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    astone2292
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Rising in the Shadows - 6. Chapter 6: Healing Heart

He couldn’t breathe. The air in his lungs felt as if it carried weight. Kaplan’s sense of balance was thrown off, but he knew he was sitting perfectly still as he let Cyrus’ words soak in. They...did that to him...on his Turning Day? They burned him. Whipped him. Branded, slashed...tortured! They tortured him! The Beta’s emotions resembled a washing machine filled with various liquid feelings, anger, remorse, and sadness.

The longer Kaplan stared at the scars in silence, the more and more emotions were poured in. He processed the image of the Alpha’s back with intense speed and thought. After several moments, he found a foothold in a particular emotion: devotion. He has become one of the most powerful and influential Alphas in the world. Those scars, the pain they gave him...is the reason he is standing today as the next Alpha to the New York State Pack. That pain is the reason he was able to help so many shifters around the world. It...it almost seems like that pain has become a gift, but Cy doesn’t see it that way. He feels shame in the fact that his pack not only abandoned him but turned on him in the worst possible way. I...I need him to change his perspective!

“Cyrus...they’re...they’re beautiful.”

The panda took in a deep breath but held it as he struggled to articulate his thoughts. He turned to the wolf and whispered, “B-beautiful? Wha...what mean?” Cyrus bit his bottom lip in frustrated puzzlement. The Alpha couldn’t comprehend what Kaplan meant by his shame being beautiful. “What mean by beautiful?”

Kaplan rose slightly and inched his way closer. “On the outside, they may look disturbing, especially knowing where...where they came from. But, when you see where they brought you, that’s when you know, they are the most precious things you carry.”

His breath left his mouth. Cyrus understood, but he swiveled his head as he put all of the pieces together. Scar bring shame. Shame bring goals. Goals...gave me power.

My Gods...our little pup is beyond correct! Brilliantly described. He merely saw what held us in shackles our whole adulthood...and he unlocked them in a single sentence. My bear...I’ve been a fool.

Me fool.

As long as we were fools together. My bear, may...may I ask a favor?

Favor? You...you never ask favor.

Yes, I know. I...I must make a statement to you, and I only hope you can understand.

What? What is?

I...I want him. I want him to be our mate.

Please, my bear. This one...Kaplan...he is the only one that has pulled our heartstrings. If he is not the one, then I can not stand to even toy looking for ano-

Yes.

Y...yes?

Yes. He...he is mate. Cyrus let his eyes well with tears as he stood and stared at the tender wolf. He give key to let shame go. I...I also want him. The large man sat on the edge of the bed, never straying his eyes away from Kaplan. He could tell that the wolf possessed shaky nerves, despite showcasing a tender smile. “Kaplan.” The wolf perked up at his name being whispered. “Thank you.”

Kaplan knew his words rang true when he heard the rasped whisper leave the Alpha’s lips. He nodded and crawled closer to the shirtless shifter, “Any time. Are...are you okay?”

“Yes. I good. Human happy. Just...not expect you to...to like scar.”

Eyeing the scar-laden back again, Kaplan lifted his hand, only to pull it back. “May...may I touch them?” The panda widened his eyes and after a moment of internal discussion, he nodded. The wolf raised his fingers and gently touched the warped skin. Drifting his touch down and across intersecting marks, the wolf felt their power that was held over his boyfriend. I...I can’t imagine the pain. It must have been blinding! To have carried these on his back after all those years...incredible. He is so emotionally strong to have kept these hidden. I...I don’t think I could handle it. No...no, I couldn’t. If the pain didn’t kill me, then...then I don’t think I could have lived with it.

Cyrus was left breathless as he felt the singing fingers tracing his scars. He touch! He touch the shame! It...it feel…

Feels like his touch is healing us. I can’t keep my focus off his touch. His fingers feel as if they are dancing but in awe and admiration. I...feel our shame drifting away! If...If Kaplan thinks of them as the reason we are standing here today, then who am I to say different? His reasoning is sound, and I can not argue with it.

Agree. I...I like his touches. I...want…

Go after him, my bear. For if you don’t, I will. Flashing his green irises, Cyrus craned his head to see the wolf in the edge of his vision. Kaplan seemed to be captivated, but the bear felt a need. Slowly rising, he let the fingers fall from his skin. Cyrus held out his hand, asking for Kaplan’s.

Kaplan lightly gripped the larger hand and was pulled off the bed to stand in front of the Alpha. “Cy? What are you-”

The warm lips pressed against Kaplan’s in a flash, meeting as if they moved in at a snail’s pace. The wolf saw the bear’s closed eyelids and let his own fall, embracing in their first kiss. His lips...they’re so soft and warm! Hands were moved to Kaplan’s hips as Cyrus took a step, closing the gap between the shifters. The bear’s lips moved as they shared a more passionate kiss. Kaplan drew his hands around Cyrus and landed them on the naked back. A low rumble echoed from the bear’s chest and into the wolf’s mouth. Kaplan felt the vibration course through his entire body, causing the man to melt further into the large arms. He’s kissing me! He’s really kissing me!

Several nurtured seconds passed before Cyrus took himself off Kaplan’s lips, “Kaplan…” The wolf recognized the voice belonging to the Alpha’s human side. “You...you think my scars are...beautiful?”

Looking deep into the now tan irises, Kaplan nodded gently, “Yes, they’re a part of you. They have given you a future, and they helped shape you into the man you are. I’d call that beautiful.” Leaning his head onto the man’s bare chest, the wolf whispered even softer, “They can’t hurt you anymore.”

Cyrus brushed his fingers through Kaplan's black hair. “Not anymore, and never again.” The bear nudged for the wolf to look up once again and landed another kiss. Never again.

***

The training never seemed to end for the mage, he felt it straining his body. Jeez, what was I thinking? Yakob told me to meditate, and I go ask Miss Elaine for more frost training! That wasn’t very smart of me. Vincent sat on the cool grass, heaving in oxygen through his wheezing throat. “Come now, Vincent. You can’t be getting soft on me, are you?”

And if I want to? I need a minute! Raising his head to see his teacher snickering with a hand covering her mouth, Vincent groaned as he forced his body up.

“Easy, my son, I was teasing. You’ve been working hard, and I can see that with ease.” Elaine placed her hands on her hips and smiled. I have no idea how he got so much stronger. His magic energy seems to have grown, and he is dodging my attacks with ease! “We’re taking a break. Sit with me under the porch and let’s talk for a bit.” The two frost mages took opposing chairs under the awning of Elaine’s home. “So, you’ve gotten stronger, and I demand an answer, young man. What have you been doing the past few days?”

Vincent shot his head straight up but left his body crumpled in the chair. “What are you talking about, Miss Elaine?”

“You have more energy, and you are sidestepping my attacks way too easily. I can’t just assume that this is from your turning. Not even Mason grew this much when he obtained his wolf. Have you been training on your own, or is this the work of that monk?”

“Yakob? You...you know about him?”

“Yes, Tierney spoke of him before he left. He’s a shadow mage?” Watching her student nod, she folded her arms, “What all has he taught you?”

“Well, he’s mostly teaching me how to fight a shadow mage, but I’m taking some of the lessons and focusing on them. He taught me how to feel someone’s shadow and see if they’re moving a certain direction or how tall or short they are as a person.”

Well, I’ll be! That might be how he’s dodging me. “Have you been using that knowledge in our sparring today?”

“Well…”

“Don’t be afraid to use all of your knowledge in a battle Vincent. If you don’t use everything you have, then you may not get the chance to use it later.”

Taking his teacher’s advice, Vincent’s smile widened, “Yeah, I’ve been seeing how your shadows move. When you’re going to swing using your left arm, your shadow twitches to the right just before you pull your arm back.”

Elaine huffed, partially in discomfort that she was now easy to read. Interesting. Did...did Stefan know this when we fought? “I’m glad you’re learning more, but don’t be afraid to take a break. It’s good to meditate on what you’ve learned. With your frost magic, I would be fine with not training you while you are working with Yakob. Your frost magic is at least at an adept level. Aside from some unique skills and energy manipulation, there’s not much more to teach.”

Energy manipulation! “That’s what Yakob is teaching me tomorrow!”

Curling her head, she grew instantly interested, “What? Manipulation? That’s...one of the first things he’s going to teach you? I’m rather shocked to hear that. I didn’t learn manipulation until my third year at Yale.”

She knows manipulation! “Miss Elaine? Why haven’t you taught me that yet? I’ve noticed that I can’t tell when someone’s a mage until they show their power.”

Sighing, Elaine relaxed into her seat, “It’s very advanced and requires a lot of concentration. Once you do it a couple of times, you find it rather effortless to repeat it.”

“Really? It seemed hard to maintain.” Earning a curious stare from his teacher, Vincent felt the need to explain, “Yakob pretty much called out Ty and Cyrus at the diner yesterday, and Cyrus was floored. He was apparently seeping out magic, causing Kap’s arm hair to stand.”

This monk must be real hot stuff to tell when someone’s holding back their magic. “Vincent, could you be a dear and invite this monk over tomorrow. You two can train here. I just want to meet him...and maybe go a round or two with him.”

“What?” Vincent felt his muscles twinge in stiffness as he bucked in his chair. “You...you want to spar with him?” That’s...that’s insane! My teachers going at each other?

“Of course! I can’t let you have all the fun. Besides, I want another crack at a shadow mage, and this one seems like he won’t burn my head. I’m more than interested in meeting him.” Especially if Stefan and I ever have to go at it again. I want to know everything about what that bastard can do!

“I’ll let him know when he shows up tomorrow morning. Just make sure Lei knows we’ll be here. I don’t need him thinking I’m being attacked or something.” Elaine smiled gingerly and promised to tell her mate. The two sat and talked for a while longer before getting back to the yard.

The two trained for a while longer, before Vincent needed to leave. He shadow-ran home to take a quick shower before his evening shift. First night on my own, good thing it's only a five-hour shift! Dave said that I need to change out displays and make sure the end caps are full.

The mage opted to drive, to appear more human. Clocking in, he took a quick review of the store and made a mental list. End caps between aisles two through five are trashed! I'm not even sure we have the product to fill those. After checking the back for display stands, he decided to use some of those. The sugar can go in front of the baking aisle and I can put those cases of tuna above the mayo between two and three.

Before the mage knew it, his small shift was nearly over and he got ready to leave. He cleaned the back dock of any excess trash and clocked out. Satisfied with his work, Vincent grabbed his keys and left. Arriving back at Mason's home, he parked in the garage beside the mammoth black truck. He walked into the kitchen and found that Mason had already cooked dinner. Smells like...chops and potatoes. He really needs to learn to cook some vegetables. After eating his food, Vincent sniffed out his mate and journeyed to the backyard. “Hey, big guy.”

“There you are, hot stuff! How was work?” Mason sauntered up and embraced the smaller man in a loving hug and smooch.

Vincent gave the large man summarized details of his day at the store while taking off his clothes. Quickly realizing his mate was looking for a run, Mason stripped. “Be careful, baby, this shift may still hurt a bit, so don’t expect it to go smoothly.” With a nod, Vincent stood naked and focused his mind towards his wolven form. Once he pictured it mentally, he felt a tingling sensation across his body. Several of his bones snapped and he let out a shocked yelp.

Fuck! That hurt! It didn’t feel bad like the first night, but damn! Stomaching the pain from his body shifting, the familiar experience of fur growing from his pores urged him to scratch. He ignored it, as he dropped to all fours to finish his shift. This feels weird!

It become natural. Give time.

Yeah, yeah! As Vincent finished his shift and let his body recover, he watched his mate complete his. Show off, I can’t wait until it becomes easy like that! The wolves nuzzled each other and waited for Vincent to be ready to run. After the speckled wolf rose from his position and remembered how to walk as an animal, the couple sprinted off into the dark forest, turning every way possible.

They spent several hours in the woods behind Mason’s house running, pacing, and laying among the trees and quiet nature. After growing tired from his exercise and the earlier workday, Vincent felt the need to sleep. The newly born wolf was still getting accustomed to Mason’s private woods, so he let his mate lead the way back home. Concluding their shift back into their human forms, the two men went back inside and headed for the shower before crawling between the crisp sheets. They cuddled and fell asleep in each other's arms.

***

Waking up the next morning, Vincent and Mason made their usual breakfast and pot of coffee. As the mage set the dishwasher, he felt a small prod at his shadow. What...what was that? Focusing on his shadow, he practiced feeling around for any living shadows. Okay...Mason’s in the bathroom, there are a couple of birds on the roof- Vincent turned his head sharply as if he were trying to shoot a beam through the walls. Yakob. He’s outside! Did...did he poke my shadow? Venturing outside in his baggy shirt and athletic shorts, he welcomed the monk, “Yakob? Did you poke my shadow?”

“I’m glad you felt that.” The monk’s face quickly grew serious, causing Vincent’s to as well. Yakob quickly threw up an arm, sending a thick rod of shadows hurtling towards his student. Vincent was almost hit as he sidestepped. He felt the rush of breeze from the passing darkness. “Excellent reflexes, Vincent. I expect you to learn how to block that at some point and not dance around it.”

He did that on purpose! To teach me that an attack can come from anywhere!

“Very good, but you must also learn your opponent’s strengths. I can hear thoughts, so what should you do?”

“Stop thinking.”

“Wrong!” The answer felt like a slap to the shifter’s face. “You need to stop thinking in your mind. Think with your body. If you want to step to the left, do it. If you plan on throwing a chain, do it. Don’t give a potential mind reader the opportunity.”

“Right. Yakob, I have something to ask you.”

The monk resumed his typical calm posture, “Speak your mind.”

“I spoke with my frost teacher and she would like to meet you. She also...well. She would like to spar with you if that’s okay.”

Yakob let out a light chuckle, “I would be honored to meet with her. Is she free today?”

“Yeah, she said to come by as soon as you got here. They have a bigger backyard to train in as well.” Vincent’s head twitched to the side and turned toward the door. Mace is coming. I...I felt his shadow!

“Very good! You’re learning to feel for the shadows around you naturally instead of focusing on them. Most impressive. You learn at a very fast pace.” The two watched the door as Mason walked out with just his shorts on.

Mason was startled to find the monk in his yard and instantly regretted not bringing a shirt. “Oh, hey Yakob. Bright and early, I see.”

“Good morning to you, Mason. I believe Vincent and I are about to go see his frost teacher.”

“Gotcha, I can meet you guys there in a bit.”

Yakob held out his hand as he shook his head slightly, “That isn’t necessary. I’m certain Vincent can take you.” The monk turned to his student and said, “You do know how to take someone with you in the shadows, correct?”

Rubbing the back of his head, Vincent furrowed his brow, “Yes, but I only did it once. Mason has to be in the shadows with me, right?”

“Not exactly. Now that you can walk in the daylight, just carry him.”

Vincent and Mason looked at each other, but it was the larger Alpha that began to snicker, “I’m...I’m sorry. Vinnie’s gonna carry me?”

The smaller shifter flatlined his brow at his mate, “Is that funny, Mace? How about we get dressed and I’ll carry my big, bad wolf to his mommy’s house?”

Although the statement irked his wolf, Mason couldn’t help but howl in laughter. He turned around and headed for the bedroom as the two mages followed. The monk felt the need to pose a question for his student, “Forgive me, Vincent. Did you say his...mommy’s house? I’m a little confused.”

“Oh, right. My frost teacher is my mother-in-bond.”

Yakob held back and stayed in the living room as the two Alphas wandered to the bedroom. How curious! Fate must be aligned for the young mage. To find a mate, whose mother is a frost mage. Very peculiar. The monk did not have to wait long as the two came out wearing shorts and shirts, along with athletic footwear. They’re both ready for a work-out! That is interesting. What will Mason be doing? He doesn’t possess any magical energy. “Are we ready? Vincent, you can lead the way. Pick up your mate and run through the shadows as if you were to go through daylight. Mason, do your best to feel weightless to make the trip easier since you can’t day-walk yourself.”

Mason felt silly for tormenting his mate earlier. I get it now! Just like before when Vinnie met with Stefan when he took us up to the roof! Earning a giggle from the monk, the wolf reminded himself of the monk’s magic. “Alright. Come on, Vinnie. So, uh...how do you want to-”

The taller wolf let out a surprised yell as his feet were swept out from under him and his world quickly lost its color. He found that an arm was placed under his knees and another was pressing against his back. What? He...Vinnie picked me up? “Big guy. Weightless thoughts…” Hearing Vincent’s grunts, the wolf quickly understood that he was back in the shadows. Right! Uh...okay. Feeling like a cloud should do it. Mason envisioned his body being light as a puffball in the sky, causing Vincent to readjust the large man.

“Thanks, big guy. That feels a lot better.” Yakob turned to the couple and Vincent stepped towards the front door.

Wait...how is he going to get the door? “Vin? Yakob? Who’s getting the door?” Mason craned his head to the mages but watched as he was about to be rammed into the door. What are you doing? I’m gonna hit-

The Alpha was about to make contact with the door, but his vision began distorting. What...the Hell? Am I getting smaller? Mason’s vision made it appear as if he was shrinking down to the floorboards. The door was still getting closer, but the light from under the entryway nearly blinded him. Oh, Gods! That’s bright! I get what he’s doing, though. We just went under the door! Looking up and behind him, everything seemed to have gotten incredibly wider. Looks like some kind of Harry Potter nonsense! “Can we start this outside next time?”

Vincent tried his best to keep from dropping Mason as he laughed, “Sorry about that. I went slow for you this time. That got me the first time I went under a door. Going in small spaces can be a little trippy. If the space is small, you just kind of shrink down to a really tiny size. After a couple of times, it’s really fun to see a place from that perspective.”

“Huh. You might have to show me sometime.”

“I will. Alright, my magic’s draining, so we’re going to go pretty fast. You might lose your breakfast…”

I highly dou- As his vision returned to a normal height, the sights of his front yard became a blur as life was rushing by! Oh, my Gods! There were short glimpses of roads and trees, but Mason could barely keep up with what he was seeing. Within just a few seconds, he saw the front of his parent’s home. What? We...we’re here? But...I don’t...I’m confused. Hearing the monk’s light chuckles, Mason was let down by his mate as the color was restored around him. “I...we...we’re here and we were just at...my Gods!”

Watching his mate in pure flabbergastation amused the smaller mage, “Well, yeah! That was me taking my time, too. I didn’t want to ruin your eyesight on your first shadow run, but I’m glad you saw bits and pieces on the way.” Vincent walked towards the front door with Yakob in tow, leaving Mason to gather his thoughts. “Coming, babe?” Seeing how he was dragging behind, the large Alpha quickly followed the two mages.

Knocking on the front door, Vincent waited eagerly to see Elaine. He smiled harder as the door opened and saw Lei. “There’s my son-in-bond! You here to…” Lei saw the strange bald man behind Vincent and assumed it was the monk Tierney spoke of, “...see Elaine? I’m assuming your name is Yakob?”

The monk folded his hands in front of his tunic and bowed, “Yes. It is a pleasure to meet you, Alpha shifter.”

He can tell I’m an Alpha? He’s just a human. “I’m Leidolf. I see you’ve met my boys.”

“Oh, yes! Mason is a gentleman and a fine Alpha to the local pack. You and your mate have raised a spectacular man.”

Smirking at the monk, Lei stepped aside to let the entourage in, “Come on in. Ellie is in the reading room, but she should be on her way out.” The middle-aged shifter glanced at his sons and their apparel, “Going to exercise a bit today, fellas?”

The couple nodded towards the father figure as they continued their way to the backyard. Yakob was pleased with the wider space to work with compared to Mason’s. Much bigger! This will be a great place to train Vincent in his magic. “Excellent! Vincent, let’s have you block some attacks to get you warmed up.”

The shadow mages wandered to the center of the yard as Lei looked over at his son. “So, what did you have in mind, Mace? It’s not like you to get involved in a sparring session with mages.”

“Just coming prepared. After my first practice with Vincent, my wolf has been wanting more action lately. It’s been a while since I was put to a test.”

A guttural laugh rose from Lei, and Mason did not like the sound of it. “Maybe I should go change into something more comfortable. That is...if you want your ass beat.”

Mason crossed his arms and chuffed, “You haven’t beaten me since I took over for the pack. What makes you think today will be any different?”

“You never know, son. You aren’t backing down, are you?”

“Hell, no! Sorry, old man, but I can beat you any time I want. I just came prepared in case my wolf wants another crack at Vinnie.”

Lei muffled his laughter behind closed lips, “Now, now. The boy has enough on his plate, learning two different affinities. How ‘bout you give Caleb a text and have him come over? I’m sure, we could all use some visual experience, seeing what a shadow mage is capable of.”

Good idea! Other than going into the shadows and what glimpses I saw yesterday, I have no idea what Yakob and Vinnie have up their sleeves. Shooting Caleb a quick text of their location, Mason began paying close attention to the solid black attacks being sent Vincent’s way. His mate kept sidestepping and bringing up small walls in response to them. That’s pretty cool! I guess they can use shadows as weapons and shields.

Mason and Lei heard the door behind them open. They saw Elaine walk out wearing a casual, yet elegant yellow sundress that went down to her calves and tan sandals. “Lei? Why didn’t you come get me? I thought I smelled our boys, but I didn’t know who was here that smelled of lilac. Is...is that the monk?”

The mustached shifter took a few steps back to curl his arm around his mate, landing a smooch on the lady’s cheek. “Sorry, Ellie, and yes, that’s Yakob. I can tell he means business when it comes to Vincent, that’s the first thing they did when they arrived.”

Elaine watched as the shadow mages warmed up, and was surprised at what she saw. They can use shadows as weapons! Why...why didn’t Stefan do that during our fight? Does he prefer his fire magic? I must remind myself to make documentation of what they can do! “They’re certainly versatile.” She took a few steps forward, instantly earning Yakob’s full and undivided attention. “You are Yakob, correct?”

“Yes, and you must be Vincent’s frost teacher. Your aura is quite impressive, if I may be so bold.” Yakob horizontally folded his hands and bowed.

The frost master hid her subtle giggles behind a hand. “So formal, but I should expect that from a monk. I am Elaine Wilson, and it’s a pleasure to meet you. You are the third shadow mage I’ve seen, and you’re easily nicer than the first.”

Yakob’s face grew curiously stern, “You don’t mean Stefan, do you?”

“Yes. We fought twenty years ago.” Elaine’s face turned equally serious, “You know that man?”

“I taught him over thirty years ago. I was unaware of the evil in his heart, and the pain of his actions lives within me. By training Vincent, I am seeking retribution for my teachings. Stefan should not be allowed to walk among the innocent.”

Elaine let a somber smile take the place of her scowl and nodded. “I have faith in our student, and so should you.” Causing the monk to smile weakly, the frost mage turned to the student, “So, the topic of today is energy manipulation? Vincent, what do you know about it?”

“It’s the ability to control your energy. You can cover your aura to be more covert, or pump it up to intimidate.”

Mason overheard the sentence and made a connection. Like how he did during Dirk’s challenge! “Vinnie! Didn’t you do that back at the airport?”

Both of the mages gave the Alpha stares that almost created a tremble in Mason’s heart. Yakob took a step towards Vincent, but kept his attention glued to the larger man, “What do you mean, Mason? Even at his level of ability, he shouldn’t have been able to do such a thing.”

Vincent understood his mate’s meaning and grinned, “Oh yeah! I forgot about that! I made it super cold when I was challenged by Dirk when we first met.”

“Show me, don’t hold back.”

The young mage did his best to recall his emotions from that day, but couldn’t find the right emotion to toy with. “I...I did it when I was challenged, and it happened suddenly.”

“Vincent!” Looking up, he saw his father in bond’s eyes turn tan, and they were boring deep into his own. He’s...challenging me!

Father challenge! We must stare back! Hearing his wolf’s call to arms, Vincent’s eyes turned pale blue as he stared at Lei. Father do what Dirk do? Do magic thing!

I get it now...Lei’s forcing us to make the area colder, like during Dirk’s challenge. The mage stared deep into the glowing tan irises and felt his magic flow from his skin. Wisps of frost covered his arm hair and he saw his breath floating between their gazes. I...I think I’m doing it.

“My word...do you feel that, Elaine?”

“It’s pretty cold, I’ll tell you that.” Judging from the comments behind him, his teachers gave their approval, but Vincent couldn’t bear to leave Lei’s eyes. He wanted to win. He wanted to beat his father-in-bond.

“This is cute.” Lei stepped forward and paced closer to Vincent. The wolf could feel the chilling atmosphere but didn’t let it stop him. Lei stood directly in front of the smaller shifter, staring down the frosty blue irises.

Vincent felt intimidated by the intrusion of his personal space and made a wincing motion with his nostrils. Lei capitalized on it despite being buffeted with a blast of colder air. I’ve seen worse from Ellie, little one. You got nothing on the rage of a pissed-off mate.

Looking up at the mammoth sized man, Vincent saw movement in Lei’s mouth but didn’t dare sway his eyesight. The lips opened, and the mage couldn’t help but lose his concentration. Inside Lei’s mouth were the fangs of a wolf. Sharp, long, and deadly teeth were closed against each other. Vincent lost control of his breathing, blinked, and stumbled back a few steps. He had lost his first challenge.

Stong...strong wolf! Alpha father is strong wolf. No...no win?

Sorry, bud. We can’t always win. Looks like Lei’s a pretty tough customer.

Oh, come on. We can’t be a sore loser! I don’t know how you feel, but losing just makes me want to get better and try again.

...yes. Yes. I like! Will do good! Be better! Human, good thought!

There we go! Keep your head up. “So, that’s going to take some practice?” Lei smirked and nodded his head.

Jeez! I know I did that move to Ty, but that is scary! Vincent accepted his loss and bared his neck to Lei, only for it to be clapped by a large hand. “Didn’t mean to do that to you, but I figured that a challenge would help you out with that.”

“I agree, but dear, did you have to show your teeth? That’s a really disturbing sight.” Elaine walked around to get into her student’s vision. “Vincent, did you feel how you pulled your energy forward?”

Vincent felt threatened when his magic poured from his body. “I think so. I...I felt threatened, but I wanted to puff my chest out, to show that I wasn’t intimidated.”

“Can you do it again without Lei staring at you? Visualize how his gaze felt to you.”

Focusing on how the tan eyes felt through his mind, Vincent curled his head as he noticed his energy trickling across his skin. “Keep it up. You’re doing it. Just a little stronger.” Vincent shut his eyelids tight as he recreated the feeling of Lei burning his stare through his own. C’mon...a little more! More energy was crawling off of his skin, but Vincent lost his concentration and started gasping for air.

Elaine clasped her hand on Vincent’s back. “That was an excellent start! It wasn’t as impressive, compared to the challenge’s result, but to do that on your own was impressive.”

“I agree!” Yakob pressed his hand on the student’s back to show his approval of the results. “But I must ask, what makes this different from being stared down by an Alpha?”

“I...uh...Gods…” Vincent took in a few more deep breaths before attempting to answer, “I think it...might be instinct. I know I didn’t have him when I did it with Dirk, but my wolf demanded to win in our challenge.”

Elaine smiled gingerly and nodded, “Yes, but color me impressed with what you did. Your second attempt was great, but when Lei stared you down, even I felt a chill. But, don’t get ahead of your victories. There’s a lot of work ahead before you even attempt to try holding back your energy to cloak it.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself. How about you take a seat for a few minutes, Vincent? I think Elaine and I have a few things to talk about?”

The frost mage looked at the monk with a raised eyebrow, “Oh?”

“Why, yes. Or did Vincent tell me wrong, when he told me you wanted to spar?”

Copyright © 2021 astone2292; All Rights Reserved.
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So impressed with the interaction between Cyrus and Kaplan: just loved it, thank you!

 

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Philippe

Posted (edited)

It’s a good thing the Electric Panda has complete control because the release of emotional waves, breaching the dam of shame, could have been an emotional tsunami for anyone nearby. The Panda has made his choice, so too, has the Beta Wolf; as the bonding energies collect around these two, it appears destiny has found its time, mates and Mates have been chosen.

Imagine peering within the shadows to see a small man carrying a big wild eyed man, only while slowed to allow the latter a brief moment of awareness, then to see the big guy cringe and hold tight as they rapidly disappear within the darkness; what a photo that image would be if ever captured!

Never underestimate your father-in-bond, especially when the big guy is the former Pack Alpha, as the sage-ness of the elders forever makes a teacher; with big sharp teeth! With all the sparring, teaching, and practicing the arts of combat in multiple affinities, poor Mace must be starting to wonder who really is the big bad wolf and what has fate dealt him. Mace may soon understand the sentiments of a former President that introduced himself during international travels as the husband of his famously popular wife.

Popular, enduring, and surprising humble, Vinsy is getting much needed guidance in growth as the looming challenge is never far from the thoughts of all; even the concerns and regrets of the monk bring context to the real challenge ahead.

Another fantastic chapter @astone2292!

Edited by Philippe
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Well, Kaplan hasn't made that decision yet, but I think we all know what the answer will be :gikkle: If I were to ever receive fan art of anything in this book series...it's Mason screaming while being held by Vincent. I needed Vincent to get knocked off his oblivious high-horse, but in a delicate fashion. He beat Dirk and Tierney in a challenge, but I think it was time for him to get a dose of reality. He's still a growing shifter, and one day, he'll beat Lei's staredown. 

Thanks for commenting, @Philippe! I always appreciate your analysis of the chapters!

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wenmale64

Posted (edited)

This was a great chapter. The emotion between Cy and Kap was so heartfelt and special. Those two are going to be the next POWER couple. If we ever see a situation where Cy, Mason, Kap and Vincent are together against a single threat it is going to be road pizza without the road 🤣. I have no idea where Vinnys powers are going to top out at, but watching the show will be over the top.  As for the shadow travel with a guest, I think Vin needs to take Mason out for a very nice dinner. I am thinking somewhere on the west coast. Maybe the Gotham Steakhouse in Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. I understand their 32 ounce Rib Steak is fir for ....well a Wolf 😇.  I am loving this story. Keep it up, you are doing great!!!

Edited by wenmale64
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Three cheers for Kap!!! His response was perfect. He is a way better being than I am. I would have been focused on the event back then, rather than Cyrus right now. I am so happy for CyrusB. I still hope they kicked/will kick someone, from his old Pack, in the behind.

For me though, his flip/acceptance/realisation was too simple/easy? I know that statement is full of potential holes because you are dealing with being's emotions, etc. But in my reality, that's how it felt.

The fact that Yakob felt it was 'peculiar' that things were falling into to place for Vinny, was interesting. It almost feels like someone is ensuring Vinny is given all the tools he will need for his confrontation with Stefan. I can see that, but I wonder why? Has some being/s somewhere decided that Stefan's Quest or past actions are not acceptable, etc?

I also wonder about Stefan not using his Shadow Magic fully against Elaine? Was he playing with her or...what?

nb: I will be surprised if Elaine wins her spar. Not sure about Mace and Lei. I almost feel that spar needs to be even. 

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Amazing chapter, it was really emotional between Kaplan and Cyrus, really tender but that is why they are drawn to each other, Vinnie is growing by leaps and bounds, he is gaining knowledge and skills with frightening ease , Stefan is In For a certain power battle

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2 hours ago, wenmale64 said:

This was a great chapter. The emotion between Cy and Kap was so heartfelt and special. Those two are going to be the next POWER couple. If we ever see a situation where Cy, Mason, Kap and Vincent are together against a single threat it is going to be road pizza without the road 🤣. I have no idea where Vinnys powers are going to top out at, but watching the show will be over the top.  As for the shadow travel with a guest, I think Vin needs to take Mason out for a very nice dinner. I am thinking somewhere on the west coast. Maybe the Gotham Steakhouse in Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. I understand their 32 ounce Rib Steak is fir for ....well a Wolf 😇.  I am loving this story. Keep it up, you are doing great!!!

Oh, yeah! Cy and Kap are gonna be a power couple, no doubt! 

I think with Vincent's ability to take Mason anywhere, there might be some listings of pretty famous restaurants. Thanks for commenting! Glad your liking the story!

2 hours ago, Buz said:

Three cheers for Kap!!! His response was perfect. He is a way better being than I am. I would have been focused on the event back then, rather than Cyrus right now. I am so happy for CyrusB. I still hope they kicked/will kick someone, from his old Pack, in the behind.

For me though, his flip/acceptance/realisation was too simple/easy? I know that statement is full of potential holes because you are dealing with being's emotions, etc. But in my reality, that's how it felt.

The fact that Yakob felt it was 'peculiar' that things were falling into to place for Vinny, was interesting. It almost feels like someone is ensuring Vinny is given all the tools he will need for his confrontation with Stefan. I can see that, but I wonder why? Has some being/s somewhere decided that Stefan's Quest or past actions are not acceptable, etc?

I also wonder about Stefan not using his Shadow Magic fully against Elaine? Was he playing with her or...what?

nb: I will be surprised if Elaine wins her spar. Not sure about Mace and Lei. I almost feel that spar needs to be even. 

For the situation's response being too easy, remember who Kap is. He's the master at responding to things, both in the court and in the pack. He can process and articulate emotions a lot faster than a lot of the other characters.

Buz, remember Lord Bol and his divine intervention? Yeah, that was fun. I don't think the God of Order would find Stefan's book burning or the proposed Destiny acceptable. 

Maybe Stefan prefers to burn things instead of running around in the shadows? Who knows with that, scumbag...

52 minutes ago, mikedup said:

Amazing chapter, it was really emotional between Kaplan and Cyrus, really tender but that is why they are drawn to each other, Vinnie is growing by leaps and bounds, he is gaining knowledge and skills with frightening ease , Stefan is In For a certain power battle

There are some deep and raw emotions involving those two and their pasts. Vinnie's a fast learner. He has spent a decade reading while he was searching for Stefan.  Thanks for commenting, mikedup!

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Just truly loved this chapter; the various interactions were so well done.  I can't wait to see Yakob and Miss Elaine do battle, even if it is just sparring.  It is actually sort of good that Vincent had to back down from Lei.  I think he needs to learn that as strong as he is becoming, their will always be someone just as strong or stronger that could be out there.

The first section with Cyrus and Kaplan was truly magical.  Kaplan's view on what happened and what the scars should represent was so amazing.  Loved everything about how they both interacted and felt toward each other.

Can't wait for the next update...

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29 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

Just truly loved this chapter; the various interactions were so well done.  I can't wait to see Yakob and Miss Elaine do battle, even if it is just sparring.  It is actually sort of good that Vincent had to back down from Lei.  I think he needs to learn that as strong as he is becoming, their will always be someone just as strong or stronger that could be out there.

The first section with Cyrus and Kaplan was truly magical.  Kaplan's view on what happened and what the scars should represent was so amazing.  Loved everything about how they both interacted and felt toward each other.

Can't wait for the next update...

I don't think I can say it enough, but I get so excited to see your comments, centex! I'm tickled pink that you loved this chapter!

I can't wait either, and the chapter's already written! Just a few edits and it should be ready for posting. I agree with your analysis of Vincent losing to Lei. He needed a small reality check that he isn't up to snuff against one of the pack's finest. I wonder how that will affect his mentality in his upcoming duels...

As the author, I have a really hard time taking a pause with writing about Cyrus and Kaplan. They're so stinkin' adorable together! Chapter 7 shouldn't be too much longer!

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I can't put into words how touched and emotional I was with the wolf and the panda.  Both times I read it I was so moved.

The rest of the chapter was just as phenomenal.

Please hurry with the next several chapters.   Thank you

 

 

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All I can say is "damn you made me cry 😭 again!!!!"  The hell Cyrus went through and to have Kaplan turn his shame into a thing of beauty....genius!!  But so very emotional!!!  I love me some Cyrus and Kaplan!!! 🐼:heart:🐺

And for the rest of the chapter......WOW....  I always expect your work/words to be awesome but this was just unparalleled in its tremendously brilliant sparring/staring matches!  (Not to mention the tear jerking beginning) Running out of adjectives to describe your chapters!!! When you started LitS, your writing was already unique and mind blowing .... I didn't think you could get much better.  You were already "there"!!!  But boy was I wrong!!!  You keep growing and proving just how amazingly awesome you are!!!  I would pay a handsome price to have a fraction of your imagination!!!  You are just amazing!!!  I grew up reading comic books and still love them and the tv shows and movies that were born from them BUT if I had been able to read stories like yours, I could have saved my parents and myself a lot of money 💰!

You are rocking the were-creature and magic world bud!!!!

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On 3/6/2021 at 2:52 PM, Timejun said:

I can't put into words how touched and emotional I was with the wolf and the panda.  Both times I read it I was so moved.

The rest of the chapter was just as phenomenal.

Please hurry with the next several chapters.   Thank you

 

 

Thank you so much! Between this comment and the next, this is what keeps me going. I'm glad you loved it!

 

3 hours ago, Patch1 said:

All I can say is "damn you made me cry 😭 again!!!!"  The hell Cyrus went through and to have Kaplan turn his shame into a thing of beauty....genius!!  But so very emotional!!!  I love me some Cyrus and Kaplan!!! 🐼:heart:🐺

And for the rest of the chapter......WOW....  I always expect your work/words to be awesome but this was just unparalleled in its tremendously brilliant sparring/staring matches!  (Not to mention the tear jerking beginning) Running out of adjectives to describe your chapters!!! When you started LitS, your writing was already unique and mind blowing .... I didn't think you could get much better.  You were already "there"!!!  But boy was I wrong!!!  You keep growing and proving just how amazingly awesome you are!!!  I would pay a handsome price to have a fraction of your imagination!!!  You are just amazing!!!  I grew up reading comic books and still love them and the tv shows and movies that were born from them BUT if I had been able to read stories like yours, I could have saved my parents and myself a lot of money 💰!

You are rocking the were-creature and magic world bud!!!!

Patch! I didn't mean to make you cry, but I'm incredibly happy you found this chapter so moving! 

I'm hoping to write in other genres too! I started a secret project, and boy...oh boy, I have really high hopes for it. My editor doesn't even know about it! But I'm not taking any extra time away from the two main stories to work on it. 

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This story is amazing, I can't wait to see what happens next. I love how loving and willing to pass along knowledge and praise Lei and Elaine are. I also love how humble Vincent and his wolf are. They don't run from a challenge, but at the same time they don't flaunt or force anything. The encounter with the NY enforcer was a great example of that. All the characters are amazing. 

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Kaplan is so strong in spirit and intuitive. He and Cyrus seem made for each other as if they were destined mates.

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