“This is fake,” I said, coming off far more flustered than I intended. “There is no way there are people out there just running around with… with god powers. That‘s… that‘s so stupid.”
It‘s absurd. Insane. Some sort of joke.
Because if it was real then that meant my life had been far more controlled than I initially realised. That there were powers at be far more advanced out there than just a Goddess mark. And it meant that Cai…
I wanted to throw up.
“Based on your reaction,” Elder Luke said, his eyes examining me, “I can‘t help but wonder if this discovery isn‘t actually all that foreign to you. Would I be correct in assuming that perhaps you have personal insight into the theory?”
He was right. I was getting overly worked up because a part of me had already started piecing it together … and it scared me. The more I thought about it, the more plausible it became.
Because, truthfully, there was something I was already all too familiar with; my visions. ‘Foresight‘. It fit perfectly with the attribute allegedly assigned to my house. But I‘d always thought the ability to see ahead was something new, something Selene gave to me only once I returned. What if I‘d always had the latent foundation inside me but couldn‘t harness it until after Selene had directly gifted me a piece of herself?
…What if, prior to coming back, the ability had only had enough strength to manifest itself as something more diluted, something more normal.
…Like a keen interest in strategy; the art of being able to plan ahead.
So that meant the new piece of Selene was sort of like… a booster shot. It wasn‘t just a gift of authority and visions…. It was something already written inside my DNA, just enhancing me to the point of unnatural ability
But what did this mean for Aleric and Cai then? What did this mean for all of us?
And, quickly, I started to wonder something else too.
…Like if this had something to do with why Selene brought me back.
In the past Aleric and I had joined together to kill Cai… and then Aleric had killed me. We ended up destroying each other. Was this what it had come down to the entire time? Some more bullshit because o f Selene? …But then how did Thea equate into this?
The room then started to sway as pangs of a headache began pulsing in my head.
This was too much. Too much information to process all at once. And that was just with me ignoring every rabbit hole of dark thoughts I wanted to fall into relating to my prior relationship with Cai. Was it even real or….?
I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes, fighting against everything inside that wanted to let all of this get the better of me. I already thought I was completely blind when it came to the seemingly never–ending war for the future… and yet it turns out i‘d just been looking inside of a cupboard this entire time, never seeing the much, much larger room attached to it. This new information opened up theories I hadn‘t even considered, much less thought possible.
“...Aria?” I heard Elder Luke‘s voice call out distantly.
But it was enough to snap me out of my spiralling thoughts.
Focus. I needed to focus on what was important right now. I needed as much information as possible sol
could prepare myself.
“No,” I lied, answering his earlier question about if I was familiar with the theory. “No, I don‘t know anything about it. I‘m just… trying to figure out if there is merit to any of this.”
Whilst Elder Luke had never given me a reason not to trust him, he was still the kind of man who traded in secrets. I respected him only marginally more than I feared him and that, unfortunately, meant that there would need to be some truths kept hidden for the time being. Perhaps once I became Alpha I could look a t trusting him a little more.
“The ah… families…,” I said, trying to concentrate back on acquiring more information. “The lineages rather … how sure are you that there are only three of us left?”
“I‘m almost certain,” he said, his manner now stern. “I did look but it appears there are just the three remaining.”
Okay… so Thea wasn‘t one of us. That was at least one theory gone.
“And is there some sort of… purpose for this?” I asked. “…I guess I just don‘t really understand why we would have these lines to begin with. Selene created families that each hold a diluted piece of her… and yet more than ninety–nine–point–nine per cent of our kind‘s population don‘t display anything like this? | feel as though there should be a reason for it.”
Elder Luke then gave me a humoured smile, breaking the tension slightly. “Yes, I suppose that‘s one way o flooking at it. It does seem strange. Truthfully, I agree with you. You‘d think having something like this would dictate that a higher divine plan is in place for you all.”
He then rubbed his face in thought as he reclined back into his chair.
“…However,” he continued, “if there is a purpose for the families then, unfortunately, it is not something I a m privy to yet.”
Of course not. No, that would be too easy, right, Selene? Can‘t just give me all of these answers before you send me back. No, you have to make me find out on my own when clearly our information is so old that it‘s probably been lost by now.
I sighed in frustration. Obviously, Thea was connected to this somehow but I would need to do more research into it. Maybe I’d find something Elder Luke missed or misinterpreted. 1
“I‘ll be borrowing these books,” I stated, my tone not implying I was asking.
Part of me was angry that the Elders felt they could keep this from Aleric and me for so long. Regardless o fif they thought it was true or not, we still had a right to know when they moulded our lives around it.
“… That‘s fine,” he replied after mild hesitation. I could relate though. If I were him, I know I‘d definitely not want books this valuable leaving my study.
“… appreciate the conversation today and thank you for your time,” I said, taking a moment to find the right words. “I think I‘ll probably head off now though. Was there anything else I should know before I go?”
Elder Luke then stood up and slowly walked around the desk to politely follow me out.
“Nothing that comes to mind. I imagine you‘re going to be quite busy after today,” he said. “When can | expect your recent ah… research on the Blue Vale to be concluded by? I‘d be interested to know your thoughts once completed.”
With everything that we‘d just spoken about, I‘d almost completely forgotten about the initial reason for coming here. Tytus. I‘d come to ask if he‘d support my claim to take over the pack with Aleric. Seemed like such a minor thing in the grand scheme of things right now.
“I think everything should be in order come the day of *my birthdayt,” I answered, emphasising the date s
o he could pick up on my meaning. “It always feels better to finish things such as study prior to any… celebrations.”
“Then I‘m looking forward to celebrating with you on that day,” he said warmly.
…His attitude was a reminder that it wasn‘t Elder Luke I was angry with. No, he‘d given me the exact answers I‘d asked for and was offering to help me. My frustrations were better directed at his colleagues and Selene.
And so I took another breath to calm myself once more and mustered up the best small smile I could manage. “I really do appreciate your assistance, Elder Luke. I‘ll have Lucy get in touch with you if anything
else comes up prior to the date.”
And with that, he walked with me out of the office, heading back into the lobby…
… Only to find Aleric had wandered in here and was waiting for me. He stood by one of the windows, the sun streaming in onto his face as he looked out onto the grounds of the estate.
Upon hearing our footsteps he immediately looked up in surprise to see us.
“Oh, you‘re done a lot sooner than I thought you would be,” he said, greeting me. “Good to see you again, too, Elder Luke.”
But seeing him without having time to prepare myself first had completely taken me off guard.
‘Power‘. The word was ingrained in my mind now.
He was one of the families… though I suppose it really shouldn‘t change my opinion of him by too much. I‘d already seen for myself how he could throw people around as though they weighed nothing, seen him take on a small army of rogue wolves by himself. And not just that either. He had been a strong leader in the past, bringing our pack to the status we obtained. There was no denying the power he held in the past.
My eyes then wandered over his body, staring over his immaculate physique. I‘d always thought it was an Alpha thing but maybe it had been more selective than that. If Selene hypothetically marked him, just how powerful would he become? How strong was a God?
“Aria..?” he asked slowly when I hadn‘t spoken, a frown forming on his face.
“Sorry,” I replied quietly, resuming to close the distance between Elder Luke and himself. “I didn‘t expect t o see you in here.”
“I didn‘t know how long you‘d be so I ended up just deciding to wait inside,” he explained. “Lucky I did. If I‘d returned to the packhouse you would have been waiting a while for a lift home.”
I missed being able to drive myself. Being escorted everywhere for my safety was getting tiresome.
“Was your ah… reading session good?” he asked, looking pointedly between Elder Luke and me.
It was then that I noticed how Elder Luke was staring at us with a keen fascination, as if studying how we were interacting with one another. Was he wondering how close we actually were given everything we‘d just spoken about? …Was he wondering if that ‘prophecy‘ had any merit?
“It was fine,” I muttered, shifting uncomfortably under the gaze of being examined. “… There won‘t be any problems with the deadline for that thing we‘ve been looking into.”
But Aleric could probably sense something was off, his head tilting slightly as he looked down at me, his frown deepening. My demeanour most likely had changed significantly since when he‘d dropped me off, becoming more unsettled, despite the confirmation that Elder Luke would side with us. He would want to know what happened.
“We should get going,” I said, no longer wanting an audience anymore for our conversation. My head was still hurting and I needed time to process everything.
Whapter Seventy Seven
“…What? Oh, okay, sure,” he said to my abruptness before turning to Elder Luke. “Thanks for your time. I‘m looking forward to working closely with you one day.”
Elder Luke smiled, “You, as well, Alpha heir.”
Given Aleric‘s rank, there was nothing suspicious about his pleasantries. Anyone overhearing would think they were referring to when Aleric naturally became Alpha one day.
“Until next time,” I quickly said, giving a small bow of my head to Elder Luke.
And with that, I walked out of the lobby, heading towards the car park.
But I held up a hand at him as we got into the car. “Not yet. Just… give me some time.”
I wouldn‘t be able to keep this from him. It was his right to know just as much as it was mine. I just… needed to get my head around it first.
He nodded, much to my relief, and drove us back to the packhouse in silence. My mind continued to swirl with the new information, wondering how this could play into a bigger picture. Wondering what this meant for the three of us…
And so when we eventually found ourselves back in my quarters, facing the moment I‘d need to finally tell him, it was almost like I was at a loss for words. Where would I even begin?
“…What do you know about the prophecy? The one… about us?” I started, staring across the room so I wouldn‘t have to see his face. This topic was already awkward enough as it were.
“Just that the Elders predicted we‘d help bring prosperity to the pack together,” he said, confused. The out –of–the–blue subject matter was probably not what he‘d expected me to bring up. “Why? … Did Elder Luke say something about it?”
I walked over to the table and placed all the books down, grabbing only the one which had the diagram | needed to show Aleric. It took a little bit of flicking through to find the page again but soon the familiar triangle presented itself.
“What‘s that?” Aleric asked, coming up behind to look over my shoulder.
“The truth about the prophecy….”
And so I proceeded to tell him everything Elder Luke had told me. About him, about Cai… about myself and my theories around my mark. About how I thought it had to be linked to Selene‘s warning… and Thea.
And, as I spoke, I continued to think it through further as well. Just how much did it affect Cai and Aleric? Because though Aleric was strong with keen senses, for our kind that wasn‘t overly strange to witness; it was definitely impressive, but not strange. But Cai…? If it was what I thought it was, then his was infinitely more unusual. And the little things about him started to not look so normal anymore…
I could recall how when I first met Cai, he had all the teachers wrapped around his finger, hanging on his every word. But it was just charisma. He was just… charming. Back then, I enjoyed being around him but it wasn‘t much more than that.
However, when he came back, it was like that energy around him had magnified. And it wasn‘t just teachers anymore. That last day in the cells when I‘d said goodbye to him… that whole situation always sat wrong with me. The way he convinced James to disregard protocol so easily to give us privacy...
No, it was definitely stronger upon his return to the Winter Mist. Being around him became so much more than just enjoying his company… it became almost like an addiction. He consumed all of my thoughts, my feelings… something that wasn‘t satiated until I gave into it completely.
Chapter Seventy Seven
…Until I made a decision that I knew was a mistake from the beginning. 1
“You‘re shaking,” Aleric said, breaking me from my thoughts. “What‘s wrong?”
I swallowed back and tried to calm myself but I couldn‘t help it.
“…I‘m… I‘m pissed off,” | admitted. “I‘m pissed that the one thing I thought was my decision might not have been mine after all. That there is nothing in my life that hasn‘t been tainted by Selene in some way.”
“...Are you talking about Cai?”
“Yes,” I said, taking a few steps away to glare towards the window. “I just… I know it was a mistake. But it was *my* mistake, you know? My choice. Yeah, it wasn‘t my smartest decision… but at least it was me who did that. And now...? Now it‘s like… did I even have feelings for him or… or was it artificial the entire time? How will I ever know for sure? Does he even know? Is he aware that he has that potential inside of him?”
I folded my arms over my chest and turned back to look at Aleric.
I felt… vulnerable. Insecure. Cai had been someone I could rely on, someone I could trust. Was there really no one I could completely depend on? Was this my fate regardless of which life I lived?
“...And I get he has a mate now, I‘m not stupid,” I said, my voice now softer. “I wouldn‘t ever interfere with that. But it doesn‘t change how I feel… or how I thought I felt. Even if it‘s just a memory now, I wish I could still believe wholeheartedly that it was entirely mine… not Selene‘s.”
| shuffled in my spot and awkwardly looked away. I‘d been so angry that it hadn‘t occurred to me that I was venting all of this to Aleric. We hadn‘t spoken about his confession since the night I‘d returned to the pack and so, even though I had refused him, this topic of conversation probably wasn‘t appropriate.
It was times like this I missed Myra, missed how we could talk about boy drama without it ever being weird or an issue. With her, it had been a constant reminder that not everything had to be about an impending apocalypse or survival. In fact, we rarely ever discussed the major pack issues or the dire problems that plagued me. For all the uncertainty and fear that filled me upon my return, the days I spent with Myra were still the happiest I‘d been in either timeline.
“Sorry,” | mumbled, rubbing my arm. “I don‘t know why… I just… I’m sorry.”
“You‘re not the only one angry at Selene, Aria,” he said, thankfully not bringing attention to my faux pas. “I understand it. Really, I do. And not just because of all this s**t you‘ve just told me now.”
I was going to ask him for his other reasoning but he continued before I could get the words out.
“But let‘s not lose focus on what we‘re working on right now,” he said. “Because all of this information you‘ve told me now is great and we can piece it together, but we‘ve got less than two months until your birthday, Aria. Two months to plan an insurrection against one of the largest packs in the entire country. Finding out about direct lineages doesn‘t change anything for us right now, but successfully executing this plan will put us in a better position to focus on it after we‘re done.”
He was right. I could continue my research in my downtime, but my main attention needed to be on preparing for the big day. It was at least something I could actually work on, as opposed to the uncertain questions I had about the lineage theory.
“What do we still have left to do?” he asked, taking a seat by the table.
| gave it a second of thought before I realised what was next… and it was yet another awkward topic of conversation.
“Ah, I‘ve got a doctors appointment with my mother next week and I‘m going to use the time to go over the plan with her,” I said, my tone a little stiff.
“…Doctor appointment for what? Are you not feeling well?”
“No, that‘s not… um… I have the doctors appointment,” I said. However, still no recognition showed on his face even after the emphasis. “You know… the one Luna‘s are required to undergo…? Tytus requested I get my… physical examination‘ completed and they decided to treat it as if I were a Luna given the circumstances.”
Finally, he caught on to what I was telling him. “…Oh,” was all he said.
“I would normally be angry that he was pushing that on me so soon,” I continued, “but I‘m trying to make the most of it. I suppose it‘s better to have the conversation in her office anyway in case we have to go over her medical books for the wolfsbane.”
It was yet another part of my plan I‘d been dreading. In fact, it was something I‘d been dreading since coming back. And though I‘d had this exact kind of examination before in the past, it was previously conducted by a man who I now believed to be a rogue.
So what would my results say this time?
Because whilst this kind of check–up covered standard physical health, it also covered one other major aspect too. An aspect that was seen as crucial for any Luna, becoming a cause of yet more awkward air i n the room now between Aleric and I.
...And that aspect was a medical examination for my ability to conceive children. The very thing that had originally started so many of my problems.