Act ii Stage iii

The Mysterious Reason

Misty fell asleep on a stack of open books.

She woke up with a crick in her neck and a raw red patch on her cheek where it had rested on the frayed, yellowing pages of an old leather-bound book. She looked around her groggily, but the room she was in was dark. It certainly hadn’t been that way when she’d fallen asleep reading...

She woke fully with a start. Reading! Crusty eyes wide, she peeled her head off the book and sat up quickly, staring at the print beneath her in shock. Something pooled around her waist; a blanket, she realized, and knew Ash had been in to see her sometime during the night. At least she hoped it was Ash. Thinking back on it now, she realized she had no idea whether he lived here alone or not. The thought sent a chill through her.

But the text...Mew. She’d stayed up most of the night deciphering what looked remarkably like an Alakazam’s script. Literate Alakazam were rare, but one of her old teachers—she couldn’t remember his name; it’d been some years ago—had shown her a carefully preserved sheet of paper covered in something nearly identical to the writing in the dozens of books stacked around Ash’s room. He’d told her one of his own Master’s Alakazam had written it many years before, for educational purposes.

She’d tried until her eyes hurt, but she couldn’t make anything of it. The pictures had been what held her interest; nearly all of them seemed to depict the same ancient War that had decided the current status of humans and Pokémon all over the world. The style and technique was foreign to Misty; they were all black and white and drawn in what looked like ink, but smelled like burned wood. She couldn’t tell if the scent was from the ancient pages or the text itself.

She’d passed out on top of a two-page spread of the final throes of the last battle, in which the angels and demons had come to a tentative agreement regarding the Earth. Squinting at it in the dim light, Misty realized why it had held her interest for so long; instead of humans versus Pokémon, as she’d been led to believe, this picture displayed both species on both sides. Even a few Elementals, those rare, freakish humans who possessed a Pokémon’s elemental power, were scattered among the clouds, and if she squinted hard enough she thought she could see people under the earth.

But that wasn’t right. That wasn’t what she'd been taught. It was always humans against Pokémon, angels against demons. That was why Pokémon served people and not the other way around. That was why the world was the way it was. The sides couldn’t have been mixed; that made no sense. Angels had helped to put the Pokémon down; humans had helped to put the demons down. Pokémon had served mankind ever since. Elementals were half-demon, half human; there were no angel-human mixes. So why had this picture been drawn?

She realized with vague interest that her stomach was growling. What time was it? There were no windows this far underground, and the soft, flickering light that issued from one of the four grooves in the wall was anything but natural. She frowned. Ash wouldn’t have let her sleep through her class, would he? Or would he?

Panic gripped her at the thought. She could not afford to miss class, not when she was so close to graduating. Every one counted; every one was crammed with Pokémon health and Battle information that she simply couldn’t afford not to know. And where was Ash, anyway? Not in here, obviously, and this was his room. Did he expect her to just sit in here and wait for him to remember her?

Well she couldn’t do that. Even if she had hours until her class, she’d like to get her Pokémon fed, herself fed, and...Mew, when was the last time she'd showered? She had things to do, and she definitely had things to discuss. She didn’t care how much Ash wriggled this time; she was going to wring information out of him about this place and all those books if she had to shackle him to a wall to do it.

The light was dim, but just bright enough for her to make out various stacks of things scattered around the floor. She guessed the dark blotch on the wall was the door; she was right. The light in the next room blinded her momentarily, and she had to shield her eyes with her arm until they could adjust.

Ash was sprawled out over the length of an old, frayed orange couch facing away from her; she could see his gloved hand draped over the low arching back. When she peeked around it she saw that he had fallen asleep reading; a large book, much like the ones in his room, rested on his chest, his hand still clutching it loosely even in sleep. His sunglasses were askew on his face again, shoved up almost vertical by the arm of the couch. Their grip around his ear was tentative at best, and Misty had the wild urge to slip them off his face altogether. She was tired of the way he always seemed to hide behind them, and while she was getting answers, well, she might as well figure out his damn eye color too.

But oh, he looked cute when he slept, she realized a moment later. His face was unguarded for once, his expression lax and his hair more ruffled than usual. He was attractive in every way that Rudi wasn’t: where Rudi’s hair was styled and flipped, Ash’s stuck up shamelessly; where Rudi’s skin was whole and perfect and tanned just right by the island sun, Ash’s was pale, chiseled by continuous activity and lightly scarred in more than a few places. She marveled at him for a moment, relishing in what could possibly be her only chance to see him like this, and wondered why she was so fascinated. Behind her a small voice broke the still silence.


Misty jumped; Ash jumped; the sunglasses lost their hold on his head and clattered to the floor. Misty turned to see Pikachu looking up at her curiously, a bit of gauze with a small red stain wrapped tightly around his right foreleg. She turned back and locked eyes with Ash—and froze.

Ash’s sleep-blurred eyes widened considerably as what little color his face possessed drained away. Misty stumbled back while he all but fell from the couch, desperate hands reaching for something on the floor. His fingers closed around the glasses and he tried shoving them back on his face, but one of the legs caught him viciously in the eye and he yanked them off again, cursing and rubbing the injury with his palm.

“Misty—gah, God dammit...”


Misty was shivering uncontrollably. She looked numbly down at the Pikachu pulling at her pant leg, then back at Ash as he opened and closed his eye experimentally, on all fours next to the couch. Her mind was oddly blank for a moment before a solid wave of terror washed though it and she bolted.

“Misty! Misty, wait!”

She heard a scuffle behind her, and more cursing. She didn’t pause to look back. She didn’t pause to think. All she could do was get herself as far away from this place as soon as possible, or...Mew, she just had to get away...

She had no idea where she was going. The rooms were all different and not easily confused, but she didn’t recognize many of them and she had no idea which way to head for. Pokémon were scattered throughout them; they looked up at her as she passed, startled. Misty barely noticed them. Dammit, one of these rooms had to be the last room...

She turned a corner, found herself in a stone hallway lined with tapestries and thick carpets, and stumbled down a pair of stairs. Before she knew it she was knee-deep in black, icy water; she yelped and scrambled back out of it, only to collide with a pair of warm, callused hands.

“Misty, please, just wait and minute and I’ll—”

“Get away from me!”

The scream tore from her throat as she tore herself from his grasp, lurching through the next door she came across. She could feel him as much as hear him behind her.

“Please, Misty, just—”

Go away!” There had to be some way to lose him, some way to put a little distance between them...

She heard a heavy sigh, and then the footsteps behind her stopped. She didn’t. There was a light scrabbling sound then, and Misty heard Pikachu protest something vehemently while Ash said, “No, Pikachu, Stay here.”

The room she was in went suddenly and very unexpectedly dark. Misty bit her lip to stifle a scream, then turned and scrambled into the room nearest her, the only one flooded with light. It went out an instant later, and another flared to life. It was all Misty could do to run fast enough to keep out of the shadows. Demons lived in shadows, she knew, and demons liked to hurt people...

Before she knew it her tennis shoes were slapping against cool stone instead of carpet and the air around her went unmistakably damp. She scarcely noticed. One of the grooves in the wall to her right suddenly flashed bright yellow. Misty shuddered as she thought of what was powering it, but pressed on anyway. Anything was better than— than back there...

After a while her lungs began to burn. She glanced anxiously behind her but there was no one there, at least that she could see. Was he following her? Or was he taking some sort of shortcut, waiting to spring out at her around some unexpected corner up ahead? Mew, she really had no idea what he was doing...

He'd played the part so well, she thought frantically, following the lit groove up some stairs and around a corner; she didn’t dare abandon it for the darkness beyond. He'd acted human, but he never told her..he was so careful not to tell her anything...

Mew, it all made sense now! The shadows, the secrets, the everything! He was an Elemental! A demon who—ugh, she couldn’t even force herself to remember the gruesome stories she’d been told.

It all made sense, especially the sunglasses. Mew, especially the sunglasses. How could she have been so stupid? Running around in the dark in sunglasses? What was she thinking? And the way those walls lit up under his human could do that! And the Ponyta! A minion? What had he planned to do with it? Had he Trained it to sneak out of Misty’s dorm in the middle of the night and catch something on fire? To destroy the Stadium? To kill someone? To kill her?

The grey path in front of her shoes blurred, and Misty realized she was crying. He’d been toying with her. All this time he’d been gaining her trust just so he could throw it back at her in the end and laugh. Elementals did it all the time; they loved toying with people’s emotions and loyalties, loved to get close enough to hurt them where it could do the most damage and then revel in it...

Mew, she’d been hanging out with a demon...

The grooves led her steadily up until she found herself facing a blank stone wall. She slid to a stop, the muscles in her legs trembling, sides heaving, and slammed the stone with her fist. No, not a dead end. It couldn’t be. She couldn’t go back now, not with that...that thing down there waiting for her.

The electricity powering the grooves washed across the wall suddenly. Misty, startled, yanked her hands away and scrambled backwards, almost tripping over herself in her haste to get away from that...demon stuff. She watched as it covered the wall in a single thin sheet, and the wall began to slide open. Misty wasted no time in scrambling through the hole it made as soon as her body would fit.

The light on the other side blinded her. She found herself fumbling against a wall of thick, scratchy carpet, and then she was in someone’s arms, and they were her pushing her away frantically.

“What the—you!”

She blinked up into Gary Oak’s startled blue eyes. She was trembling violently from a combination of cold and fear.

Misty? My God, what—”


Miraculously, Rudi was there, staring at her with a mixture of shock and disbelief. He opened his arms just before she threw herself into them, a puddle of so many mixed emotions that she couldn’t even stand anymore.

Rudi’s warm hand found its way to her hair and smoothed it down soothingly as his other rubbed up and down her back in an effort to rub some heat into it. “Misty, what’s wrong? What are you doing here? And what— Lugia, what happened to you?”

“He’s a—a demon,” she managed to sob, and clutched him more tightly, wrinkling his expensive collar with her tears. She pulled back suddenly, her mind a mess. “I’m sorry, your shirt—”

He gently pushed her head back down again. “Shh, don’t worry about the shirt. What’s wrong? Who’s a demon?”

“So he’s finally revealed himself to you, has he?” Misty missed the glare Rudi shot in Gary’s direction. Gary’s only reply was to widen his smirk. “It’s lucky you got away unscathed. Or did you? You were gone all night. I wonder what he could have done, to get you all riled up like this—”

“Shut up, Oak,” Rudi hissed, and tightened his grip around Misty, frowning. “Come on, I’ll take you up to your dorm—” He was cut off by Misty’s startled cry.

“N-no! He knows where my room is, he might come back for me...”

“I see.” Rudi was quiet for a minute. Then, “Would you like to stay in my room? I guarantee he won’t touch you in there.”

“N-no, I can’t...He’ll come get me there, I know it...”

“I’ll stay with you. Come on, your jeans are soaked and you look like you’ve run across the country. Let’s get you a bath and some clean clothes and away from this place, and then we’ll see what we can do about him, all right?”

She shuddered, her sobs ebbing away in his comfortable embrace, and sniffled miserably. “Okay.”

Rudi smiled warmly at her and kissed her forehead. “Okay.”


Rudi was right; after a long soak in his enormous marble bathtub Misty felt much better. She thought she might have dozed for a while; she wasn’t sure. When she finally climbed out at least an hour later she found a set of women’s silk pajamas and a bathrobe waiting for her in the walk-in closet that connected the bathroom to Rudi’s room. She pulled the smooth material over her skin slowly, relishing in the delicate feel as she tried to connect all the swirling dots in her head.

Ash was an Elemental. It explained everything, from the way he blended into shadow to his feverous fear of being seen by the headMasters. Misty guessed, by his affinity for Electric-Types and the yellow light that lit the walls under the Stadium, that he was an Electric-Type, though he could be something else as well. She didn’t know enough about Elementals to know if they could draw power from more than one element, as some Pokémon did.

Elementals were evil. They were half-demon and half-man, and they delighted in destroying lives. That much about them was in every tale. They were smart and tricky and they loved to tinker with humans. Every story was different though, and when Misty tried to compare them she realized they didn’t really match up. No matter how she grouped them or how many categories she made, she couldn’t find one to describe Ash.

He’d just seemed so sincere, and her Totodile loved him. Elementals were said to work with Pokémon, having obtained control of the same life force, and no matter how hard she wracked her brain, Misty simply couldn’t recall a tale of a Pokémon being tricked or brainwashed by one. They had been on the same side in the War; it would be like an angel tricking a human into something.

And then there was his mother, who had mentioned his father, who, Misty mused, was probably an Elemental as well. This made Misty pause. Elementals were cursed, as far as she knew; humans who had made deals with demi-god Pokémon. The traits of an Elemental certainly weren’t genetic, so how could Ash have inherited it from his father? Unless by father Delia had simply meant that Ash had been trained by him. But then, how did Delia fit in? Had she been tricked too? By who? And why?

Misty just couldn’t piece it together.

A soft knock on the closet door caught her attention. “Misty? Are you finished? I have some soup out here, if you want it.”

Misty found herself smiling. She gave her damp hair a final furious ruffle, then draped the towel around her neck and opened the door. Rudi was standing on the other side. He’d changed shirts; his new one seemed more appropriate for the coming winter than most of his other attire. It looked thicker, obviously not silk, and it wasn’t open very far in the front. He offered her a smile.

“You look much better. Feel better?”

Misty was very aware of the fact that she was standing in front of him in a pair of borrowed pajamas, and that he had had to all but carry her up to his room earlier, she had been so scared and confused. She nodded, embarrassed, and her eyes found the tray of food over the queen bed.

“Good. Come eat, before it gets cold.” He led her over to the bed and arranged it so that Misty could sit comfortably on the end, her tray in front of her. Rudi sat next to her in companionable silence, his mind obviously elsewhere as he stared out the large, sunny window. Misty frowned.

“What time is it?”

Rudi stared at her for a moment, as if trying to decide whether or not he should reply. Finally, he said, “A little after one.”

Misty’s spoon clanged against the bottom of her empty bowl. “What? My classes—”

“Shh, calm down.” Misty felt his arm sneak around her waist as he pulled her closer to him. “I contacted your Masters and told them you wouldn’t be coming.”

“But—I need to—”

“You need to rest, Misty. You have circles under your eyes and your skin is pale.” He was studying her face with a frown, concern in his teal eyes. Misty felt herself blush and looked down at her hands. Rudi reached out with his free hand and covered both of hers with it, tightening his grip around her waist with the other. “Will you tell me what happened?” he asked quietly.

Misty winced. She knew she should, but somehow revealing Ash to him just seemed...wrong. He was an Elemental, yes, she knew that for certain, but...

That picture she’d fallen asleep on in his room kept coming to mind. Elementals in the clouds and people under the earth. Did that mean...?

“You don’t have to,” Rudi continued after a moment’s silence, “but I wish, Misty...If you had seen yourself down there, how terrified you looked...Did he hurt you? Will you at least tell me that?”

Misty stiffened and Rudi, misinterpreting the gesture, tried to soothe her by rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked—”

“No, what...” Misty suddenly realized how odd it had been to run into him and Gary there, next to the tapestry that hid the entrance to the underground halls. “What were you doing there?” She looked up at him. He looked startled.

“What—looking for you, of course. I went up to check on you last night and you weren’t there. I’ve been up all night looking for you.”

Misty was touched, but she coudn't shake her suspicion. “But why...there?” Had he known about Ash all along? If so, did that mean he had lied to her when he said he didn’t believe Gary?

Rudi was frowning. “It was a last resort. Oak said if you weren’t in your rooms then the Ghost must have taken you, and he dragged me down to show me the 'mysterious hidden entrance' to his 'secret lair'. I didn’t expect to actually find you there.” He paused for a moment, watching her eyes closely, and then said softly, “He was right, wasn’t he?” When Misty looked away he let out his breath in a curse. “I should have known. Dammit! Those conniving headMasters; I knew they were hiding something about this place from me...Are you okay? Lugia, I should have paid more attention to them. Then maybe I could have stopped him before he kidnapped you—”

“He didn’t kidnap me...” Misty rested her head against his shoulder and tried to draw her thoughts together.

“Then what did he do?” Rudi breathed, and rested his chin on the top of her head. She could feel his throat work when he spoke. “Tell me, Misty.”

Misty hesitated for a moment, and then she told him. Everything.


Misty’s throat was dry when she finished. She told Rudi everything she could remember about Ash, how sincere he’d been, how nice and thoughtful and cautious...

Rudi remained silent for the most part, only interrupting her to clarify things she’d mentioned earlier or accidentally glossed over. He fetched her a drink when he was sure she was done, and watched her thoughtfully afterwards, a light frown on his face. Misty was shaking with curiosity over what he made of Ash; he’d only offered her noncommittal grunts while she’d been talking. Now she looked at him and asked. He regarded her carefully for a moment before answering.

“I think...I'm not sure what to think. You’re sure he’s an Elemental?”

Misty nodded. “I saw his eyes, Rudi. They were...swirly, like really swirling, all yellow and black and brown.”

“Brown? Is he a Ground-Type, too?”

“I don’t think so, but...I don’t know. But Rudi, I just, I can’t convince myself he’s dangerous, you know? He was so nice to me for so long. He could have hurt me at any time, especially last night, and he just...didn’t. Maybe...I don't know. You probably know more about those old stories than I do. Is it possible Elementals aren’t all evil?”

“I don’t know. Not that I’ve heard, but then I certainly haven’t heard everything. Are you sure he wasn’t tricking you the entire time? Trying to get you to trust him so he could, I don’t know, manipulate you somehow?”

Misty contemplated his question for a moment, then sighed heavily, allowing Rudi to hold her close as she made herself more comfortable in his arms. “No,” she said softly, and realized she meant it. “No, I think he...he’s never once made me doubt him, and he’s always been there to help me when I needed him. And then why would he help my Pokémon so much, or even save me from that Ariados to begin with? I think...I think he’s lonely living all the way down there, and he just wanted...I dunno. But I...”

Misty’s gut wrenched. She felt horrible for the way she'd bolted, the way she'd screamed at him when he tried to calm her down. She remembered the way he’d jerked away from her as if burned by her words, and the way he’d held Pikachu back, and the way he’d lit up the tunnels for her so she could find her way back...

She also remembered that shy smile she’d finally been able to coax out of him after over two weeks of Battling in Arena Five with Pikachu there, and the way he seemed to squirm inside his dark jacket every time she asked a question he didn’t want to answer, and the peaceful way his face relaxed when he slept...

She wanted to cry. What if Rudi had acted that way to her, after discovering his parents had died because of what hers had done? How would she feel if he were to shove her away right now and scream at her for something she’d never even had any control over—

No more than Ash had, she realized as her throat started to burn. Delia has as much as told her he’d been born the way he was, had hinted that he got it from his father—and Mew, what had that poor woman gone through trying to raise Ash without letting anyone know what he was? Who he was? Misty thought back to all the things Ash had managed to say without saying anything. Whatever he was—Elemental or something else entirely, something good and not-demon—he wasn’t the first. He was only twenty-two, for Mew’s sake; he could never have built all those tunnels or even furnished those underground chambers alone. But he was alone, in every sense of the word. Misty wondered what Delia had meant when she’d said he’d revealed himself before. Had he been rejected like this before, too? Was that how Gary knew so much about him? Because people had gone to him with information after they realized what he was?

“You’re trembling.” Rudi rubbed her back soothingly and leaned down to meet her eyes. “You look a mess. You should get some rest.”

“What?” Misty sniffled away her tears and tried to rub her eyes dry. “It’s not even dark yet. I’m not tired.”

“It’ll be dark in another hour or so.”

“But it’s October; it gets dark early.”

“Misty, look at me.” He gently raised her chin with his thumb until their eyes were level. “You’ve been through a lot in a short amount of time, not to mention all those weeks you spent keeping this Elemental a secret from everyone, and with your classes piling up and need rest. You can catch up with everything again tomorrow, but tonight I want you to turn in early and just forget everything for a while. I’ll talk to your Masters for you. You go to sleep.”

“I’m not tired,” Misty protested, but she knew it was a lie. She was exhausted. Rudi seemed to know it too, because he smiled and kissed her softly before rising from the edge of the bed and drawing the shades.

“Take my bed for tonight; it’s much more comfortable than those old twin cots they stick in the dorms. I’ll be back to check on you later.”

Misty was startled. “Back? Where are you going?”

Rudi smiled at her, and helped her under the mass of thick sheets. His soft red hair brushed her cheeks as he leaned over for a final quick kiss before standing again. “I have a few things to attend to, now that you’re safe and sound. Don’t worry, I won’t be gone long; I’ll spend the night in the room right next door, all right? I’ll be turning in soon too; I didn’t sleep at all last night.”

Misty blushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think—”

“It’s not your fault, and I don’t blame you." He smiled warmly. "Goodnight, Mist.”

“Goodnight. And...Rudi?”

He paused in the act of opening the door, turned to look back at her. “Hmm?”

“Um, thank you. For...everything.”

He flicked the light off, and she thought she could see him frowning in the glow from the room beyond. “I’m just glad to be able to help, Misty. ‘Night.”



Rudi pulled the door closed behind him with a soft click, then turned to regard the three people watching him from the couches and chairs scattered around the comfortable sitting room he’d just entered. Gary was the first to stand. “Well?”

Rudi sighed and rubbed his forehead. He had to grit his teeth to keep from reprimanding Gary for his impertinent tone. “She met him, all right. Several times, over the course of several months. She thinks he’s harmless.”

Gary snorted while Jesse and James exchanged glances from their respective overstuffed chairs. “Harmless, huh?” Gary smirked. “Hasn’t she figured out what he is yet?”

“She says she saw his eyes.”

This gave Gary pause; even he hadn’t seen Ash without those precious sunglasses glued to the bridge of his nose. He forced himself to sound nonchalant. “And?”

“Swirls. Yellow, black, and brown, I think.” He paused, looking pained as he spoke his next words. “Oak, is there any way he could have, you know...”

Gary raised his eyebrows. “Hurt her? Of course. He’s an Elemental, isn’t he?”

“But she thinks of him as a friend. And he’s been so nice to her—”

“Of course he has. Got her to trust him enough to take in one of his minions, didn’t he? To follow him all the way down to his lair, where no one can hear her scream?”

“But he let her out again, Oak. He didn’t have to.”

“Sure he did. If he hadn’t, we would have come down after him. He's not stupid. The only reason the headMasters haven’t flushed him out already is because it would cost too much to explore all those tunnels, and they don’t have incentive enough to invest in that yet. But if one of their students were to disappear...”

Rudi sank into the chair nearest the door and tried to mentally dull the headache building up in the back of his skull. “Then why hasn’t he done...whatever it is he plans to do? He’s had more than ample opportunity. Why not just— just hurt her and be done with it?” He looked pained to speak his worried thoughts aloud.

“Oh, he’ll do much more than just hurt her, I'm sure.” Gary plowed on ruthlessly when Rudi’s frown deepened. “He’ll want to get his time’s worth, of course. And he’ll find it much more enjoyable if she comes to him. He’ll probably lure her somewhere familiar through guilt or curiosity—where was it they liked to meet?”

Rudi sighed heavily. “Oh...Arena Five, I think she said.” Gary’s eyes flashed. He motioned for Jesse and James to make for the door. Rudi watched them wearily, obviously exhausted after his frantic night-long search. “Where are you going?”

“To report. Take a nap, for Mew’s sake; the headMasters will want the full story from you after dinner, and you look horrible.”

Rudi was rubbing his eyes. “I don’t know if it’s my place to give it to them,” he said slowly, and frowned when Gary moved to let himself out. His final words were all but swallowed in the swish and click of the door.

"At this point, Trovita, I don't think your opinion matters."