25.Respected For Skill.25
The werewolf was quick to jump to my side, interrogating me about who I was looking for. I told her it was a captive, and she said that she believed I could win the freedom of whoever it was through a duel. To avoid rousing suspicion, I distracted the girl while waiting for my instincts to kick in so that I could hide my form. Conveniently, the wings, horns, fangs and tail all melted back into my body as the werewolf began to lead me to where she assumed the captives would be, completely unbothered by the blood on her face. My seemingly permanent heightened senses continued to pick up on the smell of blood, but unlike the person I was not too long ago, the smell didn't make my stomach turn. The predatory side of me, the darker one that was rumoured to be pure evil, had made a home alongside the supposed better side, and I could feel the balance of light and dark in my veins. Balance that was also changing me, making my physical person a mixture of both, messing with my head.
I sighed, part of me missing the comforting feeling of the tail brushing up against my leg. It had been a useful weapon after all.
"Where do you come from?"
The werewolf's voice pulled me from my thoughts. Beside being covered in blood, she looked like a regular Lightblood girl. I floundered, slowly processing the question before hitting myself in the head, trying to knock the stupidity out of me.
"The Valley," I said, finally forcing the words out. The girl's eyes widened in amazement.
"You can hide," she paused, "all that, in the middle of the Valley?!"
Blushing, I looked down at my feet. "I don't look that different when they're hidden," I defended, shrugging my shoulders. Without the extra physical features, there wasn't much to differentiate me from regular Lightbloods. Not even the Lightblood in me stood out.
The werewolf's petite nose wrinkled. "They can't even feel the power radiating off of you? It's almost suffocating, and I'm used to Darkblood. I am Darkblood."
My cheeks got redder, if possible, and I looked her in the eye. In the back of my mind, there was a longing to become friends with the girl. I was never one to be surrounded by girls who could gossip and shop with me. All my life, it had been my brothers and the farm. Now, it was maids, princes, warriors and magic, but even if I loved the adventure, I knew I was missing out on something.
Friendship. Someone loyal to stick by my side.
But as someone who allied themselves to Lightbloods, I could never befriend a Darkblood. Not without lying.
"That's brave, man," the werewolf admitted. "But you have the power to back yourself up, so I should tell you now."
Confused, I stopped as she laid a hand on my arm, pulling me back. Her golden eyes looked guilty as she tucked a strand of bloody hair behind her ear.
"My name is Rebecca, and I know that I said I was helping, but the only captives we have are Lightbloods. I warned the camp that you were coming, and they're waiting to ambush you, since normal Darkbloods would never waste their time on a Lightblood."
The werewolf stepped closer, eyes wide. "Why do you want a Lightblood? If there's a reason, I'll call them off."
I bit my lip, feeling human teeth. As I sighed, there was a flash of pain before my Darkblood half made itself known, the wings brushing against the grass, my tail swishing left to right.
"My brother is Lightblood, and he's been taken. I'm here for him."
Rebecca stepped back, her hands shaking as she eyed me in fear. "Y-You're the one? The one who the o-old lady told us a-about?" She choked, fingernails turning into sharp claws. I stepped back, calming my quivering wings and relaxing my tail.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I just want to rescue my brother," I said, crossing my arms as Rebecca straightened, her fear gone.
"If you don't know, then we have a big problem. Follow me, Gray One," she added, bowing her head in a form of respect before popping into wolf form. I watched closely as her clothing stretched, allowing the fur through without tearing. The wolf bowed to me, bending so that she could lay her chin on the forest floor before bounding off, jumping over logs to get through the trees. I followed, running after her. Whenever a big obstacle appeared in my way, I would do a running leap and trust my wings to carry me over. Some that were too high for even Rebecca were easily cleared by me, and I never fell or stumbled.
This is getting easier. Magic and all that, I thought, keeping my eyes and nose pinned on Rebecca as she sprinted through the woods. She was easily spotted with her light fur, though she was faster than the vampire we'd encountered. Her evasive skills were compensating for her obvious colours.
My curiosity peeked as scents wafted past, those of other people. I considered turning back, since I had no way of knowing what was waiting for me, but the echo of Terrance's laugh in my memories drove me forward. With my impenetrable wings and seemingly endless, unknown skill, I had a chance to survive whatever people were hidden in the camp. Yet for everyone's sake, I was hoping Rebecca called them off. As much as I wanted to save Terrance, slaughtering dozens of people would scar me as well.
Darkbloods, Cloud. Darkbloods. Not people.
Not according to the Lightblood kingdom.
I thought again about Rebecca, how normal she looked. The clash of bloods in my mind almost drove me to collapse in frustration when Rebecca skidded to a stop, claws sliding through soft dirt. My wings flared, catching air to slow me down as I leapt over a log and landed next to her intimidating wolf form. She glanced at me before a cool, melodic voice resembling hers entered my head.
Do you hear me, Gray One?
Loud and clear, I snickered mentally, swearing there was an amused smile on her wolfish face. She began walking again, gently placing one paw ahead of the other, leading me toward the camp. It was a compound of several nice-looking huts with an impressive level of cleanliness. It was also the opposite of what I expected, with people bustling around the hard-packed dirt roads instead of lying in wait.
"You called them off?" I wondered, the words like hisses as my fangs got in the way.
A chuckle rang through my ears. Of course, Gray One. You don't know the half of what you symbolize.
I sighed, looking back at the camp. People began to stare at us, spotting the bright werewolf beside me, who they probably knew. Recognition flashed in their eyes, easily seen by my heightened vision. A low whisper began to spread before one particularly small man, his skin the colour of caramel with black tattoos, similar to Rebecca's, swirling up his arms, and seemingly his entire body, stepped forward to greet us.
"Becca," he nodded to the wolf, "this is her?"
Her answer was firm and left no room for argument.
The man squared his shoulders before kneeling at my feet.
"It is an honor, Cursedblood."