Two weeks earlier…
Ingo sat up, spitting grass out of his mouth. Unlike most people who appeared on the island of Pasio, he didn’t react with disorientation or confusion. After all, it had not been the first time that he’d been shoved through time and space against his will. Instead, his gut twisted, and he scrambled to his feet–adreneline pulsing into his muscles. Please, no, he thought. Not again.
It had been years of learning a new way to live, a new place to exist. Years of missteps and hurt, his mind clawing for a solid memory it could hold onto and always coming up empty. He couldn’t say he’d ever felt truly at home in Hisui; a part of him always longed for the mystery of who he had been before. But he’d made of it what he could, and the idea of having that all snatched away, like his first life had been–
Emmet. His knees shook mere moments after he’d stood, threatening the drag him back down into the grass again. His first life. His brother. Not as faint distant whispers he could barely grasp. No, these were full images and memories–the things he’d so desperately searched for, and all of them were back in his mind, clear as day.
His hands fell to his sides. His coat, which had gone more and more tattered over the years until half of it simply didn’t exist anymore, was completely intact, the fabric thick and practically new. His eyes burned as more, even earlier memories came to him. The mayor of Nimbasa City recruiting him and Emmet to run the newly-built Battle Subway. Emmet having the idea that they should wear identical outfits. Ingo compromising that the outfits should be at least different colors so that passengers could distinguish them. Emmet making the (uncomfortable) point that everyone could already tell them apart because unlike Ingo, he almost always had a smile on his face.
Ingo’s breathing picked up speed. He remembered, actually remembered, slipping into this coat for the first time, the fabric still stiff from lack of use. He’d watched the Ferris wheel twinkle alongside the stars, and he’d never felt more proud.
What’s going on here? Am I…back in Unova? Although it was rather out of character, he picked a random direction and started walking across the grass. Partially to work through his thoughts and partially so his shaking legs could get some work. Had Hisui simply all been a nightmare? As comforting as the idea might have been, it didn’t sit quite right with him. He checked his pockets. Sure enough, three hand-crafted balls sat inside–the ones he recalled making only a few hours before he’d gone through the strange warp in space. But where was he now? He shook his head. It didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered right now.
“Emmet!” he called loudly. “Emmet, are you here?”
There were no other people in the area–although his voice carried long and loud over the field. Nobody responded. Ingo slowed his pace and laid his fingers against his neck, feeling his vocal chords vibrate as he yelled for Emmet again. His voice sounded…younger. He pulled off his hat and ran his hand through his hair–as thick as it had been his first day on the job back home. Then he put his hat back on as the dark clouds above began to drizzle. He had wandered far enough now that he’d come to a walking path, which led into a small forested area. He continued down the dirt track, calling for his brother.
What…what’s happened to me? The question ran through his mind with every shout of Emmet’s name. Soon his voice got so hoarse, it really did sound decades older. Emmet wasn’t here. This place wasn’t Unova. And whatever had brought him here, it wasn’t for a reunion.
The sinking realization hit as the forest finally opened into a small town. Neat little rows of houses lined the quiet streets, all periwinkles and yellow creams, like springtime treats in a basket. The rain picked up, and Ingo lowered the brim of his hat, quickening his steps until he reached a bus stop–an enclosed glass shelter covered in dated and faded flyers, already fogging up from the surge of moisture in the air. He took a seat on the metal bench inside; the pounding drops sounded like a chorus of crazed teenagers all hammering out of sync on snare drums. One of the flyers, the least faded one, showed the bus’s current schedule. The last one of the night arrived at 10:15. He glanced at the large clock down the street. 10:34.
Well, at least I won’t bother anyone by waiting the rain out here. He leaned back against the metal bench, watching the raindrops race down the glass. A reminder that even if this place wasn’t Unova, it at least seemed to be roughly the same time period he’d left. Small wins and whatnot. Oddly enough, sitting here reminded him of the summer time. The bare trees suggested it was late winter or perhaps early spring, and yet the evening was unusually warm. Ingo let his long coat hang loose around him, rather than pulling it in against the cold. Or perhaps enough years living in a place without modern heating had simply thickened his blood and warped his sensation of what “cold” should be defined as. But whatever the logic, “summer” registered in his mind all the same.
When most people thought of summer, they thought of long walks on the beach or laying out in the warm night air and gazing at the stars with the smell of campfire smoke all intermingles in everyone’s hair and clothes. For him, though, summer meant rain. Sudden showers or even thunderstorms that rolled in across the landscape, striking when visitors to his tourist hotspot of a hometown least expected. And he loved that moment of seeing the clouds on the horizon, feeling like he knew a little secret. He’d been mind his post, welcoming trainers onto the subway when a flood of people would surge in to avoid the deluge. Usually that was when Emmet would take charge–Ingo was never the best at dealing with large crowds.
Tonight there was no activity. Clearly nobody needed an emergency shelter from the rain. Everyone had somewhere to go. Everyone except him. He removed the dripping wet hat and clutched it tightly in his hands, still unnerved at how new the fabric felt. And how the droplets of rain clung to his definitely-full head of hair.
Then, quite suddenly, there was someone standing beside him. Ingo hadn’t even noticed her approach, and he wasn’t quite clear on why she had. She was carrying a small black umbrella, which she closed in one smooth motion as she entered the glass booth. Then she simply took a seat on the bench beside him. Well, it was a public bench, he supposed. But surely the residents in this place knew the bus schedule, unlike him. She had long blond hair, dressed mostly in black and her face looked familiar, like she could be Volo’s younger sister.
More likely his fifty-times-great granddaughter, he reminded himself. Being back in this timeline was going to take some serious getting used to. He hoped she wouldn’t ask him to do something like check a Pokédex or even a watch or any other number of things that anyone born this century would have no issues with. Ingo half expected the light from a screen would unnerve him until he eased back into it.
Thankfully, there were no awkward requests to prove his place in this era. For a long while, the blonde woman just sat, watching the rivulets of rain alongside him. At last, she broke the silence with a simple, “You know the bus won’t come until tomorrow?”
Ingo nodded. “I understand. But this seemed like a good place to sit and think.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the two Pokéballs that had an actual Pokémon inside of it. It was a Drilbur, no doubt an unremarkable Pokémon by most people’s standards here. But in Hisui, it had been so rare, it might as well have been non-existent. Ingo had traded a prized shimmering, aqua blue Gliscor to a traveling ground-type enthusiast for it. He couldn’t explain it, but there was something about the Drilbur that had made him feel a connection to his past. Only now did he recall why. He passed the ball from one hand to another, assuming the blonde woman wasn’t paying him any attention anymore.
“My goodness!” she gasped. It appeared he had assumed wrong. “I’m sorry, but…is that a hand-crafted Pokéball?”
“Oh. Yes, it is,” Ingo replied. Of course my Pokéballs would look unusual here. So much for blending in. He pulled the empty one from his pocket and handed it over for her to inspect. Her fingers felt along the edges and she carefully examined the latching mechanism.
“Remarkable…” she whispered, although her voice sounded so distant, it was unclear if she was speaking to him or the ball itself. “The craftsmanship on this is exquisite.”
“Thank you,” Ingo managed to mumble.
She startled and stared at him. “You made this?”
“I did,” he said. “Although where I come from, it’s not that uncommon of a skill.”
“I’d love to visit your home sometime, then,” she said, finally handing the ball back to him. “It’s so rare to find people who craft Pokéballs by hand around here, let alone any who can authentically recreate the original Hisuan design.”
She recognized the design? Now that was interesting. “Indeed. You must be quite the history enthusiast.”
“I like to think so,” she said. The smile that had grown on her face as she looked over the Pokéball faded a bit, as if the reality around her was far less interesting to come back to. Ingo could certainly relate to that. “Do you keep your Pokémon in these as well?”
“Only have Drilbur and Tangela on hand at the moment, but yes,” he said. He pulled out Drilbur’s Pokéball, letting her feel the slight change in weight of a full Pokémon in comparison to an empty one. She thanked him once again before standing up.
“Looks like the rain’s eased up,” she commented. “At least enough that we won’t get drenched. Do you have anywhere you’re staying here on Pasio?”
He shook his head, hopeful that his expression remained neutral. He did not care to reveal he’d had no idea what this place was called until she said it.
“Why don’t you come stay with me for? Just for a week or a two until you find a living situation that’s better than a bus stop.”
“I…” Ingo didn’t know what to say to that. Did everyone around here just invite strangers into their homes? “Wait. Is this because I can craft authentic old things?” he asked.
“Not solely,” she assured him. “But you said you have a Drilbur, yes?”
He nodded, unsure what that added to the conversation.
She smiled. “There aren’t a lot of ground-type trainers around here. The way I see, we should look out for each other. Now then, let’s go. We’ve still got a bit of a walk through the rain.” Ingo agreed and stood up, but his heart sank at his brief misunderstanding of her last words. He’d been so sure she’d said, “Walk to the train.”