It was rare to see Seraphina bleed. She was fast and rarely received a blow in combat. If someone did manage to cut her, she simply cauterized the wound with her flames. She’d have a number of scars from that practice, but Natsuki had been able to heal them all.
Seeing her kneeling before me, blood soaking into her clothes, was a sight I never thought I’d see.
“Lucia.” She hissed in pain.
I met her eyes. “No.” I replied, kicking her hand to the side. “Punishment for stealing from the royal family is death.”
Seraphina didn’t need the reminder. She’d been introduced to me because she’d tried to steal the fire band. But when she’d grabbed it, it had accepted her, leaving my father with a choice: kill her, or let her try to become a Guardian.
She’d escaped death through sheer luck. She’d never forget that.
“Because my father sent you, death isn’t on the table.” I continued. “All you did was fail him.” I closed the distance between us and placed a hand on her head.
“But you tried to take Peran from me.” Ice crystals danced between my fingers and she gasped from the cold. “I can’t forgive that.”
“Lu-” She tried to plead with me, but it was too late.
Ice flooded over her face like a veil. In an instant, her fiery red hair was barely recognizable through the sleek crystals. Her eyes stared eternally up at me, a mixture of pain, shock, and fear. From where I’d kicked it, her hand had also frozen solid.
I took a step back. Instead of feeling better, I only felt stronger. Rage raced through me as I took in the sight of Seraphina. She was supposed to have been my friend, but she’d sided with my father against me. Had the others done the same?
Circling around to Seraphina’s back, I found her band. She’d molded the metal band into a tighter loop, which she used to hold back her hair. It had had the added effect making her hair glow like lava whenever she was angry.
As I stared at it, the ice melted slightly and the small gem popped off, landing in my outstretched hand. It was mine, after all. My Guardians only borrow them.
Holding Peran’s band tightly in one hand and the fire gem in the other, I turned to the doors that led out of the courtyard. Whatever warmth I still held vanished within the few steps it took me to enter the hallway.
Mizuki. I thought as I walked. Skyler. Ellen. Ice crackled through the wooden floor with each step I took. Reiner. Father. Luna. The list grew. But first…
I made my way to the guard hall, where Natsuki’s body was being held. The guards I met along the way looked at me with surprise, but none dared to stop me.
“Natsuki.” I said to the guard outside the makeshift examination room.
He nodded and stepped aside. “Shall I call for your father, princess?”
“No.” I said simply. “I won’t be long.”
As I opened the door, I saw Natsuki wasn’t alone. Mizuki looked up, tears in her eyes. When she saw it was me, she dipped her head, hastily rubbing her eyes. “Princess.” She greeted me, formally, since the door was still open.
I closed the door and strode up to her. I slipped the fire gem into my pocket and held out my hand. “Give me your gem.”
She stared at me, dumbfounded. “What?”
“You’re leaving anyway, so what does it matter?” I shook my hand, jabbing it closer to her face. “You won’t be my Guardian anymore.”
She nodded solemnly. “I’m sorry.” Instead of slipping the band off her own wrist, she moved to Natsuki’s side. “You’ll want this back, too.” She took the band from her sister’s arm and placed it on my palm.
I put the earth band in my pocket as Mizuki pulled her own band free. But before she could hand it over, the door flew open, revealing a frantic Skyler.