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Red Is The Coldest Color

Molag Bal

It's evolution, baby.
Hi there, everyone. I'm Molag Bal, also known as Boethiah on AO3 and Talrand on FFNet. I've been writing fanfiction for some time, but I've only tried my hand at a serial once before, and that fic's long since abandoned. This is my first serious attempt at something long and overarching. Nevertheless, I'm not sure how quickly I'll be able to churn out chapters; in between real life and (hopefully) taking critique, I'm not sure if I'll be able to maintain a constant schedule.

This fanfic is rated PG-13 for canon-typical violence, mild adult themes, and occasional swearing.

Table of Contents
Prologue: Colosseum Day
Chapter 1: Beginning, Part 1
Chapter 2: Beginning, Part 2
Last edited:

Molag Bal

It's evolution, baby.
Prologue: Colosseum Day

Six Years Ago

“Shadow Claw!”

The Gengar’s claws glowed with an eerie power. It ran up to the Nidorino, swiping at it – the Nidorino jumped to the side, then charged at the Gengar with its mouth agape. The Gengar quickly swatted the Nidorino aside and jumped back; the Nidorino mimicked the Gengar’s jump, landing inches away from its Trainer.

As they landed, the crowd’s roar reached a fever pitch. The stadium lights bathed the arena in white light, and illuminated thousands of people in their glow. Immense screens faced each other on opposite sides of the stadium, each one showing both the scoreboard and a live feed of the crowd.

The Nidorino’s Trainer growled. “Good work, Rino! Now, use Smart Strike!”

The Nidorino’s horn glowed a shimmering silver and it rushed at the Gengar, who merely waited head-on. At the last second, the Gengar twisted its body to avoid the attack – and then the Nidorino disappeared in a flash. As the Gengar turned around, the Nidorino reappeared out of nowhere and hit it straight in the stomach, then jumped back to the opposite side of the stadium.

The impact blew the Gengar back a few meters, but the Gengar managed to land on its feet. Its toothy smile twisted into a frown, the Gengar’s eyes turned back to its Trainer. “Shadow Ball, now!” the Trainer said.

The Gengar cupped its hands; within them, a ball of miasma formed. The Nidorino took a step back and bowed its head, ready to dodge the attack. Then the Gengar lobbed the thing at the Nidorino – it made a motion to jump to the side, but the ball was too fast. The Shadow Ball collided with the Nidorino head-on, exploding upon impact and blowing the creature back a few meters. Once again, the crowd roared.

Yelling loudest from the back was a six-year-old.

Ellen Redford stood up on the rafters – not even reaching her father’s sitting height – and screamed until her throat ached and her lungs felt like they were going to give out. “Go, Gengar!” she said, pumping her fists in the air and nearly jumping off her seat.

Her ten-year-old brother, Martin Redford – “Red” for short – placed a hand on her shoulder. “Cut that out,” he said, but he couldn’t hide the smile on his own face.

“Now, now. Behave, you two,” their father said, placing his hand on Ellen’s other shoulder and leading her down. The two children sat at the back row, sandwiched between their father and their mother.

By then, the Nidorino had been knocked out. Its Trainer sent it back into its Poke Ball, then took out another one and tossed it into the field. As it landed, it shot a beam of light that became a Steelix, one that towered over the Gengar – the Trainer made a chopping motion and the Steelix began to coil around the Gengar.

“Hah! Gengar’s in for it now,” Red said, leaning forward.

“No way!” Ellen looked at her brother, clearly irritated. “Gengar’s going to kick its butt.”

Red steepled his fingers. “We’ll see how this develops.”

“Whatever you say,” Ellen said. “But if you lose, you owe me a lemonade!”

Red smiled. “You’re on.”

It was the last time he would remember truly smiling.

Molag Bal

It's evolution, baby.
Chapter 1: Beginning, Part 1

Present Day

Pallet Town

When his mother Delia told him that he had to attend his high school graduation, Red had stormed off to his room. He’d winced when she took him out to fit his graduation suit, and throughout the outing he was even more irritable than usual. Then, during the actual ceremony, he’d been forced to sit out in the heat; at the end of it, he was warm, sticky, and more than a little cheesed off. Then he had to endure the after-party.

Red sat on the table farthest from the crowd, picking lazily at the rice and strips of chicken on his plate. With nothing else to do, he scanned the crowd with his eyes.

Gary was, as usual, chatting up some of the prettier girls in class. Even when he knew that he’d likely never see them again, he still tried his best to flirt with them. It’d even be impressive if he wasn’t just coasting off his grandpa, Red thought.

His mother was away chattering with his teachers; he hoped that it was praise for making the honor roll one last time, but it was more likely about how his attitude would carry him in college. He knew that was a ways off, so he didn’t bother to think about it.

Red looked at his plate. All he had to endure were a few more hours of this torment – then, he would be on his way to his Pokémon journey. At sixteen years of age, he was ready to receive his first Pokémon. Next to that, his high school graduation was strictly Little League.

“Yo, Red.” Gary magically appeared behind Red, or he’d walked over behind Red while he was lost in thought and Red just hadn’t noticed. “What’re you doing after all this?”

Red didn’t look up from his plate. “Didn’t your grandpa tell you, Gary? I’m taking a year off to go on a Pokémon journey.”

“Your mom’s lettin’ you go?” Gary cocked his head. “I thought she didn’t want you goin’ on one of ‘em.”

That was when Red looked at Gary. “She promised me,” he said, punctuating the last two words with a tone that made Gary flinch.

“Whoa, man! I was just wondering, since my gramps has to be expectin’ you tomorrow and all.” Gary smiled. “I’ll tell him about it when I’m home.”

Red looked back at his plate. “Mm-hm.”

That’s when Gary snapped. “Jeez, man, you could say some more. This could be our last chance to talk before I’m off to college, and you’re still…well, you?”

“Don’t be a drama queen, Gary. We’re friends on Global Link, aren’t we?” Red toyed with his chicken strips some more. “Not like we’ll miss each other.”

“Real life’s different.”

“Not that different.”

Gary groaned. “Tch. I thought you’d be a little less you today, of all days. Guess I was wrong.” He left in a huff; Red just raised his eyebrows briefly, then turned back to his plate. Chicken strips suddenly looked a lot more interesting.


The first time Red had asked about his upcoming stint as a Trainer was at the drive back from school; Delia had played deaf, and merely repeated her praise for him. The second was at the Flavors of Kalos restaurant – Delia merely told him to finish his carbonara. The third time was during the short drive back home, which again prompted no response. So when Red went up to take a bath and lie in his room, he did so without any answers.

Red sat on his bed and pored over a book. It was a guide on Pokémon he’d read a dozen times before. He could have just used his SilphPhone to find the answers he was looking for, but there was something unique about feeling a book in his hand that drew him to it.

Suddenly, he heard his mother knock from the other side of the door. “Red?”

Red glanced briefly at his door. “Come in, Mom. The door’s open.”

Delia Fisher opened the door to her son’s room and looked inside. To her astonishment, he’d cleaned it himself – it was nowhere near the messy state that she usually found it in, and the maid had gone on leave a day ago. “Wow. Impressive.”

“Thanks for noticing.” Red didn’t look up from his book, but he couldn’t resist a proud smile. “So, what’s this about?”

“…Look, Martin. I think it’s time we talked about your little…”

“My journey?” Red said, not letting her finish.

Delia sighed. “Yes, Martin. Your journey. By the way, look at someone when you talk to them, please.”

Red looked up at his mother. “So, what about?”

Delia paused to collect her thoughts. Finally, she spoke.

“…Martin, I know that I can’t convince you to stop this path you’ve chosen. All boys leave home someday – that’s what your grandmother always told me when I was your age.” Delia shut her eyes. “If you want to go on your Pokémon journey, that’s your right and I’ve got no intention of stopping you…not anymore, at least.”

Red gave her a weary smile. “Thanks, Mom.”

Delia opened her eyes again. “Just know that I’ll always love you, and you’ll always have a place to come back to here. Alright?”


Silence hung in the air. Red could hear his heart beating.

“…I love you too,” Red said, standing up. He paused for a minute, then walked up to his mother and gave her a hug.

Tears streamed down Delia’s eyes. “Now, get some sleep. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”


Later that night, Red lay in his bed, eyes wide and fixed on the ceiling. He couldn’t see them, but he could feel warm tears running down his face. A chill crept into the room and he shivered, his teeth chattering.

Why was he crying? Anxiety, probably; tomorrow, he was going to take his first step into a much, much larger world. That was the reason he couldn’t sleep, clearly. It had nothing to do with missing home, or school, or the nagging feeling that maybe he was making a mistake.

“I’m not making a mistake,” he said, but the shivering tone in which he delivered it only made him more unsure. “I’m not making a mistake, I swear.”

As he stared at the whirring fan above him, he closed his eyes and wiped his tears. A nauseous feeling bubbled up inside him, as if butterflies were swimming around in his stomach – suddenly, his eyes shot back open and he let out a dry heave. He was really going to do it. He was going to be a Pokémon Trainer! If his father could see him now, he’d be…

Red turned on his side, resting his head on his hands. Never mind that. He was his own man now, and he was ready to stake his claim on the world. And nobody was going to stop him from doing so.

The chill returned, colder this time, and made the boy curl up in a ball. He shut his eyes for the umpteenth time and slung his blanket over himself. It wasn’t as if the cold was a stranger to him – as long as he could remember, he’d slept alone.

Stashed deep within one of the drawers was a six-year-old photo. Though the dust motes on it showed its age, the image of a family smiling in front of a Colosseum was as clear as the day it had been taken.


Winning Smile
Staff member
Super Mod
I liked how you opened with the classic Gengar vs Nidorino fight - nice nostalgic choice. Good way to introduce the characters as well, and establish that it's about Red, the family dynamics, etc.

Then I got to the end of the chapter...
Red smiled. “You’re on.”

It was the last time he would remember truly smiling.
And this really got my attention. Nice sucker punch!

You followed up well with the second chapter too. The interaction between Red and Gary was on point, but the conversation with his mother was even more so. Certainly a more sombre feeling throughout with the musings towards the end too, and fairly accurate description on someone feeling nervous and excited about a major change.
Minor nitpick:
The Gengar cupped its hands; within them, a ball of miasma formed. The Nidorino took a step back and bowed its head, ready to dodge the attack. Then the Gengar lobbed the thing at the Nidorino – it made a motion to jump to the side, but the ball was too fast. The Shadow Ball collided with the Nidorino head-on, exploding upon impact and blowing the creature back a few meters.
3 of the 4 sentences here started with 'The', one with 'Then the'. While I didn't really notice this elsewhere, you could mix it up a touch more in this paragraph.

Nice beginning - do share more!

Molag Bal

It's evolution, baby.
Chapter 2: Beginning, Part 2
Red adjusted his collar in the mirror. Despite the early morning chill, beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

Martin “Red” Redford was not, strictly speaking, chiseled from marble. In fact, he was on the scrawny side of things, with wide amber eyes and tufts of messy brown hair sticking out from underneath his red cap. His jacket was red and white, and underneath it he wore a black T-shirt. Baggy pants, a black belt, red sneakers, and a green backpack completed his look.

Besides his bloodshot eyes and the eyebags underneath them, his appearance remained largely unchanged since the last time he’d peered into the mirror. He stretched his arms and yawned again – he certainly wouldn’t be intimidating anyone off the road if they got in his way.

“Martin?” came a voice from downstairs. “Are you ready?”

“Give me another minute, Mom!” Red yelled back.

“Okay, honey. But Dr. Oak can’t wait forever, you know.”

When Red went down, Delia was at the door waiting for him. Before he could move outside, she stopped him and widened her arms in an embrace. Red sighed – there was no getting around this, was there? – and allowed himself to be hugged by his mother, one last time.

“Just be careful out there,” she said, kissing Red’s forehead. “I love you, honey.”

“I know.” Red smiled.

“Now, get moving! Dr. Oak’s probably there already!” Delia said, letting him out of her embrace and shooing him off playfully.

The fog still hadn’t dispersed over Pallet Town that early in the morning, and no cars passed him as he strode down the sidewalk. A cool breeze blew against him – as it passed, it rustled perfectly-trimmed bushes and blades of grass. It couldn’t have been a better last day in Pallet Town, he thought.

Dr. Samuel Oak was out in his laboratory’s yard, watering the bushes. “Ah, Red,” he said to the arriving trainer. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Morning, Professor Oak.”

“I suppose you’re wondering about your Pokémon?”

Red nodded.

“That’s what I gathered.” Professor Oak set down his watering can and turned to the laboratory’s entrance, motioning for Red to follow him. “This way.”

As Professor Oak led him through the main hall, Red examined all the awards and certificates the Professor had framed and hung on the wall. He’d been in that laboratory many times before, but their sheer volume never failed to give him pause. It was little wonder why Gary wanted to be like the man so much.

Finally, the two arrived at Oak’s study. Sitting on the central coffee table was a Poke Ball with a small plastic thunderbolt fixed above its central button. “Here we are,” Oak said, gesturing to the Ball. “Go on; pick it up.”

It was only when Red leaned down to pick it up that the gravity of his situation started to sink in. He felt a pit in his stomach start to form; this event would define the rest of his life!

Professor Oak just sighed. “I don’t have all day, Red.”

Red plucked the Poke Ball from the coffee table. He stood up straight, weighed it with his hand – it was far lighter than he’d thought it would be – and then pressed the central button. The room filled with a light that flowed down and coalesced into a furry yellow creature.

“This little guy’s a Pikachu,” Oak said. “They’re also known as the ‘Electric Mouse Pokémon.’”

“Pikachu, huh?” Red motioned to pick it up – and promptly met the business end of its tail. He yelled and staggered back, clutching his cheek; the blow was light, but it had enough force to leave a bruise.

Professor Oak sighed again. “I hoped that this wouldn’t happen. This Pikachu’s a bit of a rebel, you see – well, I guess that part’s obvious by now.”

Red glared at Professor Oak. “Can I get a different one, please?” he said, though his speech was slurred somewhat from the slap.

Oak shook his head. “Last one I have.”

Red’s shoulders slumped. “Do I really have to accept this asshole as my Pokémon?” At the ‘asshole’ remark, Pikachu giggled.

“It’s this one or nothing. All I can do for you.”



“Fine,” Red said. He pressed the button on his Poke Ball and a red ray shot from it – a ray that the Pikachu sidestepped.

“Oh, forgive me. I’d forgotten to mention that this Pikachu hates Poke Balls.”

Red cringed. “Are you sure you can’t get me another one?”

“No can do, Red. Here, let me get something that might help you…”

Much to Red’s surprise, Gary was waiting outside, leaning against a tree with a bag of supplies lying next to him. “Yo, Red,” he said with a sneer. “Got your first Pokémon, I see.”

Red, who was wearing rubber gloves while holding Pikachu by a leash, just groaned. “Very funny, Gary.”

“I just came over to drop off some supplies for gramps when I saw you.” Gary stuck out his tongue. “Getting the hang of training yet?”

“I don’t need grief from you. I’ve got my hands full already.” Red yanked the leash with both his hands, forcing Pikachu forward. “Bye, Gary.”

Gary stopped Red. “Hey, hold up, man! This could be our last chat together!”

“We’re friends on Global Link.” Red grunted. “Now can I leave please.”

“Tch, fine.” Gary stepped back to make way for Red. “Good luck on your journey.”

Red smiled back. “Thanks. I’ll need it.”

It was when they were well into Route 1 that Red stopped yanking his Pikachu by the leash. “We can’t go on like this,” he said. “You need me, and I need you. So we’ve got to get to an arrangement somehow.”

Pikachu just scratched itself. “Pika pi.”

“How about we start with names? I’m Red, and you are…” That was when Red realized he hadn’t nicknamed it yet. “Pika! You’re Pika from now on.”


“Alright, Pika. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, why don’t we start over?” Red motioned to undo Pika’s leash…and then met Pika’s tail face-first once more.

Red balled his fist. “Alright, you little piece of s – “ He stopped, and considered why punching something that could knock out a Gyarados with its powers was probably a bad idea. Then he sighed.

“We can’t keep doing this, Pika.” Red groaned. “Like I said, you need me and I need you. Set aside your feelings and think about it; who’s going to feed you if I’m not around?”

Pika stopped and placed its paw on its chin. “Pika pi…”

“See? And I’m willing to negotiate with you,” Red said, before remembering that he couldn’t exactly negotiate with something that could only say its name. “Y’know what, here.”

Red knelt and unlocked Pika’s collar, then did away with his rubber gloves. “There. Now can we trust each other, at least for a bit?”

Pika nodded. “Pikachu pi,” he said, wagging his tail. Red smiled. It was a start, he supposed.