In the afternoon they reached a chain link bridge. It was so long that it disappeared in the middle of the mist. She wasn´t able to see the other side. A cold sensation possessed her and ran through her spine; she was standing on the end.
Liu put the bag on the ground, unzipped it, grabbed his favorite sword, and other weapons. “We should hide the bags and carry only the weapons; these bags will make our movements in battle difficult.” He glanced at Wei and waited his brother’s approval.
“I agree with you.” Wei took his spear, sword, other weapons, and hid the bags in the middle of the bushes.
They were insane. The bridge was falling apart. Kate wanted to argue that decision, but she didn´t dare to go against their resolution; after all, she wasn´t consulted about any strategy.
Liu gave her a bow and arrows. He scrutinized her with a thoughtful expression and passed the sword. She wanted to smile to thank him, but her lips stayed tight together.
Wei went first. Liu stretched his arm and signaled. “Ladies first.” He teased her; that wasn´t the time for jokes.
Kate stepped on the bridge, her stomach swinging in the same rhythm as the bridge swayed, then got worse when Liu came soon after her. To walk produced a strange sensation. Each step was like the ground had gone from beneath her feet, replaced by thin air. She avoided glancing at the abyss. She feared she would lose control and jump into the dark endless hole. It wasn´t the best moment to discover that she was afraid of heights.
They were half way across in her count when a shadow flew over them. “Did you see? What was that?” She pointed to the sky, but it had disappeared.
Liu and Wei unsheathed their swords; they turned around themselves looking at the sky and kept an attack stance; they were prepared for a possible assault. She stayed between them. She put an arrow in the bowstring, and counted the seconds to the time the bird appeared, showing off above them and approaching cautiously. Its form resembled a pheasant with five-colored marking; it was red with five-colored markings, and had the basic form of a chicken.
“Luan-Bird, as Mr. Fu Chow told us,” Kate babbled.
“It means we are heading the right way. Let’s walk.” Wei moved warily, keeping a spear in front of his body.
“It doesn´t seem dangerous; in fact it is beautiful.” She lowered her weapon.
“Don´t jump to conclusions, Kate. There are uncountable lethal animals, and the colored ones are the most deadly. Keep position,” Liu warned her. Kate prepared the arrow again.
They walked some feet. A bird followed them keeping an eye on their progress and it emitted a high-pitched sound. It echoed as an invitation to death; her legs refused to go on, she had to concentrate and make great efforts to step forward.
A hand curled around her arm pulling her down. Liu´s body covered and protected hers from the birds attack. One bird suddenly turned into dozens of birds. It had called its friends and formed an army of birds, not only Luan-Bird, but other different species with beautiful gold and red plumage, Phoenix.
Liu pulled Kate to her feet, twisted his swords and waited for the next attack. “Shoot as soon as you have them in your sight.”
Kate pointed the arrow, her hands shook; she felt a drop of sweat drip under her heavy coat. She bit her lips and hesitated when four birds dove in her direction. Kate changed the target once, twice, three times; it was too late to shoot.
Liu interfered pushing her away and handling his swords. A Phoenix put forward its talons, opened its beak and kept the wings spread. Liu put his left leg back, adjusted his center of gravity, and slashed at the bird.
He held her shoulder firmly and looked straight in her eyes. “Don´t chicken out. You kill them or they kill you.”
She nodded, panted, prepared the arrow and shot one after another with a skill that she was unaware she had. The Luan-Bird emitted a sad sound when it was hit, like a lamentation that produced a guilty sensation and made you feel like the nastiest person in the world. The Phoenix, on the other hand, burned fiercely, reduced to ashes and a new young Phoenix arose before the ashes disappeared in the dark hole.
Wei twisted the spear so fast that his movements were almost imperceptible; he defeated many birds with triumphant and lethal blows. The newborn Phoenixes flew away and the Luan-Bird vanished into thin air. He smiled and celebrated the victory for a very short space of time. A noise like a thunder broke the celebrations.
Liu shouted. “Run!!!”
They sprinted across the bridge. Kate crashed onto the sides against the ropes that supported the bridge. Liu grabbed her arm and steadied her. She liked to feel his hand on her; she felt cozy, protected, but that wasn´t the time to think about good sensations; they were running to save their lives.
Wei stopped abruptly. “Go back!” He ordered and held the spear in front of his body.
Liu pulled her behind him; a spooky beast ran toward them. It was enormous and had the body of a tiger and nine heads with human like faces; its body covered by a green and blue hair.
“Kaiming,” Liu whispered and stepped back.
Kate moved fast when she saw other beasts reaching the bridge.
The boys lifted their weapons. Liu ordered her to hurry. First, Kate thought that she should stay and fight; second, she considered running away; in the worst-case scenario she´d die either staying or running. If the brothers couldn´t stop the beasts and they weren´t able to reach the other side of the bridge, their journey ended there.
As the boys moved back, she chose the second option. She planned to gain space and shoot the beasts to give them a better chance. Kate glided her hand on the rope to steady herself while she ran. She wobbled; her uncoordinated feet tripped, but she continued as fast as she could.
Kate was going to help; she got to the middle of the bridge, soon she might be near the other side and she´d able to help them. She could be useful; she´d be helpful. However, her happiness lasted just a short while; the rotten wood broke, opened a hole in the bridge and dragged Kate to the abyss. Her hands looked for something to hold, nothing was strong enough to support her weight.
“Liu!” Kate yelled while she drifted away.
She wished she could say to Liu that she loved him. She had never had doubts about her feelings, but now her life had ended. The fact was, she´d die alone, at the bottom of a chasm, without her parents, Liu, Wei, Mr. Fu Chow, and Phillip… maybe she deserved it.
“Kate!” Liu appeared at the ropes. He stretched his arms as if he wanted to hold her. “No!” He cried; his voice became a whisper and vanished, carried by the wind.
“Goodbye, my love, my beloved prince,” she beckoned at him.
In a crazy split second Liu jumped. Like a fired cannon ball he dove in her direction.