Terra (The Vulgri Hybrids Book One)

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Chapter 1

| Lia |

We all wanted the moon.

We spent time staring at it, chasing it, craving it when it’s full. And just like everybody else, I wanted the moon. I wanted its solace, its whispers of comfort, and its light as it guided my way as I ran, like a warm embrace of a mother’s love.

I forced my limbs to tread through the forest. Trees passed on either side of me like roaring tides, and on their weathered backs, seemed to hold up the entirety of the black, starlit sky.

It was all so beautiful, but all I felt was pain.

Pain. How can you define it?

Was it always as simple as rating it from one to ten?

From what I knew, pain produced by a human body worked through an infinite and complex network of nerves starting from the brain down to the last layer of skin in our toes. But that was corporeal pain, a far cry from the pain of despondency and despair. And I’m not even human, I’m a Vulgari. Was it why the pain was much worse? Do we feel pain in a whole new level of intensity than humans?

One of my paws dipped into the mud, sending sprinkles of dirt to my matted black fur, which pretty much did nothing but only smear the black with a little brown. My wolf form mirrored the color of my hair and my heart, both stained black with resentment from grudges past.

Skidding to a halt, I craned my neck upward, flattened my ears back, tucked my tail between my legs, and let out a long and mournful howl to the moon. My eyes glistened and fat droplets of tears poured down, dampening the fur on my maw.

As I gazed continuously to the moon, I saw images being reflected back─mama and papa.

They were looking at me with elation and pride as I learned to sing my first song and play my first instrument. The scene changed and my twin was there, about to come down on the slide, a cheeky and toothy grin on her face, mama urging her on. Papa was there too, carrying the little version of me, cooing and making funny faces.

Laughter. Genuine happiness. What happened to them?

Clouds passed and the moon became more sinister; blood slowly dripped from the top and spread all over, changing the color into a stark crimson red. It was all in my mind, I thought.

I convinced myself to turn back but my legs were frozen and my eyes never left the moon.

It was mama first. Her eyes blank and devoid of soul, a trickle of dried white foam at the side of her mouth.

I whimpered.

No, no, no. Stop. Please.

Then Papa, his chest wide open, his heart missing.

I barked, whined, and barked again.

It had been six years since their deaths.

Six years of trying to outrun the memories that haunted me like a demon lurking in the shadows. The familiar embrace of delusion and diversion comforted me like a blanket on a cold, winter night. For six years, I’ve perfected the art of evasion.

My ears perked up when I heard the footsteps of incoming wolves. I started to back away, my backside hitting a tree so I stopped and listened, crouching lower on the ground, my body vibrating, and my tail arched high. I heard the growls first before their heads became visible. Their mouths were all in a tight snarl, baring their elongated canines. I growled back and stood high from my crouch position. If they thought they could intimidate me then they should think again. I was almost as large as them, and if they decide to kill me, then I would die fighting.

When their whole bodies emerged from the shadows, I counted four wolves, one bigger than the rest. I stared in horror at the largest wolf in the pack, a dark shade of grey with white specks on its muzzle, neck, and torso. His wolf was standing to its full height and its tail was the only one tipped high, the others crouching lower than him with their tails positioned downward. I scanned the forest for a possible escape route. I could probably fight the three but my survival instinct told me not to underestimate their leader. I was facing an Alpha, and I’ve never fought one before.

Then it came to me in full impact.

Mate.

Fireworks. It was the most accurate word that could describe what I felt─a constellation of happiness, satisfaction, contentment, and lust. My wolf’s tail relaxed and started wagging. I couldn’t control it. She was taking over. She then yipped coyly, taking a step forward to our mate. The wolves stopped growling. Their leader started to advance slowly, his eyes reflecting the same emotions as my wolf, only that it seemed more intense and consuming. I was impressed by the amount of control he had. Wolves were known to be extremely possessive and he would have pounced me by now if he was acting like other normal wolves.

When he reached me, he nuzzled his head with mine. He took his time sniffing then he buried his head in my fur just below my neck. To my dismay, my wolf was responding to him eagerly, inhaling his wonderful scent and prodding herself to him. He stared into my eyes and the intensity of his feelings shook me to my core. With one last lick to my snout, he stepped back and shifted to his human form.

My wolf made a sound of delight, she was pleased by what she was seeing. He was a fine looking young man, his face partly covered by the shadow of the moonlight, creating a mysterious aura around him. He seemed familiar though like I’d seen him somewhere before.

He crouched to my height and smiled warmly. “You can shift now. Don’t worry, you’re safe.” He stroked my head with his right hand. I noticed the silver band on his wrist, a charm made by the Ilwani. This charm gave them the power to shift back with their clothes on and to detect an Ilwani’s mana.

I barked twice and took a step back, ignoring my wolf’s objection, finally gaining control.

“Hey... It’s alright.” He gave me a reassuring smile. His eyebrows furrowed in worry. My wolf whimpered at the plan that was going on in my head.

What are the odds that I could outrun him? I was so lost in thoughts that I almost didn’t notice Cassy appearing beside me in her chocolate-colored wolf form.

She growled menacingly at the wolves in front of us. The other wolves growled back. This was a total disaster and I knew that if we survived this, I would soon face the wrath of my twin.

“Now now, there’s no need to be violent. It’s alright. We’re not going to hurt you even though you’re rogues and you literally trespassed on my property.” He told us calmly but there was a deadly tone to it, a warning of sorts.

I felt a tingling sensation in the forefront of my head, alerting me to my mind-link connection with my twin just before I heard her voice ringing in my ears.

What’s up with him? He should be killing us right now.

He’s my mate, Cassy! I shouted through our link.

What?!

Let’s talk about that later. We need to get out of here!

I told you to stay put!

I know I know! But what should we do now?

Run!

But

Run Lia!

With one last agonizing look to my mate, I ran towards the darker part of the forest.

“Hey stop!” My mate called after me. I paused on a nearby tree, just enough to hide myself and still see and hear what was going on. I couldn’t just leave my twin there.

Cassy jumped in front of my mate, snarling and growling louder.

He was not fazed. “You don’t know what you’re doing mutt. I could kill you this instant.” He shifted back to his wolf and slowly advanced to my sister, his mouth curved into a terrifying snarl, a low threatening growl emanating from his throat.

I was suddenly afraid for my twin. There was no way she could get out of there alive. I had to do something and fast.

I shifted quickly. Closing my eyes, I concentrated on the buzzing energy at my fingertips then I went down and touched the ground, willing it to follow me. The wolves surrounding Cassy were about to attack her but large roots appeared from the ground and enveloped their bodies preventing them from tearing Cassy apart. I then started to build up more mana and a solid wall of mud emerged between my mate and my twin.

I knew they could tear the roots easily but their surprise granted Cassy an escape. I sent in waves of vines to distract them and keep them rooted in place. I watched as Cassy ran to an opposite direction. Staying behind, I tightened the grip of my vines on the wolves, ignoring the blood that was slowly dripping from my nostrils. When I was certain that Cassy had a good head start, I ran as fast I could, aware that my vines won’t hold any longer.

I only stopped when I reached the highway, coming down on my knees and gasping for air. I could feel my mana draining, I hadn’t used a lot since a long time ago. It took me a moment before recovering enough to walk back to the inn, dreading the amount of lecturing I would surely receive from my twin.

As I trudged closer to the inn’s entrance, a memory flooded my mind, like a tsunami of fear and pain, my subconscious whisking me away to the night that changed everything.

Fire.

A burning house.

It was sizzling and blazing, eating the timber of my childhood home. I could remember the smell of thick smoke polluting the air with charred whispers of memories lost, the taste of my smoky tears mixed with soot as it fell down on my cheeks, and the feel of my twin’s hand gripping mine, as we watched our sanctuary smolder in the night sky.

That night, I vowed to myself and to the stars above that I would avenge our parents. I would see to it that the perpetrators who took everything away from us would pay dearly.

And no one, not even my mate, could erase the seed of hatred that I had grown and nurtured in my heart.

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