Chapter 19: Pugna
“Do you have any extra clothes in here that no one wants?” I ask the women. One of them gives me a dirty look as she angrily folds the shirt in her hands before dropping it on the table.
“These are the clothes of the District members. No one is going to offer you a fancy dress to walk around in. You shouldn’t have asked.” I huff and turn to appeal to some of the other women in the small, cramped laundry room. None of them even look my way.
I had a reputation around here. Word about my disobedience to the Alpha had spread quickly around the District to the higher ranking members. Of course, this meant that their personal staff also had all the gossip at their fingertips as they swept up and tidied their rooms around the Sector.
I wring my fingers together out of nervousness and turn away. I had been slowly working up the courage to do this since I found out about it. It had taken me four different trips to talk to the guard at the end of the hallway before he let any information slip about it to me.
He was reluctant at first, mostly set on trying to make me as miserable and uninformed as possible. He mentioned it in a slip of the tongue. “You wouldn’t be able to do that chore, that is when the District members go to their training. They would be using the land for combat fighting and you would be able to survive getting knocked over by two fighting Lycans,” he had told me.
I had tried to hold in my smile the moment he let the words slip. I had nodded and turned away without another word. I was going to show up to that training and I was going to show Alpha Kaine that I was not one of the weakest links in his District. I could be a fighter if I wanted to, even if I didn’t possess the traits of a Shifter. I could do it. I’d fought them before in my line of work.
The whole point of heading down to the laundry room was to find more suitable workout clothes. There was nothing wrong with my loose shirt and shorts but I knew that wouldn’t be what most of the other women were wearing. I didn’t want to stand out more than I already would be if I could avoid it. If they knew that Alpha Kaine did not tell me I could be there who knows what he would do to me if he caught me in training.
It would be his fault in a way. He was the one who provoked me and mentioned anything about training. I shouldn’t get special treatment. I have more blood on my hands than any of these other Shifters did. It would be the easy training, for the weaker District members. I could hold my own there. I’m sure of it.
“I guess we just have to go as we are and pray for the best,” I tell my reflection, tightening my ponytail. I secure my shirt with an extra hair tie, trying to keep it from hanging past my shorts and making for an easy grab for someone to take me down if need be.
The guard paid me no mind as I walked past him. He was in the middle of talking to a female District member. She smiled at him and grazed his arm with her fingernails as she spoke. He leaned into her with equal interest and only responded to my passing with a flicker of his pupils in my direction.
“We’re going to work on our sparring for the day,” the man outside, who I assumed was to be the trainer for the day, announced to the small crowd.
The men were dressed in baseball shorts and tank tops of various lengths and colors. Most of the women wore sports bras and leggings. They all had tennis shoes and ankle socks to top of their appearances. The only thing I shared in common with the women was my hairstyle. My baggy shirt that I tied up in a knot and jean shorts didn’t look anything close to appropriate for the days activities.
Some of the Shifters looked at me in confusion as I approached them but most were too caught up in listening to the instruction to notice my tardy entrance.
“Start by running four miles. You know the way,” he clasped his hands together and they went off into the trees. It was then that he turned to me and eyed me warily. “Who are you?” he asks.
“Anita,” I say. “Goldstein.” I don’t know why he would want my last name but it feels more official if I add it in. He might not think I’ being sneaky by coming to his training session if I’m transparent about who I am.
“I had no idea that we had someone new joining our sessions,” he tells me. He looks at my attire awkwardly, trying not to curl his lip in complete disgust when he gets to the jean shorts.
“Yeah. I just saw my name on that list or whatever. The weak member list.” He nods in understanding. “I thought I would come and work on my skills so that I can get my name off of it someday.” He claps a hand on my back.
“That’s a wise choice. We all live to serve the king. It would be a shame if any of us were called upon by His Majesty to join the Slethian Army. I personally would not want to be the odd man out. They put them on the frontline, you know. Human shield kind of thing.”
“I didn’t know that there were drafts for the war. I assumed the Militia was already chosen from the start.” The trainer shakes his head.
“After the disappearance of the Lector District, The Rogue’s are considered to be the biggest threat to Slethia. People are less likely to sign up to defend the kingdom, so the king has to choose his own army by force.” I nod as I watch the last of the group disappear into the dense forest in front of me. “I haven’t seen you around here before, are you new to the Kaine District?”
“Something like that.” I chew on my lip, waiting for him to sniff me out and realize that I am not a Shifter like the rest of them, but he doesn’t. There is no deep inhale like the one I have come to know from the other Shifters I have been around since coming to this Sector. “Are you a Lycan?” I ask him.
He starts to nod but pauses and shrugs. “I’m not really sure anymore.” he says innstead. “It’s been so long,” he adds. This concept is new to me. I had never heard of a Shifter that was unsure about their status as a Lycan before.
“You aren’t sure?” I can’t even hide my curiosity. “How could you only be sort of a Lycan? Aren’t you either a Lycan or not? I didn’t know there was an in between,” I say. He raises an eyebrow. By now he has to know that I am human. There is no other explanation for my lack of knowledge about the Shifters in Slethia.
“Your human,” he tells me. “I can’t smell it but I can sense your fear. You get used to certain behavior, even if I don’t have the senses to tell me that you are, I can still see you shaking.” I step back and cross my arms over my chest. Every fiber in my being is telling me to turn back and retreat but I stand my ground, curious about his predicament.
“Did you lose it?” I ask.
“What?” he replies.
“Did he take it from you? The thing inside you. Did Alpha Kaine take it away from you?” Realization crosses his face as he realizes that I’m asking about his Feral side. He laughs and shakes his head.
“You can’t take a Feral side from someone,” he tells me. “It isn’t a possession. It’s a living being inside of you. It is a part of you,” he explains.
“Well, what happened to yours?” He swallows and sniffs.
“It died,” he says quietly. I almost don’t hear him, but when my brain registers his words I gasp. The thundering footsteps of the group of trainees closing in on us as they get back from their run inches towards us. “Does Alpha Kaine know that you’re down here? With the trainees?”
“I’m not sure,” I mutter.
“I don’t think he wants you to be down here talking to me.” I narrow my eyes at him. If he can’t communicate with Alpha Kaine directly because his Feral side is dead how does he know that Alpha Kaine is upset with me being down here with him.
“Alpha Kaine doesn’t even know I’m down here,” I say to him, brushing the hand aside that he brings to rest up on my shoulder. “I just want to train.”
He puts his hand back on my shoulder and turns me around to look at the building where I came from. He carefully angles my head up to look towards the upper floors and that’s when I see him. Alpha Kaine. Standing in the window of his bedroom.
It’s hard to make out his features exactly from this angle and distance but I can tell that he’s mad. He is rigid. His hands are clenched against his side’s and I can tell that his face is scrunched up in rage.
“I think you should go back to him. He doesn’t like when his pets are out of his sight for long,” he laughs a bit before he looks back to Alpha Kaine, who sneers at us both from behind the glass.
“I’m not his pet,” I tell him.
“Sure you’re not,” he replies, sarcastically. “I don’t want him to come down here. It might be best if you just went to him. His anger knows no bounds. If he comes down here angry with you then he’ll take it out on all of us.” I look towards the window, knowing Alpha Kaine can zero in on every word that is being said if he really wants to, but he is gone.
“Anita,” Alpha Kaine mumbles behind me, grabbing me by the elbow. “Get back upstairs.” My eyes widen, my head spins as I try to figure out how he went from being upstairs in his room to down here in fifteen seconds.
“Why?” I ask. “You said I was weak. I want to train.” He sighs and looks toward the other District members as they come back from their group run together. He seems torn as I try to pull my arm from his.
The District members look between us awkwardly, their eyes skipping over me, a lowly human, talking back to their Alpha. “I need you to help me pack for my trip. You need to pack your things too. We’re leaving in two days. I can’t take you with me if you don’t pack. So go upstairs and do it."
The trainer says nothing as Alpha Kainne rounds on him. “I warned you. I warned you all not to talk to her or touch her and what did you do? You did it anyways.” He shoves the man backwards, towering over him as he tumbles to the ground.
This was how much Alpha Kaine despised the human race. Enough to punish is own kind for getting anywhere near one of us. “Okay! I’ll go... Just... Stop,” I beg Alpha Kaine, tugging on his arm to pull him back. Alpha Kaine staggers back and stares at the rest of them for a moment.
“Get back to your training,” he tells them. He drapes his arm around my waist and pulls me into his side. I turn over my shoulder just in time to see the trainer being helped to his feet by his trainees, who help brush the dirt off of his legs.
"I’m sorry," I mouth to him before Alpha Kaine tugs on my arm, causing my body to jerk so I am facing forward again.