The conversation with my parents hadn’t really ended up being much of a conversation. There wasn’t much they could do when the Alpha was personally ordering it. My father did give me a look of concern though, which I reciprocated with a nod of encouragement. I didn‘t like it either, but I’d told myself I was going to be okay. Within the week, I was packed and waiting outside for when my lift would arrive. I had been told to be ready by six in the morning because it would take all day to arrive at the Golden Blade pack. I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive but I was outside waiting in the cold moming nonetheless.
Finally, a black car pulled up and I opened the boot, throwing my suitcase in. Normally someone would have come out to do it for me, but it wasn’t exactly like I needed anyone to do i t. I was perfectly capable of doing it… it was just odd.
I walked over to get in but, when I went to sit in the back seat, suddenly the door to the passenger side opened from the inside. I peered in slowly and saw Aleric leaning over to unlock it from the driver’s seat. “Morning,” he said groggily as he straightened back up again “…Good morning.” I was surprised to see him in the same car as me, let alone driving it. He looked tired, as if he didn‘t like having to be up so early, and was dressed in comfortable clothes. His wavy black hair was even curlier in places than normal, not having been brushed a t all today. It was the first time seeing him looking so dishevelled yet casual.
“…Where are the warriors?” I asked. I thought for sure they would be the ones driving us.
“They’re taking a car behind us. Get in.”
I didn’t question it further and followed his instruction, sitting in the seat next to him. I didn’t know what to do though, and so I ended up staring ahead awkwardly as he began driving. It was a silent drive, neither of us having said anything since I’d sat down, and I wondered about what I could do.
My eyes then spotted the music console and I naturally reached out to turn it on, thinking music would break the awkward air. But right as I was about to touch it, I thought better of the idea. I didn’t want to annoy him so early in the day if he didn’t want to listen to anything. Especially when he looked so tired. I put my hand back into my lap and decided to just stare out the window instead. Ten seconds later though, the music was suddenly playing. I quickly looked over and saw Aleric adjusting the settings, looking for something to listen to. “Anything in particular?” he asked. I stared at him in surprise.“…No.”
He ended up playing some random song I‘d never heard before but it really made me wonder. I realised I’d never gotten to know Aleric’s interests in the past. What he had liked, what he’d enjoyed doing. Everything had always been about the pack with us or nothing at all. The rest of the drive was spent listening to different songs, only small talk very occasionally. And by the time we finally arrived, I was thoroughly exhausted from the long journey. We both got out of the car in zombie-like states and stretched. Already, the sun was going down and I wondered how Aleric had managed to make the whole trip with only minimal breaks along the way.
A representative greeted us not long after our car drove in and escorted us to the lodgings we would be staying in. Luckily the housing looked to be close by to the main meeting hall so we wouldn’t need to worry about driving anywhere tomorrow. And so, both being exhausted, we said our goodnights and quickly went to sleep in our separate rooms. The next day, the negotiations began. Much to my dismay, and humiliation, the Golden Blade insisted that I get my mark reconfirmed by their own pack Elders. I had to remind myself that I was acting as an ambassador today just so I didn‘t cause a scene in front of them all.
I ended up conceding on the condition that it would be done by their sole female Elder to which they agreed. It was a much quicker process than last time and I attributed it to their lack of resources compared to the Winter Mist. The Elder was using a book that looked to have barely any details, and it really made me appreciate and miss Elder Luke’s amazing study. I reminded myself to go back one day and beg until he allowed me to read everything his study had to offer.
With the confirmation out of the way, the hard part began. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t convincing them of my legitimacy that was hard, but it was the fact that none of them wanted to deal directly with a fifteen year old. Which was fair, all things considered. “Listen to me,” I stressed through my clenched jaw for the hundredth time that day. “You‘re clearly getting a good deal here. To associate yourself with our pack, plus the added trade benefits, your economy is obviously going to be getting the most value out of this.”
“Tell me again why she‘s discussing business with us?” one of them spoke up. I think it was their Beta but couldn‘t recall his name. “I thought they were bringing the girl to show proof, not because we’d be dealing with her directly.”
I was internally at the point of wanting to just jump across the table and rip his throat out, but I didn‘t think that would be an effective negotiation tactic. Behind me, Aleric had been sitting back in his chair, watching the entire thing take place. I could tell he was just as unhappy with how they were treating me, his eyes narrowing every time one of them tried to dismiss me. “I agree,” spoke one of the Elders. “We should be discussing this with someone who at least has a bit more experience.”
I had six years of experience conquering an entire country, but sure, I was the one without any experience.
And so, finally, I snapped. Fed up with the entire process that had already taken us well into the night.
“Look,” I said loudly, making everyone go silent and stare at me. “Either take the f*****g deal or I swear, by the Goddess who lives in me, that I will personally smite every single one of you. You’ve all shown an extreme lack of professionalism here today and I am at the end of my rope showing you a courtesy sorely lacking towards myself.” It wasn’t like I had any God powers that could actually smite anyone… but they didn‘t know that. And judging from their terrible book collection, they had no way of figuring it out either. Instantly, they all paled, unsure what to say next. That is until finally, their Alpha chimed in.
“Alpha heir Aleric, are you really so low as to let the girl speak to us like that during such an important meeting?” he spat out, flustering over his words. “Reel her in right now if you have even a shred of hope remaining that we’ll agree to your terms set here today.”
It was like I could see the instant switch go off in Aleric‘s head, and I mentally shied away, recognising the look that came over his face. If they thought that I was bad, they had no idea who they were actually dealing with. He didn’t even have to stand up, he merely leaned forward in his chair closer. But it was enough. It was enough for everyone in their entire council to instantly flinch backwards, the sharpness in Aleric’s eyes a threat within itself.
And for a split second, I saw it. I saw the old Aleric inside him.
And not just him… but myself also.
Here we were, once again standing in a council room, attempting to force an alliance by means of tricks and violent threats.
I wanted to throw up.
“Alpha,” Aleric said in a cold voice. That one word was enough to make a shiver go down my spine and it wasn’t even directed at me. “I think you‘ll find the terms set by our pack’s Beta heir here today are actually incredibly reasonable. She has given you a very fair deal in my opinion and I believe we have also allowed you ample time to consider it in depth over the last several hours.”
I could see the instant regret in all of their eyes. They realised quickly they had messed up by getting him involved.
“But, if the terms aren’t to your liking…,” he continued, his voice becoming dangerously low.” Then I can assure you that if our Saintess here doesn’t smite you, that I, personally, will ensure to come back here with the entire Winter Mist’s army. And I, personally, will endeavour to track down every single one of you and tear you apart… piece by piece.”
It was safe to say we came to an agreement very quickly after that.
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But after the meeting was done, I was still upset. Furious even. We had both stooped so low in something that could have been handled peacefully.
“Aleric,” I called, getting his attention.
I found him by the wall away from the others, watching over everyone as they completed the last bits of paperwork.
He looked at me confused. “What’s wrong?” “What’s wrong?” I hissed. “What’s wrong?! What was that?“:
“You didn’t need to threaten them like that!” He looked at me incredulously. “You mean I didn’t need to threaten them… just like you did?” I clenched my jaw. “That‘s not the point. I‘m not in the right here either but you took it too far.
I looked around and saw too many people were watching us now, having spoken too loudly.
I grabbed him by the arm and started leading him away from the main building so others wouldn’t see us. But after walking for a minute or two, Aleric finally pulled away and brought u sto a stop. “I don’t get why you’re so angry,” he argued. “I tried to let you handle it yourself but they weren’t going to listen. Surely you saw that too. All I did was try to help you.” “I didn‘t need your help! I could handle it! And since when do you care about what people say about me anyway?” I yelled.
“What are you even talking about?” he spat back. “There you go again, talking about me like I’m a f*****g criminal. We’ve been over this! I still don‘t know what I could have possibly done to give you that impression! Before recently, we had barely even spent any time together growing up. But suddenly you‘re terrified of me one day? And then every time you see me, you look about ready to cry or run away. Neither leaves a good impression for a mate or a Beta, by the way. Both of those would require you being able to stomach being in the same room as me!
We stared at each other, both of us out of breath from the yelling we’d just done. Both of us with intense fury in our eyes.
I could feel the blood rushing through my veins and heart pulsing hard in my chest. I needed t o calm down.
I turned around away from him, taking a second to breathe without us being in each other‘s faces. Obviously, I knew I was being unreasonable. The only reason I had been so mad at him for what he’d done in that meeting room… was because it had scared me. Because over these last few months, I had seen a glimmer of hope that he could become a different person, and now suddenly seeing a flash of the old Aleric was a cold reminder. And he was right. In this life we had barely known each other before I came back. And yet I’d changed the future so much, that it was now debatable that we’d spoken more in this life than
the entirety of the previous one. So, from his perspective, I could see how all of my actions since coming back would have warranted the reactions he’d had…. When we first met again, I had broken down and had a full panic attack just because he had entered a room; and then needed to be picked up by another man just to escape him. I recoiled away every single time he moved anywhere near me, enough that I’d even broken a plate in m y attempt to flee and accidentally hurt him with hot tea. I’d told the entire Winter Mist council that I didn’t want anything to do with Aleric or to ever become his Luna, and even orchestrated the overturn of a tradition dating back thousands of years… just to avoid being with him.
If Aleric had done this to me in my past life, without me having any knowledge of the future, I would have been devastated. I had been devastated. It wasn’t exactly the same or even close to being as bad, but to an extent, Aleric had put me through something similar. I didn’t begin to discover Aleric’s true nature until I was eighteen and we were mated. Was it possible that maybe he had been a different person before? Had me coming back actually made an impact? Because if I was able to admit that I was capable of becoming a different person now, didn’t that mean that it was possible that people from my original timeline could change also?
Only… I couldn’t forget what was yet to happen. His attempt at showing he cared now was probably nothing more than the result of being told I was his mate his entire life. He didn‘t have real feelings for me, he was just angry I was rejecting him for what seemed like no reason. But I knew better.
I knew that, when Thea arrived, he would forget about me. Just like he had in the past.
I was about to turn back and apologise for at least my part in overreacting… but I didn’t get the chance.
Because suddenly several people emerged from the trees and surrounded us. And I realised very quickly that we were under attack.