Chapter 11: Protocol (Part II)
The white and blue form of a winged dragon Digimon dashed out of the house at the sudden sound of roaring. The AeroVeedramon darted around the corner of his brother’s house and into the yard, where the noises were coming from. He skidded to a stop and his toe claws dug into the grass as soon as he took notice of the scene before him.
Imperialdramon’s tall, massive draconic body lurched forwards unevenly, still shaky on his own feet. He bent his bulky body down and zeroed his giant, dorsal cannon in on the Royal Knight standing in front of him. Sleipmon took a few steps back cautiously.
“Paildramon… Imperialdramon… What are you doing? It’s Sleipmon. I’m a Royal Knight. What’s wrong?” the horseman asked, although he had a sinking feeling that he already knew the answer.
Imperialdramon didn’t reply. He merely roared hot breath at him and launched a torrent of positrons from his cannon. A beam of swirling, purple and blue power burst from the muzzle and descended on Sleipmon. The recoil of the blast was enough even to push the colossal body of Imperialdramon back a several feet.
Sleipmon’s eyes widened as the beam closed in. He grunted and raised his long, red shield, the Niflheimr, in front of him. He dug his six hooves into the ground and braced himself for the immanent impact.
A strained growl escaped his mouth as the attack slammed into his shield. Sleipmon winced in pain and effort at the enormous amount of pressure hitting the Niflheimr. The strength of the blast as well as the continuous nature of it forced Sleipmon to have to press his left hand against the inside of the shield as a buffer.
The Positron Laser fought against the great shield and the attack branched off in strands of power around Sleipmon. Several miniature threads of positrons splaying off the shield hit the ground and ripped up the grass and earth in large clumps. Sleipmon’s features were lit up with a bright blue and purple gleam as he continued holding against the beam, which was slowly driving him back in the grass. He let out a soft sigh of relief when the attack finally began to die down.
The beam dissipated inside Imperialdramon’s cannon and the smoke and dust began to clear. There was a long, shallow trench running down the yard from Imperialdramon to Sleipmon where the blast burned into the ground, as well as a mess of dirt and grass surrounding Sleipmon.
Sleipmon glanced down at the outer edge of the Niflheimr. Smoke rose up from the red metal, but otherwise it didn’t have a single dent or blemish. “Thank Yggdrasil for red digizoid,” he thought to himself. To his surprise he heard a voice shout out behind him.
“No… No!” AeroVeedramon shouted, looking up at Imperialdramon with a mortified expression.
Sleipmon turned his head, but made sure not to let the wild dragon out of his peripheral vision. “AeroVeedramon?” he asked in slight surprise, realizing who he must be.
“You said Paildramon…” he said with a shaky voice. “That’s… That’s my nephew! This… can’t be! Not again!”
“Again?” Sleipmon asked. Before he could get an answer, he could see Imperialdramon begin to move, prompting him to swing around.
Imperialdramon roared and started flapping his wings violently, pulling himself into the air. Sleipmon sneered. “I can’t let him into the city…” he muttered. He quickly looked at AeroVeedramon. “Find RhodoKnightmon! He should be around the town hall! Hurry!”
AeroVeedramon looked on helplessly at his nephew. “But…”
“Go!” Sleipmon commanded. “It’s not safe here! I need RhodoKnightmon’s help to contain him.”
AeroVeedramon took on a torn expression, wondering whether he should or not. “Don’t… Don’t delete him! You won’t, right?!”
“I won’t delete him! I promise,” Sleipmon reassured him. The horse knight frowned and stared at Imperialdramon. “I won’t delete him no matter what.
AeroVeedramon nodded, finding assurance into Sleipmon’s word. He flapped his wings and raced into Mossridge as fast as he could.
With him gone, Sleipmon cautiously approached Imperialdramon. “Imperialdramon…” he said in a calm, soothing tone. “You remember me, don’t you? I’m Sleipmon… I’m one of the Royal Knights… You said you really admired me, remember?”
Imperialdramon roared and took a mindless swipe at him with his sharp, gold claws.
Sleipmon leapt away and circled back around to try again. “Imperialdramon! Stop this! You know me!” he shouted in distraught frustration. “You wanted to join our Order, remember?!”
Another savage growl ripped from Imperialdramon’s throat. He tilted his head back and began gathering dark matter inside his mouth.
Sleipmon sneered and decided to keep on the move, galloping around Imperialdramon, but not letting him get too far from him. “I know this new evolution is hard to handle! You have to focus! You’re letting its power take control of you!” he told him. “Just listen to my voice and try to relax! I know you’re in there!”
Imperialdramon roared and fired his Mega Death attack. The ball of dark matter sailed over Sleipmon’s head and burst through the wall of his house. A black and white blast blossomed from inside the house, completely annihilating all of the walls and furniture. The house detonated in a massive explosion that forced Sleipmon to stop and brace himself from the blast. The blast ripped through the ground and air, sending debris and fractured data particles flying everywhere. Sleipmon let out a breathy grunt; he struggled to remain on his hooves as the detonation rocked his form.
When the explosion died down, the Royal Knight lowered his shield and observed the damage with a look of shock. Where Imperialdramon’s house once stood, there was a massive, smoking crater, and all the grass surrounding the impact point was completely gone. Sleipmon could hear shouts of fear and confusion from inside Mossridge.
He turned back to Imperialdramon with a look of anxiety. The dragon flailed his tail wildly and he wrenched his head around, growling and flapping his wings, although luckily staying in place.
Sleipmon grimaced. “What do I do…? He can destroy Mossridge in a matter of ten minutes…” he thought to himself with worry. “Hurry up, Rhodo. I’ll need your help…”
RhodoKnightmon walked out of the town hall, looking around curiously. “What in Yggdrasil’s name was that noise?” he wondered aloud as he made his way down the steps.
“RhodoKnightmon!” a voice called out to him from behind.
“Hm?” RhodoKnightmon hummed, turning around at the base of the steps.
Mayor Moosemon came out of the town hall and walked down the steps. He stepped up beside Rhodo and looked at him with a big smile. “Hello! How’s the inspection going?” he asked. “Are you just about done?”
“Oh, nearly, yes,” RhodoKnightmon replied. Sleipmon and I were just following up on something that we heard happened over a decade ago.
Moosemon’s smile faltered. “Oh…” he said with a suddenly heavy voice. “Why look into something that happened over a decade ago? The Free Area didn’t even exist when that happened.”
“So, you know what I’m talking about, then?” the Royal Knight asked him.
Moosemon grimaced and finally nodded after a few moments. “It’s… not exactly something I can forget,” he spoke, without his usual laugh.
RhodoKnightmon nodded. “I wanted to know why your family and Veedramon’s family were at odds. And it is our business because you’re both part of the municipal government, and we have to ensure that there’s no foul play going on, you see.”
“I know,” he replied with a sigh. “But I ensure you that I didn’t dismiss AeroVeedramon for personal reasons. He was undermining me at every step just for the sake of it! It was getting impossible to get any work done! And I didn’t invent what he did to my offi--”
“RhodoKnightmon!” another voice rang out, this one more desperate and frantic.
RhodoKnightmon turned and saw AeroVeedramon descending through the air towards them. “Hmm, perhaps we can have both sides of the story,” he mused. Moosemon had an annoyed expression on his face at the dragon’s appearance.
AeroVeedramon landed and looked at the Royal Knight with a look of terror in his eyes. “RhodoKni--“
His voice was interrupted by a massive booming coming from the direction that AeroVeedramon flew from. The ground beneath them shook, and a bright blast erupted into the sky from the northern outskirts of town.
AeroVeedramon flinched. Moosemon staggered on his legs slightly and looked over in panic and surprise.
“What was that?!” RhodoKnightmon demanded, looking at the huge blast in the distance.
Grimacing, AeroVeedramon looked up. “It was Paildramon. My nephew…” he replied with guilt in his voice. “He… He evolved.”
Again, they were interrupted when a screech rang through the air and a beam of positrons streaked through the sky.
Moosemon tensed up, his eyes widening. “No…”
RhodoKnightmon sneered behind his helmet. “You’re joking…” he spoke, noting the coincidental irony of the situation. “You mean he’s gone rampant…?”
AeroVeedramon nodded with a pained grimace.
“You fool!” Moosemon shouted, glaring at AeroVeedramon. “I knew you were a family of monsters! Who else needs to die before you realize that?!”
AeroVeedramon scowled and turned to him. “Shut your mouth, Moosemon! It’s not his fault! H-He’s young! He doesn’t know what he’s doing!”
“Just like your father didn’t when he killed my dad?!” Moosemon shot back.
AeroVeedramon snarled and grabbed him by the neck. “Don’t you dare bring my father into this!” he warned him.
“Or what?! You’ll kill me?” Moosemon countered, narrowing his gaze. “I don’t care. It’s better than being toasted by your psychotic nephew! The whole town is doomed now! Everything that we’ve worked for!”
RhodoKnightmon got between the two Digimon and pushed them apart. “Enough!” he ordered. “Do you really think that fighting amongst yourselves is going to solve anything? If this is the way you two always act, it’s no wonder that things have been going badly.”
AeroVeedramon let go of Moosemon and folded his arms, frowning deeply. Moosemon grimaced and looked away.
“That’s better,” RhodoKnightmon said. “Now, I’m not going to let anything happen to this town. I’m going to take care of this situation.”
“Th-Thank you,” Moosemon murmured, tensing up as another explosion shook the ground.
RhodoKnightmon looked at both of them. “Where is Sleipmon?” he asked them.
“He’s with Paildramon!” AeroVeedramon told him hurriedly, remembering why he was there. “He sent me to come get you!”
The Royal Knight nodded. “I understand. Now, don’t you two have jobs to do?” he asked.
AeroVeedramon nodded, looking at Moosemon. “We have to start an evacuation.”
“…Yeah, we do,” he agreed.
“I hope you two can manage that without any problems,” RhodoKnightmon said to them, giving them a lingering look.
“I need to tell my brother!” AeroVeedramon remembered. “That’s his son.”
“No, don’t tell him,” the pink Royal Knight said to him. “He’ll get in our way and end up putting himself in danger. Just get him to evacuate with the rest of you.”
AeroVeedramon grimaced. “Rgh… I’ll try.”
“I must assist Sleipmon now. I’m leaving everything to you two,” RhodoKnightmon told them. With that, he started dashing north, up one of the streets, against the crowd of fleeing Digimon.
“Hang in there, Sleipmon,” he thought, frowning. “Do not let your heart get in the way of what you need to do.”
Sleipmon backed towards the crater as he pushed his hands against the top and bottom jaws of Imperialdramon’s snout, trying to keep the massive dragon from biting him.
“Imperial… dramon…” he grunted, struggling to keep the wild beast at bay. “I know… that you don’t want to hurt anybody… You said that you… wanted to protect people… like the Royal Knights do…”
Imperialdramon dug his claws deeper into the earth, pushing forwards and roaring, some of his saliva splattering onto Sleipmon’s armour.
Sleipmon sneered and dug deep. He knew the crater was right behind him; he was at risk of losing his foothold, and that would leave him vulnerable to attack. “Listen to me, Imperialdramon! You need to focus! Your mind’s unstable!” He saw that he wasn’t getting through to him, and he began to glower when he saw more dark matter building up in Imperialdramon’s mouth for his Mega Death attack. “Imperialdramon! I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m going to need to incapacitate you if you don’t calm down! You’ll hurt people! I know you don’t want that!”
He saw the dark matter rising in Imperialdramon’s mouth and it began to brim. “Tch,” Sleipmon grunted. He was forced to let go and dash to the side, sending Imperialdramon staggering at the sudden release. As Imperialdramon tripped into the crater, he managed to jerk his body to the side in a desperate attempt to fire the Mega Death attack at Sleipmon. He spat the sphere of dark matter but it missed him by a couple of feet and soared into the air. It travelled on, eventually exploded in a terrifying blast of black energy and lightning.
Sleipmon turned back towards the crater as the attack exploded harmlessly, sending a blast of wind through his hair. He heard the sound of Imperialdramon crashing at the bottom of the crater.
“Now’s my chance,” he murmured to himself. He dashed towards the edge of the crater and raised the Niflheimr in front of him. “Odin’s Breath!”
Sleipmon’s shield began to glow blue as it started to radiate freezing temperatures. He wanted to use the Niflheimr to lower the temperature inside the crater to make Imperialdramon sluggish, and perhaps freeze his limbs to the ground if necessary.
The blast of cold swept into the crater, but, to Sleipmon’s surprise, Imperialdramon had already recovered from falling. Imperialdramon shot up into the air, flying out of the crater and roaring at the cold against his lower body.
Sleipmon grunted in annoyance and tried to raise his blizzard-producing shield up to follow Imperialdramon and at least stop him from getting airborne. To his dismay, he couldn’t angle himself properly because the dragon was already flying over his head.
The cavalier started galloping to try to turn and face Imperialdramon, but he already heard the rampant Mega level land behind him with a crash. The first thing he saw of Imperialdramon was his large foreclaw as it slammed into him and sent him crashing on his side.
His groan of pain was drowned out by another of Imperialdramon’s roars. He tried to position his six legs to try to stand himself up again, but he could see the giant dragon already looming over him. Sleipmon grimaced as Imperialdramon raised his claws, either attempting to stomp on him or stab him. For a moment, the Royal Knight contemplated the Muspellsheimr crossbow on his left arm.
Imperialdramon thrust his foreleg forwards, the gold claws glinting in the late afternoon sun as they drove towards Sleipmon. Sleipmon was about to react, but stopped himself when he noticed something come into his field of view.
“Spiral Masquerade!” a familiar voice shouted. Two long, yellow sashes whipped through the air and wrapped around Imperialdramon’s leg and claws, stopping it from getting any closer to Sleipmon.
Sleipmon turned and saw his pink companion standing to the side. “RhodoKnightmon!” he said with a bit of relief.
Still keeping the metal sashes taut, RhodoKnightmon dashed forwards and jumped into the air, raising the gold Pile Bunker in his right hand. “Urgent Fear!” he called out, slamming his Pile Bunker into Imperialdramon’s side. The tip of the Pile Bunker erupted with light, and the pressure from the blow sent Imperialdramon careening across the grassy field.
Sleipmon took the opportunity to get himself back to his feet. When RhodoKnightmon landed, Sleipmon looked at him. “Thank you. Came right in the nick of time.”
“Don’t mention it,” RhodoKnightmon replied, turning to him, but still keeping an eye on Imperialdramon, who was reeling from the blast. “What are you doing, Sleipmon? You’re not having trouble with a young, freshly Digivolved Mega level, surely.”
“It’s not that simple. I’m trying to talk to him to bring him to his senses,” Sleipmon answered, dusting dirt off of his still-cold Niflheimr.
“Sleipmon, dear, I believe that you’ve taken a leave of your senses if you think that that’s going to work,” RhodoKnightmon told him.
“I can do it, Rhodo,” Sleipmon said with determination.
“No, you can’t,” RhodoKnightmon replied, looking over at Imperialdramon.
Sleipmon sneered with annoyance. “And what makes you so sure?”
“Because it didn’t help with his grandfather,” RhodoKnightmon said pointedly.
“What? His grandfather?” he asked, remembering Paildramon mentioning something about him before he evolved.
“Yes. This very exact same situation happened to his grandfather over a decade ago. He evolved from Paildramon to that…” RhodoKnightmon beckoned at the frenzied dragon, who was scrambling to get up. He fired another aimless Positron Laser from his back as he did so. “And went rampant. His best friend, Moosemon’s father, tried to do what you’re doing, and he ended up dead. In fact, that’s why the two families dislike each other so much.”
“What…?” Sleipmon asked in surprise. He turned to look at Imperialdramon.
“Paildramons very often go rampant when they first evolve into Imperialdramon Dragon Mode. They can’t handle all that power,” RhodoKnightmon explained.
“I know that,” Sleipmon retorted as he watched Imperialdramon stand to his feet and turn to them. “I think we should try to incapacitate him.”
RhodoKnightmon frowned. “I--“
“He’s coming,” Sleipmon interrupted. He nodded towards Imperialdramon as the dragon flapped his wings and charged at them.
RhodoKnightmon looked and saw the unruly dragon charging towards them, with an ear-piercing screech. Imperialdramon hurled himself at them.
Sleipmon quickly dashed to the side and RhodoKnightmon nimbly jumped away to avoid being rammed by the beast. Imperialdramon swung around, whipping his tail at Sleipmon and firing a Mega Death blast at RhodoKnightmon. The horse knight skidded to a stop and turned so that he could block the tail lash with his shield. RhodoKnightmon did a backwards somersault in the air to avoid being struck by the attack, instead, only being grazed by a bit of dark matter.
“He’s getting more used to his new body. He still can’t control himself though,” Sleipmon said, sneering as he started circling clockwise around Imperialdramon.
RhodoKnightmon glowered as he landed. “That’s exactly why—Look out!” he suddenly said, watching as Imperialdramon turned towards Sleipmon.
Sleipmon looked up and saw Imperialdramon turn to him, taking aim with an already prepared Positron Laser blast. He narrowed his eyes and bolted into a full gallop, just as Imperialdramon fired.
He heard the beam screech as it passed behind him, and he felt the end of his white tail get singed by the hot blast. Sleipmon slowed down before reaching the bank of the river and he looked over his shoulder to see the beam plow through the row of closed shops that he passed earlier, decimating them in a horrible explosion. Sleipmon grimaced and hurried over to RhodoKnightmon. He hoped that the shops had been unoccupied.
“Can you get him with your sashes?” Sleipmon asked RhodoKnightmon. “If you can hold him in place, I can neutralize him with Odin’s Breath.”
“Can you, though?” RhodoKnightmon responded, glancing over at Sleipmon.
Sleipmon eyed him. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I think that we need to delete him,” RhodoKnightmon replied coolly.
As his eyes widened in shock, Sleipmon jerked his head to look at his fellow Royal Knight. “What?!” he demanded. “Delete him?!”
“He’s out of control, Sleipmon! Can’t you see that?!” RhodoKnightmon protested. “He’s rampant. He’s not going to stop no matter how much we restrain him!”
“So you want us to kill him?!” Sleipmon retorted with a look of repulsion and dismay on his face. “He’s only a kid! I knew you could be ruthless on missions, RhodoKnightmon, but I never thought you’d suggest something like that.”
“Get off your moral high horse, Sleipmon,” RhodoKnightmon shot back icily. “You’re truly naïve if you think that we have any viable alternatives.”
Sleipmon was about to reply, but Imperialdramon was on the move again. The frenzied Digimon launched another Mega Death attack from his mouth at them. The two Royal Knights were fortunately fast enough to dodge it, both breaking off in opposite directions.
The swirling orb of compressed dark matter ripped by them and slammed into the river. When it exploded, there was a gigantic eruption of water that went as high as fifty meters into the air. The flow of the river stalled as water started pooling in the large impact crater in the middle of the river, and cascades of water fell over the field and the three Digimon.
Imperialdramon then turned away from the two Royal Knights. He flapped his wings strongly and took flight, rising into the air and heading towards the town of Mossridge.
“Sleipmon!” RhodoKnightmon called out, ignoring the water droplets pelting his armour. “He’s heading for the town! Stop him!”
Sleipmon grimaced. “Damn it… Damn it!” He reluctantly raised his Muspellsheimr crossbow, drew an arrow from inside the Niflheimr and aimed it precisely at Imperialdramon. “Bifröst!”
An incandescent bolt fired from the Muspellsheimr. The arrow tore through the air and pierced one of Imperialdramon’s wings. The dragon let out a roar of pain and fell to the grass with a crash before he could get too high.
Sleipmon grunted and loaded another bolt into his crossbow. “See? We can incapacitate him!” he insisted. “He can’t fly now!”
“The rest of his body still works,” RhodoKnightmon countered. “How do you plan on disabling his cannon? And did you happen to bring a muzzle big enough to keep him from blasting away with his mouth?”
The cavalier hissed with annoyance. “I’m telling you, I just need to freeze him to incapacitate him!” he shot back in frustration.
“A giant Digimon like him, Sleipmon?” RhodoKnightmon said, glaring. “You know far better than I do that your Odin’s Breath attack isn’t instantaneous. With smaller Digimon it’s a different story, but I would guess it would take at least two minutes for it to work on him. And do you think he would just patiently sit by and let you?”
“That’s why I want you to hold him,” Sleipmon said in an icy cold voice.
“My sashes would hold, but I wouldn’t be able to. Not for long against somebody of his size and strength. Certainly not for as long as you need.”
“It won’t take that long.”
“I’m not willing to take that chance,” the pink-armoured knight insisted sternly.
Sleipmon grunted. “At this rate, he’ll tire himself out anyways!” he protested.
“And, until then, we let him go wild and destroy Mossridge and its inhabitants?”
“Did I say that?!” Sleipmon asked, growing more annoyed with his companion.
“That’s what will happen if we leave him as he is,” RhodoKnightmon said coldly. “We need to kill him, Sleipmon.”
Sleipmon glared at him. “You callous… There has to be a better way than to kill him. I know there is,” he insisted, trying to retain his composure.
“It seems like the best and only option to me,” RhodoKnightmon said, hardening his gaze.
Sleipmon returned the hard stare with one of his own. “You’re conveniently forgetting about protocol, RhodoKnightmon,” he told him. “The protocol for dealing with rampant Digimon is to incapacitate them.”
“It seems you’re also conveniently forgetting about protocol,” RhodoKnightmon countered. “It’s to incapacitate them unless absolutely necessary to kill them. It is absolutely necessary, in my opinion.”
“Well, it’s not necessary, in my opinion,” Sleipmon answered, glancing at Imperialdramon, who was still recovering from the fall he took.
“That’s because you’re letting your heart rule your brain again, Sleipmon,” RhodoKnightmon said. “You grew attached to him when we came here. As a result, you’re not thinking rationally.”
“It’s not his fault. We can’t punish him for this,” the red digizoid clad knight told him.
“It’s not about punishment. He’s a danger to the Digimon of Mossridge,” the pink knight replied. “It’s a sad situation but we simply need to do away with him.”
“It’s against protocol…”
“It’s not, because Imperialdramon is an immediate threat and he cannot be contained.”
“No… No, I won’t allow it,” Sleipmon spoke lowly. He slowly turned to leer at RhodoKnightmon. “I remember that I don’t like this side of you, Rhodo… You have no compassion,” he said to him with a cold stare, letting his eyes linger before looking away.
RhodoKnightmon was silent for a few moments. He finally replied, “There’s no room for compassion when it comes to the defence of the Digital World.”
Sleipmon turned to him with a new passion in his eyes. “Yes, there is!” he answered ardently. “There always is! It’s in our job, duty, and code, as Royal Knights, to have compassion!”
“Not to evil Digimon,” RhodoKnightmon argued.
“He’s not evil!” Sleipmon countered.
“He’s destructive! He’ll tear this place apart, you naïve fool!” RhodoKnightmon shouted, losing his patience with Sleipmon. “This isn’t altruism on your part; this is you being selfish! You’re willing to endanger the lives of all these other Digimon all so that you won’t have to deal with the guilt of killing somebody!”
Sleipmon’s eyes widened with sudden anger. “What?! Me being selfish?! You’re the selfish one! You’re just looking for a quick solution because taking the time to incapacitate him would be too difficult and you’re too lazy for something like that! Unlike you, I actually care about all Digimon. And unlike you, I know the value of a life, because I actually have killed somebody once before! I guess Digimon like you get desensitized to it after a while, do you?”
RhodoKnightmon stared at him quietly. Suddenly, RhodoKnightmon’s four sashes whipped forwards and wrapped around Sleipmon’s arms and upper body.
Sleipmon tensed up, beginning to struggle. “Wh-Hey!” he protested in shock and confusion. He knew that their argument was getting heated, but he didn’t think it was so bad that RhodoKnightmon would grab him out of anger. He almost worried that a punch from the Pile Bunker would be next.
“Get out of the way!” RhodoKnightmon shouted abruptly.
“What?!” Sleipmon responded in surprise.
Before he could say anything else, RhodoKnightmon spun around, yanking on the four metal sashes hard enough to jerk Sleipmon to the side and send him stumbling. With Sleipmon being too heavy to be able to lift up, it was the best he could do to keep him from getting hit by the oncoming dragon.
Sleipmon stumbled and tried to catch himself from the sudden pull, but all he could do was keep up the running canter or else end up tripping. He looked over his shoulder and his gold wing to see what was going on. To his surprise, Imperialdramon was bursting towards them, dashing at a frightening speed and swiftly closing in. Thanks to RhodoKnightmon, Sleipmon was able to avoid getting hit by the careening dragon, but RhodoKnightmon took the full brunt of the painful collision.
RhodoKnightmon grunted in pain as Imperialdramon slammed into his side and sent him flying through the air. He hit the ground hard and rolled over the grass a couple of times before stabbing his sash-blades into the earth to stop himself.
“Rhodo!” Sleipmon called out, turning towards him in shock and worry.
Before he could react, Imperialdramon descended on his fellow knight with his large feet and talons. RhodoKnightmon reacted quickly, shoving his Pile Bunker up towards the dragon Digimon’s descending claws.
“Urgent Fear!” he announced.
The Pile Bunker’s tip exploded with compressed power upon contact with the sole of Imperialdramon’s foot, sending a massive shock all the way up his leg and making the whole thing jerk up towards his body. Imperialdramon roared out in pain, but RhodoKnightmon’s attack couldn’t stop gravity from pulling Imperialdramon’s body down towards him.
Imperialdramon used that to his advantage and sent his other set of claws crashing down on RhodoKnightmon’s armoured body. RhodoKnightmon grunted with effort upon catching the dragon’s foot in his hands. He sneered and pushed back against it with all of his might to keep it from crushing him.
“Rhodo! Are you alright?!” Sleipmon called out, rushing over.
Imperialdramon continued pushing down and swept his long tail out, hoping to catch Sleipmon with it. The horse knight darted to the right to avoid the swing but had to retreat slightly when Imperialdramon stabbed at him with the long blade on his free foreleg.
“A little help would be lovely!” RhodoKnightmon responded, grunting as he pushed the dragon’s claws back inches only for him to lose the progress that he made.
Sleipmon grimaced and circled around to face them, standing about ten meters away. “I can’t use Odin’s Breath. I’d end up freezing you both!” he told him.
“That means you have to shoot him!” RhodoKnightmon called over to him. He had to focus all of his attention on pushing with his arms to keep himself from getting stepped on and stabbed, leaving him unable to use his sashes to assist him.
The six-legged Royal Knight glanced down at his Muspellsheimr crossbow. “There… has to be another way,” he replied, more to himself than to RhodoKnightmon.
“There isn’t!” RhodoKnightmon shouted to him. “Call me selfish if you want, but I don’t exactly want to end up being crushed or frozen!”
“Give me time to think!” Sleipmon said, more in a begging tone than a commanding one. He grimaced, his eyes running side to side as he tried to think of a way that he could both save RhodoKnightmon and spare Imperialdramon.
“I don’t have a whole lot of time to give, I’m afraid!” RhodoKnightmon retorted, grunting as he gave another burst of effort to push Imperialdramon’s foot back.
Sleipmon frowned deeper and tried to think as quickly as he could. He couldn’t shoot Imperialdramon’s leg because it was too heavily armoured. The only parts of Imperialdramon’s body that weren’t protected by armour were his neck and tail. Firing at his neck would be lethal, and hitting his tail would just prove to be a source of anger. He supposed there was a slight gap around Imperialdramon’s shoulders, but he wasn’t comfortable that he could make that shot; Imperialdramon was moving around way too erratically, and there was a high chance he could hit his armour or neck instead. He didn’t want to shoot him in the neck or head, but…
The Royal Knight could see that RhodoKnightmon’s arms were trembling. He knew that pure force of strength wasn’t RhodoKnightmon’s greatest skill. He didn’t know how much longer Rhodo would be able to hold against the dragon.
As the seconds went on, Sleipmon was beginning to feel even more torn. He didn’t want to hurt Imperialdramon for something that wasn’t his fault, but he didn’t want his friend or the citizens of Mossridge to get hurt because he wouldn’t do anything.
“Do something, Sleipmon!” RhodoKnightmon yelled out. “I can’t hold out much longer! You have to shoot him!”
“I can’t!” Sleipmon said in response.
“Please, Sleipmon! If not for me, than for the Digimon of Mossridge!” RhodoKnightmon insisted.
Sleipmon grimaced down at the arrow that was loaded in the Muspellsheimr.
“I… don’t know…” he murmured in a low, grave voice.
Imperialdramon growled down at RhodoKnightmon, getting frustrated at his slow progress. He raised his free foreleg up and aimed the long, jagged blade at RhodoKnightmon. With a roar, he stabbed it downwards.
RhodoKnightmon grunted and swerved his body to the side just in time to avoid being skewered.
Unable to see what happened from that angle, Sleipmon grew worried. “Rhodo! Are you alright?!” he called out.
“I won’t be for much longer!” RhodoKnightmon replied in annoyance and desperation. “Stop dithering, Sleipmon! You need to kill him! You know it’s the only option, but you won’t admit it to yourself!”
“There has to be another way!” Sleipmon protested.
“You keep saying that but you still haven’t thought of one!” RhodoKnightmon said as Imperialdramon withdrew his spike from the ground.
Imperialdramon growled and roared down at RhodoKnightmon. His gaping maw began to fill with black, crackling energy. The dark matter gathered in his mouth, and it became painfully clear to RhodoKnightmon that Imperialdramon was preparing a Mega Death attack.
“You don’t have time anymore, Sleipmon!” RhodoKnightmon called to him. “He’s going to use Mega Death at point blank range! He has no sense of self-preservation right now; he could kill all three of us if he fires it like this!”
Sleipmon grimaced and looked around in desperation in a last ditch hope to find something that he could use. He couldn’t find anything, and he looked down at his crossbow grimly. He slowly raised his arm, and the arm-mounted crossbow along with it. With a truly pained expression on his face, he circled in front of Imperialdramon to get a clearer shot.
Once he felt satisfied with the position he was in, he stopped. Sleipmon raised the Muspellsheimr and took aim at Sleipmon’s head, aiming precisely.
“I’m so sorry, Paildramon…” he whispered, preparing to fire…
In that moment, a gust of wind swept from in front of him, blowing through his face. Sleipmon was a skilled enough archer that he could ignore the wind and adjust accordingly. However, he noticed something…
What looked like a white leaf suddenly blew out of Imperialdramon’s chest armour. The leafy object floated and danced on the blast of wind. As it blew, it travelled towards Sleipmon, blocking his field of vision.
Sleipmon grunted in mild annoyance, lowering his crossbow slightly. “What?” he asked, annoyed by the interruption, reluctantly acknowledging that he only had so much time until Imperialdramon fired his attack. The white thing flew over to him and got caught on the back of the Muspellsheimr, rustling in the wind.
He sneered and raised his right hand to pick the thing off of his bow so that it didn’t tamper with his shot. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a piece of paper. The Royal Knight raised an eyebrow and turned it over to see if there was anything written on the other side.
’To Paildramon. May your hopes be fulfilled. From Sleipmon of the Royal Knights.’
Sleipmon stared down at the piece of paper in his hand, stricken into silence. In that moment, he remembered Paildramon’s hopes and aspirations. He remembered the young dragon’s admiration for him. He remembered his own personal code, and why he joined the Royal Knights in the first place. He remembered how much he wanted to protect Digimon from harm...
As he studied the note, a newfound determination swelled behind his steely, violet eyes.
“Sleipmon! Hurry! He’s about to attack!” RhodoKnightmon called out to him, withdrawing his sashes from the ground, ready to act if Sleipmon wouldn’t.
“I have an idea!” Sleipmon suddenly said.
Sleipmon lowered his crossbow and placed his left hand on the edge of the Niflheimr shield. He pulled the Niflheimr off his arm, releasing his right arm from the inside straps of the shield. Then, he gripped the Niflheimr in his right hand and began to charge towards Imperialdramon and RhodoKnightmon. Imperialdramon’s mouth was brimming with dark matter and he reared his head back, about to fire it down on RhodoKnightmon.
“What are you doing?!” RhodoKnightmon asked, looking behind him at Sleipmon.
“Trust me!” Sleipmon fired back, drawing his arm back.
With a sharp grunt and a mighty throw, he hurled the Niflheimr shield through the air. The heavy, red digizoid shield sailed into the air and slammed into Imperialdramon’s chin, jerking his head backwards and forcing him to redirect and fire his attack harmlessly upwards, into the sky.
As the shield fell to the ground with a thud and as Imperialdramon released a roar, Sleipmon galloped across the grass field around Imperialdramon’s side. He circled around the dragon and started coming at him from behind. Sleipmon leapt into the air, pressed one hoof on Imperialdramon’s tail and propelled himself further onto the large dragon’s back.
Sleipmon ran up Imperialdramon’s back at a full speed gallop. He took note of the giant cannon ahead of him, and how it could blast him at point blank range as soon as he got in front of it. He knew that he had to make this quick.
The horse knight leapt over Imperialdramon’s cannon, his yellow wing features helping him to glide for a short time. He looked down and saw himself over Imperialdramon’s helmeted head.
“Tactic Smear!” Sleipmon shouted out, just as he heard Imperialdramon beginning to build a Positron Laser blast below him. He shot his two front hooves down and slammed his solid heels onto Imperialdramon’s head. He pushed down and propelled himself off of it, slamming his middle pair of feet down, and finally kicking his skull with his hind hooves for good measure.
Sleipmon bounded off Imperialdramon’s head and landed in the grass close to RhodoKnightmon. He turned around to look at Imperialdramon, inwardly praying that his plan to concuss him worked.
Imperialdramon shook his head, dazed by the three mighty blows, and slowly turned his head to glare at Sleipmon. The Royal Knight’s heart sunk.
The dragon’s two crimson eyes then dulled and his head began to tilt forwards. Imperialdramon lurched forwards unevenly, giving out a low, growling rumble. He moved his foot off of RhodoKnightmon and lost balance, falling to the left and collapsing on his side with a thunderous, earth-trembling crash. Imperialdramon didn’t get back up. He was unconscious.
Sleipmon released a long, relieved sigh that he felt like he had been holding since Paildramon evolved. He turned to RhodoKnightmon, who slowly pulled himself to his feet.
RhodoKnightmon looked over at Imperialdramon steadily. He then turned and gazed at Sleipmon. “You… managed to do it,” he said, panting slightly.
“Somehow…” he uttered softly.
“Paildramon! Paildramon!” a voice shouted out.
The two Royal Knights turned to find the owner of the voice. They saw Veedramon dashing over from what was left of the riverside road. Moosemon was running behind him, and AeroVeedramon followed by wing.
“Oh, Yggdrasil,” Veedramon said, running up to Imperialdramon with obvious worry in his eyes. “Paildramon!”
“Stay away from him,” RhodoKnightmon commanded, walking over. “Please.”
“He’s just unconscious,” Sleipmon added, going over as well. “We don’t know if he’s still unstable.”
“Is he okay? At least tell me that much!” Veedramon pleaded. AeroVeedramon landed and put a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“Just a few bumps on the head,” Sleipmon assured him. “I knew his helmet would help cushion the impact. I’m hoping it’s enough to bring him to his senses.”
“It will be very annoying if it’s not,” RhodoKnightmon muttered. He frowned and turned to AeroVeedramon. “So, you told your brother about this?” he asked him, a bit annoyed that Veedramon’s appearance could have caused a lot of trouble for them had he showed up a few minutes earlier.
“What?” AeroVeedramon asked.
“I did,” Moosemon told him, stepping forwards.
“You?” RhodoKnightmon asked, surprised.
Moosemon nodded, grimacing a bit. “I felt he had a right to know.”
“Pardon me for saying so, but I thought you didn’t care,” RhodoKnightmon said, putting his hands on his hips.
“I guess this situation made me think clearer, somehow…” the Mayor answered. “When I saw Veedramon as we were evacuating, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. I mean, Paildramon is his son… I know… No, all three of us know the type of bond a father and son can have. We each lost ours, after all…”
“Life’s too precious to waste time on blaming others,” AeroVeedramon concurred, glancing at Moosemon.
Veedramon slowly nodded, squatting down and gently rubbing Imperialdramon’s claws.
“I’m glad you think so,” RhodoKnightmon said to them.
Sleipmon nodded and looked at Imperialdramon thoughtfully.
Imperialdramon’s eyelids flickered and tensed, and a soft breath escaped his nostrils.
“He’s waking up,” Sleipmon cautioned everybody, a little bit concerned that he was unconscious only for a minute.
“Get back!” RhodoKnightmon ordered Veedramon, who promptly did so.
Sleipmon readied his crossbow and shield, while RhodoKnightmon gripped his sash-blades like swords.
Imperialdramon’s eyes slowly opened, the crimson orbs grimacing as the light of the bright sunset suddenly hit them. He slowly turned his gaze up to stare at Sleipmon.
“…Sleip…mon…?” he asked in a tired, befuddled voice.
Sleipmon’s mouth curved into a broad, relieved smile and he let out a short laugh. “You’re back…”
Veedramon’s eyes widened. “Does that mean… he’s okay?” he asked, looking to the Royal Knights.
“I believe that’s the case…” RhodoKnightmon answered, looking at Imperialdramon.
“What… What happened…?” Imperialdramon asked. He cringed in pain and let out a deep groan. “I feel weird… and I have a huge headache… and my wing hurts a lot…”
“That’s because you evolved…” Sleipmon explained, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t try to get up. You might get dizzy or trip.”
Imperialdramon blinked and slowly turned his head down to look at himself. “I… evolved…?” he asked in a groggy voice. “I don’t remember… I never blacked out the other times I digivolved.”
“Digimon typically black out when they go rampant,” RhodoKnightmon informed him, folding his arms. “You caused an awful lot of trouble, you know…”
“You lost control,” Sleipmon said, rubbing his shoulder. “You couldn’t handle the power of this form. It’s common for Digimon when they first become Imperialdramon.”
“It can sometimes be avoided depending on the Digimon’s willpower or if there’s another Imperialdramon there to help them through it,” RhodoKnightmon explained.
Imperialdramon shut his eyes tightly, grunting sharply. “I… lost control…?” he asked, a sharp note of guilt touching his voice. “Just like Granddad…?”
“It’s alright, Pail—“ Veedramon stopped himself as he went back to holding his claws. “Imperialdramon…” he corrected reassuringly.
Imperialdramon kept his eyes firmly shut. “…Did I hurt anybody?” he whispered, the shame obvious in his words. He slowly curled his wings down around his body.
“No…” Sleipmon assured him. “You just destroyed several buildings.”
“Oh…” he responded in a deep, growly, broken voice. The Royal Knights noticed a tear forming in his large, closed eye. His eyelid tensed and the tear trickled down his snout. “I’m so ashamed…” he whimpered.
Moosemon frowned and stepped forwards. “…Don’t be,” he said to the young dragon. “It’s not your fault. Something like this… is just a terrible accident. We can repair the damage… I’m sure you’d like to help us, wouldn’t you?” He offered a small smile.
Imperialdramon nodded and opened his red, wet eyes. “Please… I’ll do anything…” he replied. He sniffed and looked at Sleipmon and RhodoKnightmon. “I’m so sorry… You guys stopped me, didn’t you?”
“Sleipmon did most of the work,” RhodoKnightmon said to him, glancing over at the horseman.
“That’s not true,” Sleipmon insisted, looking back at RhodoKnightmon. He looked at Imperialdramon. “Don’t worry about it… By the way, hold out your claws. I have something for you.” He smiled warmly at the dragon.
Imperialdramon slowly held out his palm, in which Sleipmon placed the piece of paper that had flown out of the dragon’s armour. “Huh…?” he asked, looking closer at the piece of paper.
“It’s the autograph I gave you earlier,” Sleipmon replied. “You dropped it after you digivolved.”
“Th… Thank you…” he responded, looking up at the Royal Knight he admired.
“By the way, the offer is still open… The one about you applying for the Order when you’re older,” Sleipmon said.
Imperialdramon looked at him with shock and gratitude. “Even after all this?” he asked tearfully. “I… I don’t know what to say… You’re too nice.”
“You should be grateful that he is,” RhodoKnightmon told him, though he was sure Imperialdramon wouldn’t pick up the implications of what he meant.
“I am…” Imperialdramon murmured.
Moosemon turned to the Royal Knights and chuckled. “I suppose this will go into your report,” he said uncomfortably.
“You can bet on it,” RhodoKnightmon replied. “However, how will you deal with what happened?”
Moosemon frowned. “Well… I’ll need to give AeroVeedramon his job back, for starters,” he explained, looking over at the winged dragon man nearby.
AeroVeedramon looked at him with surprise. “Are you sure, Moosemon?”
“I’ll need the help,” he told him with a small smile. “I want to rebuild what was destroyed in the town, and I’d like to rebuild something else as well.”
AeroVeedramon smiled. “That’s big of you.”
“I’m only doing what Dad would have done,” he replied.
“Aww. That’s rather cute,” RhodoKnightmon spoke, smiling a bit. “I’m beginning to pair you two.”
They both looked at him with confusion. “Pardon?”
Sleipmon grinned and raised his hand. “Never mind,” he told them, turning to Imperialdramon. “So, how are you feeling? In complete control now?”
Imperialdramon nodded weakly. “Just sore and dizzy… and really, really tired…” he responded.
Veedramon grinned and patted his arm. “Your wing will heal. We’ll get you home,” he told him. He looked up to where their home used to be and saw only a massive, smoking crater surrounded by unearthed dirt. “…Oh right.”
“We’ll sort something out, right, Moosemon?” AeroVeedramon said, looking over.
Moosemon looked back at him and smiled. “Yeah, we will.”
RhodoKnightmon glanced at them and placed his hands on his hips. “Mhm. Mhm. Totally a cute couple,” he said. “Anyways, I suppose that means you three can handle things here?”
“I believe so,” Moosemon replied. He looked at Imperialdramon. “Well… Will he be fine now?”
“Yes. If Imperialdramons can get over that first bout of instability, they are usually completely fine from then on. A few rare cases aside, that is,” RhodoKnightmon replied.
“We’ll keep in touch to see how things are getting on,” Sleipmon said to them. “If there’s anything any of you need, just send a messenger or a letter.”
“Thank you,” Veedramon said to them with a heartfelt expression.
Imperialdramon looked over at them. “Yeah… For everything,” he added. He managed a small, toothy smile in Sleipmon’s direction.
Sleipmon smiled back at him. “We’re just doing our jobs,” he insisted. “Well, we should be off now. It’s sunset.”
RhodoKnightmon nodded. “I suppose they’ll have started cooking without me,” he mused aloud, sighing.
“Again, thanks for everything,” the mayor said to them. “I hope our next inspection goes better.”
“We’re expecting great things,” RhodoKnightmon chimed, turning and beginning to walk east towards the road that led away from Mossridge.
Sleipmon nodded and smiled, casting one more look to Imperialdramon. “I hope to see you in a year or so,” he told him. A wry grin formed on his face. “Don’t train too hard though.”
Imperialdramon chuckled sheepishly. “I’ll try not to…” he responded. “…Bye, Sleipmon.”
“Goodbye,” Sleipmon told him, turning away and trotting after RhodoKnightmon.
(Continued on the next page)