It had been a month. Lóng er and Huǒ qìxí were ready to go into the battle, which was said to come that night.
She looked into the mirror. She saw a girl like her, with dark hair tied up into a bun with a red ribbon, a shirt tied with black rope under a chest-plate of wrought iron. She wore black trousers and boots, and a helmet of steel. She was ready.
She ran quickly to the lake and found Zhu readying Huǒ qìxí with his saddle and armour. He turned to greet her. She took off her helmet and set it on the ground. Zhu tightened the reins and stepped forward to her. He took her hands in his.
"I'll be on the ground. If you fall, I'll catch you. If you can't take anymore, come to me and I will lead Huǒ qìxí."
He took a step closer to her.
"Thank-you for letting me be with him. To train him. For letting yourself into danger with him. I'm so grateful."
He touched his forehead against her's. She closed her eyes.
A fireball landed behind them. They burst apart. It had come from beyond the village. It was the first move. The battle had started. Lóng er mounted Huǒ qìxí. Zhu was already gone.
Huǒ qìxí kicked into the sky and pushed the wind over Lóng er's helmet. It was exhilerating. The mountains were caked in snowy streams, the trees were low and green. She followed Zhu near the ground until they reached the battle feild.