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Imprinting

Chapter 5

The family walked in front but Zacchaeus stayed a few steps behind. Kristof fell in steps with him.

"Do they speak to you like that? Others?" asked Zacchaeus.

"I am a big boy. I can take care of myself, Elder King," said Kristof.

"You will tell me if this happens again," said Zacchaeus.

"You are not my keeper, Elder King. You trusted me to show that scum his place. Trust me to do so in other cases too," said Kristof.

"Your life shouldn't be a constant fight. Your place in the pack is what you made for yourself. No one should be able to question it every other day," said Zacchaeus.

Kristof could feel the irritation in his tone. He felt a fondness for the Elder King.

"You should worry about the bigger things. Like I said, you can only save me so many times," said Kristof. 

Zacchaeus was silent.

Niles who was walking in front, holding onto Nikolas stopped short.

"There is a smell," said Niles.

All five of them turned to look at the pup.

"Its odd. I remember the smell," said Niles.

"Rogues?" asked Vasileios, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

"No. It is something decayed- it is dark. Its dark magic," said Niles, realising the smell for what it is. 

"Here in the woods? We don't have any druid community living by," said Stefanos sharply. 

"No. It is not the presence of a druid. The black magics have different smells," said Niles looking around. 

"It is a stench, overwhelming," said Niles as he walked in front.

They reached the hall to the castle.

He scrunched up his nose and looked around.

"There is some dark magic in this room," said Niles.

"What do you mean?" asked Zacchaeus.

"I- I can smell it on something here," he said.

"How can you be sure? The smell was there in the woods too," asked Stefanos, sceptical. There was no way something with dark magic came here.

Niles bowed his head, not wanting to look at the scary Alpha King.

"Alpha, there are different smells for dark magic like I said. When a spell is cast on something, it decays and that smells different. A user of dark magic smells different and so does a place where dark magic was cast as each of these acts take different sort of energy. In cases where the dark magic is cast on something, it is decaying the object it is in and it gives off a smell that is similar to a vulnerable omega. That is exactly the smell I am getting now," said Niles.

"If that is the case, you should have sensed the smell earlier," said Vasileios.

"His senses have not reached full potential yet. They are yet to be how it was before he became a lone wolf. The more he bonds with the pack and feels part of it, he will become a pack wolf. But as of now, he is only a quarter way there," said Nikolas. 

"Maiming made you feel at home?" asked Vasileios amused.

"No,'' scowled Niles, moving closer to Kristof.

Zacchaeus looked at Niles. He walked forward and extended his hand to touch Kristof and the young wolf bared him teeth in the offence. Niles does not know where that came from. Zacchaeus just looked at him and Kristof who was looking equally shocked as he looked at Niles.

"You imprinted on the mother wolf, pup," said Vasileios, laughing. 

Niles realised what he did and looked at Kristof who was silent. Niles wondered if he lost the one guardian he has here, but then Kristof placed his arms around Niles.

"See us three against you three now. Beware," said Kristof.

Niles beamed. The last person he imprinted was on his fathers.

A wolf pup imprints when they considered someone family. A lone wolf imprints when they trust the wolf they imprint on and considers them family. Imprinted by a lone wolf in itself is an honour and Kristof doesn't know what to do with that. 

"I am offended that I was not chosen," said Nikolas with a straight face and he saw Niles was close to forming a pout.

"No little wolf. We know why you imprinted on Kristof. You will be able to relate more with him and of course, Kristof is a closet mother hen," said Nikolas. The, Kristof craves for a family went unsaid. The imprinting happens only when the emotional bond is mutual. Kristof just held the pup closer and did not say anything. His eyes met Zacchaeus's and he could see approval and joy for him in those dark black eyes. He has previously imprinted on three people and all three are in the room. 

Kristof lowered his head in silent gratitude. He had a pup trusting on him now because of the Elder King.

"The smell, do you smell it even now?" asked Nikolas.

"Yes. It is decaying. It has been in place for years. I remember we had a cursed coin in our home one day and I was spitting blood unable to handle the smell. This is that kind of smell, only more intense," said Niles.

"I will have the witch from the Golden Falls called. She has been an ally to our parents. She must be able to help," said Zacchaeus.

Stefanos agreed.

"We will have it checked at the earliest," he said. 

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Zacchaeus looked at Kristof who seemed overwhelmed as they walked through the corridor. Niles has gone with Stefanos to do something in his room.

"Congratulations," said Zacchaeus.

Kristof didn't respond.

"Thank you," said Kristof and he was saying thank you for many things.

"What will you do when you find your Alpha?" asked Zacchaeus.

"My Alpha better imprint on that kid," said Kristof, his face straight as he said that. 

Zacchaeus turned to go to his study.

"You should rest. We need you more focussed in the days to come if what was said is any indication," said Kristof. 

Zacchaeus looked at him for a moment.

The omega was not backing down. 

Zacchaeus acquiesced and went off in the direction of his bedroom. Kristof shook his head in exasperation as he went off. 

He found Niles a few minutes later. The kid looked shy.

"Come here," said Kristof, extending his arm and the kid rushed to him. For Omega's pack feeling is everything. Family bond is even more precious. 

"I can never replace your brother but I am glad that you gave me a little spot in there, pup," said Kristof.

"You imprinted on me too, I can sense it," beamed Niles, excited. Kristof just chuckled and led the boy towards his chambers.

"Now, sleep well. Come to me or Nikolas if you need anything," said Kristof.

Niles nodded.

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The next week went by without much ado. In fact, Stefanos warmed up to Niles a bit. He would point to good books in the office room when they are in there so that Niles could have good reads. He wouldn't glare every moment of the day. Stefanos doesn't mind having the omega around much because he is helpful and well, Kristof is family. The kid imprinted on Kristof and vice versa. He is not obtrusive or even a chatter box. He does get cheeky but still, the omega is good to have around.

"Why would anyone want a sewage line to be the setting of a comic? I don't understand humans," clucked Niles, leaving a comic book about some random toilet ninjas. 

Stefanos was amused but he did not say anything.

"There is a book on merpeople if that interests you," said Stefanos.

"No, I majored in the subject. I can speak their language even," bragged Niles and then realised that the Alpha might wonder how a lone wolf knows all this. Sure enough Stefanos was looking at him with a raised eyebrow.

"I did have a life before the one- year world tour, Alpha," said Niles. He has taken to referring to the year as a lone wolf like that even though he has only completed one continent.

Stefanos just rolled his eyes and went back to his work.

"Alpha"

"Hmm?" 

"Why are you not mated yet? I though Pack Alpha's were supposed to be mated much earlier?" asked Niles.

Stefanos looked at the omega. Stefanos rarely speaks about this and not even his family brings it up.

"I haven't met them yet," said Stefanos.

"You could have toured the packs. Isn't that what Pack Alphas do if there is a delay?" asked Niles.

Stefanos doesn't know why he is answering Niles but the stress of not having his mate was weighing him down. So, he humours the pup.

"I am not just any Pack Alpha. Visiting Packs across the land is not advisable for Royal Pack safety," said Stefanos.

"You will find them soon. And I will them what a mean man you are," said Niles, his nose in the air as he went back to his book.

Stefanos was not sure if he should laugh or rebuke the pup.

"Tattle tale"

"Not if I am telling the truth. You better treat me well," said Niles. He knew he probably shouldn't get too cheeky. But it is too difficult not to. Having Kristof and Nikolas on his side gave him the courage sometimes let his cheekiness show. He can't not be himself. Moreover, Vasileios says that he shouldn't take shit from anyone, even the Alpha King. Niles imagines if he had an Alpha brother, they would be like Vasileios.

Stefanos shouldn't encourage the pup but he doesn't have the heart to tell him off. So, he settles for not responding at all.

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Kristof was researching, going through documents. In a couple of days Stefanos will turn 30. They are all worried. The wolf will start acting up soon and they wouldn't have much time to find his mate. It worried Kristof and he knew everyone else was worried too. 

Nikolas was reading tomes after tomes by his side and Niles was lounging on the sofa reading the books too.

"There is a ritual for this. I can't recall," muttered Niles.

"You knew the ritual?" asked Nikolas leaving the tomes.

"I did. But I can't remember much. It was taught when I was really young and many things are still fuzzy for me," said Niles. He is yet to be a complete pack wolf. His fur has lightened a bit though. 

"Hopefully you will remember more of it as the lone wolf scent leaves you completely," said Nikolas, hopeful as he said it.

"I should. We should find the Luna as soon as possible. I am going make sure that the Alpha King is on a leash," said Niles. Nikolas snickered and Kristof rolled his eyes.

"One of these days I am going to clip your mouth," said Stefanos from the door. Niles looked up from the book and had the decency to look sheepish. 

"Come now," said Stefanos and was already walking away. Niles rushed behind him.

"Niles has grown on Stefan. Did you notice?" asked Nikolas. Only the older three and sometimes Kristof shortened the Alpha King's name like that. 

"Too hard to miss," said Kristof, amused himself.

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"Where are we going?" asked Niles as he tried to match Stefanos's speed.

"To a village in the south," said Stefanos as the guards joined them.

"Is my favourite hunter not coming with us?" asked Niles loudly and sure enough Vasileios bounded down the stairs.

"I hear my favourite pup asked for me. Of course, I am coming to the south," said Vasileios beaming. The guards chuckled. Niles waved and then rushed in front, speaking with the beta warriors.

"Don't encourage him," said Stefanos in exasperation. 

"What me?" asked Vasileios like he was wounded. 

Stefanos looked up the stairs to his older brother who just raised an eyebrow. No help from that front then.

They all began the journey towards the south.

Niles was talking miles a minute to the warriors who were humouring him of course.

"If I didn't know any better I would think you are preparing an etymology for this land," said Stefanos mildly amused.

"You don't know better," said Niles cheekily. He knew he can get away with it. He had been pushing how far he can go with the Alpha King and he knows. Once he warms up, Alpha King is really a kind man though he covers it all with a stern face. He said that because no one was in earshot and the only person other than them who probably heard is Vasileios.

Stefanos just gave him a look.

"The south villages are expert cloth manufacturers. Nikolas was saying you don't have many clothes on you and are using the hand me downs. Take one of your beta friends with you and get the clothes when we get there," said Stefanos.

"But I don't have any -

Stefanos looked at Vasileios. The Alpha smiled and pulled his valet. There was a package in it. 

"This is a new card. It is in the pack name since your guardian angels warned us against making one on yours. You are the beneficiary. This will see your salary," said Vasileios.

Niles bit his lips and looked from one alpha to the other.

"I can't accept that. I don't do much work than reading, practising and making fun of you," said Niles looking at Stefanos who snorted.

"You do help me with research for paper works and you help in the upkeep of my office room and personal suite," said Stefanos. 

"You help in the infirmary and you are officially the Alpha King's valet. Of course, you will get paid," said Vasileios. 

Niles accepted the card and then beamed.

"In that case, let me go get Arastoo," said Niles rushing off to find a beta friend he made. Arastoo trains with him. 

"I don't think leaving him alone with a Beta is wise, especially a warrior in training. I know they think we don't know that Niles is with you more for his protection than for your aid," said Vasileios.

Stefanos sighed.

"It is a theory," said Stefanos. 

"A theory I am willing to bet you on. Obviously, brother wouldn't know but our favourite omegas in the world sure as hell know and they looked worried. Nikolas Antonakis and Kristof do not do worried," said Vasileios.

"Brother suggested this. Maybe they told him Niles need to be guarded," said Stefanos.

"Now you are talking. Yes. Asked us to take extra guards today. Sure as hell not for us two dropping into the Southern Village," said Vasileios.

"Maybe we will take him when the meeting is done with," said Stefanos.

"Good luck convincing him of that now," said Vasileios.

Stefanos huffed.

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