The walk back was spent in silence. Many suspicions about the Digital World, so called paradise, were confirmed by the other "player," Olivia. Olivia's existence alone gave validity to Lloyd's experience. As life-like and even human as the Digimon were in personality, from his perspective Olivia was undeniably a genuine human and not a simulation designed to mislead him.
Or a figment of my imagination. Right? She acted way too much like a person. Every Digimon so far has been an animal of some sort. Except for Anahata. The DAIS though! She can evolve her Digimon just like I can. And the other things she said about why we're here. Still, she didn't seem very interested in learning much about it. I really need to find the others.
Trance also pondered over the brief encounter. He didn't understand at first. He didn't want to believe that what she said was true. The bold statement proclaiming the nature of his existence, that he was a pawn in someone's game, was unsettling to think about. To be in charge of his own destiny was something he always considered to be important. But Elecmon did not appear to be a pawn of the one he accompanied, and it didn't feel that way with Lloyd either.
He retraced his steps to make sure, back until before he found the visitor from another reality. It felt as though his own desires had brought him on this path. And nothing was preventing him from leaving besides his own curiosity. That is what he told himself. Other realities or dimensions were not a foreign concept to him. Trance felt himself to be a guide of mutual benefit.
Beyond his understanding was an irrational train of thought in certain Digimon linked to their human partners. It was subtle and made perfect sense in their minds. Their programming inevitably entwined them with their chosen human. To the casual observer it would seem natural.
Back in Ninja Village, few words were exchanged. They explained to Peckmon that they would no longer have to worry about the burglaries. Peckmon was gracious and appreciative. They were given modest comfort on the ground floor of his pagoda with mattresses and pillows. Renamon insisted to sit on a pillow with his back against the wall. They both took quite a while to fall asleep. Lloyd flopped and fidgeted and sensed by the fox's perfect stillness that he too were still awake.
By dawn, they at least managed a few hours sleep before being woken by their host. He treated them to another meal from Falcomon and provided them with provisions before seeing them off. The boy thanked for the generosity profusely. He now carried a bag with, among other basic travel supplies, a supply of Bits in the form of a stick not dissimilar from a flash drive.
Rather than ask where humans might be, a question Lloyd thought to be pointless, he asked to see a map instead. It was not a map of all Arcadia, but just the immediately surrounding regions. Lloyd surmised that they would head south to head out of the forest and make their way to the next settlement, Digizoid Quarry. After that, they would continue through the plains beyond.
Leaving the forest was as easy as following the compass south and much quicker than finding the hidden village. Once they found themselves outside of the dense green, the land became arid with sparse vegetation. In the distance, they could see a mountain range. The peaks were not any taller than ones Lloyd had seen in his own world. However, they did look complex and a challenge to navigate. Luckily for them, they would spot the quarry long before they made it to those mountains.
First was the glint off the metallic domes around the upper rim of the winding path that lead down into the earth. Upon a closer look, the domes were quite large and suitable for habitats for several fully grown Digimon. It also seemed that one of the bigger domes was for trading. It was yet another quaint little settlement.
No one could be found above the surface, however. When they peered down to the bottom of the quarry, they spotted several entrances into the mines. Arches bolstered with polished metal supports lead into a veritable labyrinth of dark passageways. Tracks for minecarts were a feature in all of the entrances as well.
Renamon and Lloyd agreed. They would venture into the mines to look for any information and move on before nightfall. Down the encircling ramp they went. With no idea which entrance would be the right one, they merely went in the first one they came to.
The pathways themselves had bright LED lights every so often to illuminate the darkness, but they branched out into a network of tunnels. Lloyd suggested to take every possible right at a fork. The network ran deeper and deeper into the earth. The corridors were all the same in size, about fifteen feet high and twenty feet wide.
At times they would come to a crossroads in a more open chamber. These rooms split off into three or four corridors and often had several minecarts with several different ores.
"Is this what they are mining here? Do you know what these are?" Lloyd asked.
"I've read about it. These must be the different ores to make the Digizoid alloys. They are used to make the most powerful equipment, armor, and structures. Since they are nearly indestructible, they are very sought after. As to the specifics of the ores and the process, I haven't a clue." Trance paused. "What does the DAIS reveal?"
"It's confusing. I can see a few Digimon, but because there are passages below us and above us, I can't tell where they are. I think the DAIS needs an update. All we can really do is keep going until we find someone to talk to. See? Right here. I says that an Armadimon is in the immediate vicinity. And yet there's no one in here."
"Are you sure?" Trance taunted as he vaulted over the row of minecarts and snatched up the Digimon who lurked behind them. There was Armadimon being held upside down by the tail. "Why are you hiding?" His voice came off more demanding than compassionate.
Armadimon squirmed. The yellow furred armadillo had gold plating, big sharp claws, and cute fluffy ear tufts. "Let me go!" he yelled in a gravelly voice. "Please! Help me Digmon!"
Trance released his captive. "I apologize. We're not here to hurt you. However, I am accustomed to those hiding from me being a threat."
"I wasn't hiding from you!" Armadimon cried. "There was a big, scary Digimon I've never seen before. When I saw him coming up the tunnel after me, I ran and hid in here." He was obviously frightened. He trembled and sniffled.
Lloyd kneeled down and spoke softly. "We can protect you. Which one do we go down? We'll find him and get him to leave."
"That way," Armadimon replied as he pointed down the path across the room. "But you should be careful, that dragon was a lot bigger than you."
As he strutted towards the tunnel, the haughty fox waved his paw with a flair. “Don’t worry about us. I’m stronger than I look,” he said casually with his back to the cowering armadillo. “Wait here. We’ll need your help after we take care of your dragon.”
They took the path that went around in a wide arc, spiraling further down. When the ground leveled off again, the tunnel looked different than the rest. The walls and ceilings were rough and inconsistent. It twisted and turned chaotically. This was a natural cave. All around were tiny flecks of silver, gold, blood red, and cobalt.
Tremendously heavy footsteps echoed. Vibrations reverberated through the ground with each step. Lloyd took cover in a shallow recess. He gave Trance a worried glance, but was only met with a smile. His Digimon was fearless.
The DAIS displayed the approaching Digimon. Raptordramon was an adult stage Digimon of the Dragon’s Roar family. Vaccine attribute. His defensive capabilities were foremost thanks to body modifications constructed from Chrome Digizoid. But Vaccine Digimon are supposed to be nice like Trance, right?
Raptordramon appeared from around the corner. The beast towered over them and barely avoided the ceiling. As his name suggested, he looked like a velociraptor with amber colored fur, although only his legs, neck, and tail were bare. The Chrome Digizoid covered most of his body. His helm covered the top of his head, leaving the lower jaw exposed. The blades protruding from the top and sides of it evoked thoughts of a head-butt getting quite ugly. Wings that were also made out of the alloy didn’t look suitable for flight, but anything was possible in this world. His arms were augmented with cybernetic implants.
"You looking for a fight? Puny Digimon like you have no chance!" the behemoth bellowed fervently.
"You mean like the ones you're going around terrorizing? That's not strength. If you insist, I'll teach you a lesson!" Trance spat while clenching his fists.
The dragon, infuriated by Trance's insolence, charged with his head lowered. His body was weighed down considerably by all of the Digizoid, so his movements were slow and clumsy. His target sidestepped the charge with ease.
A smirk formed on the fox's lips. He's the one without a chance. He will never be able to hit me.
Raptordramon roared and swung around his mighty claws, sharp and sturdy as manufactured swords. Trance ducked and leapt through every sluggish attack. However, when the Digizoid claws missed cleaved through the rock wall like paper, Trance took care not to underestimate his opponent. Even though there was an advantage of agility, one mistake could mean a gruesome defeat.
In between reckless charges that missed their mark and shook the whole cavern, Renamon snuck in a few kicks and punches to the uncovered parts of the reptile's body. Maybe if he landed enough blows on the legs, his foe would fall, Trance reasoned. But no vital area was vulnerable. There was no real damage suffered at all.
Renamon vaulted over his opponent's head. He had to be horizontal at the height of his jump to avoid hitting the ceiling. Then, he unleashed a dozen Fox Leaf Arrowheads to see if they could penetrate the armor.
"Haha! I didn't even feel that. Is that the best you've got?"
"Not even close. Lloyd?" he turned to his out of sight tamer. "I think it's time to evolve."
"Oh, you have a partner like me. Maybe you won't be such a pushover after all."
The other tamer showed himself. A boy in his mid teens with a fit, athletic body. Short blonde hair. Blue eyes and a smile that both spoke of his deviant nature. He wore garments of the same regenerative fabric as Lloyd, but his were tighter fitting and more vibrantly colored red, blue, and violet. He clutched a DAIS in his hand.
Lloyd came out of hiding as well to talk to the other tamer. He thought that more important than starting a fight. "Hey, call off your Digimon! Let's talk!" he implored.
The new tamer shook his head and wore a big grin. "I'm not taking orders from you! We're undefeated! Beat us if you want us to back down!"