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.