Act i Stage v


Misty's frustrations continued to grow throughout the week.

It was as if the Pikachu waited for her to turn her back before it disappeared after their Training spars; she could never see where it went after it vanished in the darkness of the unfinished ceiling. She’d attempted to go after it once, through the rafters in Arena Five, but they were too old. The threat of one breaking and sending her hurling toward the hard ground ten feet below prevented her from trying again.

Occasionally the Pikachu would show up just to keep her company. She didn’t know how it knew she was bored, but every time she was left alone when Brock or Duplica had a class without her she would find the Pikachu rubbing itself lovingly against her legs, out of sight of anyone nearby, or settling itself comfortably in her lap if she was alone. It even managed to work its way into her room somehow, though her furious searches revealed no hole large enough to admit it.

To put it shortly, the damn thing baffled and soothed her at the same time. And it was driving her mad with curiosity.

The Pikachu wasn’t the only one paying her undue attention; Rudi and Gary Oak both kept an eye on her as well. Gary unnerved her, but he never tried anything and he didn’t follow her when she was alone, so she learned to ignore him. Rudi, on the other hand, was becoming harder and harder to overlook.

At first she’d only caught sight of him during her scheduled public Battles. She hadn’t paid him much attention then, figuring he attended student Battles randomly to emphasize his commitment to the Stadium, but then she’d heard him cry out for her once when her Seadra had taken a particularly nasty blow and she realized he was coming specifically for her. He hung around after that Battle to talk to her, then the next, then the next. She soon found herself expecting him to wait for her, usually leaning casually on the doorframe of the nearest Pokémon Center. She enjoyed catching up on lost time with him, and he seemed genuinely interested in her life and schooling here. She came to love that grin he reserved especially for her, when he caught sight of her approaching from over the heads of the gaggle of girls that inevitably surrounded him. She especially loved the way his eyes sparkled when he kissed her hand each time he departed, so vividly blue and green, yet neither. They reminded her of her own, and she had never seen that color look so good on a guy before.

After her final Battle for the week one Friday afternoon, he led her carefully away from the crowd gathered around him and casually asked her to dinner that night. Misty was thrilled; so she hadn’t been imagining things! He really did like her! Elated, she accepted and hurried to care for her Pokémon and prepare for the evening.

The Pikachu found her in her room, after she had donned her nicest white tank top, studded with vintage- looking orange-red flowers, and a long, flowy printed skirt. She was busy fitting her toes into a pair of comfortable strappy sandals when she felt its warm weight on the bed beside her.

“Oh, hello.” She smiled when it looked up at her curiously, one paw pointed at her feet. It was right; this wasn’t her normal Battle attire. “I have a date,” she explained. The Pikachu looked surprised.

“Pika chu?”

“Tonight, with Rudi Trovita. Do you know who he is?” The Pikachu made a sneeze-like sound and buried its small head in her palm. She rubbed behind its ears affectionately. “Don’t worry, boy, I’ll practice twice as long with you tomorrow to make up for tonight, okay? I promise.”

She checked her hair in the mirror before heading for the door to her bedroom. The Pikachu was already gone when she turned to tell it to leave. Shrugging—she was used to that by now—Misty closed and carefully locked the door, then turned to leave.

The Pikachu was waiting for her in the hallway.

Misty’s eyes automatically darted around to make sure no one was nearby, then fixed on the large mouse. “You can’t come with me, boy. I’m going on a date. With a guy. Outside the Stadium.” Her words had no effect on it. Misty rolled her eyes and left it behind to board the elevator. When she arrived on the bottom floor it was waiting for her again, tucked out of sight in the shadow of a wall. This time Misty was surprised.

“I said no, boy,” she hissed, passing it and looking around to confirm that no one was watching her. “Go back to Pikapi; I can’t Train with you tonight. I said go.”

She couldn’t shake it off. No one else seemed to notice it; it kept expertly out of sight in shadows and dark corners. When she met Rudi at the front doors it hid behind the leaves of a potted plant and watched them silently.

“Ah, Misty, you look captivating in that skirt; I love it.”

Misty smiled warmly and thanked him, then accepted his proffered arm with a grateful nod and followed him through the ornate doorway with a skip in her step. When she had the chance to look back halfway down the busy street she could only catch glimpses of the Pikachu watching her from the Stadium’s boundaries, one ear crooked dejectedly.


Rudi dropped her off at the door to her room with a warm smile, a soft kiss on her hand, and a promise to take her out again, and soon. Misty was flattered by the attention he had lavished on her throughout the evening; it was as if no one else existed, as if anyone they encountered was there for the sole purpose of assisting her or serving her or making her more comfortable. Money got him whatever he wanted, and he knew how to use it. Misty was blown away by the sights he had shown her; she’d never known such a sparkling, glamorous world existed just a short drive from her makeshift home.

When she opened her door she nearly tripped over the furry yellow bundle lying asleep just inside. Cursing, she caught herself on the doorframe and flicked on the light. The Pikachu blinked up at her sleepily, its fur ruffled where her foot had caught it.

“You!” she exclaimed, surprised. “Were you waiting here for me? Why?”

The Pikachu ignored her and yawned, stretching languidly. When she stepped past it its nose quivered and its eyes widened. It got to its four feet and pointed at the closed door, then proceeded to reprimand her for something.

Misty watched it, confused. By now she only knew enough of its language to pick out a few words, mostly ones associated with Battle. It took her a moment to realize it was angry that she had gone out with Rudi.

“And what’s wrong with eating out for once?” she demanded, stomping over to her dresser and yanking out some soft pajamas. “I’ve been Training with you all week, you know, and I haven’t complained once. I’ve endured your little Pikachu grins and your little Pikachu chuckles every time I ask about your master, then I try to go out and do one thing on my own and it’s not allowed. Just who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do?”

The Pikachu chattered angrily at her. Misty watched it, her anger rising when she pieced together that it wasn’t mad that she had gone out, but that she had gone out with Rudi.

“And what’s wrong with Rudi? He’s nice and charming and he—” Misty simply raised her voice when the Pikachu attempted to talk over her. “He cares about me,” she finished angrily. “Your mysterious nameless owner obviously doesn’t, if all he’s going to do is drop random Pokémon on me and then send his Pikachu to carry out his instructions instead of showing up himself—” She stopped when she realized that the Pikachu’s burning eyes had deepened into real anger. She’d been speaking out of irritation provoked by a puzzle she’d been piecing together all week—one that seemed to be missing most of its pieces—but she quickly realized she’d actually hurt the Pikachu’s feelings.

It said a bad word. Misty didn’t know its literal translation, but the way he said it left no doubt in her mind that that’s what it was. She felt her anger rise again.

“Look, pal, I’m sorry you don’t like it, but as long as Rudi’s interested I will spend time with him. If you and your mysterious owner care so much you’d at least tell me who he is and why he keeps sending you.” The Pikachu bared its fangs at her. Before Misty could react it disappeared under her bed. She dropped to her knees and looked for it, but it was already gone.

Damn it!”


Misty didn’t expect to see the Pikachu again for a while, but it was there waiting for her at the foot of her bed when she woke up the next morning. It looked happy about something, almost elated. Misty took the crumpled note from its mouth wordlessly and rubbed the sleep from her eyes to read it.

Arena 5, after dinner. Please don’t bring anyone along.

Misty was startled enough to wake up fully. She looked at the Pikachu in surprise. The mouse grinned and patted the paper with its paw, saying clearly, “Pikapi.”

Misty stared at it, realization dawning slowly. “You mean...Pikapi...He’s actually coming?”

“Pi!” the Pikachu exclaimed excitedly. “Pi pikachu, pika pikachu ka, pika chu, chu ka...”

Misty listened to it chatter dazedly, her mind rushing to fill in the blank spaces. She doubted it was Rudi, after that episode last night...Brock, maybe? But they were best friends, why would he bother with such an elaborate scheme with the Pikachu instead of just telling her? She’d considered Duplica, but she’d studied the Pikachu thoroughly and it definitely wasn’t a Ditto, so it couldn’t be her either. Gary? Why would he; she scarcely knew him. Giovanni or Koga? Too important to bother. Someone else in the Stadium? Who? She barely talked to anyone else outside of classes and Battles!

She took care of her daily chores with half a mind on the approaching evening. Even though it was a weekend, her Pokémon still needed to be fed and exercised. Since she wasn’t bothered by any classes, she liked to use Saturday to catch up with them and Sunday to catch up on homework. This was the first time her party had the chance to get to know the Ponyta—Haraia, she corrected herself. She wasn’t used to naming them. The Pokémon was shy at first, but by dinner Misty thought she was getting along with the others well enough.

She ate her meal on reflex, her mind somewhere else entirely, and it caught Brock’s attention. Duplica was from the eastern dorms, so she usually ate in the Eaton East Hall and didn’t want to cross over to accompany them tonight. Misty was glad; she wasn’t quite as close to Duplica as she was to Brock, and she hadn’t told Duplica about the Ponyta or the Pikachu.

“Thinking about Rudi?” Brock teased as he picked apart a slice of bread. Misty returned her attention to him sharply. For once she actually hadn’t been. But should she tell him that? Should she tell him what was really going on? Would he try to stop her if she did? What if the Pikachu’s owner was dangerous, or some kind of pervert?

“Actually...” She hesitated, then shifted gears and plowed on. “Um, yeah, I was. I didn’t tell you about our date last night, did I? It was wonderful.”

Brock listened with interest as she reiterated her evening out in the city with Rudi, but when she finished he continued to watch her as if waiting for more.

“And that’s it?” he pressed. “There’s nothing else on your mind?”

“What do you mean?” she stalled.

“Well...” He paused to shift his weight and grunted when the rickety cafeteria chair squeaked a vehement protest. “You’ve been out of it all day; there’s gotta be something else. Or are you really that twitterpated by Rudi?”

Misty blushed. She knew she couldn't lie to Brock, though, and she wanted to tell him wasn't long before she buckled under his penetrating stare.

“Well actually, there is this other thing...” Brock’s eyebrows rose in interest. He grabbed his Coke for something to nurse and gestured for her to continue.

“What other thing?”

“Well, the uh, the Pikachu came back to me this morning.”

“The same one that’s been helping you Train that Ponyta?”

“Um, yeah, it’s been coming to me all week, actually. Mostly to Train, but sometimes just to hang out.”

“What, you mean like, watching TV and stuff?” Brock clarified. Misty nodded. “But why would it do that? Doesn’t it have its own Trainer to hang out with?”

“Well uh, that’s kinda why it came to see me this morning...”

Brock’s eyebrows rose to his hairline. “Seriously? You mean you met its Trainer this morning?”

“Well, no,” Misty hastened to explain. “The Pikachu brought me a note that said to meet his Trainer tonight. I’m supposed to go to Arena Five right after dinner.”

Brock didn’t respond for a minute. He stared into his glass, deep in thought, then looked up at her from under his hair. “You sure that’s a good idea? To go meet him alone like that? Why don’t I come with you?”

“He asked me not to bring anyone. In the note.”

“I dunno, Misty, this seems like a bad idea.” Brock sighed and settled back in his seat. “I mean, this guy’s had his Pikachu follow you around everywhere for a week, and now he wants you to meet him, alone? Don’t you find that a little, I dunno, spooky? And Arena Five, I mean—you know what they say about that place. No one likes to use it anymore, not even the novice Trainees. Everyone says it’s haunted. You sure you wanna go in there?”

“It’s where I’ve been Training with that Pikachu all week, Brock. It’s the only abandoned arena I know of. And I’ve never seen anything weird in there.”

“Still. I don’t like that alone bit. I think someone should go with you.”

“Well what if someone did, and he saw them, and he refused to come?” Misty wanted to know. “What if, since I brought someone when he told me not to, he doesn’t trust me anymore and the Pikachu never comes back? What then?”

Brock studied her with an unreadable expression on his face. “Misty, listen to yourself,” he said firmly. “You’re bending over backwards for this guy, and you don’t even know who he is. I mean, what kind of guy doesn’t even show his face, but sends an obviously well-above-average Pokémon after you for a week and actually gives you another?” Misty made to interrupt, but Brock wouldn’t let her. “You know what’ll happen, Mist? If you bring someone along? He’ll leave you alone. Either he’ll deal with the fact that you’re intelligent enough to know when something’s off, or he’ll back off. I think that’s fair.”

“But Brock,” Misty protested desperately, “I don’t want him to back off! He’s helped me a lot; you have no idea how much that Ponyta has grown in just a few days, not to mention Poliwrath and Starmie—”

“But to what end?” Brock demanded. “Do you honestly think he’s doing all this for nothing? He’s going to want something in return, Misty, and I think in meeting you tonight he may try and take it.”

The argument went on for some time, until both Brock and Misty finally conceded a little and worked out some sort of plan. Misty would go alone—the note had asked her to, not demanded that she did, but the Pikachu always knew where to find her and she didn’t doubt its owner could as well. One of them would probably be keeping an eye on her. Brock had agreed to wait for her in Arena Four just down the hall. The arenas were unfinished, so if she yelled he would be able to hear her through the wall. Misty had temporarily traded her Gyarados and Seadra, both useless out of water, for Brock’s Graveler and Onix, just in case. The idea was to catch the Trainer off-guard with non- Water Types. Misty thought it would work; she was set. Brock wasn’t so sure, but he agreed to the plan anyway and set off to make sure Arena Four was empty. It was. Taking a deep breath, Misty stepped into Arena Five.

The first thing she noticed was her Totodile, waiting for her in the middle of the arena floor. She would recognize him anywhere. The Pokémon squealed happily at the sight of her; Misty did the same. After a week of his absence Misty was beginning to worry that he would never come back; try as she might, she hadn’t been able to find him. She'd been on the verge of filling out a missing Pokémon report, which was sure to penalize her in some way.

Totodile leapt into her arms with a giggle and she hugged him tightly, cooing thanks that he was okay while simultaneously checking him for lingering bruises. There weren’t many; he obviously hadn’t been to a Pokémon Center, but whoever patched him up had done a pretty good job. She fingered the winding bandage around his head thoughtfully.

“This isn’t Stadium material,” she wondered aloud, meeting his eyes. “Where were you, boy? Who did this to you?” She indicated the balm coating the remains of a burn on his tiny arm.

“Toto, totodile.” He leaned away from her embrace to point behind him.

A man in dark clothing was perched on the far arena wall. One leg was drawn up beside him, an arm draped across his knee; the other dangled just above the ground. He was smiling as he watched her form behind a pair of sunglasses, the Pikachu perched effortlessly on his left shoulder.

Misty hugged Totodile closer and drew back, frightened. She didn’t recognize this man, and everyone in the Stadium knew everyone else by sight from daily public Battles, if nothing else. When he slid to his feet she backed away further, and his smile faded. “Please don’t be scared of me,” he said softly, his voice low and gravelly and oddly familiar. “I won’t hurt you.”

Misty took in his dark clothes and hair and glasses, the rough material wrapped around his forearms and tucked under black fingerless gloves, the PokéBelts wrapped loosely around his waist and tightly around his right thigh, the Pikachu on his shoulder, and those final pieces clicked into place.

This guy was the Battle Ghost, the Electric Phantom, an Elemental demon. Good God! And here she was, alone with him in—in his own territory! Arena Five! Mew, she’d been so stupid! Brock was right, she never should have come here, especially alone...

The Phantom’s frown deepened as she stumbled back against the wall, her arm roving up and down for the doorknob. She refused to tear her eyes from him. Oh God, what if he Attacked her? She was weak against his Element! But Brock’s Pokémon...maybe...were they strong enough to defeat him? Elementals were said to be astonishingly powerful.

Totodile began struggling in her arms. Misty, startled, couldn’t keep hold of him and he wriggled to the ground, where he looked up at her questioningly, his wide nostrils quivering. He stared at her for a moment as if waiting for some sort of explanation, then turned and waddled toward the back of the arena.

“No!” Misty cried out, fear seizing her. “Stay away from him, Totodile, he’ll—”

“It’s all right,” the Phantom interrupted, and knelt to run a finger smoothly over Totodile’s rounded spines. Misty wasn’t fooled; the Elementals were notorious for being tricky. Well he wasn’t going to trick her into trusting him!

“Please don’t be afraid of me,” the Ghost said softly, and stood while Totodile made himself comfortable in his arms. He tried to approach again and Misty, terrified, scuttled along the wall toward where she thought the door should be. She knew she should scream, call on Graveler, do something, but her mind was oddly blank and she couldn’t collect her thoughts enough to try.

The Phantom paused again and glanced helplessly at the Pikachu still clinging to his shoulder. The Pokémon huffed and scampered to the ground, where it padded angrily over to Misty. Misty was too scared to move, now that she knew what the tiny Pokémon was capable of.

“Pikachu, Pikachupi!” it scolded. “Pikachu ka! Chu pikachu!”

Misty’s ‘Belt flashed suddenly and Haraia materialized on the floor before her. The Phantom grinned and opened his arms for the Pokémon. “How are you, girl?” he said warmly. “Has Misty been treating you all right?”

Haraia whinnied happily and trotted over to butt her head up beneath the Phantom’s palm. Misty stared at him in shock. “ know my name,” she whispered. The Ghost looked up at her.

“I do.”

What else did he know about her? “You—you’re the Phantom.”

He gave her a twisted grin and adjusted his dark sunglasses, glancing almost nervously at Pikachu while he gently stroked Haraia’s neck. “I am.”

Misty was confused. He looked...human...but still! He was the Phantom! She’d been told horror stories of him since she was a child! He was a monster! He was an Elemental! He—he killed Pokémon for pleasure!

But he wasn’t making any move to harm her, and two of her Pokémon were with him now and they were...okay. Unless he'd bewitched them somehow. Was that even possible? Wouldn’t she have noticed? What did he mean by revealing himself like this if he didn’t want to hurt her? And whatwas with the Training-through-a-Pikachu bit?

He didn’t look like the horrible monster she had always pictured Elementals to be, and he didn’t look like a ghost. What was he, exactly? And what had he done to spark so many horror stories?

She turned to the Pikachu for answers, but it only stared at her with a stern expression on its face. She looked nervously at the Phantom, who was watching her silently. “Everyone says you kill Pokémon in—in brutal ways,” she said weakly. The Phantom’s expression turned grim.

“I know what they say. Don’t believe it. The headMasters have been spreading those lies for years, trying to make us look bad.” Misty didn’t look convinced, and the Phantom struggled to explain himself further. He took and step closer and she forced herself not to flinch away. “Misty, we help Pokémon, we don’t hurt them. When the headMasters...” He hesitated. “When the headMasters get rid of weak Pokémon we take them instead, and Train them up. They live long healthy lives, I promise. Please believe me.”

Misty watched him carefully for a moment. “You won’t hurt me?”

“Of course not.” He glanced at Pikachu again, then gave her a shy smile. It didn’t match the stories she'd been told. He looked too awkward, too innocent, and when he spoke his voice was hesitant. “I came here to give you back your Totodile personally because...well, because Pikachu made me, but I think you deserved to know who had him all this time, too. I’m sorry it took so long, but he was pretty banged up. We had to use all the stuff we brought up for him on your Ariados wounds.”

Misty gasped. “It was you! You and—and you!” She stared at the Pikachu in shock. She'd considered the possibility once or twice, but the memory was so foggy she hadn’t been sure and the Pikachu had expertly dodged her questions. And then the realization of exactly what they had done dawned on her. “You saved my life...” She recognized his voice now, the same one from her dreams. It couldn't have been anyone else. But the Phantom was a killer. Why would he help someone?

“And I’d do it again,” he replied with a smile. He had been slowly approaching her while they talked. Now he extended his free hand. “You’re a good Trainer, Misty.”

Misty stared at the offered limb stupidly, her breathing heavy. She just couldn’t wrap her mind around the way his harmless demeanor contradicted all those bloody stories. “But you’re the Phantom,” she protested feebly. “You—”

“Only in a sense,” he interrupted. “We befriend the Pokémon we save, like Haraia here.” The Ponyta neighed in agreement and butted her head happily against the Phantom’s thigh. Misty found herself reaching for his hand.

“Who...who are you?” she asked shakily. He took her hand in his rough one and grinned.

“You can call me Ash.”