One year later...
A group of children was playing cheerfully in the city’s main park, a big area right in the middle of Mendraria, with cobblestone floor and a big pond in the middle, iron benches all around as well as bushes and flowerbeds. It was lively no matter at which time you passed by there.
The food stalls would be open till late at night, with its many different and inviting scents calling for people, and the owners would always treat each other, as well as their customers, like family.
Mendraria was a closed city, therefore, all its inhabitants knew each other and it was a habit of them to take care of each other.
“Look, look, it’s missy Ally!”, one of the children shouted upon watching the said woman leaving the only coffee shop in town, Cup o’Joe, owned by a senior citizen, who, contrary to his stern face, was quite loved by everyone.
The children ran to her, surrounding the woman and making her unable to even take a step forward.
“Ok, ok, chill out everyone…”, she said, smiling at them and then getting on her knees, staying at eye level with them. “What are you guys playing today?”
“Dodgeball… But I’m not good at it…”, the one who called her earlier whined, scratching his eyes.
“It’s ok.”, she brushed his hair gently. “No one is good at everything. But, if you want to get better, keep practicing.”
“I will…”, the kid smiled widely. “Are you going to meet Alpha Josiah?”
“I will. Want me to deliver something to your father?”
“Just tell him that mom misses him and that he should come home soon.”
“Ok.”, she hugged him and all the other kids before getting up and walking back to her original destination: the camp at the northwest part of Mendraria.
As she walked past the people, she couldn’t help but remember when they first came here; all the stares they got and how they were treated as nothing but invaders. For Sverige and Hux, as alphas, they were highly respected and feared from the beginning, even more, when people found out that the woman used to be Josiah’s pupil. But as for Alicia and Allan, it took them two months and a deadly invasion in the city for them to be recognized as citizens of Mendraria.
In the said invasion, Allan helped the elderly get safely to the city’s campsite and helped to protect the only kindergarten of the city. Alicia, on the other hand, although powerless, her knowledge of herbs was of great help to those who were wounded. After that, Mendraria’s people publicly apologized and now treat them as family.
In the meantime, she was able to respond to a few of her brother’s emails, sending photos of Yellowtail Bay found on the internet, but that stopped after the fourth month. She couldn’t find any more excuses as to why she wasn’t going back to Berkshire. Truth be told, a part of her hurt just by thinking of how much her family was missing her.
Yet, she couldn’t find the courage to leave Mendraria and go back. She couldn’t act as if nothing had happened.
“There you are, my dear best friend!”, Allan appeared out of nowhere and wrapped her in a side hug. “Have I told you today how much I love you?”
“I don’t have money.”
“Hey, why would I ask you for money?”
“Why would you say that you love me?”
“Sverige told me she’s going to train me. Please save me from the devil…”, Allan begged while they walked together through a wide path with the ground covered in fallen leaves and petals.
“She said the same to me. I think there’s something going on, outside this city, that they are hiding from us…”
“Do you think that man, Caelan, has found you?”
“Who knows? Anything is possible…”, Alicia replied as she distractedly looked at the road beside them. “I miss them…”, she sighed, hugging Allan’s arm. “What do I do with these feelings, Allan?”
“If you miss them, then let’s go back. I miss them too, you know? My family as well… Despite all the bad things that happened in Berkshire, you gotta admit we have great memories from there…”
“We do… But I don’t think I’m ready yet… To face him.”
“Don’t worry…”, Allan caressed her hand that was hugging his arm. “Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be by your side to support you. Until then...”
“Help me find a way to escape Sverige. And find me a potion to find my mate, please? I’m seriously getting lonely here…”
Alicia chuckled, shaking her head but soon putting on a serious expression when they found Hux, looking rather exasperated at the entrance on the campsite. The big man was pacing back and forth, yelling angrily at someone on the phone, blaming whoever was on the other side of the line for some situation that was still unknown to the young friends.
“You…”, he pointed to Alicia. “Solve this. Now.”
“What?”, she asked confused.
“He can’t stay here…”
Alicia looked at her friend as she slowly walked to the small hut behind Hux. “Do you have any idea of who-”
“It surely isn’t Zero. Or he’d be outside your door first thing in the morning…”
“Then who found us?”
Allan snapped his fingers, jumping nervously. “Oh! Maybe Gus came after us? I mean, we kinda distanced ourselves from him… And he’s quite clever…”
“Well, it won’t be so bad if it’s him…”, she replied, climbing the stairs of the little front porch, meeting Dr. Evans on the way inside.
“Doctor! What are you doing here?”, Allan asked as he tried to see who was inside.
“Taking care of a patient, kiddo, what else?”, the man in his forties flicked his clipboard on Allan’s head. “Apparently, the hunting team A found him by the road near the river. He is extremely scared, malnourished, and I found some wounds on his body. My guess is that, at some point, he ran through some forest and got hurt by the branches and thorns. He’s crying non-stop while asking for you.”
“I still can’t guess who it is… My brother wouldn’t be smart enough to find me and certainly not this stupid to come after me.”
“Well, I don’t know who he is. He’s only saying your name. If it helps, he’s giving off a strong alpha scent mixed with his own but I couldn’t find any marks.”, the doctor replied. “Alicia, someone like him can’t stay here. If he has a mate, things can get ugly…”
“Ok, I’ll… talk with him, whoever he is…”
“You should. I’ll be going now. Behave, kiddo.”, he said the last words directly to Allan, which made the latter frown.
“Ok, let’s unravel this mystery.”, Allan said as he pulled the curtain, revealing the intruder.
“What the hell…”, Alicia angrily whispered. “What the hell are you doing here?”
The young boy, now at almost eighteen years old, hasn’t changed much, except for his height, the same as his sister now. He not only looked sick, just like Dr. Evans stated earlier but as well as if life had been hard on him, something that Alicia found it hard to believe.
“I need some air. I really don’t wanna fight with you now.”, Alicia said before walking out of the hut, leaving him a crying mess for Allan to take care of.
Gunner pulled his feet to him, hugging his legs as he breathed hard trying to suppress his crying. “Does… does she hate me?”, he asked between sobs.
Allan put his hands on his hips, sighing tiredly at the duo in front of him. “She doesn’t.”, he said softly, just like his mother would do to him whenever he’d feel sad. “She had reasons for not contacting you nor your uncle.”
“She abandoned us!”, the boy shouted.
“Look…”, he sat by his side, hugging him and tapping softly on his back. “I won’t give you that bullshit of ‘oh, it’s an adult matter’. Your sister had her reasons. And it’s not in my place to talk to you about it. The only thing I can say is that: she missed you. Very much. Every single day. Trust me, Gun, this last year was not easy for us…”
“She could’ve called and explained. I’m her brother! I would accept whatever excuse she could come up with…”
“I know. But… Your sister is going through… a hard time. Give her some minutes to chill out and then… Have a civilized conversation with her. Ok?”
Gunner pouted and turned his head to the other side, murmuring a ‘whatever’ while crossing his arms.
“Dr. Evans told us you had an alpha scent mixed with yours… It’s very faint now. And you’re wounded. Care to explain what happened?”
“Yeah. Care to explain?”, Alicia’s cold voice called their attention to the door, from when she came and leaned on a table right in front of where they were. “Go ahead.”
“I ran away.”
“Ok. One more reason for your uncle to kill me. Great… I should ask Hux to prepare my funeral…”, Allan muttered in the last sentence. “Why did you run away? Did something happen?”
“Just something? My life has been hell this last few months…”, the boy replied, tears still falling down.
“My patience is running out, Gun. Explain. With. Fucking. Details.”, Alicia said through gritted teeth.
“Uncle was suspicious of your trip from the beginning. He sent someone to Yellowtail Bay and when he didn’t find you, he went nuts. He told Alpha Ben about it. And as time passed by and you were nowhere to be found, everyone began thinking that you four had died. Somehow, somewhere.”, Gunner was breathing hard, suppressing his tears. “A funeral was held but I couldn’t accept that you were dead.”
“Still not enough reason for you to run away…”, Alicia replied.
“And it doesn’t explain how you found us…”, Allan completed.
“Do you have any idea how hard it was for us, the simple idea of you being dead? Uncle Dam began drinking. Heavily. Many nights he wouldn’t come home. It got to a point that Mrs. Zaira offered to stay with them because she was worried about me. I didn’t want to stay with them… that hut was my home. Together with you and uncle, but… That guy, Casey… He told me I should accept it because the North had announced a war against us because of… you. And me. That was a week after the last time you answered my emails…”
“Told you that something was going outside this place…”, Alicia told Allan. “Keep going…”
“Gus helped me move my things to the Mervale mansion. He promised he’d keep an eye on our uncle. It wasn’t so bad until three months ago...”
“What happened three months ago?”, Alicia asked.
“People at school started bullying me.”
“Why would they do that?”, Allan asked.
“I was invited by a girl from the other class to go out… And I refused. They would call me weak, faggot, piece of shit… It got worse when...When…”
“Stop stuttering!”, Alicia was getting impatient.
“Bryan showed up. Yessi told him when they met accidentally one day… He went to school and, well, you can imagine it… His family was shocked. Yessi stopped talking to me and uncle Dam didn’t talk to me for a week.”
“Never pictured Damion as a prejudiced person…”
“He isn’t. He was angry because I kept it a secret from him. He then told me he would support whatever choice I made. He said that he wouldn’t force me to do anything, just like how he did with you…”, Gunner looked up to his sister. “But the Mervale suddenly came with talks of marriage and an official ceremony to acknowledge me as their son’s fated mate and all that shit without even considering my opinion. I’ve been living with constant fights, bullying, and friendlessness for the past couple of months and then…”
“I guess this is the part where you found out about this place…”, Alicia asked.
“Casey, he told me he knew where you were. He helped me get here…”
“Wait, wait, wait…”, Allan cut them. “If Casey knew we were here, why did he keep quiet? And why are you alone and wounded?”
“He said you might’ve had a reason to want to… disappear. And that he understood that. He gave me directions and money, besides lending me a car and this… weird bracelet.”, Gunner showed his wrist with a golden bracelet that had a bright red crystal hanging on it. “He said this would protect me from anyone to hurt me.”
“Where is the said car?”
“Still in Berkshire. I was supposed to be here yesterday in the afternoon. I would leave in the middle of the night, without anyone knowing. But Bryan suddenly appeared, saying he sensed something off and tried to drag me somewhere… We had a huge fight. He got angry, said he would mark me to make me stay and I shifted. Reed is a great runner.”
“So is Bryan.”, Hux suddenly appeared, a lot calmer now. “He lost you a few cities from here. Sverige is going to pick him up and then you’ll both leave. Your little escapade just put this whole place in danger.”, his stern voice sent shivers down the boy’s spine.
Before either Alicia or Allan could say something, a bulky and older man appeared, with a thick and grey beard and a well-groomed short hair, wearing a black shirt with dark jeans and combat boots.
He had his arms crossed and a ferocious expression on his face, as if he was ready to kill. He looked at each one of them, before resting his eyes on the young omega.
“Not so fast, young man. Not so fast.”
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