Chapter 20.1

The misty breath of an imposing, white creature hung in the air, its powerful hooves carelessly crushing Elena’s back and limbs.

“Ouch, that hurts!” Elena cried out in pain, her struggles futile as another set of teeth sank into her arm.

“Please, stop! Please!” she pleaded desperately.

“Struggling is in vain,” the creature retorted, “if you follow me quietly, your life will be spared.”

“No, let me go!” Elena’s voice quivered.

She couldn’t fathom why they wanted to take her along. If she resisted, it felt as though her end might come without any understanding of the reasons behind it. Yet, the prospect of going with them filled her with a dread even greater than the pain. She even found herself entertaining the notion that perhaps a swift end would be more bearable than what lay ahead. Silent tears streamed down her face, smudging her features and dissolving into the snow beneath her.

She lacked the strength for a scream, but still, she summoned her last reserves of energy, raising her arm in defiance against the oncoming foxes. With each merciless tear and tug, her body swayed like a leaf caught in a relentless gale, and it felt as though her very soul observed her defenseless form from above.

As the pain began to dull, her consciousness faded into a haze. The once suffocating pheromone scent now wafted through her nose almost imperceptibly on the breeze.

Suddenly, the creature, its sharp fangs deeply embedded onto Elena’s shoulders, was launched into the void, its piercing scream tearing through eardrums and assaulting the mind.

The growls of the beasts were soon accompanied by a rush of footsteps echoing through the snow-covered terrain. Their movements sent the snow scattering in all directions, as if it were a constant, cascading fall with every stride.

Amidst the chaotic sounds, the abrupt cessation of someone’s breath became all too clear. Elena strained to lift her heavy eyelids, fighting exhaustion every inch of the way, in an attempt to glimpse the unfolding scene behind her. Yet, her body was so battered and her strength so utterly drained that not even a finger could twitch.

Then came a sharp thud – a sound that could have been either a human’s scream or an animal’s roar, it was hard to tell. Subsequently, a warm liquid splashed across Elena’s face. More drops of crimson, which had already dyed her eyes a deep shade of red, fell upon her. Despite the acrid scent and the unsettling sensation, her eyelids fluttered in surprise, but that was the extent of her response.

The wind whirled, causing the forest trees to sway in a mesmerizing dance of motion. Elena, collapsed on the ground, found herself entranced by the harmonious melody of the wind.

The earth beneath her seemed to undulate and twirl, prompting her to shut her eyes. Amidst the tranquil symphony of the wind, Elena finally caught the sound she had eagerly anticipated.


As her name was called and the approaching footsteps quickened, Elena summoned the strength to lift her heavy eyelids. The black-furred beast’s leg morphed into leather boots right before her eyes.


Desperation laced the voice that called her, and the one who raised her upper body turned out to be Kennard.

“Your Hi…”

“Yes, it’s me. Are you coming to your senses?”

Kennard wrapped his arms around Elena’s shoulders and back, drawing her close. The chill of his hunting attire against her cheek contrasted sharply with the warmth of his embrace.

As the rapid drumming of his heart filled her ears, Elena’s racing thoughts began to steady, and the fear that had gripped her just moments ago slowly dissipated.

Drawing upon her last vestiges of strength, Elena looked up at Kennard. Whether her vision had blurred or Kennard’s once-vibrant pumpkin-colored irises had dimmed, they now appeared somber.

Kennard gently brushed aside the strands of hair that clung to Elena’s face and softly murmured, “I arrived too late. I’m sorry.”

At Kennard’s words, a wave of relief washed over Elena, even though she knew she teetered on the brink of death. It felt as if she hadn’t been forsaken. She held a simple wish: that, even if death was imminent, he would remain by her side, if only for a brief moment.

Her hand unconsciously reached out, and when Kennard held it, Elena relinquished the fragile thread of consciousness she had barely clung to.



Am I not dead yet? Elena questioned, her body swaying with a disorienting rhythm, causing her stomach to churn.

She existed in a peculiar state where neither her consciousness nor her body had fully awakened, as if she were submerged in water. It was as though her form was being gently maneuvered by an unseen force, and the cold wind rushed past her without directly touching her face or body.

She felt cocooned from head to toe in something soft and warm, as though the wind and ambient sounds were unfolding in a separate dimension. The passage of time became a blur.

She drifted in and out of consciousness, each awakening still marked by the sensation of being enveloped in a watery expanse. This time, however, she became aware of exclamations of surprise and the bustling sounds of activity around her.

Her cold, stiff body gradually yielded to the warmth of the surrounding air, and despite the pain that coursed through her like a relentless assault, Elena surrendered once more to the embrace of deep slumber.



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