Immediately after they emerged from the Great Forest, the party was greeted by a small area of grassy moss that turned to stonework, that led to Hikari Bridge. It was wide, completely straight, and stretched as far as they eye could see. Below the bridge, roughly a five kilometre drop, was a huge river, that ended in a waterfall somewhere. But it wasn't visible from there.
"The Hikari Bridge," Jinsoku sighed. "We made it."
"Not quite," Turo said, "The Tundra still awaits. Then we will be at Hikari."
As the group headed toward the bridge, Jinsoku turned, seeing Mizu not moving. He was still carrying Gale, smoothing her hair. He felt her forehead. "Her temperature is rising fast," he muttered.
"She'll be fine, we'll get her there in time," Jinsoku assured him. "Come on, you don't wanna get left behind, do you?"
Mizu smiled at this, and caught up with the group. A slight mist was gathering around the area. Not nearly enough to obscure the scenery, just a faint blanket of grey. However, it did turn into thick fog below them, so the water under them was now out of sight. "I've always wanted to cross this bridge," Sensei Arashi chirped. "When I heard it was the longest bridge in the land, it fascinated me," he added. "The years and years of expert stonework it must have taken really makes you appreciate it."
"Yeah, I suppose it does," Shinji concured. They still had a long, long way to go. She turned her head to the left to talk to Mizu. "How did you two actually meet anyway?" she probed.
"We were childhood sweethearts. My father was out hunting in the Snowy Mountains when a Tigrex attacked him. It was about to rip him to shreds, when Gale's father jumped in and saved him. They quickly became friends, and, then, while our parents went to the tavern together, I met Gale. She was quite timid at first, but she opened up. We always used to go out to her farm and play in the fields. Those play-filled days of innocence..." Mizu mused, still not turning to look at Shinji.
"That's so sweet" Shiji squeaked. Then, she put her hands on her hips and stared at Mizu inquisitively. "But how did she become your girlfirend? Huh?" she asked, as if she was suspicious of him. At last, he ripped his eyes away from Gale and looked at Shinji. "Well, we were on the back of the cart in the desert, when the Jhen Mohran was still catching up to us, and I woke up and saw that she was still keeping watch on it, and I said to her that she needed sleep. Then... some other stuff happened, and... we kissed."
Shinji was silent for at least ten seconds after his reply, having never paused to consider how special a relationship Gale and Mizu had. Still deep in thought, she managed to squeeze out a meek "Wow..." before descending into complete silence, gazing off into the distance.
There was complete and utter silence for at least an hour, after which time there was still at least half of the bridge left to cross. Jinsoku grew impaitent with the long walk and shouted, "How long does this damn bridge go on for!?" He kicked the ground with his boot.
The otherwise silent atmosphere was broken with a loud and strained screech, followed by a stronger, louder and more prideful roar. The party stopped in surprise as two spiky and angry-looking wyverns, one red, one green, rose from above the misty depths on each side of the bridge, staring at the hunters with flaming eyes.
"A Rathian and a Rathalos!" Zoru gasped. "The King of The Skies and the Queen of The Earth!"
The Rathalos roared at the hunters, spurring them into action. They started sprinting across the bridge as far as they could, the vicious wyverns hot on their heels, strafing searing fireballs at them, which missed by mere millimeters. Two hunters weren't quick enough, and were obliterated by the Rathian. Another pair were caught in the grip of the Rathalos' talons, which then dropped them screaming into the misty abyss below.
The group still sprinted forward, ignoring the deaths. Then, all of a sudden, Turo stopped and turned, producing a pair of sleek, black Dual Blades made of Nargacuga materials from nowhere. The Rathalos saw him stop and prepared a fireball, it's red throat glowing orange. Shinji quickly noticed and, impossibly fast, pulled an arrow from her quiver and fired it at the wyvern's throat.
It made contact, sending the Rathalos' head askew to the left and sending the fireball off into the misty distance. Shinji ran as fast as her Agnaktor armour would allow, as the Rathalos, irked by the interruption, swooped down and glided along the right side of the bridge, strafing angry fireballs in her direction.
The Rathian, seeing this act of defiance, descended to land on the bridge. It charged toward him. Arashi turned to see this, and beckoned him."Turo! What are you thinking!? You have to run!" he yelled.
Turo stood his ground, ignoring Arashi's plea. As the Rathian drew near, he side-stepped to the right, slicing his blades across the Rathian's wing. It screeched with pain, staggering clumsily and slipping across the bridge. The hunters, who had stopped in shock, began running again. The wyvern flapped its wings angrily, slowly regaining its balance. It turned back to face Turo, outraged and embarrassed. It roared with rage, flames flickering from the sides of its jaws. It fired a searing ball of hate toward him. It missed its mark a little, but Turo was still blown back by the force of the blast radius, along with bits of stone. Immediately after, the Rathian charged at the Hikarian guide once more, slicing through the stone edges of the structure as it did so, flames still dancing upon the bridge.
Jinsoku saw this and knew Turo wouldn't recover before the Rathian reached him. He fired a poison-tipped arrow with pinpoint accuracy. It tore a huge rip in the right wing webbing of the Rathian, halting its charge. It shrieked shrilly, sliding to a halt before Turo. Then, Jinsoku saw a bright yellow flash out of the corner of his eye. He turned back to the group. Rakurai had dissapeared.
He turned back to face the Rathian. Rakurai had appeared in front of it. As it got up and began to charge toward the hunters, Rakurai swung his Great Sword, severing the tail of the beast, watching it topple into the mist below, spilling blood and poison all the way.
The Rathian roared in pain, and tried once more to attack the search party ahead. Rakurai sighed tiredly and walked past the right side of the wyvern, scraping his Great Sword against its right leg as he did so. The Rathian squealed weakly, limping desperately forward, and, too tired to carry on, groaned meekly and slumped to the ground, toppling over the side and falling lifelessly in the abyssal mist.
Rakurai touched Turo, and with another yellow flash later, they had reunited with the party further along the bridge. The Rathalos had disappeared.
A long silence was broken by an echoing roar and the wingbeats of a large creature, as the familiar red shape of the Rathalos ascended from below, hovering on the left side of the bridge. The hunters immediately began sprinting again, strafed by hate-filled balls of fire all the way. Four slow hunters were caught in a blast and sent tumbling to their dooms, screaming all the way. Out of the twenty-five members of the party, only eleven remained. The Rathalos stopped, hovering in the air to catch its breath. As the hunters kept running, an icy-blue landscape came into view close ahead. "It's the Tundra! We're nearly there!" Mizu shouted, relieved.
The Rathalos had caught its breath again, and rose high into the air, then swooped down low, streaming toward the group, poisonous claws outstretched. Arashi knew that his frail legs wouldn't be able to keep up much longer, and that if the raging wyvern wasn't stopped it would kill them all. He stopped and faced it. Surprised, the party stopped in their tracks and turned to face him.
"What the hell are you doing, Sensei!? You have to run!" Rakurai bellowed fretfully. Arashi ignored him, turned to Mizu and held out his knobbly Dragonwood walking stick. He took it slowly, realizing that this was to be a parting gift. "Sensei..." Mizu trailed off.
"She loves you, Mizu. Get her to Hikari safely," Arashi said soberly.
"But..." Mizu started.
"Promise me," Arashi interrupted firmly. Mizu paused.
"I promise," he answered.
"Thank you. Now go, all of you! The beast will catch you if you don't move now!"
"But, Sensei..." Jinsoku began.
"NOW!" Arashi boomed.
There was no more to be said or done. Slowly but surely, the hunters turned their backs on him and sprinted for the tundra. Arashi rose from the ground, hovering in the air, a pale, green, transluscent sphere of energy surrounding him.
"I, Arashi Migazuchi, call upon ALL my remaining power, as a Descendant of the great wind Wyrm...Gurētosutōmu!" he roared. The ball of energy emitted a high-pitched hum, and grew brighter and brighter and louder and louder, until the blue-robed elderly man was barely visible and the high-pitched hum had turned into an ear-spltting screech.
The hunters, who had reached the end of the Hikari Bridge (and the beginning of the Tundra) watched in sadness and awe as both Arashi and the Rathalos disappeared in a huge and loud burst of bright green light, which left small, green, glinting particles slowly drifiting downward.
A melancholy silence followed.
The remaining hunters reluctantly turned their back on the dismal scene, walking in complete silence and solemnity, quietly mourning the kind, aimiable and eternally happy schoolmaster who had taught them almost everything they knew.
To Be Continued in: The White Star Chronicles XI: Wrath of the Hell Wolf Wyvern