Chanyeol had dinner with Jongin and Sehun that evening. Jongin’s father owned a restaurant in the heart of the Town, and the boy had called his friends over when he learnt that special rates for food had been arranged in light of the visiting werewolves.
Yoora was also dining in the same place, just a couple of tables away. She was out for the night with her own girl pals, what with Junmyeon still in Seoul, assisting Professor Yunho with a research paper. She looked especially resplendent, with hair coiffured into a loose bun, hair falling in lovely ringlets around her face.
Chanyeol had always been proud of his alpha sister, but that night, he thought she had never looked prettier. She caught his eyes and raised a brow. Scoffing, Chanyeol looked away.
The place was jam packed, and the waiting list was long. Chanyeol and his friends were onto their second steak when a group of travellers came and sat on the table next to them. The three wolves, all tall, dragged the chairs against the marble flooring to seat themselves noisily around the table. They were uncouth, no doubt hailing from places where civility and courtesy was uncommon.
Chanyeol observed from the corner of his eyes how they whispered and grunted among themselves, eventually ordering a whole roasted lamb, and food for ten people.
Yeri, a teenage omega who worked part time at the restaurant, was visibly nervous as the three visitors barked their orders loud enough for the whole floor to hear. Chanyeol was swept with an intense bout of protectiveness when she looked over at Jongin to bail her out.
“ Hunters !” Jongin grunted, rolling his eyes and standing up. He put on a polite, practised smile on his face before turning to Yeri, her rescuer for the night from these uncouth strangers. “Yeri, my dear. Why don’t you head over to Yoora’s table. She’s signalling for a refill.” Jongin said, calmly collecting the notepad and pencil from Yeri’s trembling fingers.
Yeri did not wait for any further prompting; Jongin had rescued her from unruly customers many a times before. She bowed to the guests and hurried over to Yoora’s table.
“And what would you like to drink tonight?” Jongin asked to the three wolves cheerfully.
The men looked Jongin up and down, then directed their gaze upon Chanyeol and Sehun.
“This place is teeming with alphas.” one of them said, tilting his head to a side. He was smiling, and not very good naturedly.
Another one, jabbed his companion in the shoulder, and pointed his chin towards Yoora. “That one over there, smells so alpha. You’d think a town hidden away in the forests would not have so much variety, but look at that! If that were on the menu tonight, I’d -”
Before Sehun could restrain Chanyeol, the wolf stood up to full height and glowered at the men. “ That is my sister.” Chanyeol’s entire aura radiated raw power, and one could tell that he was just raring for a fight. Years and years of being treated as better than other wolves had brought on a self assured confidence in the alpha. He was hardly one to back down from a fight.
For a few seconds, there was pindrop silence as alpha glared at alpha. “And she will tear you apart piece by piece under 30 seconds.” Chanyeol added menacingly, unheeding Jongin’s hand at the small of his back.
It was too humid even for the late summer night, and the young alpha was wearing a loose black wife beater. His Mark, etched the darkest black on the forearm, was openly displayed for all contenders to see and be wary of.
“We have heard of you.” one of the visitors said calmly, getting on his feet and bowing, “The Park siblings! Blessed by the Two Moons. Son and Daughter of the pack leader of Wolf Town.” He smiled, showing yellow teeth, “I am Siwon. And this is Yesung,” he pointed at the one ogling at Chanyeol's sister before, “and Shindong. We come from the north, we come in peace.”
“Then I suppose you eat your dinner in peace.” Chanyeol said, not breaking eye contact. “We do not tolerate loose talk in Wolf Town.” He glared some more. “This is not the mountains in the north. This is a civilised town. You are expected to behave accordingly.”
“Your father is a good friend of ours.” Siwon remarked, not a hint of smile on his face. “To be fair, he did say that his people were out of bounds.” The wolf shrugged, then looked at his companions,
“But he did say that there is a village of wolf charmers right across the forest and we are free to maul them as we please.” Siwon looked in Chanyeol’s eyes, as though looking for some sign, some reaction.
Before Chanyeol could claw his eyes out from the sockets, Jongin physically stepped between the two wolves. “So, a roasted lamb, five helpings of rice, spicy raw crabs and japchae . Is that all?”
Chanyeol felt his intense bout of anger die down at Jongin’s fake cheerful voice. He remembered where he was all of a sudden, there were families seated around them, children, his sister, Yeri..this would not do.
The alpha turned away from the men abruptly and sat down next to Sehun.
“Bloody outsiders.” Sehun mocked, sipping his lemonade. “If we meet them in the forest, I’ll break their jaws.”
Chanyeol did not acknowledge Sehun’s murmurs, but glowered at a distant flower pot. Baekhyun's village was his village, hearing these outsiders casually talk about wolf charmers made him mad, so so mad. Those poor, peace loving villagers with nothing but love in their hearts..His anger was directed at his father as well; apparently his father had given these visitors the green signal to play with their innocent folk.
“Don’t overthink.” Sehun warned in a low voice.
“I swear if they harm a hair of even one wolf cha-”
Sehun forced a piece of dumpling in Chanyeol’s mouth, “You’re being too loud. Eat. No harm shall come to the village people, you are worrying for no reason at all. Chances are, those people with their voodoo charms will end up doing more harm to such unruly wolves. Don’t you pay attention in class? Wolf charmers can more than take care of themselves against wolves. No need to go all protective alpha over them.”
Chanyeol chewed the dumpling as though he was chewing a wolf’s arm. He was almost done with dinner anyway; he needed to see his wolf charmer. He needed to talk to Baekhyun, to touch him, to smell him, to convince himself that Baekhyun was real and not a figment that he had dreamt up.
He could feel Siwon's eyes on him; he threw the visitor a challenging look and did not look away until Siwon averted his eyes. Chanyeol stood up then, surprising Sehun, “Tell Jongin I said good night. I feel like I need a ride.”
Sehun would not look at him, he merely nodded. “It's best you leave. The way you smell right now, I am sure Jongin would not like a common brawl inside his father's restaurant. Go now.”
Yoora stopped conversing with her friend and arched another delicately penciled brow at him when Chanyeol walked past her table. He just rolled his eyes and marched on. Yoora, Yoora would easily smell the nastiness evaporating from his pores. Chanyeol even made it past the entrance and was nearing the car park when he heard footsteps.
“Gimme a break.” he muttered under his breath.
“I heard that.” Yoora said as she positioned herself smack in front of him.
Sibling stared at sibling. The alpha girl had her arms crossed. “You promised.” she reminded.
Chanyeol threw his head back and sighed in exasperation. “Did you hear them inside? The way they were speaking..made my blood boil. I need to see Baekhyun. I need to be around him. He calms me.”
Yoora advanced towards him, making Chanyeol take two steps back. “I heard them, which is why I warned you to be cautious in the first place. Why should it come as a shock to you anyway? When have wolves ever been in control? And I wonder, I wonder if you think about your mate's security at all. Or whether, you want to be with him for the long haul at all.”
Chanyeol snarled at his sister's airy tone. “Watch your words.”
“No, you watch your step.” Yoora looked around, keeping her voice low “You are dancing at the still point of a needle. How many times do I have to warn you to be cautious? What would it take to knock sense into you. Pa will-”
“I get it. I get it, okay. And I agree with you a hundred fucking percent.” Chanyeol freed his wife beater out of Yoora's tight grasp. “But Baekhyun - he - I promised I would meet him after dinner tonight. He begged, he begged to see me. Yoora, please understand. We are mates, I can't turn his wishes down. He is stubborn. He’ll wait for me by the tree the whole night if I don't turn up. He's like that. I can't, okay?”
Yoora stared at Chanyeol's face some more, “Whew. Trust you to find the stubbornest mate. But then, only such a person could be your mate in the first place.”
They stood in silence for a minute, now unsure and careful around each other.
“Very well.” Yoora turned to Chanyeol at last, “How about I go and meet him tonight instead of you, huh?” She raised the palm of her hand to stop Chanyeol from launching on a tirade. “You owe me this. You owe me a meeting with your mate.”
But Chanyeol was shrugging defensively, “No. You don't get to meet him like this, not while I am not around.”
“Why? You don't trust he'd be safe around me? You think I'd do or say something inappropriate. Don't you trust me?”
“It's not that.” Chanyeol cried. “I do. Yoora, I trust you with my life -”
“Then trust me with your mate's life as well! Let me talk to him. Let me tell him that two steps back are sometimes two steps forward.”
“Arrrrrrrgh.” Chanyeol paced this way and that. “You two won't allow me to function in peace.” He muttered a series of curses under his breath. “ He's my mate, Yoora. I am naturally protective. I won't allow you, another alpha, more than my equal, to meet him like this at night. I understand that you have met him before, looked out for him. But my alpha cannot allow you to meet him at this ungodly hour without me being present. Just can't. Now move out of my way.”
Yoora rubbed her nose, her eyes brows, the back of her neck, “Damn you over protective and zealous alphas.” she cursed, then gripped his shoulders, “I am speaking to you, not as one disagreeing alpha to another disagreeing alpha, but as a sister to a brother. Look at me, forget who I am okay, forget everything. Look at me as you would look at your sister who has your best interests at heart. My love, my brother, please let me go talk to Butters and convince him. Once. Just once. If he asks you to take him for rides from tomorrow, you're free to do so. I won't say a peep. But just this once - for today - can you please look away?” She let go of Chanyeol. “ And now, as one alpha to another, please can I go and meet your mate tonight? Please.”
Chanyeol huffed, “What are you even going to tell him? You'll take him by surprise. He won't like it. I don't like -”
“That's between Butters and me.” Yoora's eyes twinkled.
“I hate you sometimes.”
Yoora laughed, “Is that a yes? Can I go meet him?”
“Fuck you.” Chanyeol said, before marching back towards the restaurant.
Yoora watched him retreat inside, and smiled in pleasure and relief. It was in the nature of wolves to be guarded about their mates, against logic, against all reason. But she had known all along that Chanyeol was more man than wolf, hadn't she?
On the other side of the forest, their bone of contention was in deep reverie of his own.
Their entire lives lay ahead of them, a whole lifetime to spend together, and yet Baekhyun was greedy. He was restless, restless as only a young, silver haired wolfssegner could be. How could he explain to others what it felt like to have his wolf simply breathing by his side. Would anyone understand the hollow in his chest when his wolf was at a distance?
Theirs was a simple tale. A wolfssegner met a wolf once, deep in the forest, and gave his heart away freely without expecting many things in return. It was the simplest tale of affection given and affection returned in equal measure, as innocent as it was true.
Other people may have profound love stories, a deeper malaise, but Baekhyun did not concern himself with other people. What Chanyeol and he had was their very own pocket of sunshine. The world may destroy and rebuild itself a thousand times around them, but there would be no cloud in the little haven Chanyeol and he had built together. This was Baekhyun’s firm belief. He could weather and best any storm if Chanyeol were by his side, of this he was absolutely certain.
He was simply a wolf charmer from his small, insignificant village, and Chanyeol was his air, water, fire, earth, moon and sun. The one who had been earmarked for him all along, the one who he had found for himself. His. His. His. His wolf. His to ride.
Baekhyun was, truth be told, spoilt. Not so much by the villagers and his mother but his own wolf. The wolfssegner could not think of a single favour that the wolf had denied him ever since they mated.
The wolf charmer did not need riches, or clout, or power; he wanted his wolf beside him, and maybe a good dinner. He was not being selfish, was he? He was not being reckless either, right, he was just a little lovesick. Baekhyun had been a little lovesick for some time now.
He was infatuated. He needed his mate’s loving gaze on him, and ceaseless adoration. He wanted Chanyeol to look at him possessively and pull him impossibly closer.
Chanyeol took him for long rides deep into the forest, and held him tight in the still of the night. Baekhyun had grown used to sleeping with the smell of the wolf all over him. Sometimes, they sneaked inside Baekhyun’s room and hugged each other to sleep. The wolf looked at him like he was the only person in the world, and Baekhyun gradually realised the significance of being someone’s mate.
Chanyeol would fall apart without him. Baekhyun did not want his wolf to be antsy without the mate by his side. And so, he had made the wolf promise to come meet him at night by their tree-with-the-hollow.
“Why the hurry? Eat slowly. Chew your food.” Baekbom grabbed his nape at dinner, catching Baekhyun unawares.
Baekhyun wiggled out of his brother’s grasp. “I have a date.” he answered in a whisper, careful not to let his parents hear. He had not seen the need to hide from his brother that Chanyeol and he were sweet for each other.
“With Chanyeol, the wolf?” Baekbom teased, not bothering to keep his voice low.
Mama Byun looked up from her plate and arched her brow at her youngest son.
Baekhyun ducked his head and pinched his brother’s thighs. “Chanyeol, my wolf.” he corrected.
“What are my sons whispering about?” Papa Byun asked genially, focusing his attention on the brothers. Kyungsoo by his feet meowed for more fishbones.
“What is the only topic Baekhyun is capable of talking about these days?” Baekbom drawled loudly, not minding Baekhyun kicking him under the table.
“Aaaaah.” Their father bent to pick Kyungsoo up from the floor. “Baekhyun’s friend from Wolf Town.”
“I don’t talk about Chanyeol all the time.” Baekhyun retorted hotly, nom noming his food to avoid his parents’ eyes.
“You must bring him home again sometime.” Their father scratched Kyungsoo’s ears absentmindedly.
Baekbom snorted at the suggestion; his room was closest to Baekhyun's and the wolf growled loud in bed sometimes. “Yeah, you must bring him home.” he laughed devilishly, “Maybe he could stay overnight.”
Baekhyun was this close to snatching his brother’s piece of fish when their mother intervened. “Baekhyun-ah, eat.” Her eyes were twinkling. “And no sneaking out at night. The wolves are hosting a conclave next week. The town is full of outsiders. The forest too. We had a busy afternoon strengthening the spells around the periphery of the village.” Mama Byun looked at her son. “Be careful, baby. Outsiders may not be as nice as Chanyeol.”
It was a miracle to have Baekhyun home for dinner. Mama Byun had lovingly prepared steamed fish for her son when he told her that he would have an early dinner.
“I’ll just go and meet Luhan and Jongdae.” Baekhyun blinked up at his mum, hoping that if he pressed his lips in that particular way and
puffed his cheeks, his mother would relent. Which she did.
Mama Byun tilted her head; she had raised this boy, she knew when he was up to no good. “Baby-”
“I promise to be safe.” Baekhyun batted his eyes, then grinned.
Baekbom sniggered. Young love climbed imaginary mountains and battled a hundred imaginary foes just to be with their chosen one. What would stop one such as Baekhyun?
Baekhyun smiled to himself as he waited by the tree, already anticipating the night ahead. The excitement from the events of the other night hadn’t fully abated yet, but here he was, ready for more adventure.
Baekhyun would not meet Chanyeol that night; instead, he would come face to face with someone else, someone he never thought he would come across ever again. A girl with the Mark of the Two Moons. Consort of the night, daughter of the Moon.
The sky was clear tonight, with millions of white tinkering dots decorating it. Baekhyun liked to locate the Orion constellation in the sky as he waited for Chanyeol every night. Orion the Hunter. He smiled when he sensed someone approaching him through the trees. “Look Chanyeol, Orion's belt is shining so bright tonight.”
“Maybe signalling our chance meeting once again.” someone whispered, someone laughed, merry-like.
Baekhyun was startled out of his riverie. He whipped his head around and observed slack jawed as a wolf girl, from light years ago, advanced upon him. It had to be the same wolf girl, she was smiling and her feet were literally dancing on the forest floor. She wore no hood today, and the moonlight shone brilliantly on her face. The hair was pulled back into a bun, and like this, standing just like this and looking so cocksure, she resembled Chanyeol so, so much.
“Waiting for someone?” the girl teased.
“You..” Baekhyun stared at the moonchild's face, “I know you.”
She shrugged, “Because we met before?”
Baekhyun shook his head, “You're Chanyeol's sister.”
The girl looked delighted, “Bravo! Hi. I am Yoora.” She extended her hand and swung Baekhyun's palms with hers.
Baekhyun didn't stop the smile spreading across his face either. “I'm Baekhyun.”
“I know. Butters.”
Baekhyun threw his head back and laughed. They looked at each other for a few seconds, not knowing what to say, how to begin a conversation..
“Where's Chanyeol?” He looked around, but Yoora seemed to have come along.
Yoora suddenly looked serious, “I begged him if I could take you out on a date instead. He owed me this. I want to get to know my brother's mate..I hope,” she let go of his palm, “I am not overstepping boundaries?”
The wolf charmer shrugged, not knowing what to say for once. Yoora did not allow him to speak, “The protective charms around your village are too many tonight. But I suppose I can best them. Chanyeol tells me there is a lovely pasture around here.” She extended her arm, “Take me there?”
Baekhyun was surprised really, at Yoora turning up instead of Chanyeol out of the blue. Strangely though, he was thrilled too, in a way. He had met this wolf girl before, long before he knew she was Chanyeol's sister, and he had had fun that night. “This way.” he said, grabbing the wolf girl's hand.
Baekhyun and Yoora smiled and giggled as they stumbled in the dark on the way to the pastures that lay around the back of the village.
“Truth is, argentine, ” Yoora whispered, as they neared the pastures, “I have to discuss some important matters with you.”
Baekhyun helped the wolf girl climb the wooden fencing, “What about?”
Yoora gently landed on the other side of the fence, “Ah, the night is still young. We'll come to that, eventually.”
Baekhyun found them a cosy spot to sit, and waited patiently. But Yoora was in the mood for mischief. “That lovely face,” she produced a ball of fire that came to float near Baekhyun's face, “let me see it clearly for once.”
If the wolf charmer was surprised with Yoora's fire, he hid it well and quickly. “Fire is visible from many miles.” the silver haired said evenly, and proceeded to whisper words in his palms. He blew the words from his palms and they scattered in the wind, taking the fire along with them.
“Oh!” Yoora exclaimed with surprise when her fire was blown out by Baekhyun. “Impressive.”
“At night time,” Baekhyun explained, “we prefer stars.” he spread his arm around in a practised gesture and a hundred teeny tiny stars materialised. Resembling the stars up above, these tiny lights flickered around them, lighting their faces. They hovered harmlessly around them, providing an ethereal glow to both their faces.
“This is a sweet trick.” Yoora clapped her hands, then pushed a flickering bulb away from her face with an index finger, playing with it. “If I knew wolf charmers could be such delightful company, I would have snagged myself a wolfssegner bestie too.”
Baekhyun chuckled, cross legged on the ground, waiting for Yoora to state her purpose.
“But among the two of us, I suppose Chanyeol was destined to meet an argentine. ” Yoora was now playing with another flickering wisp, “Did he tell you? We are of the same litter. And we both have the same Mark, except I matured into a woman a wee bit ahead of him.”
Baekhyun nodded. He was looking at the alpha girl with rapt attention. She had a quality, an air, very different from wolf charmers, very different from other wolves. He could not yet put a finger to it.
“Do you know, pack leaders are not decided by heredity?”
Baekhyun nodded slowly. “My mother said Yunho's father was the pack leader before your father.”
“You know Yunho?” Yoora sounded surprised. “But of course you will. You are close to Jaejoong.”
“How do you -”
Yoora waved her hand, cutting him off. “So, where was I? Yes, pack leaders..my family has been the pack leaders for generations upon generations without fail. I guess our family is blessed by the Moon, producing able ones to lead the pack. And good pack leaders too. Wolf Town was not built in a day, afterall. It was built with blood and sweat and wisdom of many, many, farsighted leaders.” She paused to look at him.
Baekhyun nodded. The wolf girl did not resemble her brother as much when she spoke in a sombre manner like that.
“My Pa, right from the age such as yours, prided himself as the next pack leader to be. How could he not? The blessing’s been in our family since ages, except, there was someone who bested Pa in every imaginable way right from childhood. Yunho's father was better than Pa in the playground, at school, he even won the hand of the lady both our fathers competed for. The pack of course chose Yunho's father as the next leader -”
Baekhyun’s eyes went wide.
“I know.” Yoora smiled, “Imagine the shock. You're raised to believe that you're entitled to the crown, and when you don't get it, you get a little mad towards the end. So, Pa, who lost his lady love to a better competitor, who lost his seat to the same better competitor, turned a little mad. He eventually married - not for love, but for clout. And then fate decided to shine upon him. Yunho's parents died in an accident. Pa was elevated. He swore to never let go of the position. As long as he was alive, the crown had to be in the family.”
Baekhyun waited for more. The wolf girl turned towards him.
“Chanyeol and I, we were raised to be different than others, raised to be a little ruthless.” She smiled. “My father did everything in his power to ensure that we were born with the Mark. He was taking no chances.”
Baekhyun thought Yoora and ruthlessness didn't go together at all. She reminded him of crystal clear water that flowed over beautiful green rocks,
not pausing for anyone, not stagnating, but rushing ahead to meet the endless possibilities in store.
“We produced a puzzle to Pa, both of us possess the Mark, you see. Which one of us would be the pack leader? But I- I had seen my father work. He was never my role model. I understand why Chanyeol sees Pa as this elevated persona, I guess every boy needs a father figure who they can look up to. But not me. I could tell he wasn't a good person at heart, you know. I could see he didn't love my mother. I don't think he loves us as fathers are supposed to love their children.”
She peered at Baekhyun's face, “Awwww. Butters! I am not saying this so you could feel sorry for me. Hardly. I expressed my disdain towards leading the pack. Thankfully, I was excused and all the spotlight naturally fell on Chanyeol. I thought he would make a great pack leader one day, better than my father at least. But a curious thing happened. He met you at school.”
Yoora shooed the tiny lights away from her face. They came floating towards Baekhyun and further illuminated his face. “You may or may not know this, but a wolf with a human for a mate cannot be even considered as a pack leader.”
Baekhyun froze, then frowned.
“Those are the rules.” Yoora stressed. “Don't worry.” Yoora smiled, “Chanyeol knows this. He trampled over every single rule out there to be with you. He didn't care if he got to become a pack leader or not. He's just..way too much in love with you.”
“I didn't know.” Baekhyun began apologetically.
Yoora clicked her tongue. “Not your fault. Chanyeol's decisions are his to make. And he loves you so. Who wouldn't? You smell so good, he stood no chance.” Yoora laughed.
Baekhyun hugged his knees, training his eyes and concentration on the alpha’s smiling face to distract himself from the powerful feeling of foreboding in his tummy.
“Even I -” Yoora stopped smiling, “even I never thought Chanyeol's crush on you would deepen so suddenly. He became this person who always needed to be close to you. A little mad? As it became clearer and clearer to me that you were Chanyeol's mate, I had to rethink some decisions about my own life.”
Yoora paused and they went back to admiring the tiny flickering lights.
“I met this boy years ago. Junmyeon. I was very confused while growing up. I mean - try growing up in my Pa's household. I was very awkward, very mistrustful of people. Junmyeon made everything so easy for me. That one person you need who can be so accepting of every single thing about you that others’ opinion do not matter anymore? Junmyeon was that person for me.” Yoora's voice quivered with passion, “Thankfully for me, Pa approved of my mate. I had some plans already, but Junmyeon made everything so much easier. And honest to God, I thought I had a plan, a definite plan, which might take me years, but I still had a plan. But then you guys met each other, and before I knew it, Chanyeol was offering you rides through the forest. Day by day, he was getting crazier and crazier about you. Everything was happening so fast, I had to reroute so quickly.”
Yoora grabbed Baekhyun's hands, “I love Chanyeol. I want to protect him. I want to protect both of you. But I can only do so when I dethrone Pa from his seat.” She waited for her words to settle. Baekhyun didn't know where to look - the idea that a daughter would talk about dethroning their father was a bit - “I can't do anything for you if I am not in a position of power. Right now, Pa is still the leader. The pack will do as he asks them to. If he asks them to burn your village, they will. If he asks them to hurt you, they will, my lovely wolf charmer, they will hurt you and take pleasure in it. Do you follow me?”
Baekhyun shook his head, “I don't think I do.”
Yoora sat back, “Ask Jaejoong. He and I have been working together to keep Chanyeol and you a secret from everyone. Because the minute people know, they'll tear you apart. They tore Yunho and Jaejoong apart, they will try to do the same to you. We can't let that happen.”
Baekhyun was quiet. He usually had a million questions to ask, but tonight, it felt like he had been pumped with way too much information. He needed his wolf by his side so bad. Why hadn't Chanyeol told him that he forfeited his position as pack leader by mating with him!!
He was suddenly pissed at his wolf, “Why didn't Chanyeol tell me? I would have..” he trailed away.
“You would have, what? Maintained your distance? That's not how bonds work, and you know it.”
Baekhyun nodded. The starlights floating around them dimmed a bit. His mind was trying to process things and put them together.
“Baekhyun.” Yoora prompted lightly.
“Hmm?” Baekhyun stopped tugging the grass.
“I think you make a lovely couple.” She meant it. “Chanyeol adores you. I don't think he can survive..when you're not around. You already know he cannot turn you down. He has never, has he? So I am going to ask two favours from you. It is entirely up to you whether you abide by them or not. But keep in mind the things I just told you.”
There was a pause, in which Baekhyun shivered because of the cool wind. Somehow, he was dreading the next words to come out of Yoora's mouth. “Firstly, I want your nocturnal rides to stop for the time being. Three wolves saw you the other day. They've already poisoned Pa's ears and they're not good people. Until they're gone from the Town, please put a halt to your rides.”
Baekhyun pursed his lips, “I guess we can..do that. We can meet at school.” Ah, he should have known Chanyeol's sister had come to meet him with a definite agenda.
The wolf charmer was pouting and Yoora would have laughed any other day. “The second request, please may I take your mate away to Seoul as soon as the Conclave ends?”
Baekhyun looked up, immediately beginning to shake his head but Yoora was having none of it. “Father is suspicious. Who knows what he might do? Chanyeol has not entirely been very low key, has he? If I take Chanyeol away to Seoul, and tell Pa that I have a couple of omegas in mind to set Chanyeol up with, he may be distracted for a bit from your Village, and a silver haired charmer.”
But Baekhyun was still shaking his head, “Don't do this. Please don't take Chanyeol away.”
Yoora knew she had to be firm. “In light of the things I just told you, and for my plan to materialise, I have to take Chanyeol away for a bit. There is someone in Seoul who needs to meet Chanyeol. Yunho. Don't you want Yunho and Jaejoong to get together? Won't you like that? I can't make Chanyeol come with me if you ask him to stay. Therefore, I am begging you. If you ask him to come with me to Seoul, he will. He will only listen to you. Are you getting my point?”
“For how long?” Baekhyun moaned, mood absolutely gutted now.
“Not more than a month, I promise.” Her tone was that of one talking to an errant child.
“A month! A whole month! I'll die.” Baekhyun clutched his knees even tighter, the starlights now disappearing to nothingness, pitch dark surrounding them.
“No, you won't.” Yoora laughed, “This will cement your bond further. You'll feel him around you all the time.”
“I'll die without Chanyeol.” Baekhyun protested. He wanted to be nice to Chanyeol's sister but she was asking for too much.
“No, you won't” Yoora rubbed his back, “There there. If you convince him to come with me to Seoul, I promise you upon all that I hold dear, I will protect the two of you with my last breath. I promise to take care of your village. Anybody who wishes harm upon you or yours will have to go through Park Yoora. Help me Baekhyun so I can help you.”
“I want Chanyeol.” Baekhyun said, stupidly stubborn and freshly in love.
Yoora said nothing. She simply sat there, staring at the wolf charmer. A few minutes later, Baekhyun huffed. “Just one month, right?”
Yoora crossed her heart, “Just one month. After that, all yours.” She tucked a strand of Baekhyun's hair behind his ear.
Baekhyun nodded grudgingly, “I think I can live with that.”
The alpha girl looked relieved. “I knew I could count on you. Now convince Park Chanyeol like the charming wolfssegner you are.”
Park Chanyeol would not be convinced. He stared at Baekhyun with disbelief, large, warm brown, dopey eyes searing into Baekhyun's. “She asked you to - what? I swear, sometimes Yoora -”
“She made sense though.” Baekhyun said, shrugging and pouting and latching on to Chanyeol's body in their school playground.
The wolf snorted, “Oh, suddenly Yoora opens her mouth and everything starts making sense to you. I am not leaving.” He rubbed Baekhyun's back with his large hands, spreading his warmth through the shirt to the wolf charmer's skin.
Baekhyun sat up straighter to put distance between their bodies. “She said you need to meet Jaejoong's mate in Seoul.”
Chanyeol snorted, “What do I care about Jaejoong, or his mate.” He looked displeased, but still so very handsome. Baekhyun thought there was not a more handsome wolf around.
“I care. I care about Jaejoong hyung.”
The wolf's eyes were on his lips, plush animal lips slightly parted. Baekhyun leaned in for the kiss.
“Who'll kiss you like this when I am gone?” Chanyeol asked cockily when they paused in their kissing to draw breath.
Baekhyun pushed at his wolf with his hands, “You can come back and give me all the kisses at one go.”
His wolf shook his head, glorious golden hair swishing this way and that. “No can do.” Chanyeol lay back on the grass, white uniform shirt stained here and there with the brownish stains of fresh grass. He closed his eyes against the sunlight and lay there unmoving, perfect in repose.
Baekhyun grabbed his collar and shook it roughly. The wolf's brows creased in irritation but the eyes didn't open. “Stop ignoring me. Wolf. Oi.” He next tugged one ear lobe but Chanyeol continued to pay no heed.
The wolfssegner pouted, then was visited by a brainwave. He edged closer to Chanyeol to whisper in the ear, “You can no longer be the pack leader. Do you want me to get angry over this?”
He knelt back on the grass and waited.
Chanyeol was on his knees too, the very next instant. “How - ? YOORA TOLD YOU?”
Baekhyun crossed his arms across his chest, “You should have been the one to tell me. Why didn't you tell me?”
Chanyeol wiped the dampness off his face; his eyes were suddenly shifty, “It was my decision to make.”
Baekhyun looked to the skies - a clear cerulean blue overhead. “It's my burden to bear now.”
“How is it your burden?”
“You did this for me afterall. It's all my fault.”
“It's not anybody's fault Baekhyun. You are my mate. What was I supposed to do, look the other way? Come here.”
The wolfssegner shook his head.
“Come here.” Chanyeol cupped Baekhyun's cheeks with his warm hands, “You do have an idea of how much I love you, don't you? Babe. People move mountains to be with their mate. Giving up the leadership of my pack is the least I could do for you.”
“You should have been the pack leader. You can still be. Don't you want to be?”
“Hey.” Chanyeol flicked Baekhyun's nose, “Don't speak like that. I ..” the wolf engulfed Baekhyun in his arms, “Baekhyun, I really don't know about the future. I couldn't care less whether they choose me as their pack leader or not. All I care about is this human in my arms.” He parted the silver hair and left a kiss on the forehead. “This lovely human who produces the awesomest sounds from his mouth.”
Chanyeol smelled Baekhyun's neck, “I should have told you. I would have, eventually. But nothing you could have said or done would have made me change my mind about us.”
Baekhyun pulled away, and angled his head so their noses could rub against each other. “Go to Seoul with Yoora, Chanyeol. Please?”
“No.” Chanyeol breathed.
“Nope. Not happening.”
“I'll still be here after one month, waiting for you. And nothing will have changed.”
Chanyeol gripped Baekhyun's hair tight, “A month has thirty days Baekhyun-ah.”
“I'll send you nudes every day.” Baekhyun licked his lips.
The wolf laughingly let him go. “You're impossible Baekhyun.”
“Please? Yoora says it'll be best for Jaejoong hyung as well. I want to do something for him.”
Chanyeol gazed into the eyes of his lover, “Is that what you really want? To help those two?”
“Yes, I want. Very much.”
“And you won't miss me, like at all?”
It was Baekhyun's turn to scoff now. “I'll cry into my pillow every night.”
“Idiot.” Chanyeol said, but he was looking at his idiot with only love in his eyes. Baekhyun had the prettiest little finger and Chanyeol was nicely wrapped around it. “I'll do it because I love you. Not because I want your Jaejoong hyung to get together with his missing alpha. I couldn't respect an alpha who left their mate all alone. I would never do that to you, come what may.”
Baekhyun hid his satisfied smirk, “Now, about those nudes..”
Kyungsoo, despite himself, despite Yixing looking at him openly, had a pained expression on his face.
“Who asked you to get this attached to the boy?” Yixing's tone had the barest note of accusation. “Ready yourself. Your time has but almost arrived. This is the last of the rosy days of this couple. You'll have to steel yourself for what is to come. How would you help Baekhyun survive post trauma otherwise? Hmm?”
Kyungsoo closed his eyes. Yixing went on.
“The onus will be on you now. Your real work shall begin. Will you be able to steer Baekhyun's soul from the depths of his misery?”
Kyungsoo opened his eyes, now ablaze with determination, watching Baekhyun and his lover walk back to the village.
As promised, Chanyeol and Baekhyun no longer met at nights, or even at school. The alpha and his friends were volunteering at the Conclave, and had been excused from attending school for a week. It was a busy seven days at Wolf Town, and Baekhyun did not see Chanyeol at all.
Baekhyun grew antsy sometimes, but resourceful as he was, devised novel ways to keep himself occupied. Kyungsoo watched him like a hawk, tagged behind him everywhere. When the wolfssegner laughed with his friends too loud, Kyungsoo took the scene in huge gulpfuls, scrambling to preserve the memory of a laughing, carefree Baekhyun.
Even the damned weather seemed to know that something was off, something was imminent. Something was about to happen. Towards the close of the week, Kyungsoo the cat was hardly seen lurking around hidden corners of the house; Mama Byun looked around for him everywhere.
“Do you think someone just grabbed Kyungsoo and ran?” she worried.
Baekhyun, who knew the cat's true nature, clicked his tongue, “If you think that cat would let himself be caught by anyone, Mama, you don't know Kyungsoo at all.” He made a series of funny poses to make her laugh, “He'll slink in by nightfall. Don't worry about it at all.”
But Kyungsoo didn't slink in by nightfall. The spirit guardian was all the way across the forest, slithering through the guests at a very lavish garden-style party - the official closing ceremony of the Conclave.
Alpha Park was giving the keynote address, eulogising about the greatness of wolfdom, but Kyungsoo's attention was not on him. He sat still at an unoccupied chair, invisible to all, eyes trained on three nasty wolves from out of town, the ones who had chanced upon Chanyeol and Baekhyun in the forest that night.
His attention only wavered when one of the Park siblings came in view - Park Chanyeol. Kyungsoo watched the alpha dispassionately as Chanyeol, surrounded by cronies his same height, wandered from guest to guest, shaking their hands and making small talk. So very well poised to be a pack leader, Kyungsoo thought.
The spirit guardian noted how the three wolves from out of town threw covert glances in Chanyeol's direction. There was wariness, and a sense of awe in how they were looking at Chanyeol, and something cold and calculating.
The young alpha would keep checking his phone from time to time. Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. He'd never seen a more lovesick duo in all his time shepherding human spirits. Sickly sweet, Kyungsoo thought grumpily. Gag-worthy. Blerghhh.
The spirit guardian’s scrutiny of Chanyeol ended when the people gave a rousing applause to Alpha Park's speech. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Alpha Park was grinning into the mic, “Let the fun and frolic now begin.”
The local band, Loud Howl, immediately started playing. There were cheers from the young crowd as they took their partners by the arm and moved to the dancing area. A garden party. A garden dance and dinner. Alpha Park hadn't shied away from spending at all.
But Chanyeol was hardly paying any mind to the frolic around him; he was busy smiling at his phone, hastily typing the night away, foot tapping to the music but heart soaring due to different reasons altogether.
The other Park sibling, Park Yoora, was dancing with Chanyeol's friend, the one they called Sehun, the one who went around saying he did not like Baekhyun that much.
Kyungsoo waited for the song to end. He knew Yoora would walk up to her Pa as soon as the song ended. Which she did. The spirit guardian followed her to eavesdrop in on the conversation.
“What a lovely party you have thrown Pa!” Yoora grabbed her father's arm and steered him around to face her. The wolf bowed to her, “I am glad my children are having fun.” But the wolf's eyes were on his son standing inconspicuously at a corner, chatting on his phone and grinning away.
Yoora followed her father's line of sight; her face nearly fell at the sight of Chanyeol cooing at his touchscreen. “Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about him too.” She waited for her father to look at her. “So, like we all know, Chanyeol's courtship of Seulgi did not go too well.”
Alpha Park's entire attention was on Yoora now. She produced a magnificent smile. “I know a couple of omegas back in Seoul. Junmyeon's circle. Very suitable. ” she shrugged, wild excitement in her eyes, “I showed their pics to Chanyeol and,” she bent to whisper in her father's ear, “he seemed interested. I have asked him to tag along with me this time, and guess what? He's totally ready to. We are all packed to go to the city tomorrow.”
“Uh huh?” Alpha Park smiled crookedly, “well, that's very sisterly of you.”
“Oh, you know,” Yoora shrugged airily, like she had no care in the world, “I don't want some common trash as Chanyeol's mate.” She waited for her father to smile and agree, but he just stood there, scanning her face.
“You’re all packed to go to the city tomorrow?” Alpha Park enquired.
“Yeah.” Yoora did not let her fake smile falter. “Chanyeol's more than excited.”
“I see. Is that why he is slithering away from the party, to pack?” Alpha Park wasn't smiling.
Yoora looked around to where her brother was bare seconds ago. He was nowhere to be seen now. She looked like she had swallowed ash, “We..we are leaving for the city at the crack of dawn. I think he..must have left for some last minute packing.”
“Hmm.” the wolf turned his daughter's chin so she could face him. “You must keep an eye on him in Seoul. Tell me everything he gets up to.”
“Oh Pa, you know how he gets about his privacy and all. Pshhhh. But I'll keep you posted.”
Her father gave her the coldest smile, more sneer than smile. “I am counting on you Yoora. You know I always treasured you more than Chanyeol, don't you?”
Kyungsoo saw Yoora ball up her fists.
“You were the first choice as my successor. You know it. You were always so…” Alpha Park hunted around for the word, eyes lighting up when he finally found it, “clever?”
Yoora adopted a serious stance now. “Pa. You're forgetting. I told you at the very outset that I do not wish to be your successor. I will happily settle down with Junmyeon, and Junmyeon's whole life is in Seoul.”
“It's a shame, really.”
“I don't think so.” Yoora backed away from her father.
Kyungsoo stayed back. Alpha Park did not look happy. The spirit guardian edged closer as the three wolves approached the pack leader.
The ring leader spoke first. “Are you sure you're gonna take this news well? You don't look too happy to be able to bear this, alpha.”
Alpha Park turned towards him, “Don't speak in circles, Siwon. Tell me whether you were successful in the task I set for you.”
The one called Siwon scratched his chin, “Oh, we were very busy all this time. As desired by you, we went around, meeting folks, talking to people. Our initial suspicion seems to be correct though. Between then and now, my answer is the same, leader. Your son, cocky little bastard, is definitely the wolf we met in the forest that night. He smells the same, he smells funny, or haven't you noticed yet. There's another smell always clinging to him. You say he is not mated yet, but we beg to differ.”
Alpha Park poured himself a glass, “How can you be sure my only son has been going around the forest giving rides to wolf charmers?”
Siwon came very close to whisper in his ear. “We couldn't get very close to that blasted village, but, we camped around the perimeter one night. We found out two things - the silver hair was no play of the Moon. There is indeed an argentine in the village. You wanna know what he smells like? He smells like your son.”
Kyungsoo thought the glass would shatter in Alpha Park's hand.
“Oh don't look so gutted. We can make him go away, make him disappear.”
The battle hardened wolf steadied himself. “By tomorrow, I want the silver haired gone. I don't care what you do to him, make him disappear. I'll pay you your asking price.”
“Consider it done.” Siwon said, plucking the glass out of Chanyeol's father's hand and downing the drink.
Kyungsoo walked back to the village, his mind a jumble of emotions. He had foreseen it all, hadn't he; he had spent days upon days doting on the wolf charmer, praying for time to pass slowly, for it to crawl. And now that the imminent disaster was upon them..what could he do? What would he do, except stand by and observe. What should he do, should he do something, to alter Baekhyun's future, to halt Jaejoong's mother's curse coming to play?
The spirit guardian stopped right under the tree house. He never prayed, but he was praying today. For a sign, any sign, any signal that he could go ahead and save his boy.
Kyungsoo heard silent giggles originating from Baekhyun's room. It seemed Chanyeol had come to say goodbye before leaving. They were whispering sweet nothings and reassuring each other of their love. Kyungsoo wanted to not hear for once, his heart came very close to breaking.
“I promise to come for you as soon as possible.” Chanyeol kissed his mate goodnight by the stairs.
Baekhyun wouldn't let go. “I'll miss you something terrible.”
“Baby, I'll always be available on the phone. All the time.”
“All the time.” Baekhyun grinned back, tiptoeing to steal another kiss from his wolf's lips.
Oh, time! Kyungsoo thought, not wishing to witness this goodbye at all. Because this was it. Chanyeol and Baekhyun would get no more goodbyes, this was their final farewell. Come tomorrow, everything will change.
Those wolves would wait for Baekhyun to walk home to the village after school, all alone, and accost him. Baekhyun would survive the attack by the skin of his hair, but, but, he would be disfigured beyond recognition.
A distressed phone call would be made, from Jaejoong to Yoora.
The careful balance maintained for years and years by the two species would be rent asunder.
And Chanyeol, Chanyeol would descend upon his father like hellfire. He would go after the wolves, track them down with Sehun and Jongin and make them beg for death. He would be a changed person forever.
Baekhyun would change forever.
They would never be whole again, just empty halves. Baekhyun would refuse to show his face to Chanyeol, too ugly, too broken. The curse would come to full effect with Alpha Park's public hanging.
Chanyeol and Baekhyun would be star crossed forever, making Yixing's utterance come true.
Nothing would ever be the same, in spite of Yoora's best efforts.
Kyungsoo tugged at his hair, banging his head against a tree trunk. He hadn't watched Baekhyun grow up to be a darling boy, his darling boy , just to see his ward suffer in the end. He wouldn't let it happen. If he had to grab Fate by its horns and beat it into submission, so be it. He was willing to pay the price. Providence was cruel, but not that cruel surely. Providence must have placed him, him of all people, in Baekhyun's path for a reason.
It took him mere minutes to make his mind up. The next day, half an hour before Baekhyun was to walk that same pathway, whistling back home from school, Kyungsoo came and stood before the three wolves. He was in corporeal form, a simple stranger, a hidden danger.
“Oi. Who are you? Be you man or wolf, step out of here. Something very nasty is about to take place.” Siwon.
“That's right.” Kyungsoo laughed, he laughed like a mad spirit and his laughter chilled the air. “Something terrible is about to happen.” He turned to Siwon, “You, you were supposed to live for twenty more years. Your end was still ignominious though. And you,” Kyungsoo turned to another one, “Two years from now, you were supposed to be killed in a fight with another wolf, your own cousin.”
Kyungsoo laughed some more, he finally felt free of all the weight he had carried for years and years. “But too bad. None of you are going to live to see any of that. You see,” Kyungsoo extended his hand gently, “all souls are attracted to the call of the guardian spirits. Yours too, weak as they are, would come flying out of your pathetic bodies to answer my call. And I won't even have to try. See? Feel that? That is the feeling one gets when one is at the brink of death! You see, I can't let you hurt him.”
Minutes later, Kyungsoo gazed at the lifeless bodies on the ground. “You see.” he said, gripping the three struggling souls in his hand as hard as he could; they were struggling to pass on, pulling him to the other world along with them, “I could never let anyone hurt him.”
The guardian spirit pocketed the souls, knowing that he did not have much time to spare. He was being summoned. He had broken a few laws. He was being tugged forcefully along by the souls he had collected, pulled towards the judgment they would face on the other side.
Kyungsoo wanted to say goodbye very much; why did everyone get to say their goodbyes except him? Why couldn't he see his ward grow up to be the finest of all men anymore? Why couldn't he see Baekhyun's altered future?
He dashed towards the village, he wouldn't leave just like that, like he had never even been there in the first place. He wanted Baekhyun to remember him by. His sweetest Baekhyun. His very own.
The mother was probably out visiting neighbours. Thank the goodness for the empty house. How would he have explained who he was, and why he was spilling all kinds of stationery in Baekhyun's floor, looking for a pen, pencil, anything to write with.
He tore a paper from Baekhyun's notebook and shook as he wrote his farewell. The souls tugged him on with such force, Kyungsoo choked on the floor. The pencil rolled away from his hand, now no longer corporeal. He was back to being ether and energy, reduced, being pulled back..Kyungsoo looked yearningly at the window sill in Baekhyun's room.
“Forget me not.” he thought. Then, he was gone.
Baekhyun came back to an empty house, his mother must be off at some neighbour's, he thought. He called out Kyungsoo's name, once, twice, thrice, but the darned cat was nowhere to be found.
“Kyungsoo-yah!” he called out his cat's name from room to room, desperate for some company. School sucked without Chanyeol and life was definitely bearable with the cat around.
“Oh!” Baekhyun stopped short by his doorway, surveying the mess of pen, papers and crayons on the floor. For no good reason, his hair stood on end. He looked around, Kyungsoo never made a mess, ever. Not even when he was really grumpy, or angry.
The windowsill was empty, a Kyungsoo less space. Where was his friend when he needed him the most. A gust of wind blew through the open window, a paper fluttered in the air ..
Baekhyun watched the paper's gentle rise and rise in the air. It was beginning to fly out of the window, but as a last minute decision, the wolf charmer stuck his hand out to grab at it.
It was a note.
“You touched me even when I had no body. Seeing you grow gave me the greatest pleasure yet.
You never disappointed me, not once.
For a long time, Baekhyun stood as still and silent as stone, his blood turning ice cold. Then, with a crumpled face, he looked towards the empty window sill. It was so difficult to breathe all of a sudden.
Kyungsoo had been a constant ever since he could remember. He could not have left just like that, out of the blue, could he?
“Kyungsoo.” Baekhyun went calling and looking from room to room. Was this one of the cat's practical jokes! Because this wasn't funny. Nobody should joke about leaving.
The wolf charmer went from one house to the other, crazily calling Kyungsoo's name, the piece of paper clutched tight in his balled up fist. He spent the afternoon wandering around the village, so much so that Jongdae and Luhan joined him in his search.
But Kyungsoo was nowhere to be found. He was gone, and suddenly, Baekhyun was all alone.