Chapter 1: Prologue
Gun woke up from his dream—no, not dream, a nightmare. Those piercing red eyes were haunting him again after so many years of silence. They glowered in the darkness: bright crimson orbs of fury and wildness. The blood-red threatened to swallow Gun whole while he sat up on the bed, awake and staring blankly at the darkness. Yet the light snore of the creature beside him brought Gun back to his senses, sobered him from the fear that lingered in his heart.
Gun leaned towards the creature much bigger than him and smiled. The creature was mumbling in his sleep—overworked and underpaid. Gently, Gun brushed his finger over the fringe covering the creature’s handsome face. His heightened senses—the gift of being a hybrid—made him see the features normal humans would be blind to in the darkness.
The creature was beautiful the way his eyelashes fluttered, his lips mumbled, and the way his chest heaved every once in a while. Mine, Gun whispered to himself. He’s mine.
Satisfied that no danger lurked in the corners of their bedroom, Gun laid back down and rested his troubled head on the pillows. Just as he turned to face the creature beside him, he found that those probing eyes were open.
“Bad dream again?”
Gun sighed. “Jumpol…”
Jumpol grunted in disapproval.
“Fine.” Gun scooted closer, their faces nearly touching. “Papii…”
“That’s better. Now, why are you awake?”
“I felt you jolt up. That’s not nothing.”
Jumpol considered for a second, and then, he rolled his eyes.
“Alright then. Don’t tell me.”
“For waking you up.”
“That isn’t something to be sorry about. You’re my mate. I need to take care of you.”
“I love you.”
Jumpol snorted. “Then tell me what’s wrong.”
“It’s nothing for you to concern yourself with.”
“Again with the nothing,” growled Jumpol.
“Stop saying sorry.”
“Look at me.”
There has always been something hiding behind Jumpol’s eyes. Gun had seen it since they had met on the college freshman orientation so many years ago. Sincerity, it felt like, but Gun knew it was something more. Jumpol was inscrutable most of the time but there were times—much like that night—when Gun intently looked at his eyes and they seem to pull him in, plunging him into the Styx-like rivers of Jumpol’s very soul.
“I’ll keep you safe,” said Jumpol. “I know you’ll say that you don’t need it. I know you don’t need me to defend you, but just know that I will. You are my mate. You are my forever. You are my moon. Remember that, Atthaphan.”
Jumpol calling him by his birth name sent shivers down Gun’s spine. He never calls him that. The only times he had heard Jumpol say it was when they first met and when they mated for the first time. Tonight was special.
“Okay,” Gun softly answered.
“Go back to sleep.”
And he did.
Chapter 2: Chimon (I)
When Chimon woke up that morning, everything was already in chaos downstairs.
Chaos was a kind word — more like pandemonium.
“I told you to put it in the laundry yesterday!”
“You didn’t tell me anything!”
“Has anyone seen my socks?!”
“Newwie, babe, we’re going to have a symposium this afternoon. I can’t cook dinner.”
“But you promised you’d cook this time! I’ll be on the field until tomorrow!”
“Phaw, don’t worry, I’ll cook.”
“Are you sure, Gigie? Don’t you have club duties at school on Wednesdays?”
“I’ll just Line them that something came up. They’ll understand. Oh, good morning, Mon!”
The chaos suddenly stopped. Like dogs with their tails between their legs, the ensuing onslaught of the morning courtesy of the men of the Vihokratana-Techaapaikhun household reverted to quietness upon realizing that Chimon had been watching them. As Chimon sat down beside Nanon, the youngest of the four children and his best friend, he felt like all eyes were trained on him. His Uncle Tay who smiled sheepishly at him was quick in delivering breakfast to his part of the table. Frank, the third child, had successfully found his socks stuffed in a corner of the living room and returned to sit beside Pluem, the eldest, who was stealing glances at Chimon.
“Khun, stop staring at him,” said Nanon, not even looking up from his food.
“I wasn’t!” Pluem responded defensively.
“You were,” Frank joined in.
“Shut up,” said Pluem.
“That’s enough,” said his Uncle New, and the table went silent again.
“So, how was the study session last night?” Gigie, the second eldest and only daughter, kickstarted the breakfast conversation once more. She raised an eyebrow at Chimon. “I heard groaning of misery last night. Did Nanon’s brain explode?”
“Very funny,” said Nanon mockingly at his older sister.
“I’ve read that there are different types of intelligences,” said Chimon, scooping some of the soup. “Each person has their own uniqueness. Nanon has his, and I have mine. Based on our study session last night, numbers aren’t his strong suit but he’s really good at sports so many he has bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.”
“Well aren’t you sweet,” said Gigie. Then, she turned to Pluem. “Don’t you agree, phi chai? They’re really sweet, aren’t they? They’re so cute together, right?”
“You’re lucky that you’re a girl. Otherwise, insolence won’t pay well,” said Pluem, throwing his sister a murderous look.
Tay patted Pluem on the shoulder. “Plue, we’ve talked about this.”
“I know, phaw. I know…”
“And Gie, honey, stop teasing your brother,” said Tay to Gigie.
Gigie groaned. “Yes, phaw.”
They once again ate breakfast in silence. There was nothing left to say but Chimon, without anything to say for himself, could feel the tension in the air. A house full of alphas and betas isn’t without strife, his Uncle New had told him before. As the sole omega of the family (so far, that is—Nanon hasn’t had his Turning yet), he had to constantly deal with dominant wolf egos all year-round.
“Finish your breakfast,” said his Uncle New. “Don’t wanna be late for your classes.”
But for some odd reason, despite being dominant wolves, Uncle New could easily shut them up with a glare or a stern voice—and Chimon thought that was really cool.
Pluem was driving them off to school that day since he didn’t have classes. He was in his first year of university and despite the expectation of being mature and alpha-like, his temper and unwillingness to back down were few of the things he was having a hard time shaking off.
Chimon had no idea why Pluem kept on staring at him. Did he do something? He knew that Pluem got easily mad at almost anything and now he was wondering what in the hell did he say or do to earn such seemingly hostile stares. He tried asking Nanon or Gigie about it but both of them just shrugged, acting like it was not such a big deal.
“Do you need me to pick you up after?” Pluem finally said his first words in the duration of the trip.
“No need,” said Nanon.
“That won’t be necessary, phi,” said Chimon gently compared to Nanon’s abrasiveness. “But thank you for offering.”
“I wasn’t—” Pluem was about to make a start on his rant again but he met eyes with Chimon and for some odd reason, he calmed down. There was a noticeable tinge of pink simmering on the points of his ears. He cleared his throat. “I mean, okay. No problem. Ha—Have a nice day.”
Even Nanon, who was perpetually glued to his phone, recognized the sudden change in demeanor.
“You should stop giving him hope,” said Nanon after they got off the car and up the flight of stairs to their classroom.
Chimon stopped walking and stared at Nanon. “What? I don’t understand.”
“Phi, why can’t you see it?”
“Find out for yourself, phi,” said Nanon, scrunching his nose up at his best friend.
“I hate you.”
Nanon chuckled. “Aww, I love you too. Now, c’mon. We’re gonna be late for class.”
The rest of their morning classes remained uneventful. Their history teacher bored them to death with his droning voice, reciting events and dates that Chimon, despite feeling drained of all joy in life at that moment, still managed to jot down with such organization on his iPad. Beside him, Nanon was clinging on to his waking consciousness with every ounce of his will. Chimon passed him a candy to keep him awake, not wanting his Uncle Tay to scold Nanon like many times before. Math was entertaining, especially watching Nanon almost rip his hair out over quadratic equations. Their Biology class was by far the most interesting for that day. They talked about evolution and their teacher, knowing that there were hybrid children in her class, slightly talked about the genetics of why some people become hybrids.
“I know this will be a very personal topic,” said their teacher to him and Nanon, “but the two of you have not yet experienced your Turning, am I correct?”
Oh geez, thought Chimon. This again. He had enough of this in their Health and Wellness, and now, the topic had crept into their Science subject as well.
“Yes, ma’am, we haven’t,” said Nanon.
Their teacher nodded her head like that Chinese good luck cat Chimon once saw at the counter of that udon shop his parents took him to last week. “Okay,” she said. “Do you have any preference as to what kind of hybrid you want to be?”
“I don’t really know, ma’am,” said Nanon quickly. “Maybe I’ll be a beta like my older brother.”
“Uh-huh, I see. Thank you for that, Korapat. How about you, Wachirawit?”
What did he want to be? Honestly, he didn’t care all that much. If there’s anything his parents have taught him, it’s that hybrids are all equals. They have different roles to play in the pack, but they were all indispensable. Perhaps the real question was which role did he want to fulfill in his own pack. His thoughts stumbled back to his Uncle New and that’s when he realized—
“An omega,” said Chimon.
Some of their classmates giggled. He paid them no mind.
“Interesting,” said their teacher. “Why is that?”
“I think they’re very adaptable to any situation. They’re very resilient. Other people think that omegas are weak, but I’ve met a lot of omegas since I was little and they’re all incredibly talented people. And I think they’re really cool.”
Their teacher nodded, a little smile on her lips. “You mentioned the word adaptable, Wachirawit. Thank you for that.” She then faced the rest of the class and clicked on the remote she was holding. The overhead projector turned on, flashing the words ‘natural selection’ on the whiteboard. “Scientists tell us that the species we have today are results of natural selection. Some species become extinct because they couldn’t adapt to environmental changes, and others choose to evolve over time to a higher order of species. Some human beings, for example, have their genetic makeup altered to adapt to the changes. Resulting from that are what we call now as hybrids, like your classmates Wachirawit and Korapat here.”
“And Pawat from 10B!” said one of the girls from the class, resulting to almost all of them to giggle and swoon at the name.
“He’s a weirdo!” shouted one of the boys.
Chimon heard the chair beside him screech loudly and he just sighed.
“What did you say?!” Nanon growled.
“Oh, look, the hybrid is angry because of what we said about his boyfriend!”
All the boys in their class started laughing.
“Enough of this!” said their teacher. “Miongkhat, this is your last warning.”
Grabbing Nanon’s arm, Chimon pulled him back down to his seat. “Calm down,” whispered Chimon, his thumb running circles on the back of Nanon’s trembling hand while their teacher scolded the other boys in their class. The world around them seemed to disappear. “You don’t want to get in trouble again, do you?” He could feel Nanon’s skin heating up, a sign of aggression even for a wolf that hasn’t had their Turning yet. “They just don’t understand what it’s like to be us,” he continued calmly. “People are afraid and angry of things they don’t understand.”
“Why did I have to be like this?” whispered Nanon.
“Don’t say that.”
“I hate being a hybrid.”
“Does that mean you hate our packs? Our families? Does that mean you hate me too?”
Nanon stared worriedly at Chimon.
“N-No, of course not, phi. I don’t hate you. I lo—”
Their teacher walked past them, trying to get her composure back and have the class revert back to normal setting. “Alright, where were we? Ah, yes, natural selection…”
Lunch break came along and Chimon could see that Nanon was feeling guilty about what he said during their class. As they sat at a bench, waiting for Ohm, their other best friend, Chimon slid closely beside Nanon and nudged him a little.
“I know you didn’t really mean what you said earlier,” said Chimon, “so don’t worry about it too much.”
Nanon frowned at him and Chimon just wanted to squish his face. He was still childish sometimes. It’s frustrating but Chimon had to deal with it. The two of them were luna frates—moon siblings—meaning though they were not born on the same day, they were born at the same hour under the same phase of the moon. It was a superstitious belief of their grandparents that their parents disregarded but like a looking glass, Chimon and Nanon became inseparable. Tied by the forces of the moon, one of their grandparents had said. Though he didn’t believe in superstitions, Chimon did accept that there were things beyond explanation and this invisible force that was seemingly tying his string of fate with Nanon was one of those unexplainable things.
And, of course, another example of that would be—
“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Their friend Ohm popped out of nowhere, brandishing his cheery smile and own brand of dashing good looks, and scooting himself beside Nanon. “P’Fiat asked me to bring some things to the club room.”
“You know that his leg isn’t injured anymore, right?” said Nanon.
Ohm nodded. “I know he heals as quick as the rest of us but,” he shrugged and smiled happily, “it feels nice to help, ‘ya know? He accepted me into the Sports Club when all the others pushed me away. I owe him much.”
Their friend Ohm wasn’t from any infamous family like most hybrids were. Ohm’s father was a non-hybrid who married a young omega from one of the Bangkok claves. It was an auspicious match with the female omega’s family welcoming Ohm’s father with open arms. When Ohm was born, everyone wondered if he will inherit his mother’s wolf bloodline. That question was answered last week.
“How’s the first few days?” asked Chimon.
Ohm replied with a grimace. “It was weird. Ever since I had my Turning, people keep looking at me funny like I’ve got something on my face.” He opened his lunchbox, and both Chimon and Nanon also did the same. “My dad was really surprised when he found out I was an alpha. Mom cried. I don’t know if they were tears of joy or something else.”
“The girls in our class have huge crushes on you,” said Nanon, stabbing the karaben Gigie claimed she cooked for them (even if it was obvious that it was Tay) with his fork. “They were really swooning.”
“I’d rather die celibate,” said Ohm.
“Don’t regret that in the end,” said Chimon.
Ohm chuckled. “They just like me because of my looks. I want someone who…who…”
“Who, what?” said Nanon.
Ohm suddenly dropped the metal chopsticks he was holding. They bounced off the lunchbox with enough weight and force to spill it over, causing the contents to lurch out onto Ohm’s clothes. Ohm’s body went completely still and his eyes suddenly turned entirely milky white. Chimon caught Ohm from falling over to the ground. Ohm’s fingers were curling up and his hands began to spasm.
“Shit,” Chimon hissed, noticing the other students looking at them and whispering to each other. “Nanon evasive maneuver.”
Nanon looked at him funny while he tried to clean up the spilled food from Ohm’s lap. “What?”
“Under the tree,” Chimon pointed at the nearby kampu, “help me carry him away from all these students.”
They hurriedly carried Ohm under the shade of the tree. He was still in his trance but, thankfully, none of the students who saw them earlier bothered to follow them. Chimon ran back to their table and grabbed their things. He quickly returned and pulled out his tablet. Nanon gently supported Ohm’s back, keeping him upright while sitting on the grassy ground. Then, like several times before, multiple voices came from Ohm’s mouth as he started to speak:
“The broken beach house…living ghosts…He’s precious, he’s precious…Bloodred…soul as the highway of hell’s boatman…the shining hands…He’s precious, he’s precious…”
Chimon was swift to jot down every word. He had already created a folder where he keeps all of his notes for Ohm’s ‘little trances’ since this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Nanon didn’t seem at all interested in Chimon’s theories about the phrases being uttered in Ohm’s trances, brushing them off as something unexplainable. Chimon, however, knew better than to dismiss them.
As Ohm slipped back into consciousness, Nanon slowly helped him lean his head on the tree behind him. Ohm was about to apologize when a shadow hovered over them.
“P’Win,” said Chimon, standing up to meet the taller figure. “What are you doing here?”
“Some girls saw you carrying Ohm to this tree and told me about it,” said Win. Glancing at Ohm’s tired state, he pursed his lips. “Another one of his seizures?”
“They aren’t seizures,” said Chimon, clutching his tablet tightly.
“What? You believe those nonsense about hybrids with gifts?”
“I do, phi.”
“They aren’t real, nong. Silly superstitions by older wolves.” Win frowned, glancing again at Ohm who was still trying to gather back his strength. “What a waste of an alpha.”
“Is he now, Metawin?”
Win suddenly paled upon hearing the voice. They all turned to face the olive-skinned woman with ebony hair. She was wearing an elegant billowing dress that day. Her eyes had a slight disappointment in them, like she was completely offended by what Win said.
“D-Director Panhan!” Win shakily greeted the director of the school, Jennie Panhan. “I didn’t—”
“Mean to say it out loud?” said Jennie with a raised eyebrow. “I didn’t expect such words to come from a prefect of my school. I’ll let you off with a warning, Metawin. Don’t let me hear you say that again or else that little badge of yours will be gone.”
Win bowed his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am! I vow to never to do it again.”
“Vows get broken sometimes,” said Jennie, walking towards Ohm. She knelt beside him and touched his forehead. “It’s better to change our perspective and prejudices rather than make empty promises which we intend not to keep. Pawat, how are you feeling?”
“Director…” said Ohm. “Am I in trouble?”
“Of course not,” said Jennie. “But I have to speak to your parents about this.”
“Please don’t…they’ll make me pull out of school…I…please, don’t…”
Jennie sighed and clasped her hands together. “It is the duty of this school to take care of its students. It’s clear now that your gift as a Sakdi has a lot of repercussions. I need to talk to your parents about this, Mr. Pawat, whether you like it or not.”
That word again, thought Chimon. A Sakdi—a gifted wolf. A rare kind of hybrid. He has read all about it in his father Jumpol’s library but many of the wolves in present day think of it as merely myth because it was a rare thing. There have been very few accounts about it through history. No one actually knows why some wolves receive these “gifts” as the books described, but there was one thing that the books had all agreed on and it was that having these gifts come with a price. It weakened the body, drained energy, and can sometimes be fatal to the Sakdi themselves.
The gift was slowly killing them.
He didn’t want that to happen to Ohm. That’s why he kept on reading, looking up the dusty old tomes from both his father’s library and that of the Phunsawat family’s at his grandparents’ house just outside the city. He wanted to find a cure or maybe a remedy to stop anything from happening to Ohm.
Standing up, Jennie turned to Chimon. “Take him to the infirmary. After that, you can head to your afternoon classes.”
Chimon bowed his head and proceeded to pick up all their bags and helping Nanon in carrying Ohm to the walkway and towards the infirmary. As they walked away, Chimon made a glance back to Win who was talking with the director. His brother, the primped and proper Metawin, had just committed a blunder. No doubt, there will be a sermon when he gets home this evening. Director Panhan will make sure their parents will know. And no doubt as well that Win will hate their parents even more than he already did.
Chapter 3: Tay (I)
Symposiums were inherently boring, ravaging on and droning like the undead. Even the keynote speakers, despite their best efforts to liven both themselves and the crowd, were emotionally and intellectually drained by the end. Tay kept glancing at his watch, hoping for the whole affair to finish earlier than scheduled. While driving this morning, he felt really bad for breaking his promise to New. So he had decided to make it up to him—maybe in more ways than one.
The thought of it made his wolf howl inside of him.
When the host of the whole affair said thank you to all the guests and attendees, Tay glanced excitedly at his watch again: Yes, he can drive home and cook dinner! New would be pleased. There was nothing more he wanted in the world than to see his mate, his omega, so happy. It wasn’t easy to be a journalist, Tay knew that much. When they were in university, New would be awake all night editing videos and typing up scripts that need to be passed, only for them to be rejected by his professor the next day. New would cry and cry and then fall asleep. Even now, when they were alone together, Tay could see the visible circles under New’s eyes. He didn’t want to bring them up because New might think his alpha doesn’t find him attractive anymore. And now, the least he could do was welcome him home with a warm meal and try to keep their kids from fighting. Others would say that isn’t the job of an alpha like Tay but he begged to differ.
Stuffing his notes (more like doodles) into his bag along with his other belongings, Tay started to get up when a towering figure blocked his way. Joss Way-ar was smiling expectantly at him. He knew where this was going and as someone who doesn’t like the crowd, Tay already knew he would say no to whatever Joss’ invitation was.
“I’m not letting you go that easily, Tawan,” said Joss, raising his eyebrow. “You’ve been slipping past every opportunity you have to socialize with other departments. We’re not that scary you know.”
“I know you’re not scary,” said Tay, glancing at his watch again.
Ever since he started working at the university, his colleagues have been hounding him to socialize with their merry band of academics who groan about their students and the impossible workload the university was dumping over their heads. Tay didn’t like wasting time with such trivial thoughts but he didn’t want to say that out loud at them. He wanted to keep things cordial and well-mannered, especially because they knew all about his family in the north.
Joss groaned. “Please don’t tell me you have another alibi…”
“I do, actually.” Tay smiled sheepishly. “My husband’s at work so I have to make dinner. Sorry about that. And I don’t think I’ve said this enough but…I don’t like socializing.”
“Oh, come on Tay, live a little!” Earth Pirapat, another one of his colleagues like Joss, popped out of nowhere. A tall man who was often nicknamed “The Giant,” Earth had been a good friend to Tay since they were young in the north but the life in the city has changed his perspective too much. “You’re an alpha! You can do whatever you want!”
“I may be an alpha but—” Tay raised his hand with a silver band on one of his fingers “—I’m also married and have kids. You should try it sometimes. Get married. Have kids. It really lends perspective.”
Earth frowned. “Did I strike a nerve? C’mon, Tay, I was only teasing. We’ve been friends since we were in primary school and now, I hardly ever talk to you except for work stuff.”
Tay shrugged and patted Earth’s shoulder. “I’m not that kid anymore, Earth—we both aren’t those kids anymore. I…yeah…I really have to go now, sorry.”
With the speed of his wolf, Tay walked past his two fellow professors at the university and headed out the lecture hall. “Are you sure he’s an alpha?” he heard Joss say to Earth who shushed him, but he didn’t care. No one else’s opinion matters. The pack is more important, muttered Tay in his head as he headed down the flight of stairs. The fleeting golden rays of daylight seeped through the corridor windows and Tay felt his feet involuntarily pick up the pace. The amount of desire he had at that moment to get home was almost as if he’d transform into a wolf if he moved faster and leapt into the air.
Finally reaching the parking lot, Tay shucked his things into the backseat and started the car, unaware of the shadow lingering among the trees, watching him like a predator waiting for the moment to strike his prey.
Arriving home, the kitchen was already flooded in a sensory overload of smells. Gigie was dancing around gracefully with an apron over her school uniform. She was humming happily with her headphones on and then smiled when she saw Tay walk into the kitchen.
“Phaw, don’t worry, I wasn’t gonna burn down the kitchen,” said Gigie.
Tay pressed a kiss on her forehead. “I know you won’t. You inherited my cooking skills.”
“Then why are you home already?” Gigie stirred the contents of the wok, flipping it with her large spatula. She glanced at her father and raised an eyebrow. “Phaw, what are you planning?”
“Really,” Tay deadpanned.
“You’re not planning to have some alone time with Phaw New when he comes home?”
Tay pinched Gigie’s cheek. “Aya! Mind what you’re cooking, my little beta princess. If you need anything, I’ll be in my study.”
“I’m not little anymore, phaw!” Tay heard Gigie said as he traversed up the stairs and down the hallway leading to his study. He chuckled to himself. She had indeed grown up but she will always be that talkative little girl to Tay. The little girl who kept on asking questions about the world. The little girl who helped that little bird who had its wing broken.
Closing the door behind him, the room surrounded by bookshelves greeted him. The fading light of the afternoon sun seeping through the sliding door leading to a small second floor balcony bathed the cosy space in a golden light. Tay settled down on his swiveling chair and turned on his computer. Midterms were already finished and he was checking the exam papers of the classes he was handling. Economics had proven to be a head-scratcher for students nowadays. Tay could see that whenever he does a lecture but so far, the test scores have been good. As he was inputting into his grading sheet, a video chat window popped up and he immediately answered the call.
“You look really old wearing your glasses,” said the caller.
“I’m not—” Tay touched the bridge of his nose and the metal joining the two eyepieces. “Oh, I didn’t even notice I was wearing them.”
“Getting a little forgetful, are we? Signs of aging most likely.”
“Shut up, Singto.”
“Now, don’t be like that, Tay. Just checking up on you.”
Tay stuck out his tongue. “Are you my mother now? What am I, five?” Taking off his glasses, Tay leaned back on the chair and raised his eyebrow. “What do you want?”
Singto raised his hands. “Alright, you got me. I’m…a little lonely, I guess.”
“We are not having video call sex.”
“Ha-ha, very mature, professor. I’m serious. I don’t think this stay at home husband thing is working for me. I’m cooped up here like a hostage.”
Tay shrugged. “Then tell Krist.”
“Are you kidding me? You know him. You know how hard it is to talk to him. It’s frustrating sometimes. He’s so immersed in his work that I hardly see him.”
“It’s his dream job, Singto…”
“I mean, yeah, I get that. I will always support him but…”
“Everything before the word ‘but’ is horseshit.” Tay frowned. “What’s going on? Of course, this is something between you and your mate. We’re in the same pack and yet I don’t want to intrude. However, you’re not gonna call me if you can handle it by yourself.”
Singto bowed his head, fingers running through his hair in slight frustration.
“Why? What happened?”
“It’s not what has happened. It’s what hasn’t.”
Tay shifted in his seat. He knew what Singto was talking about. While Fiat and Singto were close, there were other things that only Krist could help guide their son in.
“What do the in-laws say?” asked Tay.
“You know they’ve been a little hesitant about this being a surgeon thing from the start,” said Singto with a heavy sigh. “They’ve been pushing me to talk Krist out of getting a medical degree when he graduated from his undergrad. I should have listened to them but, of course, even I couldn’t do anything once Krist sets his mind into it.”
“It’s what he wanted, Singto.”
Singto groaned, staring glumly at the screen. “Why did we have to be mates with high-minded omegas?”
“You’re saying you regret claiming and marking him?”
“No! Fuck no!” Singto looked scandalized at the thought. “I love Krist. I’m just concerned about Fiat. You know what kind of kid he is. He needs both of us.”
“Does Fiat know what will happen if Krist doesn’t take over the company?”
“No. Both I and his grandparents have agreed not to tell him yet. They’re still hoping Krist would change his mind about this.”
“Running a company at seventeen… Let’s hope that’s not gonna happen. That’s too much for a teenager to handle. Fiat will be starting in university next year, won’t he?”
“If he wants to.”
Tay was taken aback by Singto’s answer. “What do you mean—”
“I know that look, Tawan,” said Singto. “I know you value education that much but it’s my son’s choice. He’s interested in other things and so far, he hasn’t expressed interest in getting a degree.”
“His life, his choice. A wolf needs to find their own way in the world. It’s something I think the six of us are familiar with. I’m only here to support him.”
“What did Krist say?”
“How can he say anything when he isn’t even home most of the time?”
“You really need to find a way to talk to him.”
Tay threw up his hands. “This is your mate, Singto, and you are his alpha. You know him better than the rest of us in the pack. If there’s anyone who can figure out a way to convince him, it’s you.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Fine.” Tay rubbed his hands furiously over his face and ran his fingers through his hair. His mind was whirring. “Okay. I think you should tell Fiat about the company succession. I think—” Tay held up his finger at the screen before Singto could say a word “—that would be better because he can help you convince Krist to take over the company. How can he say no to his own son?”
Singto considered for a moment, arms crossed. “And if that doesn’t work?”
“Then, I’m out of ideas. But I’m positive—no, scratch that—I’m hopeful.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Just try it out first, jeez.”
“Alright, fine.” Singto motioned his head in a half-assed nod. “Thank you.”
Tay smiled. “Glad to help.”
When the pop-up screen disappeared, Tay groaned and jumped out of his chair. He opened the sliding door and was greeted with the gentle breeze as he stepped into the small balcony. He let out a small sigh and leaned onto the railings. The edge of the forest lay a few meters from their house, its dark shadows and mossy terrain rather inviting for an early evening run through the landscape. It’s been a while since he and New had a run; an even longer time since he strolled the woods alone to his thoughts.
But before any further decisions could be made, Gigie’s loud voice emanated from the dining room just below the balcony, announcing it was time to eat to the wolves of the household. Shouts came from every part of the house. The kids were all home. Tay smiled to himself. Kids… He was once one himself and now he had a litter of pups he called his own with the man he loved.
Tay got off the railings and headed back inside. As he turned back, however, he noticed the plant pot by the corner and was surprised to find it so alive and overgrown. He could have sworn it was dead the last time he went out into the balcony. That was a week ago maybe? A little confused, he headed downstairs to where everyone was starving and ready to devour the whole table of feast his only daughter had prepared for them.
In the darkness of the bedroom, Tay was awakened by the feeling of something crawling on top of him. His eyes flashed open and he saw New smiling above him. He always smelled like peaches. There were no peach extract shampoos nor peach-scented soaps in their house but New always smelled like sweet peaches. Ever since they had Pluem, Tay had begun to smell it from New and he had no idea as to why. Their kids don’t smell it. He has consulted with Krist about it but all he got was a deadpan face and a “do I look like a fucking lycanthrologist to you?” And yet he liked it. He loved it — loved that it was only him as New’s mate that can smell his scent.
“Hi,” said Tay.
New leaned down and caught his lips. “Hi.”
“You’re back early.” Tay sat up and his hands quickly wandered off, already trying to inch their way underneath New’s polo shirt. Fingers already tracing the milky white smoothness of New’s back, Tay started peppering his mate’s neck with his lips. “I thought you wouldn’t be home until the afternoon. What time is it?”
New hitched his breath as Tay grazed his teeth over his collarbone, drifting ever so slowly downwards. “We p-packed up early. I-It’s—ah, ah—a few minutes—shit, Tay—past t-two in the—ah…ah…alph—morning—” His hands curled, gathering a bunch of the hair at the back of Tay’s head. Tay rutted against him, rubbing their clothed thighs and groins together. “Fuck…Alpha…I’m—” New shuddered and Tay felt the wetness in between them.
“I’ve missed this,” said Tay, nudging his nose against New’s jaw.
“We shouldn’t be doing this here…” mumbled New with lidded eyes. “The kids…they’ll—”
In one fluid motion, Tay was already carrying New out their bedroom window. The cold breeze of the night rushed past their skins as Tay jumped from their room on the second floor of the house, landing perfectly and without too much disturbance. New was clinging even harder to him so he rushed towards the woods and they were soon under the cover foliage and darkness.
“Lead the way,” whispered Tay.
New jumped off of Tay. They took off their clothes and placed them in a small wooden box that has been nailed to one of the trees. Tay shucked his haphazardly into the box and New shook his head, folding them neatly beside his.
And then, they shifted.
Wolves of black and white ran through the forest, disappearing through the shadows and momentarily passing by the rays of moonlight. The black wolf followed the white as they moved further into the heart of the forest. The lights and hums of suburban Bangkok had long disappeared and the breath of the wild rushed past their fur, filling their lungs. Tay had never been to this part of the forest. Most of the time, they would just circle around the perimeter so he was curious where New was going.
At last, near a small clearing, Tay spotted a large structure of stone and wood. Canopies of the woodlands seemed to be engulfing it into the darkness of the forest but the building looked new upon drawing closer. When he saw New shift back into his human form, Tay did as well, jogging toward his mate and locking him in his arms.
“Where have you brought me?” said Tay.
“This was supposed to be a surprise from me, Gun, and Krist but I called them and asked if we could use it,” said New. “We call it the Wolf House. The pack already has one in the Thai Highlands, I know, but even Krist who offered that place agreed that it was too far away. So…”
“So the three of you secretly had this built.” Tay nipped at New’s ear, hands gently rubbing his belly. “Without me, Jumpol, or Singto’s knowledge…”
“If we told you, then it wouldn’t be a surprise now, would it?”
Tay chuckled. “Can we go inside now?” He placed kisses on New’s neck. “I really, really, wanna fuck you already.”
“Calm down, alpha,” New teased. “We don’t want to smear mud all over the interior. Gun and Krist will murder me in my sleep.” He pointed to the side of the structure where a small wooden latch door was hidden by manicured hedges. “Let’s head down there so we could clean ourselves up.”
Barefoot and naked, they went to the side of the property. New unlatched the door and Tay followed him into a small grove at the back. He could hear the sound of water. The ground was inlaid with smooth stone, cold and almost a little mossy. New pressed a button near the latch door and the lights slowly enveloped the whole space. A large stone pool of water was in the middle of the space. Further to the woods was a long rectangular roofed platform decorated with an outdoor grill and a sizeable wood table. To the east were shower stalls made of stone. To the west was the two-storied house that blended well to the surrounding woods.
“The three of you burned a lot of cash,” Tay said.
“The pack is growing,” said New. “If all of us went on camping trips, Krist’s cabin in the highlands won’t fit us all. Don’t worry, this is mostly Gun and Krist. They understand our family’s, um, predicament.”
Tay hummed, wrapping New tightly in his arms. “What did we do to deserve such wonderful mates?”
“All for the pack,” said New.
“For the pack,” Tay agreed.
He started kissing New’s neck, blindly following him to the outdoor shower. New simply let him do whatever he wanted while the shower turned on, drenching them in warm water. The mud that covered their naked bodies washed away and New began to pour some shampoo but Tay grabbed him arm.
“Don’t,” said Tay.
“Why not?” asked New.
“I like how you smell.”
New rolled his eyes. “I smell like mud.”
“No,” Tay shook his head, nose rubbing against New’s collarbone. “You smell like…peaches.”
“Did you eat a psychedelic mushroom while we were running? How the hell do I smell like peaches?”
“You just…do. You smell like peaches.” Tay blushed. “I-I’ve never told you but ever since Pluem was born, you’ve always smelled like that to me.”
“So I’ve been smelling like peaches for nineteen years and you never told me?”
“I didn’t think it was important.”
“Do I smell like peaches even with the mud?”
“Then a little shampoo won’t hurt now, would it?”
Tay ultimately relented and New began washing their hair and scrubbing their bodies with the soap. While New kept lathering both of them, Tay simply hummed happily. They rarely do this nowadays. It was always a separate shower. For way too long now, they’ve barely seen each other naked. This moment was a rare opportunity for Tay to see his mate bare and so pretty for him.
“Calm down, alpha,” New suddenly said.
“Your dick is poking my leg, babe.”
“Can you blame me for it?”
“Let’s at least finish taking a shower first before you fuck me until the sun rises.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“Do you now, alpha?” New turned off the shower.
“Yeah, and…” Tay’s eyes stared hungrily at his mate, “…I don’t think we can make it inside.”
“Well, I am very flexible.”
It was all Tay needed to hear. He carried New in his arms and jumped into the pool of water. The warmth from the spring waters enveloped them quickly, heightening their already aroused senses. They both rose back up to the surface of the pool and Tay made a dash for New’s lips, locking them fiercely and pushing his mate’s back to the edge of the pool. Lifting New up, Tay let his mate wrap his legs around his waist. The water splashed over the pool. Tay’s breath lingered on New’s neck as he slowly slipped himself inside New. The omega couldn’t help himself but groan at the girth that was inching bit by bit inside him.
New let out a sudden gasp when Tay grazed his canines on his mate’s neck. Tay thrusted into New achingly slow, relishing the low whines coming out of his mate. New’s body was shaking, his insides clenching around Tay, craving for his knot. They felt like young wolves once more. Time and youth slipping backwards while they relished in each other’s touch. Tay’s hands were rough and strong, and yet he can be quite the gentle alpha. He had always been patient, something New was never fond of. Impatience was exuding out of his mate, Tay could feel it, and he understood.
They’ve never had time for each other anymore. They might sleep in the same bed and run through the same forest but that fire of their young wolf selves had was dimming into an ember. Life had slowly taken that passion away from them, and Tay knew New was being impatient for that reason. He wanted to feel alive again—to be consumed in a singular fiery rendezvous and forget that life was waiting for them beyond the edge of the forest.
“Take me, alpha,” New mewled and Tay obliged.
The wolves inside of them relished in the flames, grasping onto the feeling they've caught more than once before but was slipping every time. They tried to catch it; Tay pulled New’s body closer to him and held tightly onto the small of New's waist, and pummeled him harder with his rigid shaft steadily though his thighs were already shaking. New groaned loudly, wanting to sink his teeth on Tay's shoulder, and every time Tay went deeper, he could feel New shudder. The parts inside him coiled and tensed, and New came twice in a row; the flame was searing his veins with utmost pleasure as he swiveled his hips, grinding wildly and eagerly.
Lost in the kamikaze of their all-engulfing desires, all bursted into waves of pleasure. Tay could feel his legs staggering underwater but he kept on going. Walls clenching around Tay's engorging rod that grew inside of New and forming a knot, New whimpered and released between them, slippery, wet whiteness dispersing into the waters.
“Alpha…bite…bite…” New pleaded softly.
Tay, with a rumbling howl, buried himself deep into New and emptied his seed inside him. His teeth sank down on New’s skin where the neck met the shoulder. Small drops of blood dribbled out, coating Tay’s lower lip and trickling down New’s chest. For a few minutes they lied still, Tay soothingly lapped at the bite mark on New's neck and kissing his face, murmuring sweet words as Tay's knot continued to fill New; his fluids were already leaking out of New and flowing out into the pool.
They did it three more times before the impending sunrise caught up to them. It was both their day off at work so they lingered a little bit in the forest. New asked Tay if he wanted to take a look inside the house but he refused, saying he wanted to be surprised as the rest of the pack.
Shifting into their wolves, they took their time running through the woods. The sun was already peeking in the horizon when they arrived at the forest edge. They reverted back into their human forms and put back on their clothes, unless they wanted to be seen naked by one of their children. But instantly as they stepped into their property, Tay felt New tense up. He glanced at him but New was already running towards the house, panic was exuding from in his aura. Tay chased after him and saw that the lights were all on and their children were all in the living room, huddled together.
“What’s going on?!” New was frantically shrieking, almost crying. “Are you hurt?!”
“Phaw,” Frank grabbed New’s arms and attempted to calm him down. “We’re okay. Calm down. There was just—”
“A man,” said Gigie.
“What man?” said Tay.
“I was going to make breakfast when I saw a man on our lawn,” said Gigie. “He was just standing there but when he saw me in the kitchen, he approached. He was angrily shouting about Uncle Gun and Uncle Jumpol.”
“I think he thought the pack lived together,” said Pluem, “and that he would find them here. But then, he suddenly left. He must’ve realized he was at the wrong house.”
“Frank and I have searched around the house,” said Nanon. “He disappeared.”
New glanced at Tay. Their eyes met and understood this was more than some random angry stranger, but that wasn’t something they were ready to tell their children.
At least, not yet.
Chapter 4: Jumpol (I)
The clock in the office was ticking loudly.
It was, however, more of a solace: the audible enunciation of each passing second meant everything in his office was silent and still. Miles better than those bumbling idiots in Parliament that debate all day long without any profound resolution. There was this deep desire in his heart to stand up and snatch the Prime Minister’s title just for himself. But, alas, it cannot be so. Being in power meant being in a spotlight, in the line of scrutiny, and Jumpol Adulkittiporn was not someone who relished the attention. He didn’t like greasy hands and greedy eyes probing on his life and on who he is. It was better to be in the shadows. It had a clearer view—a more undisturbed view—of the playing field.
A wolf like him liked to play the game with everything to his advantage.
There was a knock on the door, breaking the silence and relieving Jumpol of a sigh from his chest. He leaned back on his chair, watching the golden knob of the door and almost contemplating not to answer. It could be important. With finality, he relinquished any desire to be undisturbed.
“Yes?” he spoke loudly so the one behind the wooden door could hear.
“Sir,” the voice of one of the female interns replied, opening the door ever so slightly, “there’s a journalist that’s here to see you.”
“Yes, sir, he was insisting.”
“Let him in,” said Jumpol.
“But, sir, the—”
Jumpol raised his eyebrow. “Let him in.”
The intern reluctantly bowed her head and scurried off like a little mouse that had come face to face with a fearsome predator. Though Jumpol didn’t like being viewed as cold and relentless, he didn’t like people who were not family or part of his pack get too close to him. He liked his privacy, he liked being able to do everything in his own accord—even if it made him look like a person whose heart was made of stone. It was a necessary evil and he lets it happily perch on his shoulder like a demon.
Seconds have passed and a brief shadow stretched across the hallway. Jumpol watched it get shorter and shorter through the open door of his office until—
“Look at you in that chair, phi. You look fucking regal.”
“Newwie, don’t swear in my office. Someone might hear you.”
“Oooh.” New closed the door behind him and sat down on one of the chairs across Jumpol’s desk. He was practically glowing and yet there was this strange aura that was enveloping him. Jumpol couldn’t decipher what it was but he was certain it was the reason why New had decidedly popped up at the Ministry in an ungodly hour. “Are you gonna be this formal the whole time I’m here, phi?” New sucked back a grin. “This is hardly like you.”
Jumpol raised his brow. “What, you want me to fucking swear too?”
New gave a slight shrug, a glint of amber in his eyes. “That’s more like it, phi.”
For someone who was not part of the pack, New didn’t look at the slightest like an omega. He didn’t act like one nor does he like to be treated as one. You could say the same for the rest of their pack of six. Two alphas and their two omega mates, and two betas — Jumpol and his partner, Gun. It was a strange dynamic, there was no denying about such predicaments. Surprisingly though, their pack has lasted for more than two decades and that spoke to how much connected they were to each other. Yet now, as New sat across him, Jumpol’s talent could not unspool New’s brain so easily.
“You’re not here to have a chat,” said Jumpol. “A reputable journalist knows to ask the best questions when in the presence of a public official.”
“True,” New easily agreed. He leaned closer, the light smile and playfulness in his eyes evaporated. “Especially if it concerns his pack.”
Jumpol frowned. “What happened?”
“There was a man at our house this morning,” said New. “Tay and I went for a run through the forest and when we came back, our children were in the living room spooked shitless. The man was looking for you and P’Gun.”
“You don’t mean—”
“Were you sure you took care of all of them?”
Flashing images filled Jumpol’s head. Gun was kneeling on the floor, cradling a lifeless body of a woman. The woman’s hand was holding tightly to a man beside her. The cries of anguish filled the room, blood was coating Gun’s hands. Across from them was an unmoving corpse of a large wolf whose head had been ripped apart from its body. A little boy of barely two years was in the corner, weeping and frightened of the carnage in front of him. Gun was whispering to the wind, vowing to leave his current path. Jumpol could only watch and stare…
New was watching him intently. Jumpol raised his hand and touched his cheek with his fingers. He was crying. He didn’t even notice that tears had started cascading down. Drawing a handkerchief from his pocket, Jumpol quickly wiped away any proof of the tears.
“We made sure,” said Jumpol. “We searched everywhere. You can even ask Tay. The entire clave scoured the nearby forest to check if some had escaped but we found no one. If what you’re saying is true then—”
“We must be ready.”
“Tay could have told me this himself…”
“He takes too long to decide sometimes plus, I have a small favor to ask.”
New hesitated for a moment, eye wandering off through the spotless room. When his gaze returned to Jumpol, they felt paternal, protective even. “I want you to train Gigie like you are doing with Fiat.”
Jumpol’s brows furrowed. “What on earth for?” It was an unexpected request, something he had never thought New would ask him. New was very meticulous and protective of his children, much like any omega hybrid. It was an understandable thing. Jumpol himself has the same sentiments when it came to his kids.
“She’s the only female in our pack,” said New. “And I want her to be able to defend herself when necessary.”
“Why don’t you teach her?”
“I just punch things. That’s not good enough.”
“Why not let her train with Tay’s family in the Northern Wolf Clan?”
“Tay doesn’t…know about this, actually.”
“Oh boy…” Jumpol rubbed his temples. “I don’t like keeping secrets, Newwie. What if Tay finds out about this? He’s gonna rip me into a thousand pieces! Tell him first, then we’ll talk.”
“We both know he’s not going to approve. He still treats Gigie as if she’s still that little girl he always carried around on his back.” New stood up and walked across the room, perhaps thinking of ways to convince Jumpol. “If something bad will happen—”
“Nothing bad’s gonna hap—”
“If something bad happens, I know Gigie wouldn’t want to be a liability. She would want to be able to help. As part of the pack, she would want to help.” Jumpol could hear New’s voice rising. The amount of self-control he’s been exuding over his emotions until now was dissipating. “It’s natural, even instinctual, for male hybrids to know how to fight. But with females… She deserves that equal chance. My daughter will not be left to the sidelines. She has the right to be as skilled as her brothers. She will not be left behind like this. She shouldn’t be cooped up and sheltered! She has the lineage! Her father—Tay is the ch—”
Jumpol rose immediately to his feet and rushed towards New. He grabbed him gently by the hands and spoke to him softly. “Hey, hey, look at me,” he said to New who was starting to hyperventilate, “Newwie, look at me. Of course, she has the rights. That’s the rule of our pack, isn’t it? We are all equals, and that’s not gonna change.” With a heavy sigh, Jumpol relented. “Alright, fine. I’ll train Gigie. Just calm down, okay, Newwie? I hate seeing you like this.”
New was staring wide eyed at Jumpol. The heaving of his chest eased little by little; the ambers of his eyes seeped back into a dark brown. Jumpol has never seen New like this in a long time—ages even. As a son of the Eastern Wolf Clan, New knew how to hold his composure but the nature of the omega within never fails to creep back in during his most vulnerable states. Gently, Jumpol guided New to sit back down on one of the lounge chairs.
A heavy knock came from the door and a uniformed man slipped inside. “Sir, is everything alright?”
“Everything’s fine,” Jumpol answered.
The uniformed man glanced at New. “Should we es—”
“I said we’re fine. Thank you. You may leave.”
With visible hesitation, the uniformed man took his leave. Jumpol turned back to New who still appeared to be a little out of breath and shaken by his own outburst. “Newwie, can you hear me?” said Jumpol, softly patting New’s hair. “I’m gonna train Gigie…but on one condition.”
“What?” New said softly.
“Tay has to know.”
Jumpol watched as the city passed before him through the backseat window of the car. It had started to rain and Bangkok was drowned in gray. He had offered New a ride home but the omega said he drove to the ministry that afternoon and still had errands to run.
“Sure you can manage?” Jumpol has asked.
“I’ll be fine, phi,” New answered.
As the rain poured heavier, Jumpol’s hand itched to call Tay about the current situation. While the trails of raindrops on the car window trickled, Jumpol’s head wandered off to the man that had invaded one of the pack’s families. He was looking for Gun and Jumpol, as New had recounted. But that’s impossible, thought Jumpol. After the incident at the beach, they had made sure to come after any remaining one of them. Then, his mind wandered off again to Gun constantly jerking awake from bad dreams late at night. It felt ominous. Unlike the other members of the pack, Jumpol was the only one who still believed in superstitions. Yes, he maintained an amount of skepticism but he never discounted for a fact that there was some merit to old wolf folk tales.
This mysterious man… Gun’s wolf dreams… The strange foreboding feeling that tingled at the base of his spine like a dangerous dagger… Jumpol was grasping his chess pieces but didn’t know how to play this game where clarity remained elusive. He didn’t like it when he didn’t know everything. It goes against all of the importance he has as the pack’s eyes and ears.
“Sir,” the driver’s voice snapped him from his trance, “we’re here.”
One of the tallest edifices in Bangkok loomed over Jumpol: the mighty Phunsawat Industries, one of the richest companies in Thailand and stronghold of one of the seven wolf claves of Bangkok. As he stepped out of the car, a young man rushed towards him from the entrance and opened an umbrella to shield him from the rain. The young man remained silent as they walked towards the entrance, carefully keeping pace with Jumpol’s stride. The security guards greeted him and so did every other employee that came across him at the lobby. When they stepped into the elevator, the young man rummaged through his pockets and fished out his phone.
“They’re still at the meeting?” asked Jumpol.
The young man nodded. “They were just about finished when I went down, sir.”
When the elevator doors opened, Jumpol patted the young man on the shoulder. “I’ll take care of Gun’s things, Patrick. You can go home now, if you like.”
Patrick nodded quietly and scurried towards another direction while Jumpol headed to one of the conference rooms. A small chuckle left Jumpol’s lips. Gun’s assistant was an eccentric and wide-eyed little thing. Normally, Jumpol would not have advised for Gun to hire very young people for such heavy tasks as being the right hand of a wolf clave’s heir but truth be told, Patrick proved to be more than capable. Heck, he exceeded expectations.
Shadows danced inside the conference room. Most were standing up and lingering with one another, merging into pools of gray behind the opaque glass walls. He could hear small bit of laughter which can only mean the meeting went well with the investors and stockholders. Jumpol fixed his clothes, made sure no eyesore was sticking out, and poised himself as the doors opened and the people inside spilled into the hallway. Old men in fancy business suits coalesced, patting each other on the back and shaking hands like a merry little band of high society godfathers.
In the midst of them was a younger man, dressed in a black coat that had intricate red embroidery on each sleeve; underneath the oversized coat was a black button-up shirt with silver patterns; and his pants had the same intricate embroidery as the coat sleeves along the seams. The young man looked dead on at Jumpol with a loving smile, his eyes burned a hint of amber. They’ve been together for a long time but there were still moments when Gun still took Jumpol’s breath away—and this was one of those moments.
As the sea of businessmen flowed past Jumpol, Gun drew himself closer to his mate, hands making their way around Jumpol’s neck. Gun was much smaller than Jumpol, the top of his head just nearly bumping on Jumpol’s chin.
“Meeting went okay?” asked Jumpol.
Gun merely nodded with a hum, burying his face on Jumpol’s chest and inhaling his scent. Jumpol just wanted to carry him out of there but there was proper decorum to be observed in the clave stronghold. Light kisses and hugs were all they could manage for now, no matter how much Jumpol wanted to ravage his smaller mate.
With a light kiss on Gun’s forehead, Jumpol smiled. “Wanna go home now?”
Gun’s hum of approval was all that was needed. In a few minutes, Jumpol was carrying all of his mate’s things into the car where their driver was waiting. Despite Gun’s staff’s insistence that they do all the lifting, Jumpol was adamant on teetering behind Gun’s gracefulness while carrying all his belonging. As the car set course for home, the rain continued to pour. Gun curled up beside Jumpol inside the car, his breathing like a warm, ghostly hand grazing over the skin of Jumpol’s neck.
When they arrived home, Chimon was already rushing down their wide staircase, bag in tow with an umbrella in hand; Win was lagging behind him with his own bag pack and car keys jingling around his finger. Upon seeing their parents, Chimon quickly ran towards them and gave Gun a peck on the cheek.
“Phaw, I’m gonna sleepover at Nanon’s tonight,” said Chimon.
“Tutor night again?” said Gun.
Chimon nodded, and Jumpol ruffled his hair. “Sleep early, though,” said Jumpol with a raised eyebrow. “I don’t wanna hear from Tay or Newwie that you two are roughing each other up again in the middle of the night.”
“Phaw,” Chimon whined with a light blush creeping onto his cheeks. “He was teasing me. I didn’t know we were being noisy.”
Gun kissed his forehead. “Alright, alright, enough of that. Just behave yourself. Should I ask our driver to take you there?”
“I’m driving,” said Win almost monotonously. “I also have a tutor night with all the seniors so I’ll pass by Uncle Tay’s house. Exams are coming up.”
“Okay.” Gun smiled lightly. “Just stay safe, okay?”
Win made a robotic nod. After Gun’s lecture the previous evening after the school director called, Win had taken one step further to become more cold and distant to both of them. It was worrisome for Jumpol that Win has become so detached from them that they barely even recognize who their son is. It made him search himself sometimes and ask if they did something wrong. Chimon was the complete opposite of his older brother, even if he was disciplined the same way as Win.
As Win rushed past his parents without even a second glance or an uncomfortable smile, Chimon gave Jumpol a kiss on the cheek and hurriedly caught up with his older brother.
The engine of Win’s car roared to life in the garage and Jumpol could clearly hear Gun’s heavy sigh. He wrapped his arms around Gun’s waist and peppered kisses on his smaller mate’s neck.
“I don’t understand…” muttered Gun. “I…”
“He’ll come around,” Jumpol assured him. “Don’t worry too much about it.”
That was a lie, but Jumpol didn’t want Gun to get stressed about it. His mate already had a lot on his hands as a clave heir and Jumpol, as someone who grew up in a Bangkok clave as well, understood that he was to be Gun’s support system. He was there to serve and protect—even if Gun was more than capable of protecting himself.
“Papii,” said Gun, turning around to face Jumpol.
“Do you wanna eat?” said Jumpol. “I can whip up something quickly.”
Gun shook his head. “Bed.”
The rain had stopped when they were lying in bed. Gun was resting his head on Jumpol’s chest, drawing circles with his finger. They made a quick change of clothes, slipping on their pajamas, and basking in the silence of their almost empty house. There were no maids or butlers of any sort. Gun was adamant about them living on their own. It was just the two of them, and each other’s steady breathing and heartbeat.
“Newwie was at the office this morning,” said Jumpol.
Gun tilted his head upwards. “Why?”
“Someone went to their house in the early morning,” Jumpol paused, “They were looking for us.”
“Us? You mean me and you?”
“I don’t know. And I don’t like not knowing.”
“I might have some but I can’t confirm unless…”
“Unless you tell me about the dreams you’ve been having lately.”
Gun sat up, staring at Jumpol in the darkness of their bedroom. “That has nothing to do with this.”
“It has everything to do with this and I know deep down you feel it as well.”
“They’re just dreams…”
Jumpol knelt in front of his mate, hands caressing both of Gun’s cheeks. “If they’re just dreams, then it wouldn’t be hard for you to tell me about it, right?”
Gun sighed. “You and your wits frustrate me sometimes.”
Jumpol pressed a kiss on Gun’s lips. “Don’t be so difficult, my moon. Please.”
“Kiss me again, then I’ll tell you.”
Jumpol leaned forward, quickly taking Gun in his arms. He pulled Gun closer to him and pressed a soft kiss on his lips. Gun shuffled forward, straddling Jumpol and sitting on his lap; his fingers were busy trying to pull off Jumpol’s shirt. He was, however, visibly struggling to keep focus as Jumpol’s lips traced down his neck. The low whine coming out of Gun’s lips made a smirk form on Jumpol’s face. He easily slipped Gun’s shirt off, placing it on the edge of their bed, and laid his mate back down while continuing to pepper his skin all over his chest and abdomen with kisses.
“Ah…Papii…” Gun’s raspy voice made Jumpol glance up: His mate was flushed pink and his eyes were dark and wanting. “Please…”
Jumpol teasingly pulled down the sides of Gun’s pajama pants. “Please what?”
Gun whined. “You know what!”
“Use words, my moon.”
Like the most anti-climactic and broken record trope in all of literary history, Gun’s phone suddenly sounded through the silence. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” the little beta screamed, jumping off the bed and heading towards the table across the room with heavy footsteps to retrieve his phone. Jumpol watched, holding back his chuckle.
“What do you wa—P’Jennie?”
Jumpol’s ears perked up. He quickly dispelled the thought that this was about Win again. His eyes met with Gun and a sudden bad feeling rushed icily through his skin. Jumpol watched as Gun’s brows furrowed. The little beta put the call on speaker phones:
“We have a problem,” said Jennie. “Some thugs came to the school today. Insistent little things.”
“So what’s the problem?” asked Gun.
A brief pause and the words came from Jennie coldly:
“They were looking for you.”
Chapter 5: Jennie (I)
The White Rose stained in crimson.
Everything was fine and dandy that day. The soft pitter-patter of the rain and the scent of petrichor all the more made afternoon tea extremely dramatic. And Jennie was all about the flare and the overly dramatic. She had just finished a meeting with the school’s board of governors—an excellent meeting, to say the least. No doubt the board was dazzled by her enamel white, knee-length overcoat with gold trimmings and, of course, her words of assurances.
Jennie was hoping to enjoy the quiet afternoon with her tea in her office but there came an unruly knock on the door and a group of armed men suddenly burst inside. Did they force their way in? The silence and lack of struggle outside implied that they waltzed in like they owned the place. Funny enough, her assistant, an omega named Bright, gently closed the door to the office.
The men made no waste of time stating their business, which is profitable since Jennie really wanted to finish her cup of tea in tranquility. The quicker she dealt with whatever these ugly punks wanted, the quicker she would enjoy the tea before heading home for the night.
“Where’s the Red Fang?” said the slickest one of them all, taking a seat on one of the cushions as if it was a throne. Jennie noted that he smelled like aftershave and a cheap bottle of mass produced cologne. The scar on his cheek was probably an aesthetic way to imply that he was to be feared but Jennie found it lacking of intimidation.
She hasn’t heard that name uttered in a long while. The name that had become nothing but a faded memory, a long arduous history of death and blood. The name of her once most skilled agent whose utterance caused the underground world to shiver in fear. The merciless, the savage animal.
Jennie sat down the edge of her table. “I’m sorry, who?”
“Red Fang. The assassin.”
“Sir, this is a school for children,” said Jennie. “There are no assassins here.”
“Stop playing dumb, sweetheart.”
The name made Jennie’s finger twitch. Sweetheart. A word degenerate men whistle at women walking down the street while gazing at them like a piece of meat. She didn’t want to hear any more of it but to place a façade of innocence rather than administer a quick death was a much palpable route.
“I’m afraid I’m not playing dumb, sir,” said Jennie calmly. “This institution is one of the best schools in Thailand. If we would ever produce assassins, it would be assassins of the mind and extra-curricular activities.”
The slick one stood up from his cushiony throne and shook his head. “Miss Panhan, there isn’t much we know about you but we do know you are part of the White Rose’s league. Judging from your sphere of influence, I’d say you either rank pretty high up the assassins’ echelon or you’re a loyal confidant of White Rose herself.” He paced the room, acting like he had methodically planned everything out but Jennie could tell it was all a mask, just like that scar. “If you will not tell us where Red Fang is, perhaps you could direct us to White Rose? Maybe she will be more cooperative.”
Jennie shrugged. “I’m sorry but I have no idea who these people you are talking about are. Like I said, this is an educational insti—”
Temper was perhaps not one of the slick man’s strongest virtues. In anger, he pulled out his gun and pressed it onto Jennie’s temple. “Listen here, you bitch. Drop the cultured act already. Tell me where White Rose is or else I’ll blow your fucking brains out, you hear me?!”
Jennie sighed. “First of all, such language is not acceptable in this institution. Second, you barging into my office without even a hint of courtesy is simple disrespectful. Lastly, you should have done your research more, sir.”
“What that fuck are you—”
If the Red Fang was a savage animal, Jennie was the one who molded him into a killer.
In one quick swoop, Jennie slammed her palm onto the slick man’s chest and disarmed him. The gun clattered to the floor and she snatched it with the heel of her shoe. The slick man toppled over the glass coffee table which shattered into a million pieces.
All the other men inside the room hurriedly pulled out their guns but Jennie was swifter. The director fired one kill shot after the other. A bullet exploded one of the men’s cranium, splattering brain pieces over the Persian rug. The force of another shot penetrated through the chest of a smaller man, red sweeping all over his white shirt. Blood spilled onto the floor, painting the marbled floor strawberry crimson. Jennie shot another man on the leg, causing his kneecap to burst and the bone to protrude out of the skin like a chalk-colored lance. One by one, the men who boastfully marched inside her office fell to the floor. One of them bravely charged at her. She quickly dodged it and grabbed a shard of glass from the floor, stabbing the armed men on the neck, precisely targeting the carotid artery and making the blood spew out like a fountain that trickled onto Jennie’s white overcoat.
When all were left lifeless and the floor was coated with a ruby wine, Jennie’s heels clacked on the stained marble and walked towards the slick man who remained unable to move from what was left of the glass coffee table where he crashed on. Jennie lifted up her shoe and pressed it firmly on the man’s chest.
“You said you wanted an audience with the White Rose,” said Jennie. “Well, you got one.”
“Yes.” Jennie cocked her head to the side. “I’m the White Rose.”
“Now, what do you want?” Jennie pressed harder on the man’s chest. The blood that coated the sole of Jennie’s shoe trickled onto the man’s shirt. “Why are you looking for Red Fang? Tell me and maybe I’ll let you live.”
“My boss needs him!” cried the slick man.
“Your boss? Who is your boss?”
“I don’t know! We’ve never met him. He just sends messengers when he wants something done. He has never spoken to us directly.”
“Hmm. Maybe you’re not useful after all.”
“W-Wait! Y-You said—!”
Two gunshots. Down the temple.
The slick man stared wide eyed and lifeless at Jennie with two holes on his forehead that looked like as if two horns have been ripped out of them forcefully. Crimson flowed from the back of his head, shiny and mixing with the shattered glass like red wine seeping through crushed ice.
Jennie walked back to her table and pulled out her phone from the drawer. Before she could dial, the door creaked open and her assistant, Bright, walked into the room.
“You could have easily killed them yourself,” said Jennie.
“And not let you have any fun?” Bright shook his head. “That would be improper, ma’am.”
Jennie chuckled. “Always so considerate.” She stepped over the bloody carcasses and handed Bright a silver token. “Call Home Service. Dinner reservation for...”
“Twelve,” said Bright, looking at the pile of dead bodies.
“Yes, twelve,” said Jennie. “You know what to do. I’ll be making a call.”
Bright nodded and Jennie headed out of her office. The hallways of the school were empty and her heels echoed with each step she took. Taking the emergency stairs on the side of the building, she headed up to the rooftop. She dialed a number while gazing down on the school field below, letting the gentle breeze brush over her skin. The smell of something sinister was brewing. She could feel it.
The other end of the call finally answered:
“What do you wa—”
“Gun, sweetie, is this a bad time?”
“We have a problem,” said Jennie. “Some thugs came to the school today. Insistent little things.”
“So what’s the problem?” asked Gun.
Jennie paused. This was a day she and Gun had spoken about before. Suddenly, it had arrived without prior notice. “They were looking for you.”
“They were asking for Red Fang.” Jennie leaned on the railing, fingers drumming on metal with unease and impatience. “Gun, we’ve discussed this possibility before. You don’t suppose they’re—”
“No,” Gun responded adamantly, “that’s not possible.”
Jennie tutted. “Darling, in the life you once lived, you know that anything is possible.”
“She’s right you know.”
“Is that the junior minister I hear?”
“Good evening, P’Jennie.”
Jennie chuckled. “Now, don’t be so formal with me, Jumpol.”
“So you’re siding with her?” said Gun.
“All the things that has been recently happening points to that conclusion,” said Jumpol.
“Something else happened?” Jennie straightened up. The door of the rooftop quietly opened and her assistant, Bright, stepped out into the open space. “When?”
“A man appeared outside Tay and Newwie’s house,” said Jumpol. “The kids got spooked.”
“This has nothing to do with the beach house,” Gun interjected.
“We don’t know for sure, my moon,” said Jumpol. “Hence, the suspicion.”
“You’re trying to outwit me again!” said Gun.
“Gun, darling,” Jennie said softly. She sensed fear in Gun’s voice—the hesitation, the unnerved tremor—something that she hasn’t heard in a long time. “Listen to me. We’re looking at all the angles. No one’s trying to outwit you in anything. We’re just concerned.”
“The two of you are ganging up on me,” Gun muttered quietly.
“Atthaphan,” Jennie spoke Gun’s name coldly, “we both knew a day like this was more than likely to come. You’ve done my little assignments long enough to understand that every cause has an effect. We are feeling it right now, no matter how hard you deny it.”
“I had no choice,” Gun whispered.
“As true as that may be, fate is a bitch sometimes.” Jennie let out a sigh. “You may have let go of my world on your own free will but that does not mean it has let go of you. It will never leave you alone. The mark of our unholy vocation is indelible until our last breath. I made sure you understood that before you accepted the job.”
A broken sob came from the other end of the call. Jennie heard Jumpol hushing Gun gently. The muffled cries slowly faded after a minute and Gun’s shaky voice returned, “I’m not letting anything take anyone else from me.”
“I won’t let them,” said Jumpol.
“And I won’t either,” said Jennie. “I’ll make sure of that.”
“We’ve known each other since college, darling. No amount of threats and danger will make me leave you or your family behind. I wouldn’t dare, not when you’ve all endeared yourselves to me already. Your pack will be safe, I’ll make sure of that.”
“Will be safe within the school grounds. I’ll make sure of that personally. I’ll also send some operatives to protect them when they’re outside the grounds. That goes with your other pack members as well.”
“Phi, this is too much…”
“You’ve done me great service before, Gun. This is the least I could do.”
“Thank you, phi…really…”
“I’ll constantly keep you informed,” said Jennie. “Ciao.”
As the call ended, Jennie slipped her phone into her pocket and took off her enamel-colored coat that had been stained crimson. Bright quickly took it from her hand.
“Just leave it at the office,” said Jennie. “I’ll have it dry cleaned myself.”
Bright stared at her, confused. “Ma’am?”
“I have a job for you to do.”
“And that would be…?”
“Babysitting hybrid pups.”
Chapter 6: Singto (I)
The house was, in more ways than one, empty.
As exquisite a palace the Sangpotirat manor was, its halls etched with history of the family, it was hollow and almost haunted. Much like Gun’s house, there were no other people in the sprawling house except its three inhabitants. The lights had been dimmed as the night grew; a spectral silence was found in every corner. Ornate vases and paintings littered every wall. Priceless artifacts which were collections of the people of the same lycan bloodline that dwelled in the manor for decades declined that house’s desire for a negative space. It was a museum, to say the least. To anyone unfamiliar with its halls and rooms and garden pathways, there was the certainty of getting lost not just due to the sheer scope of the property but also in the curious things housed therein. Yet even with all these treasures, it was nonetheless nothing more than a pretty storage building. There was loneliness among its adorned rooms and Singto had been feeling it for a while now.
He was pacing in the kitchen, patiently waiting for his tea to steep. Golden Buddhas and ivory dragons prancing on lotus blooms perched on the walls watched in silence his usual unnerved behavior. The laptop on the countertop displayed his latest collection of urban still-life photographs. An open notebook lay beside it, filled with unorganized thoughts for Singto’s latest book. It was a mess, to be honest. There was barely any focus to his words; mere ramblings of a house-husband slowly being driven insane.
In the silence of the night, there broke a loud crash that echoed throughout the house. Startled by it, Singto rushed to the main hall, thinking there might have been an intruder. When the noise sounded again, he closed his eyes and focused his ears. His wolf led him through the west wing of the manor as his heart raced more and more. Why you may ask? This was the hall that led to his son’s bedroom and workshop. Singto picked up the pace, thoughts that any parent would have—both logical and outlandish—flashed in his head. What was his son up to? What was he tinkering with this time? Another invention gone awry perhaps? He threw open the door of his son’s room and found Fiat in his sleeping clothes and kneeling on the floor, eyes wide at the sight of his father, and hand trying to hide his bleeding nose.
Without a word, Singto took some tissue on his son’s workbench and knelt beside him. He gently pulled Fiat’s hand away from his bleeding nose and dabbed the tissue over the blood. Singto had always applied a longsuffering parental sensibility when it comes to Fiat. He was a wild spirit, much like how Singto was in his youth. Fiat’s curiosity and propensity to do things without prior thought grew as he got older. So far, Singto could see he still hasn’t reached that threshold where teenagers shed their reckless nature and morph into young adults.
“Be careful next time,” said Singto, cleaning up the blood above Fiat’s lips and under his nose. He proceeded to clean up his son’s hand, failing to notice that there was a faint glow surrounding it.
“What did you invent this time?” a slight humor slipped through Singto’s tone. “An angry alarm clock?”
“I wasn’t…” Fiat looked down at his hands “…tinkering.”
“Then what was that noise?”
Fiat’s answer was drowned by the ring of Singto’s phone. Eagerly answering it, Singto’s brows folded into each other as he listened to Tay speak on the other line.
“Right now?” said Singto. “Okay. I’ll be there.” His eyes moved to his son. “Does he really need to be there? Fine. I’ll bring him along.”
“What’s going on?” said Fiat.
“Pack meeting,” answered Singto, standing and pulling up Fiat with him. “Get dressed. Tay asked that you should come along.”
The drive to Tay’s house was not long but the silence lengthened the travel. As Singto turned the car towards the suburbs, he noticed how Fiat’s eyes lingered on his hands. His son’s thoughts seemed exceedingly fixated on them as if they were a threatening thing.
“Do your hands hurt?” said Singto.
“No,” said Fiat.
“You seem awfully worried about them.”
“Pa…” said Fiat softly. “Can I ask you something?”
Singto nodded. “Sure, what is it?”
“Why did you ask Uncle Jumpol to train me? Why not with your family in the south?”
“The wolves of the Southern Clan are…too full of themselves,” said Singto with a small smile of derision etching itself on his lips. “I don’t want their traits to rub off on you. Other than that, the south is too far away.” He glanced at Fiat who was looking blankly at the dashboard of the car. “As for why Jumpol, well, he’s the most convenient one to choose. He’s a good teacher and as someone born of the claves here in Bangkok, he could teach you more about them than I could ever in my entire life.”
“Why couldn’t dad teach me?” Fiat nicked at the drying calluses on his hands caused by him playing sports and tinkering at home. “I feel bad sometimes, disturbing Uncle Jumpol on weekends when he should be with his own family, especially P’Win. He’s been a little distant to them lately.”
Singto sighed heavily. His grip on the wheel tightened slightly. “Your dad’s busy with work. He’s saving lives, helping people. You know that. We’ve talked about this before.”
“So he has time for other people but not his own family?” Fiat’s voice rose. The callous he’s been picking at had dislodged itself from his skin to reveal the pinkish flesh underneath. “I heard your call with Uncle Tay the other day, Pa. I decided that if I will be taking over the clave and the company, maybe I should take up a degree.”
“Fiat, this is not something you decide about that easily.”
“I have thought about it, Pa. If dad doesn’t care, then I should at least prepare.”
“Don’t say that about your father,” said Singto calmly.
“Why?” Fiat picked apart another callous from his hand. “All he ever thinks about is himself. He—”
“Enough.” A low growl rumbled inside Singto’s chest. Fiat bitterly bowed his head, still picking at the callous on his hand. “We’re not having this conversation right now. You are not gonna let your emotions get the best of you. And I am not gonna fight you over it.” Seeing the tears welling up on Fiat’s eyes, Singto tried to reach for his son’s hand. “We’ll talk about this more when we get back home, okay? We’re gonna sit down and—”
Fiat pulled his hand away. They drove to the Vihokratanas in silence.
Most of pack—Tay and New, Jumpol and Gun—were already huddled together around a large bonfire they had constructed in the middle of the grassy lawn by the forest. Jennie was also present, idly chatting with Gun, while Jumpol was speaking with Tay and New. There was no sign of Krist, not that Singto was surprised at all. Fiat made his way to the house where the pack’s litter of children had also set up their own little council. Nobody mentioned Krist or the fact that he was absent. They all seemed to have known by now that Singto’s mate wasn’t one you’d expect to show up at anything. They caught him up with all that has happened in the last couple of days.
“This all sounds quite ominous,” said Singto. His eyes wandered to Jumpol whose lips were pressed into a thin, hard line. “I’m surprised this has run under your radar.”
“Oh twist the knife, why don’t you?” Jumpol sighed. “I’ve been preoccupied, that’s all.”
“About what?” asked Tay.
“There’s been a lot of tension inside the government. Skirmishes in the east, border conflict. Politicians being selfish pricks. Laws being debated left, right, and center. The left wing is pushing for something dubious. I haven’t quite got my hands on it yet but the people I spoke to said it has to do with us.”
“Us?” said New. “You mean wolves?”
Jumpol nodded. “Some of them fear we might take over. They are blaming the skirmishes in East Thailand to the wolf clans there. They’re also weary of the claves of Bangkok, saying the claves will use their influence over the economy and politics to work things in their favor.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Gun hissed. “The claves respect their sovereignty. That is how it had always been. We would never overstep the line.”
Jumpol took Gun’s hand in his. “Unfortunately, they believe what they believe, my moon. Paranoia is feeding them. They reek of fear and self-preservation. They think the wolf clans and claves are out to get them.”
“Is it possible those politicians are behind these incidents?” Jennie threw a large piece of wood into the fire. The flames dances and the embers crackled, consuming the new piece of wood until it turned black. “If that would be the case, it would be easy for me to help.”
But were they really involved? Singto peered into the flames that were dancing and reaching for the black sky. The people of the south often looked into fire for signs and prophecies. Fire spirits were the ones that formed the wolves, one of their elders used to say. The spirits took clay from the estuaries and marshes, shaped them into creatures larger than wild boars, and breathed fire into them thus giving them life and creating the first wolves of the Southern Clan. He looked into the fire that night as members of his pack discussed around him, still believing in the old myths of his kin. For a moment, the embers gave him nothing but then the thoughts sparked in his mind like fire. If the politicians were involved, Jumpol would have easily found out about it. Yet the identity and motive of these people who seem to want to do them harm remained shrouded in a black cloud to the Eye of the pack. The skirmishes in the east could hold some answers, he thought. The Eastern Clan has always been in a state of dispute over inheritance. He has learned much from New’s stories of how elders from their clan would fight each other, even kill in order to lead. New himself was not of noble blood so he had no inkling of the reasons for this conflict.
“The politicians pulling the strings is far too easy of an explanation,” said Singto, and all eyes shifted to him. “I think you should look into what’s happening in the east, Jumpol.”
“Those skirmishes have been happening for years,” said Jumpol.
“Even before I was born,” added New.
“And that’s why people will think it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” said Singto. “A perfect distraction.”
“What’s that got to do with us? Why involve us?” asked Tay. “Because Newwie is from the Eastern Clan?”
“P’Tay,” Gun murmured, “I think you know why.”
Singto understood what Gun meant. Memories of wolves with blood-red eyes ravaged in the flames as he watched the fire crackle. Even the hushed waves by the shore of the beach house sounded haunted that night. The dead lied everywhere. Jennie’s agents checked every body while Jumpol’s velvety brown wolf dashed through the nearby grove along with Tay, Krist, and other wolves from Gun’s clave, hunting down those who had escaped. Gun’s father and mother were cradling a lifeless young woman in their arms.
They’ve lost their daughter, their heir to a rogue wolf.
“I thought we cleaned up the forest,” said Tay.
“Even ghosts can still stab you bloody,” said Jennie. “We have obviously missed one or two.”
New kept silent as the others spoke. As Singto recalled, he wasn’t there that night. New was about to have Pluem so he stayed at home. Tay did not want him to come either, saying that his mate had already seen much fighting in his younger years and he didn’t need to see more.
“Then we must stay vigilant,” said Tay. “If what Singto believes is true, then they might retaliate at any moment. P’Jennie, you mentioned something about the kids?”
Jennie nodded. “The children would be on my watch while they are at school. I’ve also had two of my agents assigned for Pluem at his university. Each of them will have their own guard standing by. I have Bright monitoring Win right now while he’s at his group study.”
The mention of Bright’s name caused Gun to stand upright. “Bright? The White Fang?”
“Not as good as you, of course, sweetie,” said Jennie with a smile. “But I believe he can manage.”
“The White Fang?” asked Singto.
“When Gun was still working for me, he was known as the Red Fang. Before he left, he trained a lot of new recruits—Bright included. He has all of Gun’s tricks up his sleeve. I say he’s more than capable of guarding Win.”
“He’s an omega, isn’t he?” said Gun.
Jennie raised her brow. “Why? Is that a problem? Forgive me for saying this but Win as an alpha is too stiff, uptight, and snobbish for his own good. He needs the sensibilities of an omega in his life.”
“P’Jennie…” Jumpol started.
Jennie snorted. “Bright will be as professional as he can be so don’t give me those worried parental stares and groaning. He’s not gonna whisk Win away.”
“That’s not—” Gun was about to argue further but he suddenly stopped. His head turned to the direction of the forest. He stood up, eyes turning golden. “Something’s coming.”
All of them were quickly on their feet, keenly listening to the soft rustling of the trees and the light treading on the leaves of the forest floor. Singto caught a whiff of a strange scent in the air blowing from the forest. It was an unfamiliar one, earthly and riddled with spices. The children curiously went out of the house, crammed together and peeking through the sliding doors of the kitchen.
“Stay in the house!” Tay growled, fangs growing.
Everything became eerily silent. Singto stepped into the front towards the forest with Tay. Behind them was Gun and Jumpol. Jennie headed towards the house, unlatching her holster. New, strangely enough, was still by the bonfire, watching calmly as the orange light from flames danced all over his body, hands folded in front of him as if he was eagerly waiting for something. Strange, thought Singto. New was often quite passionate about fighting and yet now, his reaction to the imposing threat was more than suspicious.
“Here they come,” said Gun.
Singto’s muscles tensed as the footsteps drew closer and closer. Then, he suddenly felt cold. Shadows of more than ten slithered through the trees and surrounding the entire house. He shifted his feet, turning into the other directions. They were surrounded. They were outnumbered. The cold feeling grew inside him, like something else was drawing near. Out of the shadow of the forest, came out a young man with bushy brows and a scowl on his face. The clothes he was wearing had intricate patterns as if he was an adorned soldier.
“At ease, Mix,” said another voice in the shadows. “We’re here for a visit, not a war.”
Singto saw Tay visibly tense up, eyes suddenly blown wide with either fear or shock. New started walking towards the forest with a soft smile on his face. A man with a round, handsome face came out of the forest dressed in all black clothes embroidered with silver stars. His hair was platinum blonde with streaks of brown and black, but what was most striking were his eyes: They were purple but strangely blank and hollow as if the man was looking at nothing. He walked slowly towards them and New ran to him and gave him a tight hug. The man smiled softly much like New did and Tay did not seem to like it.
“Arm,” growled Tay.
“Oh, come now,” said Arm. “I thought you’d be pleased to see me…dear brother.”
Chapter 7: The Blind Wolf
I've taken the liberty to change the names of the main characters' (Tay, New, Jumpol, Gun, Singto & Krist) parents because I could not find a lot of info about them. Also, I'm a bit uneasy with adding their names in fan fiction. But if you DO know their real-life parents' names, please let me know.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Arm’s eyes shimmered like cold amethyst.
The children of his brother’s pack were all huddled together near the house while Tay watched him warily. The older wolves of the pack and the woman he recognized as the White Rose remained motionless. He raised his hand and all the shadows surrounding the house disappeared into the forest. Mix stayed behind him, uneasy and unfriendly to everyone around. “Mix, you can join the others in the forest,” said Arm.
“I will not leave you, Sassda,” said Mix. “Chief’s orders.”
“Sassda…Chief’s orders…” repeated Arm. “It would do you well to listen to me and not my brother.”
Arm turned to face Mix with an unsettling smile, his purple eyes grew dark. “Am I not making myself clear, kaptan?”
Mix bowed his head and disappeared into the forest.
“I thought we made a deal that the North will never bother me again?” said Tay, walking towards his youngest brother who remained smiling at him. “What part of that was not clear?”
“The elders and our brother agreed to never bother you again, yes, that is true,” Arm nodded, almost unfazed by the hostility his brother was showing to him. “But that agreement included you only, not your family. Your eldest son is the Northern Clan’s heir—”
“He will not be—”
“That is not for you to decide,” said Arm. “Tay, you have already abdicated your rights to decide. Unnecessarily and foolishly, if I may add. When the time comes, Pluem will make that decision himself. As of now…he still hasn’t rejected his inheritance.”
Tay’s brows furrowed. “What do you mean? Who told you that you could come?”
“Your mate did,” said Arm. “Called me a few days ago.”
“Phaw.” Pluem came forward, a striking semblance more to New than to Tay. Northern noble blood may run through him but he is quite the spitting image of the wolves from the east. “I’ve been speaking with Uncle First. I wanted to tell you but…”
“I told him not to,” said New. “I didn’t know how you would react so—”
“—so you decided to keep it a secret. From me.” Tay’s eyes were blown wide, hands curled up and shaking. Veins were popping around his temple and his face had become visibly red. “What’s the point of me being the head of this family when all of you are hiding secrets from me?!”
New tried to grab Tay’s hand to calm him down but he had already shifted. A large wolf of the darkest black rose up in the midst of them. Golden eyes glared at them with pain and betrayal. His howl echoed through the night and the black wolf was suddenly gone, swallowed up by the forest. Despite Gun stopping him, New shifted as well: a wolf of purest white dashing after the black into the forest.
Everyone was left stunned by what had just transpired but Arm, unfazed by his older brother’s outburst, was eager to continue on as if nothing happened. He turned to Singto, almost as if to ask permission, and smiled. “I need to speak to their children.”
“Are you really blind, Uncle Arm? You don’t act blind at all.”
All the three older children of Tay and New glared at Nanon who had innocently asked the question that had been floating around all of their heads for a while now. Nanon stared at his uncle’s unmoving purple eyes as if mesmerized by them.
Arm just laughed monotonously and patted Nanon’s head. “My eyes can’t see but I have sight of a different kind.”
“Phaw New said you’re a Sakdi, just like my friend, Ohm.”
Pluem nudged his youngest sibling. “Nanon, stop it.”
“It’s alright, Pluem.” Arm waved him off. “As far as I could recall, you yourself asked a lot of questions after you received your first raven from First a few years ago after your Turning.”
Pluem’s ears turned pink. Frank kept looking at the forest, waiting for their parents to come back.
“Don’t worry about them too much,” said Arm to Frank.
Frank’s head drooped, hand pulling at the grass. “I’ve never seen them argue like that before. I’ve never seen Phaw Tay angry like that either…”
“That’s a normal part of being a grown up,” said Arm. “People see things in different ways. When they don’t see eye to eye, they fight about it until they can resolve their differences. Anger is an element of human nature. Your parents have changed a lot since I have last seen them. The world hasn’t been kind… Oh, I almost forgot…” Arm stowed his hand into his black cloak that spread across the grassy ground and pulled out a small bag made of animal skin that was dyed a dark purple. “I’ve brought gifts from the Northern clan.”
Arm unfurled the small bag to reveal four small, odd-looking trinkets. He picked up the first one and handed it to Pluem. It was a pin shaped into a ratchaphruek tree a bit smaller than the palm of Pluem’s hand. The golden pin bore intricate details of flowers and roots and branches that grew outward from its circular border. “That was your father’s before he left home—the golden shower tree,” Arm explained. “A symbol of nobility. The sigil of the Northern Wolf Clan’s chieftain, passed on from one generation to the next. First asked me to give it to you.”
Pluem traced his fingers on the golden carvings. “But I’m not the chief…”
“First thinks he can convince you by giving an heirloom.” Arm chuckled. With his eyes closed and that soft smile, those purple irises hidden, Arm almost looks like a normal human being. “That choice remains with you, of course.”
Arm picked up the second trinket: a silver ring with faded inscriptions written in Thai:
“This belonged to Tay’s mother, Penchan,” said Arm, handing the ring to Nanon.
Nanon gazed at the faded inscriptions. “‘The moon…is my shining…guide.’ What does it mean?”
“The moon is often related to wolves,” said Arm. “Wolves of old believed the moon had magic. Deep magic. The sort that runs through the world and in every living creature. It seemed Penchan held on to those beliefs herself. My father was not Penchan’s first husband. She was previously wed to another man even though her first love was my father. Her first husband died fighting for the North. With much hesitation, my father courted her. She gave birth to Tay soon after. Our grandmother often said she was a wise woman and also a fierce warrior, counselling our father and being the only one who can calm him down when he gets angry. She was an inspiration to the North. In a way, she was like the clan’s moon. When she died, my father was never the same man.”
“She sounds like a wonderful woman,” said Gigie.
“Yeah,” said Nanon, still admiring the ring. “Grandma seemed really cool.”
Arm gave the third trinket to Frank who took it hesitantly. It was a wolf’s tooth pendant overlaid in bronze. “That tooth was from the first enemy your grandfather ever defeated,” said Arm. “A reminder of the savageness of our kind but also our kindness and strength. That tooth belonged to a rogue wolf terrorizing one of the villages near the northern border. Your grandfather saved those people from a terrible fate.” Frank put it on and it hung closely to his heart. “Let that pendant be a reminder that you are a wolf through and through. No matter the path you choose, the blood of the wolf remains in your veins, and this family and its history will always be there to guide you.”
“Thank you…Uncle Arm,” said Frank. “I don’t know what you mean by that but…”
Arm leaned forward and took Frank’s hands in his. “You will. Soon enough.”
The last trinket, he gave to Gigie: a bracelet made of nine gems—diamond, ruby, emerald, topaz, sapphire, garnet, moonstone, zircon, and cat’s eye—that had an ethereal glow when the light of the bonfire hit it. The bracelet fit snuggly on Gigie’s wrist and it made a strange noise that sounded like the pouring rain.
“A gift from the Matriarch, or rather, an heirloom,” said Arm. “A noppakao bracelet can bring great fortune to those who wear it. The gems of divine destiny.”
“The Matriarch?” asked Nanon.
“Our great-grandmother,” said Pluem. “She rules the Northern Clan along with the elders.”
“She desires to meet all of you before she passes away,” said Arm. “The blood of the wolf has kept her strong and lengthens her life but all passes to the great beyond eventually.” Silence filled the air but Arm, eager to continue on as always, dispelled the quiet almost immediately. “Well, thank you for giving me your time, children. Let’s go inside, shall we?”
They all rose up and started to head towards the house. Arm trailed behind beside Gigie, waiting for the boys to be further away as possible. Then, he stopped his niece on her tracks and crouched, meeting her eye to eye. “Have you told anyone yet, Gigie? Have you told anyone about your little gift?”
Gigie stared at him, wide eyed. “How—”
“I may be blind but I can see things that are hidden, things that are, were, and will be. I see the world in all its colors. And I can see that you and I are quite similar, it seems.”
Gigie fingers played at the bracelet that had just been given to her. “Why me?”
“I’ve asked that question a thousand times since I was a little boy,” said Arm. “No one ever answers. So I decided to find the answer myself and I found that it was all for a purpose. Destiny is cruel sometimes but its plans were never built for chaos. The paths it had built for us will always have a reason and an ending.”
“I don’t know how to use it. My powers, I mean…” Gigie twirled her finger on the bracelet. “It just happens. I feel pain sometimes…”
“Step by step, little by little. Eventually, you will grasp it and your power will grow.” Arm patted her hand. “I heard from New that he has asked Jumpol to teach you. I think that’s a wonderful idea. He can help you, truly.”
“Uncle Arm, did you ever wish you were never a Sakdi?”
“When I was younger, yes. Especially when I lost my vision. Being a Sakdi is both a gift and a curse. It is a burden we must bear, constantly wondering why. But you don’t have to carry it alone.” Arm nodded towards the house where the rest of the pack was waiting for them. For a moment, he looked human and just like Tay in Gigie’s eyes. “You have your family. They will always be there for you. All of them.”
Gigie smiled softly.
Singto and Fiat have already went home, discreetly citing that they were going to have a father and son conversation. Jennie had also left, going off to investigate further on certain things. Gun and Jumpol decided to stay for the night while Tay and New have not yet come back. Pluem was in the living room and still admiring the golden pin. Gigie was in the kitchen while Frank horribly assisted her. Chimon and Nanon were upstairs to continue their tutoring.
The clock on the wall was ticking.
Tick tick tick tick tick.
It was already nine in the evening.
Arm suddenly stood up from his seat in the living room. “Junior minister, may I speak with you outside for a moment? I need to discuss some things.”
“You can discuss it here inside,” said Jumpol. “Where all of us can hear.”
“No.” Arm headed towards the door that lead back to the grassy lawn beside the forest. “Outside, please.”
Jumpol grudgingly followed Arm outside. They sat down the lawn chairs near the bonfire. Once they were alone, Arm remained silent, studying Jumpol as if he was some strange creature. Jumpol obviously did not like being kept waiting.
“Well?” said Jumpol, leaning back on his chair. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
Arm cocked his head to the side, purple eyes glowing. “As a man who has been playing the game long enough, you should know better than to be impatient. Your family is clouding your vision, your judgment.”
Jumpol raised his brow. “What do you know about family?”
“I have a broken one.” Arm smiled sweetly. “And you are scared that one day, you’ll find yours in the same decrepit state as mine. Enemies are closing in from all sides and you’re sitting here helpless, unable to shelter the ones you love in the safety of the shadows where you operate your little game.”
“What exactly do you want?” Jumpol said coldly. “Why is a blind wolf from the North suddenly taking interest in my game? Don’t you have your own?”
“I need you to win,” said Arm.
Arm just smiled.
Jumpol leaned forward, his words barely audible. “I’ve heard so many stories about you from Tay. Dark things, strange things. I’ve always wondered, what are you?”
“I was once the youngest son of the Northern chief. Third in line. I was a stupid, reckless child. I was once a vile, nimble wolf with a veracious appetite for liquor and sex.” Arm’s purple eyes were unmoving, devoid of life. “Then the gods poured their wrath upon me, and I became nothing but a hollow shell. I was to be their holy avatar but I filled my soul with vices that they ripped all of it out. As if my humanity wasn’t enough, they tore away my eyes as well.”
Arm suddenly grabbed Jumpol’s arm. He could see the way Jumpol’s eyes widened in shock as the constant visions that filled Arm’s mind flashed before him: a young woman stood inside a wooden room surrounded by hooded shadows that chanted in the Northern dialect, her hands were glowing golden while incense filled the air. Beneath a silver moon, a boy stabbed his wolf causing it to crumple to the ground. Flames engulfed a white tree but its leaves did not burn and instead of a burning smell, the fire smelled like a nectary jam being boiled in a large cauldron. A wolf with salt-and-pepper fur howled at two moons—one crescent while the other full. Two wolf statues stood inside an empty room—deep red and brownish-amber—and the brown wolf had a crack at its center, causing a black, viscous liquid to seep out of it, filling the room, and submerging the red wolf.
Jumpol’s mouth was open but no sound was coming out. Scenes of death, glory, pain, happiness, and everything in between rushed past him like a whirlwind of colors. Jumpol’s body was shaking. It was all too much.
“I am the vessel of magic,” said Arm. “I have seen what will come to be if you do not win the game, Jumpol Adulkittiporn. Do not disappoint me.”
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY HUSBAND, YOU FUCKING FREAK!”
Gun’s voice rang through the open lawn, in the silence of the night. He was ready to pounce at Arm but the Blind Wolf let go of Jumpol’s hand and turned to face the raging Red Fang. Jumpol collapsed onto the grassy ground, catching his breath and struggling to get up. As Gun drew closer, he suddenly stopped and fell to his knees. Wails and visions of death only heard and seen by him and Arm filled his senses. His sister’s dead face repeated over and over again. The eyes of the rogue wolf whose head had already been decapitated was still glowing blood-red, wanting vengeance. The crowd of shadows with blood-red eyes screamed “MURDERER! MURDERER!” while their feet hissed and rubbed against the coarse sand around the beach house. Bile rose up Gun’s throat and he threw up on the grassy ground.
Arm knelt down in front of him and whispered, “You don’t want me as your enemy, Red Fang. I don’t want to be. So let’s be friends, shall we? My brother’s family is mine as well.”
Shadows lingered on the border of the forest. Mix appeared out of the trees. The children of his brother’s pack were all outside, watching the scene unfold. Arm smiled. “One step at a time,” he whispered to the wind. He turned to Jumpol who had barely just stood up. “Tell my brother and my lovely brother-in-law I have taken my leave. I have…other things to attend to.”
“Is that the real Arm talking or the gods?” said Jumpol.
“He’s still in there,” said Arm. “He comes out…” a glance to the children, “sometimes.”
Then, like ghosts in a summer night, the wolves of the North disappeared into the darkness of the trees.
This is the first time I experimented with this type of narration: short and not as insightful. Sort of inhuman but also there are still hints of his humanity left in there. I kinda chose it as the style I will be going for when writing from Arm's perspective. I had fun writing this. It's weird and a fever dream tbh.
Chapter 8: Metawin (I)
Hello, everyone! I apologize for the slow updates. I'm currently in my internship while writing my thesis so it's difficult for me to find the time to add more chapters. However, I am still writing this fic every now and then so don't worry, I'm not abandoning it or anything.
Anyway, I hope you like this chapter!
Win tapped his feet on the sidewalk.
The tutoring session he was supposed to do that evening had been cancelled abruptly. The younger students offered their thousand apologies and he simply nodded and left. He had no use for apologies when his time had already been wasted. Taking out the keys from his pocket, an unfamiliar shadow crept towards him with a strange scent that was like the sea breeze of a stormy morning.
“You’re a lot more handsome in the evening,” said the stranger, still half-covered in shadow. There was a glint in his eye that was familiar. It seemed as if Win had seen it somewhere before but he was not quite sure where exactly. The stranger stepped forward and Win’s muscles tensed, ready to pounce at any sign of hostility. But the lamplights revealed the stranger from the shadows: Tall and lean, he had a smile on his face that Win has most definitely seen before. “Though I can’t say the same for myself.”
The man was Jennie Panhan’s lingering shadow. Win had seen him quite a few times when he goes to the director’s office on prefect visits. The overwhelming aroma of Director Panhan’s spiced teas which this man served had masked his ocean scent. Perhaps that was why Win didn’t recognize him quickly enough.
“I’ve seen you before,” said Win.
“Plenty,” said the director’s shadow. He held out his hand towards Win. “Vachirawit Chiv-aree. You can call me Bright, if you like.”
Win shook Bright’s hand lightly, a small buzz ran through his skin and he withdrew his hand. He stared at it for a second, wondering if it was just the cold or simply his imagination. “You’re Director Panhan’s assistant, aren’t you?”
Bright nodded. “Most of the time.” He leaned onto the roof of Win’s car which was still a bit damp from the rain an hour ago. “But right now, I’m here for you.”
Win raised his brow. “For me?”
“P’Jennie sent me here.”
“Is this about me being a prefect?”
Bright laughed. “It’s a more personal matter than that. I’ve been sent here to be your bodyguard.”
“I can protect myself.” Win pressed the car remote in his hand and the door opened. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Chiv-aree, I’ll get going.”
Bright slammed the car door shut again and Win glared at him.
“What the hell?”
“I’m being serious,” said Bright. “I don’t care if you think you can handle yourself because you’re some big alpha. P’Jennie sent me here to do a job, and I intend to see it through. Your hand, please.”
Win rolled his eyes. “What, are we supposed to shake hands or something before you do your job?”
“No, that’s not it.” Bright snatched Win’s hand and held it close to his lips. “I need to mark you.”
“What?!” Win struggled to pull his hand away. “What do you mean mark me?!”
“Relax, it’s temporary,” said Bright. “I need to be able to know where you are at any given moment. It’s a shallow mark, not meant to make you my mate. Simply put, it releases your pheromones which allows me to sense your presence and whether or not you’re in any present danger. It would be quite a chore for both of us if I lingered behind you like a ghost all the time.”
“So you’re gonna bite my hand?”
Bright flipped Win’s hand to reveal his wrist. “A small incision into the scent glands in your wrist would do the trick.”
“How do I know you’re not trying to trick me into mating with you?”
“Alphas are the ones who mark their partners—and I am not an alpha. Mating marks are also done on the neck near the carotid artery where the—”
“—pheromina centralis is located. Main scent gland. Yes, I know.” Win’s words gritted between his teeth. “You don’t need to lecture me about lycantrophic biology.”
“Then why were you so concerned that I might make you my mate?”
“Wait, you’re not an alpha?”
“So you’re a beta then?”
“I’m an omega.”
Bright raised a brow. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“No.” Win pulled out his phone from his pocket and started dialing. “But I’ll have to talk to my parents about this whole bodyguard thing first.”
“I’ll take you home first,” said Bright, opening the passenger seat in front. “Then you can talk to—get down!” He grabbed Win’s shoulder and forced him to crouch close to the ground. A short blade whizzed past Bright’s left ear and impaled itself onto the back door of Win’s car with a loud thud.
A dozen shadows with blood-red eyes crept out of the forest on the opposite side of the road. The scent that rapidly filled the air seemed familiar to Win. As the shadows moved closer, the lamplight revealed the insignia of a blooming flower brandished on a square-shaped thin strip of wood sewn onto the right sleeve of the traditional garbs they were wearing. His mind halted for a moment—he has seen that symbol before. Memories of coarse sand and wolf howls abound in his senses. A red-eyed wolf was gazing upon him while a beautiful she-wolf blocked the red-eyed monster, protecting him and the woman holding him tightly.
Bright’s hand pulled him close, snapping Win from his trance. “Are you alright?”
He had not realized that the omega was running and carrying him in tow. The shadows pursued them with much ferocity, some had shifted into large grey wolves. Bright cursed as the beasts slowly caught up to them. Win wanted to tell him to put him down but he still couldn’t speak. Instead, Bright muttered lowly to him, “Do you trust me?” and all he could do was nod weakly.
Bright stopped on his tracks and carried Win on his back. “Don’t let go,” the omega ordered. Win clung to him tightly, watching the wolves and shadows come closer to them. He felt Bright’s muscles tense. With agile hands, the omega pulled out two knives hidden by his waist and threw them straight on towards the oncoming enemies. One of the knives hit a wolf straight on the cranium, piercing its skull and causing it to collapse mid-run, rolling on the street. The other knife slammed onto one of the shadows’ chest and it immediately crumpled to the ground. Two more knives flew towards their adversaries, two more fell at the hands of Bright.
The omega took the knife stashed on the sheath tied to his left calf and twirled its hilt around his fingers. Win felt Bright take a deep breath and twisted his arm at an angle and, as if it were a boomerang, threw the knife in a curved manner, slicing past two of the shadows and decapitating them. Win’s stomach churned, watching the two heads roll on the street with the eyes still wide open.
“The Vihokratanas is the nearest pack,” said Bright, grabbing Win’s legs and locking them around his waist. He sprinted faster, away from the carnage. “Your parents will be there as well. I need to alert P’Jennie of the situation. We have to—”
A great forced slammed onto them, causing Win to be flung towards the nearby bushes while Bright’s body hit the asphalt road. Two large wolves circled around Bright as the omega tried to get up. One of the wolves slammed its paw on Bright’s back, pinning him to the road. Another shadow slithered towards the two wolves gazing over the omega. “Do not interfere with the power rising in the East,” the shadow’s voice gurgled, raspy with every syllable. “The claves will pay for what they’ve done. Murderers, all of them!”
The shadow raised its hand and one of the wolves surged down to bite off Bright’s head but he suddenly stopped: a strange energy was stopping him from moving further. The wolf abruptly flew backwards, hitting the nearest tree with a loud yelp. It laid flat on the ground as the other wolf and the shadow searched the area for the source of the force. The other wolf that was pinning Bright to the ground levitated into the air and smashed onto the ground with a loud crack resounding from its neck. The shadow faltered at the sight and Win could see the hesitation in his movements. All the carefully crafted schemes in their heads had been overturned by this unexpected, unseen new adversary.
The shadow’s body grew stiff as if invisible ropes wrapped around him tightly. It kept on struggling but the invisible force was slowly squeezing the life out of its body. With a loud scream, the shadow convulsed, its body shrunk into itself. A dark liquid began oozing out of it, followed by silence. When it was clear to Win that the shadow was dead, the force holding it disappeared and it fell to the ground like a ragged doll.
Win flinched as a hand grabbed his shoulder. He turned, ready to flee, when he caught sight of a man that was about the same age as his Phaw Gun gazing down at him. “Are you hurt?” the man said in what Win recognized as a Northern accent.
“I’m fine,” said Win as the North-man helped him get up. He winced and saw that his pants had been torn and that his left knee was bleeding.
The North-man stared at the gash. “Just a flesh wound. Nothing the wolven body cannot heal itself.”
“Mix, check the White Fang,” said another voice in the forest. “See if he is alright.”
Mix nodded, “Yes, sassda,” and then proceeded to kneel beside Bright who was slowly gaining consciousness. Bright groaned as Mix turned him over onto his back: his right arm was bleeding. “He appears to be injured, sassda.”
Out of the forest, Win saw a strange looking man who was dressed in a robe of the night sky filled with starlight. His silver hair shone underneath the moonlight and those eyes—purple and hollow like an amethyst whose life had been rescinded. Gracefully, he went towards Bright and held the omega’s injured arm in his hands. Bowing down, he whispered an incantation and Bright’s whole body began to glow a purple hue. A heavy weight pressed onto Win, the air thick in his lungs. He could only watch in awe as a blinding light wrapped around Bright’s arm, and it dissipated as quickly as it appeared. The purple-eyed man nodded, pleased with his work. He stood up as Mix helped Bright sit up and eventually stand.
“Thank you for…rescuing us…” said Bright, bowing his head slightly. “Seer of the North.”
“I see that Gun had taught you well,” said the purple-eyed man. “I take it you know of my companion this evening as well?”
Bright nodded. “Captain Sahaphap, right? General of the Northern Clan’s army?”
“You know my father?” said Win.
The purple-eyed man looked amused. “Do you really see him that way?”
“What do you mean?”
“You called Gun, the Red Fang, your father. Do you truly mean that in your heart, or do you simply call him that out of habit? I can feel the animosity you still have with him and Jumpol. I saw flashes of you in their minds.”
Win’s brows furrowed. Seer of the North? The Red Fang? All of those words make no sense to him—at least not yet. “I…don’t understand.”
“Oho. Never mind the musings of a blind wolf, then,” said the purple-eyed man. “If I may properly introduce myself… I am Arm, youngest son of the Northern Clan’s ruling family as well as the clan’s shaman. We were on our way back to the north from visiting my brother, Tay, when we happen to come across your, shall we say, predicament.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” said Bright, bowing his head slightly. It was the side of Bright that Win had always seen at school whenever he visits Director Panhan’s office. It was clear that Bright has his fair share of dealings with more than average individuals. “Your travel has been sidetracked because of us.”
Arm shook his head with a blank smile. “Nonsense. On the contrary, the claves of Bangkok are much more…lively than the north. It’s a very welcome pace from the mundanity of this shaman’s life.” The purple eyes of the shaman shimmered—they were like stones placed over flames. Win wondered how the blind wolf could see despite his disabilities. Or should he call it even that, seeing that Arm was clearly someone who can hold his own? “Also, I actually wanted to speak with you.”
“Me?” said Bright.
“Yes, you.” Arm took Bright’s right hand and clasped both of his around it. “The wolf will either be a lamb for slaughter or a devourer. Your judgment will determine it. The crows are circling above, waiting for the White Fang to make a mistake. This is not just a mere assassin’s commission—it has been ordained by fate. Your place on the board is set. You know what to do.”
Bright let out a heavy sigh. “P’Jennie made it all sound so simple…”
“Because she trusts your judgment and capabilities,” said Arm. “The White Rose is wise from all her years of playing the game.”
“Wait, wait, hold on,” Win butted in. This was giving him a headache. He didn’t understand a single word the blind wolf has spoken. “What’s going on?”
“You’ll understand eventually,” said Arm. “But I’m afraid we must take our leave. My brother, the chieftain, doesn’t like it when I disappear for long periods of time. He fears that I am up to something again.” Two loud howls rang in the distance, far deep into the forest. For the first time, Win saw Arm smile. “Ah, the black wolf and the white wolf are in their perpetual waltz once more…”
“Sassda,” said Mix whose lips twitched when Arm mentioned the white wolf. “We have to go now.”
Arm nodded. “I guess this is farewell…for now.”
After the two northern wolves disappeared into the forest from where they came, Bright pulled his phone out of his pocket. The glass on the screen had already cracked from the impact of their fall but it was still functional nevertheless. He speed dialed a number and then glanced at Win with a small smile.
“What’s going on?” said Win.
“I’ll tell you later,” said Bright. “Right now, I need to get you home. Hopefully, there’ll be no more incidents like what happened just a while ago.”
“No one tells me anything.”
“I will. I promise.” Bright held out his hand, and Win somehow felt more than inclined to take it. “But right now, I need to keep you safe.”
Bright immediately attended to Win’s wounds when they arrived. It had not healed as much as usual, considering it was merely a flesh wound. They were both stumped by it, especially Win who had experienced more than a few wounds when he was still playing football during his high school years. They were in the quiet living room, waiting for Win’s parents while Bright dabbed some iodine tincture over the wound with a cotton ball.
“Arm said you and your parents were not in good terms,” said Bright. “Is that right?”
“They’re not my real parents,” Win blurted out.
Bright looked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“Exactly what I just said.”
“They rescued me,” said Win. The memory of the blood-red eyed wolf prowling over him played over and over in his mind. “I was just two at that time so I didn’t understand all that much. But what I did remember was a she-wolf protecting me and my mother from a rogue wolf. She died while protecting us. It was Phaw Gun who finally killed the rogue wolf. Even though he did manage to save me, it was too late to save my mother and Phaw Gun’s sister. After that, the Phunsawat Clan took me in.”
“Then why do you not like them—P’Gun and P’Jumpol?”
Win frowned. “It’s not that I don’t like them… I’m grateful for all they’ve done for me but…”
“I feel like they’re so protective of me. I want to be my own person, my own wolf. Even though I know what they’re doing is for my own good, I somehow feel like they shouldn’t.”
“And is that so wrong? To take care of you like you are their own flesh and blood?” Bright wrapped a linen gauze around Win’s wound. “I wish I had that growing up but all my parents did to me was sell me to anyone who wanted me.”
“To them, omegas are just useless. When you’re dirt poor, you care more about what can be useful and fill your empty stomach rather than equality and love. Equality can’t pay the bills, and love can’t feed eight hungry mouths.”
“But that’s illegal! The claves forbid any form of—”
“The claves see what they want to see. They’re not going to listen to the pleas of nobodies. I don’t want to be so harshly pragmatic about your family—I respect P’Gun like any good person should—but the claves only care for their own. Which is why I prefer the company of assassins. Everyone is equal. Everybody dies, don’t they? Mortality is the great equalizer, even for the mighty wolf claves of Bangkok.”
“Then why are you helping my family?”
Bright blinked, amused. “I have yet to find my true answer to that question. All I know for now is that P’Jennie gave me this job, and I will see it through. I am grateful to her…and I am also grateful to P’Gun. He is my mentor after all.”
“So that’s all I am to you—a commission?”
Bright leaned closer. “Why? Don’t take it personally, little pup. You didn’t want my presence in the first place either, right? So why is your feelings getting hurt now?”
“You seem awfully concerned and personal for someone who is just a commission…”
“Carelessly snarky just like P’Gun!” Bright laughed. “Here’s the thing, pup. Whether you like it or not, you are now my business. I have to know everything to weigh in whether or not those things will be a liability or hindrance to me in my work. By now, you must understand that there are people who are after your family, and by extension…you.” The omega threw the cotton balls into the trash and stashed away the first aid kit in the nearby cabinet. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from P’Gun, it’s that everyone is equal. So all I ask from you is to treat me in the same footing as anyone else. Be honest with me and I’ll be honest with you. Equivalent exchange, so to speak.”
“And how do you propose we do this equivalent exchange?”
Bright held out his hand. “Like I said before, I need to mark you—temporarily, that is.”
“And if I let you, what do I get in return?”
“I know you’re confused about so many things you’ve heard from Arm. How about this, if you let me mark you, I’ll answer as many questions as you want to ask. Do we have a deal?”
Without hesitation, Win placed his hand onto Bright’s palm. As he felt the omega’s teeth graze over his pulse, he closed his eyes and let the darkness cover him. He felt something prick into his skin and his eyes shot wide open: Bright had just finished leaving his mark. The air around the room felt heavy with a strange scent Win has never smelled before. The omega looked up at him with a smile and Win felt his heart start pounding inside his chest.
“Are you okay?” asked Bright.
“I-I’ve done my part so now you need to answer my q-questions,” said Win.
“Alright, fire away then…”
“Was my father the one who bought you from your parents?”