The fortress had four guard towers connected by reinforced stone brick walls. They had to be sturdy enough to stave off Digimon beyond the Adult stage. Craters and scars in the nearly white brick, especially around the main gate, were a testament to the necessity of the structure. The flat savanna offered nothing in the way of advantageous position, so the town was vulnerable from any side. Nightmare Soldiers, who originate from the nearby Overdell, will sometimes attempt to pillage the other settlements. While Trance's home was well obscured from invasion, Divine Castle was not. Its real defense was the Digimon who lived there.
Guards were vigilant on top of towers and the gatehouse over the entrance. It allowed them to watch over the sea of grass that stretched out in every direction, as well as the town and castle within. In the direct center, a castle of the same bleached stone as the exterior walls served as a residence for the most powerful Digimon and their cohorts. It was a lavish design with wide arched windows framed by gold. The upper section of the residence had a pyramid roof, also with a golden luster. Angelic statues lined the edge of the balconies. They were posed to emphasize their valor and triumph, weapons raised high.
Buildings filled the ring around the Divine Castle courtyard in quarters, with several streets in each of them. The town seemed had a sizable population, which the DAIS confirmed. Leomon, Angemon, and Piddomon were among the species of the guards that patrolled the streets and turrets. Child Digimon like Coronamon, Salamon, and Patamon playfully roamed the spacious square in the front of the castle. There were dozens upon dozens of Digimon of multiple stages, but the few that stood out were represented on the scanner more brightly than the others. The stage beyond Adult, which not every Digimon will experience before their rebirth, Perfect. Silphymon, Knightmon, and Angewomon were all the Perfect level.
The shops and homes of the town itself had a medieval style and decor to them. Thatched roof houses were aligned down straight cobblestone roads lined with iron lanterns. Modern amenities were sprinkled throughout, such as electricity and plumbing. Digimon happily went about their business and paid no attention to their visitors. It was different to see a bustling town in contrast to all of the small settlements that preceded it. The first time visitors' heads swiveled constantly to take in all that there was to see. Neither of them had ever seen so many Digimon in one place. Garret and Ward only thought to decide where to eat.
One of the Perfect level Digimon gracefully glided down from the castle to greet them. It appeared as a beautiful angelic woman with flowing blonde hair and eight white feathered wings. Skimpy white garments revealed much of her feminine figure. She wore a gleaming gold anklet and a purple ribbon, both emblazoned with a strange script that Lloyd didn't think existed in the real world. Her face and head were obscured by some helmet or mask that was quite unlike traditional armor. It covered her eyes completely, so it begged the question of how exactly her vision worked. Angewomon spoke in a sweet and gentle voice directed at Garret, "I thought that was you two I noticed. I am glad that you have returned to Divine Castle. Have you come for a reprieve, or is there something we can assist you with?"
"Yeah, we came back to rest and buy supplies. We're also looking for information about something. Have you heard of Chartreuse at all? The Terriermon that can mess with the natural world? Perform miracles?"
Angewomon nodded. "Rumors of his exploits have been passed around as of late. As far as we have been aware, he has not been to Divine Castle. I'm not even sure I should believe everything they say. Perhaps you can talk to the locals and see what you find out. If you have time, there's something I would like you to look into. But we can talk about that during dinner at the castle in a couple hours. I'll prepare your usual room for you. I assume your companions will want a room as well?"
"Thank you, that would be awesome! We'll see you all at dinner. Until then, Ward and I are going shopping. Be back at... Nine, is it? We can ask around about Chartreuse while we're at it."
"Yes, dinner will be served at nine in the banquet hall. I'll have someone set up the room adjacent to yours for your friends. I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you two. I am Angewomon. Silphymon and I are the rulers of Divine Castle. Our priority is to provide a safe haven here in the Neko Plains. We hope you are rejuvenated by your stay."
The more of Digital Arcadia Lloyd observed, the more idyllic it all seemed. What Olivia had told him about it being a paradise started to make sense. Most Digimon were kind and helpful. This world was free of certain aspects of human civilization. The question still remained if it was as comfortable in the long term as she suggested.
They managed to make it this far with only a single "real" battle. The other times that Renamon evolved was because of humans like him. Yet Garret was clearly a more seasoned user. Lloyd wondered if they would have to seek out battles just to overcome their inexperience. As they were, they were not powerful enough to go forward. The Perfect level Digimon that addressed him made that quite clear.
"My name is Lloyd, and this is Trance. That is really generous of you, thank you. I heard you had a library? I was hoping to see if I could find anything of interest there first. Something to tell me more about this world. Could you tell me where I can find it?" Lloyd politely requested.
"Nice to meet you both," Angewomon replied with an amiable smile and a slight bow. "The library is on the opposite side. You can either walk through the castle or go in the entrance on the other side. I'm sure any of the Digimon around can point it out to you if you get lost. I regret not being able to spare the time to take you there myself. I must attend to my duties, but I shall return to dine with you." The angelic queen waved goodbye and soared off into the clear blue skies.
"Then it's settled. Lloyd, we'll see you guys at dinner. Have fun reading books and stuff," Garret said dismissively.
"Wait, what are you shopping for? Is there something we should also be getting?" the other user asked. He was concerned to miss a vital item.
The boy shrugged. "I have a lot of bits saved so I'm going to see if they have any equipment that could give Reptiledramon higher resistance or something. Probably going to get us some burgers, too."
"Burgers before dinner?"
"Yeah, so? What's your point? They're really good," Garret chuckled.
Ward waved with a big vacant smile. He was probably just thinking of burgers. "Bye-bye, see you at dinner!"
"Later, guys," his partner added as they made their way into the crowd.
The users went their separate ways in search of any details of interest they could scrape up. The library was a wing on the back of the castle with its own public entrance to the street. Small square glass panes made up almost the entirety of the library's exterior in a wide arching semi-circle. Wooden bookcases were squeezed into every nook of the space, save for the few desks and tables between them.
Beyond the double umber doors of the front entrance, the adventurers took a moment to decide where to start looking. The library was divided into fiction on the right and non-fiction on the left divided by a rift of tables. At the opposite end was what Lloyd assumed to be the path to the rest of the castle. As curious as he was about what fantasies Digimon have recorded, he knew to scan the shelves on the left.
Reference materials covering a wide variety of topics lined the back wall. Scattered between the more mundane subjects were titles of more interest. They found numerous books about the nature of the Digital World, Digimon, and evolution. After some deliberation, Lloyd picked out those which sounded the most promising until he held a stack in his arms.
"Are you going to help, too? I hope there's something about the DAIS, or other humans, or whatever that thing was that Chartreuse stole. If he's able to change the laws of the world to perform miracles, that thing has to be important. Something that the DAIS can't do alone," Lloyd said. His mind buzzed with speculation.
The Renamon nodded and pondered over the shelves with one arm folded and the other gently supporting the end of his long snout. "There is a lot of information here. One could spend their whole life studying. It is unfortunate that we do not have the luxury of time if we wish to follow their trail."
"You're right. I should start skimming through these," Lloyd said as he brought his stack to one of the central tables. He flipped through the pages in search of any mention of key information. It was a struggle not to get absorbed into learning even the less relevant details of Digimon.
Trance brought a single volume back to the table and took the seat across from his partner. His respect for the written word was apparent in how delicately he handled the book. He carefully read each page before slowly turning to the next. They spent a while in silent study. Lloyd glanced through the next two in his stack with sighs in between. It was all interesting, but not even a hint of what they came looking for.
"I did not want to speak of it around the other two, but I apologize for how I acted in the caves. We all agreed upon not resorting to violence and yet I foolishly conceded to my instincts. It accomplished nothing except left us all injured. And I ruined any hope of future negotiations. We possibly could have gleaned more if not for that. I am truly sorry," the fox admitted with his head bowed in shame.
"I was annoyed that everyone went against the plan. I understand why Garret and Ward wanted to stand up for Drimogemon, but it was a stupid move," Lloyd huffed. "I'm not sure how I feel about them yet. Garret or even Chartreuse if I'm being perfectly honest. That being said, I don't think there was anything else to gain by talking. I wouldn't feel too bad about it. Besides, Ward might have been hurt even more without your intervention. Look, you don't have to be sorry."
"Even so, in the future I will try harder to follow your judgment. I've been thinking about what we were told about the DAIS a lot. You know, what it means to be a Digimon who will not advance through life stages naturally. It is a gift to be immortal and to ascend to stages many Digimon can only dream of," Trance explained with enthusiasm.
Lloyd looked up occasionally from his book. He was paying full attention to what he was being told, but it was hard to stare directly back into those eyes. The apologetic nature added to the tension between them. There was a pause while the Renamon shifted in his seat. The boy was empathetic enough to see that the Digimon was deep in thought and hesitant about something.
"We're a team now so it is in our best interest to trust each other. You've proven yourself trustworthy to me and I'm in your debt for saving me back at the quarry. This journey would not have been possible without you. Thank you for bringing us this far," he finished with a respectful nod.
It was usually difficult for Lloyd to accept compliments. This was certainly not an exception. It seemed like Trance looked up to him, but from his perspective he would be defenseless without a spellslinging fox by his side.
"Are you kidding?" Lloyd asked with a lighthearted chuckle. "You're the reason why we came this far. Humans aren't strong like Digimon. You know that already. None of us could compare to any adult Digimon. Not even the strongest human."
Trance smiled and responded with, "It sounds like we make a good team then."
They both returned to reading their books for a few minutes. The air between them was mildly discomforting. It was strange to hear such praise, but also enjoyable.
Is this part of your programming, too, I wonder? Is it the DAIS that makes you this nice to me? Or is this genuine after all? Digimon are so lifelike it's hard to dismiss their intelligence. I want to believe that. Trance is more than just lines of code, right?
The boy was so lost in thought that he didn't comprehend the words his eyes were reading or notice that Trance had more to say.
"There was something else that I thought about. It's something that Olivia said to you. I didn't understand everything she said, but she asked if you didn't have any friends. Is that true?"
The question caught Lloyd off guard. It was no easy task to formulate an answer. Thinking about it made his chest feel tight. He wasn't distraught so much as uncomfortable and uncertain how to explain human society to a Digimon.
"Well... No, I guess not," Lloyd said apathetically. Rather than give a long explanation, he decided to take the simple route.
"Are there not many humans where you come from?"
"No, quite the contrary. There are so many more humans where I come from than there are Digimon here that it's hard to go anywhere and not find them."
Trance contemplated the answer for a moment before he continued. "And none of those humans are your friends?"
"It's not that simple. There are some of them that I talk to, and interact with, but they aren't my friends. I guess it depends on how loosely you define the word. If you're asking if any of them are like you and Len, then definitely not. Where I come from, people don't form bonds like that very often. I've come to rely only on myself."
"But why? Are your kind not aware that there is strength in numbers?"
"Yes, of course. Humans aren't as generous or trusting as Digimon, though. If Olivia meant what I think she did, she means that the others here are like me in that they stick to themselves. It's hard to explain. It's safer that way."
"I'm not sure I understand. But, we are friends, are we not?"
"Y-yeah. I'm glad that you consider me your friend, Trance," Lloyd replied with a stutter. He did what he could to quell his surge of emotion.
"I am glad that I am partnered to you. I like you more than those other two humans we've met. And you're insightful, I must admit. I want to get stronger so that we can find the right answers for both of us without having to worry about what lies in wait. I think that together we can solve the mysteries of the DAIS. I will do my best."
The sweet words caused a quite a stir in the human, who wasn't accustomed to such things. He felt his face become flushed and hot. He mustered a meek response of, "Me too," and shirked any further conversation.
It seemed fortuitous that someone interrupted their sentimental moment so that he would not have to sit in awkward silence. A short humanoid discreetly emerged from behind the shelves. He was considerate enough to wait for them before interjecting. The figure was clad in attire fit for a mage that obscured most of his body. A violet cloak was draped over his leather one piece garment upon dainty shoulders. Straw like blond hair stuck out from under his wizard hat, which was adorned with a skull design at the base. His skin looked to be pale and gray.
The strange Digimon spoke in a coarse, elderly voice that resonated with his wisdom. "Is there something I can help you find? I apologize, I couldn't help overhearing. I'm Wizardmon, I am the keeper of this library."
Damn it. This is even more embarassing. How long has he been standing there? The whole time?
"Well, we're looking for something specific, but I'm not sure if any of these books say anything about it. Do you know about what these are? The DAIS?" Lloyd asked as he held up his device.
The sagacious Digimon was delighted to know something of use. "Yes, of course. The others like you that have come before have taught me about them."
It was such good news that Lloyd's embarassment melted away and he nearly jumped out of his seat with excitement. "Wait, really? That's great! Please, we want to know anything you have to tell us about it."
Trance was equally enthused and actually did get up out of his seat to introduce himself. "I am Renamon from Kitsune Forest. I beseech you, please, anything you know about how I can evolve to Perfect would be invaluable."
"Heh. No need to be so formal. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon so I can tell you everything I know. If you're trying to evolve to Perfect, it's no easy feat. The same principle applies as it does to Digimon who aren't chosen like you. However, the DAIS does provide an ample push in the right direction."
Rather than rain on the parade of one who is usually so reserved, Lloyd allowed his partner to continue the line of questioning this time. He also figured that they knew more about evolution than he did already.
"I have met very few Digimon who evolved to be Perfect. The only one I ever bothered to ask had very little to tell me. They told me it was up to me to figure out on my own. Perhaps you know of some secret? What part does the DAIS play in that?"
"As you probably noticed, I have not reached Perfect in this lifetime. I have grown to be comfortable as I am and so I doubt I will ever evolve before I die. What I've learned from those like Angewomon and other partner Digimon like yourself is that there is no set formula. Unlike becoming an Adult, which will happen naturally, only the exceptional become Perfect. It is sort of a state of self-actualization. What perfection means to you isn't necessarily going to be what it means to another. Whether it is to be the strongest, or the fastest, or the wisest, or perhaps something different altogether, is yours to decide. What you were told is accurate. There is no absolute truth to answer the question.
"I have a hypothesis about the DAIS that I've more or less confirmed by the other users that have visited Divine Castle. The bonds that grow between user and Digimon are strong and indivisible. From what I could infer, the stronger the bond between them, the more valiant the Digimon on the field of battle. Again, forgive my eavesdropping, but it sounded to me like bond between you is just beginning to blossom. My advice to you both is to learn to trust in each other. If you can do that, any obstacle will be surmountable. The DAIS chose you two to be together for a reason. You are compatible with each other. I think you both knew that already."
In the fox's introspection, he made brief eye contact with his partner. He began to understand things a little more concisely. It was no accident that they were together now.
"I feel I have progress to make on my own as well. I've barely mastered my Adult form so I know in my core that I am not ready. My last battle as Kyubimon made that abundantly clear. My narrow array of skills leaves much to be desired. I must learn more. I have to be able to adapt to all the situations and Digimon that we come across. I have to evolve inside before I can call myself 'perfect.'"
"That's very astute of you. Mature, if I might add. Yes, I think you'll do just fine, Renamon. Keep along the path before you and you will reach your destination. I am more than happy to offer my resources to you during your stay here, as well. I have a collection of magic tomes that may be of interest. You may have noticed that the key to a Kyubimon's power lies with brains, not brawn. There are spells for all manner of situations. You seem to already know that this is only have the battle, though."
"Yes, I believe I understand," Trance nodded. "I am most grateful for your guidance, Wizardmon. Thank you."
The advice on evolution was satisfying for Trance, but Lloyd wanted to know about the more pressing issues. There was still so much left shrouded in mystery. He surmised that there was little Wizardmon could tell them about the DAIS other than to rely on each other and allow that to be their strength. It didn't make much sense how that equated to a drastic metamorphosis, but a fictional world didn't always adhere to reason. It was still worth asking about Chartreuse and the item he stole.
"Wizardmon, there's something else we came to find out more about. Back in Digizoid Quarry, there was this notorious Digimon, Chartreuse. He took something from deep within the caves. No one was supposed to know it was there. The inhabitants told us that the Royal Knights left it there for safekeeping. A small thing, about this big?" Lloyd held out his hands around an imaginary square. "It glows red like fire. Whatever it is, it has to be important."
"The Royal Knights, you say? Well, that may be beyond the scope of my humble life here in this castle. I wasn't aware that the Royal Knights hid anything. Their only duty is to defend us Digimon from any threats that arise. That being said, I've heard the rumors about this nefarious character. It sounds as though he is up to no good. You should ask the leaders about it during dinner. They sometimes meet with the Royal Knights, so perhaps they know more than I."
It was somewhat disappointing to find out their library excursion turned up little information of real use. Still, Lloyd remained hopeful. The fact that Chartreuse knew where to look, or more importantly, what to look for and why, means that the knowledge is out there somewhere. If it wasn't common knowledge, the last resort would be to ask those keeping the secret.
"If that doesn't turn up with anything, do you have any ideas of where to look? I don't mean to belittle your library, but is there perhaps a greater store of information somewhere? If not, maybe I can ask the Royal Knights themselves. I think they would listen in the interest of their enemy."
"Nexus City," Wizardmon replied with a decisive nod. "It's said to have the largest database in all of Arcadia. Digimon outside of the Metal Empire family have a hard time entering, though. They are particular about who they let inside. I'd say you need to reach your next stage of evolution before you think about challenging the gatekeeper. You will have a hard time traversing the lands to the north of the river in general before then.
"As for the Royal Knights, that may prove even more difficult. They mostly spend their time patrolling their respective areas. No one really sees them unless they have a threat to take care of. Their home is the Tower of Arcadia in the Overwrite Desert, far to the north. It can be seen from far away, but I haven't heard of anyone making it that far. Your best bet is to hope you stumble upon one by chance. I'm sorry if this isn't reassuring."
"No, not at all! I mean, you've been a big help. Really, thank you! I know what we have to do now. Right, Trance?"
"I will stand by whatever you decide, Lloyd. But yes, we are grateful for everything, Wizardmon."
"Hah! I hardly did anything. I am merely doing my job. My services are always available to those looking for knowledge. Renamon, I hope you return tomorrow. I can show you a thing or two about magic. For now, it is nearly time to gather in the main hall. I hear they are putting out quite a spread tonight. We're celebrating a victory over the bandits that have been quite a nuisance as of late. I do hope you enjoy yourselves stay a while. You needn't go your whole journey without resting now and then. Now, if you will pardon me, I have preparations of my own to make. I'll see you both at dinner."
Wizardmon glanced up at the antique grandfather clock in the corner close to the doorway to the rest of the castle. The brass hands almost formed a perfect right angle to signal time for dinner. He waved goodbye to his guests and smiled beneath his high collar. The wise sage pulled his cloak around himself and shuffled through the doorway out of sight.
The famished tamer and Digimon agreed that it was time to procure some much needed nourishment. Trance's belly growled as they stood up to replace their books. Deeper inside of the building, it became obvious where they would be eating. Several servants carried trays of silverware and dishes to the banquet hall just off of the foyer. In an attempt to stay out of the way, Lloyd waited for the line of various anthropomorphic felines to subside before they made their way inside.