I met him a few times, in the last years before it happened. He was always so quiet, but the fierce confidence in his eyes was unmistakeable. This was a man who had been to the top of the world, relying on no one but himself and his close friends. He earned everything he had and begrudged no one for his difficulties. This man, who saved the world, who was the best of us, gave himself up so we could have a chance.
It was a particularly bitter cold that surrounded the two of us that night on Mount Silver. There were legends that a lone trainer stood atop that peak, waiting for something. There were rumors that the man was Red, he who had defeated the first wave of Team Rocket. They were both right. When I emerged, not unscathed, from the tunnel that led to his perch, he looked me over, smiled so slightly, and took a Pokeball from his belt. I had waited my whole life for this moment, and I matched his challenge.
He defeated me that first time, both shattering my hard-won pride and recalling to me vivid memories of my early days as a trainer. Back when every battle was a struggle to define myself, a fight to make my life mean something. After I defeated the League in my home of Sinnoh, and then went on to the world championships, I felt invincible. Red reminded me that I was not.
We sat in silence around a fire, in a cave that he had decorated very spartanly. Apart from beds, only a radio was there to reveal that he had any connection to the world that had forged him. The Pokedex on his belt was battered and looked like it hadn't been opened in a very long time. I hadn't even noticed that he had one at first. And I, with my pristine Pokedex, watch, cell phone, laptop, and whatever else I toted around with me, felt ashamed. This man knew what was necessary, and had no desire for anything else.
With the night to think it over, the first battle had come together in my mind. His Pokemon were extremely powerful, but fought without commands and had no particular form. My own Pokemon were highly trained and obedient, but they couldn't keep up with his. He even had a Pikachu. At this level of combat, unevolved Pokemon were unheard of. And yet, it was so fast and powerful. No Raichu I had seen would have matched it.
The next day, we fought again. This time I coached my Pokemon ahead of time to fight as they thought was best, and that I would not be giving commands. They were bewildered to say the least, but trusted me and took on Red toe-to-toe yet again. Without my rules to limit them, and armed with all the knowledge we had shared over a decade, they prevailed - no, we prevailed. Red nodded to me graciously, and spoke, to my great surprise.
"You learned faster than most. I'm impressed." We returned to the cave. Red regaled me with tales of all the fabulous people that had made the trek to battle him. Cynthia, Steven, Ethan, and even Lance, who had made the trip so many times that Red had lost count. "He hasn't beaten me yet," he said with a chuckle. "But I expect to see him again." Sooner or later, everyone that fought him was able to win, except of course for Lance, whose stubbornness to succeed was holding him back. "Only you and Gold were able to win on the second try. I wonder what it is that makes you special." Gold was Ethan's "professional" name. He had taken it on in honor of Red and Blue, Red's rival. He had stuck so intensely to his moniker of Gold that he often didn't think to respond whenever his mother used his real name.
Red was full of these stories, as I supposed there weren't very many people to talk to up here. Why not come down and resume being League Champion, I asked. Why not rejoin the world that still worshipped him to this day? "I had my time," he said, quietly. "It is your world now. There's no need for old news like me to be getting in your way." I couldn't really understand his philosophy at the time. I figured he would have so much to teach us. Later I realized that he believed he had nothing to teach. There was no method to his battling, no secret to success. He simply enjoyed himself, and he enjoyed this environment. But it would not save him.
Two years after that encounter, I heard a noise outside my door. Thinking someone was knocking, I went to see what it was. As it was the middle of the night, I brought a bat, and told Empoleon to wait in the hallway and listen for trouble. I turned the knob and let the door swing itself open, only to see a gravely wounded Raichu slumped on the patio. I couldn't help but shriek for a moment, waking my neighbors and bringing them scrambling to my door. "What is it?" "Are you alright?" They bustled about looking for suspicious people, many of them brandishing guns. I scooped up the poor thing and had someone, I can't remember who, drive us to the Pokecenter. On the way there, the Raichu handed me a note that it had been clutching.
I couldn't believe what I had read. I couldn't even begin to process it. At the Pokecenter, once the Raichu had been rushed to surgery, the nurse returned to the lobby. She asked some basic questions, and satisfied with the answers, she looked up at me, as baffled as I was. "This Raichu seems to have belonged to the legendary trainer Red. We don't know how it's possible, but Raichu shows signs of very recent evolution. I don't know if you noticed but it doesn't have a traditional Raichu tail. It still has the crooked tail of a Pikachu, albeit longer. It would appear it managed to evolve without the help of a Thunderstone. The doctor theorizes that it must have happened during a moment of extreme stress, in order to save the life of its trainer."
The note flashed back into my mind. I understood what it meant now. Team Rocket was back, and they were killing this time. They had killed Gold, and I could only assume they had killed Red too. I had to tell everyone, but...
If they knew it was coming, would it put them in greater danger? If they could kill two of the strongest trainers in the last fifty years, did any of us stand a chance? There had been villains in our past, certainly, but they had always been idealists or thugs, never murderous. Organized killers hadn't been heard of for centuries. As I was about to go into a nervous breakdown, I felt a familiar warmth. Cynthia had wrapped herself around me. "Dawn," she said quietly. "They told me what happened." I looked into the eyes of my long-time mentor, those eyes that always had answers, those eyes that held memories of our love and confidence that everything would be alright. I saw fear there, and it was then that I knew the world would never be the same. I collapsed into my lover's arms and cried for days.