(Author's Notes: Chapter 64 is finally here! Sorry again for the wait. Starting today, I'm going to try to write at least a bit every day so that I can finish the chapter I've been meandering on. Anyways, this one is a two-parter, so you know the drill. I'll post Part 2 sometime next week. There wasn't a natural point at which I could split the chapter, but I tried to do it as gracefully as possible under the circumstances. You'll notice that it works best thematically as a whole.
Anyways, it's a big chapter for one particular Digimon. Read, leave a review if you can, and I hope you enjoy!)
Chapter 64: To Be a Hero (Part I)
It was early dawn. The radiant, golden sunlight of the rising star poured in through the windows and washed across the stone walls of the bedroom.
In the center of the room was Magnamon. The short, slender, azure dragon man was half naked as he prepared in the early morning. The sun washed across the toned muscles of his lithe physique, causing his blue and white scales to shimmer lustrously.
Magnamon stood in front of a mirror. The mirror had been tilted back slightly, so that his feet were cut off from view but caused him to appear towering as he examined himself. He readjusted his torso armour and made sure that the engine-filled plates that hung from either side of his tail were secure. Once he was satisfied, he slid his clawed feet into his golden boots and made sure they were fastened.
The Royal Knight then lifted his breastplate from the nearby armour rack and gazed back into the mirror. As he looked into the reflection of his bare chest, he could still see the dark, healing bruises that tarnished his white underbelly. Magnamon angled his snout to the right and observed the dark, healing cuts on the left side of his face. He grimaced lightly.
Magnamon then gazed down at the breastplate and the broad, ostentatious pair of connected pauldrons that he carried in his hands. After he returned from the mission, he had given them to their Zudomon blacksmith for repairs. They had been heavily damaged by Demon during the attack. The missile ports had practically been torn open, the armoured surface had been dented by Demon's fists, the surface had been blackened by scorch marks, and hairline cracks had formed in the sturdy, digizoid metal. The same had been true for his arm bracers and his helmet.
Zudomon had managed to hammer out and fix most of the structural damage. However, since Magnamon had asked him to do it in a hurry so that he would be ready in time for the campaign, a complete fix of the complex, digizoid armour wasn't possible in that short of a time frame. There were still a couple deformations in that armour's surface in the form of dents. In addition, there wasn't time for the surface to be treated and polished, so the normally resplendent, flashy, golden surface was still tarnished with scuffs, scratches, and scorches. It wasn't the same set of armour that he was usually so proud to wear.
Magnamon's grip tightened around the edges of the armour as he recalled the painful memory of Demon pummeling him into submission. It had been so long since he suffered a defeat so decisive.
"It was so one-sided…" he thought to himself with a faint wince in his eyes.
He glanced back down at his residual injuries before sighing. He raised his armour up, poked his arms and his draconic, horned head through the neck and shoulder holes, before allowing the breastplate to settle on the upper half of his toned chest. After confirming that the engines were still functional, he took his bracers and slid them over his forearms. Magnamon clenched his fists and examined the visible scuffs and blemishes in the metal.
Lastly, Magnamon took his golden helmet from off the rack and held it in his hands. He gazed down at the face-encompassing helmet, holding it so that its dark eyeholes were facing him. The shattered metal was restored, but he could still see the cracks and blemishes that Zudomon hadn't been able to get to. The damage was still plainly visible.
Magnamon's deep, crimson eyes softened. He lifted his head and looked back at himself in the mirror, observing his injured and battle-damaged state. Then, he glanced over at the right side of his room, where several paintings of himself hung on the far wall. They were all portraits that were sent to him by fans of his who commissioned art of his behalf or painted them painstakingly themselves. The paintings were of differing styles and quality, portraying him in either noble, majestic, or cool poses. When he looked back at the mirror, the contrast was clear to him.
He sighed and turned his helmet around, lifting it up and placing it over his draconic head. Magnamon looked at himself in the mirror again. As he gazed through his helmet, he tried to see a semblance of his usual self in his reflection.
"Today's a new day," he told himself in a whisper. "I'm not going to let something like that happen again…"
Magnamon readjusted his armour and made sure that it looked as good as it possibly could on him. It was a big day today. He wanted to make sure that he looked as presentable as possible. He took some polish from the top of his wooden dresser and began rubbing it on the scuffs of his armour. After waiting a few minutes for the polish to set, Magnamon began wiping it off with a wet cloth. The dull, scuffed metal looked more radiant than before. It wasn't up to a blacksmith's standards, but it was good enough for a quick fix.
He now felt confident enough that he looked good enough for such an important day.
"Okay, Magnamon," he told himself. "Today's the induction ceremony for a new Royal Knight. Then, we leave on our campaign against the Demon Lords. You're a Royal Knight. You're a hero. You can do this…"
Freshly emboldened, Magnamon put on a brave face and stood up straight with poise and dignity. He gave himself one last look in the mirror before turning away and walking to the door of his bedroom. Magnamon drew a deep breath before reaching for the handle and pulling the door open. The golden armoured Royal Knight walked out into the hall.
As soon as he stepped into the corridor, he turned his head just in time to see a taller, armour-clad figure nearly walk into him. Magnamon jumped back just in time to avoid getting bowled over by Dukemon.
"Hey, be careful," Magnamon advised him, looking up at the white and red knight.
For a moment, Dukemon didn't respond. However, he stopped and blinked upon registering the voice, and he noticed the sudden sheen of gold out of the corner of his eye. The caped knight turned and looked down at the Digimon standing in the doorway,
"Oh, sorry, Magnamon. I didn't see you there," Dukemon sheepishly replied.
Magnamon's first instinct was to bristle at the comment. However, as he looked up at the honest and innocent look in Dukemon's gold eyes, he realised that he probably wasn't having a teasing dig at his height. "It's fine…" Magnamon answered with a sigh. He arched a brow behind his helmet as he looked up at his friend. "You look distracted, Dukemon."
Dukemon smiled and awkwardly rubbed the back of his helmet-covered head. "Oh, uh… It's nothing, really," he sheepishly insisted. "It's just early. That, and there's a lot going on today."
Magnamon nodded a little, seemingly satisfied with Dukemon's answer. "Yeah, I guess you're right," he agreed, closing the room to his door and beginning to walk down the hall alongside the taller knight. "It's not every day that a new member of the Royal Knights is inducted, even if we have been recruiting more over the past few years."
Dukemon smiled lightly behind his visor. "Yeah…" he agreed. "It looks like we'll be getting a new friend. It's exciting." Brushing his long, white ponytail back, Dukemon looked down at Magnamon. "What's Jesmon like? I haven't had the chance to have a long chat with him yet. I've only had a few short exchanges with him since he and Gankoomon joined."
"He's nice. He's eager, determined, he has a good work ethic… he has good leadership skills when he's confident enough in himself. He's a huge fan of all of us too," the golden knight explained, grinning a little bit. "It might be nice to take an eager, junior knight under our wings."
A chuckle escaped Dukemon's mouth. "Looking forward to having somebody hanging onto your every word, Magnamon?" he playfully wondered, earning him a sideways glace.
"I'm just saying that Jesmon would benefit from all of our experience," Magnamon insisted, folding his arms. "Though, under the current circumstances, he's going to have to learn a lot under the pressures of war…"
"That's true…" Dukemon replied soberly. "It's a lot different from how we were when we first established the Order. We officially became Royal Knights after the major crisis that ended the Second Cycle. We had lots of time to learn and figure everything out. The newer knights don't have that luxury."
Magnamon nodded, his brows lowering as he reflected on Dukemon's words. "Yeah… We all have to deal with life-or-death decisions now. We can't afford to make mistakes… It's a lot of pressure... For them, I mean."
Dukemon kneaded the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Yeah…" he agreed, his words becoming reticent. He didn't really want to think about heavy topics right now. His mind kept drifting back to the subjects that were weighing heavy on his mind. Eager to get away from certain thoughts and wanting to stay positive, Dukemon decided to redirect their conversation. "Anyways… It's hard to believe that we're inducting a thirteenth Royal Knight, isn't it? I can't believe it's been so long since our own induction ceremonies. They were ages ago…"
"You're right. It feels like it's been forever since we became Royal Knights… The beginning of the Third Cycle is so long ago now," Magnamon mused nostalgically.
Dukemon grinned and eyed his friend. "Do you still remember your induction ceremony? You were getting ready for it for hours," he remembered.
"Of course I remember it, and of course I was," Magnamon proudly defended. "It was the most important day of my life."
"We were already technically Royal Knights though, from when we made our oath together on the hill. The induction ceremonies were just formalities," Dukemon contended with a broad shrug. "I don't even really know why we founding knights bothered to have separate ceremonies. We were the only ones there."
"You're so informal, Dukemon," Magnamon lightly responded, playfully elbowing him. "It was nice for each of us to get our own, unique moment. Besides, it's important for us to have traditions. It builds team unity."
"I guess you're right…" Dukemon supposed. "I still think Imperialdramon and Dynasmon just wanted an excuse to celebrate all those times."
Magnamon smiled as they began walking down the stone stairs to the main level of the castle. "That's entirely possible, knowing them," he conceded. "I just feel bad for Jesmon that he won't be able to soak in the moment of becoming a Royal Knight. It's too bad that we have to rush this, but I know that we have to hurry off on our campaign."
"Yeah, you have a point, Magnamon," Dukemon agreed. "He has probably been imagining this moment for years. I'd hate for him to get an underwhelming initiation."
"We should do something special for him once this is all over," Magnamon decided.
Dukemon traced his fingers along the back of his neck and slowly glanced away from Magnamon's optimistic eyes. "Yeah…"
Magnamon reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped out into the main level corridor. He turned and looked up at Dukemon as the tall knight stepped out after him. "Anyways… We're leaving later, so we should try to enjoy this moment as much as we can. Let's just take a break from the war for a moment to appreciate Jesmon and the welcoming of a new Royal Knight into our group," he suggested.
Dukemon smiled a little at Magnamon's encouragement. He supposed the Knight of Miracles was right. They needed to make the most of these moments, rather than fret about what might be.
"Yeah, you're right, Magnamon," Dukemon agreed. "Let's make Jesmon feel welcome. I'm sure he's feeling nervous this morning."
"I can't blame him," Magnamon said as they turned around the corner and began making their way down the hallway in the direction of the great hall. "This is a massive moment in any Digimon's life. As his seniors, we have to make sure that we support him."
Dukemon chuckled. "Yeah, and we also can't let Gankoomon monopolise him and give him the wrong ideas," he added.
Magnamon grinned as well and the two Royal Knights made their way down towards the great hall to get ready for the ceremony.
"I just hope he didn't pick up too many of Gankoomon's bad habits."
"AHOOGH!" Gankoomon sneezed aggressively into the sleeve of his jacket.
Jesmon paused and looked up at the Royal Knight with a look of mild irritation. "…Sensei, if you sneeze during my ceremony, I'll never forgive you."
Gankoomon sniffed and rubbing his nose with his fingers. "Yeah, yeah…" he dismissively answered. "Maybe I should have washed my jacket."
The two of them stood in the foyer, before the pair of huge, closed doors that led into the great hall. They had been told to wait there while the Royal Knights gathered inside and prepared for the ceremony.
Jesmon resumed pacing in front of the doors, practicing walking on his new legs to make sure that he didn't trip during the ceremony. In the octagonal foyer, Jesmon walked from one set of pillars to the other, trying to shake out the nerves in his legs. He looked down and fidgeted with collar of his crimson cape, making sure that the creases were neat and that his hood was straight. The prospective Royal Knight kept inspecting himself nervously, making sure that he looked as prestigious as possible for the occasion.
He felt like he was waiting on pins and needles. His heart was thumping at an increased tempo and his arms and legs felt shaky. He had fantasized about this moment for ages, dreaming about what it would be like to be knighted in front of his heroes. Now that it was minutes away from happening, Jesmon was terrified he would screw it up somehow. Despite the fact that he had seen the Royal Knights before, he felt like he was making a first impression. He didn't want to embarrass himself or make a mockery of the knighting ceremony.
Jesmon had woken up before dawn to prepare. He ironed his cape, and polished his crystal and metal body to the best of his ability. He made sure to have a healthy breakfast, but not one that would give him bad breath. Once he felt he was ready, he was escorted here. Now all that remained was waiting – and worrying.
"Are you sure I look okay?" Jesmon asked, turning around.
Behind him were Sistermon Noir and Blanc, who had come along with him for moral support.
Sistermon Blanc smiled at him encouragingly. "Y-You look great, Hack-chan… Very knightly."
Sistermon Noir rolled her eyes at Jesmon's self-consciousness, but an impish grin soon formed on her face. "Yeah…" she agreed. "Apart from that leaf that's stuck in your teeth."
Jesmon's face dropped with horror. "What? Where?!" he demanded, quickly starting to poke at his teeth with his claw.
Blanc gave him a nervous smile and raised her hands reassuringly. "S-She's just joking…" she promised him. The younger, lighter Sistermon gave her snickering, older sister a look. "Don't tease him, Noir…"
Noir laughed and leaned back against one of the pillars, folding her arms. "I can't help it! He's making it too easy! You're being a total fusspot, Hackie."
Gankoomon stood with his arms folded, leaning against the stone archway that led from the foyer to one of the corridors. Though hidden from view behind his metal visor, Gankoomon's stern eyes gazed at Jesmon penetratingly.
The red-haired knight grunted and turned away, noticing movement coming from the corridor. As Gankoomon turned around, he saw Dukemon and Magnamon walking towards him. They were both heading for the corridor that ran adjacent to the great hall, which allowed them to enter the hall through one of the side doors.
"Hey, Gankoomon!" Dukemon called out, waving at him as they walked over to the three-way intersection. "Come with us. We need you inside too. I think we're the last ones."
Gankoomon frowned and glanced back at Jesmon with a quiet moment of hesitation. "…Yeah, right," he briskly conceded, standing up from the wall. The Royal Knight readjusted the white jacket that hung from his shoulder before giving Jesmon a final glance. "…Hey, Jesmon."
Jesmon turned around and looked at his teacher. "Yes, Sensei?" he questioned,
"…You'll be fine. Don't sweat it too much," he advised his student. "Don't make it a bigger deal than it really is."
Jesmon frowned a little, but nodded. "…Right. Okay," he tentatively responded.
"I'll see you in there," Gankoomon spoke as he turned his back to him. The humanoid Royal Knight walked out of the foyer and stepped up beside Dukemon and Magnamon.
Jesmon watched as the three Royal Knights disappeared around the corner, and he couldn't help but feel a little more nervous now that his Sensei was gone. However, he knew that Gankoomon was right. He had to remain calm… After all, he was an Ultimate level now. A Royal Knight needed to be calm in these situations."
Jesmon took several long, meditative breaths, like he had been trained to. He began to feel himself relax and his mind ease and sharpen. He just had to do what he was instructed. He didn't need to overthink it. While this was a big moment for him, it was also an achievement. He reminded himself that he wanted this more than anything…
"Are you doing okay now, Hackmon?" Blanc wondered, walking up beside him and holding his hand.
Jesmon smiled down at the much shorter Digimon. "Yeah… I think I am…" he responded, raising his head and looking towards the large, looming double doors. "I'm ready…"
"Remember, whatever you do, don't think about tripping!" Noir made sure to add with her usual impish grin on her lips.
Jesmon gave her a quick look before focusing on the doors in front of him. He kept up his breathing techniques to center himself.
He gazed up at the towering, ornamentally carved doors, swallowing as he awaited his summons. Making sure that he was calmed, composed, and dignified, Jesmon waited for the threshold to open before him – the final obstacle to his goal.
Jesmon waited patiently for a few minutes. The Sistermons gave him some space to prepare himself. Even Noir, despite the fact that she loved to tease him, allowed him some peace.
He soaked in the moment. The fear and excitement in his heart – he embraced them. He quietly relished those seconds as much as possible. Jesmon wanted to carry this moment with him forever.
Then, the summons finally came.
"You may enter, Jesmon…" Alphamon's voice informed him from the other side of the door, soft like distant thunder.
Jesmon sucked in a sharp breath through his nostrils, straightened his back, and puffed his chest out. He placed his hands on the ridged etches on the surface of the doors and pushed them open. The doors parted and a pair of Knightmon guards standing on the inside opened the doors the rest of the way.
The doors opened up to reveal the bright, golden interior of the great hall. The vast, expansive hall suddenly hit him with a sense of awe and splendor, as if he had been seeing it for the first time. The ornate rows of pillars that flanked the two sides of the hall, and the floor of cloudy, gold marble all seemed to shimmer before him.
Standing inside the hall were the Royal Knights. They were split into two groups, each one lining the central corridor of the great hall, just inside the rows of pillars. Omegamon, Magnamon, RhodoKnightmon, Craniamon, Sleipmon, and Gankoomon stood of the left side. On the right, Dukemon, Dynasmon, UlforceVeedramon, Duftmon, and Examon were lined up. The two sides faced each other, standing straight with noble poise and dignity.
Standing between the two groups, at the end of the great hall and right in front of the council room, were Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode and Alphamon. They stood opposite of Jesmon on the other side of the hall, awaiting his approach.
Jesmon stared, awestruck, at the regal scene before him. He could feel an intense conflux of emotions swelling in his heart, but he forced himself to remain calm on the exterior.
"Approach, Jesmon," Alphamon spoke, his voice carrying down the wide, echoing chamber.
The words snapped Jesmon out of his trance, and he immediately began walking forwards. The imposing great hall seemed to stretch out before him, but he pressed forward.
His bladed feet gently impacted the magical circles that appeared beneath them. His crimson cape flowed behind him with every step. As he reached the halfway point, Jesmon braved a glance at each row of Royal Knights. They each stood with grace, making it clear how seriously they took this. The only exception he could think of was Gankoomon, but even his sensei was going along with it.
Jesmon reached the space in front of Omegamon, and continued onwards, walking between each successive pairs of Royal Knights. Although they didn't move or speak, he could see their eyes landing on him. For the most part, he was met with quietly supportive gazes, so far as he could tell from their expressions. The further he went down the line, the more his vision narrowed. His mind was like a haze and he fixated on Alphamon and Imperialdramon at the end of the hall. His heart raced and his emotions began to swell the closer that he became.
Finally, Jesmon stopped in front of Alphamon and Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode. He looked between the contrasting pairs, his eyes drifting from the black knight to the white paladin. They both gazed at him steadily, but with a smile.
"Jesmon," Alphamon spoke. "Standing before you is Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode, the Founder of the Order of the Royal Knights, and around you are the twelve Royal Knights appointed by Yggdrasil. We will be overseeing your accolade. You have been selected to join us, should you choose to accept the offer."
Jesmon took a breath and looked Alphamon in the eyes, awaiting his next words.
"Jesmon, do you accept the mantle of Royal Knight, Guardian of the Network?" Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode questioned from beside him.
Jesmon turned his gaze towards Imperialdramon and nodded. "Yes, I do," he answered without hesitation.
"Alphamon will read you your oath," Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode informed him.
"Jesmon, our sworn oath is sacred," Alphamon began. "It is a promise that we make to Yggdrasil, to each other, and to ourselves. Will you hear the oath of the Royal Knights?"
"Yes," Jesmon replied, his heart pounding inside his chest.
"The Royal Knight's Oath is as follows:
1. Uphold Network Security and defend the Digimon of the Digital World at all costs.
2. Maintain, execute, and defend the will of Yggdrasil.
3. Support one another and never leave another a Royal Knight in their time of need.
4. Be the finest Digimon that you can be.
5. Be absent of corruption and vice.
6. Have the courage to face insurmountable odds, even when all seems lost.
7. Strive to help those in need wherever possible.
8. Uphold and follow the law, both natural and constructed, according to the will of Yggdrasil and the legitimate, temporal codes of law of the Digital World. The Royal Knights enforce the law, but we are not above it.
9. Receive but modest salaries, for our needs are provided for and excessive luxury is unnecessary.
10. Be courteous, helpful, and kind to your subordinates, for they look up to you for leadership. Set an example for them.
11. Be courteous, helpful, and kind to the common Digimon.
12. The Royal Knights are equal, so treat one another as such. Respect each other, as well as their beliefs and opinions. This extends to your subordinates as well; there is a chain of command to be obeyed, but do not impose your will on them unjustly or wantonly.
13. The Order of the Royal Knights is a military-religious order with a clear purpose: to maintain the peace and status quo of Network Security. The Order is not a state, kingdom, empire, or any other collective body with political ambitions. Outside of Splendour's Reach, the Order is not to extend its territory or impose its will and power unto others, outside of the prescribed parameters of the Order's purpose and reason for existence.
14. The Order of the Royal Knights is to transcend politics, borders, and other temporal boundaries in order to uphold Rule 1."
"These are the fourteen principle rules of our oath," Alphamon informed him. "We each have our own personal oaths and values, but it is to these collective principles that you must swear your solemn oath."
"Do you so swear on your life and pride as a Royal Knight?" Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode asked him.
Jesmon took in a breath and nodded. "I so swear…" he solemnly pledged.
"Then I ask that you kneel in service to that oath," Imperialdramon told him.
The nervousness that Jesmon felt had vanished. Replacing the uncertainty that he felt was a wave of warmth and pride inside of him. His heart was beginning to feel overcome with emotions. He swallowed against the tightness in his throat and nodded. Jesmon slowly lowered himself until his metal knee hit the ground and his crimson cape had folded over the back of his bent leg.
Jesmon watched as Alphamon gave Imperialdramon a brief nod before walking past them. Glancing out of the corner of his eye, Jesmon could see Alphamon take his place at the end of the right row of Royal Knights, standing opposite to Omegamon.
Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode stepped before him and reached over his shoulder, drawing the massive, regal, Omega Blade from his back. As he lifted the long, shining-white sword over his head, all twelve of the Royal Knights suddenly kneeled in unison.
Jesmon's eyes widened with humbled awe and he raised his head upon seeing the hallowed blade towering above him. This was it. This was the moment he had been waiting for…
Jesmon lowered his eyes and bowed his head with respect and subservience, noticing that all of the other Royal Knights were doing the same.
Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode lowered the Omega Blade and placed the flat edge of the sword on top of Jesmon's left shoulder.
"With the power invested in me by Lord Yggdrasil, I hereby dub you Sir Jesmon, The Thirteenth Royal Knight…"
Upon hearing those words, Jesmon suddenly felt his heart give way. His calm exterior began to crack, and tears entered his bright, citrine eyes.
He had been waiting his whole life for this. This had been his dream… his ambition… his singular goal. To be here, surrounded by his heroes, hearing those words. To feel the sword on his shoulder, granting him such a great honour…
Everything he wanted, everything he dreamed of, everything he worked towards… it all led to this. Ever since that terrible night where that piece of debris wiped out his village… That night, he nearly died, and the days following, he had almost died from dehydration. He could remember dragging himself away, staring up at the night sky, pledging to himself that he would, one day, keep this from happening to somebody else. He had made a pledge to become like his heroes. He promised that, one day, he would be a Royal Knight too. He knew how implausible it was, how unlikely a weak, tiny orphan like him could ever hope to be a Royal Knight.
Still, he didn't care. He wanted to make it happen. He saw the achievements that the Royal Knights made, and he knew that he wanted to do that too. But even if, at times, he doubted himself, he never gave up on that goal. Becoming a Royal Knight was his dream, and he was determined to make it happen. He wanted to help Digimon. He wanted to be a hero.
He had trained so hard. He worked himself to the bone, and he put up with Gankoomon's intense and rigorous training, all so that he could, one day, reach this point. He had been through so much hardship; losing his parents and his village… He had failed again and again, making mistakes and failing to save everyone that he wanted to… He had learned so much and he had grown stronger, both inside and out.
And now, after so much training, so much hardship, and so much pain… Finally… Finally, he had done it. He had become a Royal Knight. He had become a hero.
He couldn't believe it. The dream that, at times, seemed impossible to him… There had been countless times when he felt like giving up, or like he wasn't worthy… But, despite his constant doubts, he never gave up. His dream had finally come true. The intense feelings of joy, triumph, recognition, and humility all swelled from his heart at once. The emotions that poured from inside of him were so strong that they threatened to overwhelm him. This singular moment was unlike anything he had ever felt before. It was enough to cause his calm exterior to finally fracture.
Jesmon bowed his head deeper as tears began streaming down his face. The tears he wept were that of incomparable joy. They were proof that he had finally been able to achieve his dream. He kept himself as dignified as he could, but he couldn't keep his emotions from pouring out either.
Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode smiled softly down at the knighted Jesmon and raised the Omega Blade from his shoulder.
"Rise, Sir Jesmon… Rise a Royal Knight."
Jesmon shut his tearful eyes and rose to his feet, standing with pride. "Th-Thank you, Sir…" he whispered in the sincerest gratitude.
Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode raised the Omega Blade and held it in front of his body, before taking a step backwards. He inverted the blade and placed the tip against the ground, resting his hands on the Omega Blade's hilt and standing at ease.
Jesmon watched as the twelve Royal Knights all rose as well in perfect unison. He took the opportunity to wipe the tears from his eyes. As he did, he looked towards Gankoomon with a big smile.
Gankoomon turned his head towards his apprentice, and, to Jesmon's relief, gave him a small, supportive smile. Jesmon opened his mouth to call out to him, but before he could, his view of his Sensei was blocked by a large white and purple body.
"Hah, welcome to the Royal Knights, kid!" Dynasmon jovially announced, clapping him strongly on the shoulder.
Jesmon blinked and noticed that the most of the other Royal Knights were beginning to surround him. He flushed as he realised that he was the center of their attention.
Dukemon grinned and slung his arm over Jesmon's shoulders. "Yeah, welcome, Sir Jesmon," he light-heartedly agreed.
"We are glad to have you with us," Alphamon assured him with a wry smile, walking over alongside Omegamon. "I am sure you will fit in quite well. You have already proven to be a Digimon of many surprises…"
Omegamon nodded and stepped up beside him. "If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to ask one of us."
Magnamon smiled and approached him as well. It felt good for him to see another Royal Knight among their ranks. He could see from the expression of Jesmon's face that he was likely overcome by a swell of emotions. He understood the feeling well. "Don't worry if you're feeling overwhelmed. We'll take good care of you," Magnamon told him supportively.
Examon nodded and approached Jesmon as well, though standing around the edge of the circle of knights due to his size. Having gone through such a big moment himself, he knew how Jesmon must be feeling, and he wanted to make sure that Jesmon felt welcome. "Yeah. It's a big transition at first, but you'll get used to it," Examon assured him with a smile. "As Omegamon said, if you ever want to talk or if you need help with something, just ask one of us. We'd be happy to help."
"Thank you…" Jesmon replied, looking around at all of the Royal Knights with happy tears in his eyes.
RhodoKnightmon walked over and took Jesmon's hand. "It is our pleasure, Jesmon darling. We look forward to having a bright, young Royal Knight working alongside us," he encouraged him. As the pink Royal Knight looked at Jesmon's face, he noticed the emotion in his eyes. "Oh dear. Whatever are those tears for? This is supposed to be a happy moment," he remarked.
"S-Sorry, Sir RhodoKnightmon-shishou," Jesmon replied, smiling sheepishly and raising his hand to wipe his eyes. "They're tears of happiness… I just can't believe this is really happening…"
Sleipmon gave him a warm and comforting smile. "It's understandable. It's a big moment for you – for anybody, really," he responded. "I felt emotional too during my ceremony. Take as long as you need to get adjusted."
"Just don't take too long," Craniamon told him, folding his arms and eyeing Jesmon with his usual aloofness. "We're in the middle of a war, after all."
UlforceVeedramon grinned and pushed his way through the crowd, walking up to Jesmon and placing his gloved hand on the new knight's head. "Don't mind him; Craniamon just likes to look cool in front of new members," he assured him, earning himself a piercing glare from Craniamon.
Duftmon sighed and shook his head before walking forwards. "Well, Jesmon… I am taking a rather large risk by agreeing to your accolade into our prestigious ranks. I sincerely hope that you have learned from your mistakes, and that you will not be as reckless and impertinent as your master. To even be considered as a Royal Knight is a great honour, and it would not do to make us regret it," he rigidly advised him.
"I-I won't, Sir," Jesmon nervously responded, feeling the need to add the 'Sir' in response to the formal knight.
"That would be most wise," Duftmon responded, holding himself with dignity and superiority. He tilted his head slightly and gazed at Jesmon curiously. "That form of yours is quite rare… I look forward to seeing what it is capable of. After all, as the Royal Knights' foremost strategist, I must adapt my plans to account for your abilities."
"A-Ah. Of course, Sir Duftmon," Jesmon replied, with a bead of sweat dripping down his head. "I'll make sure to figure that out for you."
Alphamon chuckles a little and smiled in Duftmon's direction. "You will get accustomed to Duftmon's ways. This is actually a fairly warm reception from him by comparison," he assured Jesmon.
"I can verify that," Examon added with a grin, earning him a 'hmph' from the tactician.
"Anyways," UlforceVeedramon spoke, placing his hand on Jesmon's other shoulder. "We're glad to have you with us, Jes-chan."
"Thank you, Sir UlforceVeedramon-shishou," Jesmon responded, blushing a little at his new, diminutive nickname.
"Yggdrasil, that's a mouthful," UlforceVeedramon exclaimed with an exasperated shrug. "First of all, even if you're a junior Royal Knight, we're all Royal Knights here, so you can drop the 'Sir' title. None of us really call each other that." The winged, azure knight placed his hands on his hips with demonstrative confidence. "Also, you should lose the '-shishou' honorific. Junior Royal Knight or not, we're all equals here, so you're one of us now. So, just call me UlforceVeedramon – or Ulforce."
"Yes, sir," Jesmon reflexively replied, although frowning hesitantly at the idea. "But… I… I can't just call all of you by your names. It's too disrespectful. I've only just become a Royal Knight, so I haven't earned that right yet."
Dynasmon laughed aloud and smacked Jesmon on his caped back, causing the skinnier knight to stumble. "You may be Gankoomon's student, but you're completely different from him in some ways! Gankoomon insulted us and called us whatever he wanted even before he was made a Royal Knight!" he exclaimed, looking over at Gankoomon with a teasing grin.
Standing away from the group, Gankoomon scoffed and looked away dismissively. "Tch… Someone had to," he indignantly muttered.
Sleipmon looked at Jesmon curiously. "Well, if it's too soon for you to want to use our names, what would you like to call us?"
Jesmon's brows furrowed in deep thought at the question. He didn't have an answer ready immediately. "Well… Er… I'm a junior Royal Knight right now and all of you are my experienced mentors…" He thought about it for a moment.
Then, his face suddenly lit up, like he had a flash of brilliance. "I know!" Jesmon exclaimed. "I could call you all 'Senpai'."
Magnamon chuckled and folded his arms. "'Senpai', huh? I like it," he decided.
"You like having your ego stroked," UlforceVeedramon corrected with a grin and a nudge. "'Senpai' works though. I think that's a good way to describe us."
Duftmon sighed. "More Eastern honorifics? I've had enough of that from UlforceVeedramon," he complained.
"I don't know what that means, but if that's what you feel comfortable with, go ahead," Examon stated. He still wasn't entirely used to the Eastern Digimoji honorifics that UlforceVeedramon liked to tag on to their names. Though, he had long-since gotten used to the playfully ironic moniker of 'Ex-sama'.
"Feel free to call me Senpai too!" Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode insisted with a friendly wink. "It's a lot easier than calling me Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode. And, despite this whole formal ceremony, I'm actually a pretty informal guy."
"A little too informal, some might argue," Omegamon added, turning his blue eyes towards his fellow white knight.
Jesmon nodded and grinned a bit, standing up straight. "Senpai it is, then…" he responded.
"Does that go for you too, Gankoomon?" Dynasmon asked, looking over his shoulder with a smirk.
Gankoomon quietly stood off to the side, responding with just a dismissive shrug. He watched as his fellow Royal Knights swarmed his student and welcomed him into their ranks. Frowning softly, Gankoomon looked away and began walking over to one of the nearby pillars. Once there, he simply leaned against it and waited for them to be finished.
Jesmon looked through the crowd of Royal Knights and saw Gankoomon walking away. His smile faded just a little. He knew that Gankoomon wasn't exactly anywhere close to demonstrative in his affections, but he kind of hoped that his sensei might make an exception today of all days. He supposed it was just his way.
Jesmon turned his attention back to the Royal Knights, his golden eyes bright with restrained excitement. He didn't want to let himself be too disappointed when he was already feeling so happy.
Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode stepped forwards, compressing the Omega Blade in a flash of light. "Well, now that the ceremony is over," he began, looking around with a large smile of his face. "Let's celebrate the dubbing of a new Royal Knight with a huge meal and a trip to the pubs! Do you think you can arrange for that, Rhodo? Oh, wait a moment, do you drink, Jesmon?"
Jesmon blinked at the founder's unexpected shift from formal to easygoing. "Er… I have never had alcohol before," he sheepishly explained.
"Nor should you! I must object, Imperialdramon!" Duftmon swiftly protested, his eye twitching. He levelled Imperialdramon a dry, chastising look. "We are leaving on a critical campaign in no later than an hour's time! Do you honestly expect us to confront the Demon Lords while the lot of you are staggering around like a venal pack of inebriated mercenaries? What kind of example would that set?"
"Nor should I mention that it is first thing in the morning," Omegamon responded with a sigh.
RhodoKnightmon placed his hands on his hips and turned towards the alabaster-armoured dragon knight. "I am afraid I must agree, Imperialdramon, darling," he told him. "As much as I would truly love to celebrate Jesmon's initiation ceremony, we really have far too much to do. Nor do I wish to introduce Jesmon to alcohol unless it is in the form of a wine reduction."
Imperialdramon sheepishly scratched the back of his head, ruffling his blond hair with his blue fingers. "Alright, it was only a suggestion…" he lightly assured them. "That's me told."
Alphamon smiled at the typical behaviour of their friend. "Unfortunately, we will have delay any celebrations until after our campaign, for obvious reasons. I apologise about that, Jesmon."
"I understand completely," Jesmon assured him adamantly. "It wouldn't feel right celebrating when the Demon Lords are still on the loose, anyways."
Alphamon nodded at him appreciatively. "On a related topic…" he began, looking around at the thirteen gathered Royal Knights. "I'm sure that almost everybody here who has received Yggdrasil's blessing also received that momentary connection yesterday."
"Yeah. I did. I didn't like it," Gankoomon grunted from his spot away from the group. "What about it, Alphamon?"
Alphamon glanced at the aloof, red-haired Royal Knight. "We received a missive from Yggdrasil via our communications system. It has requested the presence of myself, Omegamon, and Jesmon."
"Omegamon too?" Dukemon wondered, looking over at the white knight curiously.
"I suppose so," Omegamon diminutively responded. "I am unsure why I am included, but if I am summoned, I must heed Yggdrasil's command. Perhaps it is just because I am nominally the second-in-command of Order affairs after Alphamon."
"Yes," Duftmon agreed. "It seems rather obvious that this pertains to Jesmon's knighthood. While I would not deign to assume Yggdrasil's intentions, I would hypothesise that It wishes to inspect Jesmon's character and imparts Its blessing."
"Yes, that is what I assume as well," Alphamon concurred, raising his hand to stroke his chin. "Which brings upon us a dilemma. Obviously, we have to leave on our campaign today. If Leviamon is to be believed and the Demon Lords are about to launch an assault on the Arcane Ruins, as well as their advance southwards towards Shroud, then we cannot afford to delay any longer."
"Yeah, we really can't afford to wait…" Magnamon agreed, frowning at the idea.
"However," Alphamon continued, "this campaign is likely to take some time, and I feel uneasy about leaving Yggdrasil waiting, especially when we do not know what Yggdrasil's directive pertaining to the Demon Lords is. I would suggest that we stop by the Neutral Zone on the way north, but the procedure to access Yggdrasil is a complicated one that would take over a day to achieve. We can't afford to wait that long."
"Then what should we do?" Dynasmon wondered with a cock of his horned head.
Alphamon closed his eyes and thought about it for a second. "…I suggest that you all go ahead. Omegamon, Jesmon, and I will go separately to see Yggdrasil," he suggested, turning and looking at Duftmon for his opinion. "Is that alright with you, Duftmon? I think it would be a mistake to bring Jesmon into battle when he is still unused to his form and we do not know the full extents of his abilities."
Jesmon frowned a little, but he didn't say a word of protest. He didn't particularly like the idea of being made to stay behind while the others were fighting, but he realised that Alphamon had a point.
"Tch. You're soft, Alphamon," Gankoomon grunted, folding his arms and casting a disparaging look in Alphamon's direction. "You don't get stronger by sitting around. If the kid needs to discover and hone abilities, then he should be doing it under pressure. That's how you bring out someone's potential!"
"This isn't about strength or honing his skills, Gankoomon," Alphamon calmly responded. "If Jesmon tries to release a power that he doesn't understand in the middle of a heated battle, he is as likely to hurt our own soldiers or himself as he is to damage the enemy. Regardless, the four of us still must go meet with Yggdrasil."
Duftmon tapped his finger on the hilt of his sword as he thought about Alphamon's words. "I believe that Alphamon has a point. It relates to another matter that I have been thinking about as well," the feline tactician explained, looking at the gathered knights emphatically. "I believe it would be a mistake for all thirteen of us to leave on the campaign."
Craniamon frowned with confusion. "What? Why?!" he demanded with a bit of an edge to his voice. "We need to hit the Demon Lords hard."
"Indeed. However, this engagement will not be the decisive battle," Duftmon insisted. "Our intention here is to push the Demon Lords back, away from Shroud and Saversburg. About eight or so knights should be sufficient."
"Why not send everybody though?" Magnamon asked, not liking the idea of holding back against their enemies. "If we have the chance to crush them…"
The tactician glanced at Alphamon and then back at the golden knight. "The reason is that, despite the fact that Alphamon and I said that we somewhat trust Leviamon's words, we are not so naïve as to trust him unquestioningly," Duftmon informed him. "In the unlikely chance that he is deceiving us, it would be a mistake to leave the castle completely undefended. I believe it would be prudent for a handful of Royal Knights to stay behind, in the situation that his information is a ruse to draw us away from our castle, so that Leviamon can launch a surprise attack."
Alphamon nodded. "You make a good point. Since Omegamon, Jesmon, and myself will be breaking off regardless, I suggest that we be among those who should return to guard the castle."
"I would ask one or two others to remain as well," Duftmon spoke, looking around at the thirteen Royal Knights for the best options.
When Duftmon's piercing green eyes rested on Craniamon, the violet knight felt his muscles clench. "There's no way I'm staying behind again," Craniamon explained in no uncertain terms, before Duftmon could even speak. His crimson eyes narrowed, gleaming with stubborn determination. "I am fighting the Demon Lords, understood? I refuse to watch from a distance anymore."
Duftmon's eyed him sceptically, but ultimately turned to the Royal Knight standing beside Craniamon: Magnamon. "Magnamon, you are still recovering, are you not? Perhaps it is best if you remain behind."
Like Craniamon, Magnamon felt his insides tighten at the very prospect. He felt his stomach twisting inside of him and the automatic revulsion at the idea was immediate. He gave an uneasy glance down at the dents in his armour and the bandages around his scales. For the briefest of seconds, he wondered if he would just hold them back again.
However, this fleeting thought swiftly vanished. A wave of anger and determination washed over him. His heart hardened and his resolve to go on the campaign was unequivocal. Magnamon's armoured boots shifted and steadied against the marble floor. His clawed hands tightened into firm fists and his eyes steeled into a glare of bold conviction and obstinacy.
"No," he answered, with enough force of will to surprise several of the knights. "I'm fine. My injuries are pretty much healed. I'm not staying behind."
"You may say that," Duftmon responded with obvious doubt. "But if you are not fully recovered, then you will only be a hindrance."
At these words, Magnamon's jaws tightened behind his helmet and he fought back a wince. He raised his head and looked Duftmon straight in the eyes in an unwavering show of will. "I'm fine. I'm going, Duftmon, and that's the end of it."
"It sounds like there's no arguing with him," UlforceVeedramon stated with a small smile, although he couldn't help but find Magnamon's uncharacteristic change in behaviour curious.
Dukemon, as well, turned his head and eyed Magnamon curiously. He wondered if something was bothering his friend. He supposed be probably just wanted payback for losing to Demon before.
"It's fine," Dukemon spoke, stepping forwards. "I'll stay behind too."
"You, Dukemon?" Omegamon asked, looking at the caped dragon knight with some astonishment. "That's a surprise."
"Is it?" Dukemon asked, smiling sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know. I just think the rest of you have better skill sets for fighting the Demon Lords right now. If somebody else has to stay behind, I don't mind if it's me."
Despite his words, Dukemon quietly covered up the fact that he still had a lot on his mind from his encounter with Megidramon. He was worried that he would be distracted going into battle, and he didn't want to encumber his friends if that was the case. He just needed a few days to put those lingering thoughts of doubt out of his mind. Then he felt he would be ready to face the Demon Lords without question.
"Hmph…" Duftmon murmured, side-eyeing Dukemon reluctantly. "You are not the ideal choice to stay behind, but if you must insist…" The tactician placed his hand on his scarf-bound hip. "That should suffice, now—"
"I'll stay behind too," a deep, gruff voice suddenly spoke up.
All of the Royal Knights turned around. To the shock of everybody in the room, the voice belonged to Gankoomon. The aloof Royal Knight stood, arms-folded, against the marble column. He turned his head slightly to face the others with an unreadable expression.
"Sensei?" Jesmon reacted, blinking with bewilderment.
"What? You, Mustache?" Dynasmon exclaimed in shock.
"You… realise that if you stay home, you probably won't see any action, right?" Craniamon added, unable to fathom Gankoomon's words.
"Fine by me," Gankoomon responded, shrugging his shoulders. He stood up from the pillar and began walking past the group of Royal Knights, his jacket rippling with every step. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and glanced away from the group. "I don't have an appetite to fight right now."
"Pardon me?" Duftmon questioned as a vexed frown forming on his face. "I told you: we require only four Royal Knights remaining at the castle. Your physical abilities are required with us."
"And I told you, Neko-chan, I'm not interested," Gankoomon brusquely announced as he passed the Royal Knights and began making his way down the great hall.
Jesmon tilted his head with confusion and a bit of concern. That didn't sound like his sensei at all…
Duftmon's posture hardened like wood and his eyes thinned into a bladed glare. He turned around and watched as Gankoomon departed with his back to them. "Where do you think you are going? We are not finished!" he called after him. "You are a Royal Knight, so you have a duty to fight! You cannot simply decide that you are not in the mood; you are not permitted to act solely on your mercurial whims!"
With a thoughtful frown, Alphamon watched as Gankoomon walked away. He had noticed from before that Gankoomon hadn't been himself lately, but he wasn't sure why. "…Leave him be, Duftmon," Alphamon told their irate strategist.
Duftmon whipped his blond-haired head towards Alphamon. "I know you give his free-spiritedness much leeway, Alphamon, but if you continue to allow this spoiled behaviour, then you are merely enabling his lack of discipline," Duftmon argued, his voice calm yet biting.
"That is not my intention. However, I don't think that Gankoomon is in the right frame of mind for battle right now, Duftmon," Alphamon responded, eyeing Gankoomon as he opened the pair of doors. "I'll have an honest talk with him when we return from our meeting with Yggdrasil."
Jesmon watched with concern as Gankoomon left the great hall. He was tempted to go after him to try to see if there was something wrong, but he didn't feel that he could leave his own ceremony. He doubted that Gankoomon would open up to him anyways. Whenever something was bothering his sensei, rather than talk about it or ask for help, he preferred to vent – usually with his fists.
Duftmon closed his fist with restrained frustration, but he conceded, albeit reluctantly. "Hmph… Very well. I am trusting you to talk some sense into that stubborn ruffian. See to it that you do," Duftmon told him strictly. "Regardless, if all goes well with the campaign and we can confirm that it is not a trap, then I will run a scout back to the castle and have the rest of you travel north to join us for the Gloaming Fields campaign. See to it that you drag him with you."
Alphamon nodded. "Alright. That seems logical," he agreed. "Duftmon, you are in command of the Royal Knights on the field."
"Naturally," Duftmon confirmed with a confident nod.
Sleipmon frowned uneasily and took a step forwards, wanting to make sure that he was noticed. "Wait a second… What about the Arcane Ruins?" he asked, feeling particularly worried about the area of his charge. "We aren't forgetting about them, are we?"
"We can send a small team - codenamed: Team Frost - ahead to the Ruins," Duftmon permitted. "Sleipmon, I assume you wish to lead that team. It is only logical for you to go, as only you know the location of the ruins. You may take one more Royal Knight, but seeing as though the majority of the Demon Lords and their legions will be with the main army, we cannot spare any more than that."
Examon stepped forwards and raised his clawed hand. "I'll go," the large dragon volunteered, looking over at Sleipmon meaningfully. "I want to help, and I think my long-ranged abilities will be an advantage in that environment."
"Examon…" Sleipmon said with an appreciative smile.
"Very well," Duftmon agreed, giving Examon a short nod. "Then we are decided. I would also like to bring a small team of Rooks along, in case their services are required."
Alphamon nodded. "I will let Karatenmon know," he replied. The Knight of the Empty Seat looked around at the eleven Royal Knights, as well as Imperialdramon. "Well, then. It seems we are about ready to go. You all have a couple hours to make whatever remaining preparations you require. The Captains are assembling their Forces in the training grounds as we speak."
There were nods and replies of affirmation all around.
Alphamon turned around and prepared to start walking down the great hall towards the exit. As he did, he noticed one of the Knightmon guards speaking through the partially opened double doors to an unseen Digimon on the other side, in the foyer. Alphamon raised an eyebrow and began walking towards the sentries who were on duty for the ceremony.
"Knightmon?" Alphamon asked, curious as to who the guard was talking to. "Is everything alright?"
The Knightmon turned away from the crack in the doors and puffed his chest up, obediently saluting the Royal Knights.
"Sir, I apologise, but…" the Knightmon spoke, glancing at the Royal Knight uncertainly.
"There is a guest here to see one of you."