There wasn’t enough alcohol in the world for Joohyun to enjoy their yearly Council meetings. But the fully-stocked bar did do wonders for her mood, so as soon as she and Sooyoung arrived at the meeting she made a beeline straight for the alcohol. As usual, they were the first ones to arrive.

Due to territory restrictions, their yearly meetings were always held on neutral grounds, and the exact location changed every year. The area immediately surrounding the Han River served as a demilitarized zone of sorts, under the control of the witches who made sure everyone played nice with each other. Only two rules were enforced at these meetings: No bloodshed and no real names. The latter rule was because of the Fae.

The first rule was that the leaders could meet in relative peace without having to worry about potential skirmishes or war declarations. As soon as they arrived at the venue a bracelet infused with magic was slapped on their wrists by the witch delegation. If needed the bracelets could be triggered to disarm and disable any supernatural creature. Joohyun still wasn’t quite sure how the witches did it, but she’d seen the magic in action. It was enough to drop a fully transformed Alpha werewolf. The slightly sadistic part of her was itching to see if the magic would be strong enough to stop her if she lost control.

Joohyun was midway through her fourth drink of the evening (spiked with blood, of course) when the Fae delegation walked through the front door. She raised her glass in greeting.

Their representative, a young man Joohyun only knew as V, shot her a charming smile before coming over to join her. “Ah, Irene. Joy told us you were coming this year, but I admit I didn’t quite believe it.”

“Believe me, I’m being held here against my will. You’ve heard the ‘wolves have a new representative?”

V nodded, calling over the witch behind the bar so he could ask for a drink of his own. Joohyun knew to always watch her words around the Fae, especially with their penchant for stealing names, but in general she liked them. Disputes between their two factions were few and far between, and when a problem did come up it was handled swiftly and without mercy.

“Ah. Yes, I did hear about that. I admit, I’m very curious about who their new Alpha will be.” V sat down next to her. “Of course all our treaties with them will have to be redrawn…”

He sighed, and Joohyun stifled a snort. Of course the thing V would be worried about is the amount of paperwork that needed doing. She wondered how he was able to keep up with the workload; the Fae were second only to the witches in terms of numbers. Hell, Sooyoung had a hard enough time dealing with the seventy or so vampires in their Family. But to deal with close to five hundred?

“Why don’t you just delegate the task to someone else?” Joohyun said just loudly enough for Sooyoung to hear, chuckling under her breath when her fledgling casually flipped her off.

V turned around in his chair to wave cheerily at her Second. He leaned over to whisper conspiratorially, “Don’t I wish, but unlike you I’m not our faction’s head honcho. Joonie does the delegating and I handle the grunt work.”

He jerked his head in the direction of the man in charge of the Fae faction, who was busy talking to the Gumiho delegation as they arrived. “He’s always been the most diplomatic of us.”    

The Gumiho, unlike the other factions, were represented by not one leader but two. Known as LE and Hwasa to the Council (and as Hyojin and Hyejin to the non-Fae factions), the two women represented the twenty-five or so Gumiho that inhabited the greater Seoul metropolitan area. Joohyun was close to the two leaders, as Hyojin’s age rivaled her own and it was nice to have a similarly old soul to talk to.

Joohyun smiled as she spotted the two sisters, beckoning them over by holding up a bottle of their favorite soju. V made himself scarce as the Gumiho approached the bar, muttering something about preserving his liver. “Ladies! Good to see you.”

As a species, the Gumiho were one of the two factions on the Council who actually needed to hunt humans for survival. Unlike vampires, there wasn’t a way for them to safely feed off humans without killing them. Not that it bothered them in the slightest.

Joohyun’s Family had long since had a treaty with them, allowing them to hunt in vampire territory as long as protocol was followed. Keep it clean, keep it quiet. They hadn’t had any problems so far, which Joohyun was proud of. In return the Gumiho allowed them unfettered access to their territory, which made moving around the city that much easier for her Family. It didn’t include hunting rights, but Joohyun wasn’t at all worried about it. Their territory was big enough and they had no need to infringe on the goodwill of their allies.

“I see the witches managed to get the good soju prepared this year,” Hyojin purred, prying the bottle out of Joohyun’s fingers and pouring a shot for her and her sister. “It almost makes up for them starting that territory war last month.”

Joohyun had heard about that. A rogue sect of witches had attempted to invade Gumiho territory in what was apparently a revenge move after a young Gumiho went after the son of their leader. It didn’t end well for the witches. There was a reason Hyojin (and by extension Hyejin) had led the faction for almost half a millenia. Not even Joohyun was confident that she could take them in a fight.

The rogue witches were systematically hunted down and wiped out. Even their own faction delegation turned their backs on the conflict, as they hadn’t gone through proper Council protocol on grievances and attacked without provocation. Joohyun didn’t quite understand all the political chess that went on with the Council (that was Sooyoung’s job) but she knew enough to police her own people. She despised having to deal with faction wars. So unnecessarily bloody. And the paperwork afterward was a nightmare.    

The three of them bantered back and forth for a while until the conversation casually slipped back into one about the ‘wolves. It seemed everyone was curious about the new Alpha.

“Speak of the devil…” Hyejin drawled as a familiar woodsy scent hit Joohyun’s nostrils. The werewolf delegation had arrived. And their Alpha was perhaps one of the prettiest women she had ever seen.

Joohyun’s eyes darkened as she drank in the sight of the woman walking through the door. Flanked by who Joohyun assumed were her Lieutenants, the Alpha confidently strode in. She had to admit, there was something about this new Alpha that piqued her interest. She watched as one of the Fae brazenly approached the werewolf. Now this would be interesting…

“Name?” the Fae at the door said lazily, taking out a pen so he could keep track of tonight’s representatives.

The beautiful wolf stepped forward and opened but she only got as far as saying “Kang—”

Joohyun dashed forward in a blur of speed and slapped her hand over the wolf’s mouth. Was she stupid or something?

The two wolves at the woman’s side bristled, their chests rumbling with a warning growl that Joohyun paid no mind to. They posed no threat to her, she could rip out their throats before they even had time to breathe. She turned to the alpha and hissed, “Are you an idiot?”

The woman’s eyes flashed a scarlet red at the not-so-subtle insult and Joohyun snatched her hand back before the Alpha could nip at her. The Fae meanwhile had doubled over laughing, pointing at the delegation of werewolves. “Aw, come on Irene we just wanted to have a little fun!”

The Alpha tilted her head in a very dog-like fashion and Joohyun felt something stir in the very bottom of her heart. She couldn’t quite identify the feeling, but she knew that there was something about this very pretty Alpha werewolf that caught her attention. And apparently it was enough for her to step in on the Fae’s obvious attempt at hazing the new delegation.

“What the hell was that for?” Ah, so the Alpha speaks. Joohyun rolled her eyes at the show of bravado, subtly flashing her own fangs in return as she shot the woman a predatory grin. The wolf’s voice carried an authoritative tone that almost rivaled her own. It certainly didn’t match her face.

Joohyun looked at her like she was stupid. “Seriously? Has no one taught you about the Fae?”

Judging from the quizzical look on the wolf’s face, she didn’t have a clue. And this is who they replaced old Jihoon with?

“Among other things, the Fae steal names,” Joohyun said slowly, hoping the wolf would at least begin to catch on. She quickly came to the conclusion however that this new representative was completely new to the basic workings of the Council. It would have been cute if this wolf didn’t look like she was two seconds from leaping for Joohyun’s throat. She must not be used to being challenged. “Oh for ’s sake. We don’t use our real names here as a precaution. Names have power. If the Fae had learned yours they would be able to quite literally use you however they please.”

Realization dawned on the pretty wolf’s face. Her cheeks turned pink. The duality of this woman was making Joohyun very curious. “Thank you.”

Joohyun wasn’t expecting that. She was about to probe for a bit more information from the ‘wolf when V’s voice rang throughout the bar. “We’ve received word that the Skinstealers are a few minutes out so we’d like for everyone to group up with their own faction so we can get this meeting started as soon as they arrive.”

Damn it, she pouted. Disappointed that she wouldn’t have time to introduce herself to the new representative properly she grabbed Sooyoung and marched over to the rest of their delegation. She’d have to send some of her spies out later to learn more about Kang.

Maybe this year’s meeting wouldn’t be so dull after all.

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Had to post SOMETHING for Wendy's birthday, even if she isn't appearing this chapter. Now I gotta make up for missing Seulgi's birthday earlier this month :(
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