“Still no report from Hale?” I asked, worried about his silence for months. Farah, a Plant attribute user, shook his head. “We can’t track him down. Besides, they are watching.” “That kid,” I grumbled, icicles forming on my fingertips, leaving frozen fissures on the table. She flinched upon seeing the table and before I could say anything, she excused herself and left my office. Calm down, Isaz would always say. My power responds to my emotions well so I have to keep everything under control, or else, I might hurt people within the vicinity, or even myself. I closed my eyes, breathed slowly and deeply, and felt my heartbeat returning to its normal pace. When I finally calmed down, I pulled out the last letter Hale sent, which was already month ago. The White government had stabilized their control over everywhere: transportation, military and even supplies in both White and Black Division. Despite their authority and influence, they were still worried about the remnants of Dad’s council. They legalized the existence of gangs, whether they are Huntres in disguise or humdrums, who do criminal acts for them without repercussions. It was also a display of power to the humdrums in the White Division who dare oppose their rule. Hale’s mission was to observe everything that happens in East Black, the most lawless area in Black Division. Three other Huntres were assigned to West, North and South, yet he was the only one who didn’t send anything this month. He was the most promising “shadow” among the young fighters so the elders assigned him that area yet he hadn’t sent any update for a month. Maybe something happened to him? I went out of my office and marched toward the elders’ quarters. According to Isaz, this was the oldest building in the village. It smelled like swamp and the walls were already on the verge of collapsing but Hilda, who was sitting in the middle with a grim expression, didn’t seem to mind it. She bowed at me and I returned the gesture. Until now, I still couldn’t get used to their new treatment. Isaz, Hilda and Riyo became quite subservient after I passed their training. This was used to be the assembly hall but the absence of Isaz, Riyo and the other counselors made it look like an abandoned shack. Isaz left the village a week ago to find Leo and Riyo was busy with gathering Water attribute users in the Black Division. “What’s that?” I asked, inching closer to her. She glanced at me. “The current locations of our allies.” That got my attention. I craned my neck and saw a map, several places marked with dots, mostly in East and North Black. “Ah, right.” She reached for the folded paper beside her. “That kid wants to give you this.” She handed me the paper and I realized what she was talking about. The map and this letter were from Hale. I drew a breath, relieved that he was alright, as I opened the letter. Winter, I think I found my sister. Reading the first part of the letter made my heart sink. I remembered him saying he had to leave his younger sister to their family’s friend after their parents got ambushed by Fire attribute users. When we had the chance to go outside the village, the first thing he did was to find her sister. However, the place of their family’s friend wasn’t there anymore. One of the reasons why I look out for him was because we both lost the only family we had. The guilt and frustration of not being able to save them despite having the power to do so kept me awake at night. I was glad he found his sister, but a part of me was envious because I hadn’t. Krystal’s face flashed in my mind, her terrified expression looking right at me. I blinked hard, trying to push that image at the back of my mind as my hands started to form ice crystals, freezing the letter. “Winter,” called Hilda, the overwhelming feeling finally subsiding. “I see that you’re controlling your emotions better than before.” “No,” I replied. “I still have a lot to learn.” “Well, you better learn them fast,” she returned. “I will.” After that exchange, I left the quarters and headed to my room. I continued reading Hale’s letter where he detailed what happened during his mission. He said he had a glimpse of her in the middle of a gang confrontation. Two groups fought each other in a narrow street and he saw a kid sneaking behind them, stealing bags of cash and valuable items whenever she had the chance. That piqued his interest and decided to follow her for now. He said he was sorry for not sending a report for a while since he got busy saving the kid at without her knowledge. A few days later, Hale returned to the village and told me what he had seen and experienced in the East Black. “It was hell,” he described. “People didn’t dare to leave their houses because vicious gangs roam freely, threatening everyone they see.” I scoffed. “I guess there are also humdrums as worse as some Huntres.” “You’ll be surprised,” he added. According to him, most gangs in the East Black were comprised of humdrums, but there were a few that he was suspicious of. He said they might be our allies, in the guise of being gangs to recruit strong members, but he didn’t want to risk asking. “So . . . how about your sister?” My question changed his expression. His eyes glistened; a wistful smile escaped his lips. “I’m still not sure if it’s her,” he said, “but I want to continue watching over her.” “That’s your plan?” “Yes. I already consulted Hilda and Riyo. They said as long as I continue doing my mission as a watcher and shadow, they will allow me to do my own business.” There was a minute of silence between us. He looked at me with curious eyes as he pursed his lips. “I’ll try to find your sister, too,” he said in a gentle tone. I know he was just saying that to cheer me up and, indeed, it was effective. For the past few years, I had wondered what kind of life she was living, hoping that she was in good hands and doing fine. Even if it would be near impossible, I was kind of thankful that Hale said that. At least, someone would be looking for her in my stead. “Describe her to me.” “We look the same, I think,” I responded. “Maybe she looks better now.” “I see.” “Send me a letter once you found her.” “Of course.” For a fourteen-year old kid, his words were reassuring enough. And even though I doubt he could do it, he looked determined, as if he were already devising a plan in his head. “Good luck,” I muttered and that was the last time I saw him in three years. *** “Winter,” called Isaz. “It’s time.” I got better with controlling my emotions over time but heading toward the manor’s balcony was still making my heart race. The tension in the air was overwhelming and I could hear the murmurs and anticipation outside. Isaz gently pushed me, leading me in front of our force. Everyone halted, their eyes drifted to the balcony, looking straight through me. Purple and blue eyes were watching me with anticipation, doubling the pressure I was feeling. Yet beneath those eyes, I could see hope and recognition. They were ready . . . . . . and I should, too. “Fellow Huntres,” I called. “I am Winter Alveria, son of Ark, and descendant of Lord Ivankov and Lady Yllka. And I promise, winter will come and this inferno will end soon.” “Hail, Lady Winter!” someone shouted and everyone followed. Their voices filled the air, armors and weapons raised, and the ground trembled as they stomped their feet in unison. Isaz, Hilda and Riyo stood beside me, subtle smiles pasted on their faces as they welcomed the start of a my reign. “I will take everything back,” I mumbled as I looked at the clear sky. This time, I won’t falter. This time, I will protect everyone.