I just wanted to look at the plants.

Andre repeated this to himself even as his pursuers howled and growled behind him, taunting as five rowdy teenagers looking for a victim to beat on chased their prey through the soggy vegetation of the forest. Coming out here all alone was already a bad idea, already knowing in the back of his dark brown-haired head that they would follow him, but he couldn be afraid forever.

Plus, as long as he was compliant, they never went too far with extracting their jollies from the eventual thrashing.

”Ye aren aff tae git far, bleeder! ”

That heavy Scottish inflection belonged to Jarekid Fenrisulfur. Son of the alpha of the Graybite Tribe and Andres longtime tormentor. It was almost like an obsession the way the burly eleven-year-old went after his nine-year-old tribemate. Of course, he sounded way closer than the others.

Still, the younger boy galloped on all fours, hurriedly weaving through the famous twisting trees and curling shrubs. The edges of Graybite were teeming with undergrowth during the spring, making it harder to maneuver around the landscape.

Not that it mattered.

Andre felt a whoosh of hot air on his left before his vision was relegated to snapshots. First appeared the buff alpha bully himself with a mocking smirk on his face, then came the pain in his jaw courtesy of a meaty fist, and lastly was the green of the trees above him. The foliage of leaves blocked out most of the afternoon sunlight. He couldn help but chuckle at the familiarity of the situation. He knew not to expect anything different.

Soon, Andre felt surrounded. It was the usual entourage of brutes this time, four other similar grins bearing down on him. Amidst the five, Jarekids presence loomed over them like a king over his loyal guards. His black curly mop of hair, dark coffee skin, and bulky limbs made him for an intimidating shadow when against the rays of the ball of light overhead. As expected, he wore his favorite deerskin coat that had a fur hoodie and furry snow boots to signify his superiority within the five-man pack and the whole tribe. Being the next in line to rule Graybite while his father had the potential to be Alpha Supreme made the bigger kid larger than life, and pretty much the entire community circulated him as if he was the sun.

”Whits sae funny, wee bleeder? ” Jarekid lifted a black brow. ”Ye that happy for annur beatdown, eh? ”

Andre cautiously propped himself on his elbows, keeping his innocent, shaky smile as his arms sunk into the wet dirt ground. ”No. I just wanted to look at the plants. ”

”Idiot! ” one of the other boys, the one with a buzzcut, spat. ”You know omés ain supposed to be outside the borders! ”

There went his only excuse. Omés, also known as omegas, weren really allowed to do anything. Housekeeping and procreation were pretty much all they were good for.

Andre sniffed. ”Technically, I can. Just not for more than thirty minutes- ”

A quick jab to his shoulder cut off the snarky reply. They took it as sarcasm, but he was being factual, which wasn any better. The young omé couldn help himself even though it was usually his mouth that dug him deeper into trouble.

”Shut up, bleeder! ” the shortest boy there pointed a stubby finger in Andres face.

The last two, a redhead and a tall, lanky boy that reminded Andre of the long stick a few feet away from him, snarled down at him, enforcing the command. However, it was immediately superseded when Jarekid spoke again.

”Na. Let him blether, ” he waved them off. ”Its muckle mair fin whin they yammer back. It gives me mair reasons tae put them back in thair steid. ”

It was typical behavior for the higher-ups to throw their weight around and exert some of their power on the lower class. Most even called it tradition. After a four-year experience with the alphason, the omé learned to roll with the punches.

Especially now as Jarekid lifted a meaty fist, ready to plunge it into Andres face.

At least I can say I tried, Andre thought. He could only hope that theyd be satisfied with a couple of shots. Dragging him back to Graybite to dish out public humiliation was something he couldn quite handle yet.

”Doon ye gang! ” Jarekid called out as he threw his fist forward.

Suddenly, there was another gust of wind, this one a chill breeze despite the warm temperature. Andre had closed his eyes, so he only heard the five resounding smacks and each boy yelp in pain. When shock forced his eyes to open, three of the five of his tormentors were in his direct line of view, flying into the trunks of the spiral trees. There was a splash and a thud behind him, the other two blown away into the water and the ground respectively. Whatever attacked them appeared in front of Andre in a blur, but the young omé already knew who it was by the scent.

”You losers really have nothing better to do than bully others smaller than you, do you? ”

The blur came into focus, and a young blond boy in a rumpled white dress shirt and dirty black dress pants stood tall in front of Andre, his back to the latter.

Andre smiled at the boy. ”Hey, Rafe. ”

Rafe spun around to glare down at the omé, though his anger wasn directed at him. ”They hit you. ”

Andre winced when he saw the state of his friend, his face layered in a few bruises. A cut lip, a red welt on his cheek, and his right eye black and shut.

”But who hit you? Over and over? ”

The blond dismissed the concern with a haughty smirk. ”Don worry about me. I can barely feel it. ”

”But who- ”

”Who the hells this guy!? ” Buzzcut piped up as he, Jarekid, and the three others converged before the two.

Rafe Gold was very hard-edged for a nine-year-old kid, Andre knowing and having seen his superhuman best friends tough-as-nails personality frighten even grown adults. It wasn normal for a boy his age to have the no-nonsense attitude that he did, but from where Rafe grew up, it was as common as a bird in the sky.

Jarekid stomped forward, growing fury lighting his hazel eyes up, and glowered at Rafe. ”Ah ken ye. Yer th bleeders human buddy, aye? ”

”So what if I am? ” the blond snorted.

The alphasons face twisted up in clear hatred as he sneered. ”A wolf friendin up wi yer kind? Ah honestly cannae hawp youd sink that low, Andre boy. ”

Rafe rolled his eyes and turned around again. ”Whats this guys problem? ” he thumbed to Jarekid.

Andre wilted under the animosity on the bigger boys face, picking at the dirt on his elbows. ”He doesn like humans. ”

Most likely because his father didn like humans, which was because werewolves and humans fought against each other in a war for ownership over Planet Earth until they realized that they could coexist. Apparently, some tribes haven let go of that hate yet.

Jarekids gaze flitted between the two, then started laughing uproariously, though rage still bubbled underneath the surface. ”Whits tae lik aboot th species thats bin hunting
killing mah folk doon for centuries? Ye pure wantae associate yersel wi this mawkit monkey
his apes? ”

Loyalty was pivotal for survival in the lupine world, but Andre just couldn allow himself to give up on Rafe. Since his parents died, the human boy was his best and only companion in this world.

”Hes my friend, ” Andre tried to make his voice strong, but it sounded anything but.

Rafe leaned forward, clenching his fists tightly. ”He doesn have to listen to you! Just shut up, go home, and pick on someone your own size! ”

While his cronies growled, offended on their leaders behalf, Jarekid shook his head like a disappointed father. ”Thats a lot o yappin for someone keekin as beat as you. ”

”I still wouldn want to fight me if I were you. ”

That got the older boy mad. ”Youll croak on those words, monkey! ”

”Wait.. ” Andre tried to intervene, but it was too late. Rafe was already charging towards the five, sprinting forth with blitzing speed.

Even for Jarekid, it was fast, flinching only slightly before throwing a punch at the blur. Rafe ducked under the alphasons burly fist and delivered an elbow to his back, forcing the bigger boy to stumble forward in shock. The superhuman didn stop there, zipping in front of the buzzcut boy and planting a right sneaker into his stomach, making him crumble. Rafe made it to the short-stack with a left hook, knocking the wolf down.

Andre gaped in amazement. On Rafes side of the fence, kids were trained to be masters at fighting, similar to young alphas, betas, and gammas being sent to an academy to hone their skills in combat. Yet, it was a wonder why humans and wolves didn get along.

The redhead tried kicking at Rafe, but even while the latter wasn facing him, an arm went up to block the heel. The blond spun around and imbedded an uppercut into the red-haired wolf, then turned again to engage with the stick figure, the two tossing punches and kicks at each other. Rafe soon gained the upper hand when he ducked a sloppy swing, crouching down to build momentum before tackling the stick into the hard bark of a tree.

Rafe backed up and snorted in Jarekids direction, who had already gotten up. ”Is this really all youve got? ”

The alphason growled without words, he and Buzzcut loping from two different sides. Rafe guarded Buzzcuts fist with his wrist and Jarekids foot with his knee. That knee straightened out, kicking at the bigger boys chest. When Rafe turned to give Buzzcut his attention, he caught the stick racing toward him from the tree.

Shit, he cursed internally. He had lost sight of the other two. And that mistake was paid when Rafe felt a sharp punch to his back, making him trip into the redhead, who had reached the human to latch onto him in a full nelson. The stick took advantage of Rafes sudden vulnerability, serving a hard punch to Rafes stomach and exacerbating the bruise that was already there.

”Rafe! ” Andre panicked, getting up to step in.

Andre knew next to nothing about combat, not much of a fan of participating in violent behavior, but when it came to Rafe, the omé would do anything. Jarekids started to grin, his dark eyes settling on his favorite punching bag.

Rafe noticed this and acted hastily.

The human blocked a left hook with his knee, pushed himself and the redhead holding him with his other leg, and bent forward, tossing the ginger wolf toward the stick. The duo fell together in a heap. This gave Rafe time to stop a second hit on the back from the short one, batting him back by swinging his fist down into the wolfs head like a hammer. Jarekid and Buzzcut tried to wrestle him down, but the human simply sidestepped them one apiece.

”This is pathetic! ” Rafe yelled as he kneed the buzzcuts chin, then socked him in the face. ”Just give up! ”

His leg stuck out to trip Jarekid, waiting a second before backhanding the alphason and sending him splashing into a dirty pond. The older boy popped out an instant later on his hands and knees, coughing and sputtering up water. The same could be said for the other four, groaning in pain and exhaustion. Rafe went to stand beside Andre again, a knight protecting his prince from the enemy.

”Are you guys done? ” Rafe gave each of them a mocking once-over. ”Or do I have to go for the knockout? Because, trust me, that was only me playing around. ”

If Jarekid gritted his teeth any more, theyd be dust. His fangs were bared as he slowly crawled across the pond toward Rafe.

”Jare! ”

The panicked call came from the short-stack, who shook his head when Jarekid looked like he was debating charging the superhuman again or not. After a minute of deliberation, the alphason huffed, steam blowing out of his nostrils, before lifting himself out of the water. Rafe and Andre kept their eyes on him and his friends as they started to move away and deeper into the forest, heading back to Graybite.

”This isnae over, ya dobbers! ” Jarekid glared at them before getting on all fours again to gallop away, the four other wolves doing the same.

Rafe waited until he could hear them no more, then spun around to state in a commanding, dry tone, ”You can go back home, Andre. ”

He reached over to pull Andre up from his seat on the ground, brushing the dirt, leaves, and pieces of branch of his shirt and arms.

Andre snickered as he hugged his human friend, albeit lightly to avoid pressing down on the wounds. ”Thanks, Rafe. ”

”You
e welcome, ” he eyed the omé seriously after they separated. ”You
e not going back home. ”

”I know, I know. Howd you know where I was? ”

”I dunno. Maybe Im just used to you getting in trouble. Seriously, those guys were the ones who
e always beating you up? ”

Andre shrugged. ”They don always do that, but… ”

More like twice a week. Omegas never healed as fast as the higher-ups. It was a bit of a miracle since the alphason could actually get away with murder.

”They
e more into making fun of you in front of others, ” Rafe said blandly, his silver eyes staring far off to the distance. ”Which means you
e coming with me. ”

”To your place? ” Andre raised a brow and scratched his hair. ”I don think theyd- ”

The blond shook his head, eyes flaring at the prospect. ”Hell no! I just ditched a couple who found me on the street to fix me up because you were in trouble. I gotta get back to them, so you
e coming with. ”

Rafe grabbed Andres hand and walked in the opposite direction from Graybite, a slight limp in his steps which Andre noticed.

”Uh, okay. Wait. What couple? ”

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