Chapter 23:

Frail But Not Weak

Draconia Offline

“Is it really only because of hunger, doc?”

“Most probably, I checked him thoroughly and he’s otherwise okay.”

“Is it a new Celestial weakness?”

“I don’t think so. Ryuuto’s personal weakness maybe? Damn, I was being serious when I was telling you over and over that he has to eat properly, Erik. His body is developing at astonishing speed and he was malnourished to begin with.”

I slowly open my eyes. It’s impossible to sleep with so many people talking loudly while their emotions keep fluttering.

“Ryuu, you’re up,” Erik kisses me on my forehead the moment he notices I’m awake. The last thing I remember is getting up after the meeting and then… nothing. My stomach is hurting badly.

“W-what happened?” I ask, confused and still a bit dizzy.

“You fainted, love,” Erik explains. “You had us worried.”

“Ouch, who put me on my back? My wings are sore,” I complain and try to spread them to the sides. The bed is too small for a Celestial, it’s really uncomfortable.

“That was me, I needed to examine you,” Julia is also bending over me, frowning in concern. “Can you describe how you felt before you lost consciousness?”

“That can wait, Ryuuto has to eat… now,” Hana pushes Dr Stein aside while Erik helps me to sit upright.

I get a tray on my lap with a plate full of delicious looking baked potatoes, a fried cheese and salad. My mouth starts salivating immediately. I love fried cheese, it’s a Czech speciality. I grab a fork and dig in right away.

“All Draconians have to be careful about their diets but Ryuuto is an extreme case,” Julia sighs in a relief, happy that I’m eating by myself. She knows that I often don’t have any appetite due to my migraines.

“Because he’s developing much more quicky than the rest of us?” Liana guesses and sits on my bed. Her hand finds my left wing and caresses it.

“That as well but mainly because of his telepathy and other possibly associated anomalies,” Julia says.

“What anomalies?” Liana frowns.

I’m munching wildly but I’m trying to pay attention to the conversation. Erik’s worries are quite distracting, though. And everyone is staring at me which isn’t pleasant at all. But for once, I know that I have to eat no matter what. I feel as if my body is running on an empty tank and I could easily collapse again if I don’t fill it as soon as possible.

“I don’t know yet,” Julia admits. “But I reckon there will be a few. His telepathy can’t be the only thing. We got used to Ryuuto being a telepath but you do realise that his DNA must be different from ours? I mean… even before you all transformed and your DNA mutated as well.”

Emi, sitting nearby in a chair, hisses angrily.

“Sorry for the word, I know that it doesn’t sound nice and you hate it,” Julia says apologetically. “But from the genetic point of view, you are mutants.”

“Damn,” Liana is taken aback by the fact that she didn’t think something through which hardly ever happens to her. But it’s only understandable. We were so busy with everything that’s going on in the world that we didn’t have time to focus on anything else.

“Okay, I admit that I’m no expert in genetics,” Julia says honestly. “But I highly doubt that only Ryuuto’s brain is different. There must be other anomalies. He told me he had always had weak digestion which might be a negative side effect of his original mutation. And then there’s his overall appearance, for instance.”

“Hey, what about it?” I stop eating. “I know that I’m not exactly masculine but…”

“You’re totally androgynous, hon,” Erik nudges me to continue eating. “Gosh, you don’t even shave.”

“Wait… you don’t, Aefener?” Julia wrinkles her forehead. “Why didn’t you say so earlier? We agreed no more secrets. How can I work effectively as your physician if I don’t know everything?”

“H-how did you know?” I put the fork down again and look at Erik, shocked.

“Did you really think I won’t be able to tell that your smooth face had never touched a blade?” he rolls his eyes.

“My previous lovers weren’t able to tell,” I murmur but continue eating.

“Your previous lovers weren’t paying enough attention to detail then,” Erik shrugs.

“A hormonal disorder, doctor?” Liana asks.

“It’s quite normal in young men these days but in Ryuuto’s case it probably goes way beyond that,” Julia shakes her head. “Anyway, I might get some actual results now that I have a suitable facility for that.”

A facility? What is she talking about? I properly look around and only now I realise that I’m sitting on what looks like a hospital bed. My first reaction is to panic but Liana surely wouldn’t send me to hospital just because of little fainting, right?

“Relax, it’s our infirmary,” Liana explains quickly when noticing my horrified reaction. “We’re still in my skyscraper. One of my employee benefits is a private GP. The previous doctor quit so Julia could take their place.”

“Eat,” Erik nudges me again. I do but I’m munching much more slowly.

“You knew the whole time? Why didn’t you say something?” I ask with my mouth full.

“I didn’t want to push you, I was waiting for you to tell me on your own but circumstances have changed,” he says softly. “Still, why hiding something so trivial compared to your telepathy?”

“I… I don’t know,” I say truthfully. “I guess… I didn’t want to seem even weirder. And less manly.”

“Silly,” he pets my wings exactly as I like it to relax me.

“So…,” Ingri, who’s been silent so far, finally speaks up. “We transformed into Draconians from humans but Ryuuto was never quite human in the first place. How different from us does it make him?”

“I’m afraid I have no answer for that yet,” Julia admits and feels anxious. If it was up to her, she’d happily run all sorts of experiments on me.

“Ryuu, don’t you want to know?” Liana clutches my hand and sends me her urgency. “We were too busy with everything else until now but I think we should start investigating your family background soon.”

“I…,” I’m considering it for a while.

Of course, I’d love to know more about my Mom, her research and why she left my father. I’m dying of curiosity but at the same time I’m scared. What if I find out something devastating? What if I find out… that I was some illegal genetic experiment from the very beginning?

I’ve never doubted that my Mom loved me. I don’t have that many memories of her as I was too small to remember but I never forget what a person feels like. It’s like a telepathic imprint. Everyone feels different and totally unique to me. And I’ve always associated my Mom with warmth and unconditional love. I want to stay it that way. A fond memory.

“I have to think about it,” I whisper.

“We don’t want to push you, Aefener,” Liana chews her lip, “but there’s a danger that someone might discover the truth about your past whether you want it or now. Especially if they’re actively digging in your mother’s history and have the resources like the EU. To be honest, I wanted to start my own investigation but we were too busy.”

“I… I know,” I lower my eyes.

“Give him a few more days to process it, Li,” Erik pleads. “And you finish your lunch, Ryuu.”

I nod and resume eating but I’ve lost all appetite. I know painfully well that I have to address my family history one day but I never thought it would be so soon. I don’t feel ready to face the past… and my present. The truth about me. What if I really am a freak after all? Even among Draconians?


Julia insists I rest for the rest of the day because I developed a headache after that. In addition, I was still quite dizzy so Erik had to carry me. But I don’t like doing nothing when my friends are working. It makes me anxious. I hate my stupid body for being so weak.

“You’re thinking something funny,” Erik pokes me right between my frowning eyebrows. “You’re not weak, just… frail.”

“That’s the same thing,” I roll my eyes.

“There’s a huge difference, love,” he pulls his arms around my back and under my wings. “Magic-wise, you’ll probably become miraculously strong. That’s why the governments are so afraid of you already. It’s just your body we must carefully watch out for. See, you’re not weak.”

“All Celestials have weaker bodies compared to other races but it seems as if I got that racial penalty three times worse,” I mumble, discontent. “Whatever in my DNA made telepathy possible also messed some other things.”

“You’re you,” he leans ever closer. “And I love you as you are. Besides, what a nice mess,” he pinches my face gently. “You know I love your androgynous looks.”

“That… I do know,” I admit and finally smile.

“You don’t have to hide yourself anymore, Ryuu,” he kisses me on my cheek. “Be proud of who you are and how you look like. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Me and your friends accept you unconditionally. You don’t need anyone else’s approval.”

“Erik,” I whisper and kiss him back.

I push him on his back and climb onto him. My wings fall to the sides, trembling and excited. I start unbuttoning his shirt between feverish kisses while he tries to undo my robe. I heard some people are turned on by having sex in cosplays and it seems that might be Erik’s new quirk. I can feel that he absolutely adores me in the Celestial attire.

“Too many layers,” he laments a bit because undressing me is hard work.

When our bodies connect, I establish the deepest telepathic connection. And once again I’m not able to examine how it influences my boyfriend. I’m just not able to think reasonably when he’s in me. Our mutual attachment is strong. Probably too strong. It might become a problem in future, I know that, but at the same time I’m not able to do anything about it.

“W-wings,” I let out.

He moves his palms from my hips and touches me there. I immediately get goosebumps when he runs his fingers through my feathers. It’s pleasant when my friends are petting me but only Erik’s hands are miraculous and bring me the highest joy.

I don’t care about anything else in moments like these. I even forget that bugging shadow of a feeling that I might be making him addicted to me even more when I envelop him into my wings and my mind.


We went to sleep very early last night so we wake up early the next day. We cuddle for a few minutes and then spend another few minutes just lying in each other’s embrace and feeling ourselves through my telepathy. I don’t want to ruin the moment by examining our connection but I know I have to do it at some point. The sooner the better.

“Oh, I forgot to ask you,” Erik scratches me gently on my left wing because he feels my itching. “Would you rather I call you Aefener?”

“Huh? Why?” I don’t understand where it’s coming from.

“Liana seemed to insists on that pretty intensely during our meeting with the officials,” he explains. “And now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t even know Fefnir’s, Ingri’s and Emi’s real names.”

“I actually like my human name,” I say. “And I especially love hearing it from you. So keep using it because nobody else does anymore. Even Julia and Hana are slowly switching to my gaming name lately.”

“Hmm, is it another change in Draconian mentality?” he ponders. “It’s as if the transformed are gradually getting rid of everything that used to make them human. Names… clothes… manners…”

“We’re not human anymore,” I remind him and softly poke his face with my left wing to better demonstrate my point. “And I might not have been quite human from the beginning,” I whisper the sentence.

“How many times do I have to repeat that it doesn’t bother me?” he holds my chin and kisses me. His love washes over me like a wave. “If anything, it only makes you more special.”

I smile faintly. Erik is so kind and non-judging. When I’m thinking ‘freak’, he thinks ‘special.’ When I’m thinking ‘unnatural’, he thinks ‘fascinating’.

“Let’s go for a proper breakfast,” he suggests to distract me.

We get up and try to collect our clothes from yesterday that are all over the floor. We probably shouldn’t have treated my robe as ordinary clothes, it’s quite crumpled. And I doubt there’s an iron in our apartment. And even if there was, I wouldn’t know how to use it anyway.

“Leave it to the room service,” Erik waves his hand. “There’s a bin for laundry in our bathroom. I bet they’ll wash our clothes if we leave them there.”

I nod, take the robe to the bathroom and leave a note that asks for ironing. There’s no reason to wash it just yet, Celestials don’t really sweat much. We brush our teeth and return to our living room where our luggage should be, still unpacked.

“It’s gone?” Erik raises his eyebrows because we don’t find his suitcases, nor my backpacks.

I look around and find that our laptops and my Nintendo console are on the coffee table. A few of my books are displayed on the shelves. We go back to the bedroom and find our wardrobe is stuffed. So someone unpacked for us, huh?

“Is it normal for the rich that employees do everything for them?” I scratch my chin. “Don’t they mind that someone else is touching their things?”

“Liana definitely doesn’t have time for mundane things,” Erik shrugs. “And it seems she doesn’t want us to waste ours either.”

“Ehm… where are my clothes?” I rummage the huge built-in wardrobe again and again but I fail to find the things I packed when we left the mansion. Instead, I find only more Celestial robes.

“My clothes are here,” Erik says. “Oh, sweet, I got another set of suits. They must have get delivered when we had the meeting. Liana is so generous, they must have cost a fortune.”

“Erik, my clothes are all gone!” I’m starting to panic.

“Well… they are,” he bites his lip when looking at my side of the wardrobe.

“Did some of my luggage get lost during transport?”

“I don’t think they’ve lost it,” Erik says slowly. “See this jumper of mine? I couldn’t squeeze it into my suitcase so I pushed it to your backpack with the rest of your clothes, remember? And the jumper is here while your clothes aren’t. Your regular clothes I mean.”

“She can’t be serious!” I’m finally starting to understand what happened. “Did Liana order someone to take my clothes and plant these cosplays instead?”

“It would seem so,” Erik nods carefully. “She must have suspected you’ll never stop wearing your gaming clothes unless she confiscates them completely.”

“Oh, no, she won’t!” I suddenly get so furious that the furniture starts shaking. “She might be the Laura Richter and my Viceroy but she can’t just…”

“Ryuu, calm down!” Erik is alarmed and has to hug me in an attempt to soothe me. “Your telekinesis is going berserk again!”

She can’t do that! I switch to telepathy.

And I agree with you but you need to calm down, he caresses my wings. Your anger is understandable but you can’t let your abilities go loose like that.

He forces me to recall yesterday’s incident. The government officials were really scared of me at that time. That makes me finally calm down and the tremors stop.

You know, Erik tries to cheer me up. Others have to train in order to do magic. It seems you’ll have to train in order not to do magic.

“Pchm, not helping,” I say aloud, grab my phone and dial Liana. I let it ring for quite some time but she isn’t picking up. I think she’s ignoring me on purpose, expecting me to complain about my wardrobe situation.

“She’s probably too busy again,” Erik shrugs. “And we should help her. I feel bad sleeping in when she must be waking up awfully early. Let’s go for breakfast and then find her office.”

“I’m not going out in this,” I oppose, pointing into the wardrobe full of Celestial robes.

“Well, it’s not as if you have a choice and I can’t exactly lend my clothes to a winged person,” Erik chuckles and I feel he’s actually glad about it. Did he seriously develop a quirk for cosplays?

I’m still mad but he’s right. I sigh resignedly and take another Celestial attire. Liana’s employees were kind enough to sort out my new clothes according to sets so all layers that belong together are on one hanger and already in the right order.

Erik helps me again and this time I try to levitate the fabric and pull my wings through the holes myself. Such delicate use of telekinesis is quite difficult but it seems a few more attempts and I should manage somehow myself.

“Are you wearing a suit again?” I’m surprised that he goes for another three-piece even though his casual clothes are very decent, unlike mine.

“Well, I don’t want to look shabby next to you,” he smiles and looks at himself in the mirror. I feel he likes what he sees. “I actually don’t mind making this my new dress code. I loved wearing well-fitted suits before but the brand Liana chose is a totally different league. How do I look?”

I kiss him instead of answering so that he gets the full dosage of my admiration. He blushes and returns his feelings.

“Let’s not be late again,” he pulls away after a few kisses, showing his discipline. “Liana might not have given us any exact time when to show up but considering she’s paying us now so… well, it’d be nice to answer to her at nine.”

“Oh, right, we’re technically her employees now,” I slap my forehead.

I signed a job contract several days ago but everything was so hectic with Draconians asking for refuge that I didn’t pay much attention to it. I took it as a formality since it seems I might be perfectly able to support myself through fan donations. We signed it mainly for her corporate protection.

“Okay, ready to go,” Erik takes my hand and opens the door.

Two bodyguards are standing in front of our apartment, this time it’s Kristoff and Stefan on duty. I feel they’re a bit nervous today but I don’t catch anything serious. We ask where the cafeteria is and they lead us there.

We have to get into the elevator, of course, and I’m doing my best not to show any discomfort. Only Erik is aware of my developing claustrophobia because I’m almost crushing his hand. Almost, just a figure of speech. I don’t think I have the strength to seriously hurt anybody with my new body. I feel lighter and lighter each day. My bones keep changing.

It doesn’t hurt, does it? Erik asks because he catches what I’m pondering about. I don’t close my thinking process to him anymore because that wouldn’t be fair towards him as I can hear everything when we’re touching.

My bones getting hollow? I sigh in my mind. Surprisingly not but I can feel my strength diminishing each day. It would probably hurt a lot but I think my mana circuit is compensating for that. Ingame, each race had slow passive healing of their own.

How did that work? he’s curious.

Well, in case of Celestials it’s restorative magic, I start explaining. The Earthborn can make body cells regenerate at astonishing speed. The Dragonkin are just resilient against almost anything and Clawfangs simply heal faster.

Erik wants me to elaborate on the topic but the elevator stops and we have to get off. I’m trying not to run out too obviously, even though talking to Erik did mitigate my discomfort.

“What the…?!” we’re shocked because the corridor is full of Draconians.

At first, nothing happens but then we’re noticed and get surrounded immediately. So that’s what my bodyguards were nervous about. They’re desperately trying to make some space but Draconians are pushy. Especially the Celestials.

“Your Majesty, could you give me your autograph?”

“Will we resume training sessions again?”

“Your robe is so beautiful, where can we order one as well?”

I recognise a few faces from the mansion but most of them are unknown to me. It seems new refugees must have arrived straight here. It’s crowded and local human employees who decided to stay don’t know what to do.

“Hey, no touching!” Erik mercilessly slaps a hand that’s after my wings.

“That’s quite enough!” Fefnir shows up to save us.

Newcomers and even those I got to know step aside. Fefnir’s Dragonkin presence is really something when he puts his mind into it. But it might be more than that?! He’s truly… intimidating somehow. I can feel Erik is scared all of a sudden. And others as well.

“Fefnir, did you learn the intimidation skill?” I’m astonished. I’m not affected because it doesn’t work on high-levels but Erik next to me freezes.

“Oh, actually… not sure,” he scratches his scaly chin, uncertain. He’s also wearing new Draconian clothes I observe. He didn’t switch back. “How does it feel?”

“I’m okay but others are…,” I stop myself. I can’t tell him in public what I feel from them, of course. “Just look at them.”

“Damn, you’re right,” he clicks his tongue. “I just thought they’re intimidated by how big and handsome I am.”

Erik is still in mild shock so I deepen our connection and try to slap him out of it telepathically. It works. He blinks several times, totally confused but normal again.

“W-what was that?” he gasps for breath.

“Sorry, it seems I’ve just executed my racial skill by accident,” Fefnir apologises but he’s, in fact, quite proud of his achievement. “It’s call Daunt and in the game we were using it to intimidate monsters to run away.”

“But here it intimidated also Draconians and humans,” I remark because I could feel fear also from my bodyguards who started sweating.

“It wasn’t possible before?” Erik asks.

“Of course not, we knew it’s just a game,” I say.

“Well, now it isn’t a game anymore,” Erik points out. “It felt really weird, Ryuu. How come you weren’t affected?”

“Daunt works only on levels lower than yourself,” Fefnir explains and is seized by people of his race who demand to be shown how he did it.

“More newcomers?” Erik whispers to me.

“Some of them.”

“Damn, I don’t recognise anyone except for Fefnir,” Erik hisses nervously. “My brain can’t tell them apart. At least Celestials have human faces.”

“We don’t distinguish ourselves by faces alone, though,” I inform him.

“N-no? How?” Erik is confused again.

“Wings,” I say as if it’s the most obvious thing. “Sure, faces as well but we’re able to tell who the person is even from behind. I think I told you already that our wings are unique?”

“I thought that applies only to you and Liana,” Erik narrows his eyes.

“Well, colour-wise… yeah,” I admit. “We’re the only ones with pure colours—white and black. But others have unique wings as well. Shades, patterns, how one carries their wings… the difference is very subtle and probably unrecognisable for humans but we’re able to tell.”

“When did you find out?” he’s curious.

“When I met other Celestials I guess?” I start walking again now that Fefnir secured us a free passage. “It was so natural that I forgot to mention it, sorry.”

Damn, Ryuu, it’s so strange, he switches to telepathy because there’re still plenty people around us. And everyone is staring.

Are you coping? I ask, concerned.

I’m used to weirdness by now… it’s the little details that make me more nervous. Things that are obvious to you but not to me.

Let’s talk about it in the evening, okay? I need to finally explore our telepathic connection anyway. We have an apartment that can be locked now so I don’t have to be afraid of anyone walking in on us and interrupting.

Exploring what exactly? he’s a bit startled.

What about the fact that we’re together practically non-stop and it doesn’t seem to bother any of us?

Is that a problem? I don’t mind, Erik frowns.

Huh? He doesn’t think it’s a problem? I mean… I don’t mind either but that’s exactly why it’s strange, right? I get it that people in love want to spend as much time as possible together but we’ve been literally inseparable since it all started.

Erik wants to oppose something but we arrive in the cafeteria at that moment and what awaits us is utter chaos. The room is full of Draconians and human employees are running among them, not sure what to do.

“Aefener, can you do something, please?” Thomas the site manager runs towards me when he spots us, all desperate. “You’re supposed to be the Celestial Emperor, right? They don’t listen to us at all. Miss Richter told us to assign them jobs and places to stay but they ignore our instructions.”

I study the situation for a while. It’s evident that everyone tries to group by their race even if they don’t know each other. The Earthborn are in one corner and it seems they gathered all plants they could find nearby to feel better. The Dragonkin are in the other corner and they look a bit grumpy that the place is so noisy.

The Celestials are sitting neatly by the windows and seem detached until they see me. Then their faces brighten and they surround us completely. It’s the Clawfangs who are problematic, though. They took the middle of the room, made quite a mess around and are grouping around one table for some reason while being overly noisy and even standing on the chairs.

There’s no other way, hon, you have to act all regal to solve this, Erik tells me. Exercise your royal influence. You can do it! he cheers me up.

I breathe in deeply. I’m not good at this but I guess I can take it as role-play. Also, it’s a chance to test if they’ll really listen to me.

“Did they give you jobs already?” I ask the Celestials around me.

They all nod.

“So why aren’t you doing what you’re supposed to be doing?” I continue and I’m hoping my voice isn’t shaking. I’m trying hard to sound strict. Trying.

“Y-Your Majesty, we…”

“We’re sorry, but… the humans weren’t…”

Oh, did I really do it? They do feel intimidated by me. And embarrassed. Celestials don’t have any Daunt skills like the Dragonkin so it seems they consider me a natural authority like the Clawfangs do with Emi. I’m surprised that I had the intended effect but I don’t let it show on my face.

“Please, go help where you’re needed,” I say politely but I’m aiming to sound non-compromising.

“Of course, Your Majesty,” they agree enthusiastically.

“That’s why we came here in the first place.”

Most of them leave the cafeteria while two go to the café staff to ask if they can be helpful. I’m still a bit dazed that they listened to me so readily but I don’t have time to ponder right now. I notice that Fefnir finally arrived as well so I wave at him to take care of the Dragonkin. Erik phones Ingri who turns out to be on her way for breakfast anyway and should be here in a few minutes so I guess I can leave the Earthborn to her.

The problem that remains are the Clawfangs who took almost all tables in the middle of the room and made it impossible to approach them. They’re standing or sitting tightly close to each other and seem to be totally mesmerised by something at the centre. They’re noisily talking over each other and wagging their still tiny tails.

“What do we with them?” Erik sighs. “I doubt they’ll listen to you.”

“I don’t kn-… wait a sec,” I realise something. “I can feel Emi there,” I whisper to him.

“Then she’s not doing a very good job keeping them in line, is she?” Erik sighs.

“EMIIIII,” I have to shout but I’m afraid the room is too noisy for her to hear me.

Or… it would be too noisy for human ears. I sense that she did hear me. The commotion suddenly calms down, the Clawfangs finally break their formation and the Alpha steps outside.

“Oh, hello, Aefener,” she greets me and is all smiles. “Look what I’ve found when I was out for my morning jog.”

I stare at her arms. She’s holding four adorable kittens.