Chapter 16

Sholan felt cold, and he felt terrified. Light shown upon a wolf, a black wolf with red eyes and purple markings on his face. Sholan's eyes widened with terror, but somehow he managed to say with ease, "Got a new puppet, huh?"

The wolf narrowed his eyes, but he smiled, "Yes, Kuro isn't his real name, I just gave it to him because it's more fitting, isn't it?"

Sholan narrowed his eyes, "Shi, you have no right to come to me."

"Oh yes I do, you have told others that you are an Alpha Male for far too long, I will give you two weeks to stop this, or your pack will die," Shi said.

Sholan snarled, "Why do you torture me like this?"

Shi smiled even bigger and he whispered, "Because you are Fire…"

Sholan's eyes widened with realization, "You're... Shadow… Aren't you?"

"Finally, young Sholan figures out that the wolf that threatens him all the time is, of course, Shadow. I can't believe it took you so long," Shi said sarcastically.

Sholan couldn't believe it, Shi was Shadow? He couldn't fight Shi, Shi was too powerful. What do I do? I can't fight Shi, he worried. Shi swished his tail.

"By the way, I'd ask Snowy about her past again, maybe you'll find out that she- I don't know…" Shi frowned dramatically, then he smiled with true excitement and evil, "lied to you?"

Sholan flattened his ears, "She… lied to me?" Sholan couldn't find more words to say, he was speechless, Snowy had never lied to him before.

"Of course. What did you expect from a young pup who never loved anyone but her mother," Shi answered.

Sholan shook his head, "N-no… Y-you're… You're wrong."

Shi chuckled, "That's my favorite part about you, Sholan. You never believe a betrayal, and you're never ready for one."

Sholan shook his head once more, looking down at his paws, "No…"

Shi turned his back to Sholan and said over his shoulder, "You see Sholan, you've already lost." And Shi began to walk away from the light into the darkness, fading away from view.

Sholan awoke with a start. It was in the middle of the night. Sholan could feel the warmth of Amaya next to him. Sholan stood up abruptly, and looked away from Amaya at the half moon floating in the sky. Sholan walked away from Amaya and looked around, they were in a forest, a black river churning and cutting through the land a couple of wolf-lengths away.

Sholan walked over to the river and sat down, staring down at his distorted reflection in the churning water. How am I supposed to tell them that I can't be the Alpha Male in any way without giving away my secret?

Sholan shook his head. He wanted Shi to disappear, and he wanted to run away. He didn't want anyone to know what he really was, not even Amaya.

Sholan heard footfalls behind him, coming closer until finally he felt the warm breath of Amaya stir his ear fur.

"Go away, Amaya, go back to sleep," he muttered.

"No."Sholan heard Amaya reply in a voice smoother than silk.

Sholan looked over at her, she was sitting now, and narrowed his eyes, "Don't you have something better to do than talk to me? Such as sleep?"

Amaya sighed, "Look, Sholan. You're not going to get anything out of sticking to yourself. Just… listen, okay?"

Sholan sighed, "Fine."

Amaya looked ahead, looking away from him, "Sholan, there's always a time in life where one must face a challenge, and there's a time in life where one must keep secrets, but eventually, everyone's secret comes out. There's nothing anyone can do about it. Sholan, what I'm really trying to say is, I know what you're going through, and Kasumi had to go through the same thing, but you have to trust me. Just tell me when something's troubling you, and tell me what's troubling you."

"Why should I do that?" Sholan snorted. He was frustrated. How did she know I was keeping secrets, and how did she know that I'm also facing a challenge in life right now?

Amaya looked the other direction for a moment, before looking at Sholan, "I love you, Sholan."

Sholan leapt away, gaining his paws, "But… You can't honestly love me! I mean look at you, you're a wolf-dragon! No, this isn't right. You can't…" Sholan's voice trailed off.

Amaya walked up to him, "But we'll find a way," and she kissed him.

Sholan's eyes widened and his ears flicked. Amaya leaned back and looked at him with her brilliant green eyes. Amaya then put her head underneath his chin.

Sholan woke up one week later to the blood red sky of dawn. Sholan stood up and narrowed his eyes at the rocky mountain trail they were traveling upon. Sholan woke the rest of the group, from whom most of them groaned as they sensed the heat of the day. Indeed, it had been very hot recently. Now all of them were exhausted and sick of the heat. Sholan had kept on telling them they were close, but it had taken longer than he had thought to get there, due to the delay when Sholan had been captured. The Pack of Outcasts had joined them, Chaos as Sholan's Beta Male.

Sholan had slept for three days after falling to the ground and being knocked out. Most thought it was exhaustion, while Sholan knew that exhaustion had been part of it, but it was also because of Shi. Sholan still hadn't told Amaya about what really happened. He couldn't, she could and most certainly would die if that happened.

Sholan looked behind him at the expanse of forest far below and then looked back up at the trail. Sholan began to lead the others up it, and he had been trying to convince everyone that he couldn't be Alpha Male, but they wouldn't listen. Often times, they would ask why, and he would get stumped on that part, unable to answer.

Sholan suddenly heard the sound of a wolf running up behind them, one whose footfalls were uneven. Sholan twisted around to see Vanessa, tired as ever, shouldering her way through the group to come face to face with him.

"Sholan! Sholan, I've traveled so far to find you! You won't believe what has happened! Rocky let a wolf into our group. He had red eyes and it frightened everyone, but Rocky didn't care, the wolf was nice to him. Our male Beta was killed and Rocky and Kendra were killed, and even Crow was killed! Then, since the wolf was appointed male Beta before Rocky and Kendra were killed, he became the Alpha Male. That wolf appointed me as Alpha Female and forces me to speak at Meetings and be his cover-up! He's already taken over the Pack of Lightning and the Pack of Grass!" Vanessa's eyes grew more and more fearful as she spoke.

Sholan felt fear rise up inside of him, "Well, what was his name?!"

"Shi was his name!" Vanessa said.

Sholan flattened his ears, "I'm too late."

Amaya walked over to stand beside Sholan, "What do you know about this, Sholan? Who is this Shi guy? Do you know him?"

"Shi? Did you mention the name Shi?" The wolves heard the voice behind them and all turned.

All of them saw an old female wolf. She was reddish-brown with a dark reddish-brown stripe going from her nose to her tail-tip, and her ear-tips were the same color. She had a chestnut brown chest and underbelly, and the bottom of her tail was chestnut as well. Her pasterns were black, as well as her paws, and her muzzle was tinged gray due to old age. Despite the rest of her exotic appearance, her eyes were the most dazzling. One of her eyes was yellow, and the other was purple.

Sholan smiled, "Oh, it's you, Unicum."

Unicum nodded to him, and smiled, "Ah… Young Sholan, last time I saw you, you were a small, tiny pup, now you are big, so pleasant to see you again."

Vanessa's eyes widened and she said in a small voice, "You're Unicum? You're only told of in stories! That can't possibly be true."

Unicum turned to her, snarling, "I'm not as soft as I may seem. I have many powers, and they are still rather powerful, so I wouldn't step out of line if I was you."

Vanessa lowered her head to look at Unicum's paws. "Of course, madam."

Unicum nodded, "Very good. Now Sholan, may I see you closer up? I want to see what kind of wolf you have become."

Sholan nodded and straightened, walking over to face Unicum. She met his eyes steadily and smiled once more, and then she studied him. Once she finished looking him over, she looked back up into his eyes.

"What a fine wolf you have become, Sholan. Powerful yet sturdy and you're obviously good at hunting too. You are perfect. Very, very good at not only hunting, but fighting as well, my estimation is that you could take on a whole pack and kill them all if you came to your full strength!"

"But Shi is more powerful, he can take on five," Sholan whispered.

Unicum looked up at him, "Maybe, but you can win if you train hard enough."

Sholan narrowed his eyes, "Are you sure, Unicum?"

Unicum nodded. Sholan turned to the rest of his rogue pack. Noticing their faces of awe and surprise, Sholan instantly felt the burn of embarrassment run through him.

Suddenly, something came up from inside him, and he instantly understood who he really was. He wasn't Kasumi's brother; he was only adopted into the family. He saw his mother, a tired and beaten silver wolf with a white underbelly. However, Sholan didn't see his father.

Sholan narrowed his eyes, masking his confusion. "Alright, I'm going to speak with Unicum, the rest of you stay here."

The others nodded and sat down, lay down, or just stood, talking to one another. Amaya and Sholan's eyes met, and Sholan looked away to look at Unicum, he walked over to her side and the two of them disappeared up the mountain trail from the others' view.

Sholan was sitting inside of a small cave in the side of the mountain trail, he sat on a bed of moss and feathers; mostly raven feathers, while Unicum was laying on the opposite side of him, lying on a bed of moss and white osprey feathers. Sholan had already told her of his dream and what Vanessa had told him.

"Well, Sholan, the only thing you can do is train, and once you are strong enough, and you have mastered your powers, you must face him. That is the only way," Unicum said.

Sholan narrowed his eyes, "What powers?" he asked.

Unicum narrowed her own eyes, "Sholan, you are a master of fire, that is why you are Fire. However, the power hasn't fully emerged; it only started once you started learning about your past. You know that I am the master of water and ice. But your power is far greater than any other master of the element's powers. You just aren't powered enough yet. Once you come to all of your powers, than you will be able to have four times the power of Shi. Sholan, you know that the rest of your pack will learn everything eventually, even you."

Sholan lowered his head and closed his eyes, his ears flattening. He nodded, but inside he hated accepting this. Why me?

Sholan opened his eyes to sense cold wrapping around him. Sholan twisted around to find himself face to face with Shi. Suddenly, Unicum jumped forward, but a blade of darkness cut into her shoulder, and she fell back into the corner of the cave. Shi pulled another blade from a suit that he was wearing. Shi pointed the blade at Sholan, holding it in his mouth. Sholan took a wolf-paw back when suddenly, he couldn't breathe.

Unicum looked up, and her hackles rose, "Sholan, no!" she screamed.

Sholan was forced against a wall by some cold force, trying to breathe. Vanessa darted in and Shi turned to her, "Hello," he said smiling.

Vanessa looked from Sholan to Shi and back again. Shi walked over to her, "Let's go back to the Pack of Fire, shall we?"

Vanessa looked back at Shi, "I-I… only if you let Sholan go!"

Shi cocked his head, "Why? Don't tell me you have feelings for him!"

Vanessa narrowed her eyes, "If you let Sholan go… I'll be with you forever, and I'll never fight back."

Shi smiled, "I like the sound of that."

Sholan felt as though he was going to burst, trying to take in air and he managed to say, "No… Vanessa… Don't…"

Shi looked over at him, "Oh shut up! I'm contemplating… the girl, or the death of an enemy? Hmmm…"

Shi turned to Vanessa, "Alright, you have a deal."

Suddenly, Sholan's throat was released, and he gulped in air. Shi took Vanessa out, but Sholan was picked up by the same force and carried into disruption in space and time, from which he suddenly appeared in a camp of wolves, from which he didn't know. There were rocky overhangs that the wolves sheltered in that Sholan didn't recognize.

Sholan stood up shakily, still trying to recoup from what had just happened. A young dark brown wolf with a slightly lighter chest spot and icy blue eyes ran over and steadied him by lending him a shoulder. The wolf smiled, and helped over to a rocky overhang and settled him down in a nest. Sholan blinked gratefully to the wolf.

A gray wolf with a white tail-tip and underbelly and a silver muzzle with yellow eyes walked over to Sholan and said, "So he got you too, huh?"

Sholan looked up, "What do you mean?" he asked.

"I mean exactly what I say," said the gray wolf. "Shi is an evil wolf who sends us to this dreadful, almost prey-less place. We are all stuck here, uncertain where to go, and we are all fearful."

Sholan narrowed his eyes and said, "We can make it out of here, I know that."

The gray wolf stood up. "Want to test that?" he asked, angling his muzzle towards the other wolves that were creeping out of dens and crevices.

The dark brown wolf smiled at Sholan. "Hello. I'm Kenzo!" he declared, dancing around Sholan.

The other wolves laughed and one yellow female wolf walked over to Kenzo. She snarled, "Don't pay any attention to Kenzo! He's a useless mutt!"

"I'm not that bad!" Kenzo whined.

"Shut up!" the she-wolf snarled. She hit Kenzo to the ground and bit him. "You listen to me! You are a worthless mutt, Kenzo!"

"Yeah, he never catches anything when the pack hunts!" a light brown she-wolf laughed. The young wolf danced around Kenzo. "Kenzo's a mutt! Kenzo's a mutt!"

The yellow she-wolf watched the light brown wolf as she continued to taunt Kenzo. "Nice job, Mai! Nice job, indeed," the yellow wolf praised.

Mai continued to dance around Kenzo, shouting over her shoulder, "Thanks, mum!"

The gray wolf glared at Mai, Kenzo, and the yellow wolf. He padded up to Mai's mum and barked, "Hotaru! Stop this at once!"

Hotaru immediately rolled onto her back, placed her tail between her legs, and whined, "I'm sorry, Isamu, it's just-" she glared at Kenzo-"He's such a mutt!"

Isamu growled, "Get up! It's time this pack moves!"

Hotaru leapt to her paws after sliding out from underneath Isamu, and barked, "Kenzo! Mai! Kaito! Nobu! Shizuka! It's time to go!"

Three new wolves came out from the shadows. Shizuka, apparently, the only female of the three, was a gray wolf with white eye-dots, the other two, both males, the older, stronger one, was a red wolf with a white underbelly, the younger, obviously Mai's brother by age, was a creamy-brown wolf with a light brown muzzle.

Hotaru looked at Shizuka. "Alright, Shizuka, you follow me after Isamu!"

Shizuka nodded slowly before walking nervously past Sholan to the gray wolf. Hotaru turned to the two males. She barked to the older wolf, "Kaito! You bring up the rear!"

Kaito sat down to wait for the others to go ahead of him.

"And Nobu, you are right in front of Kaito! This stranger will walk with Isamu!" Hotaru ordered.

Nobu walked over to Shizuka and Isamu and waited beside them. Sholan walked up to Kenzo as the others talked briefly.

"Why do they pick on you like that?" Sholan asked him quietly.

Kenzo lowered his head and whined, "Because I am useless! I never catch anything and in battle I'm a coward! I was sent here by Shi as a pup. I'd been worthless to him, too, so he sent me here to die. Luckily, Isamu and Hotaru were already here and had just had pups together. Hotaru nursed me as her own, but she never truly liked me. When me and Nobu and Mai were one year old, Kaito and Shizuka came. They had been friends, and they tried to stop Shi but he sent them here. The pack went out for my first hunt. I was so excited!"

Kenzo appeared happy for a moment, but his happiness quickly faded as he continued, "We raced after a moose. We came after it and I ruined everything! I told Athena, a wolf who used to live with us, to see if she could bite one of the moose's legs and make it stumble, but when Athena tried to bite, the moose crushed her skull with his hoof!" Kenzo burst out the last sentences and looked down at his paws.

Sholan studied the young wolf before saying, "You're young, Kenzo. I've done way worse in my life. I know you were just trying to impress your step mum. It may be hard, but I'm certain you will prove to them that you are worth their lives."

Kenzo smiled and his tail thumped on the ground. "You really think I can do it?"

Sholan nodded, "Yes, Kenzo, I do."

Kenzo sprang to his paws. "Then let's go! The pack's about to leave without us!"

Sholan and Kenzo sprang after the pack, which, as Kenzo had said, were just beginning to leave. Sholan came up to Isamu.

The gray wolf looked at Sholan with his bright, intelligent, yellow eyes. "Where are we going, stranger?" he asked timidly.

"I have a name, you know," Sholan said to him, an edge in his voice.

Isamu growled, "What happened to your attitude?"

"Well, I'm a little unhappy with how you treat your pack members," Sholan growled.

"What am I doing wrong?" Isamu stepped in front of Sholan, stopping him.

Sholan snarled, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your pack is weak due to your insolence!"

"What are you talking about?!" Isamu snarled in response.

"You are an insolent, stupid leader! You have ruined your pack!" Sholan snapped his jaws at the end of his sentence.

Isamu snarled and lunged at Sholan. Sholan twisted to the side, forcing Isamu to fly past him. Sholan sprang forward and bit into Isamu's hind leg. He threw the old wolf through the air and then slammed him into the ground. Isamu lay for a moment at Hotaru's paws, who stood over the old leader, before he leapt from the ground and lunged for Sholan's throat. Sholan dodged to the side and grabbed Isamu's scruff as he flew past.

Isamu was jerked back, yelping, and Sholan threw him upon the ground. Sholan snapped the gray wolf's shoulders with his teeth, paws placed firmly on his chest. Sholan snarled, "You better think twice before you attack me."

The gray wolf whimpered, flattening his ears and tucking his tail between his legs. Obviously Isamu knew he was defeated. Sholan walked off of the wolf and walked onward, leading the pack forward. He halted and looked over his shoulder. "Kenzo, come," Sholan barked, but a tone of gentleness appeared in his order.

The dark brown wolf trotted forward and came to Sholan's side. Sholan led the pack, Kenzo beside him, toward whatever dangers may come.