“Fire attribute?” I asked, unsure if I heard that right but Farah nodded. “Are you sure?” “Yes, Lady,” she said. “Riyo is already waiting for you.” “I’ll be there in a minute.” I breathed deeply and braced myself. After I ordered a lot of missions for every faction, some managed to save and persuade former allies to be on our side. But what caught my attention was what happened during Dalan’s, a wind attribute user, mission in the South Black Division. Treading through the training grounds, I saw some warrior throwing curious looks at the elder’s shack. The word about apprehended fire attribute users must have spread through the village. They parted when they saw me coming, silently bowing and saluting as I passed by. Lady Winter is here,” one of the guards announced and the door swung open. With careful steps, I approached the shack’s center and my fingers twinged upon seeing flames on their daggers, casting eerie shadows on the wall. “Halt, Winter,” Riyo ordered, his tone quite dangerous. That was when I realized I had already frozen half of the shack’s interior. With difficulty, I calmed myself, thinking about the elders’ words as they were training me. It took me at least several minutes before I completely controlled my rage. Just then, a gentle breeze blew. Emerging from the shadows was Dalan himself, his dark hair loosely tied into a bun, and a permanent scowl on his face. His clothes still singeing but he didn’t seem to be hurt. The rings on his fingers, his veinas, glinted in the dark. For a 24-year old guy, he looked older than his age. Dalan served as the leader of the wind attribute users in the village. They respect and listen to him. He was here before Isaz brought me here but he wasn’t the type to associate himself to others. He liked working alone in missions but this time, I appointed him to be the head of a group. I told their group to quell the disturbance after gangs started pillaging some villages in the South Black. The White government didn’t care about the Black Division anyway and gangs kept rising in numbers as the years passed by. “They ran away,” he said while glancing at the two woman who were currently in a water prison. “What do you mean?” “They were running away from Flame Spectre.” My gaze darted to the water prison housing the fire attribute users. Slowly, I approached them and that was when I saw their eyes—there was fear in their eyes. “Speak,” I demanded and Riyo opened a portion of the water prison, just in front of their faces. The girl on the right, shorter and slimmer than the other one, trembled. She looked at their weapons lying beside Riyo’s feet and drew a shaky breath. “They are wrong,” she muttered. “I . . . I d-don’t want to see that anymore.” Riyo and I exchanged looks as we tried to understand what she meant. I was about to ask another question when the taller girl started telling everything after the other one whimpered. “O-our eldest sister . . . s-she pleaded Allen to stop burning villages in the South . . . but that monster,” she choked back her tears, trying not to sound shaken but it was quite evident, “h-he burned her to crisp.” My throat felt dry, as if someone just poured a flaming drink in my mouth, after hearing her story. She continued, telling us that the Flame Spectre used gangs all over Black Division to threaten those who dared oppose the White government, but my mind drifted away. The mention of their sister made me think of Krystal. They saw their sister burned to her death and for a second, I pictured young Krystal being surrounded by raging flames, yelling my name. I tried pushing that thought at the back of my mind but the guilt was slowly creeping into my heart. “—ter!” Dalan’s voice jarred me back to reality and the shack was already glittering in ice crystals, stalagmites and stalactites growing from the roof and floor. The two girls stared at me in terror while Dalan was already holding my right arm, trying to knock some sense into me. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled, looking at Riyo who must be disappointed after I let my power overwhelm me. Again. “Dalan,” he called and Dalan nodded. He escorted me out of the shack and back to my office in the manor. We were silent the whole time but I could still hear and feel the ice crackling on my fingertips. “Are they trustworthy?” I asked, almost in whispers, when we got in front of my office. He let go of my arm. “I still don’t know,” he answered. “But I can’t just watch them get killed. Besides, not all who have fire attributes swore their loyalty and allegiance to Pierre and Flame Spectre.” He stopped for a few seconds; a hint of hesitation passed over his face. “They have their own set of beliefs and principles, just like how not every wind attribute user pledged themselves to us.” His words struck something inside me. All these years, my indiscriminate hatred to fire attribute users grew stronger, ignoring the thought that some of them might not want this to happen. I thought after being officially appointed as the leader of the rebellion force and the Huntres tribe when I turned 20, I’d be less immature, yet I still couldn’t control this rage and I let my emotions overpower me. “I know you have a lot on your plate,” he continued, “but you have to stay rational.” A gentle wind brushed my skin, sending pleasant thoughts in my head. “You should protect everyone who shares the same beliefs as yours, even if they are from divisions you hated all your life.” Just then, a quick smile escaped his lips, something I didn’t expect to see from him. “After all, you are the rightful leader of the Huntres tribe, Lady Winter.” The rightful leader, huh? Those words terrified me before. Honestly, they still do, but I had already accepted my fate. I knew it was the only way for me to survive and to protect everyone. He started walking away but before he could disappear from my sight, I called his name. “Dalan.” He turned. “Tell Riyo to give me the details once they finish questioning them.” “Of course,” he replied while bowing. “I will.” With a new-found motivation, I entered my office and planned for our next move. *** “Are you insane?” Hale smiled as if he already knew that that would be my reaction. He just returned from his trip and turned the information he got over the elders. He came rushing to my office, telling me stories about the girl he thinks is his sister. But what surprised me was what he did. “But it worked!” he beamed. According to him, a commotion broke out as three members of Flame Spectre got challenged by a gang, who didn’t know who they were. He was following the kid for three years, protecting her from harm whenever she’s defenseless, while trying to prove that she was, indeed, her sister. “Still, how could you just give a kid a veinas? That was dangerous,” I argued after telling me that he handed her a chain whip. “She needs it,” he returned. “And I already know that she’s really my sister.” A wistful yet pained smile appeared on his face. “Kelsey is . . . Kelsey is alive and safe.” I couldn’t say anything anymore after I saw his expression. Just like him, I felt guilty, too, for leaving Krystal alone. At least, he had found her remaining family. I’m happy for him, really, but there was a part of me that gets envious every time he talks about her. Before I could lose myself to these emotions again, I breathed slowly and stood up. He followed me and we went to the training grounds but we halted when we saw Dalan walking toward our direction. “I’ll go ahead,” Hale mentioned and he started walking away. Dale slightly bowed and looked at me. “They’re clean,” he reported. After he apprehended the two fire attribute users, Riyo and Hilda interrogated them and asked for some information that we could use against Flame Spectre. “I see. That’s good, then.” “They want to see you,” he added, making me raise my eyebrow. “Why?” He didn’t answer my question and just walked so I had to follow him. The girls were still in the shack but they weren’t imprisoned anymore. They wore the usual clothing of the force and they kneeled when they saw me. “They want to swear loyalty to you, my Lady,” Dalan said and before I could say anything, the girls started talking. “I, Faye,” the shorter girl said. “And I, Reya,” the taller one added. “Renounces our allegiance to Flame Spectre and swears to be a loyal subject to you, Winter Alveria, the rightful leader of the Huntres tribe. Hail!” they yelled in unison. That day, I learned about betrayal and loyalty. That day, fire and ice, for once, became allies.