“Winter? Winter!” My head was aching and it felt like thousands of needles were piercing through my skull. I stood up, trying to remember what had happened before I passed out. Krystal . . . I went outside our hideout to search for food when two men confronted me, and I knew they weren’t normal. Their eyes gleamed in purple as they looked at me as if I was a prey. “Is this one a humdrum?” the guy on the left asked. “She saw us. We need to kill her whether she is or not,” the other guy said. Humdrum? What was that? They grabbed both of my arms and it felt like my insides were burning. I was scared as hell, but my sister’s face came into my mind. I had to protect her. “No!” I tried getting away from them by removing my jacket and I ended up toppling over the ruins. The impact almost made me lose consciousness but I willed myself to remain awake. “Krystal . . .” I mumbled as I tried to get out of the debris but my body wasn’t cooperating. “S-shit . . .” The next thing I knew, I was already falling back to the ground as darkness consumed everything. *** The explosions around the place woke me up and I winced as I moved my right leg. There was a long gash on it, blood trickling down my skin. But I didn’t mind the pain. I had to see my sister. Gritting my teeth, I ran toward our hiding place and opened the trapdoor. But there was nothing there. Krystal wasn’t there. “Krystal!” I called, my heart racing, afraid that something had happened to her. I searched the whole place, hoping that she was just roaming around, but I knew deep in my mind that those guys might have found her. “No, please no,” I muttered between my sobs. “Krystal . . .” My heart felt like it was being ripped apart. I never cried when I was with her. I wanted to show her that I could protect her . . . that I was strong. But today, everything that I wanted to keep, that I wanted to protect, was taken away from me. I even talked back to Dad and accused him of prioritizing his position over his family. Yet they saved us. I didn’t even apologize. All we could do was run away from his murderer. The pain and agony that I was trying to bury deep in my heart started to arise. Tears fell silently on my face as fire engulfed the place we once called our home. “Mom . . . Dad . . . Krystal . . .” I was alone. I was hopeless. I was weak. “Winter, remember. Ice has been the strongest element in this place for hundreds of years. The ice will never melt. As long as we are here, this place will always be as white as snow.” Mom was right. And now that they were gone, the ice that could never melt ceased to exist. The whole place was burning. I could feel the scorching heat against my skin but I continued walking. All I could feel was rage. I wanted to kill everyone who ruined the peace I was holding onto. “Vanish.” Everything in my path turned to ice. I didn’t know how. Maybe I was just hallucinating. Maybe I had lost my sanity. But memories of my parents flashed in my mind. I could see ice crystals on their hands and their weapons. Maybe I wasn’t imagining things back then. Maybe, they were protecting me even after their death. “I will take back everything,” I muttered under my breath as I walked away from the pillar of flames. “I promise.” *** I didn’t know how many days I was walking aimlessly. Everything was in ruins. Houses were destroyed. Lightning flashed across the sky, poison gas covering the entire capital and suspicious shadows appearing everywhere. I wasn’t safe in the capital and the only place I could think of was Black Division—a region where most of the citizens reside. Dad said this place was dangerous because those who oppose their reign live here. Yet this time, this would be the safest place because they were all in the White Division. Reaching the boundary between the White and Black Divisions made me realize how different the places were. I almost stumbled because of the uneven ground but I managed to regain my balance. It wasn’t as developed as the White Division but it felt less suffocating. It was hard to decide on what to do when you were left with nothing. For the first few months, I was just trying my best not to die and not to get caught. I wanted to survive, even if I had to live pathetically. My life was like that for two years and I had adapted in their way of living. I learned how to steal money and food. I learned about my power but I was scared to use it on people who didn’t have any abilities like mine. But what helped me survive was information. The rumors and chatters from the markets and public place were enough to get me informed about the situation in the White Division. I also learned how to conceal my presence so that I could listen to officers and people who patrol the Black Division. According to them, the White Division had been usurped by Pierre, the leader of the opposing faction of my father’s regime. He built a guild that followed every word he says and named it Flame Spectre. He took control of the government, the military and the flow of information. He imprisoned everyone who was allied and associated to Mom and Dad. Rumors said they fled and dispersed to each of the region in the Black Division. And that became my starting point. I wanted to see even one of their allies. The officers I was following was about to enter White Division so I stopped tailing them. I was about to return to my hideout when I saw a kid hiding behind a bush, glaring at the officers as tears fell from his eyes. I instantly remembered Krystal and it felt like I was back in that place again. My body moved on its own. I ran toward him and stopped him from doing something stupid. We fell on our backs and he looked at me angrily. “Why are you—!” “You’re wasting your life,” I said, cutting him off. “Your death won’t change anything.” “But they killed my parents!” he wailed as he gripped his knife tightly turning his knuckles white. Huh. Maybe I was like that, too, two years ago. I was driven by emotions and not thinking rationally. I wanted to have my revenge despite being powerless. “Do you think your parents will be happy if they hear that?” I asked. “If you really want to avenge them, wait for the right time. You’re just a child like me and we can’t do anything yet.” ‘Why do you even care?’ I almost flinched when I heard his voice inside my head. ‘You don’t even know how I feel.’ I was about to ask him but I heard something approaching. Before I could even react, a gun was already pointed at our direction. The officer looked at us and I immediately stood in front of the boy, shielding him from the enemy. “Why are you here?” the officer asked and he placed the tip of the gun on my forehead. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel scared. I just wanted to protect the boy behind me. ‘I have a sister who’s almost the same age as you and I failed to protect her,’ I said in my mind but what surprised me was when I felt the boy flinching. Did he hear that? ‘I don’t want to feel that pain again.’ Lying had became one of my weapons and using that on the officer would surely save the two of us. However, his partner ordered him to shoot us. The boy was trembling in fear and I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking of how we could escape but before I could do anything, the officers were already frozen. The next thing I knew, their frozen bodies were already shattered into fragments. “Ayos lang ba kayo?” We turned around and saw an old guy walking toward us. The boy hid behind me but somehow, I felt warmth upon seeing the stranger who just saved us. He knelt and held both of my shoulders. His crystal blue eyes stared at me as he gave me an apologetic smile. Then, he hugged me. “W-who are you, old man?” I asked. “Hindi mo na ba ako nakikilala, apo?” That day, I met my grandfather who left the White Division for a mission and learned that he just lost his only son. And that day, I learned the truth about us—the history and power of the Alveria family, the rightful people to rule the Huntres tribe, the strongest fighters among the Erityian race.