After standing still for a couple hours, the tamer was bored senseless. He leaned up against a wall of one of the houses in the row perpendicular to the water. If someone was approaching the store house, he would be out of sight. Occasionally he would peer around the corner. Nothing. Trance was well hidden in one of the trees closer to the target.
Just when it seemed like nothing was going to happen, when Lloyd felt he would fall asleep standing up and lost interest in checking the store, the sound of rustling leaves roused him. He checked the device. Indeed, it showed an Elecmon nearby. This was it. He hovered his finger over the command to evolve. A shadow emerged from the foliage close to the storage house. It scurried up the wall and climbed into the window.
Before Elecmon slipped inside, he scanned his surroundings. Lloyd could hardly see, but it was just as Peckmon described. Elecmon was a small Digimon, only a few feet tall. His body was somewhat squat and pudgy and covered by vibrantly red fur with blue stripes as a tiger. Elecmon's long, rabbit-like ears flicked. He disappeared inside and began to collect his haul.
This was proof enough for Trance, who made his move at that moment. He descended from the cover of the tree swiftly and landed in front of the storehouse's doors. When he looked toward Lloyd, it was taken as the signal and the evolve command was activated. While this was happening, a feminine voice called out urgently, "Elecmon! Let's go now!"
As the light of evolution illuminated the dark night, Elecmon scampered back out the window and past Trance into the woods. Lloyd ran to catch up to his Digimon in time for the evolution process to be finished. Kyubimon was already faced towards the fleeing culprits. "Hurry, get on!" he barked.
Lloyd scrambled to get on Kyubimon's back and held on tightly. Before he even situated himself comfortable, his Digimon was racing through the woods with greater zeal and energy than he had during his first run as an adult. The tamer planned on using the device to help track them, but he had to devote all of his attention to not falling off. "I can't see them! Where did they go?"
"Don't worry, I'm not letting them escape. Duck!" The warning came not a moment too soon. Kyubimon dashed under a low branch that his rider narrowly avoided. The forest came to somewhat of a clearing where the foliage was less dense. Trance came to a complete stop and stared into the distance.
"Why did you stop? What is it?"
"There. A Digimon is standing there waiting for me, I think. Get off, this could get dangerous."
As Kyubimon walked towards the Digimon, Lloyd followed. It did not seem to be running so there was no need to make haste. To them it seemed like the Digimon wanted to encounter them here, away from the village. As they drew closer, the other Digimon walked directly towards them as well.
At first, the less keen human eyes could only see a flicker of light. A red-orange candle flame against a backdrop of almost complete darkness. The pace quickened with their heartbeats. Trance was agitated by what he thought he was seeing, and the tension caused him to step ever faster to confront this bewilderment. If they were not so close now, Lloyd might have had trouble keeping up.
The red orange candle was now a candelabra with nine flames. The form was very familiar, but different. Lloyd and Trance were equally confused at the sight of a Kyubimon, just like Trance, but with fur dark as the night sky. Their tail fires were different, and this new Kyubimon had menacing blood red eyes.
The foxes were locked on each other. They were hunched down in a fighting stance. Both held the exact same pose. Their legs spaced in precisely the same way. Their fangs exposed. The dark Kyubimon was a veritable reflection. As Trance shifted a foot slightly to one side, so would his doppelganger. If Trance leaned forward, so did the mirror.
"What is this?" Trance snarled in his frustration. The double simultaneously asked the same in a higher pitched voice.
In his rage, Trance launched a fireball. It was met by an equally powerful volley of fire and was cancelled out.
"Enough of this trickery!" was said by the foxes in unison.
The device revealed that it was no illusion or trick, but in fact a different species of Digimon than Kyubimon. It was a Youkomon, very similar to a Kyubimon, yet representing yin where Kyubimon was yang. The device had a description that labeled Youkomon as a herald of destruction capable of bewitching those it encountered. Another key difference was the family of the Digimon. It was included under Nature Spirits like Trance, but also was classified as Nightmare Soldier. Lloyd thought this pertinent to pass on to his ally.
"Trance, don't be fooled. It's a Youkomon and it's no stronger than you are," Lloyd said assuredly. Although it is very early to be seeing a palette swap.
The tamer's words did not reach Trance, who was offended greatly by the mimicry. What a childish game you are playing. How dare you insult my ability like this? He would have said it out loud if not for fear of it being echoed back to him.
Youkomon sensed Kyubimon's perturbation and found it so satisfying and delightful that he could maintain his charade no longer. The laughter he had sealed inside erupted out of him. His raucous cackling only made Trance more annoyed, but he did not care. Even as threatening as the Kyubimon looked, he did not wish for or fear a physical conflict. Just as well since he would do little to fight back as tear filled his eyes and he fell to the dirt helplessly.
"Stop laughing! Face me!" Trance roared. It was no use.
"That expression! Ahaha! I can't help it, it's just so rich!" Youkomon spurted as he rolled on the ground with his sides hurting. The Digimon transformed to a much smaller body, that of the Elecmon they saw fleeing the storehouse.
"So it is you after all," Lloyd exclaimed.
"You're more clever than you look," the female voice from earlier said and made them all direct their gaze to the bushes it came from.
A girl rustled the branches and walked out to greet them. Like most girls, and most humans even, she was much shorter than Lloyd. She was petite, but far from helpless. Her apparel signified she had a feminine taste. A black skirt, a stylish vermillion blouse, and various silver rings and piercings. And yet her aura gave the impression of someone who was tough and independent. Rough around the edges. She was younger than Lloyd, perhaps high school age. Her face was just nearly conventionally pretty, albeit slightly too round and full. Her long blonde hair was straightened and came down to her neck. Her blue eyes reminded him of Renamon's.
It was great to see another human for the first time since being here. Regardless, Lloyd felt he had to ask. "Are you a human? You're not a Digimon, are you?" As soon as he said it, he realized that it sounded stupid, as much as he felt it a valid question. After all, Anahata was very close to what a human looked like.
The girl was not impressed. "No, I'm not a Digimon. Isn't that obvious? I take back what I said," she replied with the slightest hint of annoyance and not bothering to look directly at the one she spoke to.
"Sorry, okay, I haven't seen another person since I've been here. I was unsure if there were any others. This is my first day here."
The girl sighed. "Well at least you've learned to your dais. You're not hopeless."
"My dais? What?"
"The handheld that you found when you got here. You're holding it right now. DAIS stands for Digital Arcadia Interface System."
Lloyd felt his excitement building. She sounded like she would be able to answer some of the questions that have been plaguing him. "Is that what it's called, Digital Arcadia? I'm not sure how this is any kind of paradise. But do you know about this world? What it is and why we're here?"
"You haven't been here long enough. You'll see that it is a paradise for tamers like us. It's simple really, this is a very sophisticated virtual reality that we've been chosen to test. Oh, come on now, don't look like that, you're lucky to be given this." She stated all of this calmly.
"I still don't understand," Lloyd said. "They took us involuntarily? Why not ask us? And why us specifically? Are there others?"
She giggled. "You're so naive." A comment Lloyd didn't take kindly to, or find to be accurate. "This technology is still new. It's very possible that we die here. Something involving that kind of risk is not something that can be advertised publicly. The government simply would not condone it. Yes, there are several others in this Arcadia. We're all here for similar reasons."
The boy was getting impatient. "What are those?" he pressed urgently.
"They chose us all very carefully by monitoring our online habits. Your browsing history, your chat logs, your social media posts, your entire identity is known to them. They selected a small number of people to test their creation. You might not like hearing it, but they specifically chose us because they knew we would not cause immediate alarm if we went missing for days at a time. You don't have any friends, do you Lloyd?"
"W-wha? How did you know my name?" The boy's chest felt tight and sore. In addition to feeling violated by being so meticulously spied on, what the girl said hinted at something undeniable. There were a few people he knew on the internet, but it would not be unusual to anyone if they did not hear from him for days or sometimes weeks at a time.
"I've been watching you for a little while. To be honest, I wanted to mess with you a little. Well, mostly Chester did," she replied as she gestured to her Elecmon partner who finally regained his composure and stood silently. "Look, I know it's hard to swallow. You're here now so just enjoy it, alright?"
"It's kind of hard when everything here wants to harm you. Besides, what's the point? What are we supposed to be doing?"
"Anything we want to be doing. That's the beauty of it. We're in a world of excitement and cute monsters where there is always stuff to do. You'll come to appreciate the fighting, too. After all, a life without conflict would be boring, you know." She said this without being bothered in the least by her circumstances. In fact, she was positively blissful.
"Okay, but does it have an end? Do you want to team up and find a way out?" Lloyd asked in desperation. He judged it unlikely she would agree to it, but it did not hurt to ask.
"I don't know and I don't care. I don't want to leave, and if that's what you want to do then you'll get no help from me. Besides, isn't your Digimon enough? He was made for you, just like Chester was made for me. Your meeting was no accident. A Renamon was chosen to be your partner because you two are compatible with each other."
This made Lloyd blush and avoid making eye contact with Trance. Little did he know that the fox was doing the same. He realized that she was not going to be of much use in finding any detailed answers about the nature of this world since she clearly did not mind one way or another. She was only interested in the result it yielded for her. He decided his next goal would be to seek out the others she spoke of.
The girl interrupted Lloyd's train of thought. "Is that all? Any more questions?" Her tone was partially playful but also somewhat disdainful. As with most females, the boy wasn't quite sure what to make of this one.
"Just one. Do you know where to find the other humans?"
A shrug. "Sorry, can't help you with that one. But there's plenty to explore here and I suggest that you do. Lloyd, I'm telling you this for your own good. Given the people that were chosen to be here, I know more about you than you realize. Just enjoy it while you're here. You'll come across the others sure enough. Arcadia isn't quite as big as it seems right now."
Her words were meant to be comforting, but the result was the opposite. The manner in which she was willing to blindly accept her fate didn't sit well with Lloyd. But then again, maybe she did have a point. Only time would tell. She began to motion to Chester that is was time to go and made her way back into the thick of the dark forest.
"Hey, wait!" Lloyd called out. She stopped and turned back to him. "Can you stop stealing from Ninja Village?" He almost forgot the whole reason why he was here chasing her.
She nodded listlessly, as if it were of no consequence whatsoever to her. "Yeah, sure, I'm getting tired of this region, anyway. I'll see you around, Lloyd."
There was one last detail that Lloyd almost overlooked. It wasn't usually of much importance to him. "What's your name? It's only fair since you know mine."
"It's Olivia. I'm sure we'll cross paths again," she said, again not caring one way another if that were true.