Before we left for the battle, Sapphire gave us our words of encouragement, then balled everyone except me, then she had a few extra words.
"Snowfall, this'll be your first trainer battle. I know you've battled before, but there are slight rules here. Unlike when you hunt for fish, the objective here isn't to kill the opponent, just to make them faint, so if you get put up against a Seaking, for example, don't think of it as dinner."
"Okay. Faint not kill, got it."
"One more thing. As I've told you, you're such a rare bird that a lot of people think you're just a legend. I hope you don't mind, but I would like to have you balled until it's your turn to battle. Just to give everyone a big surprise. We'll take the bus there, but you can fly home if you like. Would you mind that?"
I had a vision of her and her Pokémon on the sidelines, then a flash of white light and out I would come, the God of Ice, the Legendary Bird, only known of in stories. One of the rarest Pokémon on earth, springing into action. Everyone would gasp; the opposing trainer would be gawking at me. Is that the Pokémon I'm supposed battle? He would think...
I looked down at her, a glint in my eye. "I like it," I said to her.
"Great! Now, as Shelly told you, it's going to feel a little weird in the ball, but try not to think about that when you're battling. Good luck, Snowfall." She gave me a kiss and pointed a ball at me, her other hand on the stone.
The beam of red light streamed out at me and then whoosh! I was drawn into the ball. It was such an odd feeling, like I was there, but not there. I couldn't move my wings, because they weren't there. I can't describe it, it was just weird.
I could here bumping noises while I was inside the ball and a revving noise as we were on the bus. I heard cheers and cries of agony inside the stadium, and then I heard Sapphire's muffled voice through the walls of the ball.
"You're up next Snowfall. He's still got three Pokémon left, you're my last. It's a really tough Charizard, none of the other guys had any chance against it. Dewdrop's going at it now, but I have a feeling I'm going to need you. You go, girl!"
At once I was myself again. I could move my wings again. It was almost as I had imagined. Everyone gasped, the stadium fell silent and when I looked around, I saw thousands of wide eyes staring at me, thousands of mouths wide open. People rubbed their eyes in disbelief. I chose that moment to shoot an ice beam to the roof, just to show off. Then one kid broke the silence, yelling out so loud that it echoed around the whole stadium.
"What's an Articuno without a tail?" I couldn't believe it. The rarest Pokémon on earth and he was asking about my tail. If he knew what happened to it, he wouldn't have said that. I whisked my head and glared at him, my stone cold piercing red eyes boaring into him. He was still looking smug. I opened my beak and let out a whiff of an aurora beam, just to warn him of what I could do.
"Snowfall, ignore him and pay attention to the battle," whispered Sapphire, then to the idiot who insulted me she warned, "She lost it in a battle with a Moltres if you must know. I wouldn't anger her if I were you. She's got one strong blizzard. Want to show 'em Snowfall?" I opened my wings to let loose. "No, on the Charizard Snowfall."
I had completely forgotten about the Charizard. I turned to face it, a menacing glint in my eye.
"Go for it, Snowfall!" called Blue.
"Yeah, stuff them, just get the big lizard!" cheered Scarlet.
Although they were battered and bruised, the Pokémon on Sapphire's team started cheering me on. With the extra confidence boost, I started flapping my wings hard, snowflakes forming just in front of them and gusting at the Charizard. It raised its stubby arms and turned its head, trying to shield itself from my snow.
I kept the blizzard going strong until the Charizard was lying flat on its back, half buried in snow. Only then did I notice the whole stadium was cheering. They were all cheering for me. The Charizard none of the other Pokémon were able to even damage a little bit, fell to one attack. My blizzard.
The Charizard was transformed into red light and the snow that was piled around it caved in when it disappeared.
"Right," yelled the trainer, "You've got a rare Pokémon, I've got one too!" He drew another ball and spun it on his fingertip before pressing the button and releasing the Pokémon inside.
I gasped. "You have got to be kidding," I said under my breath. The audience gasped too, but they weren't as surprised as I was.
Her flames burned brightly, reflecting orange flickers in her trainer's eyes. Her own eyes black almonds against her yellow face. Her beak a needle, pointed straight at me, parted slightly in a smirk.
"Inferno," I whispered again, then I began yelling. "You! I thought I'd killed you at the volcano! Sapphire, this is the Moltres that got my tail! This is Inferno!"
"Moltres, fire spin, now!" yelled the trainer. Not that again. But before she could attack, Sapphire yelled out, "Stop!"
Mumbles continued around the crowd. "You wanted to know what happened to Snowfall's tail?" she swung her arm toward Inferno, "This, this is what happened to her tail!" she turned to her opponent once more, "And her name, is Inferno." I could feel tears in my eyes. How would I be able to leave her for the mountains?
"And what are you going to do about it?" sniggered the trainer.
"I'm not going to do anything. Snowfall's the one to make it faint," she replied, arms folded. "Go for it, Snowfall. Whatever worked before, do it again."
As I had by the volcano, I began glowing, the same hot orange glow Inferno had. I made myself as streamlined as I could. I spread my wings and hurtled at top speed at Inferno, the anger now flowing through my body. As before, I felt the impact on my beak, just as hard as before, but when I turned, Inferno was still standing. I whirled around and shot an ice beam at her head, neither knowing nor caring if she was able to attack or not.
My ice beam melted to water as it hit her flame thrower attack, mere sprinkles of water over her yellow feathers. I rose into the air and avoided the attack. At least now I didn't have a tail to worry about loosing. Already Inferno was puffing.
From my high vantage point, I beat down the most powerful blizzard I had ever done. Each flake made a spitting noise where it touched her. As I had with the Charizard, I kept the blizzard going until she was buried in snow, then started with an ice beam to make sure she would never get out.
But just as I opened my beak, I heard Sapphire call out to me, "Faint, not kill!" I closed my beak again and landed gracefully on the ground. I had learnt how to without a tail now, no thanks to Inferno. The snow melted around her flames, but she wasn't getting up. I don't know how she lived before, but she would need the same miracle again. I was breathing quickly and my heart beat was at least twice as fast as normal. I glared at the yellow, white and orange mass. It didn't move.
The guy with the flags on the sidelines spoke, breaking the uneasy silence of the stadium. "Moltres is unable to battle. Articuno wins the match." An almighty cheer arose from the crowd, even from the guy who had teased me about my tail before, now that he knew how I'd lost it. I knew there was still one more to face, but for now, I would just bask in the glory.
The final flash revealed a Flareon. This guy must be into fire Pokémon.
"Just, before we battle," I said to the Flareon, "what's your name? I can get my trainer to tell yours and then he can call you by that instead of Flareon, as I'm sure he does."
The Flareon looked a bit unsure of itself, but answered anyway. "I'm Blaze."
"Sapphire, you can tell the trainer his Flareon's name is Blaze," I relayed.
"Snowfall tells me your Flareon's name is Blaze, if you're interested."
"Uh, sure, whatever. Flare- Blaze, fire blast it!" he yelled.
"Dodge to the side, Snowfall," called Sapphire.
I leapt to the side and just felt a scorch on my hip. I glanced down to see the feathers considerably blackened.
"Fly up and dive-bomb it," said Sapphire, voice still peaceful and encouraging.
I flew right up to the roof of the stadium and looked down at Blaze. I saw a burst of flame shoot from her mouth, but it fell short by about a tail's length. When the stream of fire had stopped, I brought my wings in and let the air spill out from under them. I bent my head down and streamed through the air at Blaze. My beak hit with almost the same impact as I had with Inferno, but a dive bomb is never as powerful as a sky attack. I turned to see Blaze lying on her side, puffy tail twitching, then it lay still.
"Flareon is unable to battle. Articuno wins the match. James has no Pokémon remaining, so Sapphire is the winner."
I let out a victory ice beam at the sky and glided over to Sapphire. Tears streaked down her cheeks in a river. She reached out her arms as I staggered into them, hugging her with all the strength I had left.
"So what... do we get... for winning?" I puffed.
She laughed and broke away. "Pride, experience and about one thousand Pokéyen!" she said.
"What's a Pokéyen? And why do we need so many of them?" I queried.
"A Pokéyen is money, we use it to buy things with. The more of them we have, the more we can buy," was the answer.
"You mean, like my egg?" I ventured.
"Bingo. Just have to go and shake the looser's hand, get the money, they we're off."
Her Pokémon all followed, even though four of them, including Shelly, were all flat on their backs on Blue's shell. I followed too.
"Good battle," said Sapphire, shaking her opponent's hand, "how'd you manage to capture Inferno?" she must have known I was dying to find the answer to that.
"I just found the poor thing lying, barely alive, in the forest by the volcanoes off that way," he said, indicating with an outstretched arm, "I took it to the Pokécentre here about two weeks ago. I couldn't stop asking myself who would do such a thing to the legendary bird of fire. I guess now I know." He glared at me. I returned the glare, only harder.
"Yes, well, I guess you know how important an Articuno's tail is to it." Before he could get another word in, Sapphire finished up, "Okay, well, I guess we'll be off now. Thanks again for the battle!" and she turned to walk away, us behind her.