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Serena went with Spikes and the 'yet-another-fire-elemental-that-I-had-to-cohort-with.'

Smiling at her, I digested the fact that fire-boy had a hand over Serena's arm, keeping her steady. She'd be safe with him, I kept repeating in my head, grinding my teeth simultaneously. He had asked me out of extremely ungenuine politeness, whether we should all go together – expecting me to answer what he wanted to hear – and Hell be damned if I hadn't refused with equally mutual politeness, relieving us both. He had been hesitant to ride Spikes and well, Spikes wasn't that keen on having him aboard either!

Why did Eleni had to be of that Realm? What was wrong with Spring or even Winter? Moreover, she had to go and have the King of the Summer Realm as her brother! Just flipping great!

Mother was already infuriated, and here I was having a bonfire with not one, but three fire-babies, one of which was running from the law – better to not mention the Luesha part, the other slightly tolerable fireling who still managed to get on my nerves every chance he got, and then this – my rival in the Conquest and the now ruler of the rival Realm. Even after the voting results had deemed me as the next Queen of the Autumn Realm, my mother's wrath had not subsided. Well, it never does and probably never will.

If the word got out about this forest rendezvous, then the scandalous articles would be so horrifying that even Serena's beautiful calligraphy wouldn't be able to soften their fatal blow!

Walking through the dense woods, with a head abuzz with thoughts, I basked in the settling afternoon light. Now that everyone was gone to fireling's place, the only thing left to do was – wait.

There was no chance I was going to a Summer Palace. Never.

My soundless footsteps wiped off the land as I walked light-footed on the dried leaves, aware of everything happening around me. Eleni was new with her Earth power, and had failed to see the warning that nature gave; the soil that whispered caution, the leaves that sang an ominous song, the silent signs of impending doom. But I was waiting. I knew.

The wrath of my own misjudgment, converged onto the small rocks on the way, and I kicked them as I walked. I hadn't even bothered to consider the possibility that the Head Alchemist could have been abducted by the Gemini Prince, by Nova – the supposedly good guy.

As rumors had it, Nova had paraded in the entire Spring Realm right after his training at Terraskee had finished. He flaunted Zephyr to the masses and turned the voting in his favor. Since when did he become such a showoff?

And now he was indeed the King of the Spring Realm, on the sure path to get the Throne. The unnecessary trick worked. Eleni had voted for him, too. Who wouldn't?

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