"I don't get it," I said honestly to the white-eyed hybrid. We were alone now, strolling through the castle.
The teenager was quite at my side. Things hadn't gone so well for him after he had shared his own personal information we'd had yet to hear about and probably wouldn't for some time from Hakota's own system of secret intelligence.
Of course Hakota and Cleo had demanded how he knew such information and who he'd gotten his information from. There was always the possibility the King had faked his death to throw us off and lower our guard.
Honestly, had it been anyone but Malik delivering this information I would have been as suspicious as Hakota and as equally disinclined as Cleo to believe his information was something to take seriously. However, it was Malik, and I knew all about his own secret systems and inner workings inside the Forest Kingdom.
He wasn't given fake information because he had miraculously gained loyalty and had a position of leadership over his informants. They respected him and would not try to trick him. If they had wished to mislead him and bring him to his demise they would have done so long before now.
Malik wasn't willing to freely share an in depth explanation about his spy network to his alphas who had already warned him before to stop meddling.
His father seemed to know enough though without Malik confirming that he was stirring the pot again. Terrin had been livid. I knew he was just worried about his son's safety, getting involved in the middle of this situation was dangerous. Especially because Malik was going at it alone. He didn't tell anyone of his plans and no one had any idea of knowing where to look if something were to happen to him.
Terrin needed to work on his delivery a bit more though.
In the end his concern, stress and overall lack of sleep, turned into a harsh lecture that involved a lot of yelling. Malik had only escalated the situation, upset his father had so little faith in him.
When Malik looked close to tears I had pulled him out of the room before it got to that. I knew if Terrin witnessed Malik crying it would just make the situation that much worse. The teenager would have been ashamed if his father saw how much he hurt his son with his words and doubt. Malik just wanted approval but instead of acting like a kid and doing normal things he was going to the extremes.
That was just Malik though. He was different, he wasn't a normal kid. He was brilliant and he just wanted reassurance from Terrin that he was appreciated and valued.
As for Terrin, he was terrified. Malik was constantly putting himself in danger without his parents even knowing. He wanted his son to stop, to let the adults handle such things and protect Malik. Terrin was just horrible at showing he was afraid, nervous and concerned. He'd always forced himself to hide his feelings, to be a strong male, his Forester childhood of isolation and ostracizing had hardened him. He'd learned that he needed to be strong if he wanted someone to actually care about him and respect him.
Even with Syn he was still working on turning that switch off when it came to family.
"Are you ever going to finish your sentence?" Malik prompted me when I had gone silent, my train of thought diverting away from Jeko.
Brought back now, I shook my head out of my thoughts and put myself back on track. "I don't get what Jeko thinks killing his father is going to do for him."
Malik hummed thoughtfully, "It won't work out for him," he agreed. "He's a lycan now, no matter who he kills. They won't support a lycan on their throne."
"So now what?" I asked, frowning. "Jeko isn't stupid, he has to know that. They'll kill him to pull him off their throne. They will never let a lycan represent the Forest Kingdom. Do we just wait for him to die now?"
The boy shrugged, turning towards the werewolf who had walked up to us and whispered something in Malik's ear. The hybrid waved him onwards, dismissing him after he had delivered his news.
I looked down at Malik, raising a brow in question but the teenager only kept walking as if I hadn't just witnessed the exchange between him and the werewolf.
"No," he said answering my question, "too costly. Jeko has too much control now, we don't have time to wait for the Forest Kingdom to get itself together. They'll only turn on him after we've been taken care of."
Another werewolf stepped up to Malik, walking past him without so much as turning her head, but holding a slip of paper out for the hybrid to take.
The boy snatched it, pocketing the note without even reading it. He sighed, "Unfortunately, he played his cards right. He didn't go back empty handed."
"Are we not going to talk about the note?" I demanded, gesturing to his pocket.
Malik looked down to where I had pointed before looking back up dismissively. "Nope." He replied, popping the p.
Before I could even get another word out, yet another werewolf came up out of nowhere and tapped Malik on the shoulder. The werewolf gave me the stink eye, cupping his hand over his mouth as he secretly relayed his message.
Malik's face remained impassive. He only eyed the werewolf before saying, "That's not acceptable, tell them to stop making excuses and get what I asked for."
The werewolf nodded and was on his way.
I just stared at Malik. "Seriously?" After having just witnessed all of that I wouldn't have been surprised if someone mistook Malik as the alpha around here.
As if reading my thoughts the kid beamed up at me. "If you want to switch over to being my beta, I'm accepting applications," he joked.
At least I hoped it was a joke.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "What do you mean Jeko didn't go back empty handed?" I inquired, not about to humor him.
Malik pouted at me, sulking that I had ignored him without even asking if he was seriously trying to become an alpha. "He killed three lycans which is more than any other werewolf has done in a long time. He's their best bet at taking us down in their eyes."
"So how do we get to him first?" He was right, we couldn't wait around and give Jeko more time to carry out whatever else he had planned for us.
Malik withdrew one of his hands from his pocket and twirled his hand in the air. "That's the beauty of all of this, you won't need to go to him because he's coming to you Sitka."
"Why on earth would he do that?" I hissed. "He won't stand a chance against me one on one."
The hybrid hummed, "True, but he doesn't really have much of a choice. He has to dispel the rumors of his weakness and prove he's not scared of you." Malik was referring to the the rumors he himself had spread about Jeko, me and Winter. He had dragged Jeko and his father down by saying they were disrespecting the mate fighting traditions out of fear. "He's trying to get rid of the rebels' reasons for dethroning him without needing to fight them."
"So your plan backfired," I drawled dryly.
The white-eyed boy halted and twisted his head to look up at me. He gave me a chilling grin, his eyes sparking with glee. "Oh no, Sitka," he said, "my plan is right on target. He's going to challenge you to a mate fight."