“What about this one?” Allison asked, holding up a floor-length red gown.
It was a little more elaborate than I normally wore. Typically, I leaned more towards subtle coloured dresses, ones that showed off my body without needing to be the brightest in the room. But this… this one was definitely a statement.
…Not that it really mattered here, I guess. Maybe the new me could like brighter colours.
“That’s fine. Just add it to the pile,” I said, nodding to where I’d thrown a few others. They were all laying on the cash register’s bench, ready for when I quickly checked out. I didn’t want to drag this out for any longer than I had to.
But she gave me a strange look at that and hesitated instead. “…You’re not going to try it on first? I’d hate for you to buy something so expensive only for it to not fit. Or… we also have a few other stores that you might like. There’s no need to rush.”
Oh, but I did.
I was learning to suppress that feeling inside, the discomfort I felt from being around her. But it didn’t mean I wanted to test my fortitude on the matter. Besides… I could always return them later. “Don’t worry about the price,” I told her. “My father can just write it off as a b—.”
And I almost choked on my words as I bit my sentence short, stopping myself from saying’ business expense’. As in, implying I was working right now. Which I wasn’t.
I internally shook my head. No, I definitely wasn’t working. I didn’t know what to do about my father’s missing documents but I had no plans of leaving Kieran anytime soon. Not now after I’d had a taste of how good things could be. I was completely hooked and had every intention of staying here for as long as possible. …And so I cleared my throat as a cough, attempting to disguise my slip. “-…Birthday present,” I slowly finished.
“Oh, that sounds nice,” she smiled.
I wasn’t sure if she picked up on the lapse or if she was just being polite. Either way, I returned her smile with a forced one of my own and quickly turned my attention back to the row of garments.
And a silence filled the air.
What did girls normally talk about in situations like this?
Even putting aside my own issues, I didn’t know how to initiate a normal conversation with her. What do we discuss? Her… Goddess? Pack?
I shuddered at that last one, the nausea filling me. Truthfully, I could do without ever experiencing that one again. Not after everything I’d been through. It was probably the topic I least related to her on. Probably right next to how it feels to kill a man, assuming she had no personal knowledge of that one herself.
We were… very different. And though that wasn’t enough to justify the strange way I felt around her, it certainly didn’t help.
“It’s been nice having you around,” she then said, breaking the silence. I looked up in surprise. “In the pack, I mean. Everything has been feeling very… lively. You’re the talk of the whole town.”
Right… that wasn’t the first time I’d been told that. But I guess I could somewhat piece together why now. “Because… I’m Kieran’s mate?” I asked, a little unsure over using the term for the first time.
This seemed to take her off guard though.
“Wait… you know?” she asked, a tone of excitement in her voice. “Did he finally tell you?”
And she made a squealing noise that was so piercing it made me wince. “Oh, sorry!” she quickly said. “I’m just so happy to be able to talk to you about it now. After you arrived, I was given strict instructions to not say anything. In fact, we all were.” She then laughed a little. “Kieran even went as far as to give us all a list of things we could and could not discuss around you.”
She nodded. “Mhmm. It was the sweetest thing I ever saw, if you ask me. A mate trying to ensure you aren’t overwhelmed, making an entire pack conform just so you’re comfortable.” She sighed whimsically. “I hope my mate is like that one day.” “Oh… yeah, I hope so too… for you, I mean.”
I was a little shocked to discover the lengths Kieran had gone for me, all so I could have the smoothest of transitions and not feel pressured. Hopefully, people didn’t resent me for having to give special treatment.
“It’s been a good thing for everyone though, don’t worry,” she continued, almost reading me as her brother did. “And it’s been a really positive change for Kieran. He’s… showing a side to him now that he hadn’t previously shown publicly.”
“..What do you mean?” *Well… I mean he…” And she giggled at my question before pausing. “Mmm, actually, I probably shouldn’t gossip. He wouldn’t want me to embarrass him.” But my curiosity was piqued now.
“Allison?” I pressed, wanting her to continue.
Her site was sly as she looked at me, a devilish intent showing as she debated with herself… and Ujen promptly seemed to cave,
“Oh, okay, fine,” she conceded, walking over to me. “The truth is… before you came along, Kieran’s public image was a bit… standoffish. Sort of arrogant and cocky at times; just usual immature boy attitude.
But your presence has made him show a caring side publicly that only I had ever seen before. And it’s… nice. It’s nice to not be the only one he’s worried about now.” “Oh…,” was all I said.
I guess I could see how that was the case. He’d been a bit cocky to me too when we’d first met, treating my lack of understanding as a game to have fun with. It was only once he realised the true damage of my life that he switched up his approach.
… Though, he still had that sense of humour. Not that I really minded. It usually meshed perfectly with my own… just so long as I was in on the joke, of course.
I became lost in thought at her words that I almost missed when Allison’s face then turned a little sad, her fingers starting to fidget with a clothes hanger. “He does care a lot. Sometimes a little too much… especially when he treats me like glass.
But I’ve got a life to live too, ya know?” she said. “I’ve got a mate out there somewhere waiting for me and it gets a bit lonely here. I’m not a kid anymore… I’m nineteen. I have a wolf and everything!”
And my lip twitched, finding her enthusiasm at the end a little amusing. Because despite being only three years younger than me, I felt like I was a generation older; both physically and mentally. At her age, I was off on assignments almost every day, doing… unpleasant things.
Whilst she’d had the luxury of a much more sheltered upbringing, even despite her mother’s passing. “Ah… I went on a rant,” she said hastily, shaking her head. “Sorry about that. You don’t need to hear that stuff. You’ve already got enough on your plate.”
“No, no it’s fine. I… enjoy hearing stories of Kieran; even the bad.”
Because that was what had been lacking; a conversation point. And suddenly, we had just that. A commonality in the person we both cared deeply about.
Perhaps this would be enough to focus on from now, something to help push down the other… negative feelings.
And so, for the very first time, I smiled at her. Genuinely.
“On second thought, I don’t like any of these dresses,” I said, putting down the one in my hand. “Did you want to show me the other stores? Maybe get some breakfast on the way?”
Well, I can confidently say that I’d never seen someone’s face light up in excitement so quickly.
“Come on, it’s this way,” she said eagerly. …And she abruptly grabbed at my hand.
A reaction I hadn’t prepared for.
Because as a low warning growl sounded from my lips involuntarily, I had to swiftly pull myself back away… leaving us to both stand a little in shock at my response.
…And I did the only thing I could think of in that very moment; I tried to mask it as another cough
“Sorry, I think I’m coming down with something, “I lied, patting my chest. “Probably just the change in environment. Don’t worry though. Let’s just go.”
She gave me another odd look, her confusion clearly evident, but I lightly touched her shoulder for her to lead the way, hoping to leave before she could dwell on it.
This was all I could do for now.
Once outside, we resumed our friendly chatter, talking about the town some more and about her family. I enjoyed learning new things and hearing stories of the two siblings growing up.
Plus, the historical information she gave me was interesting too; giving insights about the town as we walked.
However, it was once we came upon a more populated area that something triggered my instincts. Like the feeling of being… watched. “…And this is the town square,” she said.
“I’m sure Kieran already showed you it, but it’s the place people usually come to eat lunch during the day… or to come to look at the fountains. That one in the middle there, the one with the statue… that’s meant to be a depiction of Selene, the Moon Goddess. It’s my favourite.”
I turned to look at where she was pointing but, before I could do so, I then felt as her presence approached.
…And my eyes snapped to the perpetrator.
It was a man, his face somewhat covered by a hoodie, but I could still see his eyes. Eyes that held a tinge of malice, the kind I was no stranger to.
It was the look of a man who was both angry… and had given up. As if they’d already lost the fight and were taking as many people down with them.
He charged towards me with purpose in his stride… and I instinctively reached for my dagger. …A dagger I wasn’t equipped with, having thought I wouldn’t need it here.
I was out of time.. I was out of time and knew Allison was too close to me, in range of being hurt during close combat. And all I could think about was how Kieran would never forgive me should something happen to her.
And so I did what I could.
“Get back,” I quickly yelled, and pushed her out the way. A movement that happened barely a second before I was then attacked by the man.
By getting Allison to safety, I’d left myself open to the assault, his knife grazing my arm as I brought it up defensively. But I’d rarely let a scratch stop me before.
No, before he had time to even blink, I then disarmed the knife from him easily… and, in one quick movement, held it up to his throat.
But he didn’t look scared. Not even a lite bit. Even now, he just stared back at me with so much animosity. He was defenceless, the threat to his jugular obvious, and yet his hatred still prevailed above that
„No, he didn’t seem to care… and he promptly spat in my face. “Filthy outsider,” he hissed. “I will never bow to a rogue Luna.”
…And he forcefully shoved himself out of my grip, running out of the square immediately before I could think
Because, truthfully, I’d been too stunned to stop him. I’d just… let him get away. I didn’t know what a rogue was, but I could get the gist of what he was saying. I’d learnt enough for that, at least.
“Raven, are you okay?!” Allison screamed next to me.
I turned to look at her, still a little dazed, but nodded my head. “I’m fine.”
“But… but you’re bleeding,” she said, pointing to my arm.
I looked down at the scratch along my skin, the place still trickling a little with blood. Though, in my opinion, it wasn’t that bad.
I knew it would heal soon enough and maybe even faster than normal, that being if Doctor Chamber’s medicine had kicked in yet.
“…I’ve had worse,” I shrugged.
And the look of horror on Allison’s face was a reminder that I needed to be more careful with my words.
“Uh… I mean, don’t worry about it,” I corrected, reassuring her. “I feel perfectly fine. It looks worse than it feels.”
She looked as if she didn’t believe me but thankfully didn’t push the issue.
“We need to go report it at the packhouse immediately,” Allison said. “They’ll want to find the guy who did it.”
“Do you know them?” I asked.
But she shook her head. “Not personally, no. But I think he worked as a low-tier patrol guard.”
And that was the last thing said before we made our way back to the house, finding Kieran already returned from training upon our arrival.
Understandably, he was outraged. After explaining the situation, he immediately started a witch hunt for the guy, demanding he be brought in for crimes against a ranked member.
At first, I’d originally thought that he was referring to Allison, but it turns out he’d actually meant me. Because of who I was apparently supposed to be one day. A… Luna.
Which was a thought that churned an uneasiness inside me, remembering the words of the man.
So by the time I was finally alone once more with Kieran, there was only one question on my mind. A term that had stuck with me, unable to shake since the attack
“…What’s a… ‘rogue’?” I asked him quietly, nestled against his chest. We sat on the couch, his arms holding me as we enjoyed the small silence.
A break from the day that had become so chaotic. …Only, his hand seemed to instantly freeze at my question, stopping from where he’d just been gently patting my back. “…Where did you hear that?” he asked instead.
“The man who attacked me. He referred to me as a… ‘rogue’ Luna. I wasn’t sure what that meant.”
“Nothing,” he said defensively. “It doesn’t mean anything. He’s clearly just out of his mind,
Don’t worry about it.”
But this wasn’t good enough. He still hadn’t told me.
“Kieran… what does it mean?”
And I felt him softly sigh. “A rogue is… someone who doesn’t belong to a pack. They’re usually people who wander alone, unable to join anywhere due to their past. A past that is unforgivable and where they’ve committed atrocious inexcusable acts. They’re all… criminals.”
Instantly, I felt as my breathing caught in my throat, hearing the definition. “But that’s not you,” he continued, resuming his movement on my back, however, the soothing effect of his patting no longer seemed to hold.
“Unlike rogues, you were born into a world of humans which was why you were packless. You’re not like them. I guess some people just can’t understand the difference.”
“…Right,” I said, forcing the reply from my lips. “You’ve got nothing to worry about. Seriously.” But, inside, my heart was racing. It was racing so loudly I was worried he could hear it.
Because that’s exactly what I was.
I was a criminal. I had done terrible, terrible things in my life.
By all accounts of his definition, I was… a rogue.
So what would happen if they discovered that very truth? My past history and everything I’d done?
…And suddenly the stakes of me staying here felt all the more grim.