“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
c h a p t e r : o n e
- t h e p e a c e t r e a t y -
"Enough!" Alpha Park interrupted sternly, her voice resonating through the auburn walls of the large Great Hall. Jumping slightly in his seat, Taehyung had to bite the inside of his lower lip to keep his whimper as silent as possible - though he was not able to control flinching rather harshly at the sheer power and hostility in the alpha's voice, an act which definitely did not go by unnoticed.
Not wanting to attract any more attention to himself, Taehyung had looked down and stared at his tightly clenched fists that were cruelly bunching up the cream velvet of his breeches, hoping that doing so would stop his trembling hands from shaking any further. He had never coped well when there was an angry alpha around, no matter that he was not the object of their fury. His Omega nature, and just generally pacifist beliefs, had sent him into a spiral of distress, his inner wolf making him react instinctively, waves after waves of soothing chemosignals radiating from every single pore of his skin, a subliminal attempt to appease the angry alphas and stop the impending fight from happening.
Every were inside of the room had stilled in their respective spots at that, nostrils flaring wide with each taken inhale, as their olfactory system had no doubt sent frantic signals to their brains, commanding them to stop at all costs, finally registering that there was a distressed omega amongst them due to their incessant fighting.
"I apologise, Prince Taehyung," Alpha Park said softly, a warm, encouraging smile taking over her lips when Taehyung had dared to look up at her honey brown eyes and gentle features. "I assure you that neither I, nor any of the present company, has desired to cause you any kind of anguish. I merely intended to cease Alpha Kim and Alpha Jeon from arguing any further," She explained as she glared pointedly at each of the aforementioned alphas for daring to scare Taehyung-- No... daring to scare the precious omega like they did.
Taehyung had seriously considered telling her that the one who actually triggered his instincts into action was her and not them - though he was aware that both his father, Alpha King Kim of Volturnus, and the other royal werewolf, Alpha King Jeon of Feronia, were the main reason why he became distressed in the first place. He had known better than to speak back to an alpha when he was not spoken to, however. Wisely choosing to keep his mouth shut and just nod gratefully in response to her apology, Taehyung had ignored the flaring annoyance building up inside of his chest at being treated like a frail and delicate porcelain doll who did not know any better, once again.
He was not frail.
He was not delicate.
And he was also not anywhere near ignorant.
Taehyung did not need to be constantly coddled and taken care of as every single werecreature on the planet - especially the ever strong and burly alphas - thought they had the right to, thought that it was something they just had to do at all costs. Firmly believing that it was because of the alphas that the Omega strain did not go extinct, everyone had completely ignored the fact that it was the alphas' fault that the omegas were an endangered species in the first place, and not because the omegas could not take care of themselves if left alone. If the alphas wouldn't have used omegas as scapegoats for their failures in the past and commanded them to their inevitable deaths - often recurring to unsavoury tricks, such as implementing the omegas as a distraction tactic to take their opponents down, the natural instinct to protect the omegas too great to contain - there would not be so few omegas to ever speak of since.
Taehyung had been told that, in old times, Omega was considered to be one of the lowest ranks that a pack member could have had, taking the third place on the hierarchy chart, with Beta in the second spot, and, naturally, Alpha as the very first on the top. Depending on which species of werecreature one was, when they started transitioning from a child into an adolescent, the deity representing their kind would finally grant them with the gifts and strengths specific to their destined rank.
In the werewolves' case, it was the moon goddess, Luna.
During the first coming-of-age, a werecreature could only present themselves as either Omega or Beta, but unlike the betas, who got to go through the same experience again at the beginning of their adulthood and - depending on Luna's judgement and the were's inherent magic - had the chance to evolve from Beta to Alpha later on, omegas were not so fortunate. The higher forces out there, apparently, had not deemed it necessary for omegas to have physical strength and natural power the way betas, and even more so alphas did. Taehyung had been told that omegas were supposed to be lovers, not fighters, so their first coming-of-age was their one and only coming-of-age. For that reason, omegas could not help much in regards to fighting for protection or hunting enough game to feed an entire pack, their smaller constitution and weaker stamina putting them at a huge disadvantage for such tasks, especially when in competition with the betas and alphas. The omegas had also automatically been demoted to the lower spectrum of the food chain because of that, more often than not used as a means to an end and thought of as something... disposable. This had supposedly continued until the situation became so ridiculously bad that there were barely any omegas left alive to tell the tale anymore, and that was painfully true considering Taehyung's rather... lonely predicament.
These days, however, because the Omega strain was hardly - if not ever - seen around anymore, being an omega meant that Taehyung was immediately labelled as someone precious, as someone valuable who must absolutely be protected at all costs. Which was not all that bad when Taehyung really thought about the fate that the omegas had been bestowed with in the past. Being an omega now - though no one dared to say it out loud for fear of the severe repercussions that they would bring upon themselves - had still meant that Taehyung was identified as someone who was weak and useless, as someone who was in constant need of attention and mollycoddling to supposedly maintain their happiness, as someone who had to be preserved like an animal on the brink of extinction. In other words, omegas did not matter in the grand scheme of things, but no one was fool enough to try harming them due to the active laws all around the world. Despite that, and the fact that Taehyung had yet to meet or even hear of another fellow omega in his lifetime, omegas were still not meant to matter much outside of being good caregivers to their families and packs and making sure that their mates were satisfied when home. So as long as Taehyung was obedient, no one would even bat an eyelash in his direction, and as a reward for being so "good", he was to be showered with as much affection and many gifts as he wished for the rest of his life.
Taehyung had never considered himself as obedient. Not in the true meaning of the word, anyway. Of course, he had craved physical contact and comfort more than the average were, and of course, his strength was not anything remarkable, as his constitution was considerably smaller when compared to others, but that did not actually explain why he was to be treated as something... less because of it. Taehyung had hated it when his father ordered him around with his Alpha Voice and forced him to do something against his will, completely powerless against his nature compelling him to obey the given orders lest he made the alpha angry. That was the crux of the matter, however. Despite the fact that Taehyung did ultimately do as he was told, it was only because his father had often appealed to Taehyung's Omega nature by flashing his glowing crimson eyes and bringing his Alpha Voice out. If it weren't for those factors, Taehyung had seriously doubted that he would have ever obeyed orders that he had not agreed with beforehand. It was just as his older brother, Namjoon, had said. His wolf was no doubt an Omega wolf, but Taehyung was Alpha through and through.
Regardless, none of that was even remotely relevant.
Despite wanting to prove that he was able to fend for himself without recurring to physical fighting, he couldn't. No matter what arguments he raised in his defence, Taehyung was well aware that he could not possibly stand a chance going against a beta, let alone an alpha, and hope to get out of it victorious. Appealing to their protective instincts could only go so far during a fight before everything inevitably went to hell, after all. That was why keeping his head down and maintaining his silence around unfamiliar alphas and betas was a necessary, smart move that Taehyung had learned over the years, way before he had even presented as Omega, knowing full well that behaving as such would not do anything but enforce all those omega stereotypes that he hated with such passion. He did not have any other choice though, and he had to survive somehow in a world ruled by alphas. Playing by their rules was a necessity which Taehyung had sadly gotten used to in his life.
Why in Luna's name he gave in to his brother's petulant request and came along to witness this dreadful meeting was beyond Taehyung, in all honesty. It was not as though his opinion on the matter held any sort of value to the Kings, the Queen, and their Second-in-command, anyway. His Omega nature and status as the second son were the two most glaring, incriminating reasons why no one was inclined to take Taehyung's words seriously. The only person who actually did heed Taehyung any attention was Namjoon, but his brother, despite being Alpha by nature just like their father was, did not hold any sort of significant authority over the kingdom or the Kim Royal Pack quite yet, so there was nothing that Namjoon could actually do to change the way things were now and make the Kings and the Queen listen to Taehyung. At least not until the day when Namjoon would stand in their father's place - the day when their old man would finally step down from his position and pass both the crown to the Volturnian Kingdom as well as Alpha of the Kim Pack power and title to Namjoon.
It was alright, though. Taehyung did not have any sugar-coated input to offer that would not end with his guts spilled all over the floor and a crying Namjoon by his side. He had nothing less offensive to say about the workings of a war which he always thought was just plain idiotic - especially when no one seemed to even remember why it had started in the first place.
Hence, the fighting.
His father had gone mad with fury when he had received an official letter from Alpha Queen Park of Providentia days ago, politely announcing in her fancy looped script and formal speech that if he did not agree to travel to her country, to discuss a potential peace treaty to end the war between Volturnus and Feronia in a fortnight, she would cancel her alliances with both countries, causing his father to break out in outrage at the audacity that the Queen had had to force him to meet with Alpha Jeon.
However, his father was not foolish enough to refuse the Queen's request and risk her wrath.
So here Taehyung was, sat at a large wooden table with the feronian Court strategically accommodated on the other side, listening to his father and Alpha King Jeon as they argued back and forth about who started the war first. Meanwhile, Alpha Queen Park stood at the head of the table and slowly, but surely, looked as though she were losing every last titbit of her sanity, trying valiantly all the while to keep up with the Kings' bickering.
"Your Majesties," Alpha Park interrupted bravely once again, her generously-jewelled golden crown shining brightly inside of the roomy Great Hall, just as the ones the Kings were adorning were. "With all due respect, I have not invited you in my home, on my territory, to listen to such nonsense!" She exclaimed sternly, making sure to emphasise that the Kings could not just do as they pleased when they were mere guests on foreign land, as she continued, "We have gathered here today to reach to an agreement - possibly a solution to the demise of a war that has been poisoning my two most valued allies for almost two decades now."
"How do you expect me to reason with someone who refuses to take responsibility for their own mistakes?" Alpha Jeon said crossly, his dark eyes staring at Alpha Kim from where he stood on the other side of the table, as though the King of Volturnus was the sole bane of his existence. 'And maybe he actually is,' Taehyung reasoned to himself. His father had never been the most innocent man on earth, after all - but then again, the same could also be said about Alpha Jeon. Neither of the Kings were that much different from one another. In fact, from the rumours that he heard about Alpha Jeon and from what he witnessed today so far, Taehyung had reckoned that the two alphas were so similar to one another that he was not all that surprised their kingdoms ended up at war. Not when all their arguments consisted of was something that they were both equally as guilty about. 'Just like the pot calling the kettle black,' Taehyung mused silently as he fought back a humourless smile.
"How many times do I have to repeat myself, Jeon," Alpha Kim spat out the other's name as though he had just eaten something particularly sour. "My people have never done anything to instigate the war. Your people were the ones who started raiding the villages at my borders," He accused as he crossed his arms over his chest and promptly stared back through his slanted eyes, just as fiercely as Alpha Jeon did.
"Fine," Alpha Jeon scoffed unceremoniously, shaking his head in exasperation to no one in particular, "For the sake of this conversation, let's assume that what you said is true. Then the next, more reasonable course of action, would have been to send a messenger to report what happened and demand an explanation in return, not to start taking the working villagers from my borders as hostages!"
"I HAVE!" Alpha Kim bellowed in outrage, tone commanding respect and eyes flashing the same crimson red that Alpha Jeon was sporting in retaliation. Taehyung had jumped in his seat, shivers wrecking through his body as he stared between his father and Alpha Jeon. He had been on constant edge all day because of them and he absolutely hated it, hated feeling as though there was danger everywhere he looked. The Kings had fought continuously ever since the morning, but never had eyes been flashed before. As an omega, Taehyung had secretly discovered early on that he possessed the unique ability to calm and soothe even the most angry of alphas if he so wished for, and no one but his brother and brother-in-law were aware of this particular information. He did not actually know what the Kings would do to him if he dared to let go of his instincts and draw their attention onto him, however, no matter how innocent and expected Taehyung's quasi forced reaction would be to the outside world.
Eye flashing meant a challenge.
A challenge between alphas, no less.
Still stuck contemplating on what to do, Taehyung was not all that surprised when Alpha Park, who fought to keep semblance of a civilised conversation up until now, had also seemed at a total loss of how to further proceed with the meeting, going completely silent as she straightened up and glared at the Kings, her own eyes subconsciously glowing the same alpha crimson as the other two.
"Father," Namjoon interrupted coolly, his deep and stony voice causing every single head inside of the room to turn towards him, including the Kings and the Queen. Namjoon was not fazed to have three pairs of red eyes staring right back at him, however, and continued to just calmly look back at the Kings and the Queen, pointedly bringing his arm up to palm the nape of Taehyung's neck within his warm hand, a calloused thumb instinctively starting to rub circles on Taehyung's skin, easing some of the tension that he was not even aware he was holding. No one had said anything for a few moments, just stood there in their spots, instead, watching in bewilderment as Namjoon comforted Taehyung whilst calmly regarding everyone inside of the room with a look of utter disappointment on his normally impassive face - to Taehyung's ever-growing amusement.
This was the reason why Namjoon was Taehyung's favourite person in the whole entire world. Even without the crown of the kingdom on his head, his brother had always been able to demand respect and seek reason within others. Namjoon did not even have to explain himself. He had already made his point when he gently cupped Taehyung around the back of his neck. 'So there actually was a reason why he insisted I attend this meeting,' Taehyung thought to himself as he also surveyed the room, finally dawning on him that without him there, Alpha Jeon and Alpha Kim would have already started attacking each other ages ago.
"I have," Alpha Kim gritted out more calmly this time around, nodding once in Namjoon's direction and then turning his attention back towards Alpha Jeon, all crimson eyes finally turning back to their original state. "I have," He repeated sternly when he heard Alpha Jeon scoff again in disbelief, "And my messenger never came back from his trip to Feronia. That is as good a response as any, is it not?"
"Did it ever occur to you that perhaps this messenger of yours took the opportunity and ran scampering away with his tail between his legs?" Alpha Jeon speculated angrily, his red face burning with fury at the insinuation that Alpha Kim had tried to impart so easily. "How dare you accuse me of murdering someone as sacred as the messenger of a Royal Pack! Of committing one of the greatest sins there is in our Lycan lore!"
"How dare you imply that my messenger was nothing more than a cowardly muh--"
"Your Majesties!" Alpha Park interrupted harshly, realising just in time that Alpha Kim would have made matters even worse if he were allowed to continue. "Enough with the accusations, please! It doesn't matter who started the war, anymore. What does matter, however, is that we end it. I cannot allow any more of this madness to go on. Not only have your countries been suffering greatly because of it, but my own as well. I'm sick and tired of being dragged back and forth between the two of you, wasting resources and sacrificing my own weres for the sake of a fruitless war which has brought you nothing but loss and misery."
Taehyung had to hold back a snort at the sight of both Kings being properly chastised by the frazzled Queen. Neither his father nor Alpha Jeon had looked pleased to be scolded by Alpha Park, yet once again, but they did quieten down and nodded at her in response, having no other choice but to begrudgingly agree with her when their incriminating actions were placed so simply right before their eyes. Taehyung had already started to lose hope that they could end the war when the Kings had done nothing but argue back and forth all day long. He was glad that fatigue and old age seemed to finally catch up to them, at last willing the Kings to let the fight go and simply listen.
Everything the Queen had just said was so true that it actually hurt Taehyung to pay attention to her words. Not only were resources such as iron for weapon and armour forging, food rations for the soldiers on the battlefield, and bundles of medicine for the injured, consumed at an alarming rate each day, but countless lives were lost on both sides of the war, leaving fatherless pups behind and mothers to mourn the loss of their children and mates. Hearing that all over again brought to the forefront of his mind memories that Taehyung had never been able to forget, clearly remembering the day when he witnessed the true aftermath of war.
It had happened nine years ago, when Taehyung had been at the tender age of twelve, struggling to adjust to the changes that his body was going through to prepare him to transition from a pup into an adolescent. His mother had decided that he was old enough and granted him permission to attend the receiving committee arranged for the return of the King and his army. Taehyung had remembered that he couldn't help being ecstatic about it at the time, since he had always wanted to go to one, just as Namjoon could, so he had not truly understood the sad smile that his brother had given him in response to his enthusiasm. At least not until Taehyung had stood on the dais, with his mother at his left and Namjoon at his right, flanking him as though they could protect him from the sight in front of them by sheer proximity alone.
Rows upon rows of injured soldiers, some in full shift, others still walking on their own two feet, had gathered on the palace grounds with his exhausted father leading them at the front, their presence poisoning the air around them with the irony scent of dried blood, whole weeks worth of bitter sweat, and the acrid stench of despair. Taehyung had not known how to respond to any of it, his awkward, lanky body frozen on the dais, mind blank as he had watched a woman frantically make her way through the crowd, not caring for her already dirty and ragged skirts as she had kneeled at his father's feet, at the King's feet, and begged to know her husband's whereabouts for she had not seen him among the mass of mangled soldiers. That had been the first time when Taehyung had seen his father at a lack of words, the pained wail that the woman had let out through her tears echoing in the silence, as a couple of soldiers from the palace had grabbed her by the arms and forcibly escorted her out of the palace grounds. The image had since forever been ingrained inside of Taehyung's head. He could still hear her devastating screams sometimes, on nights when his mind was plagued by nightmares and worries for his peoples' future.
That was why Taehyung was glad that Alpha Park had the courage to point out Alpha Kim and Alpha Jeon's foolishness, and took initiative to demand an end to the war by offering her hospitality and neutral territory to both the Kings. Taehyung had reckoned that the Kings had had more than enough time to flaunt their power and pride to one another, and prove that they were both just as strong as the other was - a point which Taehyung had yet to completely understand, since sending one's country at war in an act of spite was not something that he could wrap his head around, no matter how many times Namjoon had tried to explain the theory behind it.
"And how do you suggest we do that?" Alpha Jeon asked eventually, tiredly taking a seat when he realised that Alpha Kim was not about to open his mouth any time soon. 'As stubborn as ever,' Taehyung thought to himself, as he glanced at his father and spotted him with that irritated look that he adopted whenever he was feeling particularly testy about something. Taehyung had suspected that his father was conflicted at the moment, probably not sure whether to be glad or annoyed that he won the silence contest and Alpha Jeon spoke first.
"How else, Alpha Jeon," Alpha Park said easily, an eerie smile taking over her lips as she regarded both the kings levelly. "Just like we have sealed our alliances with one another, of course."
A suffocating silence had fallen over the room at her words, everyone present looking back and forth between Taehyung and the kid who sat right in front of him, on the other side of the large table, as though they did not know at who to look first.
He had known how Feronia and Volturnus came to be allied with Providentia.
He had known.
Yet, Taehyung could not seem to properly process any of it. He did not want to process any of it, the dread pooling at the base of his stomach making it hard for him to keep in the measly meal that he consumed at breakfast, heart rate picking up and rushing the blood in his veins at full speed until all that he could hear was his own heartbeat and the ragged breaths that he was struggling to fill his lungs with, his entire scalp prickling with anxiety as the world around him went out of focus, leaving a blurry mess in its wake and-- "No." Taehyung had heard Namjoon say, his brother's voice breaking through his haze and dragging Taehyung out of the tantalising blackness threatening to swallow him whole. Mentally clinging to his brother like an anchor, Taehyung had looked at Namjoon as the other stood up to his full, intimidating height. "No," He repeated sternly, his voice as cold as ice as he looked around the room and then directly at their father, his brother's broad chest expanding with each taken breath, fists clenching periodically at his sides in anger on Taehyung's behalf.
Warmth filling him from the inside to see Namjoon stand up for him so openly, the foggy world chasing after Taehyung's consciousness had all but dissipated away, allowing a small smile to take over the corners of his lips. Taehyung was pleased to know that even if the whole universe would turn against him, his brother would forever have Taehyung's back no matter what. Namjoon had always been Taehyung's own personal hero, after all, and nothing in the world could change that. As comforting as the thought was, however, as good as it felt to know that he was not alone, Taehyung had known, just as well as Namjoon did, that the battle was already lost, one glance at their father, plainly taking a seat, more than enough to deduce that the decision had already been made - though no words had come out of the King's mouth. They were not necessary, either way. Not when his father was adorning that special look about him, as though he were seriously considering something that he did not think was outright unreasonable and was willing to negotiate - so long as he got out with a great deal under his wing by the end of it all, of course.
"I am assuming you want my second son to take the Omega Prince of Volturnus as his consort, Alpha Park?" Alpha Jeon asked the Queen as he looked at Taehyung, openly assessing him with no regards to Taehyung's sensibilities. Taehyung could not find it in himself to look back at Alpha Jeon, or at anyone else in the room, for that matter, his cream velvet breeches becoming, once again, the only thing that he could bear to look at without the risk of breaking out into a fit of uncontrollable tears, tears of frustration and rage alone.
"Your assumption is right, Alpha Jeon," Alpha Park said with a nod, her gentle features tight around the edges. "Just as Alpha Prince Namjoon has taken my eldest son, Beta Prince Seokjin, as his consort," She started as she gestured between Namjoon and Seokjin, the latter standing on Namjoon's other side and rubbing a soothing palm at the small of Namjoon's back to calm him down. "And my second son, Alpha Prince Jimin, has taken your eldest son, Beta Prince Yoongi, as his consort," Alpha Park pointed with her open palm on the other side of the table where the mentioned couple stood - though Taehyung couldn't bring himself to look at them properly, his sight blurry and out of focus as the world around him took a touch of the unreal, gaining a hazy quality to it. "I suggest both Feronia and Volturnus unite their eligible heirs through matrimony as you both did with Providentia."
Taehyung had felt lightheaded all over again, the panic that Namjoon had managed to cast away a few moments ago ebbing its way back through his ribs at full power. 'Matrimony,' He thought to himself, as he shut his eyes tightly and inhaled deeply through his nose, willing his wild heart to calm down and the dizziness to go away.
He had always known that there was a possibility that this could happen, but he did not actually expect it to be so soon.
Taehyung was aware that his father had never liked him, no matter how much Taehyung had looked up to him when he had been younger, but he was not aware that his father had actually hated him enough to willingly wed his only remaining son with the likes of the so supposed enemy. Taehyung had been too bright and happy all the time, way too curious for his father's tastes, always made too many enquiries that the King had not always had answers for. All throughout his childhood, Taehyung had fought and questioned his way through each and every step that his father took. They had never been close, not per se, but his father had tolerated every one of Taehyung's whims with practiced patience, often evading him by telling him that he would make "one hell of an alpha" one day, maybe one even greater than Namjoon, who had always possessed spectacular Alpha traits from a very young age.
Then that day had come, around the time when he was thirteen and in his first coming-of-age stage, when Taehyung had surprised everyone, even himself, and presented as an Omega werewolf. Bright golden eyes had shone gloriously instead of his dull brown ones, as the new powers that came with the Omega strain had rushed through his body and settled down at the very core of his existence, warm and comforting, as though he had finally gotten back a piece of himself that he had not even been aware was missing. Taehyung did not know how to explain it, but he had been happy with the way that things turned out. Of course, it had not been what he expected, but he had no a problem with being an omega, and neither had his mother and brother, if the sunny smiles and tears of joy had been anything to go by. The only person who did, however, had been his father, who had looked at Taehyung and his golden eyes once, gritted his teeth loudly in response, and then exited the premises with a nod to himself, as though he were trying to figure out what to do now that he had an omega in his pack and family - figure out how deal with it now that his plans had been foiled.
An omega in the pack was extremely rare but it was not exactly unheard of, if folk tales held any truth behind them, the presence of an omega supposedly granting a better dynamic and overall harmony, serving as a moral compass to those lost and in need of help. His father had never been an alpha who valued such sentimental things, however. His father had wanted power, wanted influence, wanted both his sons to be alphas, not just one. That was the reason why Taehyung did not stop his father when he left that day, the joy that he had felt as his Omega powers warmed him up from within dampening at the knowledge that he had failed to meet his father's expectations.
The worst of it all was that, along with his father outright treating him as though he did not even exist unless he had somehow been forced to acknowledge Taehyung's presence, everyone else besides his mother, brother, and brother-in-law had started to skirt around him as though afraid that their mere presence would harm him and cause him to burst out into tears, not even one willing to take the risk and approach him as they did before his first - and consequently last - coming-of-age. It was as though presenting as Omega had suddenly turned Taehyung from the cheerful-and-annoying-but-maybe-one-day-alpha pup into a damsel in distress, which had annoyed Taehyung to no end, especially when his mother had taken it upon herself to teach him what being a good mate and caregiver entailed, as though being an omega meant that that was all that he was ever going to amount to and nothing else.
At the time, if Namjoon had not already been happily engaged to his year-long crush, Beta Prince Seokjin of Providentia, Taehyung had no doubt that his father would have paired him off with one of his alpha generals whom he held so much faith in, refusing at all costs to accept anyone but a strong alpha as Taehyung's mate when he had started to receive offers upon offers on a daily, from across all seas and kingdoms, to court the one and only Omega Prince in existence. It had also infuriated Taehyung to no end when Namjoon had tried to explain, with a grimace on his face, that maybe choosing a powerful alpha as Taehyung's mate was their father's way to make sure that Taehyung was safe and taken care of.
It was not like that.
He was sure it was not like that. Not when his father was one of the most notorious patriarchal alphas out there. In Taehyung's opinion, his father wanting to mate him to a strong alpha was just a way to keep him in check and make sure that he was with someone powerful enough to control him, in case he got too excited and forgot his place. Luna forbid that he actually got a fully functioning brain of his own. 'Or worse,' Taehyung thought to himself, 'That I got thoughts and opinions,' He mentally gasped in mock horror at his own miserable life.
Taehyung had held no more value to his father since the day he presented, so of course his wishes were not relevant anymore. Even so, Taehyung had still dreamed to wed out of love, not political power. There was no need to rush him into marriage, not when Namjoon and Seokjin were quite possibly the loveliest couple on earth, and were even planning on having an heir sometime soon, already looking for a suitable surrogate to take on the task for quite some time now.
"Hmm," Alpha Kim hummed thoughtfully, as he bit on the inside of his cheek and leered at the kid who was sat as straight as a rod beside whom Taehyung had assumed was the kid's older brother - 'Beta Prince Yoongi,' Taehyung's mind readily provided - by the glares that the fair man was shooting Alpha Jeon's way. "Has your son had his second coming-of-age yet, Jeon?"
Taehyung had stared wide-eyed at his father, quietly wondering if his old man had finally gone senile, as Alpha Jeon's face had twitched violently at the condescending tone that Taehyung's father used. "Yes, he did, Kim. When my son turned nineteen last September, he also had his second coming-of-age," Alpha Jeon said calmly, almost daring the other to say something bad about it when he knew very well that Alpha Kim, as well as everyone else inside of the Great Hall, could practically smell Alpha all over Alpha Jeon's youngest son.
Fortunately, his father did not do anything as irrational as feign ignorance and not acknowledge the fact that Alpha Jeon's second son turning into an Alpha so early on was immensely impressive, but that did not stop him from hurtling underhanded insults, just as they both did all day long. "How do you expect me to wed my only remaining heir - an omega, nevertheless - to someone from the Jeon pack, Alpha Park?" His father questioned the Queen, even though he only spared her one glance before turning back to glare Alpha Jeon's second son into the ground. Namjoon, for all that he seemed to want to fight his way through and convince their old man otherwise minutes ago, was now regarding the kid with cold eyes as well, making Taehyung all but melt into his seat and sigh out in embarrassment.
"The Prince's name is 'Jungkook', Alpha Kim," Alpha Park said chidingly, the kid's name-- Prince Jungkook's name echoing inside of the Great Hall and engraving itself within Taehyung's mind. 'Jungkook,' He repeated under his breath, smiling a little at the way Prince Jungkook's name rolled so smoothly down his tongue - though he still could not bring himself to look up and put a face to the name, too ashamed to do so when both his brother and father looked as though they would like nothing more but to murder Prince Jungkook with their glares alone. If it weren't for the fact that Prince Jungkook was an Alpha Prince and, therefore, had power no matter how young he was, Taehyung was sure that his father - he did not know what was going on through his brother's mind anymore - would have never even considered choosing Prince Jungkook as Taehyung's mate.
"And I suggest Prince Taehyung move in with the Jeon Royal Pack," Alpha Park continued smoothly, ignoring the indignant sputtering and furious looks that she was getting from absolutely everyone around her, as she continued, "That way, both Prince Taehyung and Prince Jungkook will have a chance to at least get to know each other and figure out if they are compatible for marriage. No one should be forced to wed with someone they simply cannot stand. I think your second sons deserve to have someone they love by their side, just as your eldest do," Alpha Park explained easily, smiling warmly at both Taehyung and Prince Jungkook from where she stood at the head of the table, as though she did them a great favour, as though she did not single-handedly ruin both their lives with one lone sentence. "And with a volturnian on feronian land - a member of the Kim Royal Pack, nevertheless - the kingdoms would get to see that their Kings are willing to try for a change towards peace," She finished reasonably, appealing to Taehyung's logic, which couldn't help but feel alarmingly relieved at her statement.
'This is good,' Taehyung mused silently, understanding how his presence in Feronia could actually usher both kingdoms to reach peace faster. 'But if Prince Jungkook turns out to be an insolent bastard, then I could just plead incompatible and come back home,' He added to himself. Though, as much as that thought lightened him for the moment, Taehyung was aware that if he ever chose to go through with that plan, it would only be a temporary solution for him. He was no fool. He was sure that the whole "figure out if they are compatible" front was just a pretence to make him feel like he had a say in the matter when, in fact, he did not. If things did not actually work out with Prince Jungkook, then his father would hand him over to one of his alpha generals in a heartbeat, no questions asked, since he had been of age for quite some time already, yet still stood unmated. Either way - to put it in more crude, plebeian terms that he loved using in the privacy of his own mind but rarely ever did - Taehyung was fucked.
"Alpha Park," Alpha Kim's ever so cold voice brought Taehyung back from his head and to the current conversation. "I do not disagree with what you have just said, but you cannot possibly expect me to send my omega son on enemy territory just like that. I am no cretin. Just because he is Omega does not mean his safety is granted," He said reasonably, as he narrowed his eyes at Alpha Jeon and did not falter in his stance, waiting patiently for Alpha Park to answer.
Taehyung had blinked at that, for the first time that day-- No, for the first time in years, his father said something in Taehyung's defence and looked so genuine about it for a second there that Taehyung couldn't help but feel... surprised with the almost concern that his father had seemed to bear for Taehyung's well-being.
"I perfectly understand your worries for your son's safety, Alpha Kim, but the feronian and volturnian peoples need to see that both their Kings are willing to give peace a try and create a better relationship between Volturnus and Feronia. How can one expect their kingdom to make peace with the enemy when their own King is not willing to give it a try himself?" Alpha Park said primly, her hands folded on the table in front of her, as she was no doubt preparing herself for Alpha Kim to say something in retaliation.
Alpha Kim never did, leaning back into his chair, instead, as he looked at Taehyung for a few measly seconds, something flashing through his eyes but way too fast for Taehyung to even attempt to decipher, before turning back to glare at Prince Jungkook, once again. 'That is it, then,' Taehyung thought with a sigh, his father's silence more than enough answer for him to know his fate.
"Alpha Kim?" Alpha Jeon called for the other's attention, only continuing when Alpha Kim had finally stopped looking at Prince Jungkook and directed his unnervingly cold eyes on Alpha Jeon. "If there's one thing I can assure you of, it's that my pack and my most trusted soldiers would never let anything happen to your son. You have my word on that," He said seriously as he stood up, spine straight, shoulders back, and right hand raised in front of himself for a handshake.
Alpha Kim had regarded Alpha Jeon steadily, his steely eyes never softening their piercing glare, "I hope you are a man of your word, Alpha Jeon," He gritted out seriously, sharp tone brooking no argument. Taehyung could not say that he was surprised that his father did not care much for what he wanted. He had known all along what kind of person his father was. However, just because he had expected what was coming did not make the bitter sting of disappointment hurt any less.
Taehyung had found himself holding back his breath as he watched Alpha Jeon give his approval, agreeing to Alpha Kim's terms, before his father stood up just as regally and shook Alpha Jeon's hand with a bone-crushing grip, Taehyung's heart all but plummeting to the base of his stomach at the finality of it all. An audible sigh had made its way out of Taehyung's lungs at that, only aware that he let it out when Namjoon's hand found the nape of his neck, once again, offering comfort in the only way that he could at the moment, considering the company that they had.
Taehyung was conflicted about all of this.
On one hand - no matter that the price to pay was to never have someone whom he loved by his side - Taehyung was ecstatic that, after two decades of war, there would finally be peace within his kingdom. No more misery draping over his country like a demonic cloak that no one could get rid of. No more orphans and mateless parents in a constant state of mourning their loved ones. No more weres getting by with the minimum amount of food due to the rapidly decreasing crops. And, more importantly, no more deaths.
On the other hand, Taehyung had felt like crying.
He had always been loyal to his country, and he was happy to fulfill his duty and help his peoples as much as he could, but being the one with the lower rank meant that Taehyung was the one who had to leave Volturnus and move in with the Royal Pack of Feronia, not the other way around. He would have to leave everything that he had ever known behind, leave his brother behind, and learn how to love a kid whom he could not even bring himself to look in the face for fear of what he would see.
What if Prince Jungkook turned out to be just as much of a bigot elitist as his father was?
Shivers had run down his spine at the possibility, his inner wolf all but bristling as it snarled inside of his head. 'No,' Taehyung reasoned silently, but then again, why not? The Universe had already hated him as it was. Bestowing an alpha husband just as prejudiced as his father upon him would not even surprise Taehyung at this point in his life. The only thing that kept him from falling back into the pits of insanity was remembering that Prince Jungkook was just as forced into this situation as Taehyung was. None of them had had any say in the matter, and despite how guilty Taehyung felt when thinking this, he was actually comforted to know that he was not alone in his sufferings.
With that thought in mind, and taking in a deep breath, Taehyung had finally gathered enough courage to look up, at last seeing the face of the person whom he was supposed to live the rest of his life with.
There, on the other side of the wide table and right in front of him, stood the most attractive man whom Taehyung had ever seen in his entire life. Prince Jungkook was not pretty and gorgeous like Seokjin was, but neither was he cute and manly like Namjoon. The only words that came to Taehyung's mind to describe the other werewolf was devastatingly handsome, good-looks practically oozing off the Prince like a gorgeous, pulsing aura that he wore with easy confidence. Prince Jungkook was all fair alabaster skin, broad shoulders, and bulky muscles covered underneath a white silk shirt, which had accentuated his torso in all the right places and left little to the imagination. The inky black hair was falling effortlessly over his forehead and straight eyebrows, the raven locks complementing Prince Jungkook's sharp jawline and high cheekbones just as well as the bridge of his tall, prominent nose and thin, rosy lips, lips which rendered Taehyung's mouth dry the more he stared at them.
The Prince had looked as thought he were cut out of marble.
Da Vinci himself would have swooned at Prince Jungkook's feet, if the artist had had the chance of meeting the werewolf in his lifetime, and even though Taehyung was no legendary genius, he also felt as though he were in the presence of a deity, as though he should worship the being in front of him rather than just sit there and stare dumbly.
Feeling dazed, his inner wolf all but stunned into silence as well, Taehyung's eyes had widened in disbelief when he realised that Prince Jungkook was looking at him just as hungrily as Taehyung was, the most mesmerising pair of dark onyx orbs peering right back into Taehyung's as though he were a treat to sore eyes, as though the other did not hate what he was seeing, as though he would absolutely love to see more, all of it doing nothing to diminish the fervent blood that Taehyung felt rushing up to his face, staining his cheeks with a blush that he held no control over. Taehyung's breath had caught inside of his throat when he finally registered what he was actually doing, panic starting to take over in fear that he overstepped his boundaries by looking Prince Jungkook in the eye. He had stilled when an unlikely gentle smile bloomed over the other's lips, however, softening those intense, dark eyes with warmth that Taehyung had not been sure the Prince was even capable of, considering his otherworldly beauty and statuesque poise.
Taehyung did not know what to do, the only proper interactions that he had ever had in his sheltered life limited to his pack and his few personal servants at the palace. Regardless, he had figured that it was rude to not respond, especially when Prince Jungkook was still patiently smiling at him. Deciding to just jump the metaphorical cliff, Taehyung had smiled back, letting go of his inhibitions and socially imposed restrictions, as he unleashed the boxy smile that his father had always disapproved of and allowed his eyes to turn into two happy crescents, beaming over at Prince Jungkook as though the other were a long-lost friend. Taehyung did not know what got into him to actually grant Prince Jungkook with a real smile, but then he heard the way the other's heart had stuttered inside of his chest, the way his breath got caught inside of his throat as though Prince Jungkook forgot how to breathe properly, and Taehyung reckoned that it was worth it.
At least now he was not the only one so greatly affected by the other's presence.