Heya folks. Sorry about this, but my weekend trip home was hectic as hell. I'll get back on the ball when I can but I do also have some uni work to do and all so I'll do what I can when I can. Still, I hope that you enjoy reading this chapter. Part of the reason it took a while was that I was trying to make sure that I got this right, for it sets up a good portion of the plotline for the rest of the Tamers side-story, focusing mainly on Guilmon. Read on and enjoy.
Quest of the Gods
Chapter 25:- The Royal Knights
Takato and Guilmon had no idea how much time had elapsed since they had been separated from the rest of the group. There seemed to be no sense of it down here in this icy tunnel that they were walking down, stepping carefully past the stalactites and the stalagmites that pierced the floor and the ceiling and lanced into the corridor. Guilmon sometime had to break one to get past it because some of them were so close together, though Takato could mostly squeeze through them without much difficulty.
Still, Takato did feel a little weird doing this without any of the other Tamers there. Most things now they did as a group – Takato and Guilmon hadn't really been on their own on a mission like this since… well… since his first days as a Tamer when Rika was not yet her friend, he didn't know Ryo, Henry was absent and everybody else was not yet a Tamer. Now it was just him and Guilmon.
Still, it was exciting, and as long as Digimon and Tamer had each other they would never be alone. Takato knew that now more than ever after they had had that experience with the Trial of the Spirit from earlier, when they had had to face down the apparition of Megidramon and come to terms with the guilt that they both felt during that terrible time.
Guilmon and Takato could both feel their connection as never before, like a warm glow that emanated from both of their hearts like some kind of fiery link. And as long as they were with one another, nothing would ever steer them wrong. Never again. And now they both knew it.
It was a wonderful feeling, Takato had to admit. And now he felt ready for anything else that these worthiness trials to see the Royal Knights would throw at them.
"How much longer do you think this tunnel's going to last, Takato?" Guilmon asked, squeezing through another narrow gap between a pair of stalagmites. "I think that my tail might be freezing a little bit."
"I dunno, boy," Takato shook his head. "Maybe this is some kind of trial of patience or something – it does feel like we've been wandering around for at least an hour, doesn't it?"
"A little longer actually," Guilmon muttered. "When are we going to eat?"
"Guilmon, we don't…"
"I know that we don't need to eat in this world, Takato," Guilmon mumbled. "But that doesn't stop me from being hungry."
Takato shook his head. "You really are impossible you know."
"If I'm impossible, then how can I exist? I don't get it."
Takato snorted. "It's an expression, Guilmon. It means that you are never going to change."
"But why would I want to change? I like who I am, and I know that you like who I am, otherwise we wouldn't still be partners, right?"
"Right," Takato snickered. Guilmon's innocent but true statements never ceased to perk him up, no matter what was going on around them. And so they moved on through the seemingly never-ending tunnel.
"You think the others are alright?" Guilmon asked. "Out there by themselves and waiting for us?"
"I'm sure that they'll be fine," Takato said. "Still, I feel bad for them. I mean I know that people like Kazu and Kenta aren't the bravest people in the world but they're still Tamers. I would have liked for all of us to go and see the Royal Knights together."
"But with Henry and Rika and the others in the other world at the moment we couldn't do that anyway," Guilmon pointed out.
"True, but of the rest of us… yeah, I would have preferred it. Still, this is something, isn't it? You and I granted the privilege of meeting them alone."
"We don't know if we've passed all the tests yet."
"What happens if we fail the next one and none of us go to see the Knights?"
"Then we'll all start again and this time we'll pass the tests. We know what most of them are now, after all."
"No, I think that the tests change every time depending on who it is coming through to try for an audience with the Knights," Guilmon suddenly stated. "They wouldn't use the same tests every time because if they did then they wouldn't be testing the person's character and strengths properly the second time around."
Takato blinked, stopping for a moment to stare at Guilmon blankly, and the red dinosaur stared back, equally blankly.
"How do you know that?" Takato asked
"I… don't know," Guilmon murmured. "It's like the information just came to top of my head… or something. It's a bit like… it was there all along but…" Guilmon whined a little and massaged his forehead. "I'm confused."
"Okay," Takato murmured slowly. "So… you're getting bits of information from absolutely nowhere. Anything else that I should know about?"
"Yeah…" Guilmon said slowly, stepping past Takato and moving on down the corridor. "We need to keep moving. I keep getting the weird feeling that I need to keep going ahead, like something is pushing me forwards."
Takato felt his heart tighten and he started off after his partner. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know," Guilmon muttered. "Just that there's… something…something there in my head telling me… reassuring me… that this is the right way to go. That I need to keep moving to find the answers."
Takato bit his lip. It was not like Guilmon to be so cryptic, but Takato took it down to his partner not really knowing much about what he was talking about anyway. So he just fell in step beside him and moved along, weaving around the stalagmites once again.
"Poor Jeri though," he added a moment later. "Did you see her face after that last trial?"
"Yeah, I saw it," Guilmon nodded. "That was a little mean to make her relive that time."
"It scarred her deeply, that's for sure," Takato sighed. "Probably more deeply than your transformation into Megidramon did with me. It's no wonder she was like that. And Leomon must have seen it too this time… it must have been hard for him too."
"Yeah, I know. Poor guy. He must be cut up from not being there to protect her. But I wonder what Ryo saw that made him react like that."
Takato frowned, remember how white Ryo had gone when he had failed the trial and how he was just so… frozen and pale and… terrified. "Yeah… that was strange. I don't remember anything from Ryo's past cutting him up that much. Though we don't know that much about him. He said that since he became a Tamer before he met us he was mostly just wandering around the Digital World, trying to keep Cyberdramon in line. And he said that before he met Cyberdramon he had a pretty normal, boring life."
"Maybe it was something that happened after we met him."
"I dunno. I remember how depressed and horrified he was when the others were snatched away by Parallelmon. Maybe if had something to do with that?"
"That's quite a severe reaction for something that happened a while ago and that wasn't even his fault," Takato mused.
"Maybe, but that's the only thing I can think of that got him so horribly down," Guilmon shrugged. "Or maybe it had something to do with Ogudomon destroying Tokyo – I know that was pretty bad for me too."
"It's possible I suppose," Takato muttered. "Who can tell really? We'll have to ask him about it later."
"He might not want to talk about it."
"Well, he's our friend. We've gotta help him, haven't we?"
"Course," Guilmon nodded, with a grin. "We'll never let one of our friends feel…"
"WHO GOES THERE?!" boomed a voice from up ahead, making both of them jump in surprise and almost slip on the wet floor. Once they had steadied themselves a little, they looked at each other and proceeded forwards a little more slowly, sticking close to one another with claws and D-Arc held at the ready.
The tunnel opened out shortly afterwards into another large cavern, with what appeared to be wooden stands set up on either side of it, a large door at the other end, and something that appeared to be… an arena… in the middle. And standing in the middle of that arena was a tall figure in gleaming silver armour – humanoid in appearance with a thick breastplate, a shield attached to its back and an enormous broadsword in one hand, the point held against the floor. There was no part of the figure that was visible under the armour except for the eyes staring out from the gaps in its helmet.
Takato had seen one of these Digimon before. Not including the one on the TV show. It had been wandering around that strange house-like structure on the desert level with the distorted layout. Ryo had told him that he liked to walk around at night and search for people's heads to chop off. He'd never known if Ryo was being serious or not, and he had no clue if this guy was the same individual or not, but knew that it probably wasn't.
But now there was a Knightmon, standing in front of them and barring their way.
Takato supposed that was appropriate considering where they were going but still, he felt a little uneasy, knowing that there was still a trial in store for them.
"Ah," said the Knightmon, giving them the once-over. "I see. So you are fresh challengers, I am assuming."
"Well… yeah, I guess," Takato said. "We need to speak with the Royal Knights as soon as we can. There's something important that we need to discuss with them and, well, we need their help."
"Any chance you can let us past?" Guilmon asked.
"Oho! I think not," the Knightmon said. "You look rather puny specimens in comparison to most of the challengers I have faced. Not that I have faced many in recent months, or many in general really – this place is so difficult for most to get too after all. But still, I have taken a sacred vow to serve the Royal Knights in any way I can and to guard their fortress from intruders. You must prove to me that you are worthy to enter the castle, or you shall not pass."
"Oh come on," Takato said. "The entire world is at stake here. TWO entire worlds in fact. Is there no chance that you can just let us past with no questions asked."
"There are rules, human," Knightmon replied. "There are only very few that are allowed into the castle while bypassing the tests and it is not just to me that you must prove yourself. This is your last trial and unless you pass it, that door behind me will not open to you no matter if I decide to let you pass it or not. If you wish to proceed, then you have no alternative, I'm afraid."
Takato and Guilmon glanced at each other and sighed. "Well, I guess we have little alternative," Takato said. "What's the test?"
"Simple. It is a test of strength and capability in combat," Knightmon said. "The other tests were designed to prove your daring and your inner strength, but you must have outer strength as well in order to continue. Simply put, you must either defeat me in combat, or at least fight me until I judge you capable enough to proceed."
"I had a feeling it would be like that," said Guilmon.
"But that's not fair surely," Takato blurted without thinking. "What if the challenger was on a higher level than you – you're an Ultimate level Digimon. What if a Mega came along that was out of your league? Um… no offence?"
"I am aware that there are many Digimon out there more powerful than I," Knightmon chuckled. "However, it is not power that will be tested here. All forms of Digimon attack are disabled in this arena. Try it out."
"Okay…" Guilmon mumbled. "PYRO SPHERE!" he then yelled and launched a fireball from his mouth… or at least he attempted to, but nothing came out but a little wisp of smoke. "I can't do it!"
"Precisely," Knightmon nodded. "You must prove your strength and valour with no special abilities – it is purely a test of skill on the battlefield. And you may choose whether you do it armed or unarmed, though seeing as you have no blades on you I believe that we shall be doing this unarmed."
"No, that's not necessary," Takato said. "We can get weapons of our own."
"Oh?" Knightmon asked, intrigued. "Well then come on. Let us see what you are capable of, human and Digimon partner."
"Alright then… if we're facing a Knight," Takato grinned. "It is only fair that we become a Knight ourselves, right?"
"Yeah," Guilmon nodded. "And we'll show this guy that it's not just power that our bond gives us when we work as one, right?"
"Yeah!" Takato grinned, pressing his D-Arc into his chest. "Get ready for us, Mister Knightmon. BIOMERGE ACTIVATE!"
Knightmon's eyes widened in surprise as the biomerge digivolution began, watching enthralled as the two meshed together, their bodies warping in the bright light that coated them and twisted into one being. But it was the cry that came with it that really startled him.
"GUILMON BIOMERGE TO… GALLANTMON!"
"What?" Knightmon cried as the light took on the shape of the final result. "Did he say…"
And the light faded away to reveal the bold Knight Digimon in all his splendour, his mighty shield Aegis held aloft with the Hazard Symbol brightly emblazoned on its centre, the great lance Gram nestled over his arm, the vast red cloak billowing out behind him in the breezeless arena and legs spread wide in a battle-ready stance.
"Gallant…mon," Knightmon gasped, eyes wide in disbelief.
"We're ready when you are," Gallantmon said in his duel voice. "Whenever you give the signal we can start. Are shields allowed in this battle or is the lance just…"
Gallantmon trailed off a moment later, blinking in bemusement as the Knightmon bent down onto one knee and bowed low to him – so low that his helmeted forehead almost seemed to touch the ground. The Mega Digimon had been expecting a fight, not this.
"My lord!" Knightmon said, a little breathlessly. "My Lord Gallantmon. Forgive me, sire. I did not realise that it was you."
"Huh?" Gallantmon blustered, not quite sure what the right response was.
"What is he doing?" Takato asked within him.
"I don't know, but it's like he recognises us or something," Guilmon said. "Do you think that he's seen us before?"
"I don't know how he could have unless he was hidden away watching at some point when we were fighting. Which would be kinda creepy and I don't think that this guy is like that. But still… he's calling us a 'lord' and 'sire.' What the heck?"
"Please forgive my impertinence, sire," Knightmon tried again, not hearing the internal dialogue going on within the Mega Knight in front of him.
"Um… all is… forgiven," Gallantmon nodded to him reassuringly. "You were… just doing your duty were you not. Um… good on you."
Knightmon looked relieved and straightened back onto his feet, but still kept his head in a bowed position. "Please, my Lord Gallantmon," he said. "There is no need for one such as you to carry out these trials. You should have had access to the palace of the Royal Knights instantaneously, even if you do have a human part within you. For one of the Royal Knights to take the tests to get into their own castle barely bears thinking about."
"One of the…?" blinked Gallantmon again, but he stopped as the door behind Knightmon slowly ground open, the heavy metal structures sliding out backwards to open up the gap beyond.
"Please, my lord," Knightmon gestured. "You must be anxious to reunite with your comrades. I shall take you to them immediately, if you will it."
"Y… yes… I do," Gallantmon nodded, deciding to go with this for now. "I have urgent business to conduct we them as I… expressed before?"
"Of course, to do with saving the Digital World as you said," agreed Knightmon. "Then please follow me and I shall take you the last leg into the castle. If there were any other tests after this then you will have no further need of them. We can head directly into the palace."
"Well then… by all means, lead on," Gallantmon stepped forwards, following Knightmon as the shorter armoured Digimon stepped towards the doors. There was a dead silence around them except for the clanking of their armour as they stepped on through the tunnel.
"Do you think that we should de-digivolve?" Guilmon murmured as they walked.
"Maybe we'd better not," Takato said. "This is the form that's given us the biggest impression so far… maybe we should just stay in this form for a bit and see what happens."
"Yeah, okay. But still, how did he know who we were."
"Maybe he heard of our exploits or something. After all, the Sovereigns said that word of us has spread across the entire Digital World. Impmon's friends – Lilamon and the others that he met during his previous adventures – they had heard of us before they met us too. Maybe it's like that."
"Does that mean that he would have given a similar treatment to the others if they had biomerged?"
Takato was tempted to say 'yes' and he really wanted to say 'yes' but he really didn't know the answer and to be honest, he didn't think that that theory was the right one anyway. He was pretty sure that there was something else going on here.
"He said that we needed to meet our 'fellow Royal Knights,'" Guilmon said, reading his mind. "Like we've been here before or something."
"That can't be right," Takato shook his head. "I would have remembered it if we had and we can only be Gallantmon when we're together so… I don't know. I've always known that Gallantmon was a Royal Knight Digimon, but he surely cannot be a member of THE Royal Knights. That doesn't make sense."
"Maybe it's like with GranDracmon and the Demon Lords," Guilmon suggested. "GranDracmon was a Demon Lord Digimon but he wasn't one of THE Demon Lords. Maybe it's something like that and we, as a Royal Knight Digimon, can automatically see the Royal Knights without the tests."
"Maybe," Takato said. "Yeah… I guess that makes some kind of sense. That's gotta be it."
But he felt the slight sense of iffyness coming from Guilmon and knew as well as he did that that answer didn't sound quite right for some reason.
The doorway that Knightmon led them through preceded a huge flight of stone steps that seemed to fade away into the darkness above them. Knightmon immediately began to step up it, and after a moment's hesitation, Gallantmon followed. There were unlit torches in the brackets along either wall, but every time Gallantmon drew level with a pair of brackets the torches inside them would spring to life on their own, illuminating the way ahead and casting the place into a faint half-light.
"That is a pretty cool effect," Takato admitted, staring at them for a moment before walking on and lighting another pair. As he drew level with it he experimentally stepped backwards and the torches went out. He then stepped back up and they lighted again.
"Heh," he chuckled. "Neat."
And then he continued following Knightmon up the stairs. They walked in silence until they reached the top of the steps, which seemed to last quite a long time and both Guilmon and Takato were sure that they would have been on the floor gasping for breath if they had been in either of their original forms at the time. Then they moved through another set of huge, metal doors that opened up before them, and entered a much more brightly lit room.
Takato and Guilmon were both impressed. The place was huge, easily as big as the chamber that Zhuqiaomon had stood in when the two of them had gone to confront him before, with very high walls painted a deep red, and thirteen huge pillars around the room, each one with what appeared to be some kind of large plinth at the base, as if each one was supposed to hold a statue, but there were no statues on any one of them. Several heavy chandeliers hang from the ceiling and illuminated the room, along with many more torch brackets between the pillars, the light from which pooled together to create a brightness that made even the red walls shine.
And in the centre of the room, was a short stone pillar that extended up and out from the floor about five feet before it came to a stop and was topped with something that resembled a large crystal ball, which gleamed brightly in the light and seemed to be filled of swirling colours, but Gallantmon could see no significance to its presence.
"Welcome back to the Courtroom of the Royal Knights," Knightmon bowed deeply to him again.
"Welcome… back?" Gallantmon frowned.
"Indeed," Knightmon nodded, not quite catching the confusion in Gallantmon's question. "And now I shall say farewell, my lord. I am sure you would like to discuss your business with the other Royal Knights in private."
"Um…" Gallantmon turned to face him, but the Ultimate level Digimon was already retreating back down the steps and the doors swung closed behind him, sealing them inside the room. In most castles that would have been quite alarming, but in this one there seemed to be no sense of malice. There was a deep sense of trust running throughout the place, as if the entire building was assuring Gallantmon of its fortitude and solidarity.
It was a bizarre effect.
And yet, Gallantmon could feel a very odd sense of nostalgia running through him… had he really been here before? It looked and felt… so familiar, so… homely. Yes, that was it. It was like Gallantmon was at home. And that didn't make sense to either of them, for their home was Takato's bakery, and yet they could feel as if this was home too. And the portion of Gallantmon that was Takato could tell that this feeling of nostalgia was coming entirely from Guilmon.
Takato had never been here before.
Gallantmon looked around in bewilderment for several moments, wondering what he should do next. "Hello?" he called into the room and felt a little foolish for doing so moments later because the only thing that answered were his echoes. There were several large doors that presumably lead to other parts of the castle throughout the entire station, but Gallantmon didn't know whether he should try any one of those or not.
He felt a little put out, not sure what he was meant to be doing now.
But something about the large crystal ball drew his attention, the swirling colours within seemingly intensifying before his eyes, and the swirling itself increasing in velocity like it was deliberately trying to get his attention. Acting on an instinct that Gallantmon was not aware he possessed, he stepped slowly forwards towards the crystal ball on its little pillar. At about twice the size of the average human, Gallantmon towered over the ball and stared down into the churning colours with fascination.
He reached out, the spear vanishing momentarily from his arm to leave the armoured hand exposed, and placed a hand on the crystal ball.
"Gather Royal Knights," he intoned. "Heed my call."
He blinked a moment later. Where had that come from? What had possessed him to say something like that?
But the crystal ball was reacting to his words and the colours within suddenly blazed, bursting into light that resembled a miniature sun combined with a rainbow. Gallantmon was enveloped in the light and lifted right off his feet, whisked backwards across the room like he had been fired from a slingshot and screeching to a halt over one of the thirteen plinths. The light released him a moment later and Gallantmon dropped down, blinking in confusion and watching as the orb continued to blaze.
More beams of light began to splinter off it and shoot out to congeal over other plinths, each beam of light moving to just one seemingly at random. But when they got there the light condensed and began to mould itself into shapes – shapes that began to resemble humanoid figures covered in armour. And gradually the rainbow colours died away, replaced with the colours of the beings that were appearing before Gallantmon's very eyes.
"Oh wow," Gallantmon breathed as he watched the various Digimon appearing around the room, each on a different plinth. Many of them he knew very well from the card sets and some of them he knew even better from the TV show.
He could barely contain his excitement as they all turned to look at him – seven heads turning at the same time to regard him as that light from the crystal ball receded back into the ball, which resumed its previous colour-swirling albeit brighter than when Gallantmon had initially entered the room.
A tall figure clad in thick purple armour with twin feathery plumes flapping from the top of his helmet, which had large eye holes and a tall thin mouth-grate that made it look like some kind of strange grin, red eyes staring towards Gallantmon and thick hand clutching a double-ended and massive spear in one hand.
"Craniamon," breathed Takato.
A white-armoured figure covered with yellow teeth-like adornments, with large sweeping horns on either side of his head and his mouth open in a wry grin, while his purple wings folded against his back and he folded his arms in a resting position.
"Dynasmon," Takato went on.
The only four-legged being in the room – a large centaur like Knight covered with red armour, an enormous crossbow attached to one arm and a long plumed tail flicking out behind him every so often, no less regal in spite of his horse-like head.
"Kentaurosmon," Takato added.
A white cape flowing backwards behind a body covered in black armour, apart from the fiery glowing gauntlets on either hand and the red sandals on its feet, flaming red hair over the visor covering its eyes and a monstrous-looking six-eyed flaming avatar seeming to rise from his body.
"Gankoomon," Takato nodded, staring at one of the more newly introduced Digimon cards.
A rather more slender figure encased in pink armour from head to toe, the eyes covered by the helmet that extended forwards from the white mask covering its lower face, with large yellow metallic ribbons surrounding its body, standing with one hand on one hip in a graceful pose.
"Crusadermon," Takato filled in.
The next figure filled Takato with much excitement, for this was one that he definitely knew well – the golden armour that covered most of his body glowed even in the bright light of the rooms, face semi-covered by the golden mask and what skin of his that was visible being either white or blue, including the long blue reptilian tail that flicked out behind him.
"Magnamon," Takato almost squealed. "Wow, you really could use those shoulder-guards as boogie-boards."
"What?" Magnamon blinked.
"Nice way to introduce yourself, Takato," Guilmon muttered
But Takato was barely listening because his eyes had settled on the final figure in the room and even in his Gallantmon form he almost swooned. Kazu and Kenta might have died to get a chance to be standing in the room right now with this guy, a guy who all of them had hero-worshipped ever since the Digimon movie had come out many years ago now.
The figure was unmistakable, from the long white armour and flowing cape, the huge horn adorning the middle of his helmeted head and the long arms that ended in the heads of two of Takato's favourite Digimon at all – the right arm and orange colour, topped with a shield and ending with the large head of a WarGreymon; the other arm blue and topped with a spiked shoulder-guard and ending with the equally large head of a MetalGarurumon.
"You are… you are…" Takato almost fell backwards.
"Omnimon," nodded the large Digimon in a deep and grating voice that sounded vaguely like it could be two voices that had blended together to form one, meaning Takato could not be sure whether there were two speakers in there or one. "That is who I am."
"Hoooooollyy CRAP!" Takato yelled, bouncing up and down on the spot. "I THOUGHT THAT A SNOWAGUMON WAS COOL BUT THIS… THIS IS BEYOND BELIEF! I'M STANDING IN THE PRESENCE OF AN ACTUAL OMNIMON! I'M NOT WORTHY, I'M REALLY NOT! I DON'T KNOW IF YOU CAN WRITE WITH THOSE HANDS BUT CAN I HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH IF YOU CAN! OOH! SHOW ME THE TRANSCENDENT SWORD! AND THE SUPREME CANNON! OH WHAT AM I DOING, ORDERING AN OMNIMON TO…"
"TAKATO!" Guilmon yelled, interrupting Takato's yelling. "In case you forgot, we are still in Gallantmon form and you making us jump up and down like this is making us look silly and probably isn't making a good first impression." Yes, it was unnatural for Guilmon to talk about things like that but Takato had gotten so silly at that point that if he hadn't stepped in he might never have stopped.
"Oh… Right…" Takato coughed, managing to make Gallantmon look hideously embarrassed. "Um… sorry… about that. I swear to God, I'm sane."
"Is that to Fanglongmon, Anubimon, or one of your human Gods?" Kentaurosmon asked, amusement clearly evident in his voice.
"Looks like someone's got a bad case of hero worship for Omnimon," Dynasmon laughed. "And a little bit for Magnamon too it seems."
"What was that about using my shoulder-guards as… what is a 'boogie-board' exactly?" Magnamon asked.
"You might think that one of the humans responsible for saving our Digital World many times over would have a calmer head on his shoulders, wouldn't you?" Craniamon chuckled.
"If they're all like that it might be a flaming miracle that they've made it so far," Gankoomon observed.
"Oh, I don't believe they're all like that," Crusadermon threw in, her voice dubbing her as the only female Knight in the room. "And I don't believe that this one is like this all of the time. After all he did not behave like that during any of the tests that we put them under, did he? In fact, he performed rather admirably."
"Indeed," Magnamon nodded. "Shame that his companions failed but most of them did very well until the trial of the Spirit. Looks like many of them did indeed have some quite twisted pasts. It probably makes them admirable as well for coming on so far even with them."
"Gentlemen, please," Omnimon raised his WarGreymon hand to quieten them down a little, and Takato had to resist squealing again. "We do have guests in our castle who have proven themselves worthy of being in our presence. Let them introduce themselves to us. Young human that resides within the form of Gallantmon," he added, and Takato began breathing heavier at being directly addressed. "Perhaps you could give us your name. You clearly know all of us well enough after you rattled off our titles like that."
"I'm… Takato Matsuki," he breathed, his one voice coming out of Gallantmon's. "Yep… that's me. And… and this is my partner… well, he's inside the same body right now… but… yeah, you get the point."
"Hello," Guilmon caused Gallantmon's arm to wave.
"Hello," Omnimon nodded back. "As you already know by this point, we are the Royal Knights, the guardians of the boundaries of the Digital World. It is a pleasure to meet you, Digimon and Tamer. This is the first time that we have seen the two species merged together before our very eyes, though of course we have heard all about your exploits from Fanglongmon, both in our world and out of it. And it is good to have Gallantmon back within the halls of our castle once again."
"Back within…?" Guilmon frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid that we do not have much time," Omnimon said. "So we shall have to be brief with this discussion. As you know by now, the walls of the universe that we Royal Knights have been maintaining and protecting all these years, are breaking down at an alarming rate. We are the only ones capable of healing the breaches on our side of what remains of the divide, though I do understand that there are now others healing it on the other side. But we shall have to return to work soon, otherwise the breaches may become too widespread to contain them for much longer."
"Um… okay," Takato nodded. "I understand. But we do have a lot of questions."
"Indeed, but before we get started," Omnimon turned and looked up at the rest of the Royal Knights with narrowed eyes. "Which one of the rest of you was responsible for writing the abbreviations 'LOL' and 'JK' on the final sign of the second Test of Courage?"
The Royal Knights looked at one another for a moment, before Dynasmon meekly raised a hand.
"Oh, so it was you, was it?" Craniamon snorted. "You are aware that we are meant to sound regal and noble to other people, aren't you?"
"So sue me," Dynasmon folded his arms and glared. "I get confused sometimes – with all the bits and pieces of data and information that get sent through the barriers by the Human World – so many times I've seen 'LOL' and 'JK'… I thought that they must be words of great importance."
"You can be a real idiot sometimes, Dynasmon," Crusadermon snorted.
"Oh, you're one to talk," Gankoomon looked across at her. "Who was it that started crying when you watched the episode of 'The Big Bang Theory' when Howard and Bernadette got married?"
"It was a touching scene, damn it!" Crusadermon yelled.
"I thought that funniest part was where Sheldon started trying to do the ceremony in Klingon even when Bernadette told him no," Craniamon chuckled.
"Bernadette is a legend," chuckled Dynasmon. "She's my favourite of the three girls – I'm starting to lose interest in Penny because she never ever wants to proceed with her relationship with Leonard. When will she just learn to go with it?"
"How DARE you say that about Penny, she's just trying to do things at her own pace," Kentaurosmon growled accusingly.
"I feel sorry for Raj," Magnamon nodded. "Poor guy. How many more seasons do you think it will be before he gets a girlfriend?"
"I dunno, but I think that progressions of Sheldon and Amy's relationship is hilarious," Gankoomon put in.
"Sheldon Cooper makes that show," Omnimon voiced. "Are we all agreed on that?"
There was a chorus of "Oh yeah," and "Definitely," and "you said it" from the other Royal Knights, each one of them nodding their heads.
Gallantmon, both halves of him, were looking around the group of Knights slightly incredulously. "Um… are you guys really talking about that American Comedy Show? I mean I really like it too but… I didn't expect you guys to know about it. Nor did I expect you to be so… normal."
"Oh we're all Royal Knights here," Kentaurosmon interjected. "We're all brothers-in-arms. Comrades. There is no need to be all civil and kingly in one another's presence all the time. Where would the fun in that be? What, did you think that we would just be a bunch of magnificent bores that spoke about protecting the innocent non-stop just because we have the word Royal in our title?"
"He's right," nodded Craniamon. "Of course, protecting the innocent is very important, and absolutely vital to our code of honour, but our entire lives don't revolve around it. Indeed, since we are confined to the barrier here, most of the time we don't actually get to do any protecting of the innocent unless the problem is with the walls of the universe, as now."
"As to how we can watch a television show from the Human World," Crusadermon added. "Well, we are in the barrier of the Digital World. Everything signal gets transmitted across that barrier from Human or Digital World, but Human World mostly. We can get anything that's transmitted from your humans satellites, meaning that we can watch any channel for TV, read e-mails and text messages, listen in on phone calls, look at the internet… anything like that… all by just pulling it up in front of us."
"We were thinking of getting our own Facebook pages, but Omnimon shouted us down," Dynasmon agreed.
"What exactly would you put on your Facebook wall, Dynasmon?" Omnimon tried to massage his forehead, but couldn't because his horn was in the way and his hand was too bulky and not really a hand.
"'Chilling and watching an epic movie' like everyone else," Dynasmon shrugged.
"Oy vey," Omnimon sighed.
"Oh, I just got that boogie-boards reference," Magnamon snapped his fingers. "That's from the Digimon TV show, isn't it?"
"Um… yeah," nodded Gallantmon. "Look… sorry but… now I've kinda got over my excitement a bit, aren't we on a tight schedule?"
"Yes. Pardon us," Omnimon agreed. "We have not had a lot of time to have our jocular conversations over the last few months. Things have been hectic for us recently with us constantly having to rush across the fabric of the Digital World in order to repair the damage being caused before too many things can happen. Yet it seems that wherever we go, it is only a matter of time before something happens. And we used to have such a peaceful life as well. Normally the only threat to our Digital World would be the computer viruses from your Human World, which are relatively easy for us to deal with but could still cause quite devastating effects on the Digital World if they were to get into it."
"Yeah… sorry about that," Takato muttered. "Hey wait, what about the Juggernaut program, when HYPNOS was still bad guys? Couldn't you guys have stopped that from happening too?"
"We could have," Magnamon shrugged. "But we were requested by the Sovereigns to allow that portal to remain open. Zhuqiaomon in particular anyway. He had been monitoring the Human World for some time and as you know his Devas used that system to get across into the Human World and cause a lot of damage. That part of the action we do regret now."
"For the most part our job seems to consist of trying to protect to ensure that the barriers between the various worlds remain as barriers," Crusadermon folded her arms. "We do not have the ability to enter the worlds ourselves. We're not even standing in the room with you right now – all you're seeing are astral projections caused by that crystal ball. All of us are actually still in the barrier, and most of us are actually nowhere near one another."
"But the job does have a few perks," chuckled Gankoomon. "For instance did you know that we were the ones who were responsible for re-opening that portal that goes between your Human and Digital World?"
"Really?" blinked Gallantmon.
"Oh yes," Craniamon nodded. "We can link the various worlds joined by our Digital barrier, even if we cannot get out of it ourselves. Do you remember the battle against Mephistomon and how your two companions were helped to get to your location quickly to help you in the fight? That was Omnimon's work."
"Oh yeah, Henry and Rika did say that they were helped to get to me quickly by an Omnimon," Takato breathed. "I wasn't sure if they were having me on or not."
"It was true," nodded Omnimon. "Like Gankoomon said, I cannot leave the barrier but I can transport things through it rapidly, even to a different location in the same world that I took them from. If I had been able to come and help you against that blasted Mephistomon then I would have, but unfortunately I could not, so I did the next best thing and brought your friends to you instead."
"And it is much appreciated, sir," Takato nodded vigorously.
"Isn't it time that we begin the question and answer session?" Dynasmon asked.
"Quite right," Kentaurosmon agreed.
"I have a question," said Guilmon, from within Gallantmon. "Why are some of the spaces that we are standing on empty?"
"You mean the plinths?" Takato asked, looking around, and he noticed that Guilmon was right. He felt pretty stupid for not noticing himself considering he was in the same body as Guilmon but his excitement at meeting the Royal Knights had kept him from noticing that not every plinth had been filled. Out of the thirteen enormous plinths that they were standing on, only eight of them had a Knight standing on them. There were five still unaccounted for, and they seemed to be randomly spaced around the room.
"That…" Omnimon said. "Is a long story, but it does have particular residence to you Gallantmon. I must say though that it is good to see your standing back up on your own plinth once again."
"Once again…? Okay, that is my first question," Takato said abruptly. "Everybody seems to be under the impression that Guilmon and I have been here before. You're talking as if you've been good friends of ours for some time and that… that we're one of your or something but we're not. I've never been here before and I know Guilmon hasn't because I created him and apart from that year in the Digital World he was never out of my sight, and they all say that they didn't come here in that time… so what's the deal with that?"
"Takato, calm down," Guilmon said.
"Sorry," Takato sighed. "But I just don't understand why they keep talking as if Gallantmon is an old buddy of theirs."
"Well, the answer to that is simple, human child that shares the body of the Royal Knight," Kentaurosmon stated. "Gallantmon is an 'old buddy' of ours."
"Huh?" Gallantmon said with both voices, blinking for a moment.
"Gallantmon has been here before," Gankoomon nodded.
"You, on the other hand, human… have not," Dynasmon threw in.
"But… I don't understand," Takato stated. "There is no Gallantmon without me. Guilmon and I biomerge together to become Gallantmon – there is no other way that we reach this form."
"It wasn't always that way," Craniamon shook his head.
"I created Guilmon," Takato pointed out. "He didn't exist before me."
"Yes… and no," Omnimon sighed.
"Would someone please just start making sense?" Takato begged.
"Perhaps it would be better if we were to take this from the beginning," Omnimon raised both headed arms. "Right from the beginning. Back when the Royal Knights were first founded."
"Ooh boy. Story time," Dynasmon nodded.
"Thank you, Dynasmon," Omnimon coughed. "Anyway, it all started out with one Royal Knight, who would then go on to found the group that now calls itself the Royal Knights today, and that founder was Imperialdramon Paladin Mode."
"Right… sorry… go on."
"Yes, well," Omnimon nodded. "Imperialdramon Paladin Mode was originally a member of the Celestial Heavens and was good friends with Fanglongmon in the early days of the Digital World, before Fanglongmon learned of his evil side and forced himself to go into that state of torpor until he is needed to fix the damage caused by evil. After he realised this, Fanglongmon created the various groups of Digimon to watch over things in his place since he no longer could. The Sovereigns were set to watch over the Digital World; the Celestial Angels the Heavens; and Imperialdramon was chosen to watch the borders of the world."
"Some job," Takato muttered.
"Yes, but Imperialdramon took to it with a will and he did a fine job of it all by himself, protecting the barriers from any threat that came to it," Omnimon said, with some pride in his voice. "But unlike us, he was always able to leave the Digital Barrier and return to the Celestial Heavens whenever he wished. And because of this, Fanglongmon entrusted Imperialdramon with a special ability that no other Digimon had. Imperialdramon was so strong of spirit and so pure of heart that he was the best candidate for said job – the one least likely to go bad. And that ability was that power to awaken Fanglongmon from his slumber pre-emptively, should the need ever arise to do so."
"Well… that answers one of our questions," Takato said excitedly. "Our other question was about how to wake Fanglongmon up because we'll need to…"
"Hold on," Omnimon cautioned him. "There is more to the story than you have yet heard I'm afraid. Imperialdramon was only given the ability to use the power at the uttermost end of need – if waking up Fanglongmon was the only option to save all of creation, for as you know Fanglongmon wanted a Digital World of free will where everyone could live freely. But not too long ago in actual fact, there was a sudden and massive upheaval in the in the barrier of the Digital World, as if it was going to suddenly implode in on itself."
"What?" Gallantmon asked in alarm.
"Indeed. Imperialdramon fought against it, putting everything he had into repelling the disturbance and stabilising the Digital World and it cost him almost all of his energy, but he managed to succeed. He was utterly spent, but he knew that he had a duty to fulfil even then and he used what energy he had left to create what you see before you now. The Royal Knights. Imperialdramon made us in his final moments – the remaining twelve of us."
"That's his plinth," Crusadermon pointed towards the one on Omnimon's right. "He has never stood in it whenever we have held council together."
"Indeed," Omnimon nodded. "For after that, Imperialdramon fell into the Digital World after that, data peeling off him even as he did so, and he vanished. But he created the Royal Knights to fight for honour and justice. To protect the barriers in his stead and that is what we have done – all twelve of us. Including Gallantmon."
Takato felt his insides grow cold even within the Mega form of Gallantmon he was currently in.
"What do you mean?" he choked.
"Exactly what I said," Omnimon replied. "Gallantmon was a member of the twelve others from the Royal Knights ever since that tragic time. He worked alongside us, protecting where we could and using his power to defend the borders of the Digital World."
"But… but…" Takato floundered. "I created Guilmon. I drew him in a notebook when I was supposed to be doing schoolwork. I planned out everything about him – his attacks, his abilities – everything like that, on a little piece of paper that I scanned into the slot in my D-Arc and there he was. And you're telling me that Gallantmon existed before that?"
"Yes," Omnimon nodded.
"But then surely it must be a different Gallantmon," Takato said, but that sounded hollow even to him. How could a Digimon that he had created evolve into something that already existed? Did that even make sense.
"Oh no," Omnimon stated. "I am afraid that is not the case, human child. The Digimon partner of yours that is standing there, merged with your body to form the Royal Knight in his rightful place on the plinth, is the same individual that was once a member of our Royal Knight community. He and the Gallantmon that we know are one and the same."
Takato was in denial, shaking his head. "No… no, that can't… that's imposs… You're lying…"
"Takato," Guilmon replied from his half of the Mega. "I think… he might be telling the truth."
"Ever since we got told to come here," Guilmon said slowly. "Ever since we began our quest to find the Royal Knights, it's like there's some kind of strange voice inside my head, except not quite like a voice because it wasn't using words… I don't really know how to describe it. But… it was always calling out to me and summoning me forwards, as if I was going in the right direction or something. Like it… was calling me home."
"And you are home now, Gallantmon," Magnamon nodded. "Or at least as close to it as you can get at this stage."
"But I don't understand!" Takato cried. "It cannot make sense. I… created… Guilmon."
"Yes, you did," agreed Crusadermon.
"Then how can you say Gallantmon existed before that?"
"Well, the answer to that is simple really," Omnimon said. "Gallantmon existed as Gallantmon. He never had any lower forms. Several of us don't in fact. While some of us, like myself, Magnamon, Kentaurosmon or Dynasmon all have established lower levels of Digivolution that allowed Imperialdramon to base our forms off, some of us, like Gankoomon or Craniamon or Crusadermon, have no lower stages. Imperialdramon created them from scratch. We were all born as Megas."
"And…?" Takato stammered.
"Well, perhaps to make sense of this, I should proceed with the story a little," Omnimon stated. "Things were going relatively well after we were founded, although our founder himself had disappeared to who knew what fate. We flourished ourselves though protecting the Digital World from anything that threatened it that we were able to stop. Our leader was incredibly mighty – arguably as strong or perhaps stronger even that Imperialdramon…"
"Wait, you weren't the leader?" Takato asked.
"I am now," Omnimon nodded. "However, I was not once. Our leader before was Alphamon, an incredibly powerful Digimon who I could not have beaten in combat myself. He ruled us with utter surety, always believing in us and inspiring us to continue our duty no matter how much it seemed to be mild or dull. For while we Royal Knights might seem to have gotten the short end of the proverbial stick with our job, we consider it a perk. For although we stayed alone with only ourselves in the barrier, unable to leave, we were entrusted, alone, with the task of maintaining the security of the entire world.
"And there were several tasks that we fought hard to stop during that time. For one thing, the Dark Ocean was always sending out tendrils of darkness that would have enveloped the Digital World if we had not been there to stop it. We could not destroy it but we could prevent its effects from spreading. I must thank you for helping to destroy it, by the way. It has made our job easier."
"Noted," Gallantmon muttered.
"But there was one great evil that rose about a year after we were founded, and a few months before you Tamers started gaining your Digivices. Our Digital Barrier was suddenly invaded. By an Apocalymon."
"An Apocalymon?" Takato cried. "Seriously?"
"Yes," nodded Kentaurosmon. "Nasty git, that one."
"Did he start yelling about pizzas and crusts?" Takato asked.
"No," all the Royal Knights said together, deadpan.
"Ah well, that was a ridiculous line anyway," Takato shrugged. "But surely you must have stopped him easily. I mean the one in the show was defeated by a WarGreymon and a MetalGarurumon, along with several Ultimates. Surely an Omnimon would have no problem against him."
"Alas no," Omnimon replied. "This Apocalymon was far stronger than that one. He was able to match each of us in battle individually and several of our number were killed in the battle against him, for it took some time for all of us to be gathered in one place, spread across the barrier as we were. But as he was trying to force his way through into the Human World and cause untold destruction before your world was ready for him, the sacrifice of the Knights who fell before him was not in vain. They bought time for Alphamon himself to get there and engage the Apocalymon in battle. Those Royal Knights included Leopardmon, UlforceVeedramon, Examon… and Gallantmon. The remaining three of that number are, as you can see, not here either."
Gallantmon looked around at the empty plinths once again and shuddered.
"That must have been one powerful Apocalymon," he said.
"Indeed it was."
"But then… if Gallantmon died…" Takato frowned. "Then how can Guilmon be him?"
"Well, Anubimon received his data after he died, just as he did with any other Digimon, but the Royal Knights are not like the members of the Heavens. He are in Digital Barrier, a place with very little physical substance. Anubimon couldn't send their data back into the Digital Barrier to reform them – he needed to send them into a more solid world for their data to coalesce back into their solid forms. And that's where you come in. Anubimon pulled some strings, pushing his ability to affect the world outside of his own to its limit, but not breaking it since it directly involved him carrying out his job.
"And he found you."
"Me?" Takato asked.
"Yes. You were trying to create a Digimon partner that you would want, and were creating the dinosaur Digimon Rookie known as Guilmon. Anubimon pulled some strings a little further and caused you to unconsciously add in a few extra details. The Hazard symbol, for instance. Do you remember why you chose to put something like that on Guilmon's body of all things?"
"I just… thought… it looked cool," Takato mumbled.
"Perhaps, but you were being influenced into drawing it. And once the design had been complete and you had been given your D-Arc, Anubimon watched as you scanned in the draw and sent Gallantmon's data down from the world of the deleted to form the data of the Digimon that you just created. That data had to come from somewhere after all. And thus, Gallantmon was reborn as Guilmon, with no memory of his previous life as a Royal Knight, which unfortunately happens quite a lot unless special circumstances are ensured by Anubimon, and Guilmon was your partner."
"Really?" Takato choked.
"Yes," Omnimon went on. "You created his Champion and Ultimate forms at a later stage and Anubimon arranged it so that, even though you had already created Guilmon, those were the forms that he would become. But you never gave him a Mega form of your own, for his true Mega form was always Gallantmon."
"And to you, Guilmon," Gankoomon nodded. "We say, 'Welcome home.'"
Gallantmon himself fell silent, both parts of him contemplating hard on what they had just heard and both of them well aware of what the other was thinking since they currently shared one body. Takato was hovering on the borders of being distraught. He had always thought that his bond with Guilmon was special out of all the other Tamers because he had been the one to create him, while everyone else's partners had come from the Digital World. Now he had just learned that he had only been half-right. Guilmon had already been alive before he had brought him into the world.
He had been a Royal Knight.
Did that mean that he had been wrong all this time? Did that mean that his bond with Guilmon was no different to any other bond with any of the other Tamers. In fact, did that make their bond even less special? None of the others had had Anubimon watching them and steering things from afar so that they could meet up and their bonds could form – they had all met and bonded naturally.
Were he and Guilmon just… ordinary?
Or were they less so? The result of some kind of manipulation from higher powers?
Had their bond been forged for them as well?
He knew that he shouldn't think like that. Anubimon had not deliberately manipulated him to his own ends or played some kind of game with him – he had just been doing his job and trying to bring Gallantmon back to life in the form of Guilmon but still… Takato could not admit he was a little put out… alright, he was incredibly put out. Guilmon was not entirely his own creation as he had thought, in both Rookie and Mega form. He wondered if Anubimon had had anything to do with the way that Growlmon and WarGrowlmon had turned out too. Had they been altered in his mind by an outside force?
As to Guilmon, he was now wondering exactly who he was. He could not remember any of this stuff to do with the Royal Knights, but suddenly it had all been sprung on him and he could not deny the strange feelings that had been urging him onwards at the very start of this journey. He knew the Royal Knights were not lying but… who exactly was he now? He had always thought of himself as Takato's one true partner, drawn by his hand and created via his D-Arc.
But what was he really? Was he a Royal Knight? Or was he the partner of a Tamer? If he had to choose which one he should be with – Takato or the Knights – which one would he pick? He would want to pick Takato of course but… was that the right decision? Was that the best idea? Where should his ultimate loyalties lie?
Takato's partner was the only life that he could remember. But if he had been a Royal Knight first…
This wasn't like with Lopmon, Terriermon, Renamon and Impmon, and the fact that all four of them had once been warriors of the Celestial Heavens sent down into the world below. He had not been deliberately sent like that. He had apparently been killed in a previous life, before he'd even become a partner and sent to a human Tamer because he had not been able to be sent back to the other Knights. What if he could have? Would he have been sent back to the Royal Knights straight away if that had been an option? He probably would have… the Devas had been returned to the Sovereigns as soon as they had all been resurrected.
They were both feeling the emotional turmoil and both of them wondering what their relationship with the other one actually was so much that they momentarily lost their hold on their form – their data fluctuating and almost breaking apart. They wrenched their thoughts back together and their form stabilised moments later, and they could both feel where the others' thoughts had lain. Neither were really sure what their connection as Digimon and Tamer was anymore, as if the special nature of their relationship had been stripped away from them somehow and neither were quite sure how to take it.
But Takato swallowed and choked out an unconvincing, "Isn't that great, Guilmon. You're… back where you belong." It felt incredibly painful for him to say that – he had always thought the only place Guilmon belonged was at his side.
"Uh-huh," Guilmon replied, and it felt horrible for him to say that too because he had thought much the same thing. And now their thoughts on this were overlapping. Takato felt his pulse rise at the thought of what would happen if the Royal Knights called Guilmon back. Would he leave? And Guilmon wondered if Takato now thought of him as so special and personal to him now that he knew that was not entirely the case.
"Are you alright, Gallantmon?" Kentaurosmon asked. "You look a bit peaky."
"No… I'm… I'm fine," Gallantmon said, speaking with both voices and wrenching his thoughts back to the problem at hand, deliberately forcing himself on to talk about the real reason that they had come to speak to the Royal Knights at all. "Yes… I'm fine but thanks for your concern. Anyway… as you know the boundaries of the world and this other Pokemon World are collapsing against each other fast."
"Indeed," nodded Craniamon. "We have no clue what's causing it but we can tell that the powers of Darkness are somehow involved. Darkness similar to that of the Dark Ocean."
"But the Dark Ocean was destroyed along with GranDracmon and everyone in it, wasn't it?" Gallantmon replied.
"Well… yes," nodded Gankoomon. "But during the event where the Dark Ocean collapsed we did notice a similar tear in the fabric between the Dark Ocean and the Digital World, but then the former collapsed in on itself and wiped out the rip before we could examine it properly. It seems to me that something might have escaped from the Dark Ocean shortly before it was destroyed."
"Oh well that's not good," Gallantmon muttered. "Not good at all."
"Indeed," Omnimon sighed. "And I would be willing to bet whatever that was is behind this collapse of the two universes, for half a year after that event these new tears began to spring up all over the place. At first just one or two a day, which were extremely difficult to close, but then more and more and more began opening up. Now they're opening up all over the place, as if the barrier has gotten so much weaker from the effects of whatever was tearing them in the first place that the two are starting to further collapse on their own, without outside interference. Unless something is done, it is clear to see that eventually things will become too late and we will no longer be able to hold back the storm. We will fail the duty that Imperialdramon gave to us."
"And we cannot let that happen," Dynasmon clenched his fists. "I will not allow it!"
"What can be done about it though?" Crusadermon asked. "We have tried most everything but… nothing seems to work and the barriers are breaking down at a faster rate than ever."
"I can help a little," Gallantmon replied. "We received visitors actually – from the other world that is collapsing with ours."
Magnamon sighed. "Opened a portal probably. Portals are so irritating. They bypass the barrier completely! If they went through the barrier then we would be able to stop the people inside from going through, but they don't. It allows Anubimon to open gates to his world for incoming and outgoing data without having to go by us and that's good, but it also means that people like GranDracmon and Parallelmon can get past us when they cross or open portals between their worlds."
"Yes… well," Gallantmon stated. "The person from the other universe also knew what was going on. His name was Uxie, and he told us that the only way to save both worlds was to wake up their respective Gods, Fanglongmon and the God of Pokémon… Archie, or something like that. Anyway, only the combined effort of the two Gods working together will allow the universes to unmesh. Neither one alone can do it due to some strange thing I didn't really understand about how the fabrics of the universes are now practically one at the border. We need to find a way of waking up Fanglongmon. Several of the others have gone over to the other universe to try and wake up the other guy."
"Well…" Omnimon mused. "This is not altogether surprising news. But there is no prophecy, as far as I know, that could be fulfilled in time to cause Fanglongmon to awaken. If awakening him is our only option then we have to pre-empt it."
"And how can we do that?" Gallantmon pressed.
"There is only one way that I know of waking Fanglongmon, and that is through Imperialdramon," Omnimon replied. "Only Imperialdramon Paladin Mode can do it, but he is not here. Nor has he been found or seen since he left to leave things to we, his Royal Knights. If we are going to wake up Fanglongmon, we will need him. He is our only hope."
"Then we'll have to find him," Gallantmon replied grimly. "It's our only chance. Does anybody have any idea where he might be?"
"I… I don't know," Omnimon hesitated, and several of the other Knights made similar uncertain gestures. "Alphamon might know. He was the leader of our force in the past and… he always did know where the rest of the Royal Knights were. He would surely know where to find Imperialdramon."
"Great… so where is he?" Gallantmon asked, then blinked. "Hey wait? If Alphamon was your previous leader then… where is he now? Why isn't he here too? What happened to him?
"That's… the complicated part," Omnimon breathed. "You see, the battle between Alphamon and that Apocalymon was immense. Power clashing against brute power. The rest of we Royal Knights couldn't get involved in the fight because there was so much destruction and ferocity going on that we were rushing around the entire battle site frantically repairing the incredibly amounts of damage it caused on the barrier around them. In the end, Alphamon triumphed, but he was mortally wounded, his mighty sword broken and he too died of his wounds before we could patch him up. That means that he is currently somewhere within the Digital World. I had to take over in his stead after that."
"Well… that's good isn't it?" asked Gallantmon slowly, but he already had a feeling he knew what the answer was.
"Not particularly I'm afraid," Omnimon replied. "Because you see, he does not exactly look like he once did when he was a member of the Royal Knights – he started out fresh in the Digital World just like any other Digimon. And not only that, but he does not know anything more about his past as the leader of the Royal Knights than you did, Gallantmon."
"Okay," Gallantmon muttered. "So… when you say that he doesn't look like he once did… that means he's at a lower level of Digivolution, right?"
"Indeed," Gankoomon nodded. "Our great and glorious former leader, hero of the battle against the mighty Apocalymon, now looks like this…"
He pointed towards the crystal ball that was still glowing in the middle of the room, which burst out into bright colours again, and another image appeared, floating in the air above it. Gallantmon stared, wide-eyed, at the shape that appeared in front of him.
"You have got to be kidding me," he moaned.
"No, I am afraid we are most certainly not," Dynasmon shook his head. "That is indeed Alphamon, right there."
The Royal Knights that surrounded the room were all staring at a small draconic looking Digimon that covered in purplish fur apart from the limbs, nose, underbelly and the tip of the long bushy and almost fox-like tail, which were all white. It also had tiny bat-like black wings protruding from its shoulders and a large red gem of some description centred in the middle of its forehead, between its long black-tipped ears.
"That can only be a Rookie level Digimon," Gallantmon cried.
"Correct," muttered Crusadermon. "Suffice to say that our esteemed leader hasn't seen much need to digivolve or grow since he was reborn some time ago. He's still living happily as a Rookie level Digimon. And if you want to use him to save the world, he's going to need to be at his final stage of Digivolution."
"And right now, he's just a tiny little Dorumon," agreed Magnamon. "Not exactly the best situation in the world, is it?"
"You mean that we have to find him and then get him to his final level so that we can find the missing Imperialdramon Paladin Mode?" asked Gallantmon.
"Well, yes, but that's not all," Omnimon replied. "I'm afraid to say that is not the only problem that you're going to have. Since times gone by things have very much changed. Imperialdramon created us through the use of his very own data, even in the process of dying as he was. He alone would no longer be enough to awaken Fanglongmon early – the ability would now require all of the Royal Knights to be present. All thirteen of us, including the founder… and also including you Gallantmon. That means that you will not only have to find and restore Alphamon to his true form, a task that sounds arduous enough in itself, but you're also going to have to find the rest of the Royal Knights."
"You've already met one of them," said Craniamon helpfully. "The UlforceVeedramon that helped you in the final battle against the forces of the Dark Ocean was the one that perished at the hands of Apocalymon. Finding him again should not be too difficult, I would imagine."
"That's great," Gallantmon muttered, not especially cheered up even by this piece of good news, his mind still reeling at the thought that he would be needed in this endeavour directly to wake up Fanglongmon and wondering what would become of him after that. "And what about the other two? Examon and Leopardmon?"
"Well," Kentaurosmon proffered. "Leopardmon lives in a secluded fortress on the very edge of the Digital World on the Desert Level so… finding him might be a little bit more difficult. Leopardmon was always a bit of a grouch even when he was a member of our forces and I'm afraid to say that he hasn't changed that much, even now, so talking to him might be a bit difficult."
"And Examon…" Dynasmon hesitated. "Actually we… don't know where he is. It took us a long time to trace Alphamon down since he is so unlike he was as a Royal Knight that sensing him was almost impossible. But Examon… we can't seem to detect him at all, and we don't know why that could be."
"Oh well that's great news," Gallantmon sighed.
"Alphamon could probably find him in an instant," said Crusadermon. "And once Alphamon has located Imperialdramon, all of we Royal Knights must be present to restore him to his former glory, and then it will take all thirteen of us to wake Fanglongmon up. Since we're trapped in the barrier the best thing to do would be to bring Imperialdramon here, the one place in the Digital World that we are capable of using our powers even if we cannot emerge into it."
"It still sounds like mission impossible," Takato muttered.
"And it also sounds a bit like what those guys in the Pokémon World have to do by gathering all of those Legendaries," Guilmon said. "There really are some things that are so alike between our worlds that it's scary."
"Yeah, but at least they don't have to raise the Legendary Pokemon up to their true forms…" Takato muttered, then hesitated. "Oh lord, do you think they'll have to do that too?"
"I don't know," Guilmon shrugged. "But whatever happens, I think we can do this. I think that they can do what they have to do, and we will do what we have to do too in order to protect these worlds."
"Thanks, buddy," Takato said, then felt another surge of doubt about how close he really was to Guilmon surge up within him and he internally clenched a fist and gritted his teeth.
"We cannot stay any longer," Omnimon said. "If we do then the barrier may deteriorate too much for us to be able to repair it enough to keep it at bay for another few months."
"Alright," Gallantmon nodded. "So… we need to find this… Dorumon and find a way of getting him back into his Alphamon form again, and while doing it we also have to find UlforceVeedramon, Leopardmon, and a missing Examon. Then we have to find Imperialdramon Paladin Mode and revive him and all the Royal Knights have to combine their powers together to awake Fanglongmon so he can save the worlds. That is the gist of it, right?"
"Essentially yes," replied Omnimon.
"Lovely," Gallantmon sighed. "Nice to know we'll have things easy. If the Sovereigns hadn't got their hands full trying to find that mystery killer that's been attacking villages than we would just ask them for help."
"When it comes to levelling a Digimon to the next stage, Tamers are a force of wonder," Omnimon replied. "I am sure that, even if one of you are the partners of Alphamon, you will find a way of getting him up to his higher forms. It can be done. I have faith in you, Gallantmon."
"Glad to know somebody does," Gallantmon replied. "Alright then. Tell me where to find Dorumon and I guess we'll get underway."
"They've been gone for hours," Kazu growled, as he kicked a nearby wall and immediately regretted it because it hurt his toes.
"They have not been gone for hours, Kazu," Jeri sighed, leaning against the wall. "Just relax for a moment, would you?"
"How am I supposed to relax when we've been stuck on this sheet of metal for so long?" Kazu asked, gesturing at the large elevator that they had originally rode down into the tunnel system on from the top of the Tundra Level. The door that led into the trials had vanished and they had all been teleported back into the room after they had failed the trials. It was warm and cosy, but it still felt a little bit like they were in some kind of old cell.
"I am sure they will be along soon," Guardromon assured his partner. "The Royal Knights are honourable Digimon – they would not let anything bad happen to them I know."
"Well, I wish they would hurry up, is all," Kazu murmured.
"Just be patient, alright," Ryo said, without looking back at them – he had been resolutely staring into the corner ever since he had appeared back. "They'll be along."
"Yeah… we will," said Takato, as he and Guilmon appeared side by side in a slight flash of light a few moments later. Immediately as they touched down on the metal, the lift started moving back upwards again, heading up the huge shaft and out towards the bitter coldness of the Tundra Level above.
"Takato, you're back!" cried Kenta.
"Did you meet them? Did you see the Royal Knights?" Elecmon pressed. "Did you talk to them?"
"Yeah… yeah we did," Guilmon nodded. "That Omnimon was quite a nice guy."
"OMNIMON!" Kazu and Kenta squealed at the same time. "YOU MET AN OMNIMON! NO WAY!"
"And a Magnamon if that helps," Takato said.
As Kazu and Kenta wailed in dismay, Takato and Guilmon glanced at each other and then looked away quickly, fidgeting. Jeri noticed and frowned… the two of them were actually looking a little uncomfortable being in the presence of the other and that wasn't like them at all.
The thought in both Takato and Guilmon's heads were more or less exactly the same:-
Is my partnership with him what I thought it was?
Well, this chapter certainly had a revelation or two in it, didn't it? Guilmon's past is a lot more complicated than was originally known, and I hope that you liked the ups and downs and twists and turns that this chapter went through, as well as the many questions it answered and the new ones it brought up. And what will the future be for the two of them now? Takato was always a very emotional and paranoid kid, constantly worrying about his relationship with Guilmon throughout the series, and this is definitely going to shake him up once again, but this time Guilmon is taken aback by it too. How shall things proceed? Only time will tell.
The attack on the cruise ship continues, with the passengers scrambling to get to the lifeboats as the Pokémon defend them against all comers. But the problems are not over yet, especially because there are still enemies waiting beneath the surface and the damage to the ship is beginning to tell. Will the defenders gain any help or are they on their own?
Coming up:- Chapter 26 : The North Wind