Note: While this technically contains no violence or language, if reading about blood makes you queesy [sic], then you might not be able to read through this entire fic. Just a warning.
Red broke into shivers in the freezing night. The canyon he sat in was in the middle of what seemed like a natural blizzard, but Red had seen the Pokémon standing on the edges of the cliffs, expelling great amounds of frigid air, sleet, and snow onto the bleak trail.
He could barely move, it was so cold. He had at least three layers of clothing on, but he was afraid to go on much further. He knew that he wasn't even near the halfway point of this valley of death and despair. To even continue on, he had to check his Pokéballs often, to give him a reason to not give up and leave, or give in to the temptation to sleep and never wake up.
He heard a click, and what resembled a cross between a cat, a dog, and fire appeared close to him. His Flareon. It walked to him and expelled some of its internal heat to warm him. He smiled weakly, and continued walking. He could almost see the end of the snow-covered portion. Good, that was good. No more freezing cold, no wondering if he would live if he slipped into unconsiousness...
He ran into what looked like a great glass wall. "This must be the point between the first and second sections," he said to nobody. There was a door nearby- he was glad he didn't have to slog through more snow to find it. He opened the door into a heated room and nearly cried tears of joy.
"Finally! Thank you, thank you!" he said, dropping to his knees. Then Flareon let out a little cry.
"No, no, that can't be true," Red said. He hoped it was a hallucination. But it wasn't; there was a small sign, hung on a door to the next section, with a small timer attached to it.
"This room is cleansed of any life two minutes after the first door is opened." The timer already read a minute. That couldn't be true, but Red knew that these people were ruthless. He grabbed Flareon and threw open the second door, rushing out into percieved safety-
-and into the middle of a burning hot sandstorm. He could already feel his throat dry out, and he practically saw the snow evaporate off of his coat as the powerful winds buffeted him with everything his enviroment had to offer. As quickly as possible, and maybe a little quicker, Red tore of his coat and pants, his gloves... he was soon wandering a desert in rolled up pants and no shirt, with Flareon returned to its ball.
"Why? Why, damn it, why?" he moaned. He knew this valley was designed to break people, but this was beyond cruel. He was already hallucinating, he though, and his skin was beginning to blister and burn- stripping half naked wasn't the best idea after all.
"Bulnaser," he slurred, "goh. Flurien, shtay whit 'im. Dun... dun le..." He began to sway as he walked. His arms drooped next to him, and he tripped over his own feet, bare and burnt. "Fuuuu..."
Red awoke to a world of blackness. It was freezing him and burning him at the same time, and somehow he had regained his clothes. His burns also seemed to have disappeared. For a second, he thought that they had sent him away after finding his body. Then it occured to him that he had died- but this, too, was quickly dispersed. He wasn't sure why, but the idea just seemed... wrong.
Then a truly terrifying though occured. What if he had somehow made it to the third section? If this was the third test... He stood up, as best he could in the dimensionless world he percieved.
"So I wait here and something comes along to torment me with terrible dreams and memories?" he yelled into the darkness. "Too bad! The freezing and burning you've made me suffer through are the worst things I've been through, but even they won't reduce me to a blubbering mess on whatever floor I'm set on!"
A grinning face appeared in front of him. A Gengar. Suddenly, he saw his hand fall apart- his skin sloughed off, followed by individual tendons unravelling up his arm and veins and arteries melting into blood, leaving just bones that fell to his feet and clattered. This continued up his arm, but Red remained calm.
Then he began to feel it. Every movement, every ounce of searing pain, so horrible that his scream stopped in his throat. He fell to his knees, and felt those shatter. When he screamed for this, his throat fell down to the floor.
This was torture, plain and simple, tearing Red apart piece by piece.
It's just an illusion, it's just an illusion, it's just an illusion. Red repeated this to himself over and over, and the pain seemed to blunt, if not go away. He looked up, starting the Gengar in the eyes. He saw, somehow, his eyes lighting on fire and evaporating. This didn't phase him. He knew he would survive.
Then he saw what was behind the Gengar. His Venusaur, Flareon, Gyarados, Pidgeot, Snorlax... his Alakazam. His team of Pokémon that had carried him this far. Each had their own little quirks and shortcomings. Venusaur's eternal grumpiness. Flareon's comforting nature. Gyarados's endless pranks. Pidgeot's untrainable impatience. Snorlax's extreme ADHD and OCD. And Alakazam's unconquerable hautiness. They were each their own individual, as human as any person Red had ever met- even more human that some.
Seeing them decimated, bit by bit, was truly maddening to Red.
"No!" he screamed, lunging forward before one of his legs completely unravelled collapsing him to the floor, sobbing.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no..." he sobbed, breaking into hysterics every now and then. He couldn't take it. He wanted out. He didn't care. This was suppose to be a grand challenge, not a maddening torture session. Red, proclaimed to be the greatest Trainer of his generation... he did not even make it a third of the way to his ultimate goal.
Red had failed to even conquer Victory Road.