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Chapter 3

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The night air was dry and cool, ruffling my pelt as I bounded through industrial streets, leashed to the shadows that cringed from the sharp scrutiny of street lights. The plaintive whine of engines became my soundtrack as I travelled deeper into the city, leaving the outskirts behind. Cigarette fumes stole into my nostrils, acrid as the smoke my fiery dominance had produced when Father doused it earlier. It flared bright now, revived by the adrenaline that came with the defiance of his orders.

My cover shrivelled as I approached the Central Business District, and I grudgingly accepted that I would have to morph soon. While some people were bound to find the prospect of a horse-sized wolf fantastical, I knew the majority would fear me, and a fraction of that majority would lash out. Fear drove humans to inhumane acts; Midna was right in that respect, at least.

I also understood the necessity of preventing a shadow world war. Humans could be dangerous when they wanted. They'd rendered entire species extinct before, for reasons as trivial as a pretty fur coat; what would they do to my people if they perceived us as a threat? Werewolves were remarkable individuals in small numbers, but humanity was a plague upon the earth. Even the most ferocious of beasts could fall to a hornet's nest.

It was all the more reason to follow through with my plan. Surely London's life will compensate for our loss, I thought, hoping I could coax Father to the same conclusion. We don't need to go to war to avenge Arthur.

Cars came and went more often. I tapped into the transformative energy idling at the core of my being mid-leap. Its heat tore through my body, prompting bones to pop in and out of their sockets. Muscles and ligaments reformed. Fur receded into pale, luminous skin and a mane of black hair. Fangs snapped back into my jaw, reemerging as blunt teeth.

I was thoroughly human when I turned onto Collins street, and I had no issues blending in with the pedestrian traffic. With no idea of what alley I was looking for, I followed the sidewalk and gaped about like a tourist, searching every laneway I came across for clues.

It proved to be a frustrating and fruitless task. The street was too busy, too loud, too... pungent. Ageing trash, unwashed bodies and perfumes competed with the heady aromas of various cuisines. Every second shopfront was a restaurant of some description, and I refused to believe that there was enough business for all of them to thrive.

"What's so great about the city at night?" I muttered, still sour from my spat with Richard.

I was about to shame pedestrians for their excessive use of deodorant when a splash of red across the road caught my eye. One brick building jutted out onto the sidewalk slightly more than its neighbour. It bore an ocean-themed mural painted only from varying shades of blue, save for a smear of red on a mermaid's chin.

Blood.

I crossed the road, finding that the mural marked a hidden laneway. A quick whiff confirmed that the red streak was indeed Richard's blood.

Skin prickling with anticipation, I set forth along the alley, letting it draw me into the heart of the block. At some point, the asphalt gave way to a road of gold-painted bricks. I found myself amused, despite the gravity of the situation. Follow the yellow brick road.

The further I travelled, the weirder and more frequent graffiti became, until I felt utterly estranged from reality. It was like I'd stepped into an alternate dimension of vivid landscapes and mutated creatures. At one point, I saw the sinuous length of a dragon coiled around a fire escape. Its amber eyes, the same colour as mine, seemed to follow me as I turned the corner...

The trail ended in carnage. Corpses littered the metallic bricks, their innards strewn about like party streamers. I sucked in a sharp breath, only to quickly regret it; the cloying stench of rotting meat smothered the air. I felt irrationally tainted by that breath, as if by letting the death-laced air into my lungs I'd welcomed it into my body and brain, through the simple oxygenation of the blood that served both.

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