"GO!" squeaked Shocker as the two of us flapped in the afternoon sunlight.
She was quick, but I was quicker. Before Shocker had finished saying the word, I shot an ice beam straight at her stomach. A puff of fire, the beginnings of a fire attack of some sort, leapt from her open spiky beak as she reeled back at the power of my ice beam. I took the chance to set up some defence.
Tiny ice crystals formed around me as I set up veil of mist, hopefully protecting me from Inferno's onslaught. I had little idea as to how powerful she would be, but she was the god of fire, so she had to have a fair bit of bite in her.
Sure enough, the string of fire, I think it's called a flamethrower, that danced from her beak was easily powerful enough to melt all my little ice crystals, but she couldn't see me through the mist and missed me by a very small margin.
I reeled back and prepared for the next attack. Another stream of fire spurt from her beak, but this time it encircled me and drew in closer and closer. I felt I couldn't breathe as the fire choked me. I closed my eyes against the intense heat of the net of fire. I screeched out in agony, the fire burning my feathers and wings.
When I was sure I couldn't stand the torture any longer, the fire finally burned out. Every one of my feathers was singed, but I couldn't let that stop me. I was so disoriented that I had no idea where she was. I still had my eyes closed from the torch. But still I flapped and let out the strongest blizzard I could manage with my damaged wings.
I heard a screech of anguish more blood-curdling than my own. I carefully opened my eyes to see Inferno shielding her face with her wings; the flames on her wings were definitely smaller than they were to begin with. I kept up the blizzard, still wary of her next move.
Her wings quivered and she sprang back to life, letting out a great cross of fire from not only her beak, but coming from her wing flames and tail as well. I was sure this was called a fire blast. I dodged as best I could, but as I flew up, I felt a great stinging in my left foot.
I looked down to inspect the damage. I saw a raw foot, I saw black and grey feathers rather than blue and white ones, I saw seven long, blue feathers drifting slowly to the treetops below. I slowly raised my head to the Moltres and glared my most terrifying glare from under my ruffled and blackened crest. That Moltres burned my tail off. Now, it was personal.
I growled at the god of fire, "How dare you." The anger was building up inside me. I screeched at the top of my voice, "HOW DARE YOU! You know how much an Articuno tail means to us!" I was filled with rage now. "YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS!" I started glowing. Inferno was flapping in front of me, smirking at me from under her crest of fire. She let out a warning puff of smoke.
I ignored it. She burned off my tail. She would pay. I streamed out towards the assassin, beak pointed, as streamline as I could be, and hit the pathetic excuse for a legendary bird at somewhere around 100 kilometres an hour. Mach 1? Huh! Eat your heart out, Pidgeot!
The pressure in my beak was enormous, but I knew it would have been worse on her than on me. The anger inside me made it the best sky attack I had ever done. When I turned around from the sky attack, Inferno was nowhere to be seen. I had won.
I glided down to the soft glow of orange in the undergrowth and landed on one leg. Without my tail for balance, and a dodgy leg, it wasn't the most graceful of landings, but I made do with it. I stood puffing over my prize.
"You think... I'm going to... help you this time?" I panted, "I thought we were friends... I never would have thought... you'd turn on me so badly..." I paused for breath, "I tried to save you... back then with the humans... I did my best... You know that... How could you burn my tail off? That's the most prized possession... of an Articuno... How could you?"
Inferno turned her head from me, an enormous gash across her chest. Her wings were flopped out beside her, very low on fire. Her skinny stick legs lay on the ground, her tail flame burning softly between them. The flame of her crest was gone completely.
"If you'd just-" she began.
"Whadya mean me? You wanted the battle. You're the one who got caught. It wasn't my fault. I saved you in the mountains, I tried my best with the humans, and you repay me by flaming my tail."
"I didn't mean to. Honest."
I turned away in disgust. "Oh please, you expect me to believe that? I saw your snigger when I looked back at you. How can you tell me you didn't mean to? Pull the other leg, now that you've crisped one of them."
"I, I, I don't know what to say. I'm sorry, I'm so sor-" she didn't get to finish. I could tell she was still alive; her tail and wings were still burning, but were very dim.
I heard a clatter of leaves and sticks behind me and turned around. Shocker was bounding through the bush, long blue feathers streaming out behind him. All that was left of my tail.
"I want to wake up," I told him, "I must be having a nightmare. Everything's been going wrong for me. My egg was stolen, and it looks like I'll never get it back, Glacier got captured and he's in the Pokécentre unconscious and he may not wake up, Inferno will probably die too, and to top it all off, I've lost my tail." I couldn't take it any more. I sat down in the leaf litter and started sobbing into my wings.
I didn't look up when I felt the comforting paw on my back. "Don't give up hope, Snowfall. Look on the bright side."
"What bright side?" I wept.
"Glacier can still live, you can still get your egg back, Inferno's the most ungrateful Pokémon ever to grace the planet, and your tail will probably grow back in a year or two. Think of all the Pokémon who you've helped to set free from Jack. Doesn't that compensate what has happened?"
"I guess so."
"There you go. Come on, give us a smile. If you're too depressed to fly, we can stay here for the night. Nurse Joy said the end of the week, right? We can make it there in two days, it's still four days 'til the end of the week. We can rest for the day. How does that sound?"
I gave a big sniff. "How long is it to your forest?"
"About a day and a half that way," he replied, pointing.
I thought a bit. "Okay, we'll stay here a bit, but away from Inferno."
We flew back to the last remaining bag, with my tail in my claws, and bedded down, even though the sun was still hours from setting. I nestled down once more and cried myself to sleep.