A Leader Must Rise

Chapter 9: Call for aid

Arias soul returning to her body was an exhilarating experience. Her back arched, her body floating above the bed, humming with renewed energy. Aria woke with a gasp, followed by a soft groan when she fell on the mattress. Her feet and hands tingled with pins and needles, her heartbeat erratic, and her intestines felt alive.

Wow, wowzah, Aria said, checking herself over. She was relieved to see her olive skin tone had returned to its natural hue and her raven black hair once again thick and lush. She couldn wait to see her eyes.

Saph, you okay? Aria asked as she stretched, enjoying the burn it brought.

Err, in one piece…I think, she replied, stumbling a little. That was…?

Invigorating?

Close enough, she said, and Aria laughed but froze as she finally took in the room.

Whoa, she exclaimed. Holy shit, brother. Carefully, she placed her feet on the floor. She kept a hold of the bed as she stood, her knees trembling with the uncustomed weight of her body. It took her a few minutes to reach the door, but she managed to get into the hall without injuring herself. She found the front entrance shortly afterwards; her eyebrows rose at the destruction outside.

What happened out there?

Uh, did the storm do this? Sapphire asked. Before Aria could reply, she heard voices coming from the dining room. Recognising them as the patrol team, she headed towards them.

…storm was natural.

Of course, it wasn natural, Matt. That storm hung around for days, and then we suddenly get an onslaught of wind, rain and thunder. Only for it to suddenly stop just now? Ian said, and Matthew growled.

Don patronise me, Ian, the beta said.

Besides that, did anyone else felt the magic the storm carried? Or was that just me? Amy asked.

Not just you, love, Max said.

It is curious, a man said.

Does anyone need anything else? More tea, coffee? another woman said.

No, thank you, Ellie, Michael said.

Do you happen to have some of your famous cupcakes left? Amy asked.

Of course, sweetie, Ellie said. Aria arrived at the room at the precise moment Ellie towards the door. The tray she was holding clattered to the ground, the coffee cups shattering on the tile floor.

Baby? the unknown man said as everyone turned towards the entrance. Jaws hit the floor and faces paled.

Judging by your reactions, I was dead for more than a few minutes? she asked, and Ellie fainted. The man, seemingly her mate, caught her before she could fall over the shards.

W-What…how… Ian said as Matthew stood, taking a few steps back from Aria. Am I seeing things?

…well, its one hell of a dramatic entrance, Amy said, and Max choked on a laugh.

Not the time, love, he muttered.

At least you get Im alive, these folks are still struggling, Aria said, and Amy brightened.

I know, right? They are so slow to get with the program.

As nice as it is that the two of you are bonding, there is an issue that needs addressing, Matthew said. How are you alive?

I was revived, Aria simply replied. Wheres my brother?

Revived? Why?

Never mind why, how were you revived? Michael exclaimed, stepping forward. I brought you in with your brother, and you practically wasted away into nothing.

Indeed, your rejection was turning the last of your muscle mass into energy. To put into a visual aspect, you looked a lot like Mr Henderson, and Mr Burns after the mummy sucked them dry, the man said, and Aria realised this was Dr Ethan Hall.

Nice visual, Aria winced as she pictured it, ut I am aware of that, doctor.

How then?

The Goddess brought me back; I can explain her magic.

The Goddess? Matthew muttered.

May I sit? My body isn accustomed to this much weight.

Take my seat, rogue. Ill need to see to my mate, Ethan said. Aria gave him a grateful nod as she passed him. She groaned as she plopped into it, soothing her aching knees.

Don ask any more questions until I get back, he said, carrying his mate out of the room and upstairs. Arias stomach growled, and she hugged her sides, looking a little sheepish at the sound.

Ill get you some chow, Amy said.

Thank you.

Maybe you should wait until the doctor clears you, Matthew said as he sat down. Ian, get Declan back here on the double. Ian left before Matthew finished speaking.

Wheres my brother? Aria asked again.

Hes upstairs, Michael replied.

Could you bring him down, please? It may be difficult to do that, though.

Michael looked at Matthew for permission and left when he got it. Ethan returned with a black bag, setting it on the table as Amy offered her a plate of cupcakes.

Is it alright if she eats, Ethan? she asked.

…just have one to sate your hunger, Ethan said. Aria gladly took one and moaned at the explosion of flavour. She couldn remember the last time she had any sweets; Blood Moon didn allow her any because she was too fat and Andrew couldn sneak her any either.

Oh, my god. Your mate made these? They
e heaven. What flavour is this? she said. Ethan stared at her astounded for a moment before studying the sweet.

Lemon flavoured with lavender frosting.

Can I get the recipe off her?

…sure. Let me check you over first; give me your arm.

You got Dr Stewarts notes then? Aria asked as he wrapped the pressure gage around her upper arm.

I got them, yes.

Good. Im curious how much Rose healed me, Aria said, and everyone paused.

Whose Rose? Max asked.

The Moon Goddess. Her name is Rosalba, but she prefers Rose.

Matthew stared at her bewildered before shaking his head, and sighed, Goddess, save me from this madness.

Ill tell you now, she won answer that, Aria replied. Max and Amy stifled their laughter. Aria smirked, sucking the icing off her fingers and Ethan rolled his rolls. Matthew looked confused.

How is that funny?

Max and Amy released their laughter, Ethan sighed, and Aria raised an eyebrow.

You don see the irony in that? she asked.

He doesn see a lot of things, Amy said.

So, how did he become beta?

We
e still asking that ourselves.

Hey, do you two mind? You are one step closer to a weeks night patrol, and you are still an unvetted rogue. I would watch what you say, Matthew said.

Oh, come off it, Matt. You love me too much to punish me, and poor Aria has been through enough; I truly doubt youll do anything, Amy said. Matthew opened his mouth but shook his head instead, smiling light-heartedly.

If you don mind. Aria, could you stand for me? Ethan asked. Aria did as requested, and the doctor continued his physical examination, often returning to Dr Zanders notes. Ethan had to double-check his findings, unnerved at the differences. He continued with a frown; he was finishing up when Ian returned with Alpha Reed.

This better be good, Ian, since you interrupted my call with another alpha, he said, and Ian glanced at Aria.

Trust me, it is, he said as he gestured to Aria. The alpha looked in her direction and did a double-take. He rubbed his eyes and looked at Aria again, not believing the same, sickly girl he saw mere hours ago was standing in front of him alive and seemingly healthy.

W-What…how…when did this happen? Alpha Reed asked.

Half an hour ago, Matthew replied.

Have you finished, Ethan? Ian said.

I still have to take her weight, measure her height and take some blood for tests, but she seems perfectly healthy.

How is that possible? We watched as her rejection killed her, Alpha Reed said.

I can explain that, Aria said. The alpha paused at her voice; it nearly matched the angels, velvety and harmonious.

Even her voice changed, Ian muttered.

It has? Aria asked, and the patrol team nodded. Wow.

Explain, he ordered.

Can we wait for my brother, please?

Michael is having trouble with him, Matthew said, and the alpha sighed. Before he could protest, Michael guided Andrew downstairs. Alpha Reed sighed again at his slumped shoulders and rumpled clothes, gesturing Aria forward. She did with a frown; her breathing hitched at the sight of her twin.

Look up, Andrew. I promise, your heart will lighten, Michael said. Aria would have made a quip at that, but she solely focused on her brother.

Andrew, she said tentatively. Andrew froze partway down the stairs, lifting his head to gaze into Arias vivid eyes. For a moment, he couldn believe it. Andrew shook his head, but she was still there. He feared to hope as he took a cautious step forward, but it bubbled inside him.

A-Ah-Ari? he whispered. Aria smiled and opened her arms. Sapphire yapped inside her, racing over to James haven. Andrew flinched in shock as Sapphire barrelled into his wolf, James momentarily stunned before tackling and nibbling wherever he could reach. Arias smile brightened at their antics; the idea now cemented in Andrews mind. He raced down the stairs, happy tears rolling down his cheeks as he lifted his sister and spun her around. Aria laughed, hugging Andrew impossibly tight. He buried his face into her chest, inhaling her vetiver and lavender scent. Arias smile softened, alternating between kissing and nuzzling the top of his head. Andrew didn want to let her down, but at Alpha Reeds cough, he reluctantly did. He kept a tight hold of her waist though, not letting her venture a millimetre from his side. Aria didn mind, leaning into him instead. She looked at up him, forcing him to look at her as well, completely ignoring everyone. She wiped away his tears, and he leaned into her hand, reciprocating the act in kind. Aria entangled her hand into his hair; her hold firm enough to make him solely attentive to her.

Hey, little brother, she said. Andrew released a short laugh, kissing her forehead and pulling her in for another hug.

Hey, he whispered, his arm tightening around her.

Im not going anywhere, brother, she said, and his arm tightened further. Alpha Declan shook his head at the duo, both of them pitiful and endearing at the same. He hated to break up the moment, but he still had to finish his questioning. He cleared his throat again, and the siblings faced him apologetically.

Sorry, Aria said as Andrew sniffed, rubbing at his eyes and nose.

No, I am sorry to interrupt, but I do need to ask you some questions, Alpha Reed said, and Aria nodded. She looked to her twin though, slightly worried he may not be up for it. Catching her look, Andrew waved her concern away.

I-Im fine…just let me wash up, and Ill be right with you, he said.

You can use the kitchen, Ethan said. You can use the living room, Alpha, Ive got some questions I want to ask as well.

Very well, doctor. I suppose all of you have questions? he asked, and everyone nodded. Alpha Reed sighed, not bothering to point out that regulations state that only the three highest-ranking members are allowed to question newcomers. He knew they would argue because they were there when he interrogated Andrew, and they would do it just to annoy him.

Arias brow rose as he entered the living, surprised that the patrol team was allowed to bend the rules around him.

We
e tight with him. We can get away with things others can , Amy said as she passed, keeping her voice low so only Aria can hear.

Yeah, he gave up years before he inherited the title, Max added, not following his mates undertone.

Max, Alpha Reed yelled, and the gamma laughed. Amy smirked and offered her hand to Aria. She gladly took the offer, Amy helping her to couch.

Now, Aria, I heard about your…mistreatment from Andrew. Can you start with how you
e alive?

Thank you for the delicate word choice, but it is not needed, Aria said before sighing. As for your question, I visited the Moon Goddess. Or rather, she brought me to her.

Aria paused as her brother took a seat beside her, taking her hand and squeezing it. She smiled at him briefly before returning to her explanation, Her name is Rosalba by the way; Rose is what she prefers though. She wanted to warn me.

Warn you about what? Matthew asked.

Aria glanced at Andrew before locking eyes with the alpha, and said, Shes tasked us to find the lost royal heirs. The room was silent; no one knew what to say. Aria paused for a moment, but everyone seemed to wait with bated breath, even Andrew. Confident they won interrupt her, she explained her whole experience. She described it with vivid detail from the landscape to the goddess to the words exchanged. Ethan was shocked to learn that her rejection was a second curse, but Andrew was even more shocked at her choice to keep Chase as her mate.

Are you insane? They abused you and cursed you, and you decided to forgive them just like that? he asked.

Oh, hell no, but you didn see them. They were regretful to the point of tears, Drew. And Rose suggested there was something more behind their decisions.

Which were?

She didn say. ”I have to learn that on my own, ” she said, Aria sighed and gripped her brothers hand. Please, just trust me. Andrew wanted to protest, but those words rang in his ears, Mrs Bennetts warning replying in his mind. He sighed and nodded, allowing her to continue. Frowning as she explained Roses weird behaviour, reiterating the words and phrases she emphasised on, but everyone was as stumped as she was.

Aria allowed the information to sink in before asking, Doctor, Rose couldn elaborate on the second curse, but you seemed to know of it. Could you explain it to us? Ethan sighed, glancing at the alpha for permission.

…its another nasty type of rejection, more commonly known as the Blood Curse, he said, and fear entered Aria and Andrew. I see youve heard of it.

Yes, but never was explained in full detail, Andrew said.

Im not surprised; the end is rather catastrophic, Ethan said before sighing again. I am unfamiliar with its history, but it was designed by a magician to curse all werewolves who ignore their mates and not reject them. There are four stages; first, the neglected mate will fall sick, displaying cold and flu symptoms. Second, they begin to eat less and develop a case of insomnia. The third stage is where it starts getting catastrophic… The pour soul starts coughing up blood; specks at first until they start vomiting it. The final stage is where they drown in their own blood. This curse can take two to four weeks to complete, depending on their willpower and physical strength.

…Im suddenly glad I was rejected the way I was, Aria muttered.

Is there no cure? Andrew said.

In the form of medicine or magic, no. Only the arrogant mates acceptance and they have to remain with their mate for three days and verbalise their acceptance, Ethan replied. I don know anything about your curse, Miss Knight—Ive never heard of it—but you got off easy. Aria merely nodded, shaken. Andrew rubbed her back, drawing her into his torso securely. Alpha Declan sighed, standing and gesturing to Matthew, Ian and Ethan. The three men left the room to speak privately; Max, Amy and Michael getting closer to twins to speak with hushed tones.

Are you alright, Aria? Amy asked.

Yeah, just…taking it in.

That was downplayed for your benefit, pup, Max said, and Arias jaw dropped.

But its no joke, Michael said.

Did you know someone who had it? Andrew asked, and Michael looked down.

My sister, he whispered. Max squeezed his packmates shoulder in comfort.

She didn make it, Amy clarified.

Michael, Im sorry. I didn —

Its alright, Andrew. It was years ago, Michael waved him off.

…I hope you don me asking, Michael, Aria said, ut what happens the surviving mate when their other half dies? Michael glanced at his friends before all three shrugged in answer.

No one knows for sure. Most surviving mates disappear completely, Max said.

You might find out at the academy, Amy added. They keep a record of everything.

You
e not warriors? Aria asked.

A common misconception, but yes. We
e named White Warriors because several bloodlines here produce white warriors, Michael beamed with pride.

One of those bloodlines being yours, Michael?

My younger brother, yes. He went to the academy at the start of the year. Ill tell him to meet you when you go.

Much appreciated, Andrew said.

Before then, youll be staying here, following the goddesss orders, Ethan said, and everyone turned to him. Alpha Reed, Matthew and Ian stood behind, all smiling of various degrees.

They
e staying? Amy asked, and Alpha Reed nodded. He pushed off the wall and walked towards the twin. Andrew and Aria stood, waiting for his confirmation with nervous energy. Alpha Reed glanced between the two of them, drawing out the moment as long as possible.

I know you came here for sanctuary only, but would you like to become permanent members of the White Warriors? he finally said. Andrew looked at Aria, finding her smirking at the alpha.

You don mind that Im also an alpha? she asked.

Would I ask if I did? Alpha Reed said before smirking himself. I get along with almost everyone, but if we respect each other and converse without going head to head, we should be fine… What do you say? Aria turned to her brother, waiting for his nod before returning to the alpha.

I think its about time we were renewed, she replied, and everyone cheered.

Ill hold the ritual tomorrow morning after we clean up after the storm, Alpha Reed said. And you can start calling me Declan. I only like hearing the title in formal situations and emergencies. Clear?

Crystal, Declan, Aria sang his name, and Declan rolled his eyes.

Here we go.

Matthew laughed, slapping him on the back as he said, I told you they would be a perfect fit. Everyone laughed at that, Max pulling out a bottle of Jack Daniels and popping the cork much to Ethans annoyance. Aria and Andrew looked from one person to another, elation filling them as Max handed them a glass. Aria turned to Andrew, tapping her glass against his.

Heres to being renewed, she whispered. Andrew winced as Amy got on top of the coffee table, dancing the wild music her mate put on.

And heres to our new life, he said. Aria laughed, agreeing wholeheartedly. She didn want to be anywhere else but there.

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