Nan, Thailand — 1834.
Once upon a time, in a secluded cottage, squeezed in the middle of hundreds — if not thousands of frangipani trees, lived a young prey hybrid bunny omega, Malee, along with his old-forsaken grandmother. Malee, however, was unlike the others.
The omega had a beauty that outshone all others — it was as if he was sent from the Gods themselves. He was pure… His eyes were those of diamonds, and his lips were red as wild cherries — and his skin; was a bright golden color; spotless, soft to the touch — a delicate flower. And his hair was black as a starless night. He was almost… Perfect.
However, such beauty sometimes seemed like a burdening curse to Malee.
You see, the alphas — some of them were predator alphas — wolves, lions, vipers; harboring cannibalistic traits, who accidentally stumbled upon the tiny cottage through their trek down to get to the nearby streams, or those who journeyed down south, or those who lived in the villages some seven hours walking distance. Their hungry eyes were always on Malee, lusting over his beauty.
If it weren’t for his grandmother, a respectable woman by the village elders, they would’ve taken Malee a long time ago. Stripped him of his dignity, his virtue. Because of his grandmother, those alphas only looked on, and never dared to cross the cottage gates. Malee knew though… He knew once his grandmother dies, an alpha would come for him, marking him as theirs.
Malee didn’t fault them, though. As wrong as it was, it was how they lived for centuries…
Regardless, Malee cherished his days of freedom, neglecting the possibility of his grandmother one day dying because she was still a healthy and strong woman. She wouldn’t just die… She wouldn’t leave him to face the cruel world alone. She just wouldn’t.
“Malee, come here sweetheart,” Malee’s grandmother called when the front door nudged open from inside her room, her voice warm and soft — a bit too tired, though. “I have something for you.”
Malee wiped the sweat from his forehead the second he stepped inside the cottage home, trekking inside his grandmother’s room. He hadn’t seen her all day. She’d been asleep when he left earlier to chop wood in the backyard before going out to scout the forest grounds for wild berries and herbs for the two of them.
“Yes, grandma?” he joined the old lady, sitting on the floor, surrounded by balls of yarn — pink, blue, and yellow. Something else caught his eyes in his grandmother’s arms, though. A bright fiery red bedding? Or a coat? Or… Malee didn’t know what it was.
“Happy twenty-fifth birthday, sweetheart. Here.” She smiled at him, stretching out her weary arms, and handing him the red — whatever it was. “You didn’t think I’d forget now, did you?”
Malee’s face flushed a bright pink while his heart warmed. Although he had forgotten about his birthday, his grandmother not only remembered, she also knitted him a gift.
“Thank you, grandma,” he took the red cloth with careful fingers, afraid he might dent the wooly fabric. “What is it?”
“Well, open it up and you’ll see,” she chimed in excitedly.
“Mm,” Malee hummed with a newfound eagerness as he unfold the cloth, revealing a cloak. Malee’s eyes swell. “It’s…” In all his young life, he had seen no one wearing a cloak before — and it was red too! “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, grandma.”
The old lady laughed lightly as Malee’s eyes welled with unshed tears before she petted his long white bunny ears flat down. “Not as beautiful as you, my boy,” she smiled. “Now try it on — let’s see if it fits.”
“Okay, I will.”
Malee was quickly on his feet, shrugging the cloak over his shoulders, and throwing the strange hood over his head while his grandmother watched on in glee.
When the thick knitted fabric wrapped over Malee in a warm embrace, the omega somehow felt secure and protected. It was as if this cloak was a shield — an armor for him to wear and hide from those evil alphas’ lustful gaze. At that moment, Malee promised himself; he would wear it wherever he may go — be it rain or shine.
“I love it, grandma,” Malee wrapped his arms around himself — giving himself a tight hug while beaming brightly down at his grandmother, showing her how much he appreciated what she had done. “I’ll wear it every day… Everywhere I go.”
At that, the old lady’s smile grew, and she clasped her palms together, nodding up at Malee while the omega continued hugging himself, marveling at the warmth — the happiness — the piece of clothing brought not only him… His grandmother, as well.
A week later, the old day had grown incredibly ill. It had happened overnight; her health had deteriorated, and a vile sickness consumed her, keeping her in bed most of the time, coughing and shivering from the cold. Malee tried to keep her spirits high and cooked plenty of soup and brew her countless herbs at all hours of the day. However, in his heart, he grew fearful, and he cried during the nights, silently, so she wouldn’t hear.
Today, Malee rummaged through the kitchen cupboards, frantically searching for a special type of yellow herb his grandmother used for sickness. To his utter disappointment, there were none.
Although the forest provided them with enough healing herbs for tea, there was a special yellow herb his grandmother got from a medicine man back in the nearby village. The forest didn’t provide those, and his grandmother rarely ever used them; keeping the yellow powder for when she truly felt down or whenever Malee caught the flu or a terrible heat during his cycle.
If he wanted more from the medicine man, he figured he’d better visit the village. It would be a seven-hour-long journey, and although he’d always dreaded those walks — fearful of predator alphas sneaking up on him and snatching his throat out — his grandmother’s health was hanging on a thin thread, and Malee was desperate to mend her.
“Grandma,” Malee said, walking over to the backyard where the old lady was stooping down; admiring her newly sprouted plants: peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemongrass, and cassavas. And although Malee didn’t quite like her outside, this morning she had snuck out of bed to move her weary legs. Some fresh air would do me well, she had said, forcing out a smile when Malee insisted she stay in bed.
Upon hearing her grandson’s voice, she glanced over her shoulder and smiled just as brightly as Malee usually smiled. “What is it, sweetheart?” she asked, sounding wearier than yesterday.
“I have to go into the village, grandma,” Malee answered, hoping she would be alright alone.
“Oh? And what for?” she asked, frowning. She never liked when Malee trekked the forest alone, either.
“You aren’t getting any better, grandma,” Malee said, worrying in his voice. She had been in plenty of pain lately. He only wanted to make her feel better. “I’m going to the medicine man to see if he can give me some more. Maybe… That’ll make you feel better.”
“Will you be alright going into the forest alone?” the old lady eyed him with concern.
Malee thought for a while. He didn’t know, really — they were so many creatures in the forest… He hoped so. She didn’t need to know he was scared, though. “Mm,” Malee shook his head. “I will be alright… I’m leaving right away — before it gets dark.” Since it was only the morning hours, he wouldn’t have to worry about roaming alphas — or worse… Predator alphas, the ones who sometimes slaughter prey hybrids like Malee, not caring he was an omega. “Do you want me to take you back to bed, grandma?”
The old lady huffed playfully. “Don’t be silly, I can still stand on my own, you know,” she said, and Malee didn’t doubt her one bit. “Now you get going, and don’t forget to wear the cloak I made for you… Be wary of feral alphas, too. Even the prey ones. There’s some khao lam (bamboo sticky rice) in the kitchen. Take those with you in case you get hungry along the way and come back safely.”
Malee eagerly nodded. “I will,” he said before walking off.
“And Malee,” the old lady called him before he reach the steps to their cottage.
“Yes, grandma?’ he answered.
“Remember what I told you,” she said, eyeing him a bit too seriously for Malee’s liking. “Don’t talk to strangers.”
Malee let loose a deep sigh.
Those were always his grandmother’s last words whenever he had to trek through the forest floors to get to the village. The old lady practically engraved those words into his head since he was a child! And though Malee knew she meant well, he grew weary of hearing them. He was no longer a child, and he could take care of himself. However, to appease her, he nodded his head in understanding and said, “I won’t,” like how he’d said hundreds of times already before heading back into the house to prepare for his day’s journey.
During Malee’s walk to the village, the omega found himself side-tracking next to an unusual part of the forest. With frangipani trees — dense, almost stifling, swallowing up the sunlight, it was no wonder the locals called this place the dark forest.
The place was blacker than night and more frightening than any monsters or predator alphas.
Malee had never gone into the dark forest before, fearsome of the stories the elders often told: the dark forest was where demons lived, they said. However, as the bunny omega worried his lower lip, the sight of the dark forest intrigued him as the seconds ticked by.
You see, he had taken too long to prepare for his earlier journey, and it was already noon. If he went through his regular route, it’d be long after dark until he reached home! And if he went through the dark forest, he should be back by the time the sun sets. Or before those predator alphas — or any alphas — came out. It was a bold decision either way.
As a thick lump appeared in Malee’s throat, the omega gripped tightly at the edges of his red wool cloak, his big doe eyes never leaving the gloomy pathway leading down to the depths of the forest floors.
Finally gulping down the fright, Malee decided he was going to enter the dark forest! So, with careful fingers, he arranged the red hood over his head and squared his shoulders, braving himself to step into the forest and see what lay ahead.
With cautious footsteps, the omega crossed through several twists and turns, eventually losing sight of where he came from before a harrowing realization crossed his mind… He could get lost in these woods, and no one would find him because no one would care to search the dark forest. Who might believe an omega prey came in here? No one! Perhaps he should’ve thought more than twice before he entered.
Perhaps, he believed, while he continued on his journey.
The walk shouldn’t have been long, yet an hour through the forest felt like an eternity too long.
The daytime air inside the dark forest was staler — thicker than the nighttime air from Malee’s home, too. And for a terrifying moment, Malee could’ve sworn there were eyes on him, watching him. It might’ve been paranoia… It caused goosebumps to riddle his body though — caused his breath to hitch whenever an icy breeze blew by. And it caused his eyes to wander; scanning through the bushes — high in the trees, hoping to seek the reason for his growing dread.
Maybe if he turned back —
“Well, hello there… Omega.” A deep, almost dangerous voice echoed from behind a tree bark before a figure emerged, startling Malee’s poor heart.
It was a predator alpha — a wolf with a cunning smile.
Malee’s heart raced within his chest, and his breathing quickened at the sight of this wolf; dressed in black — the devil’s color.
Malee’s omega senses screamed at him to run — hideaway. Don’t let this terrible alpha catch you, or else he would eat you, or worse... Yet, while Malee gripped the handles of his basket carrying his khao lam until his knuckles turned sheet white, he couldn’t move. It seemed the alpha’s mere presence made his feet stay plastered into the forest floors; refusing to move. He couldn’t breathe, either.
Unintentionally, the bunny took a cautious step back while eyeing the wolf with alertness.
Malee had never seen an alpha quite like this one before. This wolf’s shoulders were straight as a rode, confident. Although he was a bit shorter than Malee, the closer the alpha came, cornering Malee in, he appeared much, much taller, frightening, and dark. And when he looked the alpha in the eyes, it seemed too cold and emotionless; perhaps he didn’t have a soul. Malee couldn’t deny how dangerously handsome the wolf was, though. However, despite all this, there was something oddly familiar about the alpha — something about his scent, a deep gush of sandalwood.
It was as if Malee had smelt this very scent somewhere along the lines of his past. But where? — or when? In the cottage? No, that couldn’t be possible.
Malee shrugged his shoulders; it must’ve been his imagination playing games on him.
When the wolf snarled; big sharp fangs dipped down threateningly, Malee stopped in his tracks despite his panicking heart.
Malee’s legs trembled, and his lips wobbled. “My, my…” The words came out as a whisper. Nonetheless, the wolf’s ears perked up, listening. “My grandma taught me not to talk to strangers… So if you could go along your way…”
The wolf tutted while he eyed Malee with wicked eyes from head to toe, his footsteps never halting.
Malee whined, shutting his eyes tight. Although he didn’t know this alpha’s true intentions, predator alphas were known to not take weak prey hybrids like Malee as their companion. They sometimes killed prey hybrids, though. They sometimes ate them. Malee didn’t want to be eaten by this predator wolf.
Perhaps he should drop to his knees and beg? The thought was intriguing…
“Didn’t your grandma also tell you not to wander into the dark forest, little red?” the wolf questioned, ignoring Malee’s quarries, and approached the frightened omega.
Malee scrunched his nose. Little Red? Why would the wolf call him — oh, right.
Malee glanced down at the knitted red cloak his grandmother made for him and smiled fondly. However, when he realized the wolf was getting closer, he unintentionally whimpered and backed up till he pressed his back up against a tree bark.
“I’m not supposed to talk to you.” Malee furrowed his eyebrows when the wolf refused to leave him be. “Don’t come any closer,” he quivered lips attempt to threaten.
With a lightning speed Malee had never seen before — never knew possible; the alpha was in front of him, and pressed his heated body impossibly tight against Malee’s equally heated one, caging him in.
“And what’s a pretty omega like you are you going to do if I don’t listen?” the alpha questioned, leaning in and sniffing the omega’s scent gland. “Mm… You’re unmated too.”
Malee whimpered again, trying to wiggle his way out of the wolf’s grasp. However, the wolf growled low near his ear, and the poor thing froze in place, willing his tears not to spill. And to his utter dismay, even if he got out of the alpha’s clutches — if he ran away, the wolf could easily hunt him down and rip him to pieces… Or mark him, since the wolf mentioned he was pretty.
Either thought was terrifying.
“Please, Khun (Mr),” Malee begged through ragged breathing, refusing to meet the alpha’s eyes. “Let me go… I have to go to — to the village before it gets dark.”
When the wolf brushed the hood off of Malee’s head before combing his fingers through the bunny’s hair, Malee melted against the touch. Though it was wrong, he couldn’t help it. He was way past his prime, and his body would most definitely sought an alpha — or any alpha, to quench his building thirst for being bred. And it was this alpha — the one who would likely kill him.
“Red is such a strange color for an omega,” the wolf gestured, using his other hand to tug at the opening of Malee’s cloak, disregarding his quiet pleas. “Why red?”
Malee swallowed. “My… My grandma made it for me,” he answered, hoping if he was nice enough, the alpha might pity him and let him go.
Though Malee pressed himself impossibly deep against the tree bark, the wolf was so close, their lips were an inch away from touching. Malee unintentionally inhaled, breathing in the thick, suffocating sandalwood scent. Surprisingly, it calmed his senses like no other.
“I see,” the wolf said, his eyes dipping into the basket in Malee’s hands. “And what might be in that basket of yours, little red?”
Malee glanced down. “Just some khao lam, for when I get hungry,” he replied. His long white bunny ears went flat. “If you want… I can give them all to you… Do you want some, Khun?”
“No,” the alpha chuckled lightly, curling his fingers on the bunny’s soft ear. He seemed rather fond of them the most. “I think I might be hungry for something else… Tell me, little bunny, why did you come into the dark forest? Are you looking for trouble? Or an alpha?”
“No — no, that’s not why I came, Khun. On the other side of the dark forest, Khun… I thought I’d take a shortcut, so I can reach home before it gets dark —” In a moment of bravery, Malee pushed the alpha away from him, and started speedily walking back into the pathway leading to the village. “I should be on my way.”
“Not so fast.” The wolf laughed playfully, yanking Malee back from behind, caging him into his arms in a biting hug. “I didn’t say you can leave, little red… Now did I?”
“Pl-Please, Khun,” the words stammered out of Malee’s mouth before his eyes swelled, finally allowing his tears to spill. “Let me go. I want no trouble.”
Every bone in Malee’s body was telling him he was doing to die. Or he was going to be mated for fun by this alpha, who he knew nothing of. He should’ve never gone into the dark forest. What would his grandma do if he never returned home?
The thought of her alone was enough to make Malee struggle with force.
The alpha’s grip on him turned painfully tight before he leaned in and lapped his tongue along Malee’s scent gland.
Malee screamed at the sudden wetness before dropping his basket on the floor as he trashed about, trying to get away from the wolf’s clutches.
“Enough,” the wolf ordered in a deep voice.
And though Malee knew he shouldn’t listen, his body naturally went slack in the wolf’s grasp.
“Khun,” he begged in a little whine.
The wolf hummed when Malee calmed down, pleased at Malee’s compliance. “Little red… Allow me to walk you to the edge of the forest… You don’t know what monsters are lying about, waiting to snatch up an omega… A bunny omega, like yourself,” he concluded with an offer.
Malee’s heart was back to skipping beats. He didn’t need this wolf’s fake pity — he obviously had other intentions! “I… I don’t think —”
“Why?” the alpha spun him around until they were facing each other. “Are you afraid I’m going to bite, little — little red-covered bunny?” he bit out, ruffling Malee’s hair.
Quickly, Malee nodded. “No… It’s just —”
“I promise I won’t bite,” the alpha said, pinching Malee’s cheeks. “Not unless you want me to, little bunny.”
“Khun…” Malee narrowed his eyes at the wolf. Was he testing to see if Malee’s flesh was tender enough to be eaten? Oh, no. He needed to get away!
Just then, a remembrance struck the helpless omega like lightning: there was blinding powder in his pockets! It was an herb he found in the forest sometime ago, and though it wouldn’t actually cause lasting blindness, it would render the alpha unable to see long enough for Malee to escape.
With careful fingers, the bunny reached into his pocket, dipping out a handful of the blinding powder — his eyes never straying from the wolf’s. And for a moment, the alpha — as destructive as he appeared — seemed lost, hypnotized by Malee’s mere existence. It was oddly strange. The wolf must’ve been thinking of ways to rip him apart, Malee believed before he narrowed his eyes at the predator. Luckily, the fear slowly evaporated, as Malee knew he was going to survive this.
The alpha sighed. “Little red bunny, I’m not a bad wolf, I —”
“All wolves are bad,” Malee bit out, making one quick sweep, splashing the power straight into the wolf’s eyes. And when the alpha screamed — a howling cry — Malee had to clamp his palms over his ears to stifle out the noises before he sprinted away, leaving the wolf to his fate.
The further he went, Malee continued to hear the agonizing screams coming from the alpha. It caused his heart to ache with pity, and it was such a strange feeling to experience. Yet he didn’t dare look over his shoulders — didn’t dare stop to catch a breath despite his lungs begging for air.
When he finally reached the end of the dark forest, stumbling into the village with sweat pouring down his forehead, and cuts coloring his arms and legs, the omega promised himself he would never take another shortcut again. He would never enter the dark forest again. If he did; he was sure the predator alpha, with impeccable speed, wouldn’t spare his life after what he had done.
That day, Malee reached home a little past the evening hours.
Malee chose not to burden his grandma with what happened in the dark forest. She must never know he went in there — no one must know. And although the handsome predator alpha’s biting touch, or his musky, familiar scent, lingered on Malee’s body — tattooing itself into Malee’s bones, the omega tried not to think about what happened. After all, he would never see the alpha again…
It was when night arrived, Malee’s foolish thoughts crumpled.
You see, when he went outside to close the gates before hurrying off to sleep, what greeted him by the entrance was something he thought he’d never see again. It wasn’t possible to see it again… And yet, here it was, sitting in the open… The basket he had dropped earlier.
This only meant one thing, Malee’s hammering heart concluded; the wolf knew where he lived…
And the wolf was coming for him.