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With growls and howls, two opposing races divided the Truvan continent into the Kingdom of Cithen ruled by the werewolves with absolute hierarchy and the Vashille Tribe ruled by the lycans with raw strength. After thousands of years of war, peace has been finally obtained—or so they thought. Tess is a powerful transcendental blessed by the moon goddess herself. As the only heir to the Cithen Kingdom, she vowed to use her claws and canines to protect her homeland only to be slapped by fate when the next moment she knows she already becomes a wanted criminal with a hefty bounty for her head all over the Cithen Kingdom. As the son of the Vashille Tribe’s chieftain, Callum, comes to the south from the grasslands in order to plunder and to take the rightful power for the Vashille Tribe under the pretext of peace talks to the Kingdom of Cithen only to learn that his Enra—a lycan’s beloved—is the so-called princess. The turmoil of the inner circle in the Cithen Kingdom shook the stability of the mighty empire. The Vashille Tribe took this opportunity to run amok within the outer parts of the wolven territories. With the murder of her parents as her birthright taken away from her and the brewing war between lycans and werewolves, the last thing Tessa wants is to get in tangled with a lycan prince. But what will she do when everywhere she goes, his addicting minty citrus smell lingers? The stakes are high in order to seek the justice which her parents deserve while protecting her beloved land. Will she be able to do the right thing now that when her own mate is standing at the enemy’s front lines? Will she be able to stand against the thread of fate created by the moon goddess in order to seek the justice she longs? Will being his Enra and him being her mate are enough to forget the thousands more reasons he should reject her?
Cherry Blossoms & Minty Citrus
THE SOUND OF gongs shook the air, alerting the heightened senses of the citizens of the wolven kingdom of Cithen. The ladies from all the packs who were in their silk clothes squirmed on their seats. Nannies chastised them for giggling that was above the set limit for a lady of the Cithen kingdom. Golden ringlets made from the sought-after goods of the mines from the far mountains of the western territories gleamed under the glaring sun. Parasols littered in front of the double doors of the gates that were made with fire and metal ores. It flustered everyone from the mere thought of finding the most compatible scent in this gathering.
Beyond the rattling doors that were slowly opening before the eligible unmated ladies of the Kingdom of Cithen, a woman who barely finished the celebration of her eighteenth summer solstice stared at the Cherry Blossom trees below her. The knot lodged deep between her perfectly carved brows worsened upon hearing the sound of the gongs that would signal the opening of the imperial gates. She knew she had to hasten her movements.
Hunched over the back windows of her room, her right foot was placed onto the railings as her hands held either side of the windowpanes to balance herself before she would take a jump. “This is it. Thank goddess nanny is essentially busy with the preparations.” The corner of her plump lips curled up.
Clad in a soldier’s clothes, which she stole from the men’s common bath, her sweat mixed with the pungent odor of the clothes she was wearing swirled into her nostrils which almost made her gag—a perfect disguise that would surely cover her tracks and hide her smell. Tessa was about to jump off when her back tingled, followed by the ominous voice of her nanny.
“Your Highness, please take off that ghastly soldier garb. And do not forget that you are the only heir to the Kingdom of Cithen.” The wrinkled woman in a black and white handmaiden uniform bowed her head.
‘How can I forget if you drilled that into my brains every time you see me, nanny?’ Tessa bit the insides of her cheeks as she thought of her usual retort.
Tessa stared at her nanny in the reflection of the opened window. A fiery glint gleamed bright for a fraction of a second before she opened her mouth and defended her case—for the nth time of the week. “It is because I am the heir that I should see my kingdom with my eyes. I will rule them someday, so I must know what they want. What is the whole point of learning battle strategies and physical training if I can’t use them for my people?”
Tessa’s nanny walked past her and closed the windows, her lips on a straight line while her footsteps were heavy against the tiled floor. The sound of the window’s locks clicking marked the end of Tessa’s attempt. Her nanny handed her a familiar-looking basket. It was littered with outfits varying from a scholar’s uniform, a handmaiden’s uniform, an imperial chef’s uniform, and now to a soldier’s uniform. Groaning low as she undid the buttons one painful moment at a time, Tessa averted her eyes from the basket.
‘Ugh. I thought I will be able to pull it off for the first time today.’
Her nanny helped Tessa in taking off the clothes as the wrinkled handmaiden continued with her lecture. “As the heir of the wolven throne, Her Highness must find a compatible mate during this gathering who will be of good use to the kingdom and later on produce a prince for Cithen and its people. You only need to be there and let the most eligible unmated males of the continent smell you and find the smell that you are most attracted to. If you do, you are doing Cithen the greatest honor—by providing them their future alpha king.”
“But, nanny.” Tessa reached for the bow she stole from the soldier’s garrison, only to stop midway after hearing what her nanny had to say.
“Your Highness, you are the only heir to the throne that will continue the Cithen bloodline, the bloodline that rules hundreds of packs within this kingdom with the blessings of the Moon Goddess and the only bloodline with a direct heritage to the Moon Goddess herself. You do not want to disturb your ancestors in their graves, do you, your highness?”
Withdrawing her trembling and calloused hands, Tessa watched her nanny toss the bow like a twig into the fireplace meant to provide warmth from the northern wind. “I… I understand, nanny.”
Gone was the glint in her stormy, ashen eyes.
On cue, her nanny clapped her hands and a trail of handmaidens raced into the room with tons of dresses, shoes, and pieces of jewelry on their hands. “Then off you go to the bathroom, your highness. No one can smell you and mark your scent if you are this stinky.” Crunching her nose, her nanny ushered Tessa to the bathroom of her room.
‘That is the idea, nanny. That is the idea.’
- - - - -
“BLESSINGS TO THE kingdom’s flower, Crown Princess Contessa Eureka Cithen.” Four of the ladies from different packs, who were either an alpha’s daughter or a beta’s daughter, together with their handmaidens, curtsied to the princess who walked past them. But Lady Ivy Thornhill of the Thornhill Pack refused to bow. With her chin tilted upward and delicate arms crossed before her chest, her glacial glare followed the passing princess.
“Lady Thornhill!” One of the four ladies admonished her in a hushed voice, hoping they did not catch the notorious princess’s attention.
Lady Ivy Thornhill scoffed. “Why will I pay my respect to the princess playing like some princeling? How is she supposed to set a prime example as a member of the Cithen Dynasty?”
The lady simply bit her lower lip. After all, she could not deny Lady Thornhill’s words.
Tessa barely glanced at the four. She headed towards the stairs where the imperial pack warriors stood guard. Upon seeing her, they fisted their right hand and pounded their fisted hand atop their beating heart once. “Truvani,” said the two pack warriors as they saluted her.
Truvani meant ‘Goddess blesses you’ in an ancient language of the wolves passed down from generation to generation in the Cithen Kingdom.
On instinct, Tessa fisted her right hand and pounded her chest once. “Rush Vanala.” Tessa replied, which meant ‘Goddess protects you’.
As she walked onto the stairs, Tessa grabbed the hems of her indoor dress. The frills of the white-colored laces could barely cover her proud bosoms while it left her unmarked shoulders open for every unmated male in the gathering to see and sniff.
“Presenting Crown Princess Contessa Eureka Cithen, heir to the wolven throne, heir to the blood of the Moon Goddess, and heir of the five realms of Cithen!” A pack omega announced Tessa’s arrival after he opened the double doors for her. The doors would lead her to another set of descending stairs. He averted his eyes and showed the right side of the neck—a showcase of submission to the third most influential wolf in the kingdom.
The moment her glittering shoes stepped into the blinding lights from the dozens of hanging chandeliers in the throne room, Tessa tilted her chin. Her eyes looked straight while she took her sweet time descending the grand staircase where all dignitaries and imperial members would be introduced. Reaching the middle of the staircase, she paused and wandered her eyes.
“Truvani,” said Tessa. Her word was a mere whisper, but every wolf within the premise of the room heard her loud and clear.
“Rush Vanala.” The males pounded their chests while the females placed their palms atop their beating hearts as they all saluted to their only crown princess. Tessa felt shivers wracking her spine every time she would catch a male sniffing her blatantly—hoping to recognize her scent. To make sure of their scent, males started to walk in her direction, angling their heads to catch a whiff of her scent.
Gold and glittering gems adorned the ladies, while men showcased their wolves by wearing fitted garbs made of silk and animal skin. Scars were being shown proudly by the males as a testament to battles won over challenges between wolves.
Tessa trotted towards the thrones where her parents were sitting. “Greetings to the king and queen of the wolven thrones, Crown Princess Contessa Eureka Cithen offers you her loyalty.”
Upon submitting to them by showing them her exposed right side of the neck, King Ajax Elric Cithen nodded his head. Her father, who looked no older than her by five years, looked at her with a gleam of hope in his eyes. “Have fun finding the wolf which has a compatible scent with yours.”
For whoever Tessa chose among the men, the imperial family of Cithen would gain a new ally—a political marriage to strengthen their strength. And he would become the next king after her father’s abdication to the throne. After all, female wolves were not allowed to take part in politics and wars. It was a common concept, both from the Kingdom of Cithen and the Vashille Tribe.
Tessa stopped herself from mouthing that no one in this closed room was able to stir her wolf yet. She feared her grin would giveaway her joy if she said the words in her mind. “Worry not, Father. This daughter will perform her duties well.” The words she spewed were the exact ones that she rehearsed from the notes her nanny gave her earlier while her hair was adorned with pearls.
She shifted her attention to her smiling mother, Queen Euria Cadiamon Cithen. When Tessa and her mother’s identical ashen eyes met, her mother, who only looked like Tessa’s elder sister, mouthed the words ‘your aunt is here somewhere’. Tessa’s eyes widened and nodded her head eagerly. “This princess will enjoy the gathering so if you will excuse me, Your Majesties.”
Tilting her nose upward, she sniffed at the familiar scent of apples. Hundreds of scents bombarded Tessa. Stretching from the scent of fruits to the scent of nature, she followed the faint smell of apples, which stuck to an empty glass of fruit wine. Tessa followed the omega. “Excuse me? Have you seen the lady drinking that glass?” She pointed to the empty glass on the omega’s tray.
“Greetings – ”
Tessa cut her greetings with a wave of her hand. For her, hearing it repeatedly would make her explode into her wolf form, and that would only lead to her nanny’s death. “—just tell me where is she, please?”
Completely flustered by the crown princess’ honorifics, the omega bowed her head and used her index finger to point at the nearest balcony.
‘Ah, typical Aunt Shananel.’ Tessa dashed to the balcony, which would give her a view of the northern mountains—a scene far more peaceful than the scene transpiring inside the throne room.
Musicians from the different realms of Cithen gathered inside the throne room to provide the atmosphere which may lead to a prospective mating. Foods and beverages rained for the guests while the imperial gamma, the fourth most influential wolf in Cithen, was on high alert, along with the pack warriors who belonged to the imperial family.
After all, the gathering was a yearly event of the kingdom hosted by the imperial family—the Cithen Crescent Pack, the purest among all the bloodlines of werewolves. Its main purpose was to form connections from outside the packs or even outside the kingdom, the tribes from the Vashille Tribe. Alphas and betas used this chance to find a female who would benefit their respective packs while giving them their heirs. It was the oldest of the traditions.
Lost in her thoughts when she stepped onto the balcony, she failed to see the towering man whom she crashed into. A gasp escaped from her lips, totally snapping from her reverie. Her gaze met a chest covered with wool and a bear’s skin. It was at this moment, Tessa smelt the faint smell of citrus. Though the man’s natural spicy scent overpowered the smell of citrus, just the ample particular scent made Tessa’s wolf stir. Her stormy eyes trailed upward, meeting a pair of eyes that reminded her of the sun.
‘He is a lycan.’ A thought entered her mind upon seeing those golden eyes—a trait of those who got the Lycan ancestry, also known as the Vashille Tribe. And there was only one prominent figure, who came from the northern part of the Taruvan continent, the delegate sent by the Vashille Tribes.
Unlike the Kingdom of Cithen which worshipped the Moon Goddess, the Vashille Tribe of the northern Taruvan continent was a cluster of Lycan tribes who worshipped the constellation Lupus. And to maintain peace between two races that dwelled in the Taruvan continent, exchanges like this were quite normal. But Tessa knew better that everything was only a façade. The thousand-year-old rift between werewolves and lycan had never died down. The hostility remained.
Tessa, as the princess of the Kingdom of Cithen, lowered her head first. It was not a matter of pride if the peace and prosperity between the two territories were at stake. “Are you alright, sir? Forgive this lady for bumping into you.” She was about to curtsy when he stepped backward and gave off a light chortle.
“No need, your highness the crown princess. I am also at fault. Let us forget the bumping part and enjoy the banquet, yeah?” His deep voice vibrated the surrounding air. The corners of his eyes wrinkled. The three-clawed scar from his right forehead down to his chin scrunched as he gave off a laugh before tilting his body down, showing her respect before he left the balcony.
“You really have a way to find trouble, my dear niece.” A woman, who looked more like a warrior than a lady in her cape, cravat, and pants, welcomed Tessa. The latter’s face lit up.
“Aunt,” said Tessa.
Her steps were light as she trotted towards her smoking aunt. One arm’s length away from her aunt, Tessa’s steps changed their tune. The next moment she was in, her body swirled to gather momentum before she aimed for her aunt’s neck. A trail of ember slashed in between them. Shananel, who was once standing against the balcony’s railings, was now standing behind Tessa—the tip of her pipe pointed directly at the spot where her beating pulse was located.
“Still can’t win, your highness. When will you ever learn? You can’t sneak up against a werewolf with alpha blood.” The soft sound of Tessa’s forehead being flicked resonated in the balcony. Her aunt continued with her lecture. “Especially against the lycans. They heighten their senses twenty-four hours a day, unlike the werewolves who need the power of our wolves.”
Tessa linked her right arm around her aunt’s left arm as she leaned onto her master, the only one who did not tell her what she must become but to follow her heart instead. “Aunt, can you do me a favor?”
She felt her aunt freezing upon her ominous request. Tessa looked up at her Aunt Shananel and gave her a full-blown smile.
Looking down at her with a knot lodged between her thinly carved brows, one brow slowly rose. “Really. Ajax will lash at me again for spoiling you.” Massaging her temples, she gave off a sigh before she continued. “You can find a change of clothes in my office. My bow is there too. Do not forget to wear a mask. Ask an omega to prepare one for you. Am I understood, your highness?”
Tessa nodded. Her stormy ashen eyes gleamed like star specks of dust as the corners of her lips curled up. She lifted her dress to prepare herself for jumping from the railings of the balcony—the scent of citrus now completely forgotten.
- - - -
“CALLUM, OUR MEN received your command. They are on their way to the imperial packhouse of the Kingdom of Cithen,” said the man, wrapped in a cloak. The lush forest reflected on his deep emerald eyes with a good amount of specks of gold. He stared ahead while he was one step behind the towering man, who was also in a cloak.
Around them were dozens of people who were also wearing cloaks from a variety of fabrics—they made theirs of bearskin. Disappearing and appearing between the pine trees and the oak trees that littered the northern territorial entrance of the Kingdom of Cithen, people from different packs would pass by this part of the kingdom to reach the capital city of Orhen.
A fraction of his brown locks protruded from the hood while he was keeping up with the other man’s pace. “Cithen is a lively place to settle in, yeah?”
His chatter was immediately silenced when his ears twitched upon hearing a familiar guttural growl. The man before him spoke for the first time since they walked past the borders of the grassland and the Kingdom of Cithen. “Do not be fooled, Titus. Everything can change in a blink of an eye.”
Kicking the pile of snow as he trudged next to his superior, Titus remained silent. But it could not contain the rush inside his mind for someone like him who was yet to see the buzzing city that never slept.
‘The Lunar Festival will happen this midnight! I will finally see the flowers that only bloomed in the night sky, which I could only see from the top of the northern mountains.’ Titus thought giddily in his mind.
Lost in his thoughts about the Lunar Festival, which the Vashille Tribe did not celebrate, he did not see his superior walking in the right side direction. The next thing Titus knew, his forehead made contact with someone else’s back, followed by an annoyed grunt. “What the hell?”
Snapped from his reverie, it was too late for Titus to stop himself from getting involved. Before him, a heaving man turned to him. His eyes blazed with fury at the crate of spilled apples before he turned to him. “Have you got no eyes?”
“I am truly sorry, dude! I swear I did not see you but I got lost in my thoughts because hey tonight is the Lunar Festival, so – ”
“—shut the hell up, mutt!” The next minute Titus knew, the annoyed man turned into a beast on four legs. His strong-looking jaws snapped into the air as he raced in his direction.
A protruding set of claws was about to reshape Titus’ arm but was stopped midway when the werewolf, which was as tall as an adult man, rolled to the milk-white forest floor. With widened eyes, Titus gasped as his body was flipped to the other side—barely avoiding the werewolf’s attack by a hairbreadth. “Woah! You’re a lifesaver Ta-Callum!”
“Stay there and reflect on your mistakes,” said Callum. His voice was imposing as he stepped forward before Titus.
The werewolf growled, shaking the tree branches around them—piles of snow started to fall as the vibration continued along with the growls. The men who were with the werewolf picked the apples up. Their eyes darted from the goods before them and the scene unfolding around them. “Hurry, mate! We have to deliver this to the city with lesser damage possible!”
A snapping growl answered the man before the werewolf’s salivating mouth aimed at Callum, who was only standing—his stance did not care to move at all against the rushing copper-furred werewolf. But Titus knew. Titus knew how Callum could snap the werewolf into two using only his untransformed hands.
Travelers that were about to leave the Kingdom of Cithen through the northern passage and those who only stepped inside the Cithen’s land flocked around the meadow where the brawl was ensuing between a werewolf and the men whose race was yet to be identified. Biting the insides of his cheeks, Titus was blaming himself for making such a big fuss the moment they entered the Cithen territory and it was something that was the opposite of what they were supposed to be doing.
Titus expected the werewolf’s spleen to be completely detached from its four-legged body the moment it entered Callum’s attack range. What he did not expect was the onslaught of arrows that stopped the werewolf’s movement – the latter barely escaped the clutches of death. A knot lodged between his brows upon realizing that the arrows did not have an interval when they pierced through the cluster of snow straight to the forest floor – which meant they were fired and aimed together.
All eyes followed the direction where the arrows came from. A silhouette of a person stood atop the highest branch of the pine tree east of Titus and Callum.
“Did that person calculate the werewolf’s mutt from that direction?” Titus could not help but question the reality. Even the greatest archers in the Vashille Tribe did not have that kind of skill.
The enraged werewolf dashed to the base of the pine tree. A werewolf could do nothing but growled and scratched the trunk of the enormous pine tree while looking up at the person standing above him.
“Mate, snap out of it! Take a look at the arrowheads!” The words from the werewolf’s comrades took his attention away from the tree and turned his salivating mouth to his friend, who was standing behind him while holding one of the arrows. He walked on four legs towards his friend and transformed midway. A pair of calloused hands took the arrow from the other—freezing after seeing the sigil of a howling wolf forming a crescent moon form.
Titus’ brows rose upon seeing the faces of the werewolves lose their colors. On cue, the werewolves bowed to the silhouette while pounding their chest once with fisted right hands. Titus was about to ask them what was wrong when his eyes widened upon seeing Callum jumping onto the branch—gone was the mysterious silhouette of the archer.
As a faithful Raga, Titus followed suit by partially transforming his legs in order to leap such a great distance. The wind atop the tree was stronger, yet the scene he was welcomed to was the sight of his superior sniffing the air.
“Cherry Blossoms,” said Callum in a deep grumble with clenched canines. The veins protruded on his forehead and neck – a sign of agitation. And for a Lycan royalty, such agitation was not welcomed especially in foreign territories.
‘W-What is happening?’ Titus screamed in his mind while imagining as if he was pulling the roots of his hair.
Hundreds of footsteps from the wide major streets made of cobblestones to the murky roads in the back alley were all buried by the sound of traditional Cithen music instrumentals from the open bars around the area. The buzzing chatters from merchants who came from the farthest part of the Truvan continent gathered at the apex of Cithen’s capital city, the City of Orhen.
The City of Orhen was the imperial family’s grounds. Hundreds of imposing buildings surrounded by canyons watched the history of one pack loved by the goddess bloom into one country, followed by hundreds of packs. Cithen Pack was above all loved by the goddess, for they were specially crafted for two seasons as the goddess loomed over them with one great smile—or so the legend said. As a result of the moon goddess’s love, the members of the Cithen Pack were the only milky-furred werewolves in the wolven history. But among them, there were members with great transcendental abilities. Citizens of the Cithe
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