The next morning after Glacier and I had caught a few more fish, we made our way to Phil's house once more. He and his son were waiting out the front for us and waved hello.
"We're ready when you are!" his son said when we approached.
Sapphire smiled. "Let's go then!" She turned and whispered to us, "Ready to find your chick?"
"Heck yeah!" cried Shelly, answering for the three of us.
"I just realised," said Phil, "I forgot to introduce you to my son yesterday. This is Pajaro, Pajaro, Sapphire. Now that that's done, let's be off!"
We followed the pair through the house around to the back and to their own private jetty. Shelly, Sapphire, Phil and Pajaro climbed in, but Glacier and I decided we would fly. We could cover more ground that way. Or water. Whatever.
Glacier skimmed the surface and I flew straight up, searching for the Articuno from the air. I drifted around up there all morning without spotting anything. I dove down and grabbed one of the many fish living in the lake, then landed in the back of the boat.
"Anything there?" Sapphire asked hopefully.
I shook my head, "Nothing. Does he know which direction he went in?"
Sapphire translated for Phil and Pajaro. "I think it went over that way," said Phil, pointing in the opposite direction of the town. "But there's no stream or anything we can follow."
"We can go in that direction," Glacier had just joined us, a Goldeen held strongly in his claws, "You want to come Shelly?"
She shrugged, "Extra pair of eyes couldn't hurt. Why not? Who wants to carry me?"
"Hang on, I'll just finish my fish," I said, tearing another strip of flesh off of it.
When I was done, Shelly climbed on and we took off in the general direction that Pajaro had pointed, with Glacier flying a few hundred meters to our left to scout the area.
"So do you think he likes her?" Shelly asked me mischievously.
"Huh? What are you on about?"
"Oh, come on, like you haven't noticed!"
Shelly sighed heavily, "Sapph and Pajaro. Do you think he likes her?"
"I don't know, I guess so. I haven't been in the boat all morning, Shell, and besides, you have more of an eye for that kind of thing."
"Darn right I do!" she paused for a while, then said, as though it was just a fact of life, "She likes him." I laughed and turned my attention back to the search for Sapphire.
We flew on for another half an hour or so before Shelly yelled out as loudly as she could, "Hey Glace! Watch your tail!" I turned my head to see a pair of Pidgeot following very closely behind him. Glacier was looking very startled. He had previously been just gliding around at a comfortable pace, but now he had to power as much as he could.
"Ehe, you too Snowfall," Shelly said uneasily, "Go, go, go!"
"Shelly, lye down and hold on tight." I could feel her press herself against me and her arms and legs grip around my chest for dear life. I pelted forward, head down and tail and feet straight. I drew my wings in closer to my body and even lowered my crest, anything to make me more streamline. I knew that there was no bird faster than a Pidgeot, let alone three of them, so I had to work a little on tactics.
"Ready Shelly, we're going to loopy-loop now." Her hands tightened even more as I raised my head and turned upside down. I was hoping to maybe confuse them and come down behind them to launch an attack, but when I had finished, they were still on my tail, literally. I dove straight down and twisted around, trying to make them fall in front of me, but nothing seemed to be working.
Had I been more agile, I would have tried to loose them in the trees, but we don't exactly get a lot of them in the mountains, and these Pidgeot lived in them.
"Stop!" cried Shelly.
"I can't, they'll get me. I know you're probably feeling sick, but-"
"No, stop in mid air, they'll go past and you can beam 'em."
"K." I gathered as much speed as I could, flying in a straight line, then halted as best I could and dropped down. The first Pidgeot in the trio fell for it, but the other two stayed back. I shot an ice beam at the Pidgeot, and I could hear another one coming from Shelly. The first Pidgeot fell from the sky, frozen solid. A triumphant shout from Shelly told me another one had plummeted. That left one more.
"Hold still, Snowfall," Shelly whispered. I turned my head to see what was happening. What was happening was that the Pidgeot was beginning to glow, that awful glow that meant a sky attack. But the air around it started shimmering and turning pretty colours. The glow stopped and the Pidgeot writhed around in pain, before plunging to the canopy below.
"All right Shelly!" I cried, then remembered Glacier. "Where's Glacier?"
Shelly pointed. "Seems like he's got a little help," she muttered.
Glacier had only one Pidgeot following him now, but there was another bird too. It shot an ice beam out and the last remaining Pidgeot fell to the ground. The bird was an Articuno, but, my heart fell, it wasn't Sapphire.
I turned and glided over to the two. As I neared, I could tell that the other Articuno was pure white, even its beak and feet were white. Her eyes weren't the usual ruby red of an Articuno either, more pink than anything. My mother had told me that you could fade if you stayed out in the sun too long, but I had never really believed her.
Glacier flew over to us. "Are you two all right?" he asked anxiously.
I nodded. "Just a little shocked, that's all. You?"
"Same. Almost went down though, then this Articuno saved me. Must be the one Phil was talking about. Not our Sapphire, obviously."
"What's wrong?" the other Articuno called. "I would have thought that since we're such a rare species you'd be glad to see me."
"Oh, it's nothing to do with you," I said, "We just thought you might be someone else, that's all."
"Oh, that's okay then. I'm Air Beku, (Author's note: Pronounce the A as in father, the I as in hit and roll the R a bit. Kind of Ah-eer, but not quite. It's Indonesian, if that helps) but you can call me Air. Who might you be?"
"I'm Snowfall, Glacier and on my back's Shelly," I said, "You want to take a rest? There's a really nice couple of humans back at the lake, if you want to tag along."
"Wouldn't mind it" she said, and we flew back to the boat.
"So what brings you here?" asked Shelly.
"Actually, I'm looking for a mate. I was ecstatic when I saw your Glacier, and I wasn't about to let a few Pidgeot take my only chance at a man, so I helped him. But when I saw you fly up I decided flirting would have been a bad idea. I'm guessing he's taken?"
I nodded. "Very. We're here looking for our son. He went off with a human, and when we saw you on telly we thought you might be him."
"How old would your son be?" asked Air, trying without success to sound uninterested.
"Two." I could see that even Glacier noticed the joy spread over her face, and he was flying on my other side.
We glided back to the lake, and I could see what Shelly meant when we approached, but Sapphire dropped it when she saw us coming. Her face lit up when she saw Air, but fell slightly when she noticed she was completely white.
"Is that Sapphire?" she asked hopefully.
I shook my head. "Nup. This is Air."
Sapphire shrugged. "Oh well. Nice to meet you, Air."
Air landed softly on the boat and rubbed noses/beaks with Sapphire. "You too," she said.
Both Pajaro and Phil were dumb struck. I guess it wasn't every day you saw three Articuno, particularly one that was pure white with pink eyes.
It was Phil who snapped out of his trance first. He shook his head and looked at Air, then at Sapphire. "You can talk to Articuno?" he asked.
Sapphire nodded. "This is Air. Looks like she's an albino."
"Er, yes, she does look that way. Wow!"
"What's albino?" I asked Sapphire.
"That's when you've got no colour pigments in your body. Albinos are white all over with pink eyes and they're very rarer, even more so for an Articuno."
Air shrugged. "Helps me blend in with the snow, I guess. Snowfall said you're looking for her son, who happens to be my age. I came down here looking for a mate and so far I've been unsuccessful, except for Glacier, and he's already taken. Would you mind at all if I tag along?"
"Wha'd she say?" Pajaro whispered.
Sapphire laughed. "She's been looking for guys and wants to come with us!"
"Seemed like a lot more than that," he said, wrapping his arm around her waist. Sapphire pushed it off, blushing.