CHAPTER 32 - Of a Fountain

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Peeking through a bush, camouflaged in the darkness of the night, I waited with bated breath.

I shouldn't have come, I knew, of course. But now that I was knee-deep into a swamp, I wanted to touch the bottom, sink in it and drown. Maybe, that's how a person goes insane.

My pupils now adjusted to the night's shadow, registered a figure emerging from a small pathway, diagonally opposite from where I stood. My dumb brain had no clue from where that path had come from. I'd need a map to understand or a Serena to explain the routes to me.

I remembered being lost on the way to home from school once. It had been almost sunset when father found me, crying under a tree. Since then, he tried his best to make my sense of direction better, he taught me easy tricks to remember my way back home. My chest became heavy as I thought of his beautiful light brown eyes, with specks a bright red making themselves visible under the sunshine.

Bringing my attention back to the problem at hand, I calmed my scared heart and tiptoed out of my hiding place to get closer to the mysterious man who had summoned me here. I took cover behind a thick tree, watching the man, with his broad shoulders and shiny dark hair. Not Prince Nova then.

And right then, the man turned to face where I stood and the moon illuminated his unmistakably remarkable features.

Lord Ralph.

Just like that, my fear vanquished and before I knew it, I stepped out in the open, sheathing my daggers back inside the belt on my waist.

His posture stiffened as he looked at me approaching him. I sensed a foul smell but couldn't place it.

"What's with the black cloak again?" he asked in his gruff voice, surprising me. Right, that's what I was wearing at the Winter palace when I collided into him and unlocked the phase two of my nightmarish life.

"I have started liking it now," I said, squaring my shoulders.

He simply nodded, adding into the subtle awkwardness of our situation.

I scratched my head before asking the obvious question, "Why did you call me here? It was you, right?"

"Of course, it was me. Were you expecting it to be someone else?" he asked with a tilt of his chin, his red eyes scrutinizing my face.

I gulped. "It's good to be safe, that's all."

I watched him crossing his hands across his chest as he asked, "Why did you come to meet Nova in his study that day?"

The bluntness of his question took me by surprise.

He added, "Are you two...?"

As the implication of his question became clear, a shrill laugh escaped my throat.

"You could not be more wrong."

"Then why?" he asked rubbing his hands together, almost like he was cold.

"Are you cold?" I asked, a wayward thought striking me.

"Always. Damn this Realm," he said with a sigh.

I nodded. I was always cold too, and it was embarrassing since Serena and others never complained as much as I did.

"Even though you are a Fire Elemental?" I asked.

"Especially because I am a Fire Elemental. The cold affects us more than it affects others. And the excess heat that our bodies produce to even out the coldness, just tires us more..." he stopped, understanding flickering in.

"Did you not know that?" he asked in a gentle tone.

"No." I answered not meeting his eyes. I had never spared a single thought to my other power.

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