I ran, walked, trudged, and shambled.
Eventually, I fell to the ground in the middle of the storm.
The whole world was turning upside down in front of my eyes.
I couldn't feel my limbs. My blouse and pants were drenched in mud and I felt that my whole body was wrapped by heavy lead.
I had to crawl on the muddy surface of the ground, pulling my body to slowly move forward, until I lost my last strength of life and became completely stagnated in the mud.
I flipped and lay on my back. My mouth, nose, and eyes were sealed by the heavy pouring rain.
The raindrops changed into thousands of knives by the strong wind, darting through my body.
I opened my mouth and tried to catch my breath.
Hunger. It felt like an invisible hand rifling through my stomach, looking for food. When it failed to find anything, it went all the way up my spine and strangled my throat.
I curled up and started to retch, coughing out mud from my mouth.
I hadn't eaten anything since last night. I was out in the forest with the gathering and hunting squad this morning and I got lost. By the time I finally found my way back, everyone had already left without me and the storm came.
I had to get to our camp before it was dark, or else I would be literally starved to death tonight.
I tried to push myself up, but the ground was so slippery and my body felt so heavy.
Just when I was about to give in to gravity, I heard a voice in my head.
"Don't give up. Give it another try."
It was my wolf.
"I can't. I'm too weak," I said. "I don't have any strength because I'm starving."
"You've got two feet. Get back to your feet. Then, just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. You'll find it's not that difficult at all," she encouraged me.
I turned my head and saw some tree roots on the side. I used them as rungs on a ladder and eventually pulled myself towards a nearby tree trunk.
After I finally got back to my feet with the help of the tree trunk, I managed to see the tips of the tents in our camp up ahead in the distance.
"Take one step at a time," I told myself and walked into the pouring rain.
By the time I arrived at our camp, the rain stopped.
Soldiers started to put torches up because it was dark.
I hurried to the canteen and saw some omegas eating in the kitchen.
They were kitchen helps, running errands for chefs in the canteen.
"Who's that? She looks like a tiny teeny little rat!" A maid saw me and gasped with surprise.
"She's a drowned rat as well, haha!" Another maid jeered, which made everyone guffaw.
"She's Alpha's daughter, but don't worry about her. She lives in the thatch just like us and does all the heavy labor just like us."
"She doesn't even have a name!"
"But how's that possible? You said she was Alpha's daughter."
"Her mother was a whore. She passed away without giving her a name. No wonder she's cursed."
"She was born premature and retarded. Anyway, something inside of her head wasn't right. That's why everyone hates her in our camp."
A maid pointed at her brain and added, "She's coo-coo. I saw her talking to sparrows and frogs the other day. What kind of crazy people do things like that?"
They talked and laughed about me as if I wasn't there.
I had already gotten used to that.
I bit my lips and wiped the mud off my face.
"Could I have something to eat?" I asked in a quiet voice.
"The canteen's close, she-wolf," a maid dragged her voice and spoke very slowly as if she was trying to talk to an imbecile person, "No meals for you today. Go away."
I lowered my head and said, "I'm not retarded. I'm just really hungry now. I've been out hunting in the forest all day and I didn't have anything to eat. Do you have some leftovers? Anything will do."
"Look at her. She just doesn't understand what we have just said."
They laughed again.
A maid took up a rolling pin and waved at me, "Go away, she-wolf. We've got nothing for you."
I was afraid of getting beaten, so I ran out of the kitchen in a panic. Then, I tripped over something on the floor and almost fell to the ground.
Another laughter started in the kitchen.
I felt so ashamed of my clumsiness and I just wanted to disappear in thin air.
Then, I heard a maid's voice -
"I just can't believe such an idiot will be sold to Alpha Lucas."
"You mean Alpha Lucas of the White Walkers Pack? That cold-blooded warlord from the North?"
"Really? How do you know about it?"
"I was passing the main tent just now and overheard it. Alpha Jacob was talking about it with Lady Rosalie."
"To be sold to the North? Where the rogues and savages lurk around?"
"I know! And I bet she can't make it even for one day!"
I was shocked. I couldn't believe what I had just heard.
The White Walkers Pack was the most infamous one in the Kingdom. Being the leader of the most powerful pack in this kingdom, Alpha Lucas had a notorious name for burning down villages and slaughtering innocent people, including women and children. Rumor has it, that he was a relentless killing machine, raking people down like crops in a blink of an eye.
I was about to become a maid of a demonic Alpha with flames of blood in his eyes.
I couldn't believe that this was going to happen to me.
Maybe that was a mistake.
Maybe they were talking about someone else.
After all, why would a predominant warlord from the North want to buy a weak and useless she-wolf like me? I didn't even have a name.
However, I still decided to go outside the main tent.
There was some bush outside the back entrance of the tent, so maybe I could sneak into it and eavesdrop.
The main tent was the place where my father, Alpha Jacob, and my stepmother Rosalie resided.
It was patrolled by soldiers day and night.
I waited patiently in the dark until the patrol was on their shift.
Then, I tiptoed into the bush in a flash and strained my ears.
"... and then, we'll have one less problem, darling." I heard the voice of my stepmother Rosalie.
"But she isn't qualified." I heard my father's voice.
"Of course, she isn't. That's why Alpha Lucas will help us to do the deed." Rosalie's voice was cold and determined.
My father said something in a muffled voice, which I couldn't hear clearly.
Rosalie said in a dramatic voice, "Uggh, we've been talking about this all day, Jake. Your ambiguity on this issue is very misleading. People might think that you don't want to trade her to Alpha Lucas just because that doe-eyed little girl reminded you of her mother. You still have got over that whore, haven't you?!"
My father sounded vexed, "She wasn't a whore. She was a Princess of Blade Ridge Pack!"
Rosalie got irritated and said, "Keep your voice down, Jake! Before you get all of us killed! How dare you mention that name again? She's a plague and she will bring bad luck to our entire tribe! You know it!"
My father said in a low voice, "Yes, but still..."
Rosalie got even more emotional, "Haven't you got enough trouble on your plate? Do I need to remind you of the debt you owed to Alpha Lucas because of your gambling habit? Do you want me to sell our own daughter to that murderer?! Is that what you want? Let our dear little Ziva become a maid of a sadistic savage?!"
"Of course not, dear," he said.
Rosalie's voice got chilling, "So, make up your mind and let the deed be done, Jake! If you can't make up your mind, I'll do it for you, because that's what a Luna does, to step forward and protect our pack when the existing Alpha can't decide."
I covered my mouth so I wouldn't make a noise, but I was screaming silently inside my mind.
They were going to sell me to Alpha Lucas of the White Walkers!
"What the hell are you doing here?!" A soldier's voice appeared on top of my head.
I looked up and saw two men holding a torch, standing right in front of the bush.
I jumped out of the bush in a flurry and said, "I'm sorry! I'm just trying to look for something to eat..."
"In the bush?!" The soldier raised his eyebrows.
"We have to report this to the Captain. The White Walkers are coming and we're on curfew tonight," the other soldier said.
"Please don't do that! It won't be necessary. I'll go back to my thatch right away..." I said in despair.
The Captain they were talking about was my stepbrother Zion, who had been systematically abusing me for 20 years.
The soldier looked at me and said, "It's the she-wolf. She's retarded and she probably doesn't know what she's doing. I'll send her back to her thatch."
Just when I felt a bit secretly relieved and thought I somehow managed to get away with this, a nightmarish voice appeared -
"Who's that over there?"
"Sorry, Captain Zion. It's the she-wolf. She was looking for food," the soldier answered.
Zion approached me with a cruel smirk on his face.
He was a young stud with dark eyes and raven black hair, just like his mother. He looked nothing like my father, except for his height and built. He looked almost twice the size of me.
"Looking for food outside my father's tent in the mid of the night? How slick you are! You can fool those soldiers but not me, my little stepsis."
I hated him when he called me by that name. I'd been called a lot of worse names, but I guessed it was the salacious and greedy look on his face that got under my skin.
"I'm not trying to fool anyone," I argued.
"Seriously? Talking back at me? You haven't been sold as a Northerner's bitch yet, but you've picked up their fucking attitude problems. I guess it's my job tonight to straighten it out and teach you some Southern manners." He took off his belt and folded it in his hand like a whip.
"Hold her up straight, soldiers. Don't let her move a bit." He said with a menace in his eyes.
The two soldiers carried out his instruction and grabbed me with one arm each.
I was stuck between them.
Zion swung his belt high up and lashed it heavily at my chest.
I couldn't help but moan in pain, which made him even more excited.
He lashed me at both of my thighs and grinned with satisfaction, "You'd better get used to it, you little slut, because you'll be whipped every single day when you're sold to the Northerners."
I bit my lips until they started to bleed. I secretly wished he could stop torturing me, but he was really enjoying it.
I had never shouted for help whenever he bullied me in the past.
Partially because calling for help was the act of a coward and I didn't want to give in to him.
Partially because I knew nobody would want to help me.
But on that day, when I saw the frantic gleam in his eyes, I realized he was about to kill me.
I couldn't stand it anymore, so I decided to take a risk and shouted for help.
"Father! Father! Please help me! Zion's going to kill me!" I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Zion looked surprised. He had never thought I would dare to call for help.
He jumped at me and covered my mouth immediately.
"Shut up! Or I'll strangle you to death!" He threatened me in a low voice.
But it was too late.
My father had already walked out of the tent with Rosalie on his side.
"What have you done to my son?!" Rosalie exclaimed exaggeratedly, wiping the sweat from Zion's forehead.
I was the one who was bleeding and she blamed me for making her son sweat a bit.
That was another reason I didn't want to call for help.
"Let go of her." My father commanded those soldiers.
They freed me right away.
The whip wounds on my legs were so painful, that my legs melted like noodles.
When I realized that I couldn't stand up straight without support, it was too late.
But just when I was about to fall to the ground, my father caught me by my waist and pulled me into his arms.
I looked up at him and I felt that my heart was about to jump out of my throat.
I had never been noticed by my father before in our tribe, let alone being held by him like this.
He was a tall and well-built man in his early forties. He had got blond wavy hair and piercing blue eyes, both of which I took after.
When I met his sight, I immediately lowered my head.
"Fa... Alpha Jacob, I'm so sorry..." I apologized in a broken voice.
I guessed I shouted too loudly just now.
"Call me father. My daughter," I heard his deep mellow voice.
I burst into tears almost instantly.
I couldn't believe what I had just heard.
My father, Alpha Jacob of the Crimson Pack, had just acknowledged me as his daughter!
I looked up at him in tears of joy but only to meet the dispassion in his eyes.
My heart sank.
"You're my daughter now because you'll be sold to Alpha Lucas of the White Walkers. Go to Uma's tent now and let her clean you and dress you up. Then, Zion will take you to the stable, where you'll meet Beta Lucian of the White Walkers. He will take you to the North tonight and you'll never come back to this place again. Do you understand?"