(Author's Notes: Chapter 65 is finally here! Apologies for the delay. I've gotten back into a good groove of writing, so I'm hoping I can keep up with my progress. I had to do a little bit of reorganizing on this next chapter, cutting a very, very long and disparate chapter into three manageable and organized ones. I think I organised this logistic problem to the best of my abilities.
Anyways, here's the first of those three - Chapter 65. I hope you enjoy it and please leave a review if you can!)
Chapter 65: The Will of God
It was the early afternoon.
The midday sun shone down across the Great Forest. Its blond rays filtered through the emerald ceiling of the verdant, forest canopies. The light penetrated the canopy line in the form of golden strands, catching the gentle mist as they cast across the leafy understory before finally hitting the forest floor itself.
There were many ancient trees in the forest, tracing their lineage all the way back to the First Cycle. They towered overhead with their thick, colossal trunks and their far-reaching, venerable boughs, providing an umbrella for the ecosystem below. The forest floor was filled with a diverse array of plant life, from bushes, ferns, and tall plants to shrubs, herbs, flowers, and mosses. While not quite as exotic as the rainforests, the Great Forest was still home to all sorts of flora.
The deeper into the forest that one went, the larger the trees became, which caused them to be spaced further apart. As they approached the center of the forest, the trees became like a natural colonnade befitting of the gods.
Jesmon, Alphamon, and Omegamon flew down a forest path that led to the center of the Great Forest.
They had travelled via Locomon to New Terminal along with a handful of the other Royal Knights. Once they reached New Terminal, Alphamon, Omegamon, and Jesmon disembarked, while the others continued north to Saversburg.
From there, the three Royal Knights continued north on foot. Though, Alphamon tactfully decided not to follow the Grand Highway. Jesmon had a feeling that the decision had been for his benefit, as they would have had to pass by the ruins of Hope's Crest, and he suspected that Alphamon thought it would have brought back painful memories for him. Being honest with himself, Jesmon couldn't blame him. He had secretly been dreading it, and he was relieved when Alphamon told them that they would fly over the fields instead.
It took them several hours to fly to the northern border of the Republic of Node's territory, meeting the tributary river that divided it and the Neutral Zone. Before entering the Neutral Zone, they offered the customary prayer to Yggdrasil, and then crossed the river. They continued on until they reached the Great Forest within the hallowed ground. They decided to travel through the forest by air, as Alphamon and Omegamon told him that it would be the only way for them to reach their destination before sundown.
Despite the swift pace at which they flew, Jesmon still looked around at the beautiful forest with wonder. The Neutral Zone was a place untouched by settlement and fighting. It came to represent the purest state of being of the Digital World – a place of nature and wonder.
It had been a few years ago now since he had last been through here, when he had gone on pilgrimage with Gankoomon and the Sistermons to the World Tree. He had been just a Hackmon at the time. It felt so long ago now and he had changed so much.
It was through DarkKnightmon's attack on the tree and the subsequent events that they first met the Royal Knights. It was those chance meetings that truly set Hackmon on his long, difficult path towards becoming a Royal Knight. That was the point in which his mere, lofty dreams transformed into possibility.
Jesmon couldn't help but wonder if their encounters with DarkKnightmon and the Royal Knights were purely chance, or if Yggdrasil had something to do with it. After all, they were within Its sacred ground.
The three Royal Knights glided several meters above the ground as they flew down the forest path. Their capes whipped against their backs and the breeching sunlight shone down across their armoured bodies.
"We're nearly there," Alphamon informed him, glancing behind at Jesmon. He looked ahead, seeing the scattered light shining more intensely ahead of them as they approached the distant tree line.
"Yes, Si—" Jesmon caught himself. "I mean Senpai."
Alphamon smiled and flew ahead alongside Omegamon. The three continued soaring beneath the spacious trees for awhile longer until they finally reached the point at which the trees stopped. They landed and stopped in front of the area where sunlight shone down uninhibited.
"We're here," Alphamon said, walking forwards.
Jesmon followed them and walked past the tree line. The forest opened up into a massive clearing of grass, free of any trees except for one.
The World Tree.
The Royal Knights stepped out into the clearing and immediately looked up. The massive tree dominated the landscape, dwarfing all around it. It reached further than the eye could see, all the way past the clouds. Its trunk was as wide as a fortress and its roots as sturdy as mountains. Such a huge, ancient, and hallowed tree was a marvel to behold.
Jesmon's eyes widened with wonder as he gazed up at the natural colossus. The World Tree stretched so high that its boughs were concealed by a thick mist that lingered low in the sky. Its massive, umbrella-like canopy was a sweeping shadow cloaked in the fog. As he stared into the sky, he was convinced that he could see the faint strands of lightning within the mist. Was that part of the World Tree's splendor too? He had been here once before, but he hadn't really been able to take in the site's sheer grandeur until now.
As Jesmon lost himself in its size, Omegamon's eyes meanwhile drifted towards the base of the tree. He could see the wood and bark covering over the damage that had been caused by DarkKnightmon's attempt to set the World Tree ablaze.
A pang of guilt ignited within him, for he couldn't deny the role that he played in that. DarkKnightmon had tasked him with destroying the aspect of his god. He tried not to dwell on the shame and feelings of unworthiness that appeared. Even so, he felt relieved to see that the World Tree was mending itself wholly with time.
As Omegamon turned his head, he ended up locking eyes with Alphamon. The black knight gave him a meaningful gaze and a reassuring nod, already knowing what he was thinking. The quiet but considerate gesture put his heart at ease. He nodded back at Alphamon appreciatively and looked back up at the tree.
"Is that lightning?" Alphamon wondered, arching his brow curiously as he gazed up at the tree.
"It seems like it, but the weather is sunny and clear…" Omegamon noted suspiciously.
Before they could question it further, a sharp voice rang out.
"Halt! Who goes there?!"
The three Royal Knights looked to see four Moosemon dashing down the expansive trunk of the World Tree. The four stags bounded across the thick branches that made up the lower reaches of the tree, jumping from one to the next. When they were low enough, the four lunged and landed gracefully on the grass at the base of the tree
The first of the four cervid Digimon stepped forwards, approaching the three visitors. "Royal Knights," the Moosemon spoke with a slight bow of his antlered head.
Alphamon gave the four Moosemon guardians an acknowledging nod. "Moosemon."
"What is the purpose of your visit here?" the Moosemon inquired bluntly.
"We have been summoned by Yggdrasil," Alphamon informed them. "We have come here to access the Hall of Yggdrasil."
"I see…" the Moosemon answered with a frown. He nodded up at the mist overhead. "I am afraid that you have come at an inopportune time. Valdurmon is in the middle of an important meeting."
"It is no matter, Moosemon," a deep, resonant voice called out from high above them.
A massive bird covered in pure, white feathers descended from the clouds and pierced through the mist. The six-winged bird soared down the length of the World Tree's trunk, his holy body radiant and shimmering in the sunlight, as a solar glory radiated behind him like a rainbow aureole.
"Indeed…" a second, bass voice spoke. The voice was deep and powerful, yet soft and reverberating, like rolling thunder on the horizon. The single word was powerful enough to cause the World Tree's branches to shudder, and the ground beneath their feet to vibrate.
Jesmon's eyes widened with shock as he saw a massive figure descend through the cloud. The lightning flashes seemed to grow closer before suddenly fading. It was then that a huge, helmet-clad head emerged through the fog, with rays of light piercing through the clouds behind him.
Qinglongmon emerged from the clouded sky, his long, serpentine body of hallowed chains and incorporeal aether curving behind him. His long, flowing beard rippled in the breeze, and the diffused sunlight reflected off his lightning bolt-shaped horn and the twelve digicores around his four ankles.
Jesmon instinctively look a step back, his mouth nearly falling open. Not only was Qinglongmon massive in size, but his very body was divinity incarnate. His hallowed form radiated majesty and godly essence. Jesmon could sense his power, as if there was an intangible pressure bearing down on him.
He could hardly believe that he was in the presence of one of the Four Holy Beasts. Being in the presence of the Royal Knights had already been overwhelming, but standing beneath this deified sky dragon was something else. His sheer power and majesty, combined with his size, was daunting. He was half-amazed that Alphamon and Omegamon didn't even bat an eye upon seeing Qinglongmon appear.
"Greetings, Royal Knights," Qinglongmon acknowledged, his reverberant voice echoing as he flew up beside Valdurmon, beneath the boughs of the World Tree. He gazed down at Alphamon and Omegamon with his four eyes, but he also noted Jesmon's presence.
"Lord Qinglongmon," Alphamon greeted respectfully. "I apologise. We didn't realise that we were interrupting."
"Worry not, Alphamon," Qinglongmon spoke as he craned his head down. "On the contrary, your arrival is fortuitous. Valdurmon and I were just discussing the current state of the world."
"I see. I was wondering what you were doing this far from the east," Alphamon noted.
"I saw fit to confer with my Devas," Qinglongmon replied. "Majiramon has told me that the Four Great Dragons have joined forces with you to combat the growing threat of the Seven Great Demon Lords."
"That is indeed true," Alphamon confirmed. "I hope that is acceptable to you, seeing as the decision was made in your absence."
"Hm…" Qinglongmon hummed, closing his eyes in thought. "It is true that I prefer to maintain a policy of neutrality and non-intervention in the affairs of Digimon… However, I believe that we have reached a juncture in which the world will face catastrophe if something is not done..."
"Will you help us, then?" Omegamon wondered.
"Yes and no, Omegamon. I will not act directly, for I am a Holy Beast. It is a conflict between the Demon Lords and the Heavenly Choir, so we cannot intervene in such temporal affairs," Qinglongmon answered, his deep voice serene as he spoke. "I will simply watch as the events unfold, and I will offer my support in an indirect manner. That being said… I have given my Devas permission to act as they see fit…. If the crisis progresses to the point where the Sovereigns need be involved directly, then the world will truly be in danger.."
Alphamon and Omegamon both frowned a little, but nodded, knowing that the Four Holy Beasts had a long-standing policy of non-intervention in the affairs of the Digital World. "I see…" Alphamon responded, although not without a touch of disappointment.
"I am sure that you understand why we cannot act," Qinglongmon spoke, looking down at the Royal Knights from his lofty position in the sky. "The Four Holy Beasts are far too powerful… The last time that we exerted our full force was during the Great Sealing. During the battles with the Dragon of Chaos, Susanoomon, and the War of the Holy Beasts… we nearly destroyed the entire Digital World. After that, we pledged to be beings of balance… We made a solemn vow not to exert our influence of the world directly, for we cannot afford to risk creating such unbalance in the world yet again."
Alphamon sighed and nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I suppose I can understand the reluctance to become involved in the world after being the cause of such destruction…" he answered empathetically.
Omegamon looked over at Alphamon steadily; he understood what his friend was referring to. He hoped that Alphamon didn't still blame himself, but he at least knew that he didn't let it consume him like he did when he removed himself and became the Aloof Hermit.
"We prefer to trust the task of world security to powerful forces for good… I choose to believe that you Royal Knights are one of those who can steer the Digital World away from the wrong path," Qinglongmon told them with a smile. "That being said, if one follows nothing but a map, it is they who will become lost."
Alphamon smiled wryly. "A koan? …We merely wish to defend Network Security, Qinglongmon. That's all," Alphamon assured him. "Like you, I believe in balance."
"There is a difference between active balance and passive balance," Qinglongmon mused with a philosophical rumble. "Even so… There are none among us who are underestimating the threat that the Demon Lords – and Lucemon, especially – pose to the Digital World…"
"Lucemon?" Omegamon inquired, wondering why he mentioned him specifically.
The dragon god nodded his head slowly, the very motion causing the nearby leaves to rustle. "Lucemon is a dangerous foe… He was before, and he will be again. Within his light is darkness. Within his order, chaos… He would seek not mere vengeance, but total reformation. Take care not to underestimate him, for doing so could lead to your downfall."
Alphamon and Omegamon exchanged curious glances at Qinglongmon's knowing words. He spoke with such sagaciousness; they wondered how he knew so much about Lucemon.
"We won't, Qinglongmon," Alphamon confirmed as he gazed up at the majestic dragon floating in the sky.
"That would be most wise, Alphamon," Qinglongmon answered. The Azure Dragon of the East shifted his head just slightly, casting his eyes down at Jesmon with interest.
The newest Royal Knight had been quiet the entire time, not daring to speak up in the presence of one of the Four Holy Beasts. If he was being honest, he was too busy staring up at the giant dragon in awe to even think of anything smart to say.
"Oh…?" Qinglongmon noted. He eyed Jesmon curiously, as if sensing something about him that piqued his interest. "And who is the third one among you?"
Alphamon turned towards Jesmon. "My apologies, this is Jesmon, the thirteenth and newest member of the Royal Knights," he introduced the junior knight.
Qinglongmon gazed down at Jesmon with a smile that was hidden by his bushy mustache. "Is that so…? It seems you have been adding more Royal Knights to your ranks recently. This one has a youthful air about him too… He is quite unique… Quiet, however."
Jesmon was busy staring up at Qinglongmon with amazement, uncertain what to do when one of the Holy Beasts was addressing him.
Alphamon eyed Jesmon with a smile of levity. "Pardon him. I think he is a little awe-struck," he said with a light chuckle. "Come on now, Jesmon. Say something. As a Royal Knight, you will have to get used to being in the presence of Digimon like Qinglongmon, after all."
Omegamon nodded in agreement. "We are on our way to visit Yggdrasil, so there is more of this to come," the white knight reminded him.
"Ah, y-yes," Jesmon stammered. He bowed his head with Qinglongmon with respect. "I apologise, Qinglongmon-sama. It is an honour to be in your presence."
"It is a pleasure, Jesmon." Qinglongmon nodded at him with a soft smile, before looking back at Alphamon. "It has been a few years now since we last met, Royal Knights." He gestured with his head to the massive tree beside him. "It heartens me to know that the World Tree is recovering from the damage of DarkKnightmon's attack."
"Us, as well," Omegamon answered, feeling the need to speak up. "And may I say how sorry I am for my part in that…"
"You were not yourself," Valdurmon assured him with a slight nod, remembering the event well.
"Indeed…" Qinglongmon concurred, glancing over at Valdurmon. "Valdurmon was telling me about what happened with Chaosdramon. He explained how Imperialdramon: Paladin Mode and AncientGreymon tapped into the Well of Urdr in order to reset the Dark Area's firewall. Though, I gather that Imperialdramon discussed it with Xuanwumon and Valdurmon in great detail beforehand."
"Yes, we had to act quickly to try and contain the Demon Lords," Alphamon explained. "While we were unable to stop Bagramon from freeing them, we were at least able to stop them from bringing the rest of the Underworld with them."
"What's the Well of Urdr, Senpai?" Jesmon quietly asked Omegamon beside him, not wanting to interrupt the others.
"It's the well of power that lies beneath the roots of the World Tree. It is source of the leylines – or Dragon's Veins – that are said to stretch throughout the world," Omegamon explained to the junior Royal Knight. "It also acts as a powerful barrier."
"I suppose that is something…" Qinglongmon replied. "The new barrier appears stable." The great dragon dipped his head down slightly, his serpentine body of celestial energy rippling gently. "However… I take it that the Well is not your reason for visiting here."
"No, I'm afraid not…" Alphamon responded. His brow morphed into a concerned frown as he stared up at the Holy Beast. "However, before that, there is something that I think you ought to know. It is a matter of great concern."
Qinglongmon tilted his head softly. "Oh? That is worrisome. What is the trouble?" he wondered.
"It concerns the Demon Lords," Alphamon explained gravely. He drew a slow breath of the clean, forest air and looked into Qinglongmon's four eyes. "There is no easy way to say this, but I take it that you do not yet know. It is to my shame to say that the Demon Lords have stolen the Orb of Yang."
For just a moment. Qinglongmon's eyes widened into a look of shock and worry. It was one of the rare times the meditative dragon could be seen without his composure.
After a second or two, Qinglongmon closed his eyes and slowly bowed his head in thought, quietly collecting himself. "…I see. That is… unfortunate news..." he answered, his dignified voice suddenly growing heavy and dire.
"I apologise. They stole it from the monastery in the Forest of Equilibrium where it was hidden. We were unable to retrieve it from them," Alphamon explained.
Qinglongmon shook his head gently. "No… This was our responsibility," he answered. "We left it to the monks to guard, but we grew complacent. Perhaps we should have offered them more protection…" Qinglongmon opened his eyes and looked down at the three Royal Knights. "The Orb of Yang is a relic of the Golden Faith. Stealing that goes beyond the scope of the civil war of the Religion of Light. Are they merely after its power?"
"I suspect that there is more to it than just its immense power," Alphamon hypothesized, stroking his chin with thought. "It was Bagramon specifically who wanted the Orb stolen. I think that he is after more than simply the destruction of the Heavenly Choir."
Qinglongmon frowned deeply. "…Could it be that they wish to overturn all three of the faiths?"
"It is only a theory at the moment," Alphamon responded. "I cannot claim to know what Bagramon is thinking…
The Holy Beast let out a thoughtful sigh. "It seems as though we are not as detached from this as I would have preferred to think…" he considered. "Perhaps that is why Majiramon made the decision that he did."
Qinglongmon observed Alphamon with a curious gaze. "That being said, I know that you have not come to tell me that, although I do appreciate it."
Valdurmon nodded and flew a bit closer, his body basked in light. "Did I hear you mention that you were on your way to visit Yggdrasil?" the guardian bird wondered. "Have you been summoned accordingly?"
"Yes, we have," Alphamon confirmed. "Likely because of Jesmon and the Demon Lords."
Valdurmon nodded as he continued flapping slowly to keep himself aloft. "That makes it easier… I will see to it that you may proceed," he responded. The majestic bird directed his gaze at the four Moosemon who were standing beneath him and Qinglongmon. "Stags! Secure the perimeter!" he commanded them.
"Yes, Lord Valdurmon!" the Moosemon responded in unison. The four harts took off in a gallop. They dashed across the clearing in a helical pattern until they reached the four cardinal directions at the edges of the clearing. Once they had reached the edge, they jumped into the forest and began circling around the clearing's perimeter, patrolling vigilantly to make sure that nobody entered.
As soon as they reached the forest, Valdurmon flew up into the sky, ascending halfway up the World Tree before stopping and sweeping his wings out. His six wings blazed with brilliant light and the multicoloured rainbow behind his body intensified.
"Purge Shine!" Valdurmon bellowed.
Jesmon watched as the perimeter of the clearing suddenly glowed with a radiant golden hue. A translucent barrier materialized around the edge of the clearing, rising high into the sky. The barrier formed an impenetrable circle that temporarily sealed off the World Tree from the outside.
Confused, Jesmon looked up at Omegamon questioningly. The white Royal Knight offered him a reassuring nod. "This is normal," he explained. "Only a select few of Yggdrasil's trusted chosen are permitted to see this."
"What are we doing, exactly?" Jesmon wondered.
"There is a special method that must be taken in order to access the Hall of Yggdrasil, which is hidden from view under normal circumstances," Alphamon informed him.
"Didn't you say that that was located in the Chasm of Creation?" the newest knight inquired. He was confused as to why they were doing something here, when the Chasm of Creation was way out in the western wastelands of the Neutral Zone.
"We did," Alphamon answered coyly. "Don't worry, Jesmon. All will become clear…"
Valdurmon flapped in place, his wings of light keeping the barrier sustained. "Alphamon, you may proceed," he informed him.
Alphamon nodded and began walking towards the World Tree. He strode carefully, his eyes scanning the ample trunk. It wasn't long until the Royal Knight approached the base of the tree, and he homed in on one specific part of the tree – the southernmost point of the enormous trunk.
He walked up an incline that lay between two of the World Tree's huge roots. Alphamon reached the base of the World Tree, coming face-to-face with its sturdy base. He could feel the holy power emanating from the tree, its very sapwood brimming with godly essence, to say nothing of the ancient heartwood beneath.
Alphamon raised his hand and placed it at a very specific point on the bark of the tree. The black knight bowed his head and closed his eyes, attempting to connect to the tree itself.
"O Tree of Life… Originator of All Things. Hear my humble request…" he beseeched, his voice subservient, yet retaining its underlying strength. "I, Alphamon, request access, Lord Yggdrasil… Allow the Royal Knights to access your sacred hall."
Hanging onto his every word, Jesmon watched with fascination as the leaves of the World Tree seemed to shudder. Just above Alphamon's hand, he could see an ancient rune suddenly appear on the surface of the bark. The rune burned with a bright, white light and it seemed to emanate with the power of the World Tree.
Next, more runes of different shapes began to appear one-by-one, until they formed a circle around Alphamon's hand. When there were nine runes in total, and the final sigil shone as brightly as the other eight, a blue magical circle suddenly appeared within the bounds of the runes.
Alphamon watched as the magical circle appeared beneath his hand, the series of rings, runes, and Digimoji twisting in different directions. He gently pushed his hand against the circle, pushing it into the tree. As he did, a wooden, nonagonal panel that was made up of the World Tree's bark pushed into the trunk of the tree as well.
As Alphamon pushed the magically-formed, secret panel inwards, the ground behind him began to sink. Nine runestones suddenly began pushing out of the ground in a row, while the earth between them gradually sank, with the deepest portion forming at the base of the tree. Jesmon and Omegamon watched as the plunging ground formed a set of stone stairs that descended below the ground, seeming to go beneath the World Tree itself.
Alphamon removed his hand from the trunk and walked back, making his way around the stones until he was beside the other knights. He looked at Jesmon with an amused smile, seeming to enjoy the look of shock and wonder on the younger knight's face.
"Apologies for being so enigmatic, Jesmon. I wanted to see your expression when I did that. I only get to enjoy that reaction once for each knight, and I have to take my pleasures where I can," he whimsically explained.
"U-Understood, Sir," Jesmon stammered distractedly as he gazed down into the subterranean stairway. Within the darkness, he could see a faint, mystical light that seemed to indicate an end to the stairs. However, he wasn't sure what to do once they reached the light in question. "What do we do now?"
"Why, we descend, of course," Alphamon responded, making his way to the top of the earthy stairs. Before taking the first step, he looked up at the two majestic beasts in the sky. "Thank you, Valdurmon."
"It is merely my duty," Valdurmon answered, flapping his shining wings as he kept the barrier up for the duration of the process.
Alphamon turned his attention from the celestial eagle to the azure dragon deity who hovered nearby. "Goodbye, Qinglongmon. Thank you for whatever support you can provide."
Qinglongmon nodded sagely. "Farewell, Royal Knights," he rumbled like delicate thunder. "I wish you luck in your travels. Beware of Lucemon… and try to retrieve the Orb of Yang. This world grows closer to the precipice of chaos…"
Alphamon nodded a little and looked back at Omegamon and Jesmon. "Follow us, Jesmon… Do as we do," Alphamon told the younger knight as he started descending the stairs.
Omegamon gestured to Jesmon to follow him before making his way down the dark, earthy staircase after Alphamon.
Although extremely nervous about being introduced to his god, Jesmon steeled himself and followed the black and white knights down the dark, ominous staircase. He watched as Alphamon stepped underground, beneath the roots of the World Tree, and continued on towards the source of the light.
"Through here," Alphamon explained, proceeding towards what appeared to be a swirling vortex of light at the end of the tunnel. "Don't be nervous. It's just a portal. Think of it as a door."
Jesmon swallowed, but nodded, following without a second thought. He stepped into the subterranean tunnel, towards the portal.
Alphamon stopped in front of the swirling gateway of light, his black silhouette even darker against the radiance. He turned around and smiled at Jesmon reassuringly. "Are you ready, Jesmon?" he asked him.
Jesmon took a deep, calming breath. "Yes, Senpai. I'm ready," he confirmed.
"Then we'll go on three," Alphamon informed him, nodding at Omegamon. "One…"
"Two…" Omegamon spoke, placing his Grey Arm on Jesmon's shoulder.
Jesmon bent his legs and prepared to move. He looked ahead at the daunting portal with courage.
The three Royal Knights dashed forwards in unison. As soon as they entered the portal, the ground felt as if it gave out beneath them, and their bodies became engulfed in light.
In an all-encompassing flash of light, Jesmon felt the space around him transform. After a metaphysical instant, the intangible feeling of floating vanished and he suddenly felt the welcome feeling of sturdy ground beneath his bladed feet.
Suddenly, he found that he was no longer beneath the roots of the World Tree, but was somewhere else entirely. He had gone from an earthy, subterranean tunnel to a wide, open space. This was made clear to him when the sun shone brightly onto his metal face. The summer rays were strong, and the surrounding sky was azure blue overhead, with but a few fluffy clouds.
Jesmon paid no attention to the weather, though. He was completely transfixed on the sights around him. It stunned him to see that they were no longer in the Great Forest. In fact, there was not a tree or a piece of grass in sight.
The three Royal Knights found themselves in a remote canyon. As Jesmon took in his environment, he saw that they were surrounded by steep, majestic cliffs with flat, vertical faces, like insurmountable walls. Those cliffs rose from thirty to fifty meters in length – sometimes even larger at points – and it would have taken aerial Digimon to fly down them to access the chasm.
The ground around them was cracked and craggy, flat at some points, but uneven and slanted at others as the rocks jutted irregularly from the ground. The landscape was made entirely of ancient rocks that were a dark golden hue. There were not even shrubs or foliage within the rough and stony landscape. The canyon itself was much longer than it was wide, but its width was still over a kilometer in length from one cliff face to the other. There was plenty of space to walk around, and the length of the gorge stretched for longer than he could see.
The rocks were weathered and ancient, evidenced by the many cracks and fissures that formed from time and weather. Much of the rock existed all the way back from the Null Origin, when the landmasses formed from a molten stew during the creation of the Digital World. The sheer timeworn and venerable appearance of the rocky landscape was clear.
They were in the Chasm of Creation, the oldest place in the Digital World, and the source from which the rest of the Digital World was said to have sprung from.
As Jesmon looked around the colossal, primordial chasm, he suddenly began to feel very small in comparison. He was almost overwhelmed by the sensory overload. It was an awesome sight to behold: the titanic rocks, the panoramic vistas, towering plateaus…
On closer inspection, he could see not only a natural marvel, but signs of old, Digimon-made sculptures. He noticed, scattered intermittently across the chasm, were ancient columns like those of old buildings. Most had fallen and lay collapsed or jutting diagonally across the craggy canyon, while a few managed to stay upright.
When Jesmon looked forwards, he could see more of these huge, stone columns, but they were embedded in the face of the cliff. There were a few sections of these cracked pillars at places along the western cliff face, but one portion in particular drew Jesmon's gaze. Right in front of them, built against the cliff, was a row of pillars, culminating in two giant columns that stood opposite to each other, bridged by an ancient but intricately layered archivolt.
The arching, stone door frame gave the impression that it was a majestic entrance, but rather than doors, there was only a solid wall of natural stone. It was as if the architectural façade had been built into the cliff merely for show. There was nothing to suggest that this area was anything other than more random – if impressive - ruins that periodically littered the Digital World's landscape.
Despite the appearance that there was nothing there, Jesmon could sense a deep and exalted aura coming from those ancient ruins. He felt drawn to it, and, for some reason that he couldn't place, he got the impression that there was more than met the eye.
As Jesmon finished taking in the grand and hallowed surroundings, he heard two pairs of metallic footsteps walking up beside him.
"Jesmon…" Alphamon spoke, stopping next to him and gesturing around them with his hand. "Welcome to the Chasm of Creation."
Jesmon continued looking around at the awe-inspiring landscape, really soaking in the magnitude of the sight. He began to connect with the spirit of the ancient crevasse, sensing its great age, along with a sense of hidden power that was not unlike the World Tree's.
"It's amazing, Alphamon-senpai," Jesmon responded as he gazed ahead at the huge, stone archway in the side of the cliff. The dragon knight frowned a little with confusion. "But… I don't understand. There's nothing here. Is there…?"
Alphamon smiled enigmatically. "Not all in this world is as it seems, Jesmon," he reminded him sagaciously. "In order to see the truth, sometimes you must look deeper than what is presented on the surface."
Omegamon stepped up to Jesmon's other side and gave him a soft nod. "Alphamon's right..." he added. "Focus carefully, Jesmon. Do you feel that?"
Jesmon closed his eyes and focused, beginning to meditate. As he centered his spirit, he took himself out of his own body, forcing himself not to rely on just his sense of sight. He tried to connect with the land itself, along with the air and the atmosphere. He touched on his innate, primal senses, not just as a Digimon, but as an Ultimate level. He reminded himself that he was a part of nature too, as all Digimon were. Despite the civilizations that they had built for themselves, they were still innately part of the natural world. As an Ultimate level, he was particularly attuned to the world around him.
As he connected just slightly with the primordial essence of the land, Jesmon could feel that slight pressure emanating from the cliff intensifying in his core.
Jesmon's eyes snapped open. "I feel it…" he answered breathily. As soon as he looked up, the sight that lay before him began to shift.
Alphamon blinked and looked at Omegamon with surprise. "That was fast… It took most of the others much longer to connect with the spirit of this place," he mused, intrigued by Jesmon's quick harmonization.
"Indeed…" Omegamon agreed, eyeing Jesmon with surprise. "It took me a half an hour. He must be particularly sensitive to the world around him…"
Jesmon was too focused on the sudden vibrations before him to notice what they were saying. He watched with shock as data began to materialize and alter in front of the ancient ruins. First, it was a single piece of data flickering, and then another, and soon a wave of data particles began sweeping across the cliff face.
As the numerous particles of data in front of the pillars flickered, they began to part in two opposite waves. It was like an invisible veil had been opened up. The solid, rocky data of the cliff face that lay in between the largest of the two pillars began fading away. As the data dissipated, a massive hall appeared, burrowing deep inside of the golden cliffs.
Jesmon's eyes widened with disbelief as he watched the portion of the cliff between the ruined façade give way to a massive temple that hadn't been there before. It was like it had been cloaked in optical camouflage, but Jesmon was certain that it had truly been solid stone. He could see that the hall within the rectangular threshold stretched far into the depths of the cliff, further than his eyesight could reach.
Then, something overwhelming caught his eye. He noticed that the cliff wasn't the only thing that was hidden. He could see the data above the ruins flashing and materializing before his very eyes, rising up to the top of the cliff, and then continuing upwards into the air.
Jesmon nearly balked as he watched a massive structural base form at the top of the craggy plateau. The shifting data continued upwards in an endless wave, revealing a structure that climbed higher and higher. What he saw… was amazing.
A gigantic building had appeared above them. It was a colossal, magnificent tower that reached all the way past the clouds, its pinnacle hidden by the white, billowing vapour. Like the top, the base of the tower was massive, ensuring that the tower was wide enough to fit even the largest of Digimon.
The structure curled upwards in the form of a spiral complex made of an austere, grey stone. The exterior of the tower contained numerous vaulting arches. The rows of arches that were situated near the ground level were particularly beautiful compared to the others. Within those arches were huge, stained glass windows that shifted colours like a kaleidoscope, emphasizing the holiness of the tower. The further up the tower that it went - about kilometers high - the glass disappeared, leaving the arched windows open and exposed to the naked aether of the endless skies.
The ornate yet austere tower struck a perfect balance between symmetry and asymmetry. Although the outer buttresses and arcades rose up in an uneven spiral, the tower structure itself was perfectly symmetrical. It was a magnificent and hallowed building that could have only been created by a god.
This sacred pinnacle towered over the golden chasm, like a singular pocket of divine majesty, far-removed from the rest of the world.
Jesmon's mouth slowly opened as he gazed up with utter awe at the lofty tower. If he had felt small before, he felt absolutely miniscule now that he was in the shadow of its daunting presence.
"That… is the Hall of Yggdrasil," Omegamon explained, his voice resonant as he spoke with all the gravity that such a moment deserved.
"I…" Jesmon spoke, hardly able to form words together as he craned his neck back to stare up at the transcendent structure.
Alphamon smiled with amusement as he studied Jesmon's stunned expression. "You are at a loss for words, I see…" he lightly noted.
"It's… It's incredible…" Jesmon whispered, his glossy eyes wide and nearly overwhelmed. "Was… Was that really there the whole time…?" he managed, blinking.
"Yes, and also no…" Alphamon answered coyly.
Forcing himself to pull his eyes away from the breathtaking structure, Jesmon frowned and looked over at the black knight. "I don't understand, Senpai."
"That shift in the data that you saw wasn't simply optical camouflage," Omegamon explained. "The Hall of Yggdrasil that you see before you truly was not there before. If a Digimon were to pass through here ordinarily, it would appear as ruins and empty air. It wasn't until we received access at the World Tree that we were permitted to see this as it is now."
Alphamon nodded and began to stride towards the commanding, stone entrance. He walked across the rough and jagged ground, prompting Omegamon and Jesmon to follow him.
"You see, Jesmon… Yggdrasil's domain exists within a special pocket dimension that it created for itself inside the Ginnungagap way back during the Null Origin. The most that we can hope to do is stand at the very precipice of that barrier. We are permitted to look into Yggdrasil's domain, but we are forbidden from entering. As Royal Knights, we have been blessed with the highest level of access to Yggdrasil itself."
"Does that mean we won't actually see Yggdrasil in person?" Jesmon inquired, attempting not to let his anticipation show.
"Correct. Not even Omegamon and I have seen Yggdrasil's true form," Alphamon informed him, glancing over his caped shoulder at the younger knight.
Omegamon nodded. "To lay eyes upon our god would be a kind of blasphemy…"
Jesmon sighed, more with relief than anything. After seeing the World Tree, then Qinglongmon, and then the Hall of Yggdrasil, he didn't think that he would be able to emotionally handle meeting Yggdrasil in person. His bladed legs still felt wobbly; the last thing he wanted to do was end up fainting in front of his heroes and his god. He couldn't think of anything more mortifying.
The hooded knight released a calming breath and looked up at the gaping entrance that was flanked by the towering pillars of stone. He felt as ready as he would ever be. He felt the urge to just do it, as his curiosity was equal to that of his nerves. "I understand," he responded, looking at the two senior knights. "But… then how will this work, if we don't meet Yggdrasil?"
"It would be easier to show you," Alphamon answered, walking ahead with his cape flowing between his wings. "Come."
Jesmon gave a final, uneasy glance up at the archway towering above them before following. Uncertain what to expect, Jesmon straightened the collar of his cape as he made his way towards the gateway.
The three Royal Knights passed underneath the threshold and stepped into the entrance of the hall. The first area that greeted them was a rectangular antechamber that was in the very mouth of the cliff-side tower. They entered the empty chamber, which was decorated with only a few, stone pillars. As they walked in, a single, glowing sphere of light emerged in the center, floating ominously and without moving. It was as if it was watching them.
Alphamon and Omegamon were unbothered by it, and they continued walking towards the large opening on the other side of the antechamber. Jesmon followed their lead and quickly stepped behind them, although not without giving the hovering orb an uneasy glance as he passed it.
They reached the end of the entrance hall and stepped through the large, cavernous gate that led further inside. As soon as they crossed the threshold, they found themselves standing on a large, circular platform. Jesmon immediately stopped as soon as Alphamon and Omegamon did. He looked around and saw that they were standing at the edge of a vast and dark room.
"Stay behind us, Jesmon," Omegamon advised, holding his Grey Arm out emphatically.
Jesmon soon saw why. At the end of the platform that they were standing on was a sheer drop. As soon as he noticed the chasm in the center of the room, he looked around to take in their surroundings.
The chamber was, in fact, the interior of the massive, cylindrical tower. A sprawling staircase curled around the interior walls of the endless tower. The only thing inside the huge chamber was the spacious gap in the middle and the stairs around the perimeter.
The stairs were quite wide and had a gentle slope, but they more than made up for it in sheer length. They curved upwards in a counter clockwise direction, curling upwards into the sky. Every so often, at fixed points along the towering wall, the stairs would stop at platforms much like the one they were standing on, though there was no discernible reason why, other than to give them a much-needed break. Jesmon stared upwards, trying to spot the end of the tower by looking up its empty center, but he found it impossible. It seemed like the tower might even be infinite.
The walls of the circular tower were much the same as they appeared on the outside, with grand, arching windows that allowed light to filter in from the outside. Some distance up, the rainbow rays of the stained glass windows shone in radiantly, giving the austere interior a subtle, holy atmosphere. Further up the lofty tower, the glass ended and the windows became open-air, giving a breath-taking view of the endless firmament.
"We have to climb all the way up there?" Jesmon wondered, feeling a little bit of dread at the daunting idea.
"You are looking in the wrong direction, Jesmon," Alphamon informed him with a smirk. He pointed down, beneath them.
Jesmon ventured closer to the railing of the platform and looked down, wondering what could possibly be beneath them knowing that they were on what should be the ground floor. To his surprise, the stairs actually continued down for a long ways, longer than he could see. If they were to fall, he wasn't even sure how long it would take for them to reach the ground.
But what surprised him even more, was the fact that it wasn't dark down there. The windows continued downwards, and, for some reason, he could see the same, dark grey skies outside of them that he could see high above them. He wasn't sure how the skies could be down there, seeing as it was supposed to be deep underground, but Jesmon soon realised that this was a very unordinary place that didn't follow the same rules as their world.
"We're going down there?" Jesmon asked. His eyes scanned the depths of the tower, its abstract design and antithetical physics causing him to feel a little bewildered.
"That is where we will access Yggdrasil's chamber," Omegamon informed him, already beginning to walk down the stairs to their left.
"I realise it is a little overwhelming at first, but you will get used to it," Alphamon added, giving Jesmon a reassuring smile before following Omegamon. "Don't worry, it is perfectly safe."
Jesmon nodded and began making his way down the stairs alongside Alphamon and Omegamon.
They travelled down the long and winding stairs towards the bottom of the tower. The spiralling decline seemed to go deep below the earth – or, at least, what Jesmon thought was below the earth. He was no longer sure as he passed by the ethereal expanse on the other side of the windows. Jesmon glanced over the railing, but he couldn't see the bottom at all. He was glad he wasn't afraid of heights.
The three Royal Knights continued making their way down the endless staircase, stopping at intermittent platforms every so often. It took them over half an hour, but they could finally see the bottom level of the tower from other the side of the railing.
The ground level was a circular room with stone floors. The wooden roots of trees climbed up the walls of the chamber, as if the natural world was melding with the constructed room.
The outer windows had ended about fifty meters up, limiting the external light that was able to enter the chamber. The only light emanated from another floating ball of light, which hovered above a rectangular, stone pedestal in the center of the room. Despite the grandeur of the rest of the tower, it was a simple room with no unnecessary accoutrements. It was timeless in appearance and built with perfect order in mind.
As the three knights stepped off of the staircase and onto the sturdy floor, Jesmon looked around. He couldn't see an entrance anywhere. Was this it?
"Are we here?" Jesmon asked, looking at the black and white knights in front of him. "What happens now?"
"Just one last thing must be done…" Alphamon explained, walking ahead.
The Knight of the Empty Seat strode across the room and approached the rectangular pedestal. He stared at the floating orb of light and extended his hand towards it.
Jesmon watched as Alphamon's palm glowed and the static sphere began to resonate.
"Lord Yggdrasil, it is I, Alphamon. I request access to the Outer Kernel," he requested with a voice that was subservient yet confident and weighty.
In response to his request, the incorporeal, radiant orb pulsated and intensified. The chamber began to illuminate and an intense, magical energy began to permeate from the far wall.
Jesmon watched as the roots parted from the wall that Alphamon was facing. Ancient runes began to form on the exposed wall, appearing in the stone one-by-one. The glowing sigils started from the floor in the form of two, vertical lines many meters apart from each other. The two columns of runes formed in synchronicity as they climbed higher and higher. The rows of radiant symbols then began to curve, making a wide arch before meeting at the top.
Jesmon realised that they formed the shape of an arching gateway. Then, the earth began to shake. Alphamon and Omegamon were prepared for the tremors, but he nearly lost his footing until he steadied himself. He looked up and watched as the stone wall that lay between the sigils suddenly began to fissure. A long, vertical crack formed in the rock, reaching from the apex of the gateway down to the floor. Then, the wall itself opened fractured and opened inwards.
Jesmon watched with surprise as a giant doorway opened up inside of the magically formed threshold. As the rocky doors split open, an intense gleam of light poured out from the inside and illuminated the room. Jesmon was forced to squint as the light inundated them. He shuddered. Emanating from inside that threshold, he felt an enormous amount of primordial power that shook him to his core. It was now that he realised what it meant to be in the presence of a god.
Alphamon and Omegamon waited for the doors to open fully before turning to Jesmon. "Our destination is just through here," Alphamon informed him.
"Don't be nervous," Omegamon assured him. "This is routine. Just do as we do."
Jesmon had no idea what to expect. He felt the intense anticipation of having to be judged by his god, but at this point, all he could do was steel his heart and move forwards. "Yes, Omegamon-senpai," he responded, acquiescing himself to this momentous task.
Jesmon took a deep breath and followed the pair of knights as they walked towards the light. He ignored the mixture of trepidation, unease, and excitement inside of him and just focused on moving one foot in front of the other.
The three reached the gateway to the pocket dimension and passed through the threshold. Their bodies became surrounded by the all-consuming light, and Jesmon was forced to shut his eyes.
When he opened them again, he found himself in empty space. Jesmon, Alphamon, and Omegamon were surrounded on all sides by pure, white light. It was like a void-like abyss, but instead of darkness, there was just a seemingly-endless expanse of light. There were no features, no contents – merely empty nullity.
The only things he did see were the intermittent flashes of binary code – ones and zeroes that scrolled by for moments before disappearing.
Jesmon was still processing everything when he saw Alphamon and Omegamon suddenly act. The two knights dropped into a kneeling stance and bowed their heads dutifully.
Jesmon immediately followed suit, hastily falling to his knee and bowing his head as well, desperate not to appear disrespectful. At the back of his mind, he wondered if Gankoomon kneeled when he was brought here too. He had a hard time imagining Gankoomon prostrating himself before anyone, even in front of a god…
"Lord Yggdrasil," Alphamon spoke to the empty expanse of light. "We have heeded your summons."
"…Alphamon," a voice spoke, surprising Jesmon.
He looked ahead of him, but he saw nothing. There was no corporeal form to be seen, only the vast, endless space of the Outer Kernel.
"…Royal Knights," the voice said again.
The voice resonated all around them, inundating their ears and shaking their cores. It was as tranquil as it was intense. The sound came from nowhere, yet it was everywhere. Jesmon felt as though he could feel it inside of him.
It was a fused voice, neither male nor female. Its words were flat and neutral, absent of intonation. The pulsing voice was sonorous and hallowed, each word resonating with an ethereal echo. It was a harmonic yet incongruous voice that both commanded authority and bestowed grace simultaneously.
The intense onslaught of words was enough to bring Jesmon out of his own thoughts. He immediately focused on what was before him. He ventured a nervous glance upwards when he saw movement against the white backdrop.
Yggdrasil's words appeared before them physically as well as audibly. Black Digimoji began scrolling down the empty vacuum in front of them. The word 'Alphamon', appeared first, scrolling downwards, while 'Royal Knights' formed right after it, scrolling horizontally. Jesmon watched as more Digimoji appeared before them, in tandem with the return of the dispassionate, reverberating voice.
"…The Thirteenth Royal Knight, Designated: 'Jesmon'?" the dual voice inquired, paired with the corresponding letters.
"Yes, Lord Yggdrasil. This is Jesmon. He is the one who I have selected to be the thirteenth Royal Knight," Alphamon explained, keeping his head bowed although casting a glance in Jesmon's direction.
"…Approach, Jesmon," Yggdrasil commanded, though without a physical presence for him to link the voice to.
Jesmon's eyes widened and he suddenly felt an enormous amount of pressure. His insides twisted and he felt the blood drain from his face, but he didn't hesitate. "Yes, my lord!" he immediately obeyed.
The junior Royal Knight tentatively rose to his bladed feet and uncertainly made his way forwards. He cautiously approached in a straight line, in the direction that Alphamon and Omegamon were facing. Jesmon walked out in front of them and stopped, hoping that he had gone far enough for Yggdrasil's needs.
There was a flash of blue as a flat plane of cyan light appeared in front of him and scrolled up his body, as if it was scanning him. Upon reaching the tips of his horns, the light then went back down, tracing from his head to the end of his tail.
"…Jesmon. A singularity." Yggdrasil's constructed voice echoed.
Alphamon lifted his gaze to look at Jesmon, eyeing him curiously.
The white chamber pulsed faintly. "…Authorization requested on the investiture of Jesmon as the Thirteenth Royal Knight, Guardian Deity of Network Security. Does this knight, Jesmon, devote itself to the word of Yggdrasil?"
"I… I do, my lord," Jesmon confirmed, bowing his head in submission and respect.
"…Authorization request: confirmed. Kneel and receive your blessing," the voice reverberated.
Jesmon immediately kneeled in deep respect. Out of the white expanse came a rush of light with fell upon his body in a column of power and surrounded him.
The light was followed by a wave of intangible power that washed over them. The cosmic aura sunk deep into Jesmon's digicore and flooded through him with indescribable warmth. He felt a surge of power burrow inside of his core and he could feel his body heating up as something changed inside of him. It was like a sudden burst of energy, but it washed through every data particle of his body. The rush of light was both comforting and exhilarating as Yggdrasil's blessing was bestowed upon him.
Omegamon watched with pride in his blue eyes as Jesmon was officially ordained as a Royal Knight by their god.
Conversely, the warm expression on Alphamon's face wasn't necessarily one of pride, but one of curiosity. He watched with great thought as Yggdrasil bestowed upon Jesmon its blessing.
Jesmon gasped with shock as his body reacted to the intense, sensory experience that Yggdrasil subjected him to. Planting his hand on his bent knee to steady himself, Jesmon looked down with wide eyes as the crystal on his chest glowed brilliantly.
After a few more seconds, the light faded. Jesmon felt the overwhelming warmth and light subside, and his body relaxed. He bent his head and panted, closing his eyes and trying to center himself. "Thank you, my lord," he replied in a tired but rapturous whisper.
"…Rise, Royal Knight," Yggdrasil spoke in its all-encompassing echo.
Jesmon stood to his feet and tentatively stepped back to Omegamon and Alphamon's sides, both of whom were still kneeling. He stood there awkwardly for a few seconds, unsure whether he should kneel again after being told to rise, as he didn't want to offend the unseen god. After a few moments of Jesmon's hesitation, Omegamon lightly tugged the knight's cape to get him to kneel once again.
"Lord Yggdrasil," Alphamon spoke, looking up and into the luminescent chamber. "Was bringing Jesmon to you the only reason that you have summoned us?"
"...Negative," the voice of Yggdrasil responded.
"I take it that you know of the return of the Seven Great Demon Lords," Alphamon posited. "Since their return, we have not received any direction from you as to how we should respond. May I ask why?"
"Alphamon…" Omegamon quietly murmured to his friend, giving him a sideways look that warned him that he was bordering on disrespect.
"My apologies; I mean no disrespect," Alphamon calmly reiterated. "I have just been wondering how you wished for us to react to the growing crisis. I was growing a little concerned."
"…Your concerns are unfounded. It was deemed necessary that the nature of the actions of Bagramon and the Seven Great Demon Lords be evaluated," Yggdrasil explained as the letters scrolled around them. "…It was crucial to verify whether their actions were merely a temporal matter or whether their intention was to compromise Network Security."
"Oh. That was the reason for the delay, then," Omegamon spoke with an understanding nod.
"Ah, I see. I understand, Lord Yggdrasil," Alphamon gently responded. "Based on our own findings, it seems likely their goals are not merely the conquest of the Sky Colonies, but the assault on what they believe is the God who is worshipped in the Religion of Light."
"Which may ultimately mean you, Lord Yggdrasil," Omegamon added with a pensive frown.
Jesmon stayed quiet and allowed the much more senior knights to talk. He didn't know a whole lot about the Religion of Light, but he had learned a little bit as a Hackmon from Sistermon Ciel. He remembered that the Religion of Light had split from the Yggdrasilian faith at some point, and that they came to worship the Being of Goodness – or God – instead of Yggdrasil, who was seen as merely as aspect of God. He understood Omegamon's conclusion: if the Demon Lords came looking for God, they would eventually wind up coming after Yggdrasil, as it seemed very apparent to him now that Yggdrasil was indeed real.
"…Confirmation: Bagramon and Lucemon seek to access the Kernel," Yggdrasil informed them.
"What?!" Omegamon exclaimed, looking up with shock.
Jesmon's eyes widened. "They want to come here?" he asked. "But why?"
Alphamon grew deep in thought, his eyes narrowing direly. "Likely to destroy God… Whether that be Yggdrasil or the Being of Goodness," he suggested.
"They wish to right perceived wrongs," Omegamon spoke with notes of anger tracing his dual voice. "But what then? What are their intentions beyond that?"
"...Their reasons are immaterial. Their intentions are the sole matter of importance," the echoing voice of their god explained. "They seek to irrevocably corrupt Network Security. The Digital World itself is in peril. That is your principal priority."
"What course of action would you have us take?" Alphamon wondered, staring across the chamber and into the light.
Omegamon braved a glanced upwards as well. "Yes, Lord Yggdrasil. What are your orders for us?" he requested.
For a few moments, the deity paused, as if to think.
Alphamon looked up with surprise. "Eliminate them, Lord Yggdrasil?" he questioned, looking for clarification as the red Digimoji scrolled in front of them.
"…Affirmative," it responded. "…Royal Knights, as the Network Guardians of Yggdrasil, it is your responsibility to obey the directives given to you and maintain the security of the Network at all costs," Yggdrasil informed them. "After deliberation, it has been decided that Bagramon, Lucemon, and the other Demon Lords are hereby to be considered threats of the highest priority. They must all be eliminated or else the entire Digital World will be at risk. The Kernel will be at risk. Creation Itself will be at risk. The Royal Knights are permitted to use whatever protocols necessary in order to stop them."
"As you command, My Lord," Omegamon dutifully replied, bowing his alabaster head without question.
"…I understand," Alphamon responded soberly. He closed his eyes and meditated on Yggdrasil's firm, unambiguous directive. He had already resigned himself to that outcome after the siege, yet hearing his god command it of him gave it a greater weight and sense of reality.
"…Lucemon and Bagramon seek to corrupt the very foundations of the Digital World. Spare no effort in your prevention, Royal Knights."
"We won't, My Lord," Alphamon confirmed.
"We shall save the Digital World and prevent another tragedy like the Night of Falling Stars from happening," Omegamon promised with unflinching resolve.
Though Jesmon didn't dare speak up, he quietly nodded, reaffirming Omegamon's promise in his heart.
"…Accomplish this without delay or hesitation. May the new Royal Knight assist your objectives."
Alphamon nodded and tentatively rose to his feet, the ruby-hued digicore interface on his forehead shimmering as he did. "Thank you, Lord Yggdrasil," he spoke, gazing forwards into the light.
"Is there anything else you need of us?" Omegamon wondered, slowly rising beside Alphamon, which prompted Jesmon to do the same.
There was a pause.
"…Request: A private audience with Alphamon; Omegamon," Yggdrasil commanded. "…Jesmon, you must exit."
Jesmon briefly glanced over at Alphamon, who gave him a light nod of agreement. "Yes, Lord Yggdrasil," Jesmon submitted, bowing with deep respect. "I want to thank you for your blessing and for allowing me to join the Royal Knights. This has been my life's dream."
"…Great things are expected from you."
Jesmon rose, nodded and then turned around. The recently-ordained Royal Knight quickly strode out of Yggdrasil's chamber, passing through the portal that led from the white, empty space, back into the bottom of the tower.
Alphamon and Omegamon watched as Jesmon disappeared from sight until it was just them two and Yggdrasil's disembodied voice.
"Lord Yggdrasil?" Alphamon wondered, curious as to what was so sensitive that Jesmon wasn't able to hear it.
Yggdrasil paused before speaking once more, and the white abyss around them was still.
"…There is another threat that you must be made aware of."
Alphamon and Omegamon exchanged uneasy glances. "Another threat, My Lord?" the white knight inquired. "Something separate from the Demon Lords?"
"What could it be…?" Alphamon mused with a deepening frown. "Something else on our continent, I wonder? It isn't another threat from the Dark Area, is it? GranDracmon, perhaps? But we have sealed the firewall…"
"…Negative," Yggdrasil plainly spoke. "…The threat is closer than you know."
Yggdrasil's enigmatic words were enough to cause a feeling of unease inside of the two Royal Knights.
"…What do you mean, Lord Yggdrasil?" Alphamon requested direly, needing a clear answer after what sounded like an indirect insinuation.
Omegamon frowned with confusion and stared into the empty light, wondering what their god was referring to.
The pair of founding Royal Knights awaited an answer, but the response did not come immediately. An uneasy silence hung in the air, stretching out the longer that Yggdrasil waited to reply. It caused their unnerved anticipation to grow, until, finally, Digimoji scrolled across the white, and Yggdrasil's voice resonated around them.
"…Be wary of Dukemon…"
A stunned silence washed over the two knights.
The words seemed to suck all of the air from the chamber, and the empty space that stretched out before them seemed to become taut. A razor-edged atmosphere emerged, and it felt like a heavy, oppressive pressure bore down on the two knights.
Alphamon, a Digimon who rarely ever found himself at a loss, was unable to retort. His shocked, golden eyes stared into the expanse, almost demanding an explanation, but unable to ask for one.
Omegamon's eyes widened with bewilderment and confusion. His aquamarine-hued eyes blinked with astonishment, and he began to wonder if he had heard wrong or if he was misunderstanding Yggdrasil's implications. Despite his uncertain hope that he was wrong, he felt a foreboding squeezing in his stomach that made him feel faintly sick.
"I… Lord Yggdrasil…?" Alphamon requested in a voice that was unusually unbalanced.
"…Be wary of Dukemon," Yggdrasil reiterated, its dual voice not rising above its typical neutral tone.
"I… I don't understand, My Lord," Omegamon felt compelled to speak up. He took a single, uneven step forwards. "Why must we be wary of Dukemon…?"
Alphamon nodded, his brows furrowed deeply with vexation. "My Lord, there must be a mistake… Dukemon is one of us. Surely he is no threat," he insisted, forcing himself to find his voice.
"…The judgements given are without error, Alphamon," Yggdrasil asserted unequivocally. "…Reasoning: The Digital Hazard is on the verge of becoming active."
"But… that cannot be," Alphamon contended with a confused frown. "He has exhibited no signs of losing control. We have been with him this entire time, as have the other Royal Knights. I apologise for my impudence, but I have trouble believing that when I have only seen evidence to the contrary."
"I… Dukemon has been extremely stable, My Lord," Omegamon tentatively spoke up in support of Alphamon. "Are you certain?"
"…The knowledge of Yggdrasil is not limited simply to the past and the present, but also prognostications into the future. He will struggle with the variance within him, and balance on the cusp of destruction. The external that you perceive does not equate to the internal," Yggdrasil explained. "…As has been directed, simply monitor Dukemon for the present."
Omegamon frowned with worry and looked over at Alphamon, wondering what he should do. As he saw Alphamon ruminate deeply, the white knight realised that he could not hesitate before his god. With an uneasy wince, Omegamon bowed his head. "…Very well, My Lord…" he reluctantly obeyed.
Alphamon hesitated and stared into the light. He wanted to debate the issue, but he realised that he was speaking to Yggdrasil. He knew that Yggdrasil was likely omniscient, and therefore had access to information that they were not privy too. Still, he didn't like the information that had been given to them.
"…We shall monitor his stability," Alphamon agreed. "We won't let Dukemon fall into any danger."
"…Remember your sworn oaths and heed the directives that you have been given, Royal Knights," Yggdrasil's voice resonated. "Do what is mandatory for the good of the Digital World."
After an uneasy moment, Alphamon and Omegamon both tentatively nodded, though the worried and unsettled feelings that they felt persisted.
"...You may leave, Royal Knights."
"My Lord," the contrasting knights both said in unison, bowing their heads with respect.
Yggdrasil said nothing further, and the powerful presence that they felt inside the chamber of light began to recede.
Alphamon and Omegamon both turned around and began walking towards the portal behind them. Neither of them said a word to each other while they remained in Yggdrasil's chamber.
The revelation that Dukemon may be in danger and that there was a chance that his Digital Hazard may activate deeply unsettled them. Neither of them even wanted to think about the implications of what that might mean…
The two knights walked silently in tandem as they made their way out of the chamber to meet Jesmon. Neither Royal Knight mentioned what they heard in front of Jesmon, and they doubted they would be able to until they returned home.
Once reunited with the other Royal Knight, they decided to leave the Hall of Yggdrasil. With their task complete, they would begin their journey back home to the castle…
It would be a long, quiet journey. With the weight of what they heard looming over them like a heavy cloud, neither Alphamon nor Omegamon knew what to say.
They just hoped that the lingering cloud wouldn't erupt into a storm.