Prince Kim Namjoon of the Tuhan Kingdoms is an important and special person destined for great things. Well, at least that’s what his hyung Seokjin says; and if Seokjin says it, then it has to be true.
But right now, Namjoon doesn’t really feel like an important and special person. No, right now he feels like a big dummy. Seokjin had been super protective of him ever since their parents were killed during the Vampire/Shifter wars when Namjoon was four years old. Seokjin was forced to become King at sixteen years old which meant that he was busier than ever and that he didn’t have time for Namjoon.
Namjoon didn’t mind, not really. Although he missed his Eomma and Appa so much that it hurts sometimes, he made a vow himself that he would be the best prince in the history of princes. Also, he would help his hyung in any way he could. He does this by being obedient and doing his lessons (most of the time).
He really can’t complain. He has everything he needs and if God forbid, he didn’t have it, he only has to say the word and it’s his.
In truth, he really has nothing to want for.
Except… one thing.
Namjoon had never been outside the palace walls before.
Namjoon had been born during the wars and his parents had kept his birth a secret from the world so that he would be protected. He has never left his castle until now.
It had taken a lot of nagging on Namjoon’s part but when Namjoon’s sixth birthday had finally rolled around, Seokjin had given him the okay to tour the village center on the condition that he would not for one second, leave his nanny’s side while she did her own personal errands.
They had taken his nanny’s car to get around and Namjoon was sure he was in heaven. His nanny had to nudge him along several times because he got stuck staring at everything. From the big skyscrapers to the crowded supermarkets, even the tourist kiosks held some element of wonder for him.
It was that same wonder that got him into his current pickle.
It’s not like Namjoon planned to disobey his hyung’s orders, but when they got to the florist’s shop. His nanny would not stop talking. It’s like every time he thought the conversation was over, she and the florist would find something new to talk about.
Luckily for Namjoon, the florist’s shop was connected to her house and she let Namjoon go play in her garden. She gave him a bouncy lime-green ball to play with. Namjoon didn’t find the ball that interesting, but manners demanded he takes the ball with exaggerated enthusiasm. And Namjoon had been dutifully playing with his ball for a good three minutes before he got tired of it. He then decided to explore the florist’s, whose name he could not remember, garden.
Although it was nothing like the greenhouse he had at home, he looked at multi-colored sweet peas, carnations, and bellflowers with vague interest, but it was the humongous Adonis Blue butterfly that caught his attention. It was lying almost motionless on a white carnation, consuming its nectar. He had seen it in picture books and wildlife documentaries but never in the flesh like this. Namjoon fumbled with the new phone Seokjin-hyung had gifted him today to take a picture when the butterfly suddenly flew away.
Namjoon had pouted in disappointment, ready to give up on the spot. But then he remembered his hyung talking about golden opportunities and how you had to grab them when you can.
This was clearly one of those times, Namjoon thought as he watched the butterfly fly into the woods over the low fence. Readying his phone and tilting his chin up in determination, he climbed over the fence and followed its trail.
The butterfly was putting up quite the chase and leading Namjoon deeper into uncharted territory. But Namjoon just had to capture a picture. Just when Namjoon was about to give up and head back to the florist’s house, the butterfly had settled onto a nearby bush. Namjoon, out of breath but triumphant, took several pictures. When he was done, he smiled so hard his left dimple threatened to dig a hole into his cheek. He was already imagining showing his hyung his new discovery.
Satisfied with his prize, he turned around to go back when he finally realized something: he didn’t know where he was.
Trying not to panic, Namjoon took unsteady steps in the opposite direction of the bush, hoping that he would get somewhere. But he just encountered more trees and unfamiliar sounds, which only succeeded in making him more terrified than ever.
Great. He was lost in the woods. If he gets out of this mess, his hyung will probably never trust him again. Seokjin-hyung had trusted him and he repaid that trust by acting like a dumb, little kid who can’t follow the rules. What if he ran into a wild animal? An actual animal, like a bear or even a mountain lion? What if the light from his phone runs out? What if he never sees his hyung again?
Namjoon’s fear and confusion was so great, he started to convulse and he did something he hadn’t done in years: he lost control and shifted. The shift itself didn’t really hurt anymore. It was like ripping off a band-aid, but Namjoon’s shame made it painful. When the transformation was complete, instead of a skinny boy with chubby cheeks and short silver hair disappeared and in its place was a tiny black wolf cub with scared gray eyes.
Negative emotions like anger or fear could sometimes trigger a shift, especially in young children. But Namjoon was supposed to be a big boy now. He learned how to control shifting when he was five. In Namjoon’s mind, losing control like this was the same as peeing his pants. Whimpering, Namjoon shuffled out of his slightly torn clothes and scurries into the base of a nearby tree trunk opening. He hid his face in his paws, hoping and also not hoping someone or something would find him.
And that’s when he hears someone call out.
“Is somebody there?”
The girl is having a shitty day.
She knows that’s the type of language that would give Father Sebastian the excuse to withhold dinner from her, but she doesn’t really care right now.
She heard the older kids say it and it describes how she feels to a T.
Today had been adoption day and the girl had done something immensely stupid: she had had hope.
Hope, that some nice couple would look beyond the fact that she couldn’t shift and love her anyway. Hope, that her unusual scent wouldn’t make their noses curl in disgust.
She had made a big effort this year too: she wore her best dress, fixed up her hair the best she could, and had been on her best behavior.
This year, they had the kids sit at tables and look and the adults were to supposed come and examine them and talk to them. It was basically a contest of “who looks more house-trained?”
She had her eye on this nice honey-badger shifter couple and made sure to “sell” herself to her potential parents. The girl’s sharp eyes had detected the high-profile designer labels on their crisp clothing and the expensive smelling scent of their perfume said that they had money, which meant they could afford plenty of food and a warm bed, which was extremely important to the girl.
In the end, the couple had chosen a sweet, little tiger shifter with big brown eyes and shaggy brown hair and the girl had ended up alone at her table. He was nice enough whenever he was around her and always shared his food with everyone. The girl knows that if this couple has any sense, they’ll cherish the boy with everything they have.
She’s happy for every boy and girl that gets to leave the orphanage.
She knows by now that she’s just setting herself up for disappointment; she doesn’t stand a chance. The majority of the children at the orphanage are shifters with the minority being human, with her being the outlier.
If she is being completely honest, she has no clue what she is.
She’s not human, that’s for sure. Her senses are too acute to be human. Couldn’t be a vampire because she didn’t crave blood the way vampires did. But she can’t shift, no matter how hard she has tried.
But latency happens all the time. It’s her scent that really deters potential guardians.
The sickly-sweet aroma of apples mixed with the pungent earthiness of fresh moss seemed to discourage people from wanting to adopt her. At least that’s what Sister Ailene tells her when she’s been bad. That, along with her unwillingness to listen.
She’ll probably end up staying here till she is old enough to be out on her own. But that wasn’t so bad a fate. She could spend her days protecting the little ones from the greedy fakes that run the orphanage. She could accept that.
But no one can judge her if she needs to take a moment and just let herself be sad for a moment. But she had learned a long time ago that crying in front of the nuns and priest just got her a lecture on how undeserving she was of their time and affection.
She already knows that.
That’s how she found herself in the woods.
She had snuck out after the whole adoption debacle and walked a good distance before letting out tears of frustration and defeat. She was just about to take the end of her dress to scrub her face and nose clean when she saw it: a baby blue casing that could only belong to an iPhone.
Fearing that someone that one of the adults would jump out and scold her, she quickly snatches up the phone from the forest floor and does a quick scan of it.
The girl is left slightly astonished when she realizes that this model isn’t even in stores yet. The triple-lenses on the back of the phone gave away the advanced tech. The girl could feel her foul mood lifting as she calculated how much money she could make off this new gadget.
I gotta show Hoseok, she thinks as she turns the device over in her hands again. Hoseok is a fourteen-year-old leopard shifter and he knew everything about making money. He would know what to do wit—
The scent stops her thoughts. Maybe if it wasn’t so potent, she could’ve ignored it, but she couldn’t possibly ignore the fear souring the naturally citrusy scent. When she heard the whimpers, that seals her decision to investigate.
She follows the sound of the mewls and comes across clothes suited for a young boy. The girl takes a whiff and confirmed it was the current scent clogging up her nostrils. She gathers up the clothes and treads carefully to the burgeoning noises. Her search leads her to the opening of a tree trunk. It’s dark inside but the cries are louder.
The girl half debates just leaving the poor kid alone and leaving his clothes where he can find them. She could just take the phone and go cash in on her good fortune.
But something, maybe her conscience or her gut, tells to try to help the kid.
So she clears her throat and cries, “Hello? Is somebody there?”