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𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐓𝐰𝐨 - 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐚𝐜𝐤
WTWWHG ch2: Welcome
Luan woke to the white of his room, the morning alarms blaring through the hallway. As the red light above his single-windowed door flashed, he sat up in his bed, but he gripped his blanket before it could reveal his chest.
With his amber eyes, he stared over at his door. He knew he had only a few minutes before it would open, so he climbed out of bed, a shiver of cold slithering through his body as his bare feet touched the floor.
He stood in front of his bathroom mirror, staring at his human skin. Most wolves felt uncomfortable and wrong in their human forms, but Luan felt that no wolf felt as erroneous as he did.
His human body didn't match who he was—he felt...trapped. Like something had gone wrong when he was born. With a distraught look on his face, he snatched the piled white bandages from the sink and began hastily wrapping them around his chest, doing his very best to hide the breasts that clung to it. He despised how they looked against his tawny brown skin, but he had to make do with what he had.
Once he was done, he pulled on a long-sleeved shirt to mask his curved body and a pair of black trousers. For a moment, he stared at himself, moving his hand up to the white collar sitting around his neck. He wished he could hide that, too. The little red lights on its left side flashed every few seconds, and as Luan dragged his fingers over the grooves where the collar locked together, he uttered a grunt of revolt.
He heard the doors in the hall begin to slide open, and he darted out of the bathroom and stood in the centre of his room. He waited, listening.
The voices of the guards echoed from down the hall, "One-one-three, one-one-four, one-one-five...."
Luan watched as his door slid open, and as the uniformed guard stood on the threshold, his amber eyes wandered down to the pistol holstered at the man's right side.
"One-one-six," he said.
"Good morning," Luan replied, just as he did every morning.
The guard held up his left hand, a small fob between his fingers. He clicked the button on its end, and in response, Luan's collar beeped. Wordlessly, the guard then left.
Luan relaxed his shoulders with a quiet sigh.
"One-one-seven," came the guard's voice.
Caliban's voice followed with, "Good morning."
Waiting for the guard to be done with his rounds, Luan lifted his hand to his head and fiddled with his white-black, ear-length hair. He felt a rumble in his gut—he was so hungry; he could eat anything.
He moved his hand over the birthmark on his forehead. The three-inch mark was shaped like a gibbous moon and sat in the very dead centre of his forehead. It had been there for all sixteen years of his life.
Luan rolled his eyes and turned his head, glaring into his bathroom as he tapped his foot.
Uttering another sigh, he looked up at the ceiling and around his bare, bright room, but as the footsteps of the guard started echoing down the hall again, he stared ahead and stood up straight.
He watched as the guard walked by, and moments later, the sound of the doors at the end of the hall opening followed. Luan waited, and once the doors closed, the same alarm that woke him from his sleep rang down the hallway. He could finally relax.
Luan left his room, stepping out into the white, plain hallway. The rest of his packmates stepped out too, all in their human forms, and all with similar birthmarks on their foreheads.
"Luan!" Caliban called.
As Luan turned left to head for the mess hall, his brother waited by his door, and when Luan passed him, he walked at his brother's side.
"Thanks again for last night, man," he said, patting Luan's back. "You really saved my ass—and Raith's."
"It was nothing," Luan mumbled, shrugging.
Caliban, as energetic as ever, shook his head and laughed, following Luan over to the canteen area where a small selection of breakfast items had been laid out. "I owe you one, little bro."
Luan grabbed his plate and stood in line behind the rest of his packmates as they waited for their turn to get their breakfast. "You don't."
But Caliban didn't seem to hear him. "And did you see Aysel? She's so badass."
Sighing, Luan took a step closer to the canteen as the line shortened.
"And Rakesh—he took a whole berserker down by himself while Raith and I struggled against the others," Caliban preached, ignoring the irritated tuts of their pack behind him.
"Yeah, I saw," Luan said as he reached the canteen and grabbed a few pieces of bread. Caliban was just about two years older than Luan. He was so loud and energetic, nothing like his little brother, who preferred to keep quiet and to himself. In fact, Luan found it surprising that Caliban was as close to Rakesh as he was. "It was a close one," he concurred.
Taking some bread for himself, and then some eggs and bacon after Luan had taken some, Caliban shook his head and grinned. "So close."
Luan then led the way over to one of the two tables. Seat assignment was an unspoken rule among the pack; the Alphas usually sat with their closest betas, and despite being one of Rakesh's back-ups and heir, Caliban never chose to sit at their table. Instead, he sat with the rest of the pack and his little brother over by the right wall.
Caliban sat beside Luan, and once he'd placed his plate down, he rested his right arm on the table and looked over at him. "Any idea what the suits were after this time?" he asked quietly.
"Nobody ever knows," Luan mumbled. Then, he glanced over at the other table, watching as Rakesh and Aysel sat down. "You're close to Rakesh—you never asked him?"
"Guy's pretty tightly knit with Aysel. Raith and I don't know anything," his brother muttered, greedily wharfing down his food.
Luan stared over at Rakesh and Aysel for a moment, Caliban's non-stop talking drowning out as his amber eyes focused upon Aysel. Her ashen hair fell gracefully down to her thigh, and the hollow, perfectly circular birthmark in the centre of her head glimmered in the light of the white room.
Rakesh was the polar opposite of her. His hair was as dark as night, his eyes a very gloomy brown. The birthmark on his head was also a perfect circle, but it wasn't hollow like Aysel's. His sharp face was scruffy with stubble, and he didn't bother to button his clothes—why would he? Like everyone else here, he felt more at home in his wolf form.
Luan watched as their inner circle sat with them at their table—Ehann, Judith and Raith, the female beta that had assisted Rakesh last night along with Caliban. They all had that same moody gloom hanging over them—except Aysel. She had such a graceful aura—
"Ay, Luan." Tarkik's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. The tall, skinny boy sat across the table from Luan; he had about three hairs on his face, clinging for dear life, and the black-white hair atop his head was knotted and ghastly-looking.
"Nearly lost you again last night," Mani said as he looked over at Caliban and sat beside Tarkik. He looked very similar to Luan—their birthmarks mirrored one another, and the patches of white hair on Luan's head were black on Mani's.
Caliban scoffed and waved his hand over at Mani. "I was fine—Luan had my back." He patted Luan's back again. "Little bro's got us all, right?"
Luan smiled with a mouth full of bread.
"First time we've seen berserkers in a while—these guys we've been taking down must be getting desperate," Mani muttered, loudly chewing on his bacon. "And the ambush...they were really mad, huh?"
"They've been desperate for a while," Tarkik corrected, picking apart the crust from his bread.
Caliban nodded. "Ever since the wolves came to help the humans here, the bears were left pretty desperate."
Luan stared down at his plate as he ate his breakfast. He'd heard the same stories more times than he could count since he'd been born here. Wolves had always served humans and Aysel and Rakesh's ancestors had specifically chosen to assist the suits in a time of war between mankind and the creatures of the Netherworld—berserkers were one of many, and currently the biggest threat the suits faced. But no one really knew why the suits were at war with Netherworlders, and Luan often wondered...did their ancestors know? They must have if they had chosen to work with these humans and left it in the hands of their descendants to continue to aid them.
But he hadn't forgotten what he'd seen last night, either—or at least...what he thought he saw. That red blur had looked like a wolf...but it was dark, he was panicking. Why would wolves attack the suits and their soldiers? All wolves served Lyca-Corp. It was probably some strange Netherworlder Luan hadn't seen or heard of before. If it had been wolves, he was sure Rakesh would be up in arms about it.
Laughing, Caliban then nudged Luan's arm with his shoulder. "Am I right?" he asked.
He hadn't been listening to their conversation, so he just nodded. "Yeah, I suppose."
Tarkik and Mani shook their heads as the rest of their pack joined their table.
"What's going on?" Lusine asked, sitting beside Mani. The girl was the same age as the rest of them, and her white hair fell just past her shoulders. The roots grew out black, and a single black lock flowed down close to her right ear.
"Tarkik and Mani are just tryna tell me the bears are holding back. They're scared—it's obvious," Caliban uttered, chewing on his bread.
Lusine smiled as she sat down. "Well, whatever they're holding back, they better use it soon. Rakesh thinks we're closing in on their leader."
Everyone glanced around the table at each other. But before any of them could mutter a word, the lights in the room shut off and pulsed red, and that whirring alarm Luan detested started blaring. It was time to leave.
Tarkik groaned loudly as everyone stood up. "Already? I'm barely awake, man."
"Tell me about it," Mani complained.
"I'll see ya later," Caliban said, patting Luan's shoulder.
As everyone headed towards the hallway, Luan watched Caliban rush to join Rakesh. Single file, everyone made their way down the hallway towards the locked double doors at its end. Moments later, the alarms shut off and the doors unlocked, letting the twelve of them into the large, empty white hall, where they all stood side by side.
Luan looked over at the barred door on the left wall, and as it opened, armed, faceless soldiers marched into the hall, followed by a single suited man, who made his way over and stood before Luan's pack.
The man's eyes were hidden behind his tinted glasses, but Luan could feel his sights on him. The man eyed each of them, a vacant stare on his face. What was it going to be this time, Luan wondered?
"There's been an attack on sector one-three. We're heading over there to assist," the man said, his voice deep, cold, and toneless. "Head to extraction point two—ETA, ten minutes." Then, he turned around and left the room, his soldiers following.
As the barred door shut, Rakesh and Aysel stepped out of line to look at the rest of the pack. Behind them, the large white shutters started opening, revealing the foggy morning field outside.
"You heard him," Rakesh called, pulling off his shirt—then, in the blink of an eye, he morphed into his all-black wolf form.
Everyone followed behind him, morphing into their wolf forms, and as Rakesh and Aysel led the way, the pack charged out into the field, heading for the extraction point.
WTWWHG ch2: Text
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