They say that he was the Champion and he wouldn't come down from that mountain until either he was soundly defeated in a 6-on-6 Pokémon battle or he froze to death. When Professor Oak grandly commissioned her to do what countless other trainers (legends in their own right) could not, Kotone had the niggling suspicion that the professor was waiting for Red to be carried down Mt. Silver in a block of ice. In all fairness, she could not blame him. The Champion, that is, not the good professor. Red had become one with the formidable mountain and could not be budged by teeth-chattering trainers whose only desire at that point was to go straight back down the mountain.
It was a fruitless request. Professor Oak knew this. Everyone knew that Red knew this. Even the mountain knew.
Kotone packed her bag and set off for Mt. Silver.
It was approximately nine hundred degrees below freezing on Mt. Silver. Give or take a few degrees.
Kotone only told a few people, and even then it was a vague "See you in a few days" or "Watch my stuff for me." She didn't expect much out of this endeavor. Maybe a cold virus. Perhaps even a souvenir. Certainly not a victory against the Champion. And even if by the faintest miracle she did win, Red was probably not going home. Why would he? There was nothing for him down below except for the world and its people, and then he might actually melt. Horrors upon horrors.
The icy stairs went straight up into the clouds. Kotone amused herself with images of Red melting each step he took down his precious mountain. Soon he would be a puddle, slower than Grimer, and Professor Oak would keep him in his lab, a trophy for the media to snap pictures of. His interviews would begin and end with "…" because a puddle could not speak.
The high altitude and frosty wind made progress slow.
She nearly trudged past the Pokémon Center without seeing it, her body was so numb. It was getting dark. Kotone booked a room and sat in the lobby, chatting with Nurse Joy for two hours about Red. He was mysterious, boring, observant, oblivious, young, mature… She could have asked about his lineup, but every school kid knew the Champion's favorite Pokémon. Less could be said about him. When asked why he retreated to this mountain, Nurse Joy gestured to the pile of mail beyond the counter.
"It might have been because his fan club couldn't reach him here except through mail delivery."
The next morning, Kotone went to battle Red.
There might have been a beautiful sunrise in the background, its rays burning the icy peaks golden. There may have been Suicune dashing across the clouds. There could have been a dozen angry Mankeys stomping a tribal dance in the snow around them for all she cared. But her attention was on his hand movements, his body language, the tip of his hat, the flicker of something in his eyes, the very breath he drew, as he silently coordinated his Pokémon.
At some point during the battle, both parties realized something. Kotone realized this battle would be their last. She knew that Red realized this too because she was watching him, and he looked straight at her.
It didn't matter who won or lost. It didn't even matter if it was a draw. Because Kotone realized that Red was very good-looking, and all those letters in the mail that ended up in an unread pile in the Pokémon Center knew this too. But Kotone knew that he was beautiful because his Pokémon were beautiful.
Kotone also knew that she won this battle. And Red knew this too.
Snorlax didn't even have time to crash in a faint because it was returned to its Pokéball. Neither of the trainers spoke. There was no need for words. Kotone was the new Champion.
And she loved him.
"Are you leaving?" Nurse Joy smiled a little sadly.
Kotone nodded. "I'll try to visit." It was lonely on Mt. Silver and barely any trainers passed by. Nurse Joy was more eager to talk than the other Joys in her profession if only because isolation could open up even a sealed Cloyster. "And I'll write you."
Nurse Joy sighed. "That would be nice. All I ever get are bills, more bills, and fanmail for—" A cold gust of wind signaled the arrival of a trainer seeking shelter. The nurse blinked. "Red! This is a rare surprise."
Kotone was also surprised. He was much taller up close and in person.
Behind the counter, Nurse Joy was patting the pile of mail. "You've got more love letters," she teased him.
Red acknowledged her with a slight nod and turned to Kotone. She wasn't sure what he would say to her. Surely not congratulations. More importantly, did he even speak? It turned out he did.
"Are you ready to go?"
Nurse Joy was amazed that he was leaving the mountain. She wasn't aware that he was the ex-Champion. Kotone was more amazed that he could speak. His voice was smooth, not gruff or caveman-like.
She registered his words. He intended to go with her. "Eh?" she said.
Everything fast-forwarded and then they were outside, Nurse Joy waving them off, reminding them to visit her. The door slid shut. They stood there at the end of the world in silence for a long moment.
"Yours or mine?"
"Huh?" She was still dazed that Red was going home with her and that he was probably not going to melt into a puddle. His eyes were deep red, like fire, and that was why he never froze up here. He observed her for a second, probably reading her mind, and then sent out his Pokémon.
Charizard, healed by potions, stared at them expectantly. Kotone stared back.
"Flying together is more efficient," Red explained calmly. The great lizard lowered itself in order to let Red hop onto its back. He held out a hand to the gawking Kotone. "Hop on."
There were times in her life when she had to hesitate. Now should have been one of those times.
His hand was warm.
Pikachu happily reacquainted itself with the lab and Red's other Pokémon staying with Professor Oak. After all was said and done, and Kotone was able to inform her mother she was back home, just the three of them were left.
"So Kotone is the new Champion now," Professor Oak hummed to himself. He looked at Red, who had been largely silent ever since Charizard deposited them in Pallet Town, much to the whole town's astonishment. She suspected he had been sleeping during his friends' lectures, hat pulled over his eyes.
There was a lull in conversation. Kotone belatedly realized they had stopped talking.
"And what will you do now?"
Professor Oak and Red were looking at Kotone. Almost as if expecting her to take the vacant position at the top of Mt. Silver. But she had other mountains to climb. And judging by Red's expression, he did too.
"We will travel the world."