly building crowd with smiles and waves. “You’ll give a bad impression if you act like you don’t want to be here.”

    The pink armoured knight rolled his eyes behind his helmet. “We’re here to do an inspection, not to get our egos stroked by the townspeople. I know you’ve only been a Royal Knight for around seven months, Sleipmon, but, trust me, it gets old after some time,” he told him.

    Sleipmon kept up a happy appearance for the crowd, but shot an annoyed look to his comrade. “You’re so cynical. It’s called relation-building. These people want protectors who have an interest in them, not aloof, condescending ones. The whole reason we’re here is to talk to the townspeople. Besides, they like this sort of thing.”

    “As do you, as it seems…” RhodoKnightmon muttered, despite giving a few nods and courtesy waves to the crowd.

    Sleipmon ignored him and continued walking up the stone street with an audible clacking from his six hooves hitting the road. The Digimon who came out to greet, praise, and chat with the Royal Knights made sure to only flank them from the sides of the streets so that they wouldn’t obstruct the Knights’ paths. Sleipmon stopped and started talking with a yellow frog Digimon who asked him a specific question.

    “—actually, I come from a small city in the north of the continent,” Sleipmon replied amiably. “Ocean Cove. I’m told I still have a bit of the accent, actually.”

    “Yes. Have a rose,” RhodoKnightmon said somewhat offhandedly to one of the Digimon who started talking to him. He walked over to his fellow Royal Knight. “Sleipmon. We should really be getting to the town hall so that we can begin, no?”

    Sleipmon turned and looked over his shoulder. “Yes, just a minute, Rhodo.”

    As he turned back to the Frogmon, he saw a blue figure trying to make his way through the crowd of now about thirty or forty Digimon. The figure had to weave and muscle his way past some of the Digimon in a desperate effort to get to the front of the crowd. Sleipmon could see the Digimon’s red helmet disappear and reappear from behind bodies, and, every so often, he could see the tips of his blue and white wings.

    Finally, the draconic body of a young Paildramon burst through the front of the crowd, panting, and stumbling unceremoniously. As soon as Sleipmon turned to look at him, he immediately stood up straight and fixed the green armour over his chest.

    “S-Sleipmon, sir! RhodoKnightmon!” the young Paildramon said, trying to look as respectable as he could in front of them.

    “Hello there,” Sleipmon said with a smile. RhodoKnightmon was tapping his foot impatiently.

    The dragon man started beaming as he began to take in that he was in the presence of the Royal Knights and one had just talked to him. “Hi! My name’s Paildramon!” he exclaimed with a look of wonder and admiration in his eyes. “I’m… a really huge fan.”

    Sleipmon chuckled. “Are you?”

    “Yeah! I’ve been a fan of the Royal Knights for years, and I was really excited when you joined their ranks, Sleipmon, sir!” Paildramon gushed. “I have massive respect for you - for all of you!”

    The cavalier grinned and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “Thank you. That’s incredibly flattering, but we’re just doing our jobs,” he responded.

    “You’re all so good at it though!” Paildramon remarked, apparently not aware about how much he was fanboying. “Is it true that through all the missions you’ve done, you never killed a single Digimon?”

    Sleipmon paused. “Yes,” he replied with a smile.

    “That’s amazing! That must have been really hard to do,” Paildramon said.

    “It can be difficult sometimes but… it’s worth it,” Sleipmon replied, smiling at him

    “Is it?” RhodoKnightmon muttered to himself from nearby.

    “That’s really cool…” Paildramon said with a broad smile, looking up at Sleipmon. “I wish I could do that. Grow strong enough to protect people like you, I mean.”

    Sleipmon felt a warm twinge of appreciation in his heart. He smiled and put his hand on Paildramon’s shoulder. “I’m sure you can. I don’t know if you knew this, but the founder of the Order of the Royal Knights was Imperialdramon Paladin Mode. He was a Paildramon just like you, once,” Sleipmon explained. “In fact, maybe in a year, when you’re older, you could apply to join our lower ranks. There’s a lot of mobility in the Order.”

    Paildramon’s grin grew even wider and his eyes grew wide with excitement. “Do you mean it? Do you think I could?!” he asked.

    “Sure, if you work hard enough,” Sleipmon assured him. “You obviously have the motivation.”

    “Sleipmon,” RhodoKnightmon spoke impatiently.

    “Okay. I have to get going now,” Sleipmon told Paildramon, as well as the crowd.

    “W-Wait!” Paildramon spoke up. “P-Please, I mean. Can you please give me your autograph?” He quickly reached into his chest armour to pull a pencil and a scrap of paper from one of the pockets.

    Sleipmon smirked softly and nodded, taking the paper and pencil to Paildramon’s immense pleasure. “’To Paildramon. May your hopes be fulfilled. From Sleipmon of the Royal Knights.’ How’s that?” the Royal Knight asked as he handed the paper and pencil back to Paildramon.

    “That’s amazing! Thank you so much!” Paildramon exclaimed, gingerly taking the piece of paper so as not to crumple it.

    Sleipmon nodded. “My pleasure. Now, RhodoKnightmon and I have to get going to the town hall. It’s right up this road, isn’t it?”

    Paildramon nodded. “It’s the big building about eight blocks down. You can’t miss it!”

    “Thank you.” RhodoKnightmon took Sleipmon by the arm and started pulling him up the road, further into Mossridge. “Now, let’s go before you start signing even more autographs for fanboys.”

    “Wait, RhodoKnightmon! Can I have your autograph too, please?!” Paildramon called after them.

    “I’ll give it to you when him and I are finished!” RhodoKnightmon chimed back.

    Sleipmon rolled his violet eyes. “Alright. Let’s go talk to the mayor.”

    -

    The two Royal Knights stopped in front of a building that stood larger than most of the others in Mossridge. The city hall stood about forty feet high and had a trapezoidal shape. It was made up of polished, grey stone, and sculpted into its sides were grooves for aesthetic purposes. Much more obvious, though, were the vines and ivy that crawled up the sides of the building. They made the building look more natural. In fact most of the town of Mossridge was built in a way so that there was a harmony with the natural surroundings, like the river.

    “This looks like it, doesn’t it?” Sleipmon suggested, beginning to walk up the eight stone steps to a landing.

    “Well, it does have two guards at the entrance,” RhodoKnightmon said, following and eyeing the Stegomon and Gigasmon guards.

    Sleipmon walked up with RhodoKnightmon beside him. “The mayor is expecting us,” he explained. “May we go in?”

    “Please, go right in,” the stegosaurus Digimon replied, using his tail to open the door for them. “Mayor Moosemon is just inside.”

    “Thank you,” Sleipmon spoke, walking through the doorway and onto some marble floor within an expansive lobby. The marble wasn’t on the same level of quality as the flooring in the Royal Knights’ castle. It was done more cheaply, but, left unexamined, it still served its purpose of leaving a good impression of the town hall to those walking in.

    “Sir Sleipmon! Sir RhodoKnightmon!” a voice suddenly called amicably.

    They looked up and saw a white moose Digimon walking over. It was Moosemon, the mayor of Mossridge. He had a pair of thick, branch-like antlers on his head. They were blue, a similar shade to the very finely combed mane around his neck, and the markings on his white fur, which looked like it had been freshly brushed as well. The sound of his hooves clapping against the marble floor was similar to that of Sleipmon, who stepped forwards.

    “Ah, Mayor Moosemon,” Sleipmon greeted, smiling.

    “Greetings,” RhodoKnightmon spoke as well.

    “I’m so glad to see you both!” Moosemon said enthusiastically, gracing them with an overly big smile. “I’ve been anticipating this inspection. I hope you weren’t inconvenienced by my request to make it today. You see, I have family visiting from out of the Free Area in a few days.”

    “It was no inconvenience,” Sleipmon assured him.

    “I’m sure you both must be tired after your journey. Can I interest either of you in something to eat or drink? Wine, perhaps? It’s imported from Riverspring Valley.”

    “No, thank you,” RhodoKnightmon insisted. “We should just get down to business; I’m sure you want us around for as little as possible.”

    Moosemon laughed nervously and turned around. “Okay. Please, follow me,” he told them, leading them through a door on the left that he opened with his antlers.

    RhodoKnightmon followed him with Sleipmon. He lightly nudged the horseman’s arm with his elbow, ushering him to lean in. “He wants us to inspect Mossridge early, and he’s trying rather too hard with us here. I feel as if he’s hiding something, don’t you?” the pink knight said to his comrade in a murmur.

    “I think it’s just his nerves,” Sleipmon answered. “That’s what that Hawkmon admitted to us. It’s not unusual for people to get nervous about our inspections.”

    “I think Duftmon’s correct; you are rather naïve, Sleipmon,” RhodoKnightmon said to him. “Even if you’re correct and he is nervous, then that means there is something that he is nervous about. Something he doesn’t want us to find, perhaps?”

    “I don’t know why everyone who isn’t cynical suddenly has to be labelled as ‘naïve’,” Sleipmon protested. “Haven’t you ever had a test or an interview before, Rhodo? Even when you’re confident in your abilities and you know you have nothing to hide, you still tend to feel nervous beforehand.” Sleipmon paused. “Don’t overcompensate because you, Duftmon, and Magnamon missed something with Anubismon during your inspection of Lupolford,” he decided to add.

    RhodoKnightmon suddenly stopped and turned to Sleipmon. “I do not overcompensate. I do my jobs thoroughly and professionally,” he told him. He turned and continued walking after Moosemon.

    Sleipmon eyed him for a few moments. “When you feel like it…” he replied in his mind, soon following after him.

    -

    Sleipmon and RhodoKnightmon stood in the mayor’s office. They had been standing there for about half an hour as Moosemon went over much of what had happened in Mossridge since the last inspection. He spoke candidly, although with a nervous laugh that cropped up whenever he got into something that he wasn’t comfortable with admitting, such as the less-than-amazing crop yields for example.

    “I see…” RhodoKnightmon replied. He eyed him suspiciously. “And on the subject of corruption?”

    “Corruption?” Moosemon asked, frowning. “Why, no.” He walked over to his desk and pushed a few scrolls forward. “You can check our bookkeeping documents here. You’ll find that all of the taxes are going where they should be going.”

    Sleipmon took one of the scrolls and opened it, reading the Digi-letters and numbers scrawled on the paper. For a moment, he glanced towards the wide door of the office before turning back to the scroll.

    “Only…” Moosemon muttered.

    “Only?” RhodoKnightmon asked, folding his arms.

    “I don’t know if you would call this corruption, but one of my advisors had to be dismissed for drunken and disorderly behaviour while on the job,” Moosemon explained, punctuating it with another chuckle. “He enjoyed Koenigs Bier a little too much. He trashed my office here. We couldn’t have that.”

    “Something like that isn’t our concern,” RhodoKnightmon assured him.

    Moosemon smiled a bit wider and nodded. He turned to Sleipmon. “Is everything in order?” he asked.

    “It seems like it,” Sleipmon replied, rolling up the scroll and handing it back. “Do we have your permission to look at the crime logs at the local police office?”

    “Why, it’s your right to,” Moosemon told them.

    “I will see to that,” RhodoKnightmon explained. He looked his equine partner. “Why don’t you talk to some of the townspeople while I do that?”

    Sleipmon nodded. “We’ll meet up outside here, how about?” he asked, already walking towards the door. “Thank you for your cooperation, Mayor.”

    “Anytime,” Moosemon replied with a look of relief on his face.

    RhodoKnightmon eyed him for a few moments before walking over to Sleipmon.

    “We have an eavesdropper outside,” Sleipmon whispered to him.

    RhodoKnightmon nodded and stepped out with Sleipmon, who closed the door behind them. They saw the big, blue body of a dragon - a Veedramon – who was casually walking away in an attempt to look innocent. The pink-armoured knight looked at Sleipmon for confirmation, who nodded.

    One of RhodoKnightmon’s sashes suddenly whipped through the air and wrapped around the Veedramon’s arm, stopping him from walking any further. The Veedramon tensed up and tried to wrench his arm away on reflex, but the RhodoKnightmon’s sashes were surprisingly durable.

    “Hey!” he exclaimed, spinning around to see what grabbed him. “What is this?!”

    Sleipmon and RhodoKnightmon approached him, the latter keeping a hold on the sash. “Eavesdropping, were you?” the horse knight asked, stopping in front of the smaller dragon.

    “No…” Veedramon grunted, trying not to seem defiant, although still resisting against the ribbon. “I was only walking to my office.”

    “I could hear you brushing up against the door while we were talking with the mayor,” Sleipmon remarked, eyeing him suspiciously.

    Veedramon looked away, sneering in defeat. “Yeah… Okay. I admit it. I was eavesdropping, but I was only protecting my interests,” he explained, turning back to look at them. “Can you let go of my arm now?”

    RhodoKnightmon unwound the sash from around Veedramon’s arm. “I’m rather confused,” he stated. “Who are you, exactly?”

    “I’m one of the members of the town council,” Veedramon explained. “We’re sort of like advisors to the mayor.”

    “And what do you mean by ‘protecting your interests’?” the Royal Knight asked, placing his hands on his hips.

    Veedramon huffed and folded his arms. “I was making sure that Moosemon wasn’t throwing me under the Trailmon, so to speak. He’s already told enough lies about my family; I didn’t need him lying to the Royal Knights too.”

    “Oh?” RhodoKnightmon asked.

    “What lies?” Sleipmon inquired.

    “Like that garbage about my brother. Yeah, maybe he smashed up Moosemon’s office, but that guy provoked him!” Veedramon growled.

    “Slow down,” the red knight implored. “Your brother was the one he mentioned? He was a member of the council too?”

    “Yeah. AeroVeedramon was never drunk. Moosemon was just looking for a reason to dismiss him, and when he couldn’t find one, he created one,” Veedramon said.

    “Why would he do that, exactly?” Sleipmon asked.

    “Because Moosemon has it in for our family!” the blue dragon explained angrily.

    “That’s more than enough, Veedramon,” a voice bellowed out from down the hall.

    The Royal Knights looked behind them to see Moosemon walking over, having heard Veedramon’s raised voice. Veedramon glowered at him.

    “The Royal Knights don’t want to hear about your family’s dirty laundry,” Moosemon said with a stern stare, marching over. “I know you think your brother didn’t do anything, but you have a persecution complex the size of a MetalSeadramon. I’m not out to get you. Now, please stop causing problems for our esteemed guests.” Moosemon turned to Sleipmon and RhodoKnightmon. “This is very embarrassing. I’m sorry about him.”

    Veedramon turned to Moosemon and glared, but didn’t open his mouth.

    Sleipmon and RhodoKnightmon looked at each other, their exasperation beginning to show.

    “We need to be getting on with our inspection now. Thank you for talking with us, both of you. It has been enlightening,” Sleipmon replied. With that, Sleipmon and RhodoKnightmon turned and started making their way out of the town hall.

    “So, it seems there is more to this than meets the eye,” RhodoKnightmon said to him.

    “I guess so…” Sleipmon murmured. “I wonder who’s telling the truth.”

    “I’m not sure. You go and talk to the townspeople. Specifically ask about rivalries and corruption. I’ll get the records from the police office and then I’ll come back here to talk to some of the other advisors about this,” RhodoKnightmon explained. “Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, Sleipmon. Don’t let your friendly ways get in the way of doing your job.”

    Sleipmon nodded, although frowning a bit. “I won’t…”

    -

    After about an hour, RhodoKnightmon emerged from the police office. Everything seemed to be in order there, and he had a lengthy chat with the chief constable. It was mid-afternoon by the time that he left the building.

    He made his way back to the town hall, where he saw that the Gigasmon guard was gone and the Stegomon guard was sitting down on the steps, munching on some cabbage.

    Cabbage by itself?” RhodoKnightmon mused to himself. “That’s not a proper meal…

    The Stegomon looked up, some bits of cabbage still dotting his mouth. “Oh, hello again. I’m just on my lunch break,” he greeted the Royal Knight.

    “I see…” RhodoKnightmon said. He eyed the head of cabbage in front of the Stegomon. “Wouldn’t that taste so much better with, perhaps, some cranberry vinaigrette?”

    The Stegomon slowly frowned and tilted his head sideways. “What’s a… vin-eh-gret?” he questioned.

    RhodoKnightmon stared at him, sighed and shook his head. “There is simply no hope for some Digimon…”

    “Huh?”

    “Never you mind,” the Royal Knight replied. “Can you tell me if there are any members of the mayor’s council in the town hall at this moment? Aside from Veedramon, I mean.”

    “Uh, yeah,” the Stegomon answered. “Parrotmon is inside.”

    “Good. Thank you,” RhodoKnightmon answered, walking up the stairs and letting himself into the lobby.

    To his luck, as soon as he entered, he saw the tall, broad form of a green and yellow parrot Digimon. The Parrotmon shifted around his blue talons to turn around and see who had just walked in. “Oh, hello, Sir RhodoKnightmon,” she greeted. “I heard that the inspection was today.”

    “Why, indeed it is,” RhodoKnightmon replied, looking up at the exotically coloured avian Digimon. “That is exactly why I would like to speak with you. Could you please spare a few minutes?”

    “Of course I can,” she said with a smile.

    “And you will answer honestly, won’t you?” Rhodo implored.

    Parrotmon nodded. “Sure. I’d be too nervous to lie to a Royal Knight anyways,” she replied sheepishly.

    “Thank you. Now… You’re one of Moosemon’s advisors, correct?” he asked.

    Parrotmon nodded again. “That’s right.”

    “So, I assume you’re aware of the situation between Veedramon and himself?”

    Her face began to grimace. “Well… yes… We weren’t supposed to bring that up today, but since you already know…” She looked at him uncomfortably.

    “It’s fairly obvious that there’s tension between them, but I’m afraid I don’t know as much as I feel I should,” RhodoKnightmon said, hoping that she would be able to fill him in.

    “Well…” Parrotmon paused. “To put it simply, it’s a family rivalry. No… ‘rivalry’ seems to trivialize it too much. They… can’t forgive each other,” she explained, a touch of sadness in her voice.

    RhodoKnightmon folded his arms. “Can’t forgive each other? What exactly happened?” he asked, more out of curiosity for necessary information than out of emotional investment.

    “It happened over a decade ago,” Parrotmon told him, gazing down at the knight, although her eyes were deep in thought. “Moosemon’s father, and Veedramon’s and AeroVeedramon’s father were the best of friends… They had been for awhile, before they started having families. I remember that us four used to play together while our fathers would talk nearby.”

    “Yes, go on,” RhodoKnightmon spoke, inwardly wishing that she got to the point without the added emotional surplus.

    “Well… Moosemon’s father was a Pegasusmon, and Veedramon’s and AeroVeedramon’s father was a Paildramon,” she explained.

    RhodoKnightmon nodded, although he wondered why she felt it was necessary to tell him that.

    “Like I said, they were best friends…” Parrotmon said. “But one day… Paildramon changed.”

    “Changed…? His personality, you mean?”

    She shook her head. “He digivolved…” she told him ominously. “But… it went badly.”

    RhodoKnightmon thought about it for a moment. “Ah…” he said in revelation. “Imperialdramon Dragon Mode.”

    Parrotmon nodded sadly. “I guess I don’t have to tell you how unstable Imperialdramons are when they first achieve that mode. He couldn’t handle its power. He went wild,” she explained with a sigh.

    The Royal Knight frowned. “A rampant evolution. So, what happened next?”

    “Like I said, he lost control. He destroyed nearly a quarter of Mossridge. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was just attacking every building in sight. Nobody was seriously hurt except…” Parrotmon paused. “Pegasusmon tried to stop him. He tried to talk sense into him at first, but he wasn’t getting through. When he realized that wasn’t working, he tried to incapacitate him himself, but… Imperialdramon killed him.”

    RhodoKnightmon listened quietly, arms folded.

    “After that, Imperialdramon finally settled down and was able to get a hold of himself, I guess. I was young at the time. He hadn’t realized what he had done at first. I guess it was all a blur to him.”

    “Yes, when Digimon go rampant like that, they can’t think clearly. They don’t act rationally and they act purely on instinct and emotion,” RhodoKnightmon explained. “Sometimes they don’t settle down, but sometimes they can either calm down naturally or through a physical, mental, or emotional shock.”

    Parrotmon nodded. “Maybe it was that, then… I remember my dad mentioning that when Imperialdramon settled down, he was crying but he wasn’t sure why…” she said, almost in a mumble. “Anyways… Moosemon’s family didn’t forgive him. They said he was a monster. I think he began to think the same thing; when he found out what he had done, he was devastated. Heartbroken. One day, I guess he couldn’t take the guilt and sadness anymore. He deleted himself.”

    “I see…” RhodoKnightmon said. “So… That’s how it started? Moosemon’s family blamed them for Pegasusmon’s death, and Veedramon’s family blamed Moosemon’s family for Imperialdramon’s death?”

    “More or less…” Parrotmon answered grimly.

    “And yet Veedramon and AeroVeedramon are Moosemon’s advisors?” RhodoKnightmon asked curiously.

    “It’s complicated… Each of them were striving to become the mayor of Mossridge. Competing, almost. Once the Royal Knights appointed Moosemon as mayor, they had to take what they could get, and there was an uneasy truce between them, for the sake of the town. That said, the Veedramon brothers still want to become mayor themselves someday.”

    “Ah, I see. So… back to the present. AeroVeedramon’s dismissal. Who was in the right?” the pink-armoured knight asked. “It sounds like either story is possible now.”

    “I’m afraid I don’t know,” she admitted. “Both sides are sticking to their stories.”

    RhodoKnightmon sighed. “Great… Faction struggles,” he muttered. “As troublesome as this is, it will have to be sorted. If this in-fighting ends up escalating, it could end up going in an unfortunate direction. Factional in-fighting can sometimes lead to corruption, assassinations, coup d’états, and even civil wars. Nothing even close to that will be tolerated under our watch.”

    “I completely agree,” Parrotmon agreed. “I’d like nothing more than for them to make up.”

    RhodoKnightmon nodded. “Well, thank you for your help. I need to go inform my comrade.”

    “Alright… Please, sort something out between them,” she pleaded to him.

    “I’ll see what I can do,” he answered, turning and heading out to look for Sleipmon.

    -

    “So everything has been going well? That’s good to hear. Thank you for your time.”

    Sleipmon turned away from the small, purple Penguinmon he had been talking to and started trotting past him. He made his way down a stone street that ran parallel to the river. On the left hand side was the flowing water of the river and on the right hand side were a row of shops that were beginning to close for the day.

    He had thoroughly talked with the residents of Mossridge and there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Sleipmon wondered if the rivalry between Moosemon and Veedramon was even worth following up on. From what he gathered from the townspeople, neither of them were bad Digimon, they just didn’t like each other. It did pique his interest that they used to be friends, though.

    The cavalier continued walking as stone road turned into a dirt path as he began to reach the edge of the town. Sleipmon was about to turn to go back, but something ahead of him caught his eye. He saw the Paildramon who he had met earlier.

    Paildramon was outside a large house, presumably his. He had one arm stretched out in front of him, and he lifted one leg slowly up before moving it behind him, as if taking a battle stance. He then extended the long spikes in his gauntlets and began stabbing the air.

    Sleipmon raised an eyebrow and began to make his way over. Paildramon was facing to the side and had a look of serious concentration on his face, so he didn’t notice Sleipmon approach.

    “That’s not bad, but you should pivot your feet more,” Sleipmon remarked with a light smile.

    The teenage dragon jumped up and swerved towards the voice, completely startled. His red eyes widened like moons when he saw who the voice belonged to. “Guh! S-Sleipmon!” he sputtered, his face turning the same red colour as his helmet when he realized he must have been making a fool of himself. He started rubbing the back of his head, looking away since he couldn’t bring himself to look him in the eyes. “I… didn’t see you there.”

    “It’s not bad, Paildramon,” he assured him, sensing the dragon’s embarrassment. “Where did you pick up stances like that?”

    Paildramon finally allowed himself to look at the Royal Knight. “Uh… W-Well… My uncle’s been teaching me, actually,” he explained sheepishly. “He has a lot of time on his claws, since he got dismissed from his job recently.”

    Sleipmon looked at him curiously. “He was dismissed? Is your uncle AeroVeedramon, by any chance?” he asked. Upon seeing Paildramon nod, he continued. “So, that makes you Veedramon’s son?”

    “Yeah,” Paildramon replied, a little surprised. “You met them?”

    “I met your father,” Sleipmon explained.

    The dragon Digimon smiled and nodded. “Uh, do you mind if I keep training?” he asked. “We can still talk; I just don’t want to break my rhythm.”

    “Of course.”

    Paildramon smiled more broadly. “And if you have any more tips, I’d love to have them,” he mentioned, going back to the attack stance that he was in before, although feeling a bit self-conscious with Sleipmon watching.

    Sleipmon grinned. “Sure,” he answered. “So, do you know why your uncle was fired?”

    Paildramon shrugged and started stabbing the air. He then recoiled a step and crossed his arm blades in front of him in a defensive stance before going back to various stabs and thrusts. “Uh… Apparently he was… drinking on the job, but… him and Dad say that… Mayor Moosemon did it out of spite,” he replied between grunts of effort.

    Sleipmon nodded, watching as Paildramon performed a roundhouse kick in the air before following up with a whip from his tail. It was obvious that Paildramon was showing off his best moves for Sleipmon. “I see…”

    “It’s too bad… Apparently they used to be friends,” Paildramon replied, thrusting his arm forwards before ejecting his wire-guided claws twenty meters down the yard.

    “They did?” Sleipmon asked, although already knowing that fact. “What happened?”

    Paildramon’s speed started to increase noticeably with every new punch and movement. “I think… it had to do… with Granddad…” he answered. As he trained, he started panting and sweating. His scales began paling behind his helmet.

    “Your grandfather?” Sleipmon asked.

    Paildramon nodded and, after a moment, suddenly stopped his actions. He brought his hand to his head, closing his eyes tightly. “Guh…” he groaned.

    The Royal Knight frowned. “Paildramon? What’s wrong?” he asked.

    “N-Nothing…” he tried to reassure Sleipmon. “I just feel kinda weird for some reason.”

    “Weird? How so?” Sleipmon asked, walking towards him with some concern.

    “I… I dunno…” Paildramon grunted, stepping backwards. “I feel tingly all over… and kinda light-headed…”

    “What…?” Sleipmon asked, suddenly frowning. He could hear the dragon’s heavy breathing from there.

    Paildramon gripped his forehead, grimacing tightly, almost as if in pain. “I… AH!” he suddenly cried out.

    Sleipmon rushed forwards, but stopped when Paildramon’s body became encased in a grey aura. Suddenly his whole body shone brightly and data exploded outwards as his body began to change shape.

    The Royal Knight took several steps backwards in the grass, watching as Paildramon’s form began to grow and grow and grow… Sleipmon had to shield his eyes from the light with the red Niflheimr shield he wore on his right arm. A terrible roar accompanied the sudden digivolution.

    Sleipmon moved his shield to look as the light began to die down. He had to crane his neck to look up at the huge Digimon. In Paildramon’s place was a giant blue dragon standing all fours. He now wore black armour over his back and his four legs. Instead of his hands, he had formidable, golden claws and a long, sharp sickle on each foreleg. A warm wind blew through his white hair, which stuck out from beneath his red and black helmet. The helmet was reminiscent of the one he had as a Paildramon, except this one had a white crown over it, and it rested on top of a fearsome, snarling face.

    Sleipmon suddenly felt uneasy. He watched as the dragon’s new, red wings suddenly spread out from beside the huge positron cannon that was built into the armour on his back.

    “Paildramon… You evolved…” he said cautiously. He offered a small smile. “Congratulations.”

    The Imperialdramon Dragon Mode let out an earth-shaking roar and staggered towards Sleipmon on shaky limbs, his tail swishing wildly behind him. Sleipmon backed up a bit more. “Take it easy, Paildramon,” he told him. “You’re not used to the form yet.”

    Imperialdramon merely roared again and stopped. He stood up straight and energy began to accumulate within his Positron Cannon. Not even calling his attack, Imperialdramon simply snarled loudly and fired a blue blast of energy circled by purple helices from his cannon aimlessly into the air.

    Sleipmon’s eyes widened. “Paildramon! Be careful!” he told him harshly. “You could hurt…” Sleipmon watched as Imperialdramon turned his attention towards him, welcoming him with another savage roar. “somebody…” he finished in a distraught mumble.

    Imperialdramon leaned the front of his body close to the ground, angling his body so that the Positron Cannon aimed down at Sleipmon.

    Sleipmon grimaced, gazing up at Imperialdramon and his cannon. Power began to be drawn into the cannon from the nearby air; the positrons were growing inside the mouth of the cannon. “Paildramon… Imperialdramon… What are you doing? It’s Sleipmon. I’m a Royal Knight. What’s wrong?” he asked, backing up a couple more steps.

    A soft growl rumbled within Imperialdramon’s throat before it turned into a full on throat-tearing roar. The cannon brimmed with power. Imperialdramon looked at Sleipmon with wild red eyes, and, suddenly, the cannon erupted. A massive laser ripped from the cannon and surged towards Sleipmon, tearing up the ground as it closed in on him……
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  22. #22
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    Dec 2006
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    Chapter 14: Spectres of the Past


    An eerie wind blew down across the crest of the hill. DarkKnightmon’s dark cape shuddered in the breeze as he gazed down at Alphamon. Both bodies remained still, almost as if entranced by the other’s presence. However, in Alphamon’s case, he was stalled by the sense of dread. In DarkKnightmon’s case, he was awaiting Alphamon’s reaction.

    OuRyuumon stood below Alphamon, further down the hill, gazing at the Digimon in shock. His face soon morphed into a savage, draconic glower, and he flapped his wings, ripping up the hill and getting beside Alphamon.

    “You!” he demanded in agitation. “What the hell are you doing here, you bastard?!”

    DarkKnightmon slowly turned his head towards OuRyuumon in recognition, unfazed by his aggressive, confrontational manner. “OuRyuumon... I suppose this is the second time that you didn’t expect to see me again, isn’t it?” he remarked to the dragon with a twinkle in his eye.

    OuRyuumon clenched his teeth and glared deeply. A sharp hiss escaped his throat.

    “You’re... the fugitive...” Alphamon finally said, composing himself. “You escaped the Dark Area... How...?”

    “I suppose it wasn’t as impervious as Imperialdramon Paladin Mode intended,” DarkKnightmon answered cryptically.

    “You suppose a lot, skull face,” OuRyuumon snarled scathingly.

    “I suppose I do,” the dark knight dryly said. He turned to Alphamon. “How is the Order doing? The other Royal Knights?” he asked.

    “That is not any of your business, DarkKnightmon,” Alphamon firmly told him, taking a step forwards.

    “You wound me, Alphamon,” the fugitive replied, although he didn’t sound wounded at all.

    “That’s the plan!” OuRyuumon shouted. Suddenly, the dragon dashed forwards, summoning the twin Gairyu scimitars in his hands.

    A shroud of darkness surrounded DarkKnightmon’s right hand, and in a sharp burst of shadows, he summoned a huge, double-ended, blood red lance. He swung the mighty Twin Spear in front of him and blocked the descending swords, resulting in a flurry of sparks from the impact. His gold eyes narrowed and he drove his foot into OuRyuumon’s long body, sending him careening back into Alphamon.

    Alphamon let out a grunt of pressure as he caught OuRyuumon with one hand and stepped back to keep himself from losing balance on the hill. The Lord of the Empty Seat raised his hand in front of him, reaching past OuRyuumon. Emerald particles quickly gathered in the palm of his hand and glowed intensely. “Digitalize of Soul!” he shouted. A green beam blasted mightily from his palm towards DarkKnightmon, singing the tips of the grass below.

    DarkKnightmon’s eyes flashed and he swung his dual lance in front of him, slamming it into the blast. He just barely managed to deflect the beam, but it sent his spear jerking back in his hand. DarkKnightmon used the momentum to swing the Twin Spear up and he began to swing it around rapidly. Shade began to emanate from the spear and spiral around his body.

    “No!” Alphamon cried out, pushing OuRyuumon to the side and dashing up the hill towards DarkKnightmon.

    DarkKnightmon rotated the spear faster and faster. Darkness bled from the Twin Spear and revolved around him, the shadows of murk and gloom crackling and whirring violently. The shadowy tornado consumed DarkKnightmon and began to tear up the grass around him, preventing Alphamon from getting close to him.

    “Treason Vortex!” DarkKnightmon exclaimed.

    “DarkKnightmon!” Alphamon called out in frustration as he tried to make his way towards the powerful, gyrating darkness.

    “We will meet again, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon said to him, staring at the black knight through the shadows. His eyes flashed red. “I promise.” His face was then concealed by a tendril of shade.

    “No!” the knight protested. He got ready to summon his Seiken Gradalpha to hack through the tornado, but the shadows suddenly expanded and amplified.

    The black, deadly whirlwind consumed both Alphamon and OuRyuumon and threw them into the air. The two crashed into the ground and they rolled and tumbled violently down the hill until they hit the very bottom.

    Alphamon winced but wasted no time in getting to his feet. He was about to dash back up the hill when he saw that the dark funnel of power had vanished.

    OuRyuumon spat and scrambled to his feet. He flapped his bladed wings and raced to the top of the hill, Alphamon right behind him. “He’s gone!”

    “What?!” Alphamon demanded, reaching the crest of the hill in record time. He looked around. The only trace of DarkKnightmon was the spiral pattern of ripped up dirt in the grass below. “Where is he?!”

    OuRyuumon flew up high into the air for a better vantage point, looking around in all directions. “Not a frigging trace!” he told Alphamon.

    “No...” Alphamon clenched his fists and shut his eyes. “How could we let him escape...?”

    OuRyuumon grimaced and flew back down, landing beside him. “We’ll get him... Did you notice? He was weaker than usual. He still hasn’t recovered all of his energy from when he escaped.”

    “Then we can’t let him recover,” Alphamon responded firmly, he looked around the landscape in agitation and concern. “We need to look for him.”

    “He’s not anywhere in sight, Alphamon,” OuRyuumon told him. “These eyes don’t miss much. He must have whisked himself away in that Treason Vortex.” The dragon spat in disgust. “Tch. Fitting name, isn’t it?”

    “We can’t leave him unchecked. He must be somewhere nearby,” Alphamon stubbornly insisted.

    “The best thing we can do is go home and tell the others about this,” OuRyuumon explained. “I want to beat him senseless as much as you do, but... we should go back.”

    The Aloof Hermit grimaced. He reluctantly gave a nod. “Fine... You’re right. We’ll go back,” he tersely announced. He turned and started speed walking down the hill, back to the path. “Let’s go.”

    OuRyuumon watched Alphamon walk away with pensive, worried eyes. He sighed, spread his Gaiba Daimeijin wings, and glided down the hill after him. The two hastily made their way back towards the Royal Knight Headquarters to announce the bad news.

    -

    Examon sat in his seat in the council room. All of the Royal Knights had been summoned suddenly and asked to convene there. Nobody was really sure why Alphamon asked them to gather, but it was clear that he was very flustered about something.

    The red dragon eyed Alphamon calculatingly from across the table, watching him as he sat and tried to maintain a calm facade. The rest of the Royal Knights looked at him as well, waiting for whatever he was going to say. An air of tension loomed heavily over the room.

    “OuRyuumon and I saw the fugitive,” Alphamon spoke up. Sounds of surprise filled the room. “On our way back here.”

    “What happened?” Dynasmon asked him fervently.

    “He escaped,” Alphamon replied, stifling a cringe. “Furthermore, the fugitive is DarkKnightmon...” He stopped and allowed some of the Royal Knights to absorb the information.

    There was a tense pause that was quickly broken by Dukemon.

    “What?!” Dukemon shouted, abruptly standing to his feet and accidentally bumping Grani in the process. “DarkKnightmon?!”

    “Are you positive?!” Dynasmon also demanded.

    Alphamon nodded grimly.

    “Him of all Digimon...” Magnamon said bitterly.

    Omegamon simply grimaced and looked over at Alphamon.

    Examon frowned. He still wasn’t sure who this DarkKnightmon was. The knights who knew who he was were all very vague when talking about him, and the logs on the computer weren’t much better. They went into detail on all the other Dark Area prisoners, but not him. It left Examon and the other non-founder knights in the dark.

    “Is this supposed to be a big deal?” Duftmon asked. “Many of us don’t know what to expect from this ‘DarkKnightmon’ due to the sloppy, haphazard reports that are on him in the database.”

    “Is he the one who tried to kill you, Alphamon?” RhodoKnightmon asked, tapping his chin and thinking back.

    “Haven’t they all tried to kill him?” UlforceVeedramon pointed them out.

    Alphamon rubbed his temples with his fingers. “I will brief you all on him tomorrow,” he replied slowly, as if trying to suppress his exasperation.

    Duftmon folded his arms. “And you let him escape?” he asked, looking at Alphamon.

    OuRyuumon narrowed his eyes and stepped forwards to retort, but Alphamon raised a hand to stop him. The Lord of the Empty Seat took a deep breath and gazed at Duftmon. “...Unfortunately, yes, I did,” the Royal Knight answered.

    “Hmph. Then perhaps you should have finished him off to begin with instead of simply banishing him to the Dark Area,” Duftmon told him.

    “Duftmon?” Alphamon irately asked.

    “Yes?”

    “Silence yourself, for once,” he ordered the tactician. “This is one time that I don’t need your snide comments and smug, hindsight opinions on matters that you know nothing about.” Before Duftmon could begin to react to the chastisement, Alphamon turned to Dukemon and Grani. “Grani. Intensify your reconnaissance efforts. Increase the scout presence in Aurum, but don`t limit patrols to that province; he may have relocated after we spotted him. At the very least, we know who we’re looking for now.”

    “Understood,” the Zero ARMS answered obediently.

    Duftmon crossed his arms and flicked his blonde hair back irritably. “And the rest of us, leader?” he asked, although he made no effort to hide resentment in his voice.

    “Stand by until further notice,” Alphamon said, ignoring the sarcasm this time. “Get your weapons and armour touched up and get some rest. I doubt he’ll show his face again today. As I said earlier, you’ll be briefed on DarkKnightmon tomorrow morning. Understood?”

    “Very well,” Duftmon answered. He stood up from his seat. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things that I would rather do.”

    Alphamon watched as Duftmon exited the council room. The sound of his metal boots walking across the marble floor was the only sound that could he heard. It slowly grew softer as he went further away. The black knight turned back to the Royal Knights. “That was about all I had to say anyways,” he told them. “I apologize that I had to ruin your day with this news.”

    “Don’t worry about it, Alphamon,” Magnamon assured him, standing up as well.

    Alphamon nodded. He turned towards the open set of double doors leading into the great hall with a dour frown. “I have... some business that I must take care of too,” he said to the other Royal Knights. “This meeting is adjourned.”

    He walked out of the council room, his blue and white mantle flowing behind him. He didn’t wait for OuRyuumon or any of the other Royal Knights.

    Dukemon and Grani exchanged looks. “I guess that’s it,” the crimson knight said, standing up.

    “I’m going to wash up and then see how dinner is coming along,” RhodoKnightmon mentioned, standing as well.

    The Royal Knights left their seats and exited the council room. When they entered the great hall, they began to break off in different directions with different people.

    Craniamon disappeared out the nearest door, followed by Dynasmon and OuRyuumon. Omegamon, RhodoKnightmon, and Magnamon went through the opposite door, into a corridor. Examon walked with Dukemon, Grani, Sleipmon, and UlforceVeedramon down the great hall towards the foyer.

    “I’m guessing this isn’t good news,” UlforceVeedramon said with a serious look in his eyes.

    “You guessed right,” Dukemon answered him. His tone was also dire.

    UlforceVeedramon sighed. “Well, I’m going to have a shower. I’ll talk to you guys later,” he told them, walking ahead of the group with the speed that he was known for. He looked over his shoulder with a small grin. “If we’re going to end up bloodied and beaten, I at least want to smell nice.”

    Dukemon managed a fleeting smirk as UlforceVeedramon disappeared within the foyer. Grani looked over at his friend. “How are you, Dukemon?” he asked, speaking specifically with regards to what Alphamon revealed.

    “I’m a Royal Knight, Grani; I’ll manage,” Dukemon assured him. He grinned at the dragon. “Don’t you have some work to do other than worrying over me?”

    “I was trying to procrastinate just now,” Grani joked in a deadpan voice, turning his azure eyes back forwards. “Fine, if you want me out of your hair, I have plenty that I need to do.”

    Dukemon playfully pushed him. “Better get going then,” he advised the Zero ARMS.

    “Very well,” Grani said, although giving Dukemon a lingering glance.

    “Go. Stop fretting,” the red and white knight told him, compounding his words with a reassuring smile.

    Grani muttered something about stubbornness and began flying ahead of the three, into the foyer.

    Examon couldn’t help but frown. He didn’t understand the situation at all, and he was consternated by everybody’s sudden change of mood caused by this mystery Digimon. “Is this ‘DarkKnightmon’ really that... fearsome?” he asked Dukemon.

    “It’s not really that...” Dukemon admitted, looking back at him. “Don’t get me wrong, the guy’s really strong. It’s just... there’s a lot of history surrounding that guy. You’ll find out tomorrow, Examon. You too, Sleipmon.”

    Examon nodded. “This is kind of disconcerting, seeing you all so distraught.”

    “He has a point, Dukemon,” Sleipmon agreed, as the three walked into the marble foyer.

    “It’s probably just the shock of old scars,” Dukemon told them. “None of us expected to see DarkKnightmon again.”

    “I’m guessing you guys wished you had reformatted him when you had the chance,” Examon remarked.

    Sleipmon slowed down his gait and stopped in the middle of the octagonal room. Dukemon halted by one of the pillars and turned around to see why Sleipmon had stopped.

    Soon after, Examon came to a halt, wondering why he was the only one still walking. He turned around and was surprised to see Sleipmon glaring at him.

    “Is that your answer to everything, Examon?” Sleipmon asked, his voice controlled yet radiating anger and disappointment.

    “Sleipmon?” the dragon asked in confusion. He wasn’t sure what the horse Digimon was talking about or what set off this sudden change in mood.

    Dukemon frowned and stood between the two. He doubted anything drastic would develop, but he felt compelled to anyways. “I don’t think he knows what you’re talking about, Sleipmon,” Dukemon said, looking from Examon to Sleipmon.

    Sleipmon’s brows furrowed. “That’s the problem. You don’t seem to grasp the idea that killing Digimon is wrong.”

    “Of course I do,” Examon replied coolly. “How can you think that I don’t know that killing innocent Digimon is wrong?”

    “Innocent?” the large horse man asked. “What makes a Digimon ‘innocent’? Who decides that? Do you?”

    “What are you talking about, Sleipmon?” Examon replied calmly, although he was feeling confused and somewhat annoyed by Sleipmon’s accusatory tone. “Does this have to do with what I said about DarkKnightmon?”

    “This isn’t just about that,” Sleipmon insisted, his gaze level with Examon’s. “You also said that about Imperialdramon...”

    Examon’s gaze suddenly narrowed. “He was wreaking havoc on that town, wasn’t he?” he debated sharply..

    “He’s just a kid,” Sleipmon argued. “People like you, Rhodo and Duftmon... You seem to think that ‘reformatting’ is an acceptable solution because it’s easy or practical.”

    “Isn’t it?” Examon retorted. “They typically aren’t permanently deleted. They’re reborn as Digi-eggs, you know.”

    Sleipmon grimaced and tore his gaze away from him. “You just don’t understand...”

    Examon frowned deeper at the six-legged Digimon. “No. I don’t... Are you saying they should have kept DarkKnightmon alive? You know as much as I do about that situation, don’t you? It’s obvious that he is highly dangerous.”

    “I’m saying that killing should only be used as an absolute last resort,” Sleipmon passionately contended.

    “Even if that endangered innocent Digimon?” Examon countered.

    “I’m not getting into that argument again,” Sleipmon answered irritably.

    “You were the one that started this debate,” Examon calmly reminded him, folding his winged arms.

    Sleipmon grimaced. The anger on his face vanished and he looked at Examon with a beseeching gaze. “Examon... I know that when fighting Digimon, it’s easy to forget... but they’re just like you and I. It’s not alright to just delete them, even if they are fighting against us. They have families and memories... Even if they’re reborn, people will still have memories of them, and they’ll still be heartbroken when they die. You use the term reformatting, and I suppose it’s accurate; they become a completely new Digimon. They lose all their memories. The Digimon that they used to be is essentially dead.”

    The dragon’s gaze softened a bit. “Sleipmon...” he said. “I see what you’re saying, but those Digimon are willfully--“

    “Nevermind, Examon...” Sleipmon interrupted, shaking his head and bringing a hand up to his face to rub the top of his muzzle. “Forget it. I’m sorry for preaching my beliefs to you. I think I’m just stressed out...”

    “Sleipmon, you don’t have to...” Examon trailed off and sighed a bit.

    The cavalier Digimon smiled at him a bit. “I’m going to go rest. We’ll speak later, Examon,” he told him diplomatically, trying to show him that he had no ill-will. He then looked at Dukemon. “You too, Dukemon.”

    “Yeah... See ya, Sleipmon,” Dukemon said to him, nodding.

    Sleipmon nodded and headed to the left staircase to head up to the wing on the second floor where their quarters were. Examon watched as the horse Digimon’s equine body disappeared up the stairs. He fidgeted with the wing on his right arm and turned to Dukemon. “What do you think, Dukemon...?”

    “I think Sleipmon feels very strongly about that particular issue,” Dukemon told him, smiling a bit. “I do happen to agree with him, though...”

    “So... you disapprove?”

    Dukemon folded his arms and leaned back against the pillar behind him. “One of the great things about the Royal Knights is that we all have different opinions from each other, even though we all have the same desires in the end. It lets us see things from different perspectives. That said, it’s also the reason why we argue from time to time. Each Knight as their own different code of ethics; I doubt I could change yours any more than you could change mine, not that I would try to,” he explained.

    Examon nodded. “However...”

    “However, I do agree with Sleipmon that killing should be used only as an absolute last resort.” Dukemon smiled a bit sadly and scratched the Digital Hazard symbol emblazoned on his t-shirt. “That said, I do see your point about Digimon going on a rampage... If I ever...” He trailed off and winced. He left the words unsaid, not wanting to get into that topic, even though he was sure that Examon knew what he was talking about.

    “Dukemon...” Examon said sympathetically. The dragon knight closed his eyes for a moment, quietly thinking to himself. After several pensive seconds, he opened his green eyes and looked at Dukemon. “Dukemon, you confided in me about the Digital Hazard... There’s something I want to confide in you about.”

    Dukemon looked at him in surprise. “Oh, uh... Sure, Examon... Should we go somewhere more private?” he asked.

    Upon seeing the red dragon confirm, Dukemon started heading to the set of stairs that Sleipmon had travelled up. He walked into the enclosed staircase and headed up to the second floor of the building. Examon tucked his large wings back and followed him up. By now, he was used to keeping his wings and tail in check in the sometimes narrow corridors of the castle.

    Dukemon reached the top of the stairs and turned into the hallway where their living quarters were. He headed over to his bedroom. Examon followed him and entered the room after Dukemon. He closed the door behind him.

    Dukemon walked over to a chair and spun it around so that it faced the double bed. He said down and gestured with his arm to sit on the crimson blanket on his bed. Examon obliged and did so. He felt sheepish all of a sudden. Talking to somebody about himself – especially very personal things - was a new experience to Examon, and he wasn’t sure what to say. He began to question why he was even doing it at all.

    However, he remembered that, awhile ago, he was in this exact same situation, except Dukemon was the one opening up to him. Dukemon trusted him enough to unload a secret that he was obviously ashamed of, so Examon felt that he should return the action, even if it was uncomfortable to do so. He did trust Dukemon, after all...

    He could see that Dukemon was looking at him expectantly. The dragon supposed he should start, somehow. “Uh... You can probably guess that I’m from the United Dramonic Coalition... though, as you know, it was just a collection of Dramon-inhabited provinces when I first hatched...

    Examon contemplated what he was going to say next and then continued. “I come from a town in the north west of the United Dramonic Coalition. It was called Wyrm’s Edge. It was just east of the top most part of the Dragon Mountains. It was a calm, quiet place.”

    Dukemon nodded. “Sounds nice. Scenic.”

    “It was,” Examon replied. He smiled a bit. “As you can guess, I’m from the Dracomon evolution route. I was a blue Coredramon Do you know about the species? They’re somewhat rarer than other dragon Digimon.”

    “I know a bit about them.”

    “Do you know about the gekirin?” Examon asked him.

    Dukemon looked confused all of a sudden. “Gekirin?” he asked.

    “More commonly known as the ‘reverse scale’,” he explained. “Anyways... it wasn’t a bad childhood or anything. My parents were good, although my father was in the military and my mother was an adventurer, so I spent a lot of time on my own. Because of that, I’m self-taught in a lot of things. However, I had a friend... My best friend, I guess.”

    The crimson knight nodded. He allowed Examon to continue and tell his story at his own pace.

    “He was a Strikedramon. We spent a lot of our time together,” Examon explained. He didn’t realize it, but he was nearly wincing as this memories. “One day... We were fighting. Not ‘fighting’, but play-wrestling, as young Digimon do. He had me in a headlock... that’s when it happened. He accidentally touched my reverse scale. It was small, so I usually didn’t have a problem with it, but it was located in the groove under my lower jaw.” Examon used his claw to point to the left side of his neck, showing Dukemon where the scale would be if he was in his Coredramon or Dracomon form.

    “This gekerin...” Dukemon said broodingly, wondering what exactly a small scale could do.

    “Up until that point, I didn’t even realize I had one. That was the first time it had ever been touched,” Examon explained, his draconic features tightening into a grimace. “When the gekerin is touched, it makes the dragon go wild. I don’t remember anything of the attack, only a sharp, sensitive pain, and a sudden, overwhelming flood of rage.” Examon looked away from Dukemon in shame. “I... went berserk. I fired off my G-Shurunen II attack mindlessly. I couldn’t... control myself at all. It was this sickening, primal feeling inside me... This massive flood of draconic power and rage poured out. The next thing I remember is being completely exhausted and seeing Strikedramon lying in front of me. He was burned and bleeding all over his chest and arms. He wasn’t moving.”

    Examon had to go quiet. It pained him to recount the burden of guilt he had been shouldering. Dukemon looked at him sympathetically. “Did he...?” he asked uncertainly.

    “I don’t know,” Examon answered, composing himself once again. Upon seeing Dukemon’s confused look, he elaborated. “The ground around me was torn up, a few huts and houses were damaged, and Strikedramon was badly wounded. My first instinct was to call for help. I tried but my throat was raw and dry, so no words came out. In hindsight, I think it must have been from roaring too much during the frenzy...” The dragon knight paused. “Then it dawned on me... It was me who caused all of that damage, who hurt Strikedramon... I panicked. I was horrified at what I had done, and I was worried that I would be blamed for what happened. I didn’t know what they’d do to me. Most of all... I couldn’t bear watching Strikedramon die. The guilt was so intense, so I... I ran.”

    Dukemon was silent. He waited for Examon to continue.

    Examon sighed. “I’m not proud of it at all... but I flew away to the Dragon Mountains... It seemed like the only option at the time. I flew up, made a home for myself there, and lived off of the land. I remember I found a low peak above a forest with fresh water and cliffs that were filled with a beautiful collection of blue diamante and green malachite. So, I stayed there and trained.”

    “Trained?” Dukemon asked him.

    Examon nodded. “Both physically and mentally. Most of all, I would agitate my reverse scale over and over. Because it was such a remote place, it was safe for me to go wild.”

    “But why do that?” the crimson knight questioned.

    “Because I was trying to train myself to resist it,” he explained, narrowing his eyes as he looked down at his claws. “I wore myself out and scratched myself up repeatedly, fighting to control the primal, draconic rage and instincts that took control whenever that scale was touched. I wanted to make sure that I would never lose myself in those destructive emotions ever again. I already hurt one Digimon that I cared about... and that was one too many.”

    Dukemon grimaced and nodded. “I can understand...”

    “It took almost a year, but I finally managed to curb my impulses... Around the same time, I digivolved to Wingdramon,” he told Dukemon. “I figured that it was time I rejoined the world, but I still couldn’t bring myself to go back to Wyrm’s Edge.”

    “What did you do?”

    “I flew to another province. On the way to the capital, I came across a riverside village under attack by bandits, so I intervened. I defeated the attackers, and I guess the ruler of the area was impressed with my fighting skills. He said that they would support me if I continued to defend their territory from attackers. I didn’t have any other way to support myself, so I agreed. After several years of doing that, I evolved to Slayerdramon. It was said that I was the best fighter in all of the Dramon provinces, but I’m not sure how true that was.”

    “Is that around the time that the provinces formed the United Dramonic Coalition and you became its protector?” Dukemon asked.

    “No. That wasn’t until after I became Examon. That happened a few years later, during a particularly devastating attack on the capital. I guess I evolved in part due to the high exposure to the blue diamante and green malachite in the Dragon Mountains. There was a lot of discussion about me and the UDC afterwards, and I decided to accept their offer and move to the capital of Dragon’s Peak,” he explained. Examon sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck when he realized that he’d been babbling on. “Sorry. I got carried away telling my life story, I think. The point was the part about the Gekerin.”

    Dukemon grinned. “I don’t mind...” he reassured him. “So... I guess that explains why you’re always so calm...”

    Examon raised an eyebrow. “Does it?”

    “I’d say so... You hate losing control of your emotions,” Dukemon observed. He then chuckled a bit. “Unlike me, apparently. That’s something that I always noticed about you.”

    “I suppose so...” Examon admitted. “If there’s one thing that I learned from that experience, it’s that I didn’t want to be a destroyer. There are too many of those in the Digital World already... What I want is to be able to create something. I want to create a lasting peace in the world, like I helped to do in the United Dramonic Coalition.” He looked over at Dukemon and smiled. “That’s ultimately why I accepted the offer to join the Royal Knights when you came to me that day.”

    “Seems like ages ago, doesn’t it?” Dukemon said to him, smirking.

    “Yeah...” Examon said reminiscently.

    “Well, what happened between you and your friend was ages ago too. You shouldn’t worry about it,” he told the dragon.

    “I still can’t help but wonder what happened to him...” Examon replied with sad introspection. “I hope he recovered.”

    The handle of Dukemon’s door rotated with an audible click, prompting the two Royal Knights to look over, surprised. The door opened and the large form of Sleipmon stood in the doorway.

    “Sleipmon?” Examon asked uncertainly. “What are you doing here?”

    “I’m sorry for having listened in,” Sleipmon said, bowing his head slightly. “I was walking past in the hall and...”

    Examon became uncomfortable at the fact that Sleipmon had overheard his secrets. However, he supposed there were worse Digimon who could have overheard. “...It’s alright. You’re a trustworthy Digimon...” he said to Sleipmon, giving him a small smile.

    Sleipmon nodded in thanks. Nevertheless, his expression remained serious. “Examon... Do you wish you had been killed? For what happened to your friend?” he asked him.

    The dragon was taken aback by the question. He frowned and stalled, looking at Sleipmon steely. “I...” Examon broke his gaze with Sleipmon. “I did wish that. Back when I was a Coredramon,” he told him calmly, although his green eyes showed hidden sadness behind them. “But now... No, I don’t. While I’m still here, I can defend Digimon and the Digital World.”

    Sleipmon offered him a smile. “I’m glad you don’t feel that way anymore. But, you know... Imperialdramon likely feels shades of what you felt,” he told him. “The guilt of having... well, lost control.”

    “I know...” Examon admitted. “I realize that I’m likely biased. I’m not sure that I really meant that you should have killed him when he went out of control.”

    “Still, I was a bit harsh.”

    Dukemon rolled his eyes but grinned. “Oh, yeah. You used words that would make Ulforce blush,” he said sarcastically, winking at the horse man.

    Examon smiled at Sleipmon. “It’s forgotten,” he assured him. “I’ll try to take what you said into account in the future.”

    Sleipmon returned the smile. “Well, I’ll get out of your ways. I need to take a shower,” he told them.

    “We’re done here anyways,” Examon told him, standing up from Dukemon’s bed. “I could use a shower too.”

    “Yeah, ditto,” Dukemon agreed, getting to his feet as well. “I think I got cotton candy in my hair.”

    Sleipmon chuckled. “Let’s go down, then.”

    Examon looked at Dukemon and began following Sleipmon out of the room.

    Dukemon watched the two cross the corridor and head down the staircase. “Losing control, huh?” he mumbled to himself. He scratched the emblem on his t-shirt and made his way after them.

    -

    Hours later, night loomed over the castle and the surrounding landscape. The round moon was partially shrouded by a thin veil of clouds. Its bright silhouette still managed to shine through a little bit, creating an eerie panorama of the dark landscape.

    The crisp, spring breeze blew across Alphamon’s skin as he walked across one of the stone bridges that connected the main building to the castle wall. A Mystimon night-watchman, who was crossing the bridge in the opposite direction, respectfully greeted Alphamon as they passed by one another. Alphamon returned it and walked over to the ramparts.

    He sighed and placed his hands on the coarse, stone parapet. The rough, gritty bumps felt cool beneath his fingers as he leaned forwards on his arms. Alphamon looked out across the tranquil night landscape. Nothing moved but the spectres of clouds overhead. However, given the present circumstances, the peacefulness was replaced with uneasiness. He half expected to see DarkKnightmon lurking in the dusk’s shadows.

    Alphamon’s eyelids closed over his red irises and he took to his thoughts.

    “I thought you might be out here,” a voice said.

    The Lord of the Empty Seat opened his eyes and turned around. Omegamon was making his way across the same stone bridge that he had come from. The white knight walked up to Alphamon’s side and turned to look at him.

    “Omegamon...” Alphamon said with a trace of apprehension. He turned back to the landscape.

    “You often come out to the wall at night when you want to think,” Omegamon told him, turning and leaning forwards onto the parapet as well.

    Alphamon paused. “It’s peaceful out here,” he answered. “Usually.”

    “You’re thinking about DarkKnightmon,” Omegamon assumed.

    “You don’t have to be a fortune-teller to guess that,” Alphamon quipped.

    Omegamon was silent.

    Alphamon glanced over to see the white knight grimacing somewhat. He suddenly felt a twinge of guilt. “I’m sorry, Omegamon,” he told him earnestly. “I have no right to take that mordant tone with you.”

    Omegamon shook his head. “No, it’s... You were right about the seer in Auguria,” he said regretfully. “OuRyuumon and I should have listened.”

    Alphamon stood up straight and turned fully to Omegamon, frowning at him with surprise and compassion. “Don’t be ridiculous. There was no way that we would have been able to prevent his escape even if we did go on that Baronmon’s hunch. Even I doubted myself,” he reassured him.

    “I suppose...” Omegamon conceded.

    He chose not to bring up anything else relating to that trip to Auguria. Neither did Alphamon. A painful silence ensued... Uncomfortably, Alphamon turned away again to look out over the wall. It frustrated him that he had trouble just being around Omegamon now. The two of them used to be able to comfortably share these silences with one another, but now, the unspoken words became unbearable.

    “I--“ they both begun, cutting the other off. They stopped sheepishly. Omegamon rubbed the back of his head and looked out at the sky. “Go ahead,” he told Alphamon.

    “Please,” Alphamon insisted for him to speak, as he didn’t really have anything to say anyways.

    Omegamon nodded quietly. He slowly turned his blue eyes in Alphamon’s direction. “...The rest of us are troubled too. About DarkKnightmon, I mean... Magnamon, Dukemon, Dynasmon and I have the same worries that you do. And the others are tense because they don’t know what’s going on,” he explained.

    “Is this your way of telling me that I should stop feeling sorry for myself?” Alphamon asked, glancing over at his comrade.

    “I wouldn’t say that, exactly...” Omegamon told him, smiling slightly. “Is that what you’re doing...?”

    Alphamon managed a smirk. “A little bit, I suppose...” he admitted. The smirk vanished and he sighed. “I know that I have to be strong for the rest of the order. Everything has just been... getting on top of me lately.”

    “That’s because you always take it upon yourself to shoulder the burden, even when you have others who are willing to help lift the weight from your shoulders,” Omegamon said heedfully.

    Alphamon leaned forwards on the wall and looked up at the sky. After a few seconds, he turned his gaze back to Omegamon. “Isn’t that what it means to be the Lord of the Empty Seat?” he asked him rhetorically, his voice slow and heavy.

    Omegamon looked at him. “No... The Royal Knights are equal, Alphamon. That means we’re here to support you. You aren’t so high above us that you’re isolated. You always speak about how you’re on the same level as us – that your position is no more than being a first among equals - which means that you should be able to unburden yourself on us. We want to help, you know...” he explained to him

    The black armoured knight looked away from his friend, cringing with guilt. It pained him that, even after the pain that he had inflicted on Omegamon, that the knight was still this supportive of him. He answered only with a nod, although he didn’t directly look at Omegamon as he moved his head.

    “Alphamon...” Omegamon started ominously.

    Alphamon looked over, sensing the hesitation in his voice.

    Omegamon’s face was tinted pink and he had an uncomfortable look in his eyes. “I...” he began with the staggered, uncertain tone that Alphamon recognized from whenever Omegamon was put in a distressing situation such as public speaking.

    The knight winced and looked down at the face of the stone block that his hand rested on. “I... don’t want what happened in Auguria make you feel that you have to be scared of me,” he said to him.

    Alphamon’s eyes widened with surprise and, suddenly, he felt completely unsure of what to say.

    Omegamon finally turned his blue eyes up to look at Alphamon. “I promised that I wouldn’t tell anybody. And I support you no matter what happens,” he reassured him.

    “Omegamon, I—“ Alphamon moved his hand from the wall, closing his fist, and looking at Omegamon with eyes of protest and passion. He opened his mouth to say what he wished he was able to say back at Auguria, but he grimaced and turned to face the castle, closing his mouth. “...I know... Thank you...”

    Omegamon nodded, seeming satisfied with the answer. “We should get some rest. It’s getting late...” he said, looking up at the night sky.

    “Y...Yes. You’re right,” Alphamon concurred. He looked at his friend and allowed him to lead the way as they headed back over the bridge to the main building.

    Alphamon’s hand brushed along the coping of the bridge’s stone railing. He winced and inwardly cursed at himself. He followed Omegamon and looked at the knight’s back as he followed him over the arch.

    Damn it... Why is it so hard for me to explain to him? Am I too afraid that I’ll make it worse?

    Alphamon sighed to himself and walked inside. He said goodnight to Omegamon and walked into his room. He decided that he needed a good rest desperately.

    -

    Meanwhile, in the town of Lupolford, a dark figure passed down the main street. Phantom-like clouds passed over the buildings around him, and the shadow made his way through a light mist that rolled across the paved cobbles. He was the only one out walking at that time of night; the street was deserted apart from him.

    DarkKnightmon stopped in front of the most pronounced building in the large town. The town hall stood at the end of the main street, its stony architecture ornate and important. Just outside the entrance was a detailed sculpture of the mechanical MetalGarurumon X, one of the former mayors of the town. As he passed the ostentatious piece of art, DarkKnightmon offhandedly noted how hard it must have been to sculpt.

    The dark knight made his way to the foot of the steps but stopped abruptly when the doors of the town hall slowly opened. He looked forwards and saw only a two-legged silhouette standing in the door, the side of its form vaguely highlighted by the orange glow of a torch inside.

    “What are you waiting for?” a voice said to him. “Come in.”

    “Very well,” DarkKnightmon spoke, making his way up the steps with soft, metal footsteps. A gust of wind blew against him and caused his cape to flap in the wind. The knight passed the threshold and disappeared into the dimly lit foyer of the town hall.

    “Continue on through,” the voice said in a harsh, growling tone. “If you don’t mind.”

    DarkKnightmon complied and headed through the foyer to a set of double doors. With a light shove, he pushed them open and walked into a great hall. The hall was large and empty, and two-thirds of the way down the hall was a small set of steps leading up a couple of feet. On this raised area was an ornate chair. Behind it, on the far wall, were two doors leading elsewhere in the town hall. The floor of the great hall was coated in black marble, which made the sound of his boots hitting the hard surface echo around the expansive hall with every step.

    DarkKnightmon walked forwards in the darkness. “Extravagant for a town hall, isn’t it?” he mused aloud.

    “The former mayor had an inflated perception of himself,” his host told him, taking the single torch in the foyer and walking into the hall himself. “It got him killed, apparently.”

    “And the current mayor?” DarkKnightmon asked turning around.

    The dancing flames of the torch illuminated the body of the other Digimon. A dark red dragon man stepped forwards. The crimson armour that he wore all over his body shimmered as it reflected the flames. His arms and legs were covered with hard bumps and spikes. The most noticeable of the bony spikes were the ones protruding from his shoulders, the collar of his breastplate, his waist, and his wrists. On his back he wore an immobile, metal mantle, from which three giant, black horns protruded, looming over his shoulders and head. The flames revealed his face to be equally jagged. He had sharp facial features and horns all over his jaw and forehead, not to mention one large, black nose horn. The only part of his crimson scales that were exposed were the heels of his feet, his biceps, and his waist.

    The Dorbickmon grinned at DarkKnightmon, revealing rows of sharp, savage teeth. “The current mayor isn’t a problem. He agreed to do anything I tell him, including handing this building over to me.”

    “Can you trust him?” DarkKnightmon asked, his yellow eyes carefully inspecting Dorbickmon’s violet ones.

    “I trust him to put the safety of the town above all else. He won’t go running to the Royal Knights. He can probably guess what the consequences of that would be,” Dorbickmon explained. “I made myself pretty clear.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “So, Lupolford...?”

    “It’s right under the Royal Knights’ nose. They’ll never guess that you’re hiding in plain sight. The town hall of one of their territories...” Dorbickmon explained.

    “Won’t they?”

    The dragon shook his head. “They did an inspection shortly after installing the new mayor. I doubt they’ll be back for awhile, especially when they know that you’re on the loose.”

    “Perhaps...” DarkKnightmon mused.

    The dark knight turned around and walked further down the great hall. He walked up the five steps, but suddenly stopped when something caught his eye. At the back of the hall, there was a crack in the marble floor. The tiny fissure seeped dark data into the air. He turned around to Dorbickmon. “Is that a rift connected to the Dark Area?” he asked him.

    “It is,” Dorbickmon explained, walking up beside him. “Don’t worry; nobody else will be escaping aside from you. It’s just a tiny one that I’m having trouble closing.”

    “Good,” DarkKnightmon replied. “I don’t need those bastards down there getting out and causing havoc. To think that I had to spend the past how many years down there with them... It sickens me.”

    DarkKnightmon’s eerie, yellow eyes narrowed and he turned to Dorbickmon. “By the way... I suppose I owe you my thanks,” he said to him. “For helping to free me.” He extended his hand to him.

    Dorbickmon grinned and reached forwards to clasp DarkKnightmon’s hand and shake it powerfully. “You’re making me blush.”

    “I can’t help but wonder your motivations for doing so, however,” DarkKnightmon explained. “It was a huge risk.”

    “High risk, high reward,” Dorbickmon answered, pulling his hand away. “I have to admit, it took a lot of effort altering the Digital World’s dragon’s veins to corrupt the integrity of the Dark Area like that. It wasn’t easy keeping the whole thing stable. Like you said, there are a lot of destructive Digimon in there that we don’t want getting out. That said, I only weakened the barriers for you. You used your Choujigen Axe technique to make the rift just wide enough for you.”

    “Thanks to your advice. Which leads us back to the question...” the shadowy knight said, his words lingering. “Why help me escape?”

    “We have common enemies,” Dorbickmon replied. His eyes narrowed bitterly.

    “How do you know that?” DarkKnightmon questioned.

    “I’ve read up on you,” the dragon man said, turning to him. “Your past. Except I’m wondering what your intentions are now.”

    “I suppose they’re no different from what they were before I was locked away,” DarkKnightmon responded. “I’m going to dismantle the Royal Knights... and, on a pettier note, get a bit of retribution to ease the betrayal that I still feel.” The knight calmly turned to Dorbickmon. “And yourself? How do I fit into your plans?”

    Dorbickmon’s gaze hardened. “Like I said, we have common goals...” he responded gruffly. “You were betrayed.” He paused and clenched his teeth. “I was betrayed... You want vengeance on the Royal Knights... I want vengeance on one particular Royal Knight...”

    “I see... Then I think you and I can work together, Dorbickmon,” DarkKnightmon told him.

    “Good,” Dorbickmon quickly answered.

    “Purely out of curiosity, which Royal Knight is it that you despise so much?” the knight asked.

    The dragon narrowed his eyes with dark anger, the flames of the torch reflecting in his yellow sclera, but he managed a small smile. “Oh, an old friend of mine,” he told him. “The newest member of the Royal Knights...

    “Examon...”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  23. #23
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    (Author's Note: I'm done my school year, so I should have way more time to write now! Also, this next chapter is going to be divided into three different parts, which I'll post in intervals of three days. I didn't want to have another two-parter, let alone a three-parter, but it happened out of necessity. It's going to be a bit different from the other chapters.)

    Chapter 15: The Immortal Champion (Part I)


    A Digimon stood on the crest of a small hill, surrounded by eight others. That Digimon was a blue dragon man, humanoid in form, with a long azure tail and a pair of cloudy-white wings. He stood tall and proud before them.

    The bright sunlight shone down and reflected off of his pristine, white armour that he wore over most of his body. The white metal was trimmed with gold in various places, matching the colour of his short, blonde hair, which flowed out from the back of his helmet. He gripped the hilt of his sword with his blue scaled hand and planted the blade in the ground. It stood nearly as tall as he did and had the word “Initialize” inscribed on the side in digi-letters.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s red eyes glistened in the light. He turned to observe the eight Digimon around him. He smiled warmly as his eyes first landed on a knight clad in black armour. “Alphamon,” he said first.

    Next, he turned to the Digimon beside him, wearing white armour. “Omegamon.”

    His eyes then shifted to a knight wearing white and red armour and a flowing crimson cape. “Dukemon.”

    His gaze dipped to a Digimon of the same Veemon-based species as him, clad in shimmering golden armour. “Magnamon.”

    “Dynasmon,” he spoke, his eyes acknowledging the tall, white-plated, periwinkle-hued dragon man.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode then turned to one more humanoid Digimon, coated in black, silver, and gold plate. “And DarkKnightmon...”

    Each of the six Digimon acknowledged the sword-wielding dragon with a nod. OuRyuumon and Grani lingered behind the group, watching.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode smiled at them. “I have fought alongside each and every one of you, time and again. And you have all fought alongside each other. I believe in your bonds, and I also believe that now is the time that we ought to make a change,” he explained, his voice strong and noble.

    “Is this about what we all discussed, Imperialdramon?” Alphamon asked him.

    “Yes...” he replied. He looked around at all of them. “You six are officially the founding members of the Order of the Royal Knights as of now. As members of the Order, it is your job to safeguard Digimon from harm and defeat evil wherever it arises. You all have good hearts... now, combine the wills of your hearts together and become unstoppable. You will be a beacon of light and goodness in this world.”

    “We will do our very best,” Omegamon reassured him.

    “I have no doubt in my mind you all will,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode answered. He turned his gaze to Alphamon. “And you shall be the leader, Alphamon. The Lord of the Empty Seat.”

    Alphamon frowned with uncertainty. “What about you, Imperialdramon? I know we discussed this, however...”

    “My calling is elsewhere, Alphamon,” the dragon man told him with a smile. “You have the leadership abilities necessary for the responsibility. Do not doubt yourself.”

    DarkKnightmon walked over and placed his hand on Alphamon’s shoulder. “Imperialdramon is correct. Besides, we are all behind you,” he reassured him.

    OuRyuumon narrowed his eyes a bit and began to walk to the crest of the hill.

    “He’s right, Alphamon,” Dukemon said, grinning. “We can pull it off.”

    Omegamon looked at Alphamon and nodded, quietly expressing his support.

    “But we don’t have a base of operations,” Magnamon pointed out.

    “Don’t you?” Imperialdramon asked with a sly grin on his face.

    Dynasmon turned to Imperialdramon Paladin Mode curiously. “Do we?” he asked.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode gestured down the small hill to the stone castle in the distance. The six knights turned, looking past the approaching OuRyuumon.

    “...Your castle?” Alphamon asked. He turned to Imperialdramon in disbelief. “You don’t mean to say that you want to give that to us.”

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode folded his arms, looking taken aback and somewhat offended. “Hey, now. It isn’t that bad. If you really don’t want it though...” he muttered, scratching the metal dragon head on his chest armour.

    “I mean, you can’t give a gift so big,” Alphamon explained. “It’s too much.”

    “That is for me to decide, Alphamon,” Imperialdramon told him with a light smile. “It’s rude to reject a gift. Now, you’ll likely need to make several additions to the castle to truly make it the Order’s headquarters and spacious enough for a standing army, but I’m sure you’ll all be able to figure it out.”

    “Where will you be going, Imperialdramon?” Omegamon asked him.

    Still wearing a wry smirk, the dragon knight responded. “’Where?’ indeed.” He clasped his hands together. “Now, you six, gather in a circle and put your hand on one another’s.”

    Alphamon, Omegamon, Dukemon, Magnamon, Dynasmon, and DarkKnightmon all gathered in a circle. Before they could move their hands, a voice called out.

    “Wait a second, damnit!” OuRyuumon protested, storming over. “What about me?! Why aren’t I a part of this again?!”

    “It might have something to do with the fact that you enjoy shouting your mouth off… like you’re doing now,” DarkKnightmon dryly informed him, glancing over his shoulder at the gold dragon.

    “Who asked you?” OuRyuumon snarled at the black knight Digimon.

    “OuRyuumon...” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode said to him warmly. “Alphamon will need you as his trusted friend and advisor.”

    “Yeah, and why can’t I do that as a Royal Knight?” the gold dragon contended, folding his arms.

    Magnamon and Omegamon exchanged uncomfortable glances. DarkKnightmon rolled his eyes and raised an index finger, making to speak, but Imperialdramon Paladin Mode decided to respond before DarkKnightmon could be too harsh. He knew that the two had a propensity to bicker at times.

    “Maybe Alphamon will invite you to join as an official Royal Knight after you’ve... grown a bit,” he suggested.

    OuRyuumon cocked his eyebrow up at Imperialdramon’s words and sneered. “Grown? What’s that mean?” he challenged. “I’m one of the best fighters here.”

    “That may be, but there’s more to being a Royal Knight than just fighting,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode explained to him. “However, that’s not to say that you won’t be needed. Those fighting skills will surely be required, and, like I said, Alphamon will be able to benefit from your advice.” Imperialdramon turned to look at Grani, who hovered further back. “And Grani. You said that you’re prepared to act as a scout?”

    “I can manage that, yes,” Grani replied, glancing from OuRyuumon to Imperialdramon. “I’m content with that role.”

    OuRyuumon rolled his eyes and folded his arms, reluctantly dropping his protests with an indignant grunt. “Whatever.”

    Alphamon sighed but smirked at his friend and turned to Imperialdramon. “So, our hands on one another’s, yes?” he asked him, extending his hand to the middle of the circle.

    Imperialdramon nodded, and watched Omegamon place his hand on top of Alphamon’s, which was followed by Dukemon’s hand, Dynasmon’s, Magnamon’s, and DarkKnightmon’s. “Now, repeat this pledge,” he told them.

    “I pledge my blood, my data, my heart, and my soul to the betterment of the Digital World and those who reside in it, to Yggdrasil, and, most of all, to each other. I am a Royal Knight, and this is my oath.”

    As each Royal Knight finished, they pressed their extended hands down and lifted up them up symbolically.

    OuRyuumon whispered the oath under his breath, watching as the six Digimon officially became the Royal Knights.

    “Is that it?” Dynasmon asked, grinning as he retracted his large hand.

    “That’s it,” Imperialdramon Paladin Mode said, smiling. “Congratulations, Royal Knights.”

    The six Royal Knights looked at each other with smiles as well.

    “What say we celebrate with ale?” Dynasmon suggested, grinning broadly.

    Imperialdramon Paladin Mode chuckled. “That sounds like a good plan. You all could use some relaxation time,” he said. He flashed the group a smile. “Especially since you’ll all be so busy shortly.”

    “You really know how to put a damper on things, Imperialdramon,” Dukemon laughed, walking over to Grani.

    “We’ll have to enjoy ourselves while we still can,” Magnamon said, following him.

    DarkKnightmon walked alongside Alphamon and Omegamon, following the others as they made their way down the hill.

    “So, ‘the Royal Knights’...” Omegamon said to them, smiling a little.

    “It definitely sounds prestigious,” Alphamon responded, smirking as well. “However, I think that we’ll be able to do a lot of good once we get set up and running.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “I agree. This might just be what this world needs...”

    -

    Around a month later, things were already progressing in full swing. The castle that Imperialdramon Paladin Mode had given to them was extremely busy. Digimon were coming and going, many coming from parts all over the continent. The Royal Knights were renovating the castle and making many additions to it. At Imperialdramon’s approval, they made changes to much of the interior of the castle, along with made many additions here and there. They had hired carpenters, stone masons, sculptors, architects, and heavy lifters for the various jobs that needed doing.

    On top of that, they were hiring Digimon to be members of the Order itself. They wanted strong, professional, loyal, and good-hearted Digimon for members of their forces. It was a time-consuming ordeal, going through the applicants, sorting out the worthy from the unworthy, and the noble from the opportunists. Each of the six Royal Knights were still finding their feet in the new environment. There were many administrative things that they weren’t used to, and they had to adapt to the learning curve.

    DarkKnightmon marched along the castle grounds within the walls. Dynasmon strode beside him at a leisurely pace. Around them were Digimon, busy at work. Up ahead of them was a stone building under construction; a Golemon was lifting heavy bricks as directed by a Gazimon foreman. The building was to serve as a barracks.

    Even the nearby walls were under construction. There were large ditches being dug by Digmons and Drimogemons at the base of the wall, allowing Digimon to build the wall further underground to protect against burrowing Digimon.

    DarkKnightmon and Dynasmon looked around them at all the Digimon moving around busily.

    “I wonder when things are going to calm down,” Dynasmon asked his fellow Royal Knight.

    DarkKnightmon shrugged. “Another month, perhaps? A few weeks at the earliest,” he replied offhandedly.

    “Hopefully sooner,” Dynasmon said. “I keep getting woken up early in the morning.”

    The tall knight nodded, glancing at the dragon man. “I’m getting weary of waiting as well. I want us to get settled into our roles.”

    “Settled in...” Dynasmon mused. “That’s going to take some getting used to too.”

    “I suppose adventurers like you aren’t exactly the type to settle down, are you?” DarkKnightmon asked.

    “I guess not but, then again, hey! I’m a Royal Knight now!” he replied with a smile.

    “Excuse me!” a voice beckoned to them.

    The two Royal Knights looked over and saw a tall, dark Digimon approaching them as he walked away from the main building. They couldn’t help but stare for a moment at the Digimon’s nine eyes on his body.

    “Greetings,” DarkKnightmon said, examining him without giving a visual reaction to his unique form.

    “My name’s Duskmon,” Duskmon said to them. The eyes on the various parts of his body looked between the two Digimon. “You’re both Royal Knights, right?”

    “Correct,” DarkKnightmon answered.

    “Yeah...” Dynasmon uncomfortably replied, seeming to be unnerved by all of the Duskmon’s eyes that were staring at him widely.

    “Alphamon just hired me as the resident physician, so I thought I’d introduce myself,” he said, smiling a bit, a gleeful look emerging in his nine eyes.

    “Congratulations,” DarkKnightmon told him. He extended his arm and shook his hand. “I’m DarkKnightmon. And this is Dynasmon.”

    “Yeah...” Dynasmon repeated, continuing to stare at the giant eye on his chest. DarkKnightmon elbowed him sharply to keep him from staring.

    “I’m sure we’ll get along well,” Duskmon said to them. “That said, I hope we don’t see each other much while I’m on duty.”

    DarkKnightmon released a short chuckle. He turned to Dynasmon. “It sounds like you’ll be seeing a lot of Dynasmon.”

    Duskmon grinned, all of his eyes once again turning to Dynasmon. “Is that so? Well, don’t worry. I’ll be able to fix almost anything you come in with.”

    Dynasmon tried his best to hide his unnerved wince. “Great... Nice meeting ya, Duskmon...” he told him.

    Duskmon nodded and the eye on his right shoulder suddenly moved independently to look behind him, to where a Digimon shouted in pain and clutched his head. “I spy a concussion. I’ll be seeing you both,” he said to them, turning around and making his way over to the injured Digimon.

    Dynasmon shuddered and sighed with relief. “That was unsettling... He’s going to take some getting used to too.”

    “I didn’t mind,” DarkKnightmon said, starting to walk again.

    “You think Bommons are cute,” Dynasmon pointed out, walking after him. “You’re not the best judge.”

    “At any rate, I wonder who else Alphamon has decided to hire,” the dusky knight mused.

    “Maybe that guy,” Dynasmon said, pointing to the entrance that Duskmon had exited from.

    DarkKnightmon looked over and saw a tall, sapphire-armoured wolf striding out of the building. His red cape flowed behind him as he passed the doorway. The MirageGaogamon wore ornate armour that included a metal wolf head on his chest. As he made his way away from the double doors, he looked rather pleased with himself.

    Dynasmon cut in front of DarkKnightmon as he suddenly turned to walk over to the lupine Digimon. “Hey!” Dynasmon greeted.

    DarkKnightmon stopped, turned, and walked over to him as well.

    “Dynasmon, Sir. DarkKnightmon, Sir,” MirageGaogamon said, smiling. “Hello.”

    “What’s your name?” Dynasmon asked, looking him over. “A MirageGaogamon, right?”

    He nodded. “MirageGaogamon. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you both,” he said. He took off one of his large, bladed gauntlets that were styled like claws, and offered his hand.

    The two knights shook his hand. “Were you just hired?” Dynasmon asked. “I know Alphamon started making appointments for the applicants as of yesterday.”

    MirageGaogamon smiled and slipped his gauntlet back on his arm. “I was, actually,” he told them proudly. “I’m the Captain of the Defence Forces.”

    “Hey, congratulations!” Dynasmon remarked, grinning and slapping his shoulder with his claws, taking the wolf Digimon off guard and causing him to stumble. The dragon man laughed. “For the Captain of the Defence Forces, I sure hope you can take a hit better than that,” he teased.

    MirageGaogamon flushed and stood up perfectly straight, readjusting his armour. He cleared his throat. “Y-Yes, well...”

    “Ignore him,” DarkKnightmon told the new captain. “Dynasmon’s a nuisance at the best of times.”

    Dynasmon chuckled and folded his arms, looking over at his fellow Royal Knight. “You mean that with love, don’t you, DarkKnightmon?”

    “See what I mean?”

    MirageGaogamon smiled a bit. “It’s still an honour to work alongside you both. I’ve heard about both of your exploits,” he complimented. “And I’m fortunate that I’m now able to help your cause to purge the Digital World of evil and to help protect the Digimon who can’t defend themselves. I hope that we can strike fear into the destruction-filled hearts of evil Digimon everywhere.”

    “Is that so?” DarkKnightmon asked him. “You sound dedicated. I’m glad to hear that. This order needs Digimon with that resolute mindset.”

    “I am dedicated, Sir. I hope that my skills will come in use to you all,” MirageGaogamon told them.

    DarkKnightmon gave him a half smile and a nod. “Alphamon wouldn’t have hired you if they didn’t,” he reassured him.

    The beast knight nodded. “Thank you. I’ll be on my way now. I look forward to working with you both,” he told them.

    “Likewise,” DarkKnightmon responded.

    “See ya,” Dynasmon said as the blue-armoured Digimon walked off. The winged dragon Digimon turned to DarkKnightmon. “He seems nice. Kind of formal, though.”

    “And eager. He’s likely capable too. I hear MirageGaogamons have remarkable speed,” the dark knight observed.

    “If that’s the case, I’m surprised he was assigned to be Captain of the Defensive Forces instead of the Strike Forces,” the violet dragon mused.

    “I think it makes sense, actually,” DarkKnightmon observed. “Stereotypically, defensive Digimon are slow, so having a swift captain makes a good change and adds balance. Additionally, his speed will be an asset when organising the defences of the castle, as he’ll need to be in several places in a short amount of time.”

    Dynasmon grinned. “Okay. I defer to your strategic knowledge, oh wise DarkKnightmon,” he said, ribbing him.

    “Maybe if you did that more, you’d get hurt less,” DarkKnightmon retorted, eyeing the Royal Knight calmly. “Anyways, I’m going to find Omegamon. I want to speak with him about something.”

    “Sure. In that case, I’m going to find a bite to eat,” Dynasmon replied.

    DarkKnightmon nodded and bid Dynasmon farewell as his comrade went off in search of sustenance. He readjusted his shadowy cape and headed inside the main building.

    He walked down the entrance hall, passing a few Digimon as they headed for the exit. The whole building still had an earthy smell to him, probably from all the stonework going on. He walked up a few steps and went through a doorway into the foyer. The octagonal room was large and vacant, filled with nothing but stone flooring and walls.

    DarkKnightmon noticed that the double doors on the opposite side of the room were open, so he continued to head towards him. He knew that Omegamon had been with Alphamon during the last time that he saw him, so he assumed he was helping with the interviews. It didn’t seem like there was an interview in progress, so DarkKnightmon entered the vast great hall. The hall’s floor and walls were coated in a swirled, white and gold marble, left over from when it was Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s castle.

    At the very end of the room was a circular table of smooth, grey stone. Standing up from the table were the contrasting forms of Alphamon and Omegamon. It was when they turned and started walking away from the table that they noticed DarkKnightmon’s presence.

    “Oh, DarkKnightmon,” greeted Alphamon with a smile.

    “Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon responded with an acknowledging nod. “How are the interviews going?”

    “Slowly. Omegamon and I are just taking a break for lunch,” he explained. He observed DarkKnightmon curiously. “Did you want to see us?”

    “I was hoping I could borrow Omegamon for a few minutes,” DarkKnightmon told him, turning to the white knight.

    Omegamon looked at Alphamon. “Do you mind waiting for me?” he asked him.

    Alphamon shook his head. “You’re free to join us after you two are done talking, DarkKnightmon,” he told him, patting the other dark knight on the shoulder as he passed by him.

    DarkKnightmon looked over his shoulder at Alphamon as he passed. “Thank you,” he said before walking over to Omegamon.

    “Yes, DarkKnightmon?” Omegamon asked him curiously.

    After he was sure that Alphamon was out of the great hall, DarkKnightmon walked up beside Omegamon and leaned back against the table, holding onto the edges with his black hands. He turned his horned head to look at his comrade. “I was just wondering, Omegamon. How is Alphamon managing?” he asked him.

    “Alphamon?” Omegamon asked, blinking in surprise. “Why do you ask that? Is he not feeling well?”

    “I mean with the responsibility,” DarkKnightmon explained. “It hasn’t been easy setting up this order, and Alphamon has been doing the most work out of any of us. I’m concerned that it’s too overwhelming for him.”

    Omegamon turned to face him, folding his arms and thinking. “I wouldn’t necessarily say he is overwhelmed...” he answered. “He’s been very busy, but so have we all. I’m confident that he’ll be okay.”

    “As long as you’re sure,” DarkKnightmon spoke, standing up straight. “I’m not doubting him; I just don’t want him to overwork himself. You know how he is.”

    Omegamon smiled at his friend. “Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he conceded. “It’s nice that you’re worried about him.”

    DarkKnightmon shrugged dismissively and began to walk. “He would do the same for us,” he replied simply. He stopped in front of Omegamon and looked at him. “Now, shall we join him for lunch?”

    The white-armoured knight complied and began to walk with him out of the great hall in order to meet up with Alphamon in the makeshift cafeteria.

    -

    Almost a year later, the Order of the Royal Knights was firmly established. They had performed several forays into the areas that surrounded Imperialdramon Paladin Mode’s former territory. Sometimes they intervened in and mediated conflicts, but, mostly, they arrested or destroyed bands of bandits, brigands, and mercenaries. In one instance, they stopped an evil king from invading his neighbours.

    The Royal Knights were comfortable in their new role as regional protectors. As their size, prestige and experience grew, they slowly expanded their sphere of influence. There were currently talks between the Royal Knights and many of the surrounding states of combining under the Royal Knights’ protection. It was known as the ‘Free Area Plan’.

    That was what the six Royal Knights were discussing in their meeting.

    The six sat around the grey, circular table in the great hall. Alphamon was seated with a large, open scroll in front of him. OuRyuumon, who stood behind him, decided to attend the meeting as well, not wanting to be left out of their discussions.

    “These are the list of territories that give their consent to be a part of this project,” he explained, rolling up the scroll and handing it to Omegamon for it to be passed around the table.

    Magnamon opened up the scroll once it got to him. “It’s almost all of them,” he said with surprise, looking at all of the names and territories signed in digi-letters.

    “They want the protection and the trading benefits,” Omegamon said.

    “They know about the conditions, right?” Dukemon asked. “Taxes, ruling under our laws, et cetera.”

    “Yes, it was made clear to them,” Alphamon responded. “They still seem enthusiastic about the idea.”

    “Well, these lands were pretty dangerous before we officially banded together and formed the Order,” Dynasmon pointed out.

    DarkKnightmon sat quietly as the others talked. He just thought with a veiled frown on his face.

    “They’d be idiots not to sign it,” OuRyuumon remarked proudly, crossing his arms. “Who wouldn’t want our protection?”

    Alphamon regarded the question silently as he looked across the table at DarkKnightmon. He couldn’t help but notice the look on his face. “DarkKnightmon…” he said. “You’ve been quiet during this meeting. Is there something you disagree with?”

    DarkKnightmon looked up at Alphamon. “Well, actually…” he put forth, although with hesitation.

    “What is it?” Omegamon asked, looking over at him curiously.

    DarkKnightmon stalled, mulling over his thoughts a little longer. “It’s nothing,” he insisted dismissively.

    “If there’s a problem, DarkKnightmon, please, voice your opinion,” Alphamon told him. “That’s what these meetings are for.”

    Omegamon nodded. “What’s bothering you?” he questioned.

    “Well…” DarkKnightmon began, sitting upright and frowning. He looked straight across the table at Alphamon. “Don’t you think these measures are a bit… generous, Alphamon?”

    “Generous? How so?” Alphamon asked, arching his eyebrow.

    “The Digimon of this potential ‘Free Area’ will pay a tax and supposedly adhere to our laws, and we’re supposed to protect them while they still retain their autonomies,” DarkKnightmon said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but it seems a little naïve.”

    Alphamon frowned at the last comment. “I don’t understand how…”

    “Will it really change anything within these territories?” DarkKnightmon asked him. “I understand that we need the tax to finance ourselves for this service we’re providing, and, therefore, we need to give something in return, but I don’t think that this idea is strong enough.”

    “What’s wrong with it, in your opinion?” Alphamon questioned, willing to hear the knight out.

    “I just think it needs a complete overhaul,” DarkKnightmon explained. “Evil Digimon work outside of the law, so it wouldn’t make a difference if the Free Area existed or not.”

    “We could keep a closer eye on the Digimon in these territories this way,” Alphamon contested.

    “Perhaps, but I think that it’s too contingent on the Digimon being good. There’s too much room for exploitation. What if we end up defending a mayor who’s treating the citizens horribly?” DarkKnightmon argued, although in a polite manner.

    “We wouldn’t let it get to that point,” Alphamon responded. “We’ll have inspections.”

    “And if the mayor and his advisors are corrupt and all of the civilians have been scared into silence?” DarkKnightmon contended.

    “We will appoint the mayors,” the Lord of the Empty Seat told him.

    DarkKnightmon frowned. “Why these weak measures?” he inquired. “All of your answers have been to have somewhat higher controls on the states. We should just go all the way and exercise a stronger amount of control over all of them. Allowing them their independence will just result in abuses of power and a higher rate of crime. If we’re going to create a Free Area at all, then we need to go further to exert our control over the territories in order to eradicate evil.”

    Alphamon frowned deeper at these words. “The Digimon in charge of the territories would never agree to those terms. This agreement hinges on the states retaining a fair amount of independence.”

    “That would just be selfishness on their part,” DarkKnightmon insisted, looking at Alphamon intensely. “They want to hold onto their own power, of course. They don’t care about evil Digimon unless they’re affected directly by them.”

    Alphamon returned the silent stare. “That’s a very cynical outlook you have, DarkKnightmon,” he responded. “I don’t believe Digimon are that selfish.”

    DarkKnightmon glanced away and quietly sat back in his seat. “Well… You wanted to hear my opinion…” he told them, somewhat regretful that he had voiced it at all.

    “I can understand what you’re saying, DarkKnightmon,” Omegamon reassured him. “A greater degree of centralisation would theoretically crack down on crime, war, and brigandage, however…”

    “However, we can’t take away Digimons’ freedoms,” Dukemon added, looking over at DarkKnightmon.

    “I wasn’t suggesting that we become their overseers,” DarkKnightmon replied, glancing at Dukemon.

    “It’s a slippery slope,” the crimson knight chimed back.

    “Yes,” Alphamon agreed. “And there’s the practical aspect of it. We don’t have the resources to do something like that. We’re but six Digimon and our whole order is just less than two hundred fifty Digimon. We don’t have the means to preside over all of those territories, not that they would ever agree to that. And if they resisted, what would we do? Force our rule upon them? Then we would be as bad as the Digimon who you seek to root out, DarkKnightmon.”

    “I never said we should do that,” DarkKnightmon replied defensively.

    “I didn’t say you did either,” Alphamon explained. “I’m just making a point. Anyways, even if we did have the resources, I wouldn’t want to rule over those Digimon. I can agree to stronger checks on the states of the Free Area in order to reduce potential abuses, but nothing more.”

    “I agree with that,” Dukemon said.

    “Me too,” Magnamon followed up.

    “Yeah,” Dynasmon added.

    OuRyuumon grinned across the table at DarkKnightmon, enjoying seeing the Digimon put in his place. “I agree too.”

    “Nobody asked you, serpent,” DarkKnightmon said to OuRyuumon. OuRyuumon glared at him. The dark knight turned to the Royal Knight who hadn’t spoken: Omegamon. “Omegamon? What’s your opinion?”

    Omegamon frowned and stalled. His blue eyes went from DarkKnightmon to Alphamon, and then back to DarkKnightmon. After thinking about it, he spoke. “I can understand your points, DarkKnightmon, and they make sense, however… I have to agree with Alphamon. I think the best option is the one before us now.”

    There was a pause, and all eyes were on DarkKnightmon. DarkKnightmon looked around the table with his usual expressionless face. After a few, tense moments, he sighed. “Very well,” he conceded. “I still have my reservations, but… the majority has spoken…”

    Alphamon nodded. He then offered DarkKnightmon a warm, conciliatory smile. “Don’t think they have gone unnoticed. We just… disagree on this, it seems, old friend.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “…So begins the Free Area,” he said diplomatically, although somewhat half-heartedly.

    “This calls for a celebration,” Dynasmon said, leaning back in his chair and stretching out. He placed his hands behind his horned head. With one eye open, he looked at Dukemon. “Right, Dukemon?”

    “I think I can be convinced,” Dukemon responded, looking over at him with a smirk.

    “Don’t get ahead of yourselves,” Magnamon told them.

    DarkKnightmon placed his hands on top of the table and pushed himself to his feet. “Are we finished then?” he said, a hint of exasperation lacing his words. “There are some things I’d like to attend to.”

    “Yes, I suppose we are,” Alphamon said, standing to his feet as well.

    “Good night, then” DarkKnightmon bid them. He nodded at the Royal Knights and turned around. With his cape flowing behind him, he briskly started making his way out of the great hall.

    Alphamon’s eyes narrowed with concern. “…Do you think he’s upset?” he asked. “Maybe I should go after him…”

    “He’s a big boy,” Dukemon reassured Alphamon, as he stood from his chair. “He certainly doesn’t need to be babied.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” Alphamon conceded.

    OuRyuumon shrugged dismissively. “He sure acts like an overgrown Baby Digimon sometimes.”

    “Don’t be like that, OuRyuumon,” Magnamon said, beginning to head down the great hall.

    “Like what?” OuRyuumon asked, following him alongside Dukemon and Dynasmon.

    “Your usual jerky self?” Dynasmon joked, slapping his back firmly.

    OuRyuumon stumbled forwards, nearly tripping over his own stubby legs. “Damnit! Hey!” he growled.

    Omegamon watched as the four departed. He turned to Alphamon. “Do you want me to check on DarkKnightmon?” he asked him.

    After a moment of thought, Alphamon shook his head. “No. Dukemon’s right. I’m sure he’s fine. Apart from the bickering with OuRyuumon, he’s almost as mature as you are.”

    Omegamon smirked. “Do you think so?”

    Alphamon grinned and put his hand on Omegamon’s shoulder, beginning to lead him towards the foyer after the others. “Without a doubt,” he dryly said, heading with the others to the cafeteria in order to get some drinks.

    Meanwhile, DarkKnightmon stood at the balcony outside of his room, leaning forwards on the railing as he looked out at the peaceful night. “Could it be that I’m just being too cynical…?” he asked himself. He closed his eyes and calmly inhaled, taking in the warm, summer air. “That must be it. I’m sure it will work out like Alphamon hopes. I just need to trust him…

    -

    A few months later…

    “Twin Spear!”

    DarkKnightmon’s blood red lance ripped through the bandaged body of a Mummymon, tearing him to shreds. As the scraps of bandages fizzled into fragments of data, the dark knight burst through the cloud with silent anger.

    “Hellfire!” an Astamon shouted. The well-dressed demon cocked his weapon and unloaded a fountain of bullets from his sub machine gun. The bullets whipped through the air and slammed into DarkKnightmon’s armour as he ran.

    DarkKnightmon was unaffected. Sparks flew off from all over his body but his armour was thick enough to deflect the bullets. He charged forwards and plunged one side of the Twin Spear deep into the Astamon’s chest, enough that it burst out the other side. The Astamon’s arms suddenly went slack and he continued firing his gun aimlessly into the ground until it fell from his grasp and burst into data. The demon Digimon was the next to disintegrate.

    The Royal Knight swung his spear to the side, flicking the traces of blood from its metal. He let out a breath and took the moment of peace to look around. The other five Royal Knights and OuRyuumon were in combat against a band of raiders. They had been fighting for the past half hour, and the raiders’ numbers were dwindling. Each knight faced only one or two Digimon now. They knew that the battle was almost won.

    DarkKnightmon turned to the nearest Royal Knight. Dukemon was locked in combat with the tall, skeletal, red form of a SkullSatamon. He blocked the swift, powerful swing of its staff with the Aegis.

    “Just drop your weapon and leave!” Dukemon warned him. “This battle’s over!”

    “Eat crap, tin can!” the SkullSatamon screeched. The SkullSatamon raised his staff up over his head and the yellow orb on its end began to grow brightly. “Nail Bone!”

    “Lightning Joust!” Energy swirled around the Gram in Dukemon’s right hand like a vortex that culminated in an orb at the tip of the lance. With a fiery yell, he thrust the pike forwards and power exploded through the SkullSatamon’s core, reducing him to ashes just as he was about to fire.

    Meanwhile, Alphamon and Omegamon stood side by side as three Digimon charged them in a frantic fury. Omegamon raised his Garuru Cannon and Alphamon raised his two palms towards the ExVeemon, the Asuramon, and the Cerberumon charge them.

    “It seems like they won’t stand down,” Alphamon said as he gathered emerald energy inside of his palms.

    “I agree,” Omegamon answered, the mouth of the cannon on his right arm brimming with icy blue power.

    “Fire?” Alphamon asked, taking aim.

    “Fire,” Omegamon confirmed.

    “Digitalize of Soul!”

    “Garuru Cannon!”

    Green and azure beams burst from their hands and soared across the ground like a gushing torrent. The blasts enveloped the three Digimon and easily reduced them to data particles. Omegamon’s cannon leaked cold breath as he lowered it and surveyed the damage in front of them. He confirmed that they were destroyed.

    “Stubborn fools… I hate it when they don’t surrender,” Alphamon said, his hands smoking with green steam.

    “OuRyuumon doesn’t,” Omegamon said, nodding towards the gold dragon in question.

    OuRyuumon smirked widely as he clashed swords with a Piedmon. He deftly swung the Gairyu swords, blocking every slash that the clown Digimon tried to make. “Not – rrgh – bad, clown – guhr – face!” he shouted between parries. For somebody who was staving off deadly attacks, he was enjoying himself far too much.

    The gold dragon suddenly swerved his long, flexible body to avoid a precise stab. He then lunged off the ground, flying in an unpredictable, circular fashion that suited his body. OuRyuumon circled around the Piedmon and slashed his back with his bladed Gaiba Daimeijin wings. He let out a triumphant laugh and suddenly spun around to cleave his two swords through the demon clown’s lanky body.

    OuRyuumon gave a wild grin and flew up into the air. “Who’s next?!” he demanded excitedly, looking around for his next opponent.

    “Nobody,” Magnamon called up to him, having just finished Magnum Punch-ing a Volcamon into a tree.

    “Yeah, we’re all done here,” Dynasmon agreed, nudging an unconscious Vikemon with his foot.

    OuRyuumon released a disappointed growl and flew down. “And it was just getting good!” he complained upon landing in the dirt. He gathered his swords in one hand and bent down, plucking an oversized leaf from a plant in front of him. He used the leaf like a cloth, wiping the blood from his blades.

    The Royal Knights began to gather around his general vicinity. “We didn’t come out here for you to entertain yourself, OuRyuumon,” DarkKnightmon said with a hint of irritation at the dragon Digimon.

    “Yeah, I know that,” OuRyuumon retorted, looking over at him. “I can’t help it if I like fighting.”

    “Just so long as you realise that this isn’t a game,” DarkKnightmon told him, narrowing his enigmatic, gold eyes.

    “Hey, I don’t need a lecture from you,” OuRyuumon replied fierily.

    “OuRyuumon, don’t start,” Alphamon told him firmly. He glanced over at the nearby town. “That was the last of the raiders?”

    “I’m pretty sure,” Dynasmon said.

    “Magnamon and I will go check on the townspeople,” Dukemon said, nodding to Magnamon and heading towards the town.

    “We should start restraining the unconscious ones,” Alphamon told the others.

    “Omegamon and I can do that,” Dynasmon said. Omegamon nodded and took off this Garuru Cannon and Grey Sword.

    A troubled, annoyed look grew on DarkKnightmon’s face. “This was the third raid in the past two weeks…” he remarked lowly, turning to Alphamon.

    Alphamon turned his crimson gaze towards DarkKnightmon. “I suppose you’re right.”

    “Since we created the Free Area, there have been fourteen raids, attacks or invasions that we’ve had to intervene in,” DarkKnightmon continued.

    “What’s your point?” OuRyuumon asked, walking over and flicking the edge of the metal crest on DarkKnightmon’s armour, to create a twanging sound when his claw struck it.

    DarkKnightmon ignored the action and turned back to Alphamon. “Evil Digimon are still active. Creating the Free Area has barely made a difference at all. They’re just as active as they were before we did that.”

    “We’ve defeated every one of them, with the consent of the Free Area’s states, and we have the funds to improve our order,” Alphamon responded calmly.

    “We’re just stopping these attacks as they happen,” DarkKnightmon argued. “You’re not looking at the bigger picture. All we’re doing is quelling attacks day-by-day. What we should be doing is looking into the future.”

    “Looking into the future…” Alphamon mused. “And what do you suggest?”

    “We should be stopping evil Digimon before they can even act,” the shadowy knight explained.

    Omegamon looked over as he tied up the Vikemon raider. “That would be ideal, but it’s not so simple in practice.”

    Alphamon nodded. “He’s right. How could we do that?” he asked DarkKnightmon.

    “By ruling over the Free Area,” DarkKnightmon replied. “If we make it a tightly ordered society, we could stop Digimon before they even act, and discourage future crime and brigandage.”

    Alphamon frowned deeply as his friend’s words. “Ruling…?” he asked. “No, DarkKnightmon. We’re the benevolent protectors of this part of the continent. Our job is to root out evil and have only limited control over the Free Area. Nothing more.”

    “Don’t you see, Alphamon?” DarkKnightmon said, more animatedly than usual. “It isn’t enough. That strategy isn’t working. What we need to be are benevolent rulers. This continent needs strong, centralized control. The Royal Knights need supreme authority over the Free Area. We need to rule with an iron fist to stop more of these raids. It takes shows of strength to dissuade Digimon like these.”

    “DarkKnightmon, your words are unsettling,” Alphamon told him, maintaining a concerned frown. “The Royal Knights are a deterrent force, not tyrants.”

    “For a deterrent force, we haven’t been doing very much deterring,” DarkKnightmon quipped, folding his arms.

    “Don’t be a smartass,” OuRyuumon said to him. “Alphamon’s right. We’re doing fine.”

    “What do you know about these matters?” DarkKnightmon snapped at him. “All you care about is satiating your bloodlust. It’s no wonder you like things as they are; there will be more Digimon for you to kill.”

    Before OuRyuumon could heatedly respond, Alphamon took DarkKnightmon by the arm and led him away several paces. “DarkKnightmon…” he said with a concerned tone. “What’s come over you?”

    “I’m frustrated, Alphamon,” DarkKnightmon told him with irritation. “We’re not making any progress and you won’t heed my words. Aren’t you supposed to listen to the advice of your friends?”

    Alphamon sighed and let go of DarkKnightmon’s arm, walking in front of him so that he could look at him directly. “DarkKnightmon, I’ve taken your words to heart,” he assured him. “However, you can’t expect me to go along with what you’re proposing. I can’t just name myself the king of the Free Area. We would lose the good will of the Digimon that we’re protecting. In fact, they could even revolt.”

    “They wouldn’t revolt. We’re too strong,” DarkKnightmon countered.

    “So we would be ruling through fear,” Alphamon argued. “Is that what you want?”

    DarkKnightmon frowned and was silent.

    Alphamon’s gaze softened and he raised his hand to place it on DarkKnightmon’s shoulder, squeezing the armour there. “Look, DarkKnightmon… I understand that it’s frustrating. However, I’m sure that what we’re doing is the right thing. I’m also sure that it will be effective if we give it some time. This is just a bad patch.”

    “You can’t know that for sure…” DarkKnightmon pensively said, although raising his hand and placing it on top of Alphamon’s extended arm.

    “No, I can’t,” Alphamon admitted. “But I believe that I’m right. Don’t lose hope, DarkKnightmon.”

    DarkKnightmon hesitated. After a couple moments, he frowned and nodded uncertainly. “I… hope you’re right, Alphamon. But it’s hard… I’m struggling to remain optimistic.”

    “It’s not always easy for me, you know,” Alphamon reassured him. “That’s why it’s good to have friends to talk to. OuRyuumon, Omegamon, you… If you still have doubts, rest assured that you can talk to me about them.”

    “Right…” DarkKnightmon replied apprehensively. He removed his hand from Alphamon’s arm and frowned, looking away slightly. “I’ll… be fine,” he said, although he didn’t sound too sure. “Don’t worry.”

    Alphamon smiled and squeezed his shoulder before letting go. “Good,” he told him. He gave DarkKnightmon a nod and began to head back to the others.

    DarkKnightmon turned, and saw that Dukemon and Magnamon had returned too. He sighed and started following Alphamon back.

    OuRyuumon watched as the two returned. He had his arms folded and wore a sour look on his face. The gold dragon looked at Alphamon with an irritated leer. “That looked like a cozy chat…” he said bitterly.

    “He just needed some reassurance,” Alphamon replied, walking past OuRyuumon and over to the others.

    OuRyuumon scoffed and turned his glare towards DarkKnightmon. “Hey, you!” he snarled at him, still angry about what DarkKnightmon had said to him before.

    “My apologies, OuRyuumon,” DarkKnightmon said to him. “I didn’t mean to bite your head off; I was just agitated from the excitement of the battle.”

    OuRyuumon opened his mouth hastily to retort, but he stopped and blinked in response to the unexpected apology. “O-Oh… Well, don’t let it happen again…” he said sheepishly, turning and picking up the Gairyu swords from where he stabbed them into the ground.

    Omegamon observed DarkKnightmon carefully. “Is everything alright between you two?” he asked him.

    “Yes…” DarkKnightmon answered. “I suppose so.”

    Omegamon nodded, although he still had his doubts.

    Dynasmon grabbed the bicep of the restrained Vikemon and hauled the woolly mammal up. “Let’s start hauling these Digimon back to the dungeons before they wake up.”

    “You can take the light one, Magnamon,” Dukemon told him with a playful grin.

    “Thanks…”

    DarkKnightmon stood there, thinking to himself and staring into space. He reflected on Alphamon’s words quietly.

    “Hey, DarkKnightmon!” Dynasmon called out to him.

    The voice brought DarkKnightmon out of his thoughts and back into awareness. “Yes, Dynasmon?” he asked, looking over at the dragon man.

    “Want to help me with this guy?” he asked, gesturing to the Vikemon. “I may be strong, but he weighs a tonne!”

    “Oh… Sure,” he responded uncertainly. He walked over and helped Dynasmon, and the group of knights began to head back to their castle.
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  24. #24
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    Chapter 15: The Immortal Champion (Part II)

    Another month passed…

    DarkKnightmon strode through the castle grounds in the late evening. The sky overhead was a deep blue colour thanks to the night beginning to set in. Most of the Digimon around the headquarters ended their duties and enjoyed their free time, unless they were unlucky enough to have the night shift.

    He was in his free time as well. However, DarkKnightmon didn’t feel like spending it with his fellow Royal Knights right at that moment. Instead, he walked through the spacious training ground within the castle walls. It was largely deserted aside from a few members of the Order who were out practicing their attacks or working out.

    One of these Digimon was MirageGaogamon. DarkKnightmon recognized the Captain of the Defence Forces in the center of the grounds. He seemed to be practicing one of his attacks, judging by the glowing yellow particles that lighted up the darkening area as they accumulated around his chest.

    “Full Moon Blaster!” he howled. The wolf head that was a part of his chest armour snapped open and fired a brilliant beam from its maw. The light streaked through the air like a comet and annihilated a target dummy before fading away shortly after. When the beam faded, the target was badly scorched and its digital integrity was badly compromised, causing it to burst into data.

    DarkKnightmon was intrigued, seeing him out here that late. He made his way over. “MirageGaogamon,” he spoke from a distance, announcing his presence as per the safety rules of the training grounds.

    MirageGaogamon looked over his shoulder curiously. Some steam still wafted up from his chest cannon, but he closed the ‘mouth’ on his chest and signalled that it was clear for DarkKnightmon to come over. As the Royal Knight approached, MirageGaogamon looked at him sheepishly. “I apologize, Sir,” he told him. “I know the training grounds close at sundown, but I hoped I could get in some precision training before it got dark.”

    DarkKnightmon approached him and dismissively waved his hand. “No, I’m not here about that. I’m just surprised to see you here. That’s all.”

    “Oh…” MirageGaogamon said, lowering his guard in a wave of relief. “I see. Still, the safety precautions…”

    “I’m sure you would have stopped soon,” DarkKnightmon answered. He observed the wolf warrior with a raised brow. “You’re awfully dedicated, Captain.”

    “I try to be,” MirageGaogamon replied with a slight smile. He removed his claw gauntlets and tucked them under his arm. “I believe in what this Order aims to achieve, so I want to be at my very best, Sir.”

    DarkKnightmon stopped to contemplate his words. “…Commendable,” DarkKnightmon spoke. “You’re a regular crusader, aren’t you?”

    MirageGaogamon released a small, embarrassed smile. “I don’t know about that…” he humbly replied. “I’m just following what my heart tells me is right and just.”

    “And… what happens when your heart conflicts with your head?” DarkKnightmon cryptically questioned, eyeing the blue, wolf knight curiously.

    MirageGaogamon frowned and looked at him for clarification. “Sir…?” he asked, confused at what exactly he meant.

    The black knight caught himself and shook his head. “Forget about it…” he told him dismissively. DarkKnightmon placed his hand on MirageGaogamon’s multi-plated shoulder. “Care to walk with me? I was on my way to the ramparts to enjoy the sunset.”

    “Sure,” the captain agreed.

    He walked alongside DarkKnightmon as they made their way from the training grounds over to the thick wall. They approached some stairs built beside the wall, behind the forge, where all the weapons were serviced. DarkKnightmon ascended the stone staircase up to the top of the wall, and MirageGaogamon followed after him.

    Once on the top of the battlements, DarkKnightmon walked to the parapets and leaned forwards on one of the sturdy blocks. He gazed out onto the dark landscape, and he could just see a trace of the sun on the distant horizon. It made the sky appear slightly bluer in contrast to the black behind him. MirageGaogamon came up beside him and looked up at the partial moon above them.

    “It’s nice,” MirageGaogamon commented to him, glancing over.

    “Indeed. Alphamon and I used to come out here to talk,” DarkKnightmon explained.

    MirageGaogamon couldn’t help but notice the past tense. “You don’t anymore?” he asked. He then felt somewhat apprehensive, as if he had just spoken out of turn for asking too personal of a question. He was about to apologize but DarkKnightmon spoke first.

    “No, we don’t,” he admitted. “I find myself disagreeing with him a lot, these days. I feel that it’s better if I keep my distance.”

    “Why is that, if you don’t mind my asking?” the caped canine Digimon inquired.

    DarkKnightmon stalled on answering. “…Can I ask you a question instead, Captain?” he wondered, turning away from the disappearing sun to look at MirageGaogamon.

    “Of course, Sir.”

    “Why exactly did you join the Order?” the Royal Knight questioned, his curious gaze fixed on the lupine Digimon’s face.

    MirageGaogamon’s face seemed to tense. He hesitated and tore his gaze away from DarkKnightmon to look back up at the moon. “Do you want to know the honest answer…?” he asked, his voice sounding suddenly more dark and solemn.

    “If you don’t mind telling me, that is,” DarkKnightmon replied.

    The wolf Digimon’s eyes glistened in the moonlight before he shut them. “Half of my family were killed by marauders,” he told DarkKnightmon. He raised his free hand and clenched it after placing it on the stone parapet. “What I want is to purge the world of evil Digimon so that tragedies like that won’t take place again.”

    “I see…” DarkKnightmon said calmly. “I understand your feelings. I want to eradicate evil Digimon from this world as well.”

    MirageGaogamon opened his eyes and looked at DarkKnightmon with a grateful smile. “I’m glad to hear that, Sir.”

    DarkKnightmon turned away from the sun and stood under the shroud of the night and the soft rays of the moon. “However, I find myself faced with countless doubts.” With a steely gaze, he looked back towards the castle. “I doubt our capabilities… I doubt my friends… and I doubt myself.”

    “Sir?” MirageGaogamon asked with concern.

    “I feel like we’re headed in the wrong direction,” DarkKnightmon explained. “Alphamon’s too soft; he’s afraid of doing something that Digimon won’t like. He’s always been too concerned about his public image…”

    “Is that so?” the captain asked.

    “In my opinion, yes…” DarkKnightmon said. “He disagrees with my approach on how the Order should operate. I believe that the Royal Knights should go as far as to be the rulers of the Free Area. That way we could use our tightened sphere of influence to root out evil Digimon before they can even act. The way we function now, we’re just knocking them down as soon as they attack. More innocent lives are risked that way.”

    “I agree with you, DarkKnightmon, Sir,” MirageGaogamon said. “However, I can see how Alphamon would be cautious about that. It’s an ambitious step and it goes against the agreement.”

    “I know,” DarkKnightmon answered deeply. “But what’s that expression? ‘In order to free yourself from your Digiegg, you must first shatter the shell’?”

    “I suppose there’s that argument,” the beast knight submitted. He turned around and leaned back against the parapet. “I do agree that a greater amount of control is necessary. However…”

    “However the majority agrees with Alphamon?” DarkKnightmon suggested. He frowned and turned around as well so that he could glance up at the moon. “Yes, I know… I understand why, too. Nevertheless, it feels like the path we’re on is doomed to lead us to failure. They don’t understand that! Why don’t they understand? Are they blinded by their idealism?”

    “Do you think the situation is that dire, Sir?” MirageGaogamon questioned.

    “Now? Maybe not. However, I’m looking into the future. How long until another Lucemon emerges? Or something even worse?” he mused, his calm voice masking the intensity behind it.

    “Hopefully never…” MirageGaogamon replied with a wince.

    “Yes, hopefully. However, the Royal Knights are a security force. We need to prepare for the worst case scenario. If we want to prevent something like that from happening, we need to drastically increase our control in the Free Area. Then, as the Order grows larger, we can expand to other parts of the continent,” DarkKnightmon explained.

    “I agree with that, Sir,” the azure wolf knight spoke. “However, I’m not sure that Alphamon and the other Royal Knights would.”

    DarkKnightmon sighed. “There lies the problem…” he said softly, with an air of frustration. “Alphamon is stubborn. Omegamon, Magnamon, and Dynasmon are all loyal to him. Dukemon is his own Digimon, but I don’t think he would agree with me; he’s soft too.”

    “I see…” MirageGaogamon said thoughtfully.

    “However, I believe that Omegamon is sympathetic to my ideas,” DarkKnightmon said. “Perhaps the others could be convinced if somebody else was the Lord of the Empty Seat instead of Alphamon.”

    “Like yourself,” the captain suggested, feeling at ease with DarkKnightmon. “I have nothing against Alphamon, but I believe that your ideals are more in line with what this Order needs. I support you, DarkKnightmon.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded gratefully at him. “I appreciate that, Captain.”

    “Are there provisions for removing the Lord of the Empty Seat?” MirageGaogamon asked.

    “No. There’s nothing official,” the shadowy knight replied. “Imperialdramon Paladin Mode trusts Alphamon fully. It would have looked bad if he made provisions for unseating him.”

    “I see…” MirageGaogamon spoke, frowning deeply. “What… do you suggest?” he asked apprehensively.

    “I’m not suggesting anything,” DarkKnightmon answered. “Not yet. I certainly don’t want to hurt him or anything like that, but I don’t think that he should remain in power. I’ll have to consider all of my options.”

    “I understand, Sir.”

    DarkKnightmon nodded. “I’ll try talking to the other knights. I want to be able to have their support.”

    “They won’t tell Alphamon?” MirageGaogamon asked.

    “I’m hoping things will play out in a way that they won’t want to tell Alphamon… or at least feel that they don’t need to,” he explained. DarkKnightmon looked over at MirageGaogamon with calm, gold eyes. “Needless to say, it’s probably best if you and I keep this conversation a secret…”

    “Understood,” the MirageGaogamon captain said, tapping the side of his snout with his index finger.

    “Hey!” a familiar voice called out over to DarkKnightmon’s side.

    DarkKnightmon swung around with surprise and saw OuRyuumon descend through the night sky towards them, blotting out the moon from their vision as he passed in front of it. He felt himself tense up as the dragon Captain of the Strike Forces closed in on them.

    OuRyuumon landed on the wall and stumbled slightly on his short legs, but he quickly moved his tail to balance himself. The long, gold dragon walked towards them unevenly. “I thought I’d find you here…” he said, his words somewhat slurred.

    “OuRyuumon?” DarkKnightmon asked, trying to remain calm. “What can I do for you?”

    MirageGaogamon looked at OuRyuumon carefully and took a few sniffs with his sensitive nose. “…Are you drunk, OuRyuumon?” MirageGaogamon asked, frowning. “You shouldn’t be flying while intoxicated.”

    “This is between me an’ him MirageGaomon…” OuRyuumon said, swinging his hand out.

    DarkKnightmon looked over at MirageGaogamon, who turned to him in concern. “It’s alright, Captain. I’ll talk to him and make sure that he gets to his room,” he reassured him.

    “Very well, Sir…” MirageGaogamon apprehensive replied. He nodded at DarkKnightmon and jumped off the wall to fly towards the castle.

    DarkKnightmon stepped towards OuRyuumon. As he approached, he could smell the pungent scent of ale on his breath. “You’re drunk, OuRyuumon…”

    “So what if I am?” OuRyuumon retorted. “Can’t the Captain of the Strike Force get drunk in his free time?”

    “I suppose, but--“

    “It’s my turn to ask the questions!” OuRyuumon announced sharply, looking down at DarkKnightmon and poking his broad chest with his clawed finger.

    “Very well,” DarkKnightmon answered, keeping his cool, although inwardly he was rather nervous. He knew that his and OuRyuumon’s relationship had some definite tension, and he didn’t want to get on the dragon’s bad side without finding out what he might have heard, so he figured he’d humour him. “Ask away.”

    “I know what you’re up to…” OuRyuumon hissed, narrowing his sharp, violet eyes into slits.

    The nervousness that DarkKnightmon felt began to amplify. Did OuRyuumon really hear the whole conversation? He knew that if OuRyuumon knew, he would tell Alphamon without any hesitation. He already began to think of how he could use OuRyuumon’s inebriated condition to discredit him. “I don’t know what you mean,” DarkKnightmon insisted.

    “Like hell ya don’t!” OuRyuumon slurred angrily. “You’re tryin’ to take Alphamon away!”

    DarkKnightmon froze. All of his muscles tensed up, with the exception of his heart, which felt like it suddenly dropped in his chest. “What…?” he asked, in a last ditch effort to maintain his innocence. “I would never do something like that. He’s my friend!”

    “Only yer friend? Really?” OuRyuumon interrogated indignantly, glaring at him even harder. “I’ve seen th’way you look at ‘im… He can do better than you and you know it, so back off! You’re just a conde… condescending tin can!”

    Now DarkKnightmon was just confused. His fear quickly turned into pure bewilderment at the dragon’s drunken words. “…Pardon?”

    OuRyuumon growled and raised his hand to rub the bridge of his snout, suddenly grimacing. “Nevermind… Jus’ forget it,” he told him. “What were you talking to th’wolf about?” he questioned more calmly, hoping to change the subject.

    “He… was wondering if there was merit to the rumour that Magnamon can’t swim,” DarkKnightmon replied, saying the first viable thing that came to mind. On second and third thoughts, he decided it wasn’t all that viable, but he hoped OuRyuumon was too intoxicated to question it. He was just relieved that OuRyuumon hadn’t been listening in on them like he initially thought.

    “Gossips…” OuRyuumon said resentfully, moving his hand and placing it on DarkKnightmon’s shoulder. “Y’know, it’s totally true. He never goes in the ocean.”

    DarkKnightmon took OuRyuumon’s wrist and gently slung his arm over DarkKnightmon’s back. He kept a hold on OuRyuumon’s wrist and began to usher him towards one of the stone bridges that led from the wall into the main building. “Come on. Let’s get you to your room,” the armoured Digimon told him while leading him along.

    “Fine…” OuRyuumon mumbled, too out of it to bother protesting. He lazily hobbled beside DarkKnightmon, letting himself be taken by the knight. “Grugh… DarkKnightmon…?” he asked, looking over at the Royal Knight.

    “Yes, OuRyuumon?” DarkKnightmon asked superficially, keeping a tight hold on him as they crossed the bridge so that OuRyuumon wouldn’t end up accidentally falling.

    “You’re my best friend…” OuRyuumon drunkenly said, his smile toothy and lopsided.

    “I thought Alphamon was your best friend,” DarkKnightmon responded, bringing him indoors to a torch-lit hallway.

    OuRyuumon suddenly groaned dramatically. “Ugh… He wouldn’t be if he knew…” he said miserably, breaking away from DarkKnightmon and walking ahead.

    “Knew what?” DarkKnightmon asked out of passing curiosity.

    “Can’t tell… It’d ruin ev’rything…” OuRyuumon replied in a maudlin voice.

    The Royal Knight sighed and shook his head. He didn’t know what to make of the dragon’s drunken ramblings. He wasn’t overly concerned about them anyways; he was just happy that OuRyuumon was blissfully ignorant of his conspiracy to create a peaceful change of leaders. Things would have gotten extremely difficult for him if he had found out.

    “Come on. Your room is here,” DarkKnightmon said, pointing to the door in front of him.

    OuRyuumon staggered over to him. “Mrm. Thanks, buddy,” he said to him, patting DarkKnightmon’s face with his claws. “I know you and I and you don’t always get along, but you’re okay when you wanta be…”

    “Err…” DarkKnightmon hesitated. He took OuRyuumon’s wrist and removed his hand from his face. “Thank you… Now, go and rest, OuRyuumon.”

    “Alright…” OuRyuumon responded, making his way into his room so that he could plop down on his bed. “Night, night, Knight…”

    “Goodnight, Captain,” DarkKnightmon said to him, closing OuRyuumon’s door for him. He let out a sigh and began walking down the corridor to his own room.

    That was unnerving…” he thought to himself as he entered his room.

    He began to unfasten his chest armour. Once it was removed, DarkKnightmon walked over to his balcony window and stared out. He looked up at the moon and watched as a cloud finished passing over it. He frowned and leaned against the stone window sill.

    I have much that I need to do…” he quietly mused. “I need to steer this Order in the right direction for the good of the Digital World. If it means hurting a friend… well… I suppose it has to be done. I hope you won’t take it personally, Alphamon…

    -

    About a week later, DarkKnightmon went to work on trying to convince the other Royal Knights to unseat Alphamon. He had planned his arguments meticulously, and he hoped that they would be enough to convince his comrades to accept the drastic change of command. He knew it wouldn’t be an easy battle, aware of how loyal the Royal Knights were, however, he was confident in himself.

    It was a cloudy evening out. There were two full moons out in the starry sky. However, multiple clouds passed over them intermittently, causing their reflected light to beam down irregularly. It created a mix of dim, blue light interspersed with dark shadows over the castle grounds.

    DarkKnightmon and MirageGaogamon walked outside, passing underneath one of the watch towers. Barely any Digimon were out on the grounds that night, with the exception of the guards manning the walls, gate, and towers.

    “So, you’re going to start talking to them tonight, Sir?” MirageGaogamon asked him, feeling very comfortable that they could talk freely without being overheard.

    “Yes,” DarkKnightmon replied with a soft frown. “There’s no point in waiting any longer. I’ve put up with this for long enough. This Order needs a change.”

    “I agree,” MirageGaogamon answered. “You think you can convince the other Royal Knights to turn against Alphamon?”

    “I believe it’s possible,” the dark knight said to his cohort with a faint smile behind his helmet.

    MirageGaogamon thought quietly for a few moments. The only sound that could be heard was the rattling of their armour. “For the sake of argument… What happens if you can’t?”

    “Then we’ll have entertain other options,” DarkKnightmon cryptically replied.

    “I see,” MirageGaogamon spoke, continuing to walk beside him. He looked over at the Royal Knight. “I’m going to take my claws to the forge to be serviced. Please let me know how things go. Good luck, Sir.”

    “Thank you,” DarkKnightmon told him with a nod.

    The two Digimon went their separate ways. MirageGaogamon crossed the road to the forge by the wall, and DarkKnightmon continued heading down the path to the main building’s entrance. He assumed most of the Royal Knights were inside, but he hoped that they weren’t all together. He thought it would be better if he talked to them individually.

    DarkKnightmon approached the entrance and placed his hand on the door, pushing it open. He hoped that everything would go as planned. He needed it to…

    -

    After a few minutes of searching, DarkKnightmon found Dukemon in the gym. The shirtless Royal Knight was on the floor, doing push ups. Much to DarkKnightmon’s annoyance, Zero ARMS: Grani was with him, spotting him. He supposed he should have expected it, given how close the two were, but it still caused problems because it’s easier for somebody to stand their ground when with a group of friends.

    On the other hand, DarkKnightmon also saw an opportunity. Grani was more rational while Dukemon was more emotional. He thought it might be easier to use his rational arguments to convince Grani than it would be to convince Dukemon, and Grani could, in turn, convince Dukemon. He figured it was worth a try.

    “Hello, Dukemon, Grani,” DarkKnightmon greeted as he stepped into the marble-floored gym.

    “ Ninety six, ninety seve-- DarkKnightmon,” Grani said, looking over at him to acknowledge him.

    Dukemon pushed himself up a final time and got to his knees so that he could begin to stand up. Once up, he grabbed a towel and draped it over his sweaty neck. “Hey,” Dukemon greeted with a grin, panting a bit. “Here for a work out?”

    “I was looking for you, actually,” the dark Royal Knight explained.

    “Oh, sure,” Dukemon said, walking over to the bench nearby to sit down. “What’s up?”

    “Well… I was wondering…” he began tactfully. “How do you both feel about Alphamon?”

    “Alphamon…?” Grani asked. The large, metal dragon eyed him carefully.

    “Feel about Alphamon?” Dukemon questioned, somewhat puzzled by the question as well. “He’s great. Why do you ask?”

    “You don’t feel that he’s lacking in certain areas…?” DarkKnightmon asked.

    “Lacking…? Not really,” Dukemon responded, frowning. He raised an eyebrow at DarkKnightmon. “Do you?”

    DarkKnightmon sidestepped the question and turned to Grani. “I’m just a bit worried about the Order. It feels like we haven’t been making any progress. There are still plenty of attacks and raids on this half of the continent.”

    “And you’re saying that’s Alphamon’s fault?” Dukemon directly challenged.

    “Of course not. I’m just thinking that what the Order needs is to go in a… different direction,” he explained.

    “What direction might that be?” Grani asked him suspiciously.

    “I think that we need to have greater control over the Free Area. We’ll be able to prevent more Digimon from getting hurt that way,” he calmly responded.

    “So, talk to Alphamon about it,” Dukemon said to him.

    “I’ve tried. He won’t listen,” DarkKnightmon told the holy knight Digimon.

    Dukemon folded his arms across his scaled chest. “Because he knows it’s a bad idea,” the crimson knight told him sharply.

    DarkKnightmon’s eyes narrowed. He could already tell that Dukemon was beginning to turn away from him. He turned to Grani. “I believe that I can run the Royal Knights more efficiently than Alphamon can. We’ll be able to do our jobs better and help more innocent Digimon. Is that not why we agreed to found this Order together?” he asked them both.

    Grani frowned and glanced over at Dukemon. “It is, however…”

    “However,” Dukemon interrupted. “Alphamon’s a good leader. You just don’t like the way that he’s doing things. Don’t mince words, DarkKnightmon. What are you here to say?” The red Royal Knight narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “That you want to take over Alphamon’s position?”

    DarkKnightmon stalled. After a few seconds of thought, he nodded. “I do… I know he’s a good leader, but he’s too soft. He’s lacking certain qualities that make him a great leader.”

    “It’s that ‘softness’ that makes him a great leader,” Dukemon insisted, frowning deeply. “I’m not about to raise a single finger against him.”

    “I don’t plan to dismiss him from the order or anything, Dukemon,” DarkKnightmon assured him, frowning as well. “I simply think that I’m better suited to being Lord of the Empty Seat. I still count him as a friend and a comrade.”

    “If you were his friend, you wouldn’t be conspiring to unseat him,” Dukemon fierily answered.

    DarkKnightmon’s gaze became steely. “Sometimes, Dukemon, you have to look past friendship for the sake of the world,” he explained.

    “So, I guess I know where you’d stand if the Digital Hazard ever got the better of me,” the crimson knight spoke, a twinge of melancholy mixed in with his outrage.

    DarkKnightmon grimaced and looked away. “Don’t make this personal, Dukemon. And don’t put words in my mouth,” he told him. “It’s because you’re my friend that I’m coming here to ask this of you. Support me, Dukemon. Stand beside me, like the many times that we’ve fought together in battle.”

    Dukemon frowned and looked down. “I… can’t, DarkKnightmon,” he said apologetically. “Alphamon’s my friend too. This is one battle I can’t fight with you.”

    DarkKnightmon gritted his teeth. “Very well…” he replied, only barely covering his anger and disappointment. He turned to Grani next. “Grani…? What’s your opinion?” he asked.

    “…My apologies, DarkKnightmon,” Grani told him tranquilly. “I believe that a radical change like the one you’re suggesting would be detrimental to the Royal Knights. And, on a personal note, Alphamon has been good to me. Perhaps talking to Alphamon about your grievances would be a more productive course of action.”

    The shadowy Royal Knight’s gaze became hard. He spun around, his dark cape twisting slightly as he turned. “Forget it,” he said lowly.

    Without another word, DarkKnightmon left the gym in a foul temperament.

    -

    (Continued)
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

  25. #25
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    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. “Shit…” 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…?”
    Claimed: Grovyle - November 10th, 2013
    Chapter 28 is up.

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