My fingertips tingled. I could feel the power coursing through my body. The moment I opened my eyes, every tree was half-frozen, while the other half was reduced to snow.
I collapsed on my knees, the energy seeping from my body. The barrier separating me from the village crumbled into huge blocks of ice and I heard footsteps approaching my direction.
“There may have been progress,” Isaz said as he stared at the trees covered in ice and snow, “but it is still not safe to be used during a fight.”
I cursed under my breath. I knew it was still far from perfect but it had been a year since I accidentally did that technique. After that incident, the elders said it would be a huge advantage if I could master it, but it wasn’t too easy.
When we went back to the village that day, I stayed unconscious for five days. When I woke up, my body felt like frozen and burning at the same time. And I couldn’t move at all.
Dalan explained everything to the elders, asking if that was a trait of the Alveria family. Isaz said he didn’t know about it until I did it.
After two weeks, I could finally move my body but I got tired easily. I never thought that technique would reduced me to this and for the first time since Krystal’s disappearance, I was scared.
I only recovered completely after two months. Isaz said I should train regularly to get back in shape and I did. The truth was, even though I was scared of that immensely powerful technique, I wanted to know how I did it. Because if I had that power, I knew I could protect everyone.
“Rest first,” Isaz added as he looked at the other direction.
Dalan appeared behind him and kneeled in front of me. I glared at Isaz but he was already walking away.
“I can walk on my own,” I grumbled but he just scoffed at me.
“Well, I’m here because we know you can’t. Please pardon me, Lady Winter,” he retorted as he carried me on his arms.
I glared at him and almost wanted to freeze him right on the spot. I wished Hale was here. At least I could control that kid.
After training more rigorously, the burden on my body wasn’t that bad compared to the first incident. This time, I wouldn’t be able to move only for a few hours instead of weeks.
He laid me on my bed, lit the fireplace to keep the room warm and closed the curtains.
“You can go now,” I ordered.
He chuckled in return, and I felt a gentle breeze brushing my face. “Rest well, My Lady.”
As the door closed, I fell asleep and dreamed about Krystal.
“Do it,” Isaz demanded as he stood between the trees.
A bead of sweat trickled down my face. “But . . .”
“You need to have an absolute control on that power, or else, you’ll hurt your comrades, too.”
Two freezing years after I did that technique accidentally, I finally managed to execute it. However, Isaz wanted me to control it thoroughly. My heart pounded as he stood from a distance, telling me to unleash that technique with him there.
I remembered the sensation I felt that day. My head was clouded with rage as those bastards killed the kid without remorse. I remembered wanting to do the same and then it happened.
I was about to channel that feeling when a loud bang interrupted me. The wall of earth separating this place from the village started trembling. Isaz and I exchanged looks and he walked toward cliff Hilda created.
“Sir Isaz! Winter!”
That was Hale’s voice.
Isaz froze a portion of the cliff and broke it. Hale came running, wide-eyed, terror and excitement on his face. He looked like he ran all the way here as he was covered in sweat and soot.
“What happened?” I asked.
He seemed to have trouble talking after that dash. His wild eyes found it difficult to focus, looking back and forth to Isaz and me. It was an unusual sight. Hale never looked this restless. He cleared his throat and drew a shaky breath.
“I found her,” he finally said.
“Who?” Isaz asked.
Hale smiled at us and I realized what he was talking about.
“I found your sister,” he softly said. “I found Krystal.”
It was hard to listen to his stories without tearing up. All this time, I believed Krystal was still alive, but deep in my heart, there was a hint of doubt. What if she wasn’t?What if she had died that day?
Hearing it from him completely erased those what-ifs and it felt like a thorn had been pulled from my chest. Krystal . . . my baby sister . . . she was alive.
“She must be 19 now,” I mumbled as tears continued streaming down my face. “I didn’t even see her growing up.”
Hale said he saw her in East Black walking alone. He said he looked like me and he felt something strange in her so he followed her. She ended up in a rundown house but she ran away almost immediately.
“What? Then where is she now?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure she’s still in East Black,” he replied. “She must have felt my presence since I came a bit close to her but I’m sure I can track her again.”
“Promise me you’ll look for her,” I said.
“I will. I promised,” he responded and that made me relax for a bit. “Oh, I think she’s also planning to start a gang.”
He suppressed a chuckle. “A gang. She was muttering that while on her way to that house.”
I still saw Krystal as a child and hearing that she wanted to form a gang made me remember the kid that was killed two years ago. That thought sent shivers down my spine.
“She must have heard about the War of Best,” Isaz said after staying quiet for a while.
He stood by the windows, staring blankly outside. A shadow passed over his face and for a second, he looked sad and guilty, the same face he showed when he found me.
“You were lucky because you grew up here,” he muttered, “but that kid doesn’t know her powers yet. She must have been shocked when it manifested. She needs training.”
Imagining Krystal alone for years, scared and battered, confused with her attribute, and thinking her family was dead felt like a boulder was thrown at me. They should have found her instead of me. At least, I could survive by myself. I could endure the burden. But that kid . . . she must have been through a rough life.
“Isaz,” I called, my voice trembling, “please . . . help her. I don’t want . . . I don’t want to lose her again.”
His expression looked pained as mine but he held it better. He flashed a quick smile and bowed at me.
“I will,” he said. “Don’t worry, I will take care of her.”
There was a moment of silence in the room but I breathed deeply and found my resolve.
“Riyo, Hilda, Dalan,” I called. “Come here. I know all of you are listening.”
All three of them came inside the room: Hilda materialized from the floor as the ground emerged in front of me; Riyo entered from the doorway; and Dalan came down from the roof and sat on the windowsill near Isaz.
“It’s time to start this war,” I declared. “Inform all our allies. In a few months, we will attack the White Division. We will reclaim what’s ours and I will end this tragic fire.”
They all hailed me and proceeded to the war council room.
I stayed in my office for a while, thinking about the impending bloodbath. I pulled out a photo I hadn’t seen since I was a child.
“Mom, Dad,” I whispered as I stared at the only family photo we had. “I can finally avenge your death.”
Krystal, please wait for me. After this, let’s be together again.