“Your Majesty, please, help us!”
“Is that the Dragonkin viceroy?”
“Wow, Laura Richter, for real!”
I’m taken aback immediately after we step outside the mansion and are flooded with the newcomers. Liana was talking about creating safe havens for Draconians all over the world, it just never crossed my mind that they’d be coming so soon and without prior notice.
Draconians of all races are getting off the bus and we’re suddenly surrounded. I clutch Erik’s hand because crowds have always made me uncomfortable and he smiles at me reassuringly. Surprisingly though, I don’t find their minds bothersome. The amount of excited emotions is a bit overwhelming but I don’t feel nauseous or anything.
“Ehm, I’m sorry, Miss Richter… I mean Your Excellency,” a bulky Dragonkin steps out of the vehicle last and closes the door. “My name is Benir, I’m a bus driver. These people had nowhere to go so I…”
“It’s okay,” Liana acts calm even though I feel she’s nervous about the situation. “You should have contacted me beforehand, though.”
“I… I know… we were afraid maybe you wouldn’t take us in just like that,” Benir looks down guiltily.
Liana shakes her head and starts to plan with her employees where to put the newcomers. Even though her mansion is huge, it’s not a hotel. The Clawfangs immediately gang around Emi who is enjoying the attention, unlike me.
“His Majesty is so beautiful,” a young Celestial woman with brown patterned feathers compliments me.
All of a sudden, one of the Clawfangs curiously touches my wings without asking. I flinch and have to make an effort not to connect to him on impulse. It seems easier with Draconians than with humans so I have to be extra cautious. The culprit gets angry stares from my race so he runs to Emi instead.
“Just Aefener is fine,” I say because I feel inadequate that they’re addressing me so politely. But it’s like they aren’t listening and keep addressing me royally.
The commotion gets under control after an hour when Liana’s employees give them a designated spot and maids bring sandwiches.
“Okay, I underestimated that a bit,” Liana scratches her chin when she can finally sit down to rest after all that running around. We’re watching fifty-three people ravenously eating sandwiches in the garden gazebo from afar so we can speak freely.
“How are you coping, Aefener?” Ingri lands next to my viceroy. She was actively helping her the whole time and it’s evident Liana is starting to really trust her even with important tasks.
“Somehow,” I say truthfully. “It’s difficult to filter so many emotions at once but Draconian minds don’t exhaust me as much.”
“Interesting,” Julia remarks. I twitch because I haven’t even noticed her in that commotion. “Your brain might be getting attuned to minds of the transformed.”
“Which is… a good thing?” Erik ponders while looking at the crowd. “Gosh, am I getting stares from our newcomers?”
“I’m getting stares as well,” Julia shrugs indifferently. “They don’t trust us. Some of them look slightly injured and I had a hard time persuading them to let me treat them. Fefnir had to vouch for me, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do my job. More than half of them still isn’t fully transformed yet.”
“Another reason why we have to lead by example, love,” Erik smirks and ostentatiously squeezes next to me. I enjoy it thoroughly.
“Thanks, Erik, you being here is priceless,” Liana appreciates and grabs a sandwich as well.
“Emi looks so natural among them,” I comment on the rescued Alpha who continues mingling with incoming Clawfangs, merrily chatting with them and acting very relaxed.
I look for Fefnir and find him talking with Benir. While Fefnir’s scales are dark green, Benir’s are dark grey. They’re both huge but Fefnir is muscular whereas Benir rather chubby. It doesn’t make him look less formidable, though. However, Fefnir’s horns are starting to get really big while Benir’s are hardly showing. I realise that as a viceroy, Fefnir was always proud of his majestic horns.
“How old might he be?” Erik asks, eyeing the Dragonkin bus driver.
“Around forty-five I guess?”
“You’re able to tell?” Erik is genuinely surprised.
“Hmmm, yes,” I nod.
“Damn, Ryuu, your brain is already wired differently,” he playfully pokes my forehead. “As for me, I’m not able to tell most of them apart.”
“You can usually distinguish the Dragonkin by the horns. They are unique, the same as Celestial wings.”
It makes me think again of how our thinking has changed. A purely physical transformation is one thing but it seems another major change has happened to our very perception. Am I able to perceive the world with still partly human eyes thanks to my connection to Erik? Is he my bridge?
“Is it just me or are they kind of… grouping by race?” Julia observes.
“They are,” Liana says. “It’s evident Celestials especially don’t feel comfortable around Clawfangs who are quite wild. And the Earthborn are in a world of their own, rather focusing on nature around them.”
When the Celestials finish eating, they stand up and slowly walk to us. I guess compared to Emi, Liana and I are being too distant so they have to approach us assertively.
“Your Majesty, Your Excellency,” the Celestials bow to us hesitantly so I have to resist cringing. “Can we sit with you?”
“Of course,” Liana nods and doesn’t let surprise show on her face. “You don’t have to address us so politely, really,” she’s also uneasy about it.
“It feels strange not to,” a Celestial man in his thirties with dark grey wings says nervously. “Your magic… I mean… I can’t quite grasp it but…”
“I bet they can feel your magic proficiency,” Ingri suggests. “Celestials don’t live in a world of smells like other three races do but you’re highly sensitive to mana, right?”
“No touching without asking,” Erik has to slap a hand of a Celestial who is stretching towards me.
“The Royal Consort is so protective, how cute!” The Celestials are excited, not offended.
“The Royal… what?” Erik blinks.
Ryuu, why do they act so strangely? he asks me in his thoughts. I know that you were their Emperor ingame and you’ll most probably lead your race even here but isn’t it too much? Or at least too early?
They confuse me as well, I agree. For some reason, they feel intimidated by me and Liana. Ingri might be right, they must be subconsciously feeling our mana capacity.
“Aefener, talk to our guests,” Liana nudges me because I must have been staring at Erik for too long. “They didn’t choose my haven just because it’s conveniently close. They came here because of us.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” one of the Celestials smiles. “It was natural to come where our Emperor and Viceroy are.”
“Please, tell us about your family circumstances,” Liana asks gently. “And don’t mind Dr Stein, I assure you she’s loyal to me.”
And they do. We spend two hours listening to their personal stories, often very sad. I realise again how fortunate I am that I have Erik and Liana. If it was only me in my small apartment with my Grandma as the only relative… I don’t know what would have happened to me. They’d have probably locked me up like they did with Emi.
“So you can imagine how my Catholic parents freaked out when I started turning into an angel,” one of the Celestials finishes his story and anxiously flutters his wings. They’re much smaller than mine.
“Your Majesty, can you teach us some spells?” the woman with brown patterned feathers implores me. “I mean… we tried following your instruction video but it’s still so hard.”
“S-sure,” I nod. I was always bad at looking for a topic for small talk but when it comes to something I really like, I usually can’t shut up about it.
“Great, entertain our guests while I talk to my staff,” Liana appreciates, winks at me and leaves in a hurry.
“Ehm… Your Majesty? Do they have to be so close?” the Celestials look at each other, puzzled, because Liana leaves but two bodyguards stay behind.
“They’re protecting me,” I say slowly. “Please, don’t pay attention to them.”
I’m afraid I’ll have to explain the situation with my kidnapping attempt but they seem content with my simple answer. Some even comment that it’s understandable I’m to be protected. Is it really? Do they already see me as someone worthy of protection? I haven’t done anything for them yet.
Except you did, Erik tells me. You acting as a spokesperson for Draconians is a huge deal, you just don’t realise it, silly.
“L-let’s go training on the grass,” I cough and try to hide my embarrassment.
The Celestials are more than happy to train their magic and in a few minutes I see that other races are also joining us. I guess it’s a good strategy for keeping the newcomers occupied until Liana’s employees prepare some sort of accommodation for them.
“Here, like this,” I demonstrate a level 1 flame spell with a thorough explanation.
I watch them training and I’m surprised that I’m already spotting differences in their skill. Sure, me and Liana took quite some time to get a hang of it but we were able to produce a flame almost immediately. The difficult part was to control it, not so much to make it. But these people… they have a problem with reaching their very mana.
“Okay, a different approach,” I say after half an hour with no results. “We’ll focus on channelling your mana first.”
It’s not like I’m a magic instructor all of a sudden but I have to admit that it really does seem that magic comes naturally to me. And to Liana as well. Although I have no doubt that all they have to do to master magic is to train, it’s evident that the initial gap between high-levels and low-levels will be huge.
I get bored just watching so I decide to practice as well. I promised Liana to try out new spells with her so instead I consider trying something different—a practical application of what I already know. I cast a little flame and try to blow it off with the air. And it does the trick, easy peasy.
“My love is so skilled,” Erik praises my effort even though he’s much more excited about the Dragonkin power training twenty metres from us.
I’m a bit sad that he isn’t enthusiastic about my stuff but I get it—he was always interested in exercise and weight-lifting. Still, I want to impress him so I try casting all three elements at once. I ignite a flame, make a water ball out of a fountain nearby and blow a slight breeze into his clothes. A wasted effort, though, he doesn’t really know how proficient casting several spells altogether is. Who is totally impressed, however, are the Celestials.
“His Majesty is so good at magic!”
“He really is the best caster ever.”
“Gosh, I’m still struggling even with simple telekinesis.”
Erik finally understands that what I’ve just performed was a little miracle and gives me his full attention again.
“That was amazing, Ryuu,” he grabs my hand and takes me a bit away so that we have some privacy. “Sorry, but I can’t help being enchanted by the Dragonkin strength. It was really boring watching… well… nothing from Celestials.”
“I know,” I admit. “Would you prefer to watch their training?”
“And leave you?”
“I’ll be fine, these are my people. Besides, I don’t want you to be tied to me all the time. With my telepathy training and having bodyguards, I should learn to be able to handle things without you.”
“Okay… I guess,” he’s reluctant for some reason.
“Isn’t it tiresome to be with me all the time?” I caress his face. “Take a break from me… at least sometimes.”
“I know that it should be healthy but… I don’t know. You don’t tire me or anything. I actually enjoy spending every minute with you, it is weird?” he’s uncertain.
It is, to be honest. Even if neither of us minds. I have to find time to fully explore our connection. The sooner the better. I was born a telepath but I still have no idea how strong my ability is and how it might potentially mess with people around me.
“I just hope I’m not influencing you with my telepathy,” I worry. “I mean… I do get addicted to people I like but it’s never worked both ways. But I’ll be okay so go enjoy something more exciting.”
Erik nods encouragingly and slowly walks away. Of course, I haven’t been tied to Erik like a dead weight in the last days but now that I’m thinking about it… we haven’t really been apart for too long and too far. We need to talk about it when things calm down a bit.
“Your Majesty, a little help?” the Celestials steal me back the moment my boyfriend is gone.
It seems only Erik’s presence prevented them from touching me. Everyone is evidently fascinated by my pure white wings which are considerably bigger than theirs. And six of them still don’t have theirs out yet so they are only watching the training session.
“Your Majesty, are you able to tell our mana capacity?” they are curious.
“You can train even that, you know,” I remind them. “Mana capacity naturally increases with one’s level.”
“Yeah, but still,” the Celestial woman with brown wings pulls my sleeve. “Can you feel it?”
“I feel… something,” I admit. “I definitely sense mana in all of you but your current capacity…”
The woman grabs my arm. It’s innocent, only if it wasn’t for my telepathy. I almost enter her mind but I manage to stop myself at the last millisecond. I didn’t have such problems with people touching me before. It got worse after my ‘level-up.’ Or as Julia would say—better.
“Your capacity is around level 40,” I blurt when her mana and emotions hit me. “I guess,” I add quickly, not entirely sure.
“My ingame level was 41!” the woman exclaims excitedly and finally lets go of my hand. I didn’t want to be rude shaking her off.
Now that it’s proven that I’m able to tell somehow, they all want me to read them. It seems I can assess one’s previous ingame level pretty precisely.
“Hey, that’s quite enough,” Erik appears behind my back and has to slap several hands petting my wings. “Ryuu, tell them if you don’t like it.”
“C-could you stop, please?” I stutter.
I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for me to tell them off. Is it because they’re my race? I doubt my plea was convincing enough but, surprisingly, they stop immediately.
Gosh, they are looking at you as if you’re a saint or something, Erik switches to telepathic communication, holding my hand, and rolls his eyes. Is your mana really that formidable? Can you show me somehow?
I’m afraid not, you’re totally insensitive to it, I have to disappoint him.
“Aefener, you stupid!” Liana comes running to us, furious. “What are you doing posting things like that?”
“Wha-? I haven’t posted anything today!” I oppose.
“It wasn’t from your account but I thought you knew,” Liana frowns. “Who’s done it?”
“Done what?” I still don’t understand.
“Posting a video of you casting three elements at once like it’s nothing extra hard,” Liana clicks her tongue. “Do you even realise, Aefener, that you shouldn’t show yourself as too miraculous? The government is scared of us, and of you specifically, as it is.”
“We are really so sorry, Your Excellency, we… we didn’t realise,” a woman, whose wings still didn’t come out so she was just watching, confesses that it was her doing.
“Don’t you need Ryuuto to be a bit above everyone else so that Celestials respect him even in real life?” Erik asks.
“A bit above isn’t what he’s manifesting,” Liana rolls her eyes. “He’s always going totally overboard. And you,” she looks sternly at our Celestial newcomers. “Unless your transformation is happening in next few hours, I’ll put you to work. Does anyone here have any experience we can use?”
It turns out some of them do have useful skills that might be beneficial.
“Where are the Clawfangs?” I look around because I don’t see them anywhere and we have to ask also Emi’s race for help.
“They ran off but we’re monitoring them, Miss Richter,” a bodyguard informs us.
“Wild creatures,” Fefnir shrugs. “Not like the Earthborn,” he points towards Ingri’s race. They’re peacefully inspecting the flowers all around and can’t seem to get enough. Some of them are fully transformed and trying to analyse everything with their rooty tentacles.
“We’re so different,” I mutter, feeling uneasy. “How are we going to co-exist?”
“That remains to be seen,” Liana sighs.
We’re busy for the rest of the day so when we finally get to bed, we’re totally exhausted. Liana somehow managed to secure beds for everyone but even her huge mansion isn’t built to host fifty-three oversleeping guests. Draconians are literally everywhere but the hustle and bustle calms down around midnight.
“Does your head hurt?” Erik snuggles up to me.
“A bit,” I say. “But still much less than I would have expected. It seems Draconian minds don’t exhaust me so quickly.”
“That’s good, right?” he tries to cheer me up.
“I’m not sure,” I chew my lips. “It’s also easier to enter a Draconian mind. I have to constantly watch myself.”
“Which I imagine isn’t easy when they’re constantly grouping around you,” Erik is annoyed. “It’s much harder to find opportunities to cuddle.”
“We can make up for it now,” I kiss him hungrily.
We keep it up for a few minutes, both too exhausted for anything wilder.
“By the way, what did they mean by the Royal Consort?” he recalls.
“Hmm… I think it’s a term that means a sovereign’s partner or something,” I ponder.
We look it up on the internet to be sure and find out that it indeed describes a spouse or an official companion of a reigning monarch.
“That’s soooo weird,” Erik prolongs. “But I guess it also means that I was acknowledged as your boyfriend by Celestials?”
“I think it does,” I nod.
“Not that we need anyone’s acknowledgement,” he grins and kisses me again.
We get a video call from Gin the next morning. Gotrid is finally up and even though he looks pale, he survived the ordeal without significant blood loss. His wings are grey with black patterns and really tiny. Were my wings so small as well when they came out? They sure grow fast.
“So the first batch of refugees arrived at your place,” Gotrid ponders. “How are you managing? We’re only five in this apartment and we already had some disputes.”
“Over what?” I ask.
“Nothing serious, basically nonsense,” he assures me. “But it demonstrates how differently we perceive the world now.”
“We’ll see how it goes here,” I say. “Can I ask you to continue your work organising our people in the USA when you recover?”
“Of course, Your Majesty, count on me,” he smiles confidently. “I’m in contact with other high-levels from the royal guild and they all want to help. The distance is a bit problematic, though.”
“R-right… travelling is dangerous for us,” I shiver.
“Another thing is that the government wants to limit our movement,” Gin speaks up. “They’re talking about registering all Draconians and not letting us pass borders for now. What about the EU?”
“Well, we don’t have any borders anymore,” I shrug. It’s been forty years since states became regions rather than countries.
“Lucky you,” Gin hisses. “We could really use Emi here. It doesn’t feel fair that two race rulers and two viceroys are at the same place. With Deminas in Russia and Twyla with Werden being from Brazil, we don’t have anyone in the US except for me.”
I try to remember what I know about the Earthborn viceroys who are also a couple. Everything is so yin-yang with their race. I think they’re from Asia but I’m not sure which countries. Ingri will certainly know, I have to ask her and get to know them soon.
“Aefener, be really careful in your next videos,” Gotrid says, his face serious. “People are becoming really paranoid, especially in the States, and you doing miraculous spells isn’t helping to put them at ease.”
“I didn’t know I was being filmed,” I say apologetically. “Still, I’ll be more cautious next time.”
“But otherwise I love watching you, My Emperor,” Gotrid produces a broad smile and his tone is flirty. “You’re so cute all the time. I mean… magnificent,” he corrects himself even though he really meant the original word.
Erik coughs so suddenly that I almost jump. I forgot for a minute that he was in the room with me, working on his own laptop nearby.
“Staying in touch, bye,” I end the call abruptly but give Gotrid and Gin space to say their goodbyes as well.
“He’s openly flirting with you,” Erik rolls his eyes. “And something tells me he’s always like that. Doesn’t he know you’re taken?”
“He’s only teasing me,” I assure him. “Does it bother you?”
I study his face and emotions. I feel a hint of jealousy but I’ve always known that he’s a possessive type. Not in an unhealthy way but he has that tendency in him.
“And if I told you it does?” he says, trying to stay calm because he realises too well that I feel everything.
“I can tell him to stop. He’s not serious but I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”
“That’s the problem Ryuuto,” he sighs and closes his laptop. “He is and he’s doing it in spite of me.”
“What?” I blink, confused.
Erik gets up and sits on a sofa next to me.
“My cute telepath,” he hugs me. “You’re so used to feeling other people’s emotions that when you can’t, you’re blinded and don’t know how to act.”
I think about it for a moment. Erik might have a point. If Gotrid was flirting with me in person and I could perceive his intentions, I doubt I would take it so lightly.
Damn, Erik’s right, absolutely right. I rely on my telepathy too much. I’ve never learnt to properly read body language and catch slight nuances in one’s tone because I’ve never needed it. Although my ability was blocked while gaming, social skills aren’t taken so seriously in VR because avatars still have a way to go when manifesting subtle things so people are used to saying everything directly without subtext there. No such luck in the real world.
We continue to be extremely busy the following days. I can’t relax much because the moment I step out of our room, Celestials are all over me again, begging me to teach them. Emi is in a similar position but, unlike me, she seems to enjoy it. I’m glad that it takes her mind off her traumatic experience. I have to admire her people skills, she’s just natural. And Clawfangs love her.
Fefnir, being the viceroy, is also respected by his race but the Dragonkin have a very reserved attitude towards showing it. One just has to appreciate their calmness when everything around is so hectic. Liana was forced to order rations for our newcomers and they were very happy to help the staff with carrying heavy boxes.
The Earthborn are spending most of the time in the garden either sunbathing or training connecting to nature. Liana is happy that they aren’t in the way but they aren’t that eager to help, being too busy doing… whatever the Earthborn like doing.
When we arrive to the dining room for breakfast, we find Liana bewildered and furious. Emi tries to calm her down but it’s no use.
“Four Clawfangs sneaked out during the night,” she tells us. “I don’t know what got into them but they scratched a few trees in the garden. The Earthborn can now train their plant restoration skills at least but still… I kindly took them in and they damaged my property!”
Her fury is righteous. Real greenery is rare and trees in Liana’s garden must be over a hundred years old. No wonder the Earthborn coming from cities are so mesmerised by them. It’s not common to live in the countryside these days, Ingri’s family is an exception.
“I’ve already scolded them,” Emi pleads. “They were just nervous because of the new environment and had to let off some steam.”
Suddenly, we hear something breaking.
“What now!” Liana grunts and we run to the sound’s origin.
“I’m so sorry, Your Excellency,” it’s one of the Celestials and she looks like she’s going to cry. There’s an expensive looking vase on the ground, shattered. “My telekinesis went out of control.”
“Oh, no, I’ve just cleaned that area!” a maid is stricken when she finds that someone, an Earthborn no doubt, left muddy footprints on the otherwise pristine floor.
“It’s been only three days and I’ve had enough,” Liana hisses. “And I’ve just got a message that more people are planning to come. I want to help them but they can’t stay here.”
“What do you propose?” I ask.
“We need a proper building for this kind of purpose… and put everyone to work,” she says. “Part of the problem is that they’re bored.”
“But how do we do that?” I’m lost.
“You mean how do I do that,” Liana sighs. “Aefener, Emi, can you keep our visitors occupied until I sort it out somehow?”
“Sure,” we nod.
“But still, don’t you need help?” Erik is doubtful.
“Nah, I just have to make lots of phone calls and arrangements,” she shakes her head. “You’ll help me best if you make sure nobody comes to bother me while I’m working on it.”
I feel bad leaving it to Liana alone but she has a point. While I might be a celebrity, there’s no way I could secure us a building.
“We’re so lucky to have her,” Emi says when Liana disappears with Hana.
“Yes, we are,” I second.
We do our best keeping everyone from bothering our benefactor by more training. After several attempts, the Earthborn did succeed in restoring Liana’s trees which made a huge impression on the gardeners.
“Most transformed lost their jobs but we might find other ways,” Fefnir comments. “For instance, if the Earthborn are able to restore nature on a bigger scale, they could reverse ecological disasters.”
“That would be invaluable,” Ingri nods enthusiastically.
“Still,” Fefnir scratches his scaly chin. “Do we have to prove ourselves to humans by being useful to them?”
“For now, I’m afraid the answer is yes,” I sigh.
My innocent video with multi-casting was a bigger deal than everyone had anticipated. I watched a discussion this morning in which experts were analysing the footage and they were really afraid. If I can do this much with level 1 spells, what about level 80?
“Ryuu,” Erik caresses my left wing. “It’ll be okay.”
“Do you read each other’s minds all the time?” Ingri is curious.
“When we’re touching,” I nod. “Erik doesn’t exhaust me. On the contrary, he sooths me. Where’s Emi by the way?”
“She run off somewhere with her pack again,” Fefnir shrugs. “It’s impossible to keep them in line, the security is desperate. They do listen to Emi but she’s as wild as the rest of them.”
“At least she’s making herself and them occupied,” I say. “She won’t let me touch her. I think she doesn’t want us to know how she’s coping.”
“But you can feel her emotions, right?” Ingri nudges me.
“Well… she’s okay among her kind,” I’m uncertain. “But she still can’t stand humans. Erik is the only one she is somehow able to tolerate.”
My phone beeps. I take it out of the pocket.
Come to the study, I think I found us a building.
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