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Beauty And Her Beast

I lazily strolled into town, hands in my pockets as I followed the gravel path.

Our little house was built further up the subtle inclined land that this village built itself upon, and thus made for a short journey when it came to purchasing anything from the Bazar.

Although with the view of the grassy plains behind our little plot of land, I hardly ever minded.

I rubbed the silver coins in my pocket between my fingers, making my way towards the butcher in hope that they had something other than livestock.

Dad sent me to retrieve something for the wolf to eat while he collected some blood samples and whatever else he may need before the beast came to.

He offered to let me do some of it, but I politely declined since every time I even looked at it, my heart began to race.

I felt like I needed to get out alone and get some fresh air to allow myself to think and make some sense out of whatever happened to me earlier.

Or at all around that thing.

What kind of physiological response to something leads you to getting shocked whenever you touch it?

What in general leads to something like that?

Not to mention that weird tingling and pull at my chest.

I pressed the palm of my hand against my forehead, deciding that maybe I just needed to not think about it for a while.

The mixed sounds of hooves on the cobbled road, bleating sheep, and people talking amongst themselves grew louder with each step

I caught the odd looks from some people as I made my way through the stone cottages and weaved out of the way of people passing with their bovine.

I wasn't exactly favored much as an individual around these parts.

Maybe favored isn't the right word, more like just viewed extremely different from the rest.

Many girls my age here wore purely tight and frilly dresses that effected in showing off their breasts and shrunk down their waists in an effort to attract a man to their family.

The families that seemed to only view their daughters as an item to be won over in exchange for acquiring a strong man.

I for one couldn't stand to even look at corsets let alone wear one.

I tried it once when I was younger, before deciding that I actually enjoyed my ability to breathe. I even tried the thick dresses but found them so constricting and just overall in the way.

I also grew greater respect for the girls out there that seemed to wear them all day every day.

It was a difference between them and me, but a difference I could respect.

Who wouldn't respect someone's choice to sit back with a life of luxury?

Although they could never seem to be able to respect mine.

I found that many of them end up like that because its thrust upon them at a young age.

It became an expectation for them.

Lucky for me I was blessed with a father who let me explore many things and figure out what I wanted to myself, and I found joy in aiding him in his work.

In building and exploring and learning.

And wearing pants.

This difference never leads to any physical backlash toward me or him, but we were still greatly aware of it.

And we chose to accept it and move on.

I spotted the sign of the butcher, carefully tiptoeing around a couple of chickens and an awfully angry rooster before climbing up the brick steps.

The little bell above the door jingled as I stepped in, causing a head from behind the counter to lift.

I smiled as I met her eye.

"Good morning, Briar," I gleamed, hearing the bell once more as the door closed.

The older woman's grey brows rose in recognition, lips parting into a partially toothless smile.

"Lydia, my dear its been forever!" She gushed, wiping her hands on her apron as I approached.

Blair was one of the few people here that I could consider a friend.

She used to watch over my dad when he was younger, and even helped him watch me when he needed the extra help.

Her family has owned this butcher basically since this town sprouted.

The ownership had been passed to her ever since husband's passing, and on top of the meat that the ranchers send in, her three sons go out and do the hunting for wild game.

All while she prepares the meats.

She had a lot of will and energy for such an old woman.

"I know, usually we're pretty good with managing our own food, but something came up and we need your assistance," I explained, pulling the silver from my pocket.

She eyed it before I set them down on the counter.

"That Oliver," She let out a huff, "Always sending his daughter to do the shopping while he does all the fun stuff during the beginning of spring, eh?"

I laughed silently, wondering what she would have to say if she knew just what we had brought back to town.

"Believe me, he gave me the option and I decided to do this."

It was an easy choice given the fact that I apparently couldn't even touch the damn thing.

"Well, it is what it is. I'll give him an earful about it the next time I see him. What are you looking for today?"

"Umm," I looked around at the meat hanging behind her, "Any chance you have any 

quickly hiked my way up the incline, the venison being held around my shoulder and against my back.

I was meaning for my trip home to be a steady, and relaxing one, but apparently my legs had a completely different idea.

And I didn't even realize my quick pace until a moment ago.

I turned my head up, being able to see my destination from here.

My next breath came out trembling and my heart seemed to skip a beat before it picked up the pace.

I audibly groaned as I took my next steps.

This again? Already? I couldn't even see the wolf from here?!

Maybe I was just getting sick or something. That made more sense to me than anything else I could think of.

I could try to sleep for a bit after I get home. I'm sure my father can handle what he needs to on his own.

Or just hold off for a few hours.

I yawned at the very thought of it, the wind so graciously blowing a couple pieces of my stray hair into my mouth.

I slouched.

What a great day this had been.

"Lydia!"

My head picked up at the sound of my father, spotting him as he walked out from the small shack on the side of our house.

The shack that went down into the basement where the wolf was being held.

He walked towards me so that we met in the middle before we walked the rest of the way up with me.

"I take it you found some interesting stuff?"

He nodded eagerly.

"He's a historical discovery!" he began, lifting a sheet of paper from his pocket and unfolding it.

I looked over it as he tried to show it to me, but it was very difficult.

His handwriting became nearly illegible to anyone who wasn't him when he was passionate about something like this.

"Even by just assessing the physical side of him, is obvious from a long shot that he's one of the most powerful specimens I've ever seen. I'm almost confident enough to say he's the most powerful canine discovered to date."

"In the whole country?" I asked.

At this point, we had reached our yard and just stood.

"I'm willing to bet on it. In fact, I already sent a messenger pigeon to my partner in the West and told him to gather the rest of us up."

'The rest of us' meaning the others in a group that he became part of before I was born.

A group of ecologists all nearly as enthusiastic as him who gather together usually 2-3 times a year when one of them makes a discovery big enough to engage in before they research all that they can about it, then release the findings to the public.

The thing is, those trips took a number of weeks before he returned.

"I take it that means you're leaving soon?"

He paused for a moment before his expression slowly changed into something close to guilt.

He set his hand on my shoulder.

"Lydia, I'm sorry this is so sudden. I know we had big plans this spring but I-"

I waved it off.

Go, dad. Don't worry about it. I haven't seen you this excited about something in a while, take this chance while you have it."

In all honesty, I was excited for him. He hasn't been the one to bring news to his little group since I was 10.

Back when he left me with Briar for the month and she scolded him about it for weeks.

But I didn't mind one bit. I knew his research was important to him and to many others.

Being alone for a couple weeks wasn't bad, I had my horse to work with and-

I inhaled sharply at the realization that souls have come to me a lot sooner.

The wolf I was also going to have to take care of that wolf while he's gone.

The wolf that makes me feel like I'm sick whenever I even dare think about it.

My father placed a kiss on my forehead, snapping me out of my daze, "You're the best sweetie. I'll try to make it quick. I cant imagine a beast like that one is going to be too happy about being cooped up."

"Is it awake?"

"Barely. I managed to get the samples that I needed before he started regaining his scenes."

"And you didn't happen to find... I don't know anything immediately strange about him?"

I figured I might as well ask now in a sort of last-ditch hope to see if what was happening was really just happening to me.

Deep down I was begging for him to have felt something too.

He cocked his head to the side, his brow raising at the hesitation in my sentence.

"Anything specific you mean by 'strange'?"

I guess that means no

"Oh, no not really. I was just wondering if there was anything right away that separated him from the rest of the canines you've come in contact with, besides the obvious difference in size."

"Besides the color of his eyes, everything else checked out pretty well. I haven't gotten a good look at my samples yet though, so there's probably a lot more to be discovered. But I'll tell you everything I find once I get back."

I just nodded.

"Okay, did he seem... agitated when he woke up?"

"Surprisingly no. If anything he seemed calm and just kind of silently stared at me through the cage as I did the rest of my things. He didn't really show any signs of fear, nor any signs of aggression towards me. It could just be the drugs wearing off though, so it's hard to say for the long run. I know you're always careful around the animals I keep, but be sure to keep a close eye on this one."

"I will. And I'll make sure nothing happens to him until you return."

His smile turned into that of a softer one, giving my shoulder a little squeeze before removing his hand.

"I know you will. I'll put a sack full of coins on the table before I head out. It should be enough to feed this beast his fair share of uhh..?" He glanced back at what I was carrying.

"Venison," I answered for him, "Hopefully he likes it."

"I don't think he'll mind since he doesn't have to go hunting for it."

"True," I blew out, looking past him just a bit to look at the shack, "Well, I can imagine you'll start packing soon. Do you want me to retrieve saddle up Agnes?"

His horse, which was my gelding's older sister. Both of which were currently grazing in the grasslands.

My father might have a specialty with most animals, but both he and I agree, that I do better with the horses.

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