She ran. She ran with all her might from her pursuers with the wind whipping back her ebony hair as she snagged through roots, dirt, and leaves. Her legs begged for her to stop, to give them a moment of rest, but she willed them to go faster, stronger, better. She pumped as much adrenaline as she could until her legs could not go any further, until she burned out like a weak, flickering flame. However, fate was a cruel mistress, and Jirou cursed as she took a wrong turn and ended up at a dead end. She skidded to a stop and cursed her bad luck, but she prevailed. She gripped onto her whips stationed at her waist and whipped them out, showing her pursuers that she wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
The men creeped forward, surrounding her with leering eyes and bloodlust. Then a howl echoed across the woods, distracting the thugs long enough for Jirou to use her weapon, crack them in the air, and disarm them. Knives and daggers fell to the ground, and she made haste. Angered, the thugs pounced, but Jirou was shorter, smaller, faster. She slid around them and played around them like fools, her whip wrapping around their burly arms and misguiding them to collide into each other.
Even so, there was only so much she could do against four men. Angered, they closed in, ready for revenge, but as they moved forward, Jirou felt a chill settled in and let out a sigh of relief. The thugs shivered from the sudden cold, and before they knew it, a spectral figure appeared before them, ghostly and translucent with a haunting air around him. He was a boy that looked no older than Jirou, and he exuded an eerie glow, one that was brighter than the moonlit sky.
A malicious grin graced upon his lips. “Run,” he whispered with a glint in his form.
The thugs, scared out of their wits, scattered about, running as far and fast as they can from the ghost, but unfortunately, their fates were sealed. They were no longer safe in this territory. This was their turf.
Another distant howl was heard, and Jirou covered her ears before she could catch the sound of inhuman screams and crunched bones that filled the night. It was a bloodbath tonight, and those men were sacrificed for the moon.
A couple minutes passed. It was silent and still. Crickets chirped once the disturbance was gone and Jirou waited for her companion to emerge from the shadows. The vicious animal that killed the men stepped out from the bushes. A giant wolf peeked out, his ruby eyes tracing the vicinity before fully walking out into the clearing. His scraggly fur was matted with blood and bits of entrails. The smell was sickening for the average human nose. Jirou plugged hers before stepping closer. Trapped in the wolf’s mouth was a muddy-looking satchel, which was the goal of this trap all along.
To not startle him, Jirou dropped her weapons and raised her hands, showing that they were empty. With no other signs of movement coming from the wolf, the woman tiptoed towards him, so that she could dump out the contents of their prize. When she accidentally crunched a dry leaf with her foot, the wolf became alert and stepped over the satchel in a protective hunch. He growled, warning her to yield.
The ghost materialized at his side. “Kacchan,” he said in a faint whisper. “It’s Jirou. She’s safe.”
His fingers swept the fur. “She’s a friend. Don’t you remember?”
The animal’s attention redirected to the specter, and he whined in a pitiful tone, his paws failing to touch the boy’s transparent robes. However, there was no point. They only passed through.
“I’m here, Kacchan,” he smiled sweetly. “I’m never leaving you.”
While the two were distracted, Jirou took this as an opportunity to burrow beneath his furry haunches and clutched onto the satchel’s handle. With a tug, she pulled it away from him and shook every item out of the bag until it was empty.
Gold coins and parchment paper spilled out. A sealed container of cinnabar was also among the valuables, but besides that, there was nothing else. There was no mythical fruit of immortality. It was a bust.
The golden wolf deflated. His hind legs shook and showed his distress.
“We’ll find it, Kacchan.” The ghost wore a sad, wobbly smile. “Don’t worry. We will.”
“I’m sorry.” Jirou looked heartbroken and downtrodden as she kicked the grass in frustration. “This is my fault. If only my informant wasn’t wrong…”
“It’s not your fault Jirou-san.”
The ghost had to put on a brave smile. “It’s fine,” he said too optimistically.
No, this was not fine. A failure was a failure. A loss was a loss. Everything was not alright, for Midoriya Izuku was still stuck in this form.
There were the top betas of their pack. Back then, when they were simply pups, everyone anticipated Katsuki would present as an alpha and Izuku as an omega, so there was dissonance among the group when they were both declared as a normal pair of betas. The expectations died down, and the two boys were left to their own devices, but that was not their calling. They were not made to sit on their tails and follow the lead, for they were leaders themselves.
They trained day and night as the curling burn of disappointment pushed them to their limits. Though they didn’t present as alphas, they will sure as hell climb their way to the peak with their claws and teeth. The day when they surpassed their alphas, competed against them on equal grounds, was a glorious day. Besides their leader, they were strong, and the results proved that for them. They carved a name for themselves, always appearing at the front lines to protect their packmates against any foe and nurturing the young in their spare time. There was a sense of revered respect for them as they grew into men, and everyone understood that they were inseparable entities, unmistakable rivals until the end.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise when they fulfilled the mating bond. The challenges they threw at each other became tests that measured their worth as a potential mate. The electrifying glares they shot at each other morphed into something more heated and steamier. The violent scuffles they initiated at the heat of the moment changed into playful romps in the grass. The punches and pulls, the dark bruises and marks that painted their body were now replaced by love bites and deep kisses. They were madly in love, and under the full moon, they were blessed by their goddess and laid their feelings bare.
After they claimed each other and allowed the sexual tension to break, intermingling their scents and bonded as one, they were excited to reveal the happy news to their pack.
They expected a chorus of howls and celebration, to walk down the aisle with wide smiles upon their faces, as they completed the rites and integration into the pack as a mated pair. Bonfires would be lit, and wine would be splashed. They would party all night long. Their wrists would be bound together for the night, the rope laced with honeysuckle and jasmine to wish them a long-lasting bond. Then at the end, they would make love again and again and again.
However, there was not even one peep when they presented themselves to their pack leader. There was not even a hint of a smile graced upon their packmates’ lips. Instead, there was detachment and horror. There was disapproval and outrage.
Their leader, a powerful alpha called All for One, ordered them to break the bond and to choose their next mate carefully.
When they protested, he looked at them with disgust.
“How selfish,” he said. “I thought you two were just going through a phase, but you have crossed the line.”
Their species was on the decline. A mated pair between two beta males could never conceive a pup. Katsuki growled and aggressively bared his teeth, ready to snap back at anyone who dared to defile their bond. Izuku wore a cold, calculating expression as the pack continued to criticize their choices.
All for One swept his hand over the crowd with a grimy smile.
“Boys,” he belittled them. “There are more suitable choices we can offer you. You don’t have to mate each other,” he said with a lilt. “Why… like Toga,” he pointed to a blonde-haired woman with a manic grin. “Midoriya, she always had a shine for you,” he suggested. “You should expand your horizons.”
Izuku glared. He knew what was unsaid, that if the man wanted to waste his breath, he would have mentioned that he should expand his horizons outside of male betas. The intention was to pass down their genes to their future offspring, and Izuku wanted none of that.
“No,” Izuku stepped back and curled his lip. “I refuse to mate anyone else. Only Kacchan.”
Katsuki’s eyes glowed, ready to brawl alongside his mate to escape. “Fuck off shithead. He’s mine.”
All for One clicked his tongue, but his smile didn’t falter.
“Boys,” he chuckled, “There is no need to get into a temper tantrum over this.”
His words bristled them. He spoke to them as if they were children.
There was a derisive tone to his laugh. “You should have expected that this,” he waved over their guarded bodies, “Was wrong from the start.”
The pack murmured in agreement, and a flash of hurt crossed the lovers’ faces.
“It’s not right,” one said.
“Uncanny,” said another.
“Why can’t they choose a proper mate?”
Werewolves were social creatures. They thrived within a pack, for there was strength in numbers. A pack was a sacred family. A pack was acceptance. Therefore, the feeling closest to death for a werewolf was to be shunned by the pack, to have the pack turn against you. That was why a rogue, lone wolf could never survive for long.
Izuku and Katsuki were stricken with shock as one by one, the people they held dear to their heart, the people they solely dedicated their lives to protect and care, abandoned them. Instead, they sheathed their metaphorical weapons upon them.
The odds were stacked against them. They were alone in this fight.
“I’ll give you one last warning,” their ex-leader approached them.
His arms were outstretched. Their heightened senses were on alert. Electricity was in the air.
“Break the bond and mate with someone else. We’ll forgive you if you do.”
The two held hands and squeezed tight and gave themselves one last glance. Their eyes flickered back to All for One, glowing bright in the night. The wind moaned.
“Never,” they declared simultaneously and attacked.
All for One was the pack leader for a reason. He had the charisma of a snake and the strength of a thousand men. In addition, he meddled with the dark arts, mastered the forbidden magic over time. He pointed his finger to the closest wolf, Katsuki, and casted a deadly spell. A smarmy grin graced his mottled, scarred face. Time went slow, and Izuku watched with horror and dread. He moved before he could scream Katsuki’s name.
With his shoulder, he slammed his mate away from the line of the attack, and before he could block, the deed was done. A dark arrow of light stabbed into his chest, and with a shuddering gasp, Izuku crumpled to the ground.
Katsuki hurried to man’s side and cradled his head, urging him to wake up with desperation tinged in his voice. Izuku was unresponsive as black goo oozed out from the crevices of his mouth. He convulsed violently, possessed, as his eyes rolled to the back of his head.
“Pitiful. I missed.”
Katsuki heard the smugness. He was on the verge of turning into a full wolf and tearing him to shreds, but he was smarter than that. He was more intelligent than meets the eye.
All for One miscalculated Katsuki, blinded by his temper and short bursts of rage. He forgot that he was a thinker, a man who was more than just his instincts and natural prowess. He assumed Katsuki would follow his terms in order to save his mate, and that was where he made his fatal mistake.
Katsuki and Izuku were not followers. They never were, especially in the face of adversity.
With one daring glare, Katsuki retreated and carried his mate in his arms. He dodged the claws and teeth, the remaining people who tried to chase him and capture him back.
They were now fugitives, a pair of wolves without a pack and shelter. Izuku was dying, clutching onto his chest as if needles prodded and probed his soul. He felt violated and disoriented as Katsuki knocked every witch’s door to remove the spell, but they were turned away at every corner. No one wanted to help a pair of wolves associated with All for One. No one wanted to touch the infectious spell eating away Izuku’s flesh and bone. Cloth muffled his whimpers, the fear of All for One tracking them breathing down the backs of their necks. Katsuki whined and licked away his mate’s tears, the feeling of hopelessness permeating their scents.
Their godsend was in the form of Uraraka, a humble witch who excelled in the dark arts, but kept an untainted heart. She was kicked out from her guild, expelled from her peers and cohorts, for they feared her knowledge and expected her to turn to evil to abuse those gifts. Nobody wanted to listen to her radical ideas, her hope of melding light and dark magic into harmony.
Villagers called her a crazy, old biddy. Others called her a deranged, loony bat.
However, to Izuku and Katsuki, she was the only person who was willing to help, who was willing to deal with this plague of a spell. Though Uraraka was stripped from her credibility and dignity, she was not stripped from her powers.
“This is the best I can do,” she said sorrowfully as she suspended the infection’s growth, and by extension, suspending Izuku’s time as well.
Even though she proclaimed herself as a well-rounded witch, there were some subjects that fell through the cracks. In her case, she was not the most exemplary healer, and therefore, the best she could do was this. A side-effect emerged when Izuku rose from his sleeping form as a translucent ghost, and though Katsuki was relieved to see him, the two lovers mourned for their predicament.
To break the spell, they needed the immortal fruit to counteract the spell eating him away. To have the lovers reunite, they must travel far and wide to find it.
And so, they began the search. For years, they looked high and low for any leads. For years, they accumulated friends and connections who heard of their journey.
Their patience was growing thin, and it was no wonder, for it had already been fifty years.