Kitsune Forest, as the mysterious Renamon called it, evoked serenity. Not only was it a pleasant calm, it felt as if everything were right in the world. It was the feeling that one could achieve self-actualization or dig at deeper truths. It was the kind of place that could even be described as sacred. It made the human recall the conscious, deliberate way of acting during a ceremony or ritual and the mentality that one assumes when they act out of piety or respect. But why? Lloyd hadn't participated in anything like that in over a decade. It was hard to believe that only minutes ago he feared for his life because of the swinging sword-tail he now followed.
"We're here. Don't make an sudden movements or disrespect the other Digimon," Trance the Renamon spoke from behind. His command was issued sternly, but without hostility.
Lloyd inspected his surroundings. He only saw what he had already. A forest, albeit a strange one. There were no signs of other life or homes. "Where is it? I don't see anything." They kept walking through a path of the same fiber optic trees. In the blink of an eye, the Digimon the boy followed had vanished. Len was nowhere to be seen in any direction. "What? Where did he go?"
Before the question could be finished, Trance impatiently interjected, "Do not stop. Continue forward and you will see." Lloyd could not see the Renamon narrowing his eyes. The agitation came from divulging a closely guarded secret.
One step later, the whole world flickered. The sensation was an odd sense of displacement. Almost like waking from a dream. However, this happened in an instant. The world didn't only look different. They now stood in a different place altogether. It appeared to be the same forest surrounding them in all directions. On top of cliff, they could see the forest stretch on for miles before mountains in the distant horizon.
On this secret plateau, the retreat for various "Holy" Digimon, nearly the whole forest could be seen from a safe perch. The plateau also had trees just like the rest, but the floor was made out of small etched bricks. Lloyd hadn't the faintest idea what the language the runes were from but they were everywhere.
In the center, between the tall trees, an impressive shrine challenged conventional building and perhaps physics. It was constructed out of a glossy gray stone. Structurally, it resembled a tree itself. A trunk-like core reached toward the heavens and branches protruded on varying stories. Each branch was a wavy hallway leading to globes of stained glass, each the size of a room. The stained glass rooms were a spectacle in their own right. Several shades of green and blue in a random assortment of small shards made up the walls of these globes. The door was only an opening covered by a hanging royal purple cloth. Above the door, a large metallic yin-yang was embedded into the stone.
Incense wafted through the air. Colorful tents outlined the edge of the plaza. More Digimon were on the other side of the plateau. Some of them were in a group talking and others were off sitting in silent meditation. There were several more Digimon of the same species as Trance. Other species made up the group. Wispy white pipe foxes called Kudamon. Bakumon, tapirs with ghostly trailing lower halves. Tiny wing-eared rodent Digimon named Patamon.
"I'll take it from here, my friend. You have my thanks." Trance nodded towards Len.
"Right. Yip if you need my help. I'm going to have my dinner," Len replied as he trotted off without a care.
Do you suddenly not want to hurt me, or do you just really think I'm not a threat now that I'm around all the others? These beings are...something.
A fox paw gestured to head into the shrine, so the boy complied. Up the stairs and down the first branch was a room lit by dozens of tall candles. Parchment covered in calligraphy sat neatly in the corner. On the far wall was a tapestry depicting a violet lotus. A woman sat on a golden rug in the center of the room. She had silky white hair long enough to reach the rug she sat on. Her attire consisted of black garments covered by gold pauldrons and a cloak, along with similar gloves to what Trance wore. As the two approached, she swiftly stood to face them. It was nearly too fast to be noticed, but she also pulled the staff leaning against the wall into her grasp with an unseen force. A fox mask covered the top of her face.
Trance knelt in the presence of the woman. This had to be the elder they spoke of. He said to her in a most respectful and polite manner, "Elder Anahata, please forgive my intrusion. I seek your wisdom and knowledge on my findings. This object and this Digimon from another world, have you heard of them before?" He held out the device for her to take. Again, she beckoned the object to fly to her across the room with a flick of the wrist.
Anahata's voice was benevolent and loving. "My prodigal student, you are never intruding on me. Do not fret, for you are very fortunate to have been gifted with this path. My pursuit of knowledge has brought me to this object once long ago. That must mean that this being from another world has been brought here to wield its power."
"What!?" Lloyd and Trance both exclaimed in unison.
The elder smiled and sent the device to float towards Lloyd. "Allow me to explain. In my search for an immortal core, one that would ascend beyond the confines of a single lifespan, I heard legends of Digimon who could ignore the laws of evolution. They were untouched by the passage of time. Their memories stayed intact even after death. Somehow, they acquired a tremendous amount of power. It was because of the Users from outside DigiWorld, brought here to rescue us from calamity. If it is like you described before you left, Trance, and you felt pulled towards this object then it supports my theory. Higher forces have chosen you for a noble path."
Users? DigiWorld? Digimon? This is all coming together. I'm in a computer game, that's all. My body is still safe and sound in reality. I didn't buy this game, though, someone forced me to come here. What kind of sick joke is this?
While Lloyd could not bear to take the plight of the Digimon seriously, only thinking of the issues surrounding this whole strange world, Trance was baffled for a whole other reason. "Elder Anahata, I beg your pardon, but I did not ask for this. I can't just accept that explanation, I need answers for why this is happening to me!"
If this is a game, there must be an end. If I play along, I can get there and hopefully find a way out of this. For now, the best thing would be to gather as much information about this world as I can. And, I can't believe I'm even thinking this, but I guess I should try to enjoy it too. I could use a vacation. Yeah. Silver linings, right?
"I am not all knowing, Trance. Those are answers you will have to find on your own. Then again, perhaps your new friend can help you find what you seek."
"Friend? Are you certain that I should ally with an unknown being based on a legend? Forgive me, Anahata. This is not easy to process." The Renamon tried his best to retain his composure and stand with perfect posture. "I--hrm." He began to speak, but paused to contemplate.
"You are skeptical, but right now your auras are the same. Both compassionate, inquisitive spirits. And you're both thinking of the exact same thing right now. The inexplicable nature of why you face these circumstances. It eats away at you. You have minds that never cease to ask questions. It's obvious now, why you were chosen to cross paths. Your journey will be filled with fulfilling experiences. You'll both find what you search for, I'm sure." Anahata had a soft, pleasant smile. It was as soothing as walking through the forest.
"Do you worship a deity?" Lloyd asked in a timid voice. He had not spoke in her presence and felt a little odd addressing a venerated figure so casually. "The force that you said chose us. Does it have a name? Or a form?"
"No, we do not worship that force. It is beyond the DigiWorld but also the DigiWorld itself, and so it permeates us all. We honor nature and the life we are given. Here in Kitsune Forest, we meditate and train our bodies and minds to transcend to higher truths and levels of consciousness. We also are the first line of defense the DigiWorld has against the Nightmare Soldiers. They are evil Digimon that invade to spread chaos and despair across the land. But we are relatively safe here. The few that find their way here usually are not much trouble for our warriors."
These are complex minds. If this is indeed a game, the AI is astounding. They are so...real. Lloyd was in awe of the Digimon. Their physical forms were no indication of the very human minds they possessed. They had emotions and they asked questions only sentient beings would think of.
"You expect me to leave? What about my job protecting the village, or my training?" Trance still fumbled for some sort of reason in a torrent of mystery and upheaval.
Anahata's tone did not change, but her words were more firm. "Trance, that is enough making excuses. You know very well that your friends and I are enough to keep the forest safe. You have grown so much. You're ready to go out on your own. Childhood is behind you, so embrace your coming evolution. Now go, you two, greater things await." She waved her golden ring staff at the exit and sat back down on her rug.
"Wait, where are we supposed to go?" Lloyd asked frantically. It seemed far too big a world to be wandering around aimlessly.
"You're afraid now, but soon you will see that you never had anything to fear." Anahata dismissed the human with cryptic words. Her disciple was already halfway down the hall. "Give him some time. He seems cold at first. However, underneath that guise is a gentle and kind heart. Follow your instincts and learn to trust each other. The path will become clear to you." Trance caught her whispered words with his sharp hearing and felt the blood rush to his face.
I don't find that very helpful. Trance must be very familiar with this cryptic speech since he's already going downstairs.
After he gave an awkward courtesy bow, Lloyd said, "Thank you, Anahata." He wasn't sure how much he actually meant those words. On his way out of the room, he glanced at the device. He would have to investigate its controls and function on the road.
The two explorers in search of truths met at the bottom of the stairs. Trance avoided looking Lloyd in the eye. Neither of them were exactly ready for this arrangement. This was not an adventure they had asked for, more so one they were forced into. Trance pulled open the cloth that served as the door. "Coming?"
"Where are we going?" Lloyd asked as he followed the fox outside.
There was a pause. "I'm not sure. Perhaps we can find more about this legend. What does the device do?"
Lloyd attempted to familiarize himself with the interface. It was fairly intuitive, but little of the information displayed made any sense. It would take some time to understand it. "I don't know. I will have to play with it some more." He carefully considered his next question, giving thought to the fact that Digimon might not have many of the luxuries of civilization. They were clearly not feral beasts, though, so it was not out of the question.
"Are there libraries around here? Places with a lot of books or information?"
Trance thought for a moment again before he responded. "Maybe one of the villages along the river will have heard of something."
"Great! Now we are getting somewhere!" Lloyd was all too excited to have made some progress in the right direction, or so he thought.
"I need to make preparations before we leave. Wait by the village exit for me? I assure you it will not take long." Trance was back to his cool, composed self.
The boy nodded as they walked off in separate directions. Trance went to explain his leaving to his friends. Lloyd waited and stared off beyond the cliff's edge into the distance. He also smiled, feeling much better about the state of things. The words that Anahata said, as vague as they were, instilled some sort of hope. This wasn't just a harsh wild. It had helpful and friendly creatures.
How bad could it be? I really can't complain with an adventure to spice up my monotonous life. If this is a game, then it can be won. I have to remember that. I also wonder if there are other players to this game. If there are, are they friends or enemies?