Chapter 01) Prologue
Confused and groggy, Mamoru pulled himself to his feet and looked about. Only nothingness was there to greet him. With grey skies, thick, white fog, and obsidian-looking earth, he was sure he had somehow awakened in a different realm. Desolate, mute, and colorless. There was no way to determine his direction, no scent to follow, and no landmarks to give him a reason to move.
The voice was a mere whisper, yet it resounded throughout Mamoru's body. It felt like the voice originated within him, but somehow, Mamoru knew where to go. He bolted, his feet pounding the black ground soundlessly, his frantic panting also silent. The only thing he could hear—the only thing that mattered—was that voice.
Mamoru skidded to a halt. In front of him, the thick fog swirled, slowly forming into an image of the person he was seeking so desperately.
"Your Majesty," he whispered.
Help me, Mamoru.
What was before him was a white silhouette of the queen's image. The only color were a pair of oval slits where her eyes should be, shifting through the elemental hues. Her ghostly hand reached out for him, pieces of her cloud-like essence breaking away as her arm stretched.
Without a second thought, Mamoru extended his hand, but a dark, shadow-like limb wrapped around his arm. Another shadowy appendage slammed right into his jaw, sending him skidding on the hard, black ground. Growling, Mamoru jumped back on his feet, his emerald zanbatō forming into his hands.
He glared at his assailants, three shadowy figures in front of him and two restraining the Divine One's silhouette by her arms. They started out as grotesque figures with elongated limbs and torsos, but soon began to morph, forming into more recognizable images.
Mamoru lowered his sword and took several steps back, barely able to say a word through his shuddering lips. "What the hell?"
Panicked, Mamoru jolted awake, gasping for air. It felt like blood flowed through his body for the first time, and he fought off the urge to faint. He gripped the bedsheets, afraid his body was just moments from shattering. Sweat poured down his face, but he didn't want to risk letting go.
Eventually, the odd blurs of color and light in front of him formed into physical, familiar objects. Mamoru's heaving chest soon calmed, and he took a hard swallow, pushing down the bile rising in his throat.
"You're awake. That's good. Your pack was dreadfully worried."
Cupping his forehead, Mamoru brought his legs over the bed. Each heartbeat sent a throbbing pain into his temples, but his memories managed to return. Her Majesty chose him as her protector. He accepted the position, her blood, and her power. Everything seemed to have blacked out after that.
"Would you like some tea, Mamoru?"
Mamoru lifted his head at the sound of his name, his gaze falling on a slightly blurred version of Octavian. He sat at a round wooden table across the small bedroom with steaming pot of tea and two cups. Carefully, Mamoru stood from the bed, pausing to let his wobbly knees regain its strength.
Taking a deep breath, Mamoru dragged his feet towards an empty chair. Octavian remained silent as he approached, but the furrow on his brow told Mamoru his pack weren't the only ones worried. Mamoru took a seat at the table, his shaking hand grabbing an empty cup. "What happened?"
"You were tested," Octavian said, pouring a cup of steaming tea in Mamoru's cup. "The queen's blood won't bond with you that easily. It will test you to gauge your worthiness. That's how blood alchemy works."
The warmth of his cup stilled Mamoru's hand, its steam smoothing the knot in his throat. He took a sip, letting out a long exhale afterwards. "Was my dream the test?"
"Yes it was Mamoru, and you seemed to have passed. Your yōkai is starting to transcend as we speak." Octavian paused to sip his own tea, his silvery-white fringe draping over his golden eyes. "May I ask what was the nature of your test?"
Mamoru closed his eyes as he sifted through his memory. The images felt far away for a moment, but suddenly came crashing into his mind. Eyes now wide, beads of sweat formed on his forehead, and Mamoru was struggling to get air in his lungs. He shoved his chair away, gripping the edge of the table as his claws began to dig into the wood.
"You're okay, Mamoru?"
"My dream… I saw Her Majesty. She needed my help. She was calling for me. I reached out to her and then… others impeded me. They tried to stop me." Mamoru buried his face in his palms, his shoulders shaking. "I saw Sensei, my sisters, and Seito. They attacked me."
"Oh, I see." Octavian removed his glasses, wiping it lenses with a small cloth he had in his breast pocket. "The queen's blood was testing your loyalty."
Mamoru slammed his fist onto the table, spilling over his tea. "Damnit! I cut down my own pack! How I am worthy of this power!?"
"Maybe it's trying to tell you more, Mamoru." Octavian returned the glasses to his face, balancing the frame on the bridge of his nose. "We do have a traitor in our ranks, afterall."
"But… It's not one of them! I know for sure!"
"Her Majesty, Isamu, and I all had premonitions. In regards to the Society traitor, all were contradicting. I don't understand myself, so I can't confirm anything to you. The only thing we agreed on is that giving you this power is the right choice."
Mamoru ran his hands through his hair, now matted and soaked with sweat. "I don't know, anymore. Are you sure?"
"I'm glad you're having second thoughts, Mamoru." Octavian got to his feet and placed a supportive hand on Mamoru's shoulders, nodding his approval. "It means you're more concerned about doing the right thing rather than gaining power."
Mamoru lifted his gaze to Octavian and met his reassuring, subtle smile. He stood from his seat, his body feeling heavy and fatigued. Using the table as support, he could only nod his head. "I will not disappoint Her Majesty."
"That's good to here, Mamoru." Octavian turned on his heel and headed towards the door. "Now let's get you back to your pack. I did said that they were worried."
Mamoru didn't follow however, his gaze falling to the floor. He couldn't get his feet to move. Dream or not, he couldn't face what he had done.
"It was just a test, Mamoru," Octavian said. "It tends to use extreme circumstances. I'm sure you won't find yourself choosing between Her Majesty and your family."
"Family…" he repeated the words under his breath. The simple word eased his breathing and released the weight on his legs. Mamoru didn't know if Octavian interchanged "pack" and "family" intentionally, but it really helped him. He gave Octavian a weak, but sincere smile, and followed the light-type out the door.