“The incident with that Eartborn was eye-opening. Our rulers have to be protected and we shouldn’t rely on humans,” the Celestial says calmly. “Their loyalty is… questionable.”
“Hey, we’re hired professionals bound by contract while you’re just a bunch of ex-gamers,” Karl the bodyguard speaks up, pissed. I rarely ever hear him talk but the Celestial offended him deeply. It seems he really takes pride in his job.
“Is this toy yours, human?” the Celestial purses his lips in provocation and, for a reason I can’t understand, he’s holding a gun in his hand.
“W-what the…?” Karl reaches for his belt but the weapon case is empty. Did that Celestial take it using telekinesis?!
Karl widens his eyes in surprise but his training immediately kicks in. However miraculous our magic is, Celestials are hopeless at anything physical and the bodyguard is well aware of that. His movement is too quick for a fragile winged person so the Celestial is suddenly lying on the ground with Karl easily overpowering him and claiming his gun back.
I get goosebumps under my feathers because all the Celestials around us activate their mana and are about to hit Karl with telekinesis while remaining bodyguards pull out their guns. I’m prepared to protect Karl with my own telekinesis if it comes to the worst but my Viceroy readily steps in.
“Stop it this instant!” Liana shouts, seriously furious now. The anger I can feel from her isn’t human emotion, it’s genuine Celestial wrath. Just like when we caught that leaker in her mansion, only this time it doesn’t astonish me as much. It feels to me somehow more natural than human anger.
“B-but Your Excellency, that human…,” the Celestial lying on the ground gasps for breath.
“That man is my employee and I will hear no more, do you understand?” she hisses through her teeth and lets her mana leak.
Thanks to her intervention, I can analyse the situation more as a bystander and better focus on details. It seems leaking one’s mana will really become a Celestial equivalent of the Dragonkin intimidation technique and it’s something we started doing naturally without thinking.
“As you wish, Viceroy,” the Celestial stops struggling and the others stand back. The bodyguards put their guns back to the cases and Karl slowly releases the Celestial. But irritation is still in the air.
“D-damn,” Erik sighs out, clutches my hand and switches to telepathy. That was seriously crazy, Ryuu. What the hell just happened?
It was as if the Celestial nature clashed with the human one, I answer, unsure.
“Everyone into the briefing room,” Liana clicks her tongue and her tone doesn’t allow any disobedience.
The briefing room is on this floor so we find ourselves sitting in the conference chairs just a few moments later. Except for my friends, the place is full of Celestials which is an unusual sight. I got used to our gang consisting of all races.
“So first of all, incidents like this can never happen again, is that clear?” Liana starts sharply and is eyeing the Celestials sternly. “The humans who stayed in my skyscraper do want to help us, don’t forget that.”
“Yes, Viceroy,” the group mumbles obediently.
“Secondly,” she continues. “Were you serious about that preposition?”
“Of course,” the Celestial man who disarmed Karl nods and the others follow. I feel great resolution coming from them.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Vermiel, Your Majesty,” the man smiles. “I used to be the guild master of Crossed Spells but it probably doesn’t ring a bell to you, we were just a medium-sized guild for casual players. Still, my ingame level was 68.”
“What gave you that idea, Vermiel?” I’m curious.
“Isn’t it obvious?” he frowns. “This isn’t a game anymore. That incident with the Earthborn was fortunately just an accident but it showed how easy it is to hurt you, Your Majesty. Your bodyguards were useless, you were hurt in front of dozens of witnesses.”
“It wasn’t decided that I’ll become the Celestial Emperor even here,” I say quickly.
Liana kicks me under the table. Not strongly but I still have to do my best to conceal the pain and keep my face straight.
Stupid, don’t diminish yourself in front of others! she berates me, sending her thoughts as she inconspicuously touches my left wing with her right one.
“What is to decide?” Vermiel doesn’t understand. “You are our Emperor.”
I have to analyse the situation for a moment because I don’t feel any doubts in his mind which confuses me. Does he really mean it? And the others? How do they feel about it? I look at the Celestials and they seem to agree with Vermiel to the point it’s them who are confused about my hesitation.
“Are you okay, Your Majesty? Are you still shaken that he ripped off your feather?” a Celestial woman with brown wings is genuinely worried because I don’t say anything.
Aefener, they look at you and see their Emperor, Liana tells me in her thoughts. We’ve changed more than you want to admit to yourself.
But you still act normal around me, I oppose.
Because I have to, you need it. But have I ever questioned that I’m anything else to you than your Viceroy? she says and I don’t feel any doubts from her either.
“Of course, he’s your Emperor,” Emi remarks rather impatiently. “Why are we even discussing it? We don’t have time to waste.”
I look at the Clawfang Alpha. Emi had no problem accepting her role from the very beginning. How brave and strange when she’s basically the same age as me. But now that I think about it… did Fefnir and Liana have any doubts? Because I can’t seem to recall any. Twyla and Werden were a bit hesitant I think but only during their transformation. After that they’ve readily accepted their roles.
“Well, I don’t want to meddle in the Celestial business but I agree,” Fefnir speaks up. “My liege Deminas actually proposed the same thing today. We should still cooperate with humans but we can’t rely solely on them.”
Ingri stays silent, feeling not quite qualified to join but I can tell she agrees as well.
“Cooperation,” Liana articulates carefully. “The human security is still essential… at least until we get full control over our abilities. But I do agree that we should strengthen the defences with our own people as soon as possible.”
“The races of Draconia were designed to complement each other,” Fefnir reminds everyone. “We Dragonkin are indispensable when it comes to direct combat while Celestials are much better suited for more delicate tasks that require precision and elemental magic.”
“The Dragonkin are slow, though,” Emi says. “No offence, Fefnir, I’m just stating a fact.”
“None taken,” he waves his massive scaly hand. “I was actually about to say that Clawfangs are perfect for things that require agility and stealth.”
“Hey, what about us?” Ingri frowns because she feels left out.
“I don’t think the Earthborn are keen on joining our security forces, Ingri,” Liana shrugs. “Or are you?”
“Ehm… n-nope,” Ingri shakes her head violently and I notice something profoundly green sprouting in her hair. “But we do want to help, of course.”
“Well, who are the best biologists, chemists and healers?” Emi grins at her. “Liana can give your people resources to start experimenting for real.”
“We also desperately need someone who would be able to uncover possible threats in advance,” Liana adds. “I’m talking about things like poisoned rations but also drugs specially designed to pacify us should there be any in future.”
“My people can certainly do that,” Ingri says proudly.
We keep discussing smart allocation of our people for another half an hour until Liana realises, to our horror, that we still have to formulate our arguments for the tomorrow’s meeting with the Prime Minister.
“Thank you for your feedback, everyone, you’re dismissed,” she says when we close up the topic for today.
“Your Excellency,” the Celestial woman with brown wings stands up and seems a bit nervous. “Sorry to be so outspoken but we have to start guarding you and Your Majesty immediately, not later. The danger is real and losing you two would be catastrophic.”
“What’s your name?” Liana asks. “And it’s okay to speak up, we welcome anyone’s ideas. Draconia Online had a rather medieval governing system but we won’t adapt things that aren’t beneficial to us. We’re still people of the 22nd century.”
“I’m Muriel,” she introduces herself. “I might not have been part of the royal guild but I did participate in official role-play events and my guild set up many dungeon records.”
“Oh, are you possibly from Slender Crescent?” Liana guesses. Slender Crescent was our rival guild who stole quite a few records from us.
“I am,” Muriel smiles. “One of their best combat mages. And I hope you’ll hear me out when I say that we have to starts guarding you right away.”
“You’re right,” Liana agrees. “I usually prefer to think things through and double-check everything and everyone involved but we don’t have the luxury of time. We have to trust each other, there’s no other way.”
The Celestials victoriously grin and it takes them just a minute to decide who joins our human bodyguards right now to take the first guarding shift.
“What about Emi and Fefnir?” I bring up because we didn’t speak about their protection at all. “And Ingri might not be a ruler but she’s become a public figure as well.”
“Ingri stays with us so she gets our protection, I’m training her to become my secretary,” Liana officially announces what I suspected some while ago.
“Don’t worry about me, Aefener,” Emi laughs. “My pack will protect me and I’m not a fragile Celestial anyway.”
“No worries here either,” Fefnir seconds. “You know how hard it is to harm a Dragonkin and my people won’t leave me alone either. They’re just not as obviously clingy as yours.”
“Miss Ingri, it was you who designed His Majesty’s and Her Excellency’s robes, right?” Vermiel asks and is looking at our robes in envy.
“Uchm, drop that Miss thingy,” Ingri is horrified. “Yeah, I did. Why?”
“Would you possibly find time to design Celestial uniforms for the Imperial Guard?” he pleads. “Human clothes don’t fit us, we feel ridiculous. And cold.”
“Oh, o-of course,” Ingri blushes. “It would be my pleasure.”
“The Dragonkin will probably want the same,” Fefnir coughs.
“And Clawfangs,” Emi nudges her.
“You still have your online schooling, Ingri,” Liana reminds her. “We should ask other artistically talented people among us to help out. You can be in charge of coordinating them, though.”
“O-okay,” Ingri blushes again that she’s been given such an important task.
Most of the Celestials leave but Muriel and three others stay and join the bodyguards. But they at least go outside to give us privacy. Fefnir carefully closes the door behind them and checks that the room is sound-proof so that we can speak freely again.
“It makes a huge difference when I don’t have to hide my telepathy,” I appreciate.
“What did you feel from them, Aefener? Are they up for the job? I have to admit I was quite taken aback by them disarming my human security as if it was nothing,” Liana sighs tiredly.
“They do feel confident about it,” I shrug.
“Can they be trusted?” Fefnir frowns.
“We shouldn’t doubt our own people,” Emi says resolutely. “I don’t think a Draconian would betray another Draconian… at least not in favour of humans.”
They switched completely, Ruu, do you realise it? Erik talks to me in his mind and I feel he’s a bit panicky about Emi’s remark. They’re thinking in terms of Draconians versus humans.
That’s not true. It’s not versus, I try to oppose.
Are you sure or do you want to believe that?
“Aefener, Erik,” Liana clicks her tongue in annoyance. “You’re doing it again. And it’s really rude. Pay attention.”
“S-sorry,” we apologise in unison but I know it’s bothering Erik and we’ll have to come back to it soon.
“Anyway, so what do you think about these points?” Liana shows us her rough plan.
And we spent forever discussing every detail and adding new things that come to our minds. It’s not only about reclaiming our basic rights, it’s about profound changes that will influence the whole society. Emi might feel confident about her being the Alpha of Clawfangs but she’s no politician. Fefnir can stay calm in almost every situation but he’s not better off either. Liana is the most qualified among us, not doubt about that, but she’s no human rights activist. She’s a businessperson. And I’m… just me.
But we continue doing our best for the good of our people. Hopefully. At half past eight, we’re totally exhausted and starving but mostly done.
“Is this enough? We didn’t go through everything,” Emi sighs.
“Establishing our own embassy will take much more than one meeting,” Liana shakes her head. “We have enough material for tomorrow at least.”
“Can we actually visit the restaurant after what happened at lunch?” Erik is worried.
“We have to test out our new bodyguards and authority,” Liana shrugs. “Besides, the place shouldn’t be that crowded, it’s quite late.”
We step outside and our bodyguards and newly also four Celestials including Muriel join us. I’m a bit nervous being around Celestials I have to get used to first but their minds aren’t as tiresome as human ones.
“That’s way too many people for one elevator,” Karl says and looks at our Celestial escort with badly hidden dislike. “We have to divide.”
“Your Excellency,” one of the Celestials points towards another elevator.
I end up riding with Muriel, one other Celestial and two human bodyguards while Karl goes with Liana and the rest. I bet Karl feels more comfortable around his employer than me which is only understandable.
Do I also get Celestial bodyguards when we’re not working together? Erik asks, holding my hand firmly. I’m perfectly fine with just humans.
I want you better protected, I say truthfully. Now that these Celestials volunteered and I digested it, I think it isn’t a such bad idea after all. Their telekinesis is handy.
You think the government might come after me if they can’t get to you, he’s saddened.
It… might come to that, I admit and shiver at the thought. I have to start taking things deadly serious from now on. I should have before but I was naïve. There’s no coming back to the mundane life for me. There’s no…
No way of you getting out of becoming the Celestial Emperor? Erik finishes for me.
I don’t answer and hug him instead. I’d feel embarrassed doing it in front of my bodyguards just a few days ago but I’m afraid I have to get used to being surrounded by people all the time. I decide to make every moment count with Erik because who knows how much alone time we’ll get in future.
I kiss him to get some teaser for later. It’s a very light kiss but my mind still connects to his immediately. I have to make an effort to pull out because I get extremely aroused. Is it because we were separated for a few hours today? Just a month ago before all this I’d get hard but now it’s my wings that react first. Thankfully, it’s not that recognisable.
The elevator stops, we’re here. And this time we get to the restaurant without any problems. It’s still quite busy but much emptier than during lunch. And Draconians don’t dare to bother which is a nice change. I still feel guilty about hurting Heidan but it seems I had to demonstrate that there’s no trifling with me.
“I’ll go sit with my pack, see you tomorrow,” Emi says goodbye and joins other Clawfangs.
“I should probably do the same… to do some networking and shit,” Fefnir shrugs and goes to several Dragonkin who are waving at him.
“Do you want to sit with your people as well, Ingri?” Liana asks kindly because Ingi seems torn between staying with us and eyeing a group of Earthborn.
“Can I?” she chews her lip. “Won’t you need me? I’m your secretary.”
“You’re not at work now so go,” Liana encourages her and Ingri happily runs off as well.
Since there’s no commotion, I can finally explore the place. It’s actually quite cosy here, not so corporate-looking at all. Sure, you have to go fetch your food yourself, it’s basically a school dining hall style, but the decorations are nice, tables and chairs seem very comfortable and the staff is smiling.
I look at their offer and find out it’s one of those buffet places where you grab a plate yourself, put however much you like and they weight it for you at the counter. I stretch towards the neatly arranged plates but I’m stopped by Miruel for some reason.
“Go sit, Your Majesty, we’ll pick up for you,” she says matter-of-factly. “Her Excellency as well.”
“W-what?” I don’t quite understand her intentions. “Why?”
“It’s not dignified for our Emperor and Viceroy,” she explains in a tone indicating it’s obvious.
“No, thank you, I’m okay,” I frown.
Don’t be a child, Aefener, Liana brushes my wing to send me her thoughts and goes to sit.
Is she serious? How is me picking my own food even remotely childish? I look at Erik but he only shrugs, grabs my hand again and pulls me towards the tables.
B-but, Erik… it’s absurd, I protest silently.
Don’t ask me to judge Celestial behaviour, he sighs in his mind. I guess your people are concerned that the dining hall isn’t posh enough for their Emperor and Viceroy so they want to make it more agreeable like that.
I want to at least pick our table somewhere a bit private but Liana assertively sits down to join a group Celestials so it would look rude if I didn’t do the same.
“Your Majesty,” the Celestials greet me enthusiastically with a bow. Seriously, a real bow?
Erik tries to act relaxed but I can feel his tension. He sits very closely to me, moving his chair ostentatiously. He feels suddenly unsure. I gently touch his mind to survey his point of view. And then I finally get it. Erik is the only human at the table, no wonder he feels uneasy. He’s facing six Celestials he doesn’t know and they’re piercing him with their golden eyes.
“Enjoy your food, Your Majesty,” Miruel puts a plate in front of me with a broad smile. Another Celestial serves Liana and Erik.
“Thanks,” I mumble and stare at the mountain of spaghetti.
I can’t possibly eat all of that! I nudge Erik in panic.
Do your best, hon, he laughs. You have to put on some weight, skinny.
I hesitantly dig in and I try to pay attention as well because Liana starts small talk with the Celestials around our table. I briefly got to know three of them back at Liana’s mansion but the rest came recently straight to the skyscraper.
“It was a shock for my family but they were actually supportive,” a Celestial woman with blue hair and grey wings says. “But I decided to come because I want to help.”
I’m slowly gulping my spaghetti and I’m glad that not everyone was forced to come because their relatives threw them out. Erik seems to be enjoying his meatballs but he’s still feeling tense so I stretch my right wing and hug his back.
He smiles at me, grateful. Only a second later I realise it’s not because I was meaning to comfort him. He likes that I’m cuddly with him in public and especially in front of the Celestials. I resist rolling my eyes.
“You’re so cutely lovey-dovey with the Royal Consort, Your Majesty,” the Celestial woman is moved. “It’s heart-warming to see that we can still be like that with humans.”
“O-of course, we can,” I say and stuff my mouth so that I don’t have to talk for a while.
I’m grateful that Liana doesn’t seem to have problems with casual small talk because it’s definitely not my forte. But, surprisingly, I find the company of other Celestials comfortable. Sure, they’re a bit too clingy and have a totally unrealistic opinion of me but otherwise I like their minds. They feel so… familiar.
Are they more comforting than me? Erik asks, a bit saddened.
Of course not, I answer quickly. And they aren’t comforting. You’re comforting. They’re just familiar. I bet because they’re my race.
I notice Erik has finished eating so I speed up chewing. We had no free time today so I have to make use of that remaining hour before we go to sleep. I’m still aroused from that kiss and I’m undressing my boyfriend in my imagination. Erik catches my intention and becomes excited as well. But he still insists I eat as much as possible.
“So… we’re going to our apartment,” I say when I finally conquer the spaghetti mountain.
“Okay, good night, boys,” Liana waves at us and continues chatting with the Celestials.
I’m surprised that I actually managed to eat everything. I do feel over-stuffed but at the same time I somehow know that all those calories will be used overnight for my growing wings and it doesn’t make me any less excited. If Julia is right about our growth-spur being connected to nutrition, I have a good motivation to start eating properly.
We get to our apartment and Erik sighs, relieved that we finally leave our escort behind the closed door.
“So do you want to try that telepathic analysis…?” Erik opens his mouth but he doesn’t finish that sentence because I push him against the wall and start kissing him hungrily.
I was quite okay suppressing my desire when around people but now that we’re FINALLY alone, I can’t help myself. There’s a saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder and it couldn’t have been truer in my case. It turns out Erik was experiencing the same craving, he was just being polite with his question.
I know that I really should examine our telepathic connection but when I get the taste of Erik’s mind, there’s no going back. I really am a telepathic addict and it became even worse after my transformation. I don’t feel comfortable among humans anymore but for some reason Erik’s mind is fascinating beyond belief. He’s a total opposite of me and it drives me crazy.
We somehow get into the bedroom and Erik uses the last shreds of sanity to carefully undress me so that my robe isn’t damaged in the process. I don’t feel like letting him dominate this time so I playfully push him on the bed and sit on him.
I lean down for a kiss and Erik hugs me around my back, his hands finding my wings. When his fingers start caressing my feathers, I moan and let out my mana. The room fills with breeze and we both get goosebumps. I dive into his mind and the world disappears.
I wake up because my sleeping mind subconsciously catches that my boyfriend is in distress. I reluctantly open my eyes, yearning to sleep some more but Erik is indeed feeling anxious so I rub my eyes and with a long yawn slowly sit up.
“Are you okay?” I ask, confused and still not fully woken up. But I go for a morning kiss.
“I am okay,” Erik catches my chin before I can land that kiss and turns my head. “But our room isn’t.”
I blink, not quite sure what I’m looking at. It looks like a bomb exploded in our condo. Our things are all over the place and the lamp is broken. It’s as if a tornado stormed through.
“Except this tornado was you,” Erik sighs.
“B-but… I didn’t… not on purpose… it was just light breeze and then…,” I can’t find the words.
“I’m sorry, honey, but it seems the problem is even bigger than we have thought,” Erik says slowly. “Your abilities are getting out of control.”
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