A Gift from the Goddess Chapter 67

“lf we can request a forty per cent decrease to our alliance tax for just the next five years, I believe that this amount alone would allow us to grow exponentially,” the Alpha from the Red Star pack said.

“You‘d easily see the missed returns back in full from the tax break, though I think easily more than full, once our annual revenue grew further.

Currently, we have several plans in place for expanding our business interests, but we‘re just short of the funds required to implement.”

Aleric took a moment to consider before finally replying.

“I‘m happy to allow that,” he said, “but I would expect an increase of trade goods to come through the Winter Mist during that period of discount, something that would assist with both of our economies.

In addition to that, I will also add the condition where, should you fail to increase your total gross income after ten years, the Winter Mist will reserve the right to claim the amount in missed taxes during the initial five year break period.”

It had been going on like this the entire meeting.

I was here, present and listening, but not overly attentive.

Mostly I just sat and tried to tune out the occasional stares in my direction, focusing on literally anything else other than wondering what they were thinking internally about me.

It was bad enough to be a woman in these meetings but now I was also suddenly unranked, unmated, underage and riddled with a multitude of rumours surrounding my whereabouts the last few months. Their minds would be swimming with a million questions, I was sure.

Aleric had been handling the meeting fine; some would even say far better than what you‘d expect from others his age. But I hadn‘t said a word yet. I‘d told myself I wasn‘t going to get involved with participating since, at the end of the day, everything I did would be benefitting Tytus‘ reputation.

Though I‘d be lying if I said I didn‘t feel a little bad since Aleric was the one here, not Tytus. Fortunately, there hadn‘t been anything worth involving myself in yet and there were barely any changes I‘d make to the plans he‘d proposed so far.

“Anything else?” Aleric asked the group once dealings with the Red Star pack had concluded.

A man spoke up then, seated to our right of the hall. He was an Alpha, I could feel that much, but he didn‘t speak with much authority.

“Alpha heir Aleric, l‘d like to discuss a possible innovative business proposition for you to invest in,” he said, his eyes glancing at me for a split second in a way that made me uncomfortable. “Situated within the Silent Forest pack.”

The mention of his pack brought recognition; this was Alpha Fredrick Jacobs. It made sense now why he‘d given off the little authority he did; his pack was bordered with where the human territory started.

As such, their resources and room for expansion were minimal to prevent accidentally revealing our species‘ existence.

But it was Alpha Fredrick‘s future reputation that bothered me most. I‘d heard a little about him in my past life… and it wasn‘t overly positive.

“Speak,” Aleric said, gesturing a hand for him to proceed.

“As you know,” he started, “our territory borders with a human town about five hours from here.

We‘ve been forced to maintain the illusion of being a human district ever since our pack‘s origin, something which has hindered us in several areas; mainly our ability to protect ourselves and run our pack in a way some normally would.

But, since taking over for my father some years ago, I‘ve begun to wonder whether we could use this to our advantage. Say… opening our land up for humans. I‘m proposing we build something close to the border in order to bring in their business, thereby boosting our own economy to trade in resources better.”

…So this was where his rumours must have started.

‘What business did you have in mind?” Aleric asked, not immediately shutting his suggestion down.

I was curious, sure, but beginning trade with humans was dangerous. If one of them wandered onto a pack territory at the wrong time, like for example, during an attack, they could easily end up dead.

The pack would immediately go under human investigation and navigating the aftermath could prove messy and risky.

But then death was one thing, Goddess forbid they ever saw someone shift accidentally.

Our species had deliberately alienated ourselves from them, even rejecting the majority of their more advanced technologies where possible, to ensure our continued secrecy.

Their innovations were great and could prove beneficial for us in many areas, but the risk of exposure was far too high. Not to mention I‘d heard stories that most of their gadgets contained location tracking systems these days.

To introduce a new advanced human technology to our world, it had to be both thoroughly screened and approved by a council of elder representatives made up from packs all over the country. These days, approval was very rare.

To be fair though, I was sure the humans knew some of our towns existed to an extent, but we were probably considered gated off, old fashioned mountain folk in their eyes; estranged from many things the modern world had to offer.

Or at least a lot of our territories were restricted to keep up that illusion. Places like the Winter Mist were luckier since we were far away enough from human civilisation, surrounded by packs on all sides, that we had the luxury to expand as large as we wanted without worrying whether humans would randomly stumble in.

But somewhere like the Silent Forest pack would need to be constantly wary, trying to keep contact with humans to a minimum where possible.

Which was one reason why I was so unsure about this deal.

It wasn‘t as though I was completely opposed to reaching out to humans, especially since it wasn‘t unheard of for some of our kind to mate individuals of theirs, but I knew opening the gate for humans to freely enter a werewolf territory would have irreversible effects.

Once open, it would make it almost impossible to close again without human curiosity getting involved. And all it would take is one overly curious person to dig a little too deep.

Off the top of my head, I could not recall in the past whether any pack had done this successfully. Not to say no one had begun business with them, but rather I had no recollection of it personally. In the previous timeline, I was mostly involved with war and new political alliance tactics.

The small packs that were already under the Winter Mist from the start were not my concern.

Typically, Lunas had no direct involvement outside of their own packs at all, so it had been a struggle enough to be allowed access to the things I had in past.

“I would like to build a small business district, starting with a casino,” Alpha Fredrick said. “It would encourage visitors from all over to come and participate.

The profits would be high and basically guaranteed, something that we would then reinvest in other businesses in the area.

New businesses mean more money, which means higher gross income, meaning higher return for you via your alliance tax. And that‘s without taking into account the equity investment returns for the business itself.”

He wanted to introduce avenues of addiction to, not only his own pack, but to the humans on the other side of his border. Of all the things to risk centuries of secrecy on, a casino would be at the bottom of the list of things worth pursuing.

Not to mention that, if there was one thing Alpha Fredrick seemed to know well, it was unnecessary addictions. Goddess knew what else he wanted to do behind the scenes of that establishment.

“How much did you require and at what percentage?” Aleric asked, sounding as if he was unphased by

something close to the border in order to bring in their business, thereby boosting our own economy to trade in resources better.”

…So this was where his rumours must have started.

“What business did you have in mind?” Aleric asked, not immediately shutting his suggestion down.

I was curious, sure, but beginning trade with humans was dangerous. If one of them wandered onto a pack territory at the wrong time, like for example, during an attack, they could easily end up dead.

The pack would immediately go under human investigation and navigating the aftermath could prove messy and risky.

But then death was one thing, Goddess forbid they ever saw someone shift accidentally.

Our species had deliberately alienated ourselves from them, even rejecting the majority of their more advanced technologies where possible, to ensure our continued secrecy.

Their innovations were great and could prove beneficial for us in many areas, but the risk of exposure was far too high.

Not to mention I‘d heard stories that most of their gadgets contained location tracking systems these days.

To introduce a new advanced human technology to our world, it had to be both thoroughly screened and approved by a council of elder representatives made up from packs all over the country. These days, approval was very rare.

To be fair though, I was sure the humans knew some of our towns existed to an extent, but we were probably considered gated off, old fashioned mountain folk in their eyes; estranged from many things the modern world had to offer. Or at least a lot of our territories were restricted to keep up that illusion.

Places like the Winter Mist were luckier since we were far away enough from human civilisation, surrounded by packs on all sides, that we had the luxury to expand as large as we wanted without worrying whether humans would randomly stumble in.

But somewhere like the Silent Forest pack would need to be constantly wary, trying to keep contact with humans to a minimum where possible.

Which was one reason why I was so unsure about this deal.

It wasn‘t as though I was completely opposed to reaching out to humans, especially since it wasn‘t unheard of for some of our kind to mate individuals of theirs, but I knew opening the gate for humans to freely enter a werewolf territory would have irreversible effects.

Once open, it would make it almost impossible to close again without human curiosity getting involved. And all it would take is one overly curious person to dig a little too deep.

Off the top of my head, I could not recall in the past whether any pack had done this successfully. Not to say no one had begun business with them, but rather I had no recollection of it personally.

In the previous timeline, I was mostly involved with war and new political alliance tactics. The small packs that were already under the Winter Mist from the start were not my concern.

Typically, Lunas had no direct involvement outside of their own packs at all, so it had been a struggle enough to be allowed access to the things I had in past.

“I would like to build a small business district, starting with a casino,” Alpha Fredrick said. “It would encourage visitors from all over to come and participate.

The profits would be high and basically guaranteed, something that we would then reinvest in other businesses in the area.

New businesses mean more money, which means higher gross income, meaning higher return for you via your alliance tax.

And that‘s without taking into account the equity investment returns for the business itself.”

He wanted to introduce avenues of addiction to, not only his own pack, but to the humans on the other side of his border. Of all the things to risk centuries of secrecy on, a casino would be at the bottom of the list of things worth pursuing.

Not to mention that, if there was one thing Alpha Fredrick seemed to know well, it was unnecessary addictions. Goddess knew what else he wanted to do behind the scenes of that establishment

“How much did you require and at what percentage?” Aleric asked, sounding as if he was unphased by the ramifications this could have.

“Looking for a one hundred thousand investment for a ten per cent equity stake.‘

“So how much do you currently–”

“Aleric,” I interrupted quietly, touching his arm to stop him for a moment. “Have you thought this through? Like fully?”

I‘d broken my promise to not get involved but this just wasn‘t sitting right with me. Not for a casino and definitely not for Fredrick Jacobs, lest the rumours about him were true.

“It‘s just business and a good opportunity,” he whispered back. “If this pays off, we‘d be involved with one of the first territories to attempt something like this and, as he said, it is basically guaranteed profit. Humans travel miles for certain attractions. I can see this working out easily.”

“No, not for a casino,” I argued, my voice still too low for others to hear. “This isn‘t a good idea to involve ourselves with.

Putting aside the humans, we‘re still talking addiction and possible property value reductions as a result. What happens when some of their warriors stop being so productive or financially ruin themselves? That‘s going to cause chain reactions to their other avenues of resources.

If they want to do it, then let them, but don‘t pour our money into helping them be their own possible destruction.”

It was overdramatic in some ways but I had my own reasoning. Bottom line was that Aleric should not be getting involved with this pack or its Alpha unless it was for taking their quarterly tax.

“Aria… –”

“Trust me,” I urged. “This is not a good investment. If you want to become indirectly involved within humans for business, there are better avenues.”

He searched my face for a few moments before finally exhaling, nodding his head in agreement.

“Unfortunately, we won‘t be investing in the casino at this time,” Aleric said, directing his attention back to Alpha Fredrick. “But I encourage you to come to us with other business interests in the future.”

You could see the irritation flash on Alpha Fredrick‘s face from Aleric‘s rejection. This was probably something he‘d been working on for quite a while and was counting on the Winter Mist‘s support in order to get it off the ground.

His eyes then flicked to me coldly, filled with nothing but accusation.

“I knew that going into business with humans would be a difficult feat,” he said, his words like ice, “but I didn‘t anticipate that one would be causing an issue to our new development so soon.”

Aleric immediately tensed up, leaning forward as if getting ready to make him regret his words. The insult to myself was clear and unmistakable. He was referring to my collar‘s effect of removing my ability.

“Don‘t,” I said, pleading for Aleric to stand down. “He‘s not worth it.”

“What? Can‘t speak for yourself?” Alpha Fredrick stupidly continued. “Does the collar make you mentally weak as well?”

I turned my attention to him calmly, now addressing someone in the meeting for the first time that day. You could tell how visibly uncomfortable everyone was from the interaction taking place.

“Alpha Fredrick, I understand your frustration over the rejection suffered here today. I appreciate that you have put a lot of time and energy into this proposition and this outcome is an unfortunate blow for you,” | said.

“However, I would like to remind you that you are not in a position to be hurling insults at the people currently preventing your small pack‘s complete annihilation from your neighbouring territories. This alliance protects you, We protect you.”

You protect me from nothing, Saintess,” he said, spitting the title distastefully. “You are as fragile as a human now and apparently have the wits of one too.”

The only reason Aleric hadn‘t attacked him already was out of respect for me; knowing that I‘d asked him to not get involved. Hopefully, he realised I could handle this myself.

Which was exactly what I intended to do.

I hadn‘t planned to outwardly mention this but it seemed the small Alpha wasn‘t going able to realise when it was time to stop. Even his fellow pack member looked horrified by his actions, discreetly trying to tug on his shirt to get him to stop.

“You know… I find it funny, Alpha Fredrick, that you would use rumours you heard about me to make such bold insults,” I calmly replied, resting my chin on my hand as if I were relaxed. “Would you say then, in your personal opinion, that there is some truth in the rumours one hears?”

“O–of course,” he said, taken a little aback by my unflustered demeanour.

I knew even if he didn‘t agree with me, he was forced to take that stance in order to justify what he‘d said to me already. It was something I could use to my advantage,

“Interesting… you see, I‘ve heard rumours about you as well, Alpha Fredrick. And they allow me to see why you‘d want to go into business with humans so badly… but it does puzzle me as to why you‘d use their species as a form of insult.”

A small smile then twitched at my lips, a giddiness bubbling inside me as I knew what was about to. “Interestingly enough, I‘ve heard that you really love humans. Some might say… a little too * much. And by humans, I am, in fact, implying plural. An obsessively large plural.”

Immediately, his face went bright red as he looked around in a fluster at those around him; embarrassment clear on his features from my insinuation.

“I don‘t… I don‘t know what you‘re talking about,” he huffed out, a little too defensively.

A light laugh escaped my lips. “Then I suppose we should take the things we hear at nothing more than face value.”

In the future, Fredrick Jacobs, Alpha of the Silent Forest pack, was involved in scandalous rumours to do with fraternising with human girls intimately.

There was nothing wrong with being mated to a human officially, though this was a very rare occurrence.

The issue was that it was considered taboo when engaging with them like that under any other circumstances.

Especially in the quantity that Fredrick Jacobs was accused of, and especially when it was questionable what his intentions actually were.

Having a rumour like that cling to someone would significantly damage their reputation and future business prospects; something made more awkward if those plans revolved around humans also.

“So, to avoid further embarrassment to yourself,” I continued, smiling from my own guilty pleasure inside.” I‘m happy to accept a written apology mailed–.”

But then I felt it. Cutting off all other trains of thought as I frowned.

…A spark.

I‘d felt it. I‘d definitely felt it. I was positive it was there just now, right?

It was that same familiar energy I felt within me that originated from my Goddess mark. The same energy that came from when I used my true authority, higher than that of an Alpha.

But that should be impossible… right?

The collar should have stopped all attempts at even trying to harness it. It should have prevented anything and everything to do with my werewolf abilities.

And though it was fleeting for only a split second, its sudden tangible appearance made many questions

form inside my mind all at once. But the most important one?

…What did this mean if it had somehow managed to break through my current shackles?

“Aria…?” Aleric prompted, noticing my sudden silence.

| quickly shook everything off and resumed my composure, directing my attention back to Alpha Fredrick once more. “Ah… as I was saying, I’m happy to accept a written apology once you‘ve had time to calm down and collect yourself in a proper manner befitting a member of this alliance. I will be expecting your prompt response with a gift and or compensation attached. Thank you.”

Alpha Fredrick gritted his teeth, turning his head away in a sign of submission. He would be unable to refuse my request thanks to having witnesses from all his neighbouring territories here.

If anything, my mercy towards him was probably more than most expected given our status, but it was my hope that it would be enough to scare the others here from spreading further rumours.

And so I leaned back in my chair, a smile of satisfaction on my face for the remainder of the meeting.

Because, whilst winning a petty argument and publicly humiliating someone who tried to dishonour me was nice, I was far more focused on something else; something far more valuable, that Alpha Fredrick had inadvertently given me… …Hope.

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