A Leader Must Rise

Chapter 8: Renewed

Pain. Agony. Misery. There were many words Aria could describe her current state of unconsciousness; those three were the first to come to mind. And then nothing. The torment suddenly stopped. Her bones didn ache, her heart wasn hurting, and she no longer needed water. She felt desolate. Hollow. She knew Sapphire was no longer a part of her soul. She felt it when the rejection tore the pair of them apart, the worse sort of pain than what she physically experienced. Aria missed her terribly; shed rather face another seven years of abuse and sexual assult than lose her forever.

You won have too, a soft, modulated voice echoed around her. Aria finally dared to open her eyes. A vast blackness greeted her. No matter where she looked, she could only see darkness. It only frightened her more when she realised that she wasn standing at all. She was floating, but immobile. An unknown terror seized her, déjà vu hitting her hard. She began to panic, thrashing uncontrollably as tears poured down her cheeks. She screamed.

Calm, child, the voice said, and Aria stopped thrashing. Everything will be alright. A bright light started glowing in front of her, starting small then expanding to a blinding degree. Aria opened her eyes as she felt herself being lowered, surprised to see long, flowing grass. It was soft as her feet breached the surface, and the blades reached her midthigh. She brushed a hand over the spikes, only just realising her hand was no longer skin and bone.

What? she gasped, patting herself down to find she had muscles and bodyfat once again. How?

Aria!

Aria jerked her up at the sound of Sapphires voice, covering her sob when she spotted her wolf running towards her. Aria took off at a run, meeting her halfway and sliding to a stop. Sapphire pounced on her, licking everywhere she can reach in pure delight. Aria laughed and playfully swatted her away, wiping off the drool with a smile. She kissed Sapphire on her forehead, practically melting at how soft and smooth her coat feels.

You
e okay? You feel…?

Healthy, Sapphire replied, gently nibbling at Arias hands. Happy tears poured down Arias face, burying her head in Sapphires neck, both relieved and confused. It took them both a few minutes, but eventually, they separated and look around. In front of them was an extensive mountain range that stretches as far as the eye can see, a flourishing forest laid at the valley floor. A waterfall broke the trees line, following down a winding river and into the ocean behind them. The sand was as white as snow, and the water was as clear as it blue. Aria could only label this place as paradise; there was simply no other word for it.

Wow, Aria whispered at the scenery. Any idea where we are?

Heaven, child, the voice said, and both Aria and Sapphire spun around. Sapphires growl died in her throat, and Aria gasped. A tall woman approached them, her silvery blonde hair cascaded down her back with fair skin to match. She wore an ivory dress, the bust hung loosely around her torso, hiding most of the embroidered yellow sash tied around her waist. Her eyes captivated them the most; they were the most electrifying green theyve ever seen, not even holding a healthy leaf to the sun could compare to their brilliance. Aria was curious about her pointed ears, but she couldn find her voice. Still, this woman was undeniably gorgeous and a furious blush formed on Arias cheeks as she stood in front of them. It darkened when the woman smiled, showing perfectly straight, white teeth. The woman giggled behind her hand; the sound reminded Aria of small bells chiming.

Yes, I have that effect on people, my child, she said, and Aria finally found her voice.

Moon Goddess? she asked, and the deity beamed.

I see you recognise me.

Yes, but the portraits do not compare to your beauty.

The goddess laughed, shaking her head softly as she said, I do not like to criticise my childrens creations, but sometimes they do manage an excellent likeness of me.

Luna, are we dead? Sapphire said, interrupting Arias growing love affair. Her blush returned tenfold, and the goddess laughed again.

My name is Rosalba, but please, call me Rose, she replied. Your souls have left your body, but I have preserved your brain function. Youll be able to return. Aria froze, surprised and relieved to hear the words. Andrew probably didn take well to her death.

We
e going back? she clarified.

Yes, child. I needed to speak with you, but I am sorry I had to use your rejection to make that happen.

Yeah, about that; why was it so painful? Andrew or James never said it out loud, but they knew our symptoms weren normal, Sapphire asked, and Rose sighed.

A twisted version, yes. Im afraid it wasn done properly. A true rejection requires the persons full name, rank—whether pending or official—and their associated pack. If one or more of those is missing, the rejection will consume the acceptors energy and merely weaken the rejector. It was one of two curses designed to torture the rejector.

Two? Theres another one? Sapphire exclaimed.

Sapphire, as much as I would like to answer the questions bubbling in both of your minds, there is a limited time I can keep you here. Otherwise, your souls will become attached to heaven, and you won be able to return.

Then, what did you need to speak with us about? Aria asked.

I wanted to warn you.

Warn me? About what?

What do you know about your royals, child?

Aria glanced at Sapphire, shrugging as she said, Not nearly enough. I know there are five; four belonging to the directions and one to rule them all. I do know the last known set died roughly two hundred years ago.

Rose smiled, and said, Many mysteries are surrounding the royals, most information lost to the ravages of time along with the surviving heirs.

Heirs?! Aria and Sapphire yelled.

Yes, but they
e hidden—safe—for now. You must find them. This symbol might help; its one of two that represents their royal blood, Rose lifted one end of her sash, circling the tribal wolf shaped into a crescent moon acting as the leaves of a tree.

…I have to find them?

Yes. A third war is coming, and yes, there was another one a century ago. That war was a stalemate, the royals killed, and their descendants kept themselves hidden.

Could I get a little background here? Im a little confused, Sapphire asked.

Certainly, pup. Two-hundred and seventeen years ago, a red warrior lost his mate and his team from mysterious circumstances and therefore, blamed his royals. In retaliation, his kidnaps his fellow warriors, tortures and brainwashes them into believing the royals were responsible for their pain and loses that may or may not have happened. He made them believe he was their saviour and soon had an army at his back—not all of those souls were victims of his torture. Even still, the power of the royals would have been enough to defeat them if they hadn encountered something more powerful.

What was it? Aria asked.

No one knows, even I don know. Whoever or whatever it was, it never fought within sight. The royals were outpowered and outmatched; the high alpha had no other choice but to use the magic in her body to destroy the red warrior and his followers. Unfortunately, she killed her people in the process. She didn realise that the red warrior sired a pup and taught them everything he knew. This pup stayed under the shadows, passing on knowledge from his father to the next two generations before they started another war. That great-grandchild had as much trouble in winning as his ancestor, resulting in that stalemate. But then both the royal lines and the red warrior line disappeared entirely.

You don know where they are? Sapphire asked.

No, my foresight and that of my siblings cannot see where they are. We believe this unseen power may have something to do with it.

They must be pretty powerful if they can affect a deity, and you chose us to find the royals before this…thing does? Aria said.

More or less, yes, Rose said, and Aria openly stared at her in shock.

We can do that; we
e just ordinary warriors. Nothing special that is worth choosing.

That, my child, is where you are wrong, Rose said as she grasped Arias hand and held Sapphires chin. You are a very special werewolf; the golden mark on your shoulder signifies that. You two are unlike any other werewolf I have created before or will ever create again. You are truly one of a kind; you can find the royals without a problem. Can you trust me on that? Aria and Sapphire slowly nodded, failing to figure out why she emphasised a very special werewolf and one of a kind.

Good. Do not worry too much either; your brothers and your mate will be beside you.

Sapphire growled at the mention of them and Aria crossed her arms, her lips pulling into a snarl.

Justin abused us for something that wasn our fault, and Chase rejected us into a curse, Aria said.

I know you were hurt, child, but there are reasonable explanations to why they did it.

Aria sighed, rubbing her forehead as she said, Like what?

That, Im afraid, is something you must discover on your own. But I can show you how they are currently. Rose gestured to the river, and Aria curiously followed her to its bank. Rose knelt and waved a hand over the surface. Aria gasped and fell to her knees as the image of Chase and Justin emerged. They were Justins room, Justin cradling Chases to his chest as he wept. Her ex-mates hand clawed over the left side of his chest, his other hand clutching the baby blanket Justin took away from her years before.

Sapphire whined in distressed as Aria covered her mouth in shock.

Do they…regret it? Sapphire asked.

Yes, but the choice is yours if you want a new mate.

Both human and wolf stared at her slacked jawed, unable to say anything for a few minutes.

You
e…you
e serious?

I am, she said, and Aria faced Sapphire torn. She wasn much better.

What do you want? Aria asked.

I don know, Sapphire replied, and both turned to the image again. Both of them looked terrible. Their kept hair was a disaster, their passive expressions broken and tears flowed freely between them.

What do you want? Sapphire asked.

I…I feel like we shouldn give up on them. I can explain this feeling, but if we abandon them, well miss something wonderful, Aria replied before asking aloud, Rose, are you suggesting theres more behind my abuse and Chases rejection?

Yes, she said. Aria sighed and rubbed a hand down her face. She glanced at Sapphire, the same resolve settling over the both of them.

Theres no pain without a little game, they said as they looked to Rose, confident in their decision.

Wonderful. Your parents are very proud of you, Aria, she said. Aria and Sapphire perked up at the mention of their parents.

Can…can we see them? Aria asked.

Even if its only quick? Sapphire added, and Rose shook her sadly.

Your souls have stayed here too long already. If I call them, youll stay here forever.

Aria sighed as Sapphire huffed. Aria stood, taking in the scenery one more time before returning to Rose.

What else do I need to know? she asked as Sapphire stood behind her, looking as confident as an alpha should be. Rose smiled, taking Aria by the elbow and leading her to the shore.

Once you and Sapphire return to your body, youll be healed but by no means fit to search for the royals immediately. You won show any signs of your past trauma or the rejection, but youll be weak. Eat and rest until the new semester starts, and light training. Nothing hard, let the coaches at the academy handle that. Also, your mating bond will be renewed as if youve never met Chase but don return until the time is right, she said.

And how will we know that?

Youll know, Rose replied as a golden gate suddenly appeared before them. Two more things…do you know the valley between Blood Moon and Thunderstorm?

The one a bit further south from their borders?

Thats the one. If you cannot find all the royals, summon them the last of them there on the eve of your twenty-first. As the clock strikes twelve, howl as loud as you can for as long as you can. There are royal pack members scattered across different packs; the howling will summon them to you.

Wouldn it be better if the royals howled then? I mean, I know you said we
e a special werewolf and all, but wouldn they respond better to the royals? Aria asked.

And why on our birthday? And how would we summon them for that matter? Sapphire added.

There was something in Roses eyes they couldn quite decipher when she smiled at them, her words confusing them immensely.

It is because you
e special is the reason why you need to howl.

Aria frowned at the non-answer, glancing at Sapphire inquisitorially. Her wolf disguised her answer as a full body shake, just in the dark as Aria was.

Why us, Rose? Apart from being this special wolf, why did you chose us? Aria asked.

Rose sighed and took her by the shoulders, and said, I chose you two because the bond you and Sapphire is the strongest Ive ever come across and the bond you have with Andrew is the most unique of all. You also have qualities that Andrew, Justin—everyone lack. You are fearless, tenacious, assertive and protective, but you
e also patient, understanding and selfless. That is the reason why I chose you. Sapphire and Aria were rendered speechless for a moment, the look in her eyes intensifying to almost a pleading degree, but neither Aria nor Sapphire could figure out what she was trying to imply. They wanted to ask, but they feel like the answer would be youll need to discover that on your own.

…what was the last thing? Aria asked.

For both Chase and Justin, make them earn the right to stay beside you, Justin more so. I had taken away his position when he started abusing you—a mistake on my part—but if you believe he can earn your forgiveness, I can give back his rightful position as your delta.

Really?

Yes, but if or when that happens, youll have to remain by his side. Returning the mark isn painless.

…thats awfully tempting, Aria muttered, and Sapphire snorted. Rose gave her a knowing look, confusing Aria even further. Deciding to ask anyway, she opened her mouth to do just that when a ding echoed from the gate.

That is your cue, my child. There is a link between us now; if you need anything, link me. Just be aware that there are things I will not be able to answer until the time is right, Rose said, and Aria sighed. She thanked her deity for everything before turning to her wolf, gesturing to the door with the bow.

After you, she said with a smirk. Sapphire snorted and took off running, Aria laughing behind her as they both disappeared into the gate together. The entrance closed and disappeared. Rose sighed and rubbed her brow in frustration.

Do you think shell be able to figure it out? Maru, Roses sibling and the god of dragons, said as he appeared beside her.

Its hard to tell without my foresight, Rose replied.

Did you drop enough hints? Selene, the goddess of vampires and another one of Roses siblings, asked.

I did, but I fear she won be able to put them together until much later.

Then, all we can do is wait, Maru said.

Said the immortal god, Selene muttered. Rose rolled her eyes at their playful bickering, watching in the crashing waves as Aria returned to life.

It is of no matter how long we wait, but the journey itself will be tiresome, she muttered. Neither of her siblings commented to that. Losing their sight had filled them with apprehension, a sensation they didn often feel. It worried them that they could not see what the future holds for the world and their champions.

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