Chapter 16: Memories of the Church
hospital, Castelia City
It didn't take the doctor long to stitch up the wound on Rosa's arm. “It's surprisingly small for the amount of blood they had to clean up,” she said. “Did it get reopened before you got it treated?”
Rosa shook her head. “No. I did spray a potion I had on it.”
“A potion for Pokemon? Huh, that's odd.” She checked it over before starting cleaning it gently. “It does show signs of healing already, not like a fresh wound. Normally those potions don't work that effectively on humans, due to different immune systems. Still, we need to be careful with it.” Before long, they had Rosa's arm all bandaged up and set her up for another appointment later on to check on it.
Nate was not so lucky. They soon determined that he had been poisoned, put to sleep in a way that had a chance of dropping him into a coma if he had breathed in enough of the spores. For that, they had to inject the antidote directly into his bloodstream as well as put him in a breathing apparatus to clear his lungs. Rosa had decided to stay at the hospital to wait for him, after asking the nurses to let her know how he was doing. “They didn't want to at first,” she told her mother over the Xtransciever. “Since they don't want to share that kind of thing except with family members. But I convinced them that I was the closest he had to that, since not even he knows where he's from.”
“That's good,” Janice said, a little relieved from worry. “Hopefully they can get him cured soon. But, it's amazing that you managed to get him away from someone who sounds so dangerous. You shouldn't run into situations like that.”
“But I had to go help him,” Rosa said. “I didn't really think about it, I just knew that I had to. Actually, I wasn't really thinking when I was fighting her. I knew what to do. It's weird that you never got it to do anything like this; it's like magic.”
Her mother shifted how she held her arm, glancing away for a moment. “Magic, huh? Rosa...”
“What? Do you know something about it?”
“Well,” she closed her eyes for a moment. “I really should tell you in person. Tell you what, I'll meet up with you two in Castelia on my next day off. I'd be good to check up on him too.”
“Oh, sure, that'd be fun!” Rosa said, already thinking about things she could show her mom when she was here. “When would that be?”
Janice got up and walked across the room to find the wall calender. “That's... the fourth. One of my co-workers has a flying Pokemon, so I'll see if I can borrow him to make the trip. In the meantime, you'd better make sure you, Nate, and all your Pokemon are doing okay.”
“Right, I'm keeping an eye on my Pokemon,” Rosa said, looking over at where Bard, Medusa, and Grim were playing with some little kids in the lobby. River was sneaking about between the lobby and Nate's room, while Rosa had had to recall Finn for being aggressive. “They're letting Ruby stay with Nate, but they won't let Argent fly around because he'd mess with the equipment. It was kind of sad, since he was just as upset.”
“That is a problem you start running into with Magnemites and their line. But you're in Castelia; talk with the Pokecenter nurses and they might be able to tell you where to buy an EM field dampener to keep Argent from disrupting electronics.”
“Okay, I'll let him know. Oh, and he picked up an Eevee somewhere! She could be so cute, but I really have to ask what he was thinking when he gave her that awful name she has. It's... it's just horrible.”
Panty Thief the Eevee wasn't sure what she'd gotten herself into now. She been passed to yet another new Trainer, something that was getting painfully familiar. Normally, they'd get disappointed quickly and keep her in her Pokeball most of the time. After a few weeks, she'd get passed on again. But then, she hadn't had a new Trainer who went mindless, staring ahead at nothing for hours.
Or one who went into hysterics. That had been scary; not even his two other Pokemon knew what happened to him. Nate had started shouting nonsensical things at the strange woman in black, but then lapsed into hyperventilating when she knocked him to the ground. Not knowing what to do, the Eevee thought about running away, but then remembered that she was supposed to stick by her Trainer, whoever it happened to be at the moment. The Pignite and Magnemite with them had started attacking the woman to get her away from Nate, but then she called out an Absol that defeated both of them. And the Eevee too, when she had froze up in fright next to the boy.
This ended up with them staying in the hospital. Nate had finally woken up an hour before dawn. But even when the doctor had removed the mask over his face and chest, he didn't seem happy. He sat in a chair in the room, looking out the window and not saying anything. Ruby stayed close to him; she tried tugging at his sleeve. “Come on, we should go outside on a walk. That'll help you feel better.”
The Eevee lowered her ears, nervous. She should do something to help; that was what a good Pokemon did. But, most of her Trainers thought she was a bad Pokemon. She wanted to be good, but being good was so confusing. Not only that, but most of the Pokemon she had worked with were mean and jealous. Would this Pignite be the same way? She acted so nice yesterday, but that could be an act.
“Wh-what's wrong with him?” the Eevee said, creeping closer to where Nate and Ruby were.
“It's complicated,” Ruby said, more concerned about him than in bullying her. “He has this amazing psychic power to see the memories of others, but it can hurt him a lot. Sometimes I think he'd be better off without it.”
“Sounds scary,” Panty said, drawing her front paws close. What if he saw how terrible everyone said she was?
“And he doesn't even remember his own memories well,” Ruby added. “He seemed really sad about it when I first met him, or maybe just confused. I've been trying to take care of him, because that's what my mother said I was supposed to do: I'd be helping out a new Trainer and I was to give him or her all my support. But I don't understand much of what's wrong with him, so I do my best to keep him from being hurt in other ways.” She paused. “I didn't do well yesterday. I want to cheer him up.”
“Y-yeah,” she agreed.
Cheer him up... there was something that might work. She wasn't sure, as it had gotten most of her Trainers really upset with her. But it had always cheered up her original Trainer. He'd even instructed her how to go about it better. Once she was sure Ruby wasn't paying attention to her, Panty slipped out of the room and began looking around for a gift.
She walked along the area cautiously, once darting behind an extra bed to hide from a nurse. If she got caught, she'd get yelled at. But, she was trying to do a good thing. Making her Trainer happy was good. Maybe if she did this right, he'd give her more of a chance than others. She searched around until she found a likely spot. There was a woman in one of the rooms, asleep. If Panty poked around, she might find her clothing.
A few minutes later, she sneaked back into the hall, carrying a pink bra. It had been in a drawer; such things had been tricky to open at first, but she had learned for her first Trainer. Before she could get much further, though, a Pokemon called out to her. “Hey, what're you doing?” It was a huge pink Pokemon, a Blissey that was hopping her way.
Panty froze for a second, eyes wide. Then she bolted down the hall. The Blissey yelped and ran after her. The bra's strap flipped into her eyes, distracting her. While she tried to shake it aside, she crashed into a tall potted plant, knocking it over and dumping loose dirt on the floor. The Blissey was still running for her, and one of the humans was now paying attention. This was bad! Panty dropped the bra then dashed for Nate's room. She got under his chair and huddled there, shaking. Why did everything she try always end up making trouble?
For good or for ill, this managed to snap Nate out of his trance. He turned to see what was going on, then left the chair to kneel down by it. “What was that commotion about?” he asked.
She looked up at him, staying put. The boy reached his hand to her, cautious. “I'm gonna be punished again, aren't I?” she asked
“What were you doing?” Ruby asked, leaning over and trying to see her too.
“Strange creature,” Nate said. “You were?” While he tried to think of it, he cringed and put his head in his hands. “Ugh, what happened to me?”
“Did you forget again?” the Pignite asked, putting a hoof on his shoulder. “That's...” she sniffled at the thought.
He looked up at Ruby for about a minute, taking her hoof while he thought. “Ruby... right, you're Ruby. I should talk about this. There was someone...”
“Good,” she said, relieved. She seemed like she might say something more, but decided to hug Nate instead.
“Is there a problem?” one of the nurses asked, coming into the room to check on him.
“My head hurts, but that's normal,” Nate said, starting to get up. He nearly fell down again, but Ruby still had a hold on him. “I had some medicine for this. Oh, and I was with somebody...”
“Rosa?” the nurse asked. “I can call her up if you want.”
Panty took a few steps closer and saw Nate nod. “Yeah, I need to talk to someone who's been around me recently.”
Maybe she wasn't in much trouble this time. At least as long as she avoided that Blissey, nobody should know what happened. But it was too bad that she didn't get a chance to see if that was something Nate liked. She'd try again later.
Upon being informed that Nate had memory problems previously, the doctor wanted to run a few scans on him just in case. But it seemed to be all right this time, at least Rosa thought so. She and Nate had spent several hours going back over their adventures the past few months. Sometimes he spaced out while trying to recall them. Eventually, he was able to remember most of what had happened.
“What about yesterday?” Rosa asked. “We had talked in the morning, but split up when I wanted to train in the dojo and you wanted to train in the sewers. And what about that Eevee, huh? Why'd you go and name her that?”
“Name her what?” Nate asked, reaching over to the bedside table to check on the Pokeballs.
“Well, that,” she said, blushing with a mix of embarrassment and anger.
“Oh... she doesn't have my Trainer ID in the OT slot.” He looked at it, then nodded. “Yeah, that's right. A guy in the park gave her to me.”
With those questions, Nate was able to recount the events of yesterday. He'd trained in the sewers until Argent found a path up to a hidden park, apparently the original central plaza of Castelia. He'd gotten the Eevee in a funny incident; Panty herself seemed nervous and shy, hiding under the chair for most of the morning. Once the other Trainer had left, Nate had one of those visions, this time of Hilda and Kyurem talking (although he seemed oddly reluctant to say what it had been about beyond that). The strange ninja woman had been in the vision too. Not only that, but Nate seemed to have made contact with Kyurem somehow. But after that...
“I know I saw her in the park,” Nate said. “She... she seemed to recognize me.”
“Do you remember her?” Rosa asked. “She seemed scary.”
He shook his head. “I feel uneasy thinking about her, but I can't think of why now. She could have killed me if she really wanted to. And, there's something else I remember, from before we met.”
“Really? That's great!” She smiled, hoping it would reassure him. “What is it?”
Nate closed his eyes. “It's hard to tell; I think it's a group of different memories, but I don't know how to separate them yet. I've... I met Hilda.”
“This place should be safe,” Nate said, making sure that the door shut tight behind them.
“Frank says it feels peaceful,” Hilda said, walking further into the church. “Amazing place, especially with the bright moon.”
The church always seemed full of light and color, even though most of the structure was black or white. The stone floor was polished to a shine, reflecting the moonlit colors from the stained glass above; thin pillars supported a soaring roof, making the strong structure seem airy and light. In alcoves to the sides, there were small altars with bright paintings. In front, there was a solemn statue of an angel along with the largest mural of stained glass in the building.
Their footsteps echoed in that space, both of the humans and the five Pokemon with her. “Even so, it'd be a lot better filled with people,” Hilda said.
“It was like that, once,” Nate said, his throat tightening up at the thought.
One mournful day, he had sat down beside a woman who was lost in thought. “It was an awful night,” he said in sympathy. “Um, he let me borrow this.” He offered her a bag that had a black DS secured in a mesh pocket.
“Oh, well,” she said, looking down. “I think I know what you mean, but it's been hard to think straight. I either feel horribly sad, or I don't feel anything at all.”
Nate bowed his head. “You've been hit by the mind purges; somebody doesn't want us to remember something. But, your son...”
She got up suddenly. “You keep that,” she said. “I have no use for it. I'm sorry, but I can't...” She got tongue-tied, then walked off in a hurry.
Although he felt terrible for her, he only watched her leave the church. They kept losing people as the situation here got worse and worse. Had he really done all he could?
“Can’t we do something about this?!” a young man said, standing up in the crowd to talk to the church's pastor.
“We must keep our hopes alive and pray for peace,” the pastor said.
“More than that,” he said. “The law has no power anymore and there's no chance of getting help. This is a disaster and it's all been caused by them... and we're supposed to just sit here and hope things get better? Shouldn't we be fighting them, to make them pay for what they've done?”
Nate watched the exchange nervously. Both sides were correct, but it was something that was hard to understand. Most of them wouldn't want to understand it. With what he had seen, Nate couldn't deny it... when he could remember it.
“I know it's hard but we must have faith,” the pastor said, trying to keep the group calm and together. But it would be hard for anyone, given the chaos they were facing.
As time went on, the congregation dwindled. Many had abandoned hope while others had died. Nate stuck with the church, trying to help the other members. However, there were moments when he thought of giving up too. Ridiculous laws were coming into being, enforced by unreasonable monsters. The streets and buildings crumbled a little more every day. On the other hand, this church managed to keep itself intact. As long as it stood, he could find some hope to cling to.
“Nate, don't you think it's time to go home?” his mother asked. She was pacing around.
“Don't disturb the peace here too much,” Nate said, although there weren't many visitors lately.
“Your father should be home soon,” she said, not paying attention to what he said. Or maybe even what she was saying herself. “Maybe I should make something special for dinner. That would be nice, wouldn't it? It would be nice, good for you.”
Nate felt a lump in his throat, but then he found it hard to think of. “Mom... Dad's not coming back. He's gone, like the others.”
“We'll have a nice family night at home, with games,” she said, lost in her own ways of coping. “Or you could invite a friend over. What about that one friend of yours? I don't think that I've met him yet.”
“He... he...” For a moment, the memory of what had happened to his friend was raw, fresh as if he'd just witnessed that tragedy. Then the pain turned physical and... the memories were gone, purged from his mind.
“We can make a crossword today!” his mother said merrily, looking at the refrigerator in their apartment and pulling off an 'L' magnet.
“Mom, no!” Nate said, coming over and taking the letter from her. “These words are important.”
“Really?” she asked, looking at him in puzzlement.
He nodded, placing the letter back in 'SOLARFLARE'. “You know... about the memory purges. I keep my passwords here so I can figure stuff out faster.”
“I thought that's why you went to the church so much,” she said.
“I have a lot of reasons to go there.” He paused. She seemed coherent today, a least a little. Did he try to talk with her? Or would she just get distracted again? She'd been like this ever since his father had gone missing. “Mom,do you ever feel like there was something you should have done differently in the past?”
She thought for a little bit. “I think we should have lived in the country rather than the city. That would have been nice, wouldn't it? Hey, maybe we can still move to a nice country home. I'll talk with your father about it when he comes home.”
His father wouldn't ever be coming back.
The city streets were ominous when barren. Nate walked in the street, knowing there wouldn't be any vehicles driving around. While it was out in the open, at least he'd have a better view of trouble when it arrived. Nothing happened on this trip, as he arrived at the church safely.
Like the streets, it was quiet. The feeling of loss lingered in Nate's heart, although he found it hard to remember those who had once attended here. It was strange; he knew he should be afraid, upset, or sad, but this had gone on so long that he had become numb. Most days, he played video games on his DS for lack of anything else to do. But sometimes, he felt a need for some kind of hope or peace, and so he returned here. Maybe he'd come across another visitor; most likely not.
There was someone else here. Nate paused halfway through the long sanctuary, looking up at the front. In front of the angel statue, there was another young man, taller than he was. He turned as Nate approached him; his eyes were haunted from dealing with everything that was going on.
Maybe he remembered more. “I thought you lived with your mother.”
“She's gone,” Nate said, stopping a few feet from him.
“I'm sorry,” he said, looking down.
Nate's mind hurt for a little while, but he could remember him now. “Do you want my help now?”
His old friend tensed. “I... I can't involve you. I told you that. You'd get hurt. But you shouldn't...” He approached him, starting to put his hand on Nate's shoulder but hesitating.
“The memory purge doesn't erase the memories,” Nate said. “It just cuts them off from conscious recall. But with the right triggers and recollection paths, I can usually restore my own memories. It's gotten harder and harder to do. I'm not even sure how many times I've been purged now. Seems to happen once or twice a month, though.”
“Your mind must be in such disarray,” he said, nearly crying at the thought. “Maybe even damaged... I'm sorry; I wish I really could help you, but I'm cursed to hurt others.”
“I don't think you're cursed. You're defeating yourself; I’ve been really worried about you. I'd like to help you fix things...”
“How are we supposed to fix things now?” He rubbed his eyes. “Do you remember what I've done?”
“I believe so.”
“How can you still worry about me then? Both of your parents are gone. And, everyone that once came here, it seems.” He faced the angel statue again. “You have much grief to bear, and danger is still present where you live. But you worry about a failure like me?”
“I still believe in you,” Nate said.
He began shaking, so Nate reached out to him. But he pushed his hand away. “Don't touch me. I don't want you to die too.”
Abruptly, the light in the church dimmed. “There's still a chance that,” Nate began to say.
“Get out of here!” he said sharply. “They're coming and I don't want you to die too. I... thank you for being my friend, but I want you to find peace, and be happy. So you shouldn't stay with me.”
Recalling the last time he had seen his friend, Nate could almost hear the echoes of him saying that. He shivered. There had been a good reason to leave. Even if he wanted to help... he told Hilda about it while they were in the church. “Once it was safe, I started coming every day again. I thought I might see him, and maybe he'd accept my help this time.”
“That's harsh of him,” she said. “I wonder if he knows it hurts both of you more in doing that.”
“He might know that,” he agreed. “While he keeps acting like this, there's not a whole lot I can do.”
Things were quiet for a moment. Then Hilda nodded. “Maybe I can help him.”
“How?” Nate asked, not seeing how she would have any chance at that.
But she smiled and winked at him. “It was in your journals, silly. I'll show you later. But first, look at that!” She pointed up at the stained glass behind the angel statue.
He looked at the familiar picture. “What about it?”
“You said you didn't recognize Pokemon as being real, but they're there! Those dragons, they're gods that protect my homeland: Zekrom and Reshiram. That's proof, that they're here in this sacred place. From that, I know what's going on. That makes me think that I can do something you can't. Maybe it'll fix things, or maybe it'll all blow up in my face. But, if I can do something, I should try.”
“I know my mind's messed up, but really?” Nate asked, looking at the glass panels. The place was so familiar that he hadn't really recognized it, but the dragons up there did seem like ones he'd seen in one of the games at least.
One of Hilda's Pokemon said something, followed by her saying, “What happened to the Pokemon?”
“Isn't it... in my journal?”
Back at his apartment, Hilda checked back on his journal and did some planning with her Pokemon. Then, she came over to him. “Hey, did you ever dream of going to another world?”
He glanced up from his DS as she plopped down in the seat across the coffee table. “What for?”
She shrugged and gestured out the window. “Well it's not like this place is that great. Sorry if it offends you.”
“Not really,” he said, looking back to his game. “I am being escapist, but only with the games, and only because it's as you say.”
“Then here, try this one.” She tossed a white DS cartridge onto the table between them. “If you start a new game on that, you'll end up in that world.”
Picking up the game to look at it, he noticed it was a Pokemon game he had picked up some time ago. But the label was smudged and all he could tell of the version was a 'C'. “Is this a way to get to another world? I... I got some games from a boy, shortly before he disappeared. And then some other visitors to the church gave me other games when they lost interest, or when others were lost.”
“Have you played that one?” she asked.
“I don't think so.”
“Well Frank notices dimensional warping around that one,” Hilda said. Her Gothitelle, standing nearby, nodded in agreement. “Maybe it's because I got here, but he's pretty sure that's one way to get to my world, starting a new game with this one.”
It puzzled Nate, and concerned him. “Why me? You could use it to get back home.”
“I read your journal and gave it some thought. That's not going to be the only way for me to get back home; there's another power in this world that could accomplish the same, plus I still have these. But I'm worried about you staying here. I mean, you're a cool guy and it's a shame you're caught up in all this. You should try a fresh start where I come from. Although,” a worried look appeared on her face as she looked up at the Gothitelle.
“What was the problem?” Rosa asked, leaning closer in interest.
Nate thought about it a bit longer, then shook his head. “I don't quite remember that yet. But she was going to the church to see if she could find clues about that one friend of mine. He,” he snapped his fingers, but it wasn't coming to him. “I can remember what he looks like and the one conversation we had at the church, but everything else still escapes me. Or is blocked off, that's more accurate.”
“You seemed to remember some, which is great,” she said, trying to cheer him up. “But then Hilda really is in another world... your old one! Because you remember talking with her and Kyurem said so. I wonder what it would take to get her back home.”
“We still need to figure out why and how she ended up in my world,” Nate said. “Kyurem's missing and I don't think he was with her when we met.”
“Hmm... oh, but there was something else big! You were involved in telling your memories, so I didn't want to interrupt, but you mentioned that you kept your passwords on the fridge. One of them was solar flare, right?”
That... he took hold of his necklace. “That's right, I did. Maybe if I try to imagine it, I can remember the rest. But that is more than I knew.” He pulled the ball apart to get to the drive, then plugged that into his Xtransciever. Its screen wasn't that large, but he could look at them on a regular computer later on. For now, he just wanted to know that the password would work.
Fortunately, all it took was putting in 'SOLARFLARE' with all-caps to unlock four folders. None of them were the one that requested opening first. Instead, he found one folder filled with lengthy papers on various subjects and another folder with an entire book. Those two were way too long to read over while he was talking with Rosa.
The third folder seemed to be a few video game guides, filled with charts, statistics, and competitive evaluations. “I think this is some of the stuff I recalled about Pokemon,” Nate said, skimming it. “But it's for video games, so probably not as useful in actually training.”
“Were you that into your games?” Rosa asked, trying to get a peek. Nate went ahead and let her look at the file he'd opened. And a good thing too, since she noticed something. “Hey, that's Game Freak!”
“You recognize that?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yeah, that's the company that sponsors the public dojo and runs the virtual battle simulator. I don't know much else about them; I think they do all sorts of games, including Trainer sims.”
“Trainer sims?” something about that seemed familiar.
“They're RPGs, I think, that mimic the Pokemon League challenges. I always thought they were kind of silly because you could go do that yourself with real Pokemon, but they must have a following.”
While it seemed like something to look into, that would have to wait. The last folder that the password unlocked was the most interesting, as it was filled with photos. The first one was even of the church; a large group of teenagers, including Nate, was sitting on the wide steps that led up to it.
“Wow, you must have had lots of people attending your church,” Rosa said. “Do you recognize any of your friends?”
“I feel like I should know them,” Nate said, looking over the faces. “I don't think I could name any of them right now.”
One thing he noticed while looking through the pictures was that even if someone was smiling, they didn't seem to be actually happy. Other pictures in the folder showed some reasons why that might be: a fire in the city streets, masses of black smoke in the air, evidence of damaged and neglected buildings, a distant riot. There was even a couple showing some kind of soldier, completely covered in black and gray body armor. Whatever his old world had been through, it was a huge mess.
Eventually, they found a picture of Nate with a woman, both of them sitting on a bench in a park where even the grass struggled to survive. She was dressed in a whimsical yellow shirt, a long green skirt, and a green silk scarf tied around her head. He immediately recognized her. “That's my mother,” he told Rosa. “She was kind of childish, actually. Whatever happened, it affected her badly. I tried to help her as best I could.”
“Maybe she was trying to stay optimistic?” Rosa wondered. “She seems like a fun person, at least here.”
“That sounds right.” She must have died too, given how sad he felt just looking at the photo.
There were a few more with him and his mother. Others were of places that might have been important like the church, but none he recognized aside from a shot inside his apartment home. There was even a good shot of the angel statue and the strained glass window behind it; Rosa quickly agreed that the two dragons in the window were Zekrom and Reshiram. Seeing that, Nate was sure that he was missing a lot of vital pieces of his memory. Perhaps having his memory tampered with so much had caused him to temporarily forget about Pokemon and a lot of other general information too. What were Pokemon to his world? And why had his memory been purged so much anyhow?
And at the very end of the folder's collection, they found a few photographs of Hilda and her Pokemon, in his world.