It’s sooner than we expected but it’s not like we know how the whole process works in the first place. In panic, we storm into Liana’s bedroom. Dr Stein had already rolled Liana over to her stomach and uncovered her back.
It makes me nauseous to see for myself how the transformation looks like from another’s point of view. Liana’s new limbs are pushing into her skin and it’s totally alien. Poor Liana is wailing, crying and swearing. I freeze for a moment but Liana’s pain doesn’t let me stay still for too long.
“We’ve managed once, we’ll manage for the second time as well!” Dr Stein throws a disinfectant as us. “Wash your hands and help me.”
“A-Aefener,” Liana’s eyes water and she desperately grabs my hand when I sit down on the bed next to her.
Her pain hits me hard and my head spins. I don’t perceive it as my own sensation but it’s still really intense. I clutch her hands in comfort.
“Aaa!” she screams when her wings jerk again. Fefnir holds her down and this time he has to carefully watch his own strength.
“The sedatives aren’t working,” Dr Stein wipes the sweat from her forehead. “I was hoping that… no, her metabolism must be much different now.”
“Scheisse!” Liana swears again and is clutching my hands tight.
Her pain is too much for me to handle. It’s risky but I enter her mind, trying to calm her down. And… it does seem to work. She’s still wailing and hurting but it isn’t overwhelming. I gently touch her mind without sending any of my thoughts, hoping she’s too occupied to notice my presence.
It feels endless but eventually her wings tear the skin. Liana faints for a few minutes but another burst of pain wakes her up. I push further into her mind to blunt it.
“Pull!” Dr Stein instructs and together with Erik they’re trying to get the wings out.
Half of my consciousness is in Liana’s mind, the other half is trying to keep track of what’s happening around me. Once again I must admire Erik’s ability to act in extreme situations. Even Ingri is doing well, assisting the doctor.
And then the wings finally come fully out. They’re all bloody but it’s strangely beautiful. It looks like a birth and from a certain perspective it is. I’m not the only winged person anymore. I’m a Celestial and now she is too—the beginning of a new race.
“A-ah,” Liana sighs in relief and faints for good. Her grip loosens and she lets go of my hands.
I’m silently watching as Dr Stein stops Liana’s bleeding, disinfects the wounds and bandages her. The wings are dirty but I can spot black fluff. So we’ll get our ingame colours after all, that pretty much proves it.
“Ryuu, are you okay?” Erik takes a look at my wrists. “Damn, does it hurt?”
Only now I look at my hands. They’re badly bruised and I didn’t feel it that much because Liana’s pain was stronger. But I don’t care, my friend needed to hold onto someone and I feel honoured to be that someone.
“I’ll be fine,” I nod. “Can I wash her wings? I didn’t do much.”
You did plenty, Erik says. You entered her mind and lessened her pain, right? Don’t think I haven’t noticed.
“Emotional support counts as well,” Ingri shakes her head. “On the contrary, you did too much it seems,” she stares at my bruises.
“I want to do it,” I insist. “I think she’d wish I do it for her as another Celestial and her friend.”
Hana brings bowls with water and washcloths. My hands hurt quite a bit but I thoroughly wash Liana’s new limbs while telepathically comforting her in her sleep. Erik assists me. The wings look more like stumps at this point but I can’t help to admire them. It’s miraculous what our bodies were able to do in such a short period of time.
“We have six limbs now,” I mumble when Hana changes the water for clean one.
“You certainly do,” Erik smiles at me and hands me a new washcloth.
Then we don’t speak for a while and focus on the job. Dr Stein helps us handle the wings so that the wounds don’t re-open. She’s totally fascinated and is probably thinking about all that new information she’ll post under her name. I don’t like her mind but her expertise is needed. Thanks to her and the fact it was our second try, Liana didn’t lose as much blood as I did.
“It felt a bit easier than your transformation,” Fefnir remarks and breaks the silence.
“Maybe because her body had more time to adjust and we already knew what to do?” I suggest.
“She seemed to handle the pain better,” he observes.
I catch Ingri staring at me strangely.
“Now what?” Erik takes a deep breath.
“We wait until Li wakes up,” I say.
“Ehm… Aefener? What are you doing in my bed?” Liana’s voice wakes me up.
I blink, disoriented for a moment. Then I realise I must have dozed off, lying next to her in the corner of her huge bed. Erik let me rest here after I finished cleaning her wings. I was exhausted but I didn’t want to leave her. We’re alone but I feel the others nearby.
“L-Li,” I sit up quickly. “How do you feel?”
“Battered,” she whines. “Starving.”
“But otherwise?” I smile because I sense that she’s okay.
“Extremely weak but at the same time somewhat… great?” she smiles back. “And I can feel something pulsating in me.”
“Mana,” I nod. “That’s what it feels like I guess.”
“Thank you for holding my hand and just… you know… being with me,” she whispers and I can feel a wave of loneliness coming from her.
Is it possible that she doesn’t have anyone really close? Typically, people would be thinking about their loved ones but Liana wasn’t calling anyone in her mind during her transformation. Come to think of it… we’ve been here for several days now but we’ve met only Liana’s servants, no one else.
“Li, you…,” I stop myself. What would I even say to her? That I know exactly what she feels?
Liana looks at me with a hint of suspicion in her eyes. She can’t quite grasp it but she must have noticed something was off when she was holding my hand. Normally, it wouldn’t even cross her mind to think of telepathy but considering what’s happening with us…
“Miss, you’re up!” Hana opens the door and beams. “Lunch? Right away?”
“Y-yeah,” Liana lets out and Hana runs off. “How long was I out?”
“Sixteen hours,” I count, checking my phone.
“Were you with me the whole time?”
“Hmm,” I nod.
“Thanks, Aefener. I really appreciate it. Erik didn’t mind?”
“I’m probably the gayest person on Earth, Li,” I chuckle. “Sorry, you’re really beautiful but… you’re not a guy.”
“That’s why it’s so relaxing being around you,” Liana manages to laugh. “You’re the only person I know who doesn’t try to get into my bed even though you just kind of did.”
“You’re both awake, finally!” Fefnir enters the room and Dr Stein and Ingri with him.
“Miss Richter, how do you feel?” the doctor starts examining her right away. “I’m sorry, I wanted to be here when you wake up but I desperately needed to take a shower.”
“No problem,” Liana says weakly while her temperature is being taken.
“Where’s Erik?” I ask. I can sense that he’s not far and feels a bit down for some reason which makes me concerned.
“He’s been on his phone for quite some time,” Ingri informs. “Looks important.”
“I hope they aren’t making a fuss at his work,” I worry.
The servants bring in lunch and they stare at Liana’s wings. I guess it’s one thing seeing a person they don’t know like me with wings and entirely different thing seeing their employer. Plus, Liana’s eyes are now completely golden and her hair is rapidly growing and turning violet.
There’s plenty of food as always so we all eat. Dr Stein helps Liana to sit and feeds her. I perceive Liana’s discomfort—she hates feeling so vulnerable. I understand as I would feel the same way if it wasn’t my boyfriend taking care of me.
My boyfriend… what’s taking Erik so long? Is he okay? I’m becoming more and more nervous with each passing minute. I quickly finish eating and for the first time since my transformation try to stand up.
“Aefener?” Fefnir looks up from his plate. “Will you manage?”
“That’s what I’m about to find out,” I say and carefully move all the weight on my legs.
I wobble for a second but Fefnir doesn’t have to help me in the end. My legs are still weak but I can slowly walk on my own which boosts my mood. My wings fold automatically so they aren’t in the way.
“Hmm, nice,” I inspect myself in Liana’s huge mirror on the wall. The wings are tiny but really cute. Just a month ago if I went out like this, people would think it’s a cosplay.
“Yep, they suit you,” Ingri grins. “Can I take a photo for your profile?”
Before I even manage to say anything, she’s already taken at least three shots.
“Done, posted,” she says enthusiastically. “Just wait for all the likes.”
I hope she knows what she’s doing. I trust her social media skills but she’s still a 17-year old teenager with no real life experience.
“That t-shirt is a joke, though,” Liana remarks because I’m wearing my favourite t-shirt with the logo of Draconia Online.
“On the contrary, I think it’s spot on,” Fefnir laughs.
“I’m going to find Erik,” I wave my hand.
I enter the hall and close the door behind me. Two bodyguards are standing in the hall and raise their eyebrows at me.
“Ehm… h-hello,” I greet them nervously but they don’t stop me or anything.
I’ve never actually walked in Liana’s mansion so I’m not sure where to go. I decide to follow Erik’s telepathic imprint. I walk slowly, supporting myself by touching walls. A hall… a room… another hall… a terrace.
There he is, sitting on the sofa outside with his ear glued to the phone. He looks and feels annoyed.
“E-Erik?” I say quietly, not wanting to startle him. “Are you okay?”
“Ryuu,” he turns around and puts the phone down, covering the microphone. “Should you be walking so soon?”
“I feel much better, what about you?”
“Just a sec,” he puts the phone back to his ear. “Yes, I know, Mum. No, I’m not coming back this week… probably not even next week… I don’t know, Mum. No, tell Dad that I’m totally okay. Gosh, I know that my boyfriend has wings now. I don’t care.”
So it’s a family phone call. I suddenly feel bad for eavesdropping. I want to leave but he gesticulates at me to sit down on the sofa so I do.
“I’ll call later, okay? Yes, I know. Bye,” he hangs up with a long sigh.
“Family problems?” I stretch my hand towards him but I stop myself. I got too used to our telepathic connection, we should talk normally from time to time.
“Not really,” he shakes his head. “Compared to yours, my family is super loving. They’re just stressed seeing me trending literally everywhere.”
“Do they have a problem with the fact that your boyfriend is a freak?” I lower my head.
“Don’t use that word,” he says sternly. “You’re a different species, not a freak. Besides, your friends are the same and you don’t think of them that way.”
“Old habits die hard,” I murmur.
“Ryuu,” he touches me and his love pours into me. “You’re not a freak. Never been.”
His phone is ringing again. Erik rolls his eyes.
“Literally everyone who knows me is calling,” he explains. “This time,” he looks at the screen, “it’s one of my friends.”
“Take it,” I say. “Better deal with it right away. I’ll return to Liana and others.”
“No, stay,” he insists. “I want you to hear what I have to say to them.”
So I do and I’m overjoyed how he’s defending me and our relationship. How he’s adamant in his decision to help all Draconians. I couldn’t wish for a better boyfriend. Still, one thing bothers me.
“Am I selfish?” I ask when he ends the call.
“What do you mean?” he doesn’t understand, slips the phone into his pocket and hugs me. “Are you having another moment of low self-esteem?”
“Nope,” I shake my head and resist entering his mind even though he’s so close. “I just want to make sure you’re not sacrificing your life for me. I mean… your family is against it… you’ll probably have problems at work… you became a celebrity overnight and…”
“Ryuu,” he interrupts me. “How would you describe my personality in one word?”
I’m thinking about that for a long moment.
“A protector,” I say finally. “Someone kind who wants to help people and make a difference in the world.”
“You flatter me too much, but… okay,” he nods. “I like helping people. If I left you and went back to my hospital, I’d be able to help only a handful of patients. Through you, I can reach the world. Liana is absolutely right. My very presence here and the fact that I’m the Celestial Emperor’s boyfriend can really help to calm things down.”
“I… I’m probably addicted to you, do you realise that?” I say honestly. “My telepathy… I can’t help it. I might become a burden when you get tired of me.”
“What a cute burden I have,” he smirks and doesn’t let me rattle anymore. Instead, he showers me with kisses.
I’m not doing anything I don’t want to, he adds in his thoughts. Besides, I’ll probably get into historical textbooks one day. What a feat for a mere helicopter pilot, right?
“Thanks, Aefener,” Liana says when I help her eat. “I don’t feel comfortable being fed by Dr Stein or even by Hana. It just feels weird. You’re my close friend so I don’t mind.”
“No problem,” I smile at her, happy that she thinks of me that way, and deliver another spoonful into her mouth. “It’s the least I can do for giving me refuge.”
“I kind of envy you having Erik,” she admits between munches and looks at my boyfriend with a bit of envy. “You’re such a nice couple.”
“T-thanks,” I blush.
My phone beeps but since I have my hands full, Ingri takes if for me. I thought it’s just another social media thing but Ingri looks horrified and shows my phone to Erik.
“Delete it,” Erik wrinkles his nose and feels pissed.
“Huh? What is it?”
“You don’t have to see that,” Erik shakes his head.
“I think I do,” I use telekinesis to get my phone back. I’m becoming really good at it.
I read a few lines and freeze. My second lover did write back after all. But it’s anything but pleasant. How could his mind even attract me? But… I guess nobody can truly know how someone will react when millions of people inexplicably start turning into totally different species. Not even a telepath.
“What a piece of shit,” Erik rages. “Delete it, Ryuu, and block his number.”
I do but Liana manages to take a glimpse of the text.
“Wait, you had more boyfriends at the same time?” she realises.
“He wasn’t my boyfriend, just an… acquaintance with benefits,” I try to make it sound like it’s not a big deal. “It was before me and Erik officially became a couple,” I add quickly.
“Whatever,” she continues eating. I’m glad she’s not judging me. “Still, it’s horrible that someone you know would think of you that way.”
“It’s a natural reaction,” I shrug. “I was extremely lucky with Erik.”
“Yes, you were,” Erik smirks and I grin back.
I deliver another spoonful and notice that Liana’s left wing is itching. I scratch the spot to relieve her and want to continue feeding her but Liana frowns.
“Ehm… how did you know?” she’s totally confused.
“What?” I’m confused as well. Then, to my horror, I realise that I felt her discomfort with my telepathy and acted upon that on reflex. It’s sometimes impossible for me to differentiate what is normal to perceive and what is not.
“How did you know where to scratch me?” she narrows her eyes.
“Y-your left wing was twitching,” I quickly come up with a lie.
Ingri and Fefnir look up from their plates. Fefnir is totally oblivious but Ingri looks at me questionably. Fortunately, Erik comes to my rescue.
“I found out this is the Celestial sweet spot when it comes to scratching,” he touches the exact same place on my left wing.
I shiver because it’s damn pleasant and thanks to that my cover is solid and they buy it.
“The true sweet spot is elsewhere, though?” Fefnir can’t help it when there’s a space for jokes.
“What do you mean?” Liana blinks.
“Oh, I forgot you were sleeping when we talked about it,” he realises and points with his scaly hand between my wings. “The Celestial weak spot seems to be erogenous in real life.”
I watch Liana turning red. Huh? I’d never think someone like her would feel embarrassed about erotic things. But she does which is surprising. Could she have less experience than me even though she’s older? Well, if she’s afraid that people are only after her money, she might be actively avoiding dating.
She’s more normal than you in this area, Ryuu, Erik is laughing in his head. You do realise that having several sexual relationships at the same time isn’t exactly normal for a university student?
I… I guess, I reluctantly admit. I’ve never thought of it that way. I can’t resist when someone’s mind attracts me.
Dummy, normal people don’t work like that. And Liana especially needs to be wary of other people since she’s the Laura Richter.
“My Queen and King are calling!” Ingri exclaims excitedly and saves the embarrassing moment.
“Oh, is their transformation over as well?” Liana guesses, relieved the topic has changed.
It turns out that’s exactly the case. Twyla’s and Werden’s faces appears on the screen, their skin now completely green and eyes as well. But that’s not necessarily the only Earthborn colour, they will probably be able to make themselves however colourful they wish. After they manage to perfectly control their body functions, of course.
“Hello Li, I can see your wings are out,” Werden smiles. “How do you feel?”
“Weak but otherwise fine,” Liana says. “What about you two? How’s the Earthborn transformation?”
“Exhausting but unlike you not dangerous,” Twyla answers. “Growing an entirely new organ is no joke but there’s no bleeding, no skin tearing apart.”
“How do you know your wallascula finished growing?” Ingri asks curiously and pats her ribs.
“Because we can connect to plants and even animals now,” Twyla answers, looking proud.
She shows her palms to the camera and tiny roots appear. But they aren’t really roots, they just resemble them. For the Earthborn, their rooty tentacles are a sensory organ through which they can absorb genetic information from various sources.
“W-wow,” Ingri is astonished and excited about her prospects. “Did you test it?”
“Sure,” Werden nods. “We tried connecting to our horses and various plants. It’s hard to describe really and we can’t control it yet. Still, the point is that it’s highly probable we’ll become genetical engineers even here.”
“Coooool,” Ingri prolongs. “And you have horses?”
“We own an organic farm,” Twyla explains.
“You were Earthborn even before your transformation,” Fefnir chuckles.
“Pretty much,” they’re smiling. “We get it that people panic and everything but we’ve never felt better. How is it with you?”
“The same,” I confirm. “It was scary at first but now… I just love my wings.”
“I don’t think our people will mind that they’ve transformed into their avatars,” Werden says. “Sure, it’s scary and confusing and everything changes for us but…”
“It’s a dream come true,” Fefnir finishes the sentence.
“The transformation might have changed our mentality as well and brains in general,” Werden suggests. “I mean… not might have… definitely has. We just feel different, our perception feels different.”
I look at Liana and think of how she dealt with the leaker. It was beyond acting tough as a CEO, it was true Celestial wrath. Liana herself probably didn’t realise that but what I felt from her wasn’t a human emotion.
“So the problem won’t be Draconians becoming depressed about their transformation,” Liana summarizes. “How humans react to us, whether they accept us or not, will be the problem.”
“I’m afraid so,” Twyla nervously nods.
I gulp. Humankind has finally overcome racism based on one’s skin colour but now we’re in for a new kind of racism?!
“We have to act,” Liana says. “We have to establish some kind of network to support each other. We should also unite for dealing with governments all over the world and ensure our rights and law protection.”
“So it comes down to choosing our representatives,” Twyla points out. “But how? Do you think it should be us, the original race rulers? We have no expertise for this, Li, we’re just farmers.”
“And Aefener a student,” Liana shrugs. “We have to do what we can. Sure, we could hold some sort of online election but it’d inevitably come to who the players know so race rulers would most probably win anyway. What I’m proposing is using your publicity to reach our people and unite us.”
“We’ll gladly help however we can,” Werden nods. “Just don’t expect us to know about politics.”
“That will be my job, don’t worry,” Liana waves her hand but suddenly whines because she accidentally moved her wings.
“Li, you have to rest for a few days,” I gently push her back on her side and cover her with a blanket while leaving out the wings.
“We should but it doesn’t seem we can,” Twyla sighs. “Are you watching the news?”
“We are, nothing good for us,” Fefnir says darkly. “You’re right, we have to start acting quickly. Liana’s IT department set up a cool command centre for us so we can take over while she rests.”
“I… I can at least…,” Liana is struggling with me but she has no strength in her limbs.
“Li, I mean it,” I try to be strict.
“So… I should let my Emperor do the job?” she finally gives in and yawns.
“I’ll do my best,” I promise her and wait until she falls asleep which is almost immediately considering her condition.
We move to the study and let Hana and Dr Stein watch over her. Then we call the Earthborn rulers once again and connect also Deminas, the Dragonkin Patriarch. It turns out he was about to call us himself because he also has news to share.
“My tail is out,” he blurts.
His head is almost all scaly, eyes yellow and he has no hair anymore which makes Fefnir sigh even though it seems he came to terms with it. Deminas’s wife is sitting next to him and is rolling her eyes when he shows his butt to the camera with obvious pride. It’s there, a little scaly tail.
“Still nothing from Emi,” I’m beginning to worry sick.
“The Clawfang Alpha has always been wild and unpredictable,” Twyla shrugs but it’s evident she’s worried as well.
“I know but this is real life. What if her family forced her to go to hospital?” I say. “Being a high-level, they’d be probably doing all sorts of experiments on her.”
“There’s a chance the government is ignoring our human rights,” Werden looks gloomy. “Especially if they concluded that we’re not technically humans anymore.”
“Damn, do you even realise how much work there is ahead of us?” Deminas sighs. “Just as I was about to finally retire. Though… I think the committee will get rid of me sooner or later.”
“They can’t fire us from our job just because…,” Twyla protests but Deminas doesn’t let her finish.
“Yes, they can,” his yellow eyes sparkle. “It doesn’t look good to have a reptile as a school principal. If parents complain and they surely will, I’ll lose my job.”
“Oh, what about my studies?” I realise only now.
“Well… you can’t go back to university any time soon,” Erik says. “Even if people accept Draconians somehow, you’re still a world celebrity, Ryuu.”
“That’s why I never wanted to show my true face,” I sigh.
“We’re also reluctant to accept it but we have responsibility to our people,” Werden says. “I know it sounds ridiculous to think we’re still race rulers even in real life, but… I’m afraid we kind of are. It’s not only about our ingame fame, Aefener. We assume that if our transformation is so fast, our abilities might also be above average.”
“And becoming a race ruler was all about being the top player,” Deminas nods.
“You think our original levels will mean anything here?” I doubt.
“It might be the case, yes,” he says. “But first things first. I think we really need to…”
“Sorry to interrupt you, my liege,” Fefnir suddenly speaks up and his emotions flutter which isn’t a good sign. I turn my head to him and find out he’s been checking his tablet during our conversation.
“Did something happen?” I ask and expect the worst.
“We half-expected it but hoped for the better. The better didn’t came true, though,” Fefnir signs. “Your telekinesis is out, Aefener.”
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