I must have fainted because when I come to my senses, I’m lying in my bed. My head is pulsating with a migraine and I feel weak. Telepathic waves from my surroundings are back to a tolerable level but I just somehow know that all it takes is a little push and I could break that safety barrier. My ability got stronger… again.
“Ryuuto, you scared us,” Erik is clutching my hand tightly.
What happened? he asks in his thoughts. Something to do with your telepathy?
I don’t get a chance to reply because Dr Stein insists on all sorts of medical examinations. I collect all my strength to close my mind to her.
“It’s just a migraine,” I say and massage my temples. “It happens to me from time to time.”
“To the point of fainting?” the doctor is sceptical.
“N-no,” I admit hesitantly. “This was the first time.”
“Was it because he didn’t rest properly?” Liana worries.
“Possibly,” Dr Stein nods. “See, Miss Richter? You can’t strain yourself.”
It wasn’t just that, was it? Erik asks again.
I’ll tell you later.
“I’m okay, everyone, don’t worry,” I try to smile. It’s cringy, though.
“I know you probably don’t have any appetite, Ryuuto, but you have to take in some nutrients,” Dr Stein says strictly. “Your wings are rapidly growing and you puked your last meal. I’ll tell Mrs Hana to prepare smoothies and protein drinks for you so that you don’t have to chew.”
“Thanks,” I appreciate and I’m surprised that I feel real concern from her. Maybe I was too harsh when judging her?
“Make sure he eats,” Dr Stein says to Erik and everyone finally leaves, letting me alone with my boyfriend.
“Erik,” I sigh and my voice trembles. “I think my telepathy got stronger again.”
Erik’s eyes widen but he immediately switches into the comforting mode. He hugs me tight and his hands find my wings.
Breathe, Ryuu, don’t go panicking on me, he says softly in his mind. Together we can take on anything, never forget that.
Can we? I try to calm my breath by adjusting it to his. It worked last time. What if my telepathy goes out of control? I wasn’t able to enter anyone’s mind just two weeks ago and now I can feel everyone in Liana’s mansion and even on the premises outside. My migraines… I… what if…
You’ll able to control it, you just have to learn how, he plays with my feathers, trying to distract me with petting.
If only there was something like ‘How to train your telepathy 101,’ I wish.
We’ll think of something, he assures me. For now, you should rest. Maybe you’ve just strained yourself and let down your defences? Maybe you feel uneasy around… ehm… humans?
I feel safe with you. Your mind sooths me.
I guess I’m special, he boasts and I have to agree. He is special.
Mrs Hana knocks on the door, bringing me a smoothie. I wouldn’t be able to chew anything but gulping sweet fruit I can somehow manage with a little bit of persuasion.
Close your eyes, Ryuu, Erik lies down next to me and pulls me to his chest.
Something strange I can’t quite fathom wakes me up. My headache got a bit better thanks to sleep but I feel even more anxious for some reason. Erik is sleeping soundly, hugging me in comfort. He’s dreaming of something nice so it can’t be coming from him.
I focus on it, trying to find the source even though my head is still killing me. I’m able to perceive people much further than ever before so it’s definitely another level-up. I can literally monitor all people in a certain radius now. It’s weird and strenuous but I somehow know how to do it—as if some barrier blocking my full power crumbled down just as it did with Peter.
It’s really hard to filter all those leaking emotions but I manage to recognise my friends among them. Their minds are hazy so they must have gone to sleep. It seems like it’s the dead of night because most of the personnel are also sleeping.
I try to ignore those who are sleeping and go after the awake ones. I perceive several guards, some of them whom I met and therefore identify their telepathic imprints. Surprisingly, Hana is awake as well and only a few rooms away. Is she a night owl? Or maybe she just went to fetch a glass of water or needed the bathroom.
Never mind, I push myself to go further. I can’t see the space in my head, of course, but I can sense where the people are which gives a good estimate of distances. The mansion is huge and premises even bigger which makes me realise I’ve seen only a fraction of it. More guards patrolling the gardens… a few more in the parking lot… seems quiet.
Wait a second! What’s that?! I can feel six people totally focusing on something which is unusual so late at night. And their minds are not pleasant at all. In fact, they resemble Peter’s somehow: cold, psychopathic, following only their own goals. I can’t read their thoughts but they seem to have some objective they need to accomplish. I sense danger.
“Erik, wake up!” I shake my boyfriend. I’m shivering in fear but at the same time I get an adrenaline rush.
“W-what?” he blinks and yawns. “It’s not morning already, is it?”
“There are dangerous people in the mansion,” my heart skips a beat and I send him my turbulent emotions to wake him up completely.
“W-what are we going to do?!” he sits up in a second.
“Call Hana, I feel she’s awake. They’re in the garage underground!”
He slips from the bed and runs out of the salon. I want to go after him but my legs give in the moment I try to put my weight onto them so I end up with my knees on the carpet. My migraine worsened again when I was looking for the intruders and straining my brain.
With difficulties, I make it back to bed. Will Hana believe him? What will he even tell her? That I miraculously know? But I couldn’t stay silent just to protect my secret, those people are seriously dangerous and don’t mind hurting others.
“O-ouch,” I whine because my head is pulsating wildly. I crawl under the blanket and I hide myself under it completely as if that would actually help to blunt my telepathy.
The emotions intensify as Hana and Erik are waking up more people. Seconds fly by… then minutes… long, long minutes of waiting, being paralyzed by both fear and a worsening migraine. Liana’s, Ingri’s and Fefnir’s minds are waking up as well; Hana or some other servant must have come for them. Commotion. Crazily strong anger coming from Liana. Fefnir and Erik keep their cool, Ingri is frightened.
I fight with another impulse to throw up. I’m so useless. At least I warned them but will it be sufficient? Wasn’t I too late? If only I was strong enough to storm into the garage and eliminate the intruders with telekinesis or something impressive like that. Will I become strong some day?
People are cumulating in the garage but my friends fortunately stay upstairs. I’m relieved because I was worried for a second Fefnir would try to play the hero. He had a fleeting desire to go down and test his new strength.
The commotion reaches its climax and there’s struggle. Fear, hatred, pain… everything intermixes. And then I feel a person die for the first time in my life. And it’s like I’ve died myself because the darkness takes me.
“Ryuu, do you hear me?”
I don’t open my eyes because of the voice. I wake up because Erik’s love pulls me out of unconsciousness in which I took refuge.
“Oh, Ryuu, you’re finally up,” he hugs me and keeps hugging me for a while. My mind finds balance thanks to him and I don’t feel so dazed anymore.
“Is it… over?” I’m almost afraid to ask.
“Yeah, they got the bastards,” Erik assures me.
“B-but… someone died? I felt…”
“One of the intruders was shot by the security,” he explains. “Two guards were injured but they’ll recover. They had the element of surprise thanks to you.”
Erik then helps me sit and puts me on his lap. I was so lost in his soothing mind that I didn’t notice my friends are here as well. And so are Dr Stein and Hana. They’re stepping in one place, nervous, still shaken and not sure what just happened but suspecting.
“Ryuu, I’m afraid there’s no talking your way out of it,” Erik sighs. “You prevented a catastrophe tonight and they want to know how you did it. Fortunately, we could tell the rest of the employees that Liana got an anonymous tip from her acquaintances.”
Liana, Fefnir, Ingri, Hana and Dr Stein are all staring at me, eagerly awaiting my answer. I start shivering and my hearts races. I could maybe manage to tell my friends but the housekeeper and the doctor? Dr Stein especially is a dangerous person to tell. My worst nightmare.
“Aefener,” Liana sits close to us and her voice is soft. “Whatever it is, you don’t have to be afraid to tell us, okay?”
“That’s right, we’ll accept everything about you,” Ingri seconds. “I think I already know but you have to tell us yourself.”
“You know? How?” Fefnir is confused.
“Not everyone is as oblivious as you, Fefnir,” Ingri nudges him. “Aefener, if my hunch is right, I’m totally okay with it. Of course, I’m mega curious but it won’t affect our friendship in any way.”
“See? Your friends are with you,” Erik kisses my cheek.
“W-what about Mrs Hana and Dr Stein?” I voice my biggest concern.
“If I was Batman, Hana would be my Alfred,” Liana says encouragingly. “As for Dr Stein…,” she looks at her sternly. “She knows very well what would happen if she revealed something that I forbid her to.”
They generously give me another minute to process it. Liana gently touches my left wing as if she had already guessed right and wanted me to check her resolution. Ingri hurries to touch my right wing and she’s pretty much set on it anyway. Their encouragement calms my panic.
“I…,” taking a deep breath, “I… I’m a t-telepath.”
And… it’s out. I came out to them and can’t take it back. There’re ten long seconds of absolute stillness.
“I knew it!” Ingri breaks the silence by exclaiming excitedly.
“I thought I felt something strange during my transformation,” Liana smiles. “You blunted my pain back then, didn’t you?”
Liana’s and Ingri’s emotions are more or less excited. Fefnir is totally dumbfounded and Mrs Hana and Dr Stein can’t grasp it at all. But my friends are taking it well so I relax a bit.
“I need to test it,” Fefnir shakes his head violently, squeezes next to the girls and touches me as well.
I’m thinking of a pink elephant right now, he says in his mind and even tries it imagine it. With a hat on its trunk.
“Fefnir,” I answer, “how is a pink elephant relevant right now? And why the hat?”
“Holy fuck!” Fefnir flinches and lets go of me. “Is… is it because of the transformation? Did you get an extra skill or something?”
“No, I’ve been a telepath since birth,” I say slowly.
“Oh my God, are X-Men real after all? Do people with superpowers walk among us?” his jaw drops, revealing fangs.
“I’m the only telepath I know,” I set things straight. “I’ve been hiding it my whole life. My Mom may have known something but she… you know.”
“I was thinking that it can be connected to Draconia somehow,” Erik suggests. “Ryuuto’s mother was a VR developer. She might have done something to herself that got transferred to her offspring.”
“This is getting more and more complicated and smells of conspiracy,” Fefnir frowns. “But it does make sense to the point that it can’t be just a coincidence. I mean… think about it. Ryuuto is a telepath since birth, his mother was a VR developer and his compatibility level was 100% which was thought to be impossible. It’s as if someone was preparing him to become the Celestial Emperor.”
“But I started playing Draconia from my own free will, right?” I say, alarmed what it might imply if Fefnir’s theory was true. “There are many full-dive VR games I could choose from.”
“We can’t be sure about anything considering what’s happening,” Ingri says. “Fefnir might sound crazy but we should take it into account.”
“A-anyway…,” I shake my head violently. “You’re okay with it? Me being a telepath? Won’t you think that I intrude your privacy or something?” I ask shyly.
“Well, can you turn it off?” Liana shrugs.
“N-nope,” I say plainly. “And normally I perceive only emotions. For thoughts, I need a direct touch as you’ve already deduced yourselves.”
“Then it changes nothing,” she says. “If anything, it makes you even more perfect for the Celestial Emperor who is supposed to be godly.”
“Oh, come on,” I roll my eyes even though I feel she’s kidding and just wants to tease me. “Still, don’t you feel disappointed that I didn’t tell you earlier?”
“It was your biggest secret, right?” my viceroy is looking at me tenderly. “I would be afraid to tell anyone too.”
“Erik was the first one I told it to… and now you. And you took it so well, thank you,” I blush.
“Partly told, partly revealed by consequences,” Erik gets serious. “Li, his telepathy is getting stronger and stronger since the transformation. I’m afraid he might lose control over it in front of other people sooner or later. Also, it’s the source of his migraines.”
“Damn,” Liana hisses. “However beneficial it might be to have the Emperor who’s really miraculous, it might be problematic to humans. Just when I was thinking that the EU government will probably let you off the hook soon with all high-levels transforming, you add another mystery to your person.”
“So we keep it secret,” Fefnir says.
“Naturally, the EU and the public can never know or we’re in serious trouble,” she nods. “Crazy combat abilities are one thing but real telepathy? A possibility of invading people’s privacy? That’s especially scary to politicians who hold all kinds of secrets.”
“What do we do then?” Ingri is lost.
“Protect our Emperor, what else,” Liana shrugs. “Hopefully, it shouldn’t look that strange if I assign you some guards, Aefener, as we’re seriously considering making you our leader.”
“And those intruders? Who were they?” I ask.
“I have yet to question them,” my viceroy sighs tiredly. “I had them locked up for now. I wanted to do it right away but Erik found you passed out and called us.”
“Tomorrow, Li, you’re exhausted,” I insist. “You still can’t even walk, right? Did you ask Fefnir to carry you?”
“You feel that with your telepathy?” she grins.
“Okay, they won’t run away after all,” she agrees. “I have to talk to the security and strengthen my defences, though.”
My friends are hesitant to leave and keep making sure that I’m okay. I feel they want to shower me with questions but Mrs Hana finally processes the new information and insists they go to bed because it’s 3 A.M. After that they finally leave but I’m surprised that Dr Stein stays.
“You don’t trust me, Ryuuto, do you?” she asks directly and sits on the chair, showing no signs of leaving.
“You can fool the others but not me,” I purse my lips. “You’re here just for the money and fame. You might not reveal my secret because Liana has you bound by contract but your motivation is far from being selfless.”
“Money and fame, I want it all,” she doesn’t lie. “I’ve been living in my father’s shadow for too long. Do you even realise how torturing it is to have an over-demanding parent?”
“No, I don’t. I never knew my father,” I retort.
“Well, it’s hell,” she clicks her tongue. “I’m not hiding the fact that publishing information about Draconians isn’t doing wonders for my career but I’m still a doctor. And as a doctor, I’m concerned about my patient’s health.”
“What are you trying to say, doc?” Erik narrows his eyes.
“Let me be your doctor, Ryuuto,” Dr Stein looks at me with resolution. “Don’t push me away. I get it that you don’t feel comfortable around me but I do want to help you.”
“Ryuuto has a phobia of doctors,” Erik reminds her even though Liana must have told her.
“A phobia as it is or were you afraid they might find out about your extraordinary ability?” she asks.
I have to think about it for a moment. All these years I thought I’m scared of doctors in general but now that Dr Stein already knows… she might have a point actually.
I don’t have to be afraid anymore, do I? I ask Erik. At least when Dr Stein is concerned.
What do you mean?
She can’t find out anything worse about me. Even if there’re some more anomalies about my body, the worst thing is definitely my telepathy.
Well, if you put it that way… I guess. Does it make you feel any better?
A bit, yes.
“Are you talking telepathically right now?” Dr Stein smiles and seems ecstatic analysing us. “It’s quite easy to notice when one knows what to watch out for: long pauses, slightly changing expressions, looking into each other’s eyes…”
“Dr Stein,” I interrupt her.
“Feel free to call me Julia, Ryuuto,” she offers with a smile.
“You’re not nervous that I can search your mind whenever you touch me?”
“No,” she shrugs. “If you need to make sure what my true intentions are, be my guest and connect to me right now. Patients should trust their doctors, otherwise our work can’t be efficient.”
I’m considering it for a while. On one hand, I don’t want to fully connect to someone I don’t like. On the other hand, it’d really help to solve my trust issues towards her.
“When your migraine gets better,” Erik stops me when he notices I’m stretching my hand.
“I might get another,” I shake my head. “And I want to resolve it now. Dr Stein is right—if she’s to become my doctor for real, I need to trust her.”
“Ryuu…,” Erik sighs.
“I need to do this,” I insist and get out of his lap so that my connection to him doesn’t interfere.
The doctor, so far looking confident, gets a bit pale when she realises we’re really doing it. But she sits in front of me nonetheless. I’m thinking how to go about it. It’s one thing to briefly touch one’s mind to make sure they’re okay or to find out what’s bugging them. But it’s totally different to dig for inner desires and the deepest motivations.
It’s easy with Erik, I’m totally used to his mind at this point and our full connection happens when we make love. Obviously, I can’t do the same with her so I decide to try out something else.
“Dr Stein, I’ll touch your temples, okay?” I ask for her permission.
“Julia,” she corrects me and nods.
I hesitantly touch her head and her thoughts hit me. I want to close my eyes to focus better but then I have another idea. Instead, I look straight into her eyes and imagine it’s a gateway into her mind. It surprisingly works and I enter her.
I was too afraid to look properly before, frightened they might find out so I was only browsing the surface. Erik was the first one who allowed me to see his mind fully and now Dr Stein. No, I should call her Julia. I’d have never thought my second person will be someone I’m most scared of. Yet, here we are.
She couldn’t be more different from Erik. Where he’s selfless, Julia is selfish. I go deeper to see why she turned out the way she is now and go through her memories. Out of respect, I omit those which resist me because they must be private so I glance only the ones I really need and Julia is comfortable showing me.
Her memories start flooding. A demanding father who wasn’t there when she needed him the most. A mother who left the family and disappeared with another man. Nannies who couldn’t replace parental love. Failing to be accepted into Oxford. A disappointed father who wished to have another excellent doctor in his family while she wanted to become a veterinarian. A burning desire to prove herself.
People sure are complicated and I shouldn’t be so fast to judge them. Julia isn’t a bad person, she’s just broken as I am in certain areas. As probably every person is. And she doesn’t see us as monsters. There’s no hate nor disgust towards us in her mind. On the contrary, she’s totally fascinated. And that drives her ambition to become famous through us even more. She desperately wants her father to acknowledge her.
“You didn’t force me,” she whispers when I end the connection and let go of her. “I could feel you digging but you didn’t open the doors I wanted to stay closed.”
“I’m not invading your privacy,” I reassure her. “I just looked at what I needed to see.”
“Do you trust me now?” she asks.
“I do, Julia.”
I had to rest for a day after that because I got one of the worst migraines I remember. Erik stayed with me the whole time, comforting me, letting me rest in his mind and making me drink smoothies.
“Liana needs me,” I say when I wake up from a nap. My head is still hurting but the migraine is behind me. I can feel that my friends are in the study, dealing with something extremely important and my viceroy is thinking about me.
“You should stay in bed and rest,” Erik shakes his head.
“I can’t. We have work to do,” I sent my determination to him.
“But nothing strenuous,” he puts in a condition. “Oh, Ryuu, you lost weight again,” Erik is saddened when I take off my sleeping t-shirt to change clothes.
“I’ll eat properly later,” I promise and put on a clean t-shirt. “Is it cold here?”
I sigh and put on a hoodie.
“Is Celestial metabolism so different?” Erik is curious.
“The game wasn’t that detailed when it came to sensations, our bodies were only virtual,” I shrug. “Generally, Celestials hate cold and it’s not exactly warm high in the sky so we were wearing multi-layered robes.”
“Hmm, I’d love to see you dressed like that,” Erik grins. “It’d go nicely with your white hair and fluffy wings.”
“Not happening, this is the twenty-second century,” I roll my eyes.
I still feel weak but I insist that I can walk on my own so Erik is only supporting me in case I wobble. I expect to just cross a few corridors to get to the study but we encounter two bodyguards standing in front of our room. They follow us without saying anything.
“Liana sure isn’t losing any time,” I murmur. “Is it really necessary even in Liana’s private quarters? Shouldn’t they be guarding the entire floor?”
“We can’t take any chances, Ryuu,” Erik says slowly. “Especially now that we know that those people were after you.”
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