Act i Stage iv

Firmín and André

”Sirs, your five o’clock is here.”

Misty nodded politely to the secretary and stepped nervously inside the headMasters’ office. Her eyes, glued demurely to the floor in from of her, were immediately caught on Rudi; he was there, seated languidly opposite Giovanni and Koga, his frame spread across a thick leather armchair. Misty had never seen that chair there before; she’d always had to sit in a hard-backed wooden one with a thin removable cushion, if any cushion at all.

“Ah, Miss Waterflower. Please, come in.”

Rudi’s head snapped up at her name. Misty could feel his bright teal eyes on her as she crossed the room. She did her best to ignore them. It was hard, though; in order to talk to the headMasters she had to stop right beside his chair. She wouldn’t let herself look at him. She wasn’t sure why.

“Misty Waterflower, isn't it?” Misty bowed in response; she knew the rules of etiquette well. Giovanni was standing behind his massive oak desk leafing though a manila folder—her record here, she realized with a start—while Koga stood with his hands clasped behind his back at the wide window. Rudi didn’t try to get her attention, but she could see him from the corner of her eye, staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Hmm,” Giovanni grunted. “Says here you’re here to see us about Training a new Pokémon?” Misty met his small brown eyes over the papers.

“Yes, sir.”

“Hmm. It also says here that you recently began Training a Totodile. Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to attempt breaking in another?”

Misty happened to agree with him. That Pikachu, however, had not. And she had promised, however much she wished she hadn’t now.

“This one’s special, sir. Unusual markings.”

Giovanni’s trim eyebrows rose. Koga turned his head to watch her from the corner of his eye. Misty felt very small and very young beneath their combined gazes.

Giovanni turned to Rudi and addressed him politely. “Mr. Trovita? Would you mind excusing us for a moment? This may take a little while, and we don’t wish to bore you on only your second day here.”

“Of course.” Rudi shot Misty a sidelong glance as he rose gracefully from his seat, then joined Jesse and James, the headMasters’ personal assistants, at the door. His attention was immediately caught by their upright Meowth. Misty forced her attention away from them and concentrated on winning this case, like she promised she would.

Giovanni returned his attention to her. “Unusual markings, you say. How unusual? What are we talking about, exactly?”

“She’s a young Ponyta, sir. Her flames are all right, but her color’s off and she’s got the beginnings of a horn way too early. I’ve been working with her all morning; she seemed all right when I led her around on a lead rein. If she’s got horse blood in her it can’t be much.”

Giovanni looked skeptical. “And she didn’t rear? She didn’t burn you when you went to touch her?”

“No, sir, not once.” Misty didn’t add that she was fairly certain that was only because the Pikachu had warned it firmly not to.

“I see.” Giovanni returned to her folder for a moment, then looked up at her sharply. “Miss Waterflower. You’re aware this is your final Pokémon? Your sixth?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you’re sure you want to risk Training an unbred Ponyta as your last? Don’t you want something more powerful? And...hmm. Don’t you specialize in Water?”

“That’s true, sir, and yes, I’m sure. I think I need some diversity though, and I’d like to be able to get around on land after I graduate. Gas prices are too high for me to afford a car.” Inwardly Misty winced. She had not wanted a Ponyta—or even a Rapidash—as her last. Her sights had been set on a Dratini, assuming, of course, she could catch one. She had no use for a Fire Type.

Damn that Pikachu.

“Hmm. All right then, get her out and let’s have a look. Koga, if you could step back...”

Misty obediently unhooked the ‘ball from her ‘Belt and pointed it at the cleared area in front of the window created specifically for that purpose. The Ponyta looked pathetically small such a large space.

The headMasters’ eyes widened when they saw her, and they glanced sharply at one another in obvious surprise. Misty watched them curiously as she approached the Ponyta; she still frightened easily, and Misty wanted her on her best behavior right now.

“Giovanni, is that the same—”

“Yes, Koga,” Giovanni snapped, and approached the Ponyta as well. Koga paused to press a button on a small plastic console on the desk, but he wasn’t far behind. The Ponyta shied away from both men, dark chocolate eyes rolling as she scuttled nervously behind Misty’s legs. The headMasters halted and shared another glance. Misty suddenly found herself subjected to the full power of their combined glares as they said sternly, “Absolutely not.”

Misty frowned in confusion. She patted the Ponyta’s head absently to calm it and tried to figure out why they were so adamantly against her keeping it without even giving her a chance to prove her potential. “But sirs, forgive me, but from what I can tell she has all the Abilities of a normal Ponyta and she’s unusually smart as well. Sure, she’s a little shy, but given time she learns to like—”

“Where did you find her?” Koga interrupted. Misty’s eyes narrowed. Find, not get. How did they know she hadn’t bought it fair and square like Trainers were supposed to? How did they know she hadn’t traded for it? Bred it? Raised it? Did they really know for sure? Or was she just being paranoid?

“Um...” She racked her brain for an answer. Randomly “found” Pokémon weren’t legal here. “Well, she was a gift, actually.” Which was true enough, Misty told herself. Sort of.

Again, that shared look. Misty couldn’t figure out what was going on. “Which Trainer gave her to you?” Koga demanded. He seemed really worked up. Internally, Misty was frantic. “Pikapi” wasn’t going to satisfy them either.


She was saved by Rudi’s appearance at her elbow. Startled, Misty watched as he reached around her to rub the Ponyta’s nose. The Ponyta shied away, but didn’t run. Cautiously, ever so cautiously, she sniffed Rudi’s hand with a snort and crept gradually closer. When his hand went for her firey mane he didn’t yank it back in pain.

“Hmm,” he said noncommittally, then added, “She seems all right to me. Strong legs, bright, full mane, glossy coat...She’s a little small, but I think she’s a beautiful filly.” He caught Misty’s eyes as he said that, and Misty felt herself blush. Rudi grinned and turned to the headMasters expectantly. They were fumbling for an answer.

“Well, yes, she seems fine,” Koga blurted, his hands waving about in the air almost wildly, “but who can tell how she’ll act later, when Miss Waterflower is alone?”

“Yes,” Giovanni agreed, “you’re right. Besides, there’s obviously horse blood in her. Can’t tell how much just by looking; we should analyze a blood sample to be sure. If you’ll just allow us to—”

He made for the Ponyta, but Rudi stepped between them. “I’m sorry, but I happen to be a Gym Leader as well as a Trainer and Breeder. Won’t taking her away for even a day delay Miss Waterflower’s regime? I’m sure you don’t want one of your students falling behind in her studies.”

That made Giovanni pause. He turned to Koga, who said placidly, “That’s true, sir, but we also wish to avoid our students being mauled by unstable half-breeds when such an accident is so easily preventable. Besides, you know as well as I what they say about discolored Pokémon, they’re the same as discolored people: demons.”

Rudi turned and knelt, looking the Ponyta firmly in the eyes. After a moment he stood again and faced the headMasters. “I don’t see any swirls. She seems sane to me.”

“But sir,” Giovanni was practically pleading now, “don’t you think, just to be sure, that we should test her for foul blood, and then—”

“Tell you what,” Rudi interrupted, fishing in his pocket for something. He produced an expensive-looking Lapras-skin wallet, then a platinum credit card. Misty’s eyes widened as he said smoothly, “If she injures anyone or destroys anything I’ll take full responsibility and pay for her personally, as well as for any damage done and the finances needed to repair it. Name your price.”

The headMasters hesitated, exchanging glances nervously. “Well you see, sir,” Koga began, but Rudi waved his credit card between two fingers to quiet him.

“You know I’m good for my word,” he said with a smile. “Or is my money not welcome here?”

The headMasters' eyes widened. They hastened to placate their patron.

“Oh no, sir—I mean, of course it's good here!” Koga exclaimed. “We’re just looking out for the best interest of our student, of course—”

“Of course,” Giovanni agreed smoothly. “We’ll take you on your word.”

Koga’s gaze snapped to Giovanni. “We will?”

“Of course we will.” Koga faltered under Giovanni’s stern stare, and the latter turned back to Rudi and Misty with a smile plastered on his face. “We’ll settle the financial details later, shall we?” He shook hands with Rudi.


Giovanni swung an arm around his partner’s shoulder and practically dragged him away. “We’ll see you at dinner, Mr. Trovita. Waterflower, dismissed.” The pair faced the far corner and began debating something in furious whispers. Misty didn’t watch them long; Rudi was looking at her.

As soon as their eyes met she found herself blushing and had to look away. Mew! she thought as she recalled the Ponyta. She knew she’d had a crush on him before, but she hadn’t seen him in years! This was ridiculous!

“Um, thank you,” she managed to mumble, and immediately felt stupid when his smile widened.

“It was my pleasure, Miss Waterflower.” He refused to take his eyes from her. Misty felt clumsy and awkward as she clipped Ponyta’s ‘ball to her ‘Belt.

“I’m sure she’ll be okay,” Misty found herself babbling. “I mean, she was really scared at first when I—er, when I got her, but she’s a lot better now, and she didn’t rear once when I was leading her around earlier. And her coat’s really soft—did you feel it? Not course like a horse’s at all. I’m sure she—” She was interrupted by a loud voice.

“Where did you get that Ponyta?”

Gary Oak, the Master in charge of security, was approaching her from the door with long, determined strides. He stopped before her and glared, bright blue eyes fierce. She stared at him, startled and confused. Why did he care about it? Did he recognize it? Had he seen it before? Oh! Maybe he knew who had owned it before! She opened her mouth to ask, but before she could say anything Rudi stepped forward and replied for her.

“Don’t you have a post to tend to?”

Gary’s eyes narrowed dangerously, but Rudi’s smile remained unaffected. If anything, his eyebrows merely raised a fraction of an inch. “You don’t know what you’re doing, Trovita,” Gary growled warningly. His eyes flicked to Misty. “If she has that thing then she—”

“Oak!” Gary flinched at the reprimanding tone headMaster Giovanni had used. He turned to the pair with a frustrated expression on his face.

“Yes, sirs?”

“Come over here. The situation’s taken care of now.”

Gary stalked obediently over after shooting Misty a firm glare. Misty continued to watch him, baffled by his rude behavior—he had always been nice enough to her in the past, even when she was getting in trouble—until she felt a warm hand brush her forearm. She began blushing all over again, despite her best efforts not to. This really was ridiculous.

“May I escort you down the hall?” Rudi asked coolly, his voice smooth. He gestured toward the door. Misty nodded and fought down a swell of butterflies.

“Thank you again,” she said awkwardly as he held the door to the secretary’s office open. She was desperate to break the stifling silence that had settled over them.

“Don’t mention it,” Rudi replied fluidly. Everything about him was so fluid and graceful: the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he moved... “She really is a beautiful creature,” he added softly, breaking her embarrassing trail of thought. “Mind if I ask where you got her?”

Misty wasn’t sure if she should tell him the truth. She wanted to, she trusted him enough to—they had been best friends at one time—but the Pikachu had made it clear that the Ponyta’s origins should be kept secret unless absolutely necessary.

“Um, she was a gift.” Misty watched his eyebrows rise and struggled to come up with more details. Why was he paying her all this attention, anyway? she thought wildly.

“Really? From who? I don’t know of anyone who breeds mixed Ponyta for cheap.”

The pair was nearing the end of the hall before Misty thought of a suitable answer. “It was a secret present. I don’t know who it’s from.” She hoped he didn't question her further. She didn't think she could lie to him.

Rudi’s eyebrows rose even higher. “Oh? Don’t tell me you have a secret admirer here. I don’t like competition.”

Misty stopped walking at the intersection and blushed fiercely. She didn’t know what to say to something like that. She had, of course, acquired the occasional boyfriend throughout her years at the Stadium, but none had flattered her so much, or been so damned good at it. And she’d never had prior crushes on them before, either. The way Rudi’s mere words affected her was driving her insane.

A warm hand reached up and tucked a stray strand of vivid orange hair behind her ear. Misty looked up and met Rudi’s eyes, startled to find him so close. He was smiling warmly at her. “You’ve changed, Mist. For the better. I hope I’ll see more of you? We’ve spent so many years apart; we need to catch up.”

Misty returned his smile and nodded, her mind oddly hazy. Rudi held her gaze as he reached for her hand and kissed the back of it, then flashed her a grin and turned back in the direction of the headMasters’ office. Misty watched him go for a moment, dazed, her chest fluttering awkwardly, then forced herself to round the corner and stride purposefully away before he could turn and see her standing there gawking like an idiot.

Misty’s head was so clouded with thoughts of Rudi that she couldn’t remember the trip from that hallway to Arena Five, where she'd promised the Pikachu she would meet it after her appointment. She wasn’t sure what had just happened. He really remembered her. In a good way, too—at least, Misty hoped it was good. It looked good from the way he’d spoken to her, the way he'd touched her. Her knuckles still tingled where his lips had brushed them.

She found the Pikachu waiting for her in the middle of the arena floor. It trotted up to her expectantly when she entered.

“Pika pikachu, pika?”

She still couldn’t translate Pikachu, but she had a pretty good idea of what it was asking. She proudly held up Ponyta’s ‘ball in response, a huge grin on her face. The Pikachu grinned back.

“Pika! Pika pikachu, Pikachupi! Pika pika, pika pika pika...”

He led her over to the center of the room, where something had been etched into the top layer of dirt, probably by a finger. She had to turn around to read it: Haraia.

“Pikachu pi.” The Pikachu pointed to the ‘ball in her hand and carefully sounded out the syllables, “Pa-ka- ka.” He repeated the word. It took a moment for Misty to catch on.

“You mean that’s the Ponyta’s name? Haraia?”

“Pi!” The Pikachu nodded emphatically, long ears flopping. Misty frowned. Her euphoria faded to a warm tingle in the back of her mind as she remembered the mystery of the Pikachu’s owner, and of the Ponyta’s former Trainer. Or Breeder, since it was too young to Train properly yet. Whichever.

“But Haraia’s not a Pikachu name,” she protested, crouching to capture the Pikachu’s soft brown eyes with her own. “Who named her? Who wrote that? Why won’t you tell me?” The Pikachu’s response was to grin devilishly and swiftly sweep his tail over the word in the dust, smudging it into an unreadable blur. Misty’s mouth dropped open; she had been hoping to copy it down and study it, to try and match it with someone's handwriting in the Stadium. The Pikachu had snatched the note about the Ponyta away from her before she'd had a chance to pocket it.

“Hey! You—How could you just—” Her eyes narrowed as the Pikachu’s grin widened. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” she said angrily, frustration burning away the last of her happy Rudi bubbles. “You are. Well you know what? I will find out who your Trainer is. I don’t care if I have to follow you all the way to Hoenn, I’ll do it.”

The Pikachu grinned a sharp-toothed grin and cocked a ropey ear in response.