A figure just stood on the ground, looking around warily as it heard numerous people murmuring above him. Looking up, it could see a shadow of a face, one with a beard. Confused, it continued looking around. What was this dark place?
"...so, your research was a success, doctor." one voice remarked. The figure on the floor looked around the area again, trying to figure out which person was speaking.
"It seems it was." another voice, presumably the doctor's this time, rang out. "However, I still wish to make a few tests just to make sure everything went alright."
The figure blinked for a few moments before he tried to speak up. However, another voice cut in before he could. "And...what happens if this interferes with Proto?" the voice asked gruffly.
The other voice sighed. "I am very positive that my research won't have any adverse effects on Proto. I have made absolutely sure about that."
"If you say so, doctor."
The figure then chose that time to speak up. "Um...excuse me?" it asked, making everyone look at it. "Who are you?"
"Ah, so he finally speaks." one voice said. The doctor made some sort of motion with his hands at the other person, telling him to be silent.
The figure looked up as the doctor cleared his throat. "I see you are awake. Good..." he murmured as he stared intently at the figure. The figure shifted uncomfortably.
"Please answer. Who are you?" The figure asked again. The doctor suddenly smiled.
"Why, I'm Doctor Cossack. I am the one who created you." he said happily.
"Created...?" the figure asked again. The doctor nodded.
"You are the final result of my research...my child, so to say." he chuckled, as if making a joke he only understood. "There is no need to be so confused. I shall explain everything in due time."
"I see..." the figure murmured. He then looked back up, seemingly confused. "What...what is my name?" he asked softly, shifting slightly because of the numerous people staring at him.
"Ah...your name?" the doctor asked aloud. "Hm...what shall it be?" he said while tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Ah! I know!" Cossack exclaimed after a few minutes of thinking. "How about the name 'Forte'? It seems to suit you well."
"Forte..." the figure repeated, saying it softly to himself as if to get used to it. He suddenly smiled. "I think I like the sound of that, doctor."
Doctor Cossack only beamed down at him.
That was when Netto woke up, gasping.
Sitting up, he held the side of his head with his hand, grimacing at the memory of the dream. He knew it was one of Forte's memories; the presence of Dr. Cossack and the mention of Proto proved it. However, he was suddenly filled with some sort of sadness; the memory was a happy one for Forte, it was just the thought of what happened later that saddened him. Shaking his head to clear it, he looked around the room.
It was already morning, from what he could tell. The sunlight poured in through the windows, illuminating the room. Blinking a bit, he felt Forte's PET in his other hand under the bed covers. Before he could look around any more, some shuffling to his left made him look to the other side.
Turning his head to the left of the bed, he saw his mother and father just standing there, smiling. He also spied Enzan on the couch, who was sleeping softly. Netto blinked in shock before he spoke up. "Mama...Papa..." he let out softly, staring at his two parents.
Haruka smiled and stepped towards the bed, enveloping her son into a tight hug. "Oh Netto!" she cried, a few tears still escaping from her eyes. Still somewhat in shock at seeing his parents, he hugged back.
"Mama..." he said softly. Haruka drew back as Yuuichirou approached the bed, still sniffling.
"Welcome back Netto," Yuuichirou said while smiling warmly down at his son. Netto blinked a few times before being hugged by his father too. "You worried us all!"
"Papa...thanks." he said while looking at his parents. Yuuichirou chuckled as he brought up something from his waist.
"And look who I brought as well!" he said as he handed the blue PET to Netto. The brunette took it into his hands as he looked at the overjoyed face of Rockman.
"Netto-kun!" he exclaimed happily as Netto smiled at him, "You're all right!"
"Yeah, I am. You miss me?" Netto asked jokingly. Rockman frowned slightly.
"Of course I missed you!" the blue navi said, "You're my operator and my brother! How could I not miss you?" he questioned, a worried tone creeping up into his voice.
"Calm down Rockman!" Netto said while holding up a hand in a placating manner, "I was only joking! Of course I knew you missed me! I mean, how could you not?" Yuuichirou and Haruka both chuckled a bit as they stared at their two sons.
"Don't make me worry like that anymore, okay?" Rockman asked as he calmed down a bit. Netto nodded.
"I won't Rockman. Don't worry!" the brunette exclaimed while nodding.
"...Enzan-sama!" Blues' said from his PET. Everyone looked over at the couch, where Enzan was still sleeping. "Enzan-sama, wake up!" Blues said in a slightly raised voice, but the boy only grumbled a little bit before falling silent.
Rockman held back his urge to laugh. "Having trouble, Blues?" he asked jokingly from his PET. The red navi could only look in the direction of the bed helplessly.
"I see that Hikari-san is up. That's a relief." Blues said as he turned back to his operator. "But I'm getting worried...Enzan-sama won't wake up. He's never slept this deeply before."
This time, Rockman couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "Did you try yelling at him? That always works when Netto doesn't want to wake up." Netto was about to object that he didn't do that anymore before he fell silent. He still didn't know how he was going to tell everyone about Forte.
"Yell at him?" Blues asked incredulously. Rockman nodded from his PET.
"Yeah, yell at him. I guarantee it will get him up." he said while smirking. Blues hesitantly nodded before coughing a few times and taking a deep breath.
"Enzan-sama, get up! Now!" Blues yelled. It had its intended effect as Enzan woke up and fell off the couch in surprise.
"What...?" Enzan grumbled as he stood up and shook his head, "What was that for, Blues?"
Blues had to fight to keep a straight face. "I'm sorry Enzan-sama, but you wouldn't wake up." he said as he turned away and coughed, trying to hide a slight chuckle. Enzan only sighed and ignored the silent chuckling of the two adults. He then caught sight of Netto in bed, just smiling.
"Netto!" he said, surprised. "You're already awake? Are you all right?" When he saw the brunette nod, he slowly smiled. "That's good. Takes the worry off my part, at least." he sighed.
Netto suddenly smirked. "You were worried about me too, Enzan? I didn't think that was possible!" he chuckled. Enzan blushed.
"Well, when someone decides to suddenly go missing, then of course everyone is going to be worried!" he shot back. Netto just laughed, and soon enough, everyone was. After they all calmed down, they heard a knock at the door.
"Ah...I see Netto is awake," the doctor said as he came in. Everyone turned to look at him as he carried a clipboard in his hands. "Okay, I'm going to start a check-up on him so we can see if anything is wrong." he explained as he put the clipboard down and started getting out some instruments. "I'm afraid I must ask all of you to leave the room please...except Netto, of course."
Haruka blinked. "May I ask why, doctor?"
The doctor sighed. "It's hospital policy, I'm afraid. Although I don't exactly remember the full details of it, someone who was with a patient during a doctor's check up infected several machines with viruses, and the hospital has issued the policy in response. I'm terribly sorry, Hikari-san."
Yuuichirou sighed. "It's all right doctor. We'll wait out in the waiting room until the check-up is complete, okay?"
"One last thing," the doctor said, "I'm sorry, but we can't have net navis in here either. We really don't want to take any chances during anything, whether it is a check-up or not." Yuuichirou nodded and picked up Rockman's PET.
Rockman looked like he was about to protest, but Netto shook his head and smiled. "Don't worry Rockman, it's only a check-up. You'll be back here within a few minutes." Rockman reluctantly nodded as Yuuichirou left the room.
However, Rockman was still thinking of something. He was about to tell his father about Forte, but then stopped at the last moment. Netto was definitely hiding something; his whole attitude was a bit too calm when he saw his parents again. Shrugging, he just decided to just ask when they went in later.
A minute or two later, the three reached the waiting room, where they were greeted with the sight of Netto's friends.
"Dr. Hikari!" Meiru cried as she ran up to the three, "Rockman e-mailed us earlier...is it true? Has Netto been found?" she asked hopefully. Yuuichirou chuckled.
"Don't worry, Netto is fine!" He said. Meiru then gave a huge sigh of relief, while Dekao cheered and Yaito wiped some sweat off her forehead. Haruka smiled before she turned to her husband.
"I'm going to go down to the cafeteria to get some food," she said, "I'm sure some of us are hungry."
"Sure." Yuuichirou said while he shrugged. Enzan nodded as well before he sat down on a nearby chair.
"Let me come with you, Hikari-san!" Dekao said as he started following Haruka out of the door. Yaito huffed.
"Wait for me! I'm not letting you pick stuff for me that I don't like!" she cried out as she chased the both of them down. Yuuichirou and Meiru just laughed for a bit before sitting down, though Meiru still looked a bit worried.
"Um...Dr. Hikari? Is Netto going to be okay?" she asked meekly, with her eyes staring at the tiled floor. The scientist nodded and smiled.
"He's going to be fine Meiru," he said as he looked at the door leading to the hospital rooms, "The doctor is only doing a slight check-up. Netto will be okay, so don't worry about it too much." Yuuichirou assured the young girl as she sighed.
"Don't worry Meiru!" Roll piped up from her PET, "I'm sure everything is fine now! At least he's been found unharmed!" Meiru looked at her navi before smiling.
"Thanks Roll. That's just what I needed." she said before settling comfortably in her chair.
"Dr. Hikari..." Enzan spoke up from his chair, "Are we going to ask Netto what happened to him before the police do?" he asked as Yuuichirou held his chin thoughtfully.
"Yes, I was planning on doing so. Hopefully, he'll be able to tell us all of what happened...if it does turn out to be a new net terrorist group, hopefully any information Netto gives will help." he explained as Enzan nodded as Meiru looked a bit relieved.
Enzan then looked at the floor again. Those clothes...where have I seen them before?
"Do you feel any pain in this area?" the doctor asked as he lifted an arm and pressed down at certain points.
Netto shook his head. "No, I don't." The doctor nodded as he stood up and wrote something on his clipboard.
"Alright then Netto, you're perfectly healthy. If you wish, you could go home tonight. However, I would recommend staying one more night here." the doctor murmured as he finished writing whatever he was filling in.
Netto looked up in surprise. "What? Why do you want me to do that?" he asked, somewhat incredulous. The doctor only smiled at him.
"While you are healthy enough to go home tonight, your face is tired. You still need more rest, and I doubt you'll be rested enough by then. I'll be by later to see how you are doing, and then you can tell me if you feel rested enough to go home, alright?" he said before gathering all of his materials.
Netto only looked at him for a few moments before nodding. "Okay." The doctor then nodded back and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Sighing, Netto leaned back on his pillows. "I thought he would never leave..." he muttered as he looked out the window.
"Indeed." came Forte's voice out of his PET that was hidden under the covers. Netto smiled as he took the PET into his hands and looked at the cloaked navi. Forte gave him a small smile in return. "So, what are you going to tell them?" the navi asked.
Netto's eyes narrowed slightly. "I don't know. How do I explain where I've been for the past five and a half months?" he asked Forte as he continued looking out the window.
"Tell them the truth?" Forte replied, shrugging. Netto sighed again.
"I doubt they would believe me. After all, how do I explain that we were in a different world?" he asked as he looked down at the cloaked navi.
Forte grunted. "Good point."
The two remained silent for a few minutes before Netto decided to speak up again. "You know Forte...I had a dream involving you."
Forte looked up, surprised. "What?"
The brunette nodded. "Yeah, I did..." he muttered, "It was weird. I saw you standing on some sort of floor while all these people talked above you...it was somewhat creepy."
The cloaked navi blinked. "That...that was when I was first activated..." he let out, still somewhat surprised.
Netto nodded. "I know. It's odd...I know I wasn't there, but it still felt like I was." he explained while lying back down on the pillows. "I just don't know how to describe it."
Forte continued staring at the brunette. "Netto-kun...is this going to happen every time you sleep?" he asked, a hint of worry creeping up into his voice, "That you're going to see all of my memories?"
Netto closed his eyes and sighed. "Truthfully, I don't know." Forte looked downward as he said nothing.
Netto suddenly chuckled. "You know, if this happened before we got stuck together, I wouldn't have thought much of it." he laughed, making Forte look up. "But now...thinking is all I've been doing lately."
"So you're saying you haven't been thinking before this?" Forte said jokingly, earning him a pout from the brunette.
"Not exactly..." Netto let out as he sighed, "It's just that my views have changed. It's forcing me to think a lot more."
"I see..." Forte said, "Are my memories that troubling to you?"
Netto shook his head. "It's not just that...it's just the whole other world. I'm still worried about what is going to happen to it."
Forte nodded. "I know. They'll make it through, though. They were just fine on our little journey, you know," he said, shrugging. "You're far stronger than I originally gave you credit for." he said casually, changing the subject. Netto grinned.
"Oh? You doubted me for even a second, fin-head?" Netto asked playfully. Forte rubbed the back of his head.
"Well, maybe in the beginning..." he admitted, blushing a bit. Netto let out a slight laugh.
"You sure have changed since we were first stuck together, you know." he pointed out, "You're far easier to talk to now."
Forte smirked. "Maybe, but you have changed as well." Seeing Netto shrug, he continued, "Like you said before, you're now willing to think before you act...not to mention that you're far less annoying as well." he chuckled as Netto pouted again.
Suddenly sighing, Netto looked towards the window again. "But seriously...I really have changed, haven't I?" he asked the cloaked navi, "Everything that has happened...it's still hard to take in."
Forte frowned and nodded. "I know...I'm still finding it hard to cope with this sudden influx of your memories." the cloaked navi said as he sighed, "They're just random flashes, but still..."
"You and me both." Netto muttered before he heard footsteps outside the room. He suddenly paled as he heard his father's voice right outside. "Uh oh!"
The door then opened. Netto hurriedly hid the PET under his covers again, much to Forte's indignation. He saw his father and Enzan walk in, but he was surprised when he saw Meiru nearly run in and bowl them both over.
"Netto!" she cried as she came over and hugged him, "Thank god you're all right!"
"Meiru-chan..." he gasped, "You're kinda hugging me a bit too tight..." Meiru blinked a bit before blushing and letting go. Gasping for breath, Netto looked at his father. "Papa, where is Mama?"
"She went down to the cafeteria to get us all something to eat." Yuuichirou explained as he put Rockman's PET on the stand next to Netto's bed. "Your other friends went with her to help."
"I see..." Netto said before sitting up again. Nothing was said for a couple of moments before Enzan decided to speak up.
"Netto..." he began, somewhat unsure of what to ask, "I know we just found you and all...but what happened to you?"
Netto looked down at the bed covers, not saying anything. What should I tell them? he thought, trying to think of any kind of story that would make it seem realistic. A few minutes passed without the brunette responding.
"Netto?" Meiru questioned softly, somewhat surprised with the unresponsiveness of her friend. Yuuichirou was also surprised.
"Netto, what's wrong?" the scientist questioned, but Netto didn't move his head at all. Enzan was about to say something else before Rockman cut in.
"Netto-kun..." Rockman said softly, "I know it's hard, but...please, tell us why you have Forte with you." Immediately, everyone's head turned to look at the blue PET, each with looks of shock on their faces. However, Netto only sighed.
"So...you saw it, didn't you Rockman?" he whispered. Rockman could only nod slowly.
"Netto, what's going on? And what's this about Forte?" Yuuichirou asked, somewhat shaken. Netto did nothing but move his hand under the covers, bringing out the black PET for everyone to see. Everyone gasped upon seeing the cloaked navi glower at all of them.
"Netto...?" Meiru gasped as she looked at her friend, "What is going on?"
"I think that is something that we would all like to know." Enzan said as he sat down in one of the chairs near the window. Yuuichirou nodded.
"Yes...Netto, please explain what has happened." He was surprised when Forte glared at the three of them.
"Don't force him, humans. He'll tell you when he is ready." he growled at them, sending the three into even further states of confusion. Netto only smiled and looked at the cloaked navi.
"Don't worry Forte...I'll tell them the truth. They do deserve it, after all." he whispered before sighing. Forte only grunted in acknowledgment before silencing. Closing his eyes, Netto spoke. "Now then...where should I start?"
"The beginning would be nice." Enzan mumbled. Upon seeing the other two nod, Netto sighed once again.
"This is going to take a bit of time to explain, so you'd better get comfortable." he said.
"Netto-kun, please don't leave anything out. If we want to know what happened, we have to hear everything." Rockman said from his place on the stand. Netto turned his head over to him and nodded.
Netto then began to tell them where he had been for nearly the past half year.
Next Chapter: To Earlier Times: Netto and Forte tell Yuuichirou, Meiru, and Enzan where they have been all that time, only to recieve some surprising information in return. Both Enzan and Yuuichirou then have to try to do everything in their power to cover up Netto's whereabouts. Elsewhere, a confrontation between Haruka and Midorikawa Kero springs up. What will Netto and Forte do?
Author's Note: Finally, I was able to scrounge up enough time to write this chapter. Sorry for the long delay.
I don't really have much to say right now, but I do hope to get the next chapter written after I complete my second research paper. Gah.
Anyways, thanks to Quatre Winner and JK Fie'r for betaing this chapter.