THE DAUNTLESS KNIGHT
Gregory P. Wong
It has been three years since Hypnos, the Monster Makers, the Tamers, and their Digimon banished the malevolent, nihilistic electronic entity known as the D-Reaper back into a dark core of the Digital World, neutralized and a threat to no one.
The Tamers have been reunited with their Digimon, and have overcome their most recent adversary, the Parismon Invasion Swarm. They are continuing their lives, happy to be together once more.
The Digital World has been slowly recovering from the decimation caused by the D-Reaper. The Digimon Sovereigns, Azulongmon, Zhuqiaomon, Baihumon, and Ebonwumon, exhausted from their battle with the D-Reaper, had entered a state of hibernation. It is not known when they will emerge from their slumber.
Before they entered their sleep, the Four created and charged the Celestials, Royal Knights, Great Dragons, and Digiworld Wardens to safeguard the Digital World.
The Royal Knights, led by Alphamon King Dragon, count among their number Omnimon, Gallantmon, Magnamon, UlforceVeedramon, Dynasmon, Crusadermon, Kentarosmon, and Craniummon. Alphamon still awaits the day when he can complete the circle of Thirteen Royal Knights.
However, something has been moving in the shadows. Something that bears a terrible hunger, a terrifying thirst for vengeance.
It is only a matter of time.
Gallantmon X twisted and Omnimon X's rune-embellished blade just missed skewering his flank. Opportunity!
He shifted his footing and bashed Omnimon in the face with his Aegis shield. It wouldn't do much damage—if any—but it gave an opening.
As Omnimon took a step back, he took to the air.
Omnimon was a literal monster in close combat. Fast and powerful, the other Royal Knight also had two distinct attacks that were true terrors up close. Transcendent Sword by itself was bad enough... but that was not all. Omnimon's All Delete attack was perhaps the single most powerful attack known, with the obvious exception of the MagnaAngemon's Gate of Destiny. Even then, the angels needed time to deploy the Gate, something that All Delete didn't need outside of the time it took to swing. Even Lord Alphamon's King Dragon Blade and Digitalize of Soul were not as powerful, hit for hit, as All Delete.
Thus, distance was needed.
His Lightning Joust was much more powerful than the blade-beam form of Transcendent Sword, and only marginally weaker than Supreme Cannon.
His Shield of the Just attack, of course, simply trounced anything Omnimon could hurl at him.
"Lightning Joust!" he called, and jabbed his laser blade-emitter at Omnimon, sending a flurry of three crackling energy javelins at the other knight.
He watched Omnimon bat his attacks away and come streaking at him. It looked like the other knight wasn't going to let him have the distance battle. So be it.
Pure power-wise, Omnimon was unquestionably superior to him, especially at close range. However, his technical skill with his laser-lance, Gram, and the Aegis shield was equal, and in some ways greater, than Omnimon's skill with the sword. That was the only way he could meet Omnimon on something even approaching even terms.
Normally, he'd resort to melee battle only so he could open up a distance. In this case, Omnimon wouldn't be expecting...
He feinted a dodge to the right and charged straight at the amalgamated knight, Gram out and ready.
"Matching blades, for once?" he heard Omnimon mutter. "No matter. I suppose you'll just slip away like you're apt to do."
"We shall see," he shot back.
"We shall... Transcendent Sword!" Omnimon bellowed, blade engulfed in blue fire. The other knight aimed for an overheard bash.
He saw the strategy. Transcendent Sword could also be transformed into a ranged attack, and Omnimon was anticipating him. He'd try to back off, and then he'd be hit or forced to dodge the blade wave, which would leave him open to a follow-up attack.
If he tried to open a distance.
So Omnimon was obviously taken by complete surprise when he took the blow to his shield—his whole body rattled from the impact—and jabbed the tip of Gram under Omnimon's armored chin.
"We did see," he whispered into Omnimon's face. "Do you yield?"
The other knight's eyes darkened. "I do." He heard the distinct rasp of metal as Omnimon's blade was withdrawn into the WarGreymon arm. "I'm at your mercy."
With a flick, he moved the laser-lance away from Omnimon. Giving a mental command to his weapons, Gram extinguished itself, and his blade-emitter folded, rearranged, and compacted, folding neatly against his forearm. His shield did the same.
"Hah! I suppose you were not expecting that!" he told Omnimon.
He heard his opponent laugh. "Of course not! I can count the number of times you have deliberately initiated blade contact on my fingers... And I do not even have hands."
They both laughed.
"Well, this was a good sparring session," Omnimon said lightly, "but I must go. I have those two Veemon to train."
Two Veemon, the newest and youngest so far selected to become Royal Knights had recently begun their rigorous training. One was slated to undergo Warp Digivolution, while the other—the first's younger brother, coincidentally—was almost ready to Golden Armor Digivolve. From what Omnimon had told him, those two were a handful.
Ah, the energy of the young.
"Farewell, friend. Until next time," he told the other knight.
"And you, my friend." With that, Omnimon took off towards the north.
Gallantmon watched his friend from the open field they had been using as a sparring arena. With a nod, he turned and walked back towards the main keep.
He floated up to the battlements and landed gently, and made his way to the ready room. WarGrowlmon and MetalTyrannomon guards came to attention as he passed them.
This stronghold, several miles directly south of Lord Alphamon's personal castle was, obviously, his. Though he did often leave to meet at the councils at the main castle and carry out sorties against enemy Digimon—who seemed to becoming bolder as of late, come to think of it—he always returned here when he could. Since the junior knights—as of now, Crusadermon and Dynasmon, with the two Veemon brothers hopefully joining the ranks soon—were not experienced enough to handle their own keeps, he and Omnimon had to keep a close eye on the south and east, respectively. Hmm. Actually, Kentarosmon and Craniummon were ready enough to take their stations to the north and west. Better bring than up with Lord Alphamon when the next meeting was called.
He entered his ready room. Ah? Why was his most senior WarGrowlmon waiting for him?
"Lord Gallantmon," the cyborg said to him gruffly, giving a slight bow. "Something has come to our attention.
"Yes?" This was most interesting. The Regent of this castle wouldn't be up here giving messages unless it was very important.
"A patrol near the southern volcanic regions reports that their sensors picked up a very strong—Ultimate, at least. More likely a Mega—viral signature moving amongst the lava flows. However, when they attempted to look into it, the signature had vanished."
"Volcanic regions? Very few Digimon live in and around there. They are sure that the heat did not create an anomaly?"
"They swear by it, Lord."
He nodded. The soldiers were not sloppy. "Suggestions?"
His regent nodded. "I suggest diverting some of our garrison to make a more thorough search. I wouldn't mind enlisting some Meramon to hunt close to the flames."
It was a good suggestion. This WarGrowlmon wasn't made his second-in-command for nothing!
Still, though, it wasn't the best plan.
"I see. However, it would be unwise to weaken our guard force. I will go myself."
He watched the hulking cyborg frown. "By yourself, sir? Will you take a bodyguard with you?"
Hmm... He could use the sensor ability.
"I shall. See to that the two most junior warriors accompany me. The experience will be good for them.
"I'll arrange it, my lord."
"I'll depart in an hour."
Heh. Like most junior soldiers, the MetalTyrannomon and WarGrowlmon assigned to be his guards were enthusiastic about a new assignment.
While he flew several dozen yards above the ground, the WarGrowlmon flew even higher, and the other cyborg was galloping along on the ground.
Ah, to be young.
It was about a year since the Digimon Sovereigns, exhausted from their battle with the D-Reaper, had commissioned their herald, Imperialdramon Paladin Mode, to found the Royal Knights. Imperialdramon, under some guidance, had selected him—he'd been a Tyranomon at that point—a Grademon, a Greymon and a Garurumon.
Then he was a Royal Knight, only a handful of hours after the then-Grademon had been given the energy to Mega Digvolve to Alphamon. Omnimon, who had once been the Greymon and Garurumon, was also given the power to advance to the amalgamated Mega stage of Omnimon. Last, of course, was him, Digivolving to Gallantmon. But that was not all. Imperialdramon also bestowed on Omnimon and him X-Antibodies, the vaccine-programs that both made a Digimon more powerful and resistant to the D-Reaper's death touch.
The other knights often treated him and Omnimon with some sort of awe. Of the nine Knights thus far—Alphamon hoped to complete a ring of thirteen sometime—only Alphamon held a more exalted status, as the leader. All other Royal Knights were equal in status.
So, obviously, it was a bit amusing that the other knights held them in higher esteem. He and his friend really didn't mind though, and the other knights saw them as mentors.
Thus was the life of the Royal Knights.
Ah, they were almost to the volcanic area. Time to see what was skulking around.
A pair of amber, slit-pupiled eyes watched the approach of the Exalted Knight and his two cyborg guards.
The owner of the eyes, a large, powerfully built creature whose bulk dwarfed Gallantmon's eight-foot frame, felt his mouth salivate. Such tasty data, from what was undoubtedly a very easy meal.
Plus, the knight carried a coveted X-Antibody. Holders of that strange program, born from a need to resist the D-Reaper's malicious touch, were significantly more powerful than their basic kin.
The entity hissed slightly. It would be best to ambush the two weaklings, and then move onto the red-cloaked knight.
It was but an additional benefit that such a tasty treat would coincide with his dark master's wishes. One blow, and just that many more of those who opposed his master would perish.
Yes, yes, the dark dragon of evil and flame would feast this day.
Soon, after his master completed his schemes, he would never go hungry.
"Scanners are boosted to max, Lord Gallantmon," Gallantmon heard the young MetalTyrannomon report. "Though I'm getting a lot of interference from the lava flows and heat. The molten iron is even affecting my metal detectors."
"Same with me, sir. All I'm getting are echoes and pings," the other cyborg, who was up in the air, admitted. "Even at this elevation, nothing."
Despite having such an obviously high-tech weapon—Gram—he wasn't much use. He lacked integrated cybernetic and machine capabilities. Still, a pair of eyes could catch what sensors missed.
"We'll look around for another ten minutes. I know we haven't found anything yet, but something about this place seems... wrong."
"Sir?" the WarGrowlmon said questioningly.
"Never mind. Just stay sharp."
He glided past some rocks. Yes, yes, there was something wrong about this place. Nothing concrete, just a feeling of definite wrongness about the general area. It was the feeling of walking through a recently cleaned room that had, only a moment before, been clogged with filth. Something was not right.
Whatever. He wanted these soldiers out of here as soon as possible. Not only did it feel unclean, but it also felt powerful, whatever "it" was. They were soldiers, yes, but they were also young.
He would come back and turn this place upside down rock by rock... when there were a dozen seasoned warriors with him.
Hmm... that rock outcropping over there. Something about it wasn't quite right.
He glided towards it. Something...
The entity bit back a curse. The accursed knight was moving close to his position. Soon, he'd be seen.
All was not lost, however. The two imbeciles who had followed the knight were edging closer to his position, where a lava pool concealed him from their sensors. If he timed this right, he could take them both before the knight could counter him.
Also, it was fortunate that volcanic rock was easily shattered...
A feeling... not right!
With a thought, Gallantmon deployed Gram and Aegis, the lance and shield expanding and forming from their carrying positions.
And then the rock outcropping exploded. Argh!
And then... what? The force must have knocked him back several dozen yards, since he was now far from where the outcropping had once stood.
And, in its stead, hovered a...
Megidramon regretted than the flurry of knifelike shards of rock hadn't done much damage to Gallantmon, but he hadn't had high hopes, anyway. Rock versus solid metal armor... the armor would win.
At least, though, the force of the shattering rock—he'd flung his entire weight into the ledge, causing to explode from the kinetic impact—had dazed the hated knight and tossed him a good distance away.
Now, for the morsels...
"Sir!" the MetalTyrannomon yelped when he saw his lord battered away. He locked his sight onto the towering, serpentine dragon, and he felt a flutter of utter terror. Then he forced it away and and extended his weapon-laden arms at the enemy.
"Nuclear Laser!" the cyborg cried and blasted coherent light at Megidramon.
The beam hit, and if it had done damage, any damage at all, the MetalTyrannomon couldn't tell.
So he rushed at the enemy, howling, metal-plated claws extended.
Megidramon wasn't impressed. He waited contemptuously for the cyborg to slam into him.
The MetalTyrannomon stumbled back, dazed from the impact against the much larger Digimon. With a lazy swipe, Megidramon dragged his forearm blades along the chest of the Ultimate before him, slashing through armor and flesh and bone. The MetalTyrannomon was flung back and, as the world grew hazy around him, he began to feel the discorporation that was the sign of death and deletion.
And then, for the young cyborg, the world dissolved into smoky darkness.
"NO!" the WarGrowlmon cried as he watched his comrade die. He would avenge him!
Megidramon sighed and looked into the sky at the other cyborg. Did this one think it would fare any better?
"You!" hissed the cyborg. "Atomic Blaster!"
Twin rays of hot plasma converged on Megidramon. With a sinuous movement, the dark dragon slid around the attacks. He wanted to see this one's fearful face as he sliced it open...
Megidramon took the sky and slammed into the surprised Ultimate. Megidramon's talons locked onto the cyborg's armored carapace.
"Scream," he growled into the cyborg's face. "Show me your terror..."
No terror. Just rage. Or, perhaps, mortal terror masked beneath the rage.
The dark dragon mildly noticed the energy-infused arm blades slash at him. He swatted them away and drove a claw through the WarGrowlmon's armor and into his flesh.
The young WarGrowlmon gasped as he felt utter pain lance into his chest, then he would never feel anything, ever again.
Now Megidramon had all this tasty data to feast upon. Most excellent.
But Gallantmon had shaken off the shock and was looking up in horror.
Gallantmon had wanted those two young soldiers along so they could experience something other than boring guard duty.
Not for them to die.
Youth... ah, such a long time since he'd been young. True, true, he'd only been in his current Gallantmon X form for a little over a year now, but he, as a Tyrannomon, had been surviving and battling across the Digital world for over three decades.
Now those warriors, with a whole life ahead of them... were gone.
Damn Megidramon, damn him to whatever place awaited the spurned data of evil Digimon.
"Lightning Joust," he whispered and sent out a spear of energy straight into the evil Digimon's face. The dragon hadn't been expecting that. Megidramon had been busy gloating over the data.
Too bad. He was not letting Megidramon have it!
"You meddling fool!" Megidramon screamed at him.
Ah, he could see why. The attack had also dispersed the data into the air. There was no way the dragon was going to get it now.
And that meant, maybe, if conditions were ideal, those soldiers could be reborn again. He'd give them that much, at least, even if he couldn't have saved them. Not a promise, but at least hope.
"No data for you, monster," he growled at the hulking Digimon. "Face me and die."
He saw that Megidramon just bared fangs. So be it.
He charged, Gram ready. Damn, the dark dragon had pirouetted out of the way of the jab, and... oh no.
"Megiddo Flame!" Megidramon snarled and spat a lance of fire.
He absorbed and deflected the attack with Aegis. Now, while the splash of flame gave cover!
He charged into the dying remnants of the inferno and drove Gram into the evil Digimon's left shoulder. Megidramon shrieked in pain. A hit!
And then Megidramon swiped at him with his tail. Just barely, he got his shield up. Instead of the impact sliding past his shield, though, the blow wasn't deflected entirely and he staggered.
Better use the blow as momentum and get some distance. Megidramon was strong, and those blades sprouting from the dragon's forearms didn't look ornamental, either. He was out of range of those claws, and—
"Hell Howling!" he heard the dragon bellow, and he saw the evil Mega's mouth gape at him. Oh—
And then he was slammed back. Damn! An invisible wall of force, of sound, as solid as a boulder...
This was not going to be easy.
"Sieg Saber!" he yelled, Gram quadrupling in length. If he could connect, he's cut the evil Digimon in half...
No. Megidramon had parried the blow away with forearm blades. Almost!
The dark dragon made a rush. Looked like a biting—Aah! Just barely dodged that one!
Not easy. Not easy at all.
The two Megas flew at each other, battling over the landscape of molten metal and earth. Gallantmon's power was undeniable, and Megidramon's terrible strength was just as unassailable.
Already, Gallantmon's once-gleaming armor was scratched and gouged, and his proud red cloak was torn and tattered. Every moment or so one of the blue-white glowing lights running along his body, a sign of his status as an X-Digimon, would flicker a bit.
His opponent was in equally poor shape.
Megidramon's armor was crumpled and torn here and there, and weeping wounds sent droplets of blood falling to the ground, where they dissolved into their component data parts.
"Hell Howling!" the dragon roared, and sent an invisible, powerful blast of sound at the knight. Gallantmon deflected the blow, but just barely.
Somewhere in his mind, in the part that was not fighting to the death, Gallantmon wondered how Megidramon could be so powerful. Yes, it was without a doubt Megidramon were a powerful class of Megas, but so was he. He was a Royal Knight!
And he had an X-Antibody.
His mind whirled through different possibilities. Had Megidramon killed and fed before, and grown that much stronger? Had the dark dragon been absorbing energy from these lava wells?
Or had something else, something much more sinister, granted Megidramon this power?
And then Gallantmon had to thrust the thoughts from his mind as Megidramon came on again.
Gallantmon struck out with Gram and grazed the other Mega's right flank, burning it.
Megidramon, however, did not take that lightly. His razor-tipped tail flicked out and gouged into Gallantmon's left rerebrace, nearly ripping the armor away.
They separated, sized the other up for a moment, and flew at each other again. Gram opened more and more wounds on the dragon while forearm blades tore larger and larger chunks of armor.
Then, suddenly, Megidramon bulled forward and slammed a massive shoulder into his smaller enemy. In a flash of movement, Megidramon gripped the knight's blade emitter and shield, and immobilized his legs with his tail.
He cackled in triumph.
Megidramon drew his fanged, amber-eyed face to Gallantmon's.
"Show me your terror."
Gallantmon stared into Megidramon's ugly face as he tried to fight his way past the lock.
Terror? Was that terror he felt?
If it was, it would be understandable. This Megidramon... something was dead wrong with it. The dragon shouldn't be this powerful, couldn't be this powerful.
Wait, not terror. A tinge of fear, yes. Fear was a healthy part of life and a necessary component for survival. If you didn't fear anything, your life tended to be short. You needed fear.
No, no, it wasn't cowardice, though. In fact, courage assumed some kind and degree of fear. If someone feared nothing, what courage was there in that? Courageousness meant he felt that fear and kept on going.
Fear wasn't terror. Terror was that paralyzing feeling that made someone want to keel over and blubber and beg for their life. Terror was cowardice.
This creature had stolen the future from two warriors who had yet to possess a significant past.
And damn him to the Dark Ocean for all eternity if he was a coward in the face of this evil killer.
He glared at the dark dragon's face. "Think again, you monster!"
The time was now! With a cry, he flexed his arms outward.
And yes, Megidramon's face now had a touch of fear in it. Good.
He battered Megidramon back with sword and shield. He hovered backwards.
"I tire of this" he heard Megidramon scream.
"I agree," he whispered. He brought up his Aegis shield. It was time for this to end.
"—Of the Just!"
The crests and devices adorning the Aegis shield glowed a brilliant crimson and the rest of the shield was illuminated with a pure white light. A circle of crackling blue force came to life a mere inch in front of Aegis. The crystalline boss, in the center of the shield, pulsed white once, twice, thrice, four times, each flicker in sync with each syllable of the name of Gallantmon's most powerful attack.
And then, on the fourth pulse, a pillar of flame-like blue energy, three yards in diameter burst from the shield.
Megidramon's lance-like Megiddo Flame attack hit the column of energy dead on.
At least, if one measured in mere milliseconds, it did.
For, a fraction of a second after they touched, Gallantmon's Shield of the Just scattered the flames away in a dazzling lightshow of sparks and embers.
And then it slammed into Megidramon.
The dark dragon shrieked as the hammer of energy shattered his cuirass, scorched his skin, tore his wings to shreds.
And then Megidramon plummeted, still screeching and snarling outrage, into a pool of lava, where he sank beneath the surface.
"My friend, how are you?" Gallantmon heard a voice ask from behind him. He turned. Ah, of course. Who else referred to him in that manner? Omnimon came walking up behind him.
"Well, I suppose." It was just a little over two days since he'd sent that wretched thing back into the pool of lava. "I heard about our newest member."
He'd gotten the report via the communications system. One of the two Veemon brothers had completed training, and was now known as Magnamon.
"Indeed, a new knight. I do have to admit, though, that he would have been a lost cost without you."
He had had a little hand in their training. It was Omnimon who was the main teacher... although he was every bit as hard and relentless as his friend. Wouldn't do to be outdone, eh?
He laughed. "The young are always hard to manage. At least his energy can be put to good use now."
Ah, wrong thing to say. The deaths of those two warriors was still too recent, too fresh.
"You still think of them?" he heard his friend ask.
"I do," he admitted. "I also keep thinking that I'm dragging it to extremes. They were warriors, they knew what was possible with each waking moment."
"Only half true," Omnimon said. "Yes, being a warrior of the Royal Knights is certainly not for those who wish to pass on in their sleep. However, I don't think you are wrong in remembering."
Hmm? He looked at Omnimon questioningly.
"I cannot point you to a single soldier or warrior who respects a leader who cares nothing of them. I can tell that your warriors greatly respect you for the care you have for them. They'll follow you in an assault of the Dark Ocean itself. They may be fearful, yes, but your very nature inspires courage in others."
"Yes, definitely yes. Even I feel more confident when I fight by your side. I do not have that feeling even when I battle beside Lord Alphamon."
He nodded. That made him feel a little better.
"Thank you for your words."
"We look out for one another," he heard Omnimon say simply, and then the other knight glided away.
He looked out over the battlements.
He had this feeling that that had not been the end of Megidramon. The thing lived in flames; a little dip in lava wouldn't have destroyed it. It would be back, most assuredly.
Well, who cared? Let him come.
He felt fear yes, from time to time. Never terror.
After all, eventually, they'd eradicate whatever it was that was threatening the Digital World, and these Digimon under his command were the future. Yes, he could be a shield of courage for them.
For he was a Royal Knight.