She nodded and quietly walked away. A second after, Dalan came in, bringing a gust inside my office.
“You seem fond of them,” he commented as he turned his head toward the door.
I shrugged. “They are useful,” I said.
It had been two years since we recruited Faye and Reya. At first, everyone wanted to punish them for what Flame Spectre had done but the elders and I managed to convince them that they would be an asset to us. It turned out that was easy. Those two showed their sincerity and earned the trust of our warriors.
“Any news about Isaz and Hale?” I asked.
Dalan shook his head and I sighed in return. Those two had not submitted any report for the past few weeks. Hale was still quietly protecting his sister while tracking the movements of the powerful gangs in the East. Meanwhile, Isaz brought a terrible news on his last report. Leo died several years ago. He just learned it last month when someone from the black market recognized his name.
“Losing Leo means years of delay,” Dalan commented.
“Yeah. He must have created a lot of weapons but we don’t know where he stored it.”
“Isaz must be tracking that child.”
If I remembered correctly, Leo said he left the child, Minerva’s daughter, in an orphanage and would get her again once he’s ready. Maybe the kid was adopted by him, I don’t know, but I hope he didn’t break his promise. Minerva meant a lot to the Huntres and I wanted to honor her by making her daughter safe.
“Let’s go, Lady.”
I draped my fur coat over my shoulders and followed him outside. Warriors bowed and parted as we passed by. Looking over the training grounds, I saw some children were being thrown by a cyclone while others were trapped in water prisons. That brought back some unpleasant memories.
The mirage covering and protecting the village dissipated as we went out of the boundary. Along with Dalan, two Hunters marched with me, concealing their weapons between their clothes and bodies. Meanwhile, I had to wear a cloak to hide my eyes and face.
According to our shadows, Gerald couldn’t get out of White Division because Flame Spectre was pressuring his wife to keep an eye on him. He had information about them but he was stuck in his house and dojo, gangs and officers constantly monitoring his movements.
Initially, Isaz didn’t want me to proceed but I insisted. I was sheltered in that village long enough. I wanted to see the world and I wanted to know what I could do with this power. Also, Krystal . . .
We couldn’t board the train so we opted to walk. It would take us about two days assuming we wouldn’t have any hindrances along the way.
“My Lady,” Dalan whispered.
I didn’t notice the Hunters who were leading the way came to a halt. There was a commotion going on but before I could see anything, Dalan pulled me away.
“There might be some Flame Spectre members,” he muttered after we hid behind a rundown house. “We should be careful.”
Faye and Reya scouted the crowd and after some time, they returned to us.
“Only humdrums,” Reya reported.
“We can proceed,” added Faye.
The four of us pushed through the crowd, trying to be as natural as possible, but one of the leaders, I suppose, said something that made some look at our direction.
“Hey, you in the cloak!” he yelled. “Are you an old lady? C’mere you hag!”
I took a quick look and I almost grimaced. His bald head was almost shining and his gold front teeth weren’t helping. He was wearing a black vest that looked two-size smaller than his body, making his belly protrude. Two guns hung on his waist band and he pulled the one on the right, aiming it at our direction.
Some yelped while others scampered away. After the crowd parted, I saw what the commotion was all about. Several old people lied unconscious on the ground, their things scattered and ruined, while the gang members continued laughing and destroying their other possessions.
My eyes dimmed for a second and they started shivering but before I could lose control, Dalan tapped my shoulder, snapping me out of my anger.
“Leave these insignificant hoodlums to us,” he mumbled.
The leader started walking toward our direction but he suddenly stumbled and crash to the ground, face first. Others started flying and slamming against walls and trees while some noticed their clothes burning.
Bystanders helped the elders get to their feet and I hoped all of them were alive. Those hooligans deserved death but I didn’t want to waste my energy in them.
“Let’s go,” I muttered and the three of them nodded.
Camping for two nights on the trees were a lot more difficult than I had expected. Fortunately, we arrived at the boundary of White and Black Divisions before sundown.
Memories flooded my mind almost immediately. The pavements covered in ankle-deep snow. The winter trees. Houses made of ice and covered with plants. Looking at its current state now, I couldn’t see the place I once considered my home anymore.
More buildings and houses were built. Trains and weird-looking vehicles filled the place with engine sounds. Lightning crackled but there were no signs of rain. The searing heat was almost unbearable. But what made my heart sink was the enormous building at the center. It was the exact copy of the previous administration’s headquarters, except for the insignia of Flame Spectre fluttering at the top and the lamp posts in front burning with different colors of flame.
The heat was making me lightheaded but I tugged my hood lower to hide my face as more officers showed up. Faye and Reya had to hide, too, since they were wanted by the Flame Spectre.
Gerald said he’d leave a note to someone but I doubt that would be easy knowing all eyes were on him. We were about to look for him when someone suddenly screamed. About fifty meters away from us, several people started gathering.
Faye and Reya exchanged looks but before they could volunteer to scout, I started walking toward the crowd.
“Hush, Reya,” I warned. “You two should hide instead. They might recognize you. We need you to find Gerald.”
“But . . .”
“I’ll go with her,” Dalan said.
We tread through the increasing crowd and saw gang members being apprehended. However, I knew this wasn’t an ordinary one. They might have hidden it from the humdrums but beneath the thin layer of lenses, their purple and blue irises burned with rage. They caught Huntresses with attributes opposing Flame Spectre.
A kid, about eleven in age, managed to escape from an officer’s grasp. He grabbed a wooden sword from a girl who was watching nearby and pointed it at the three officers walking toward him.
A sinister smile escaped the middle officer’s lips. He pulled out his gun that must be a veinas and pointed it at the kid. My fingertips started tingling but something happened before I could do anything.
The officer on the left suddenly collapsed, tiny fragments of ice forming on his chest. The other officers stared at each other in confusion but I swore a saw a blade swung at his direction before that happened.
‘Don’t be hasty, Winter,’ a familiar voice said, echoing inside my head. ‘Gerald?’ I called as I scanned the crowd. ‘Where are you?’
Then, someone held my hand. No, someone passed a note to me. It was the girl who got her wooden sword stolen.
‘That’s Clove,’ Gerald explained. ‘She doesn’t know anything yet but she listens well. Now, go. Leave the small fry to us.’
After several seconds of silence, I agreed. ‘Alright. Be safe.’
Dalan and I met with Faye and Reya who managed to get more information about Flame Spectre. According to them, those bastards were planning to host a battle royale where gangs could eliminate each other. As much as I hate them, I think they would succeed, knowing how bloodthirsty the gangs were. Also, it would make their jobs much easier as they wouldn’t have to deal with those troublemakers by themselves.
We marched to the border but Dalan pulled us toward the nearest alley. Few seconds later, the officers, along with the gang they captured appeared. The lead officer was swearing nonstop, raging about the incident a while ago. He yanked the kid from the line and glared at him.
“This is all your fault,” he hissed.
I was too stunned to process everything. The next thing I knew, the kid was already consumed by fire and turned into nothing but ashes after the officer shot him in the chest.
Blood rushed to my head and I stifled a scream. My body went numb with pain. My head throbbed as if it was getting drilled. The moment I opened my eyes, everything was already covered in white.
“Lady Winter . . . you . . .”
Dalan looked shocked, scared even. I shifted my gaze to the officers’ direction and I couldn’t understand what happened at first. The prisoners were unconscious but I could see that they were still breathing. The officers were nowhere to be found. The ground became white—no, they were covered with . . . with snow.
“W-what happened?” I weakly asked, as I clung to Dalan’s arm.
He flinched and I saw his arm getting slowly frozen so I immediately let him go. I stared at my hands, still burning cold, and my fingertips fizzling.
“Did I . . .”
“T-they didn’t freeze. They just exploded into snow,” he softly said. “You, Lady Winter, reduced them to nothing.”
Upon hearing his words, my mind went blank and my consciousness slipped away.