Raizel had said that he won't be visiting Frankenstein often out of awareness of the man's busy schedule. So he decided to see him again at the next weekend when Frankenstein has free time, which is today.

As always, Raizel brings some cookies, light meal, and wine for his visit. Today's a sunny day, so Raizel has no worry of rain making him stay for another night in his friend's house.

Raizel knocks on the wooden door and it doesn't take long until Frankenstein opens it, a slight surprised expression on his face. "Hey."

"I brought food," Raizel raises his arm where the food basket is.

"Great. But I'm just about to go out," Frankenstein sighs as he gives a way for Raizel to go in, yet he doesn't. He looks at the blond, "To where?"

"The river. Collecting herbs."

Raizel puts a hand on his chin, thinking of joining him. Frankenstein takes the long coat from the hanger by the door, then turns to Raizel, "If you don't mind waiting, stay here. Though I can't be sure if I'll be back fast."

"I'll go with you."

"You will?" The doctor raises an eyebrow.

"I don't want my trip here to be in vain."

Frankenstein finishes buttoning his coat before replying, "Then I'll bring extra sandwiches for you. We can eat there."

Frankenstein's sandwiches. Raizel remembers what the gray wolf said about it last week. Raizel tries to hold his excitement. "And this." Raizel raises his food basket again, and Frankenstein nods with a smile.

They set out after Frankenstein packs his needs and lunch. The river from Frankenstein's house is about 15 minutes of walk. That, if there's no traps laying around in the forest… Raizel forgot about this, and Frankenstein gives him a heads-up to walk carefully. The trip ends up taking longer because they're avoiding them—they're not laid in plain sight and mostly are hidden in bushes. And there are a lot of bushes in the woods. This irritates the doctor.

"Damn traps; these hunters really only think about themselves." Frankenstein complained with a hard look.

The first thing Raizel notices when they arrive there is that the river is wide and surrounded by a clearing with grass and mini plants—they're probably the herbs, but Raizel's amateur eyes can't tell the difference. The water is clear and its flow isn't too strong; he notices there are small fallen trees in the water, maybe that's why. Frankenstein takes a sharp knife from his bag, then cuts the small plants skillfully.

Deciding that staring at Frankenstein cutting plants is a boring activity, Raizel brings himself to the riverbank, not too far away from the doctor's location, but still far enough for him to not hear snipping sounds. He stays at a spot near where a tree lies in the river.

He bows, dipping the tip of his fingers in the water. He splashes the water towards some fish clustered together, then stands up; his red irises scan the entire area, indulging himself in the nice view and atmosphere.

His gaze stops at something … familiar and grayish peeking up from behind of the tree in the river.

Raizel walks closer to the tree and looks over.

"…M?"

The gray thing that turns out to be the wolf he met the other day turns his entire body in surprise, sloshing water around him.

"Y-you! What are you doing here?!" M quickly submerges himself to the neck, his ears flattening.

Raizel blinks in bewilderment. "Ah… Are you … taking a bath?"

The wolf grits his teeth. "Yes, and you're staring."

Raizel takes him hiding in the water as a cue that he's trying to cover his unclothed body, but the water is too clear that it renders his effort futile to the point that Raizel can see his entire body in the water almost clearly. He awkwardly blinks and tries to look somewhere else repeatedly, but his own vision betrays him and he feels his cheeks heats up a little. "I … can still see…"

M's face turns red just like Raizel's. "And you decide to keep staring? Look away, you shameless human!" The wolf aggressively splashes water towards Raizel, making him helplessly retreats further from the river bank. Raizel uselessly covers his body with his arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Please stop!"

"Then stop looking!"

"I'm not!" Raizel frantically looks away as he wipes his face with soaked sleeve. Then he realized that most of his clothes are wet. He sighs, his hands get busy taking off his red hood and squeezing any loose part of his shirt to get the water out.

He hears sounds of someone getting out of water, but he doesn't bother to look. When he's done with his fruitless effort to dry his clothes, he notices the wolf from the corner of his eye, already wearing pants.

Raizel wants to say something, but the wolf's glare renders him mute. He can only stand still when the wolf approaches him, his damp fur jacket on his arm. His ashen irises are on his wet clothes, then he smirks. "Well, at least now we're even."

The taller man gives the wolf a scowl. Who would have thought that wolves have a sense of modesty? Most people see human-shaped wolves as animals, and wild animals don't even wear clothes. He probably doesn't want to see human-shaped creatures wearing nothing, though.

"I didn't know someone's bathing there," Raizel opens his mouth with an excuse.

"And you had time to look away," M brings his face closer to Raizel's, "but you didn't."

Their faces stay close for a while, and Raizel finds himself staring deep at the silvery eyes. He feels there's a lump forming in his throat. Neither of them breaks eye contact, and Raizel notices that the frown on the wolf's face slowly dissipates.

"Anyway," The wolf pulls himself away—Raizel releases a breath he didn't realize was holding, "don't make me attack you again. And you just wait for your clothes to dry off. The weather's quite supporting for that."

Raizel doesn't know what to make of that threat. He eyes M who's about to leave when a familiar voice calls for him.

"Raizel, I'm done picking herbs. Let's have lun—why are your clothes wet?" Frankenstein says as his gaze's on Raizel and his clothes; he looks visibly disheveled, appearance and expression wise. The blond's distracted by the wolf approaching them.

"Hi, Doctor." M casually waves to the taller man, not surprised at all that he's also in the forest.

"You're here, too?"

"I was just finished washing myself." The wolf glances at Raizel, but doesn't say anything more. Suddenly his eyes snap to the bag on Frankenstein's hand when his nose catches a scrumptious smell.

Noticing that, Frankenstein grins, "Wanna join for lunch with us?"

M's face lit up, his ears are straight up. "Will there be enough for all of us?"

"Sure. I actually brought more, in case I stumble upon you here. But uhh," Frankenstein turns to Raizel, "are you okay with that? Might want to take that shirt off and dry it off."

The man takes a look at himself, then sighs. "I might do that."

The three of them sit themselves under a big tree, shielding them from the sunshine. Raizel though, not wearing his shirt, positioned himself so he's basking in the sunlight. His shirt is hung with his hood, waiting to dry off. M doesn't waste time and gobbles on his sandwich. Raizel stares at him dumbfoundedly.

"Someone's pretty hungry," Frankenstein says as he takes a bite from his sandwich.

M wipes his mouth, "Can't not be hungry after someone stared at you bathing, can you?"

"Oh—what? So that's why he's wet?"

"M…" Raizel sighs desperately, "how many times should I apologize so you're not mad anymore?"

"Over 9000 times."

Raizel looks at M, blinking; the latter just pouts mockingly.

Frankenstein clasps his mouth, his eyebrows raised suggestively, "Raizel, you just met him a week ago, but now you did that? I thought you slipped to the river before."

"I didn't even know he was in the river—and please don't look at me like that."

The doctor giggles as his friend looks at him exasperatedly. From the way Frankenstein looks, Raizel has already guessed that the blond knows what happened, and he continues to eat his sandwich in surrendering silence. He notices from the corner of his eye that the wolf is focusing on finishing his sandwich, not even caring to respond on their conversation.

He tries to ignore the image of the undressed wolf that occasionally comes to his mind. Raizel shakes the thought away before blood raises to his head.

After going back to Frankenstein's house, Raizel decides his visit is enough and he bids goodbye to the doctor. As he carefully walks through the woods and enters the city, he stumbles upon a place he always hates to see.

Raizel sighs as he looks away from the slave market. He's always bothered by the fact that this town doesn't even place the market in a more hidden spot, which means slaves are common around here. Some of the townsfolks even bring them out in the public. There's always a pang in his chest when he sees their faces. They are devoid of expression and will, as if they're already taken away by whatever awful things their owners and dealers inflict to them.

Raizel heard a dealer yells out a price; apparently a slave is being auctioned. As much as Raizel dislikes it, his pity and curiosity prompt him to see through the crowd and his eyes catch said slave inside a cage; her hands and feet are chained. The slave looks like she's barely keeping herself awake with her frail look. He squinted sinisterly at the sight and paces himself faster.

Maybe next time he has to take a detour.


On his next visit to the woods, Raizel's gaze catches someone laying leisurely on a tree branch.

"…Good afternoon, M."

M peeks downwards to see the person calling him. "You're here again?"

Raizel nods.

"A lot of free time you have there."

Raizel opens his mouth, but closes it again and exhales, "You're right, actually."

M rolls his eyes, then grabs the branch he's sitting on, swings under it, and lands right in front of Raizel. As M's about to say something Raizel cuts, "But I'm here to see you, not Frankenstein."

"What? Why?"

"I want to apologize for what happened the last time we met, so I brought—"

"Wait, wait, wha—" M steps back, his brows furrow, "holy shit, you think I was that angry?"

Raizel blinks in confusion. "Well, you splashed me with water ferociously and even brought that up to Frankenstein, so I thought you were pretty mad."

M's lips twitch over Raizel's remark, "Yeah, I was mad, but I meant it's been days, sheesh! I'm not mad anymore."

Raizel blinks, again. "Really? You're not?"

"Nope."

That makes Raizel smiles. "Okay, then… But I still brought this for you, so please take it."

M glances at the food basket Raizel always brings with him when he's visiting Frankenstein. "So, as an apology, you brought food … like always?"

"I bought food with more meat. I made some of them, too." Raizel can't hold a sheepish yet proud smile.

"This feels like bribery."

"…But you said you aren't angry anymore..."

M let out a smug chuckle when he sees Raizel's brows scrunch. "I'm kidding. You're fun to tease."

He's fun to tease? Well, that was something he didn't think he would like to hear from M. As a response to that, Raizel brings a hand to the wolf's head and gently scratches it.

It takes a short while for M to actually register what's happening and pull away.

"W-what are you doing?!"

"I'm petting you," Raizel replies flatly, "you're … pretty cute to pet."

"Huh? I'm not cute!"

"Yes, you are."

"I am not!" M yells as if the word "cute" is the most offensive word in the world. "Are you mad that I said you're fun to tease?"

Raizel can feel his own cheeks warming. "You are … for me."

M frowns; he's sure he heard something else. "What did you just say?"

"Nothing." Raizel walks closer to the wolf. The latter has prepared a stance to block the human's hand, but instead Raizel shoves him the food basket. "Just take it."

M glances briefly at the basket he receives unwillingly then to the man who gave it. Raizel just nods.

"…Thanks… I can eat this now, right?"

"Of course."

With that, M climbs up back to the tree branch he just sat on. The wolf checks out the basket and goes round-eyed when he sees the content. He looks at Raizel, then to the basket again.

"You … you must be rich."

Raizel blinks at the statement, then smiles awkwardly, "Just … enjoy it."

"…Want to join me here?"

Once again Raizel's surprised at what the wolf said. Joining him there … does that mean he has to climb up the tree too?

"But I gave it for you."

"This is too much even for me," M tilts his head towards the basket, "c'mon, you haven't had lunch, right?"

Raizel doesn't know what to do when M holds out his hand to him. Even if he accepts the offer, the fact that he has to climb the tree just to eat with M sounds like too much of an effort, let alone climbing a tree without that many branches close to each other. And he doesn't have claws.

But somehow his body goes against his mind—especially since that hand seems like it'll give him assurance of reaching the big branch M's sitting on. As Raizel almost manages to get ahold of the wolf's hand with great effort, his foot slips from a small branch—

"Rai!"

M quickly catches Raizel's hand—but the force of his fall outweighs M's body strength to remain in his position, so both of them fall with M on top of Raizel.

"Oww," The wolf whimpers, laying still as he process what just happened. He lifts his head to red eyes staring at him, slight pained expression on the owner's face and himself. He feels a hand on his back.

"Are you okay?"

"I should be the one who asks that!" M pulls up and sits by Raizel's side, "Sorry, I shouldn't have offered you the stupid idea of eating on a tree…"

Raizel keeps silent as he sees the worry and guilt on M's face. He holds out his hand to M's head and pats it.

"It's okay," He says, slowly turning the pats into scratches.

M's eyes round over that but he remains still until he breaks the silence, "Why are you doing this again?"

"To calm you down."

"It's unnecessary."

He says, as he sits unmoving.

"…"

"…Stop."

"You seem to like it…"

"Nope."

Raizel slides his fingers behind M's ears and M flinches. The red hooded man notices the wolf leaning to the touch before his silver eyes widen and he grabs his hand.

"Stop!" M grits his teeth; his look turns aggressive—Raizel swears he feels his heart skips a bit—then slowly becomes softer with what Raizel sees as … embarrassment?

"A … a wolf!"

Raizel and M turn to the source of the voice. There's a burly man standing not too far from where they are—and he has a rifle on his back.

"What are you doing? Get your hand off of him!" He yells, pulling the rifle warily. M flinches at that—there's no way he'd win against a gun. He raises up his hands in surrender, "I'm not doing anything to him, okay? Look, he's not even injured!"

"Anything might happen if I don't appear sooner," The man aims the rifle at M, "Hey, young man. Step aside."

Raizel gasps; he stands up frantically at the command and what it implies, "He's right, he didn't do anything. Please, lower your weapon."

"Don't be too nice to wolves. Do you know how many people that were attacked by them already?"

"You will go to jail if you kill an innocent wolf."

"Ha! Innocent?" The man pulls his rifle and let out a mocking laugh. "'Innocent' isn't really an accurate word for wolves. Or are you defending them? You, a human?"

M grits his teeth threateningly, "We didn't do anything."

This is a pretty bad situation. Hurting a fellow human might get the man punished heavier than if he does a wolf, but it seems like the man has no intention to back down even though he's standing in front of the wolf he's about to shoot. Raizel grits his teeth. He does not want M to get hurt.

The man's about to say something when someone pats on his shoulder.

"Hey, let us handle this. You can go somewhere else."

Raizel raises his guard when two more people appear, yet he sees M becomes less tense.

"Aren't you here to hunt something else? You can go now; I can take care of him." The man who just arrived speaks as his gaze is directed at M and him. This man is tall and looks young. His long, purple hair that reaches knee-high really makes an impression on him. He also brings a rifle.

"You just came and want to get my prey? Know your place!"

"But you need to get those hunts for the butcher's order, right? You won't get paid if his order came late, you know?" Another man that came with the purple head says to the hunter. He's noticeably shorter than the other man, and seemingly more easy-going.

The burly hunter flinches at the remark, "Err—shit, you're right. I'll leave that wolf to you, then!" With that sudden change of attitude, he rushes to the deeper part of the woods without giving M and Raizel a second look.

The two humans who just appeared eye him until he's gone, and the shorter one approaches the other two.

"Are you okay, M?"

M lets out a huff, "I'm okay…" He turns to Raizel, "Are you alright?"

The ruby-eyed man nods.

"Aaand he is…?"

"He's Frankenstein's and my friend, Rai. And Rai," M turns to Raizel, "he's Tao and that one is Takeo," he says, pointing to the long-haired man walking to their direction.

Tao takes Raizel's hand for a shake. "Hello! Nice to meet another friend of Frankenstein and M!"

Raizel nods reluctantly, not expecting the sudden barge of boundaries, "Oh, yes…"

Takeo follows what Tao did with a friendly smile. As Tao asks M what happened before he arrived and M explains, Raizel's mind is occupied with what M said about him.

'Frankenstein's and my friend?' He is M's friend now? He didn't mishear, did he?

Raizel unconsciously smiles at the thought. When he realizes he shakes it off, wondering how come hearing of him being friends of a random wolf makes him happy.

"Yeah, I'm going to deliver this to Frankenstein," Takeo pulls up a long box he's been carrying when he appeared earlier with care. Raizel stands there wondering what's inside that package.

All four of them end up walking together to Frankenstein's house. Fortunately the owner's present there. He receives his package with delight and opens it. Raizel's eyes widen seeing what's inside.

"This is amazing," Frankenstein holds carefully the classy-looking, brand-new rifle still laying inside the case. Takeo nods in proudness, "I promised you the best, so I delivered it."

"As expected of the best weapon dealer in this city," Frankenstein smirks at the other man.

Raizel's been silent in the background ever since Frankenstein started unpackaging the box. He's eyeing the rifle, the owner, and the dealer. M notices.

"You seem confused."

Raizel looks at the wolf befuddled, "I … I don't know Frankenstein uses rifles."

"Oh, he does," M's lips form a side smile, "He asked Takeo to teach him."

M translates Raizel's stare as why?.

"Self-defense? He lives in the woods, after all. But also, he's Frankenstein. He loves learning new things. And shooting just happens to be one of things he ends up liking."

"…You know many things about him."

"Not really. You just haven't met him in ages."

"I wish teleportation is a thing."

That's successful at making M laugh. Raizel glues his lips thin, internally regrets what he said. This wolf's unexpectedly bold. First, he attacked him, now he laughed at what he said as if he's a comedian. Traveling far away does make him meet new people who don't know who he is, so they're able to interact with him without restriction of being polite.

Done with embarrassing the red-hooded man, M clears his throat, "Well, now that you're here, might as well get to know him more, or even other people."

Well, there's nothing wrong with knowing more people in a place far from his hometown. They could be allies, friends … or someone else, he thinks as he's looking at M.

Frankenstein cuts the conversation when he calls for M.

"You have to be more careful from now on, M. Those hunters … Tao said they might not prey on wolves, but with how they work now with both guns and traps, wolves in the woods might accidentally get shot or trapped." Frankenstein pinches the spot between his eyebrows, "I thought this won't get this dangerous, but I was wrong."

M forms fists, his countenance shows anger even though he just had a light chat with Raizel, "Can't you humans do something about it? Report it to the authority, maybe?"

Tao chimes in, "Honestly, as long as there's no wolf killed yet, the authority won't do anything about it."

"What? Why?!"

"Because they only make a law to not kill wolves." Takeo answers, dispirited, "Even if they're badly injured because of a human, if they end up not dead, then the authority won't do anything to that human. They only make such a loose law just because wolves have the same level of intelligence as humans."

The only wolf in the room bares his fangs, "This is not fair. The woods are the place where we live. And we're told to not hurt humans over this dangerous hunting method. How do you humans look at us wolves?"

No one answers to that question.


Tao and Takeo didn't intend to stay long at the house, so they left first. M's about to go back too but Raizel stops him by the entrance.

"What?"

"If you need help you can ask me."

M raises his eyebrow. "Huh? Why do I need your help?"

"I…" Raizel trails off. His mouth opens and closes before he talks again, "I don't know. This whole situation seems off."

The number of human victims keeps increasing, even though wolves won't attack humans first. Could be wild animals but the number is high enough to make the situation suspicious. More hunters place traps. The government pays no attention to it, deeming that their method is acceptable. Even a newcomer like him is able to sense that all of these are done on purpose. Maybe the humans are the ones more dangerous, after all.

M lets out a sigh, "I don't know how can you help. Besides, even if I do need your help, how can I contact you? You're in the town. I don't go to the town."

The taller man scratches his head upon realizing what M said. "At least tell Frankenstein and then we can help you."

"Okay, but what help?"

"…That, uh…"

Raizel's open mouth freezes as he tries to come up with any help M would need in this situation. A help he will probably need the most is a doctor treating his injuries in case he gets trapped in a trap again, or gets shot by accident when the hunters hunt animals. Raizel definitely will only be in the way instead of a help when the expert's treating injuries.

He gazes at the wolf's smoky irises staring at him, the latter expecting him to answer. He gives up and bring a hand to scratch the wolf's head.

"This is the help that you meant? I don't need it."

"For emotional support."

"Wha—why would … I…"

The wolf's ears loosen up and—this is the first time Raizel sees it—his tail wags relaxedly. Seeing what he perceives as positive reaction towards the touches, Raizel lets his long fingers gently move on the wolf's head. Raizel can't hold a smile away. "You enjoy it, don't you?"

The wolf pouts, embarrassed. "What can I do? I'm a wolf…"

Raizel chuckles, this wolf friend of his is cute. He moves his hand under the wolf's chin and scratches it, "How about this area—"

"Not there! Ah…"

Raizel's startled at the noise M just made, but still continue what he's doing. He uses his other hand to scratch the head back—particularly behind M's ears.

"…Damn it. If I end up falling asleep on your hands, it's on you."

"I don't mind."

The more Raizel rubs and scratches, the wolf leans more and more to him. Raizel finds it funny and cute at the same time. The wolf sees through half-lidded eyes, Raizel's calm yet amused face. He gets pissed at it, yet still leans to the touch. At moments like this he hates his wolf instinct.

At a point M leans too much to Raizel that his hands can no longer hold the wolf's weight and they slip; the wolf falls on his arms. Both of them gasp.

"Argh!" M quickly pulls away and takes a few steps behind, his face turns pinkish. "Th-that didn't happen, okay?!"

"That definitely happened…" said Raizel, his cheeks are the same color as M's. "You enjoyed it too much." And so did he.

"That's why I told you to stop!" M pulls his hair like a crazy man, "Because I know that will happen! Because wolves like to be pet!"

The human swallows in a giggle. The fact that M admits that wolves like to be pet is something Raizel finds surprising, especially coming from the stubborn M who keeps hiding it before. Is it something embarrassing for him? He wonders whether other wolves will be more open about it, but he only knows M. "But I'm okay with petting you."

"Well I am the one who minds about it! What if I f … fall to you like that again?"

"…I'm okay if you fall to me like that, too…"

"No! It's not okay for me!"

Raizel makes no effort to calm the upset wolf; instead finding amusement in how he doesn't really intend to be mad, but seemingly act like that. Well, he has to admit that he enjoys petting him, so Raizel hopes the wolf will still let him do that. "I said I'm okay with it so you won't be embarrassed when that happens again. We're friends, right?"

M stops pulling his hair and stomping on the ground at that statement. He stares at the human, then grumbles, "…B-but, still…"

"I won't embarrass you even if you ask for more from me, too."

That brings back the wolf's unpleasant expression again. "Huh? Why would I ask for pets from you?!"

"You two aren't going back, yet? So noisy." Frankenstein shows up, reminding them that they're still in his house.

"If only this guy doesn't do anything weird, I would already leave." M says as he nods at Raizel angrily, "Goodbye. I hope we don't meet again."

"See you later, too." Raizel replies with a smile.

The wolf glares at him, then runs swiftly to the deep of the forest.

Next to him, Frankenstein releases an exhausted breath, "What did you do to him?"

"I just pet him."

"Huh?"

"I scratched his head and chin."

"…Does he like it?"

Raizel ponders for a while. "His expression shows displeasure, yet his body gestures said otherwise. I think he actually liked it." He turns to the blond, "Did you never try to do it to him?"

"Ah, that never crossed my mind, actually." Frankenstein lets out an amused laugh, then it dissipates quickly. "Anyway, he should be more careful with this situation. I'm honestly a little worried. You too, Raizel, since you sometimes visit us here."

Glancing at Frankenstein's serious countenance, Raizel can't help but to be as worried. "Yeah."