Chapter 32:


Draconia Offline

We lock ourselves in the conference room. To be honest, I’d have preferred to do it in our apartment but that might be too suspicious. Here, we can pretend that we’re communicating with the security department and planning things. Miruel and Vermiel stand guard in front of the door, making sure no one interrupts us.

“Don’t overdo it, Ryuu,” Erik warns me. “You’re still recuperating.”

“I’ll do whatever is necessary to get them,” I say resolutely. “But just in case I faint, don’t call Julia and just let me rest. I should be fine.”

My boyfriend sighs and looks at the gang. Only Liana is missing, sleeping in her bedroom. It’s for the best, she deserves rest more than anybody and I should finally prove to her that she can count on me. If I have to become the Celestial Emperor, I should start acting like one. And being reliable is part of the job.

“Will you be able to tell us right away when you find something?” Fefnir asks and is clutching his phone.

“It’s long-distance telepathy, not astral projection, Fefnir,” I roll my eyes. “I’ll be perfectly aware of everything around me so don’t distract me.”

“Like that, Aefener?” Ingri puts several pillows and a blanket she took from the lounge on the floor.

“Perfect, thanks,” I nod. “Much better than a chair,” I eye the seats in the conference room. Definitely not made for Celestials.

“You look like you’re about to meditate,” Erik chuckles to relieve the tension and helps me sit down on the cushions while putting the blanket under my knees.

“That’s actually exactly what I’m going to do,” I say. “We’ve been training it with Julia, remember?”

I envelop myself into my wings, cross my legs and naturally straighten my back. Perfect, most comfortable. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I used my ability like this before in Liana’s mansion, of course, but I didn’t control it that well. But now I feel that I am in control. Is it thanks to my training? Or because I don’t struggle with my Celestial nature?

“Erik, stop it, please,” I say without opening my eyes. “I love it but I feel you too strongly when you’re touching me.”

“Sorry,” he lets go of my wings he started caressing. He’s been doing it almost automatically lately. Whenever there’s an opportunity, his hands find my feathers. A lovely new quirk. But not now.

I breathe in deeply once again and try to calm down my frantic thinking. I count ten breaths until it works and I become a bit more detached from my own thoughts. The emotions I perceive all around me sharpen and I can sense perfectly well what my friends are feeling right now. Anxiety. Fear. Distress. Uncertainly about our future.

But I don’t go for their feelings, I need to find people who aren’t supposed to be here— the intruders who stole my feather. I filter all Draconians but I’m still left with a few dozen humans. I’m searching for emotions like hatred that are always strongest and easiest to spot but all I get is just slight disgust coming from several sources which is probably normal.

“I… I didn’t get anything,” I open my eyes and chew my lip.

“You couldn’t do it?” Erik clutches my hand in comfort. “That’s okay, Ryuu, you’re still training it after all.”

“No, I could do it,” I shake my head because I feel my friends are really confused by the outcome. “I perceived everyone in the skyscraper but there’s no one who would want to hurt us.”

“So they either fled already,” Fefnir narrows his eyes, “or they don’t want to sabotage us.”

“Do you mean to tell me they were satisfied with just taking Aefener’s feather?” Emi stays sceptical and impatiently thumbs her right foot (o rather a paw?) against the floor.

“Can’t it be connected to the intrusion in Liana’s mansion?” Ingri is thinking aloud. “We never found out who hired them but we do know that they wanted to abduct our Aefener.”

“Could be,” Emi agrees. “It’s evident someone is seriously after him. If they really went only after the feather and fled immediately when they got it, knowing they can’t get Aefener himself, they might want it for DNA testing as Julia suggested.”

“But who? For what purpose?” I’m lost. “I was no one before. Just a student. A gamer.”

“You call being a telepath no one?” Emi nudges me and exemplary rolls her eyes. “Is there someone who might suspect you have this ability?”

“Only my Mom knew and she’s dead,” I claim.

“But you were just four at that time,” Erik says. “She might have told someone without you knowing. Or you don’t remember it.”

“What about your father? You never mentioned him. Is he dead too?” Fefnir asks. A rather too directly to my liking so I frown and purse my lips.

“Some subtlety, Fefnir?” Ingri pokes him hard but I doubt he felt that through his scaly skin.

“I won’t apologise, it’s high time Aefener starts to ask right questions about his origins,” Fefnir stands his ground. “To be honest, I’m shocked he’s so uninterested in it.”

“Because it’s dangerous!” I exclaim and get extremely flustered for some reason.

“Ryuu, what’s wrong?” Erik hugs me right away. “You’re shaking.”

“I…. I’m not sure,” my lips tremble. For a moment, a sense of dread overcame me when I started thinking about my father. “I never knew him, my Mom left him before I was born.”

“Are you sure? Because it seems you’re afraid of him,” Ingri suggests carefully. “Maybe you forgot? I mean… come on, who actually remembers things that happened when they were four?”

“I remember some things, Mom made sure of that because she wanted to protect me,” I insist. “Don’t touch people carelessly. Don’t react to things that aren’t said aloud. Don’t you ever tell anyone about your ability. Don’t…”

I freeze for a second. Don’t… what was the fourth rule again?

“Ryuu?” Erik stops the petting. “Don’t…?”

“There was something…,” I mumble, dumbfounded.

“Something about your father perhaps?” Fefnir helps me.

I feel that dread again. Why? Why is even thinking about a person I’ve never met so unpleasant? Did he hurt me? But I’m sure my Mom wasn’t lying. It’s very hard to lie to me after all. Mom, what’s the fourth rule? What had you been telling me? Don’t…

“Don’t you ever look for your father,” I say dreamily. The words just slip out of my lips.

My friends look at each other with raised eyebrows, confused at first, then worried. Erik, doting as he is, doesn’t say anything and works on calming me down because I’m still shaken. I couldn’t love him more for that.

“Is it possible you’ve been conditioned by your mother not to look into your family background?” Emi voices what others are probably thinking. “If you feel scared just thinking about your father… I mean…”

“Conditioned? Well, my Mom supposedly studied both IT and behavioural psychology,” I say faintly. “Or at least that’s what my Gran told me. I believe she had no reason to lie about that.”

“No shit!” Fefnir clicks his tongue in a dragon-like manners with a hiss.

Only it doesn’t end with a simple hiss. He suddenly looks like he’s about to puke, panics and starts coughing furiously.

“UGHAAAAA!” he wheezes and… a flame comes out of his mouth!

We’re staring at him for ten long seconds when he struggles to take a breath. He coughs again and sparks come out, burning the carpet under him. Emi reacts immediately and uses the water in her glass to put it out.

“D-damn,” Fefnir finally manages to take control.

“Fire breath confirmed!” Ingri exclaims excitedly, more thrilled than scared.

“He really is a dragon,” Erik gasps as if this is the first time he’s acknowledging it.

“Duh!” Emi shrugs. “I can’t wait when I get my full were-transformation.”

“You what?” Erik widens his eyes, astonished again. He did try to study Draconia’s lore and gameplay but we were too busy so he couldn’t go deep. There’re a lot of things he doesn’t know about and will probably come true.

“Don’t worry, Celestials have nothing like that,” I assure him because I feel he’s starting to panic in his mind. “Our bodies are eternally frozen at a certain ideal age and we’re not able to do any physical transformation of any kind.”

“WHAT?!” now he shouts, horrified.

Only now I realise the gravity of what I’ve said. Celestials aren’t immortal, of course, but according to our lore, when we reach certain age which slightly differs for everybody, our bodies get frozen and we don’t age anymore. At least not externally… and definitely not as fast as humans.

“B-but…,” he looks at me desperately and clutches my hand. Too tight but I don’t flinch. I know exactly what he’s afraid of—that we won’t grow old together.

“It doesn’t have to come true here,” I say quickly to calm him down.

But when I focus on my mana circuit, I can feel the mana repairing my cells, giving them miraculous longevity. And I know that part of lore got transferred as well. Do other Celestials feel it as well? I guess not, they’re still quite behind me in their development and mana sensitivity.

Erik, still touching me, knows what I’m thinking about because I hardly ever close my mind to him. He looks into my golden eyes, scared by what it’ll eventually mean to us in the future. Surprisingly, I’m not as shocked by this revelation.

Am I gradually stopping to treat anything Draconian as unusual? Just like the rest of my people? I know it should be astonishing. I should be shocked. I want to be shocked. But I don’t feel anything particularly wrong with that prospect. On the contrary, it feels just right. My only worry right now is how it’ll effect our relationship.

“Erik?” I carefully address my boyfriend because I feel something snapping inside of him.

He’s usually so sensible and collected that it takes me aback. It was always him comforting me, telling me everything’s going to be okay. But now, for the first time, he’s starting to think that things might now work out according to his wishes—the vision he has in mind for us.

Before I can reach deeper into him, he jerks away and his hand slips from mine. He can’t close his mind to me so the only way how to interrupt our direct connection is to stop touching me. He stands up, his expression unreadable.

“I need some time to think,” he whispers. “Sorry, Ryuu… I have to think it through.”

“E-Erik?” I stutter.

The emotions I’m catching coming from him aren’t dark but they aren’t positive either. So far he was accepting everything about me but could this be the one thing he won’t be able to digest?

“Sorry,” he apologises again because he doesn’t know what else to say and hurries to the door.

I want to go after him but before I even manage to fold my wings, he’s gone. It happened so fast that it takes me a while to process. I was so convinced that Erik can take anything weird I throw at him that I forgot to consider his feelings. His human feelings. Am I a terrible boyfriend? When did I ever stopped to think about Erik’s needs? Was I selfish again?

“Are you okay, Aefener?” Emi puts her hand on my shoulder.

“I don’t know,” I feel my eyes watering but I push the tears in.

“He’ll come around,” Fefnir says. “He’s really resilient… for a human.”

I know that he doesn’t mean it in a bad way but I sense a hint of contempt. Not for Erik, of course, but for humans in general. This whole time I was afraid of newly emerging racism towards Draconians but it turns out it’s we who might become the racist ones. Humans are simply afraid of us so the source of their hatred is fear. But in our case… we could start to see them as inferior to us which is potentially much worse.

“Up you go,” Emi kindly helps me stand up. She’s my dear friend but it’s so different from when Erik is handling me.

“So what should we tell the security? I sense no danger,” I say, seated in a chair which is really uncomfortable for Celestials.

“We have to let them keep searching until they find nothing,” Fefnir thumbs against the table. “We can’t exactly call off the search out of the blue.”

“You really became the chief of security? What about… what was her name,” I’m trying to remember the name of Liana’s human employee I was introduced to the first day we relocated here.

“Diana,” Fefnir answers. “We’re actually working side by side. I’m pleasantly surprised how easy she feels in my presence. It gives me hope that humans like her, Erik and Mrs Hana exist.”

Soft knocking on the door.

“I’m sorry to disturb you but the Prime Minister is on the phone,” Anna the administrator says softly but urgently. “She wants to speak with Mr Aefener.”

“His Majesty,” Emi corrects her a little bit too sharply because the poor lady flinches.

“Of course, with His Majesty,” Anna corrects herself quickly and her voice trembles. She’s not truly afraid of us but I bet that seeing a room full of Draconians must be an intimidating sight.

“Thanks, we’ll take it here,” Ingri tries to smile to put her at ease. I notice that her eyes are starting to look unnaturally green. She catches that I’m staring at her face.

“Oh, did you finally notice?” she grins. “I’m trying to manipulate the colour of my irises. My King and Queen told me to start with that before I attempt to change other things.”

I want to ask what other things but Anna coughs to remind us there’re pressing matters at hand we must deal with. Ingri knows what to do and quickly reconnects the call to the conference room. The Prime Minister Bauerova appears as a hologram in the middle of the table.

“Your Majesty!” she blurts out, not bothering with a greeting. “Thank God you’re feeling better, we need your help.” Her face is flustered which is so unlike her. I guess it must be really urgent.

“Of course, what’s the matter?” I ask apprehensively.

“It happened in Italy,” she gulps. “Two Celestials were attacked by a group of fanatical believers. They were just trying to shop for groceries.”

My heart skips a beat. Two of my people were assaulted? Million things go through my head at once. Are they okay? Did they defend themselves? And… were those bastards who did it punished? Celestial wrath wakes up within me and I suddenly feel responsible for the safety of my subjects. W-wait a minute! Did I just call them ‘subjects’ in my head?

“Are they okay?” Emi asks instead of me because I stayed silent for too long.

Bauerova bites her lip. “One of them had their wing broken. But he should recover!”

My stomach turns upside down. I can’t even imagine something like that happening to my precious feathered limbs.

“Of course,” Bauerova continues slowly. “It didn’t end with that. They tried to defend themselves and almost killed the aggressors. When the police tried to apprehend them, several police officers were injured before they finally managed to stun them. There were lots of witnesses so you can imagine what comes next.”

“She’s right, it’s on all broadcasting channels,” Ingri confirms, checking on her laptop.

Another knocking on the door, this time not gentle at all.

“Your Majesty!!!” Luviael, my new adjutant, bursts the door open and is absolutely furious.

“I know,” I nod grimly.

“This is civil war!” Luviael screams, mad with Celestial wrath.

Her feathers are all puffy and her mana is leaking uncontrollably. Miruel and Vermiel are right behind her and they aren’t any calmer.

“Your Majesty, civil war is exactly what we must prevent at all costs!” Bauerova implores me. “The EU government is calling for an emergency meeting as we speak. They asked me to tell you to join. It’ll start in an hour.”


I sense Erik in the building so I don’t panic entirely but his absence unnerves me. I know I became too reliant on him but I can’t help it. I have no idea how normal love without telepathy works and I never will. Funny how superheroes in comic books sometimes magically lose their abilities. How does someone lose something that’s in their very DNA?

“It’ll be okay, Aefener,” Emi nudges me and I know that she doesn’t mean the international conference that’s about to start in just three minutes. Despite her persisting trauma, she became quite fond of Erik.

“Just a second, Your Majesty,” Luviael appears behind me with a comb and an intention to fix my hair. I sigh but let her do it.

How come Clawfangs, the Dragonkin and the Earthborn act rather normally around their rulers? I ask Emi in the meanwhile, inconspicuously touching her with my right wing.

Define normally, Emi resists chuckling aloud and is surprisingly good at making her thoughts clear. Every race has a different mentality. My people are annoying clingy towards me but when I order them that I want to be left alone, they let me. I guess they both admire and fear me.

Fear you? I don’t understand. But you’re such a good and friendly person.

My pheromones are quite menacing, she explains. And I’ve already badly scratched some Clawfangs who tried to disobey me.

You did?!

Well, I had to. I won’t let anyone question my authority as the Supreme Alpha. Fefnir also had to subdue some misbehaving Dragonkin. Only in their case there’s no actual fighting but the battle of wills using their Intimidation skill. You Celestials have it easy, everyone just feels your mana and you’re done. But your people are so overprotective and doting of you, I’d go crazy in your place. I’m glad that I’m Clawfang and we don’t have all that ‘our Emperor is godly’ culture.

There’s nothing godly about me, I frown.

Yeah, right, except there probably is.

I want to sharply oppose to that but Luviael finishes styling my hair and Ingri announces that we go live in thirty seconds. I take a deep breath but, frankly, I feel more nervous about Erik not being by my side than the conference itself, even though, it’s probably of historic significance.

The 3D projector materialises a table for a current speaker while Ingri displays the EU parliament hall on the screens of our laptops. That way we can see the overall mood in the parliament and individual speakers as well.

“Your Majesty, I’m glad you feel better so you can be present,” a man in his sixties with white hair and an athletic body steps in front of the lectern.

I’ve never spoken to him directly, Liana did, but it’s impossible not to know the face of the president of the European Commission—one of the most powerful people in the EU. That’s why I’m twice as shocked that he uses my Draconian title.

“I see that you’re confused,” the EU President Dwayne Bennett smiles. It seems pretentious but he somehow pulls it off. “That’s because we’ve already voted and recognised Draconian races as distinctive nations. You have your embassy.”

“Internationally?” Emi speaks up.

“In the EU for the time being,” Bennett specifies. “The UN has yet to take a vote.”

We should celebrate, it’s a great victory. Yet, I doubt the EU is giving us this status just because they’re generous. It was too quick. They’re up to something.

“The EU legislation starts applying to you at this very moment,” Bennett doesn’t beat around the bush. “We’re transporting the offenders to your embassy as we speak.”

“The offenders?” I blink.

“Those two Celestials who used disproportionate defence,” Bennet explains patiently. “I believe you’ll discipline them as your culture sees fit and ensure similar incidents won’t keep happening.”

Oh, so that’s what it’s all about. They don’t know how to deal with our people breaking the law so they would rather give the executive power to us than to be accused of racism and possibly agitate more Draconians against them.

“We’re also transferring two dozen Clawfangs who were caught doing various minor offences,” the President looks at Emi. “I believe you’ll discipline them yourself, Supreme Alpha. After all, it’s in your lore, we studied it.”

“Indeed, I will,” Emi says dryly but politely. I can feel she hates being ordered by a human but she has to keep her act together.

“Mrs Bauerova,” Bennett summons the Bohemian Prime Minister whose face appears next to his holographic image. “You have the EU’s full support to cooperate with Draconians. After all, their first embassy is in your country.”

“Thank you, Mr President,” Bauerova nods and only a slight frown on her forehead gives away that she’s worried.

“Our delegates are on their way,” he continues and his tone is unnaturally even. I’d give everything to feel his emotions right now. “I trust you’ll find suitable apartments in your skyscraper to accommodate them?”

Eh… what? Are we going to be under EU’s close supervision? Can they even do that in our own embassy? I look at my friends and they’re just as shocked about it as me.

“Of course, Mr President,” Luviael surprises me because it’s her who answers.

“I also want to personally apologise for Mr Bodin’s inappropriate behaviour,” Bennett says with another forced smile that is supposed to convey his sincerity. “We’re sending Ms Ortega you took liking to and we’re appointing Mr Dubois as her new colleague. I hope you’ll find him more agreeable.”

Then we continue for another hour, discussing particular details and planning what needs to be done in the immediate future. We got our embassy, much sooner than we expected, but at the cost of enormous responsibilities that come with it. Basically, the EU doesn’t want to be held solely responsible for what happens in their territory so they’re trying to throw everything on us—the new official government.

“Uff, that was intense,” Ingri sighs tiredly when the conference is finally over and we log off.

“Luvi, you seem to know a lot about international law,” I turn to my new adjutant with admiration. I didn’t expect her to be so knowledgeable and skilful, she saved me multiple times during the talks because I had no idea how to answer.

“Luvi?” she chuckles.

“Oh, sorry, you don’t like it? Luviael then,” I apologise for shortening her name.

“No, that’s okay, it sounds cute,” she allows it and even sounds glad that I gave her a playful nickname. “I studied international law and political sciences. I was actually in the middle of my internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Switzerland when the Great Evolution started.”

“How did you get here? Family problems?” Emi asks curiously.

“Oh no, my family is actually very supportive,” she says with pride. “I answered Her Excellency’s call for experts in law and was lucky to be chosen.”

“I thought you studied literature like me?” I tilt my head.

“Not at all, I just needed some extra credits so I signed for a few interdisciplinary subjects that seemed interesting,” she sets things straight. “I guess that’s why you didn’t recognise me, we had just one series of lectures together a semester ago.”

I feel relieved to hear that. If she was my classmates, I’d feel embarrassed for not remembering her face and not bothering to ask for her name. I might be socially clumsy but I’m not that hopeless.

“So,” Fefnir coughs. “Our titles are officially recognised and our races are now distinctive nations. At least in the EU.”

“Let’s hope the UN reaches the same conclusion,” Ingri says. “The situation is particularly bad in the States.”

Oh, I forgot about Gotrid. Things have been put on hold when I couldn’t work. I guess Ingri didn’t want to bother me and took all the calls herself.

“Are Gotrid and Gin okay?” I ask.

“They relocated while you were indisposed,” Ingri informs me. “Some rich kid who transformed as well offered them refuge in his family’s mansion in Washington. The US government isn’t as amicable as ours and Draconians can’t travel outside the States. They’re this close to voting for mandatory registrations of all our people.”

I want to call Gotrid and Gin right away but it’s too early in the morning for them. I just hope they’re okay. The USA has much different political climate from the EU, much more conservative.

“Your Majesty,” Luviael addresses me and enjoys that she can use my title now truly officially. “It’s time for lunch.”

“Gosh, I’m starving,” Emi whines, finally breaking the stifling atmosphere.


I try to focus on work but I keep thinking about Erik. He doesn’t show up at lunch, he doesn’t show up when he’s supposed to be doing his own tasks. His chair next to me stays empty as a dark reminder that I took his presence for granted. But would it help if I appreciated him even more and was telling him every hour how much I love him?

“Aefener, you’re driving me crazy,” Emi sighs and stops my hand.

I look at her, confused, but thank to direct touch, I can read the source of her irritation—I’ve been hitting the table with my digital pen for several minutes already.

“Sorry,” I murmur.

I’ve been trying to bury myself in work but anxiety always finds some way how to manifest itself. I know that distracting oneself helps most people but it never worked for me. I blame it on my telepathy. I’m used to it, of course, but I do realise that my brain functions abnormally.

I always think in two different regimes: the usual thinking processes and my telepathy I can’t switch off. It’s impossible for me not to feel everyone around me. The best I can do is to make it ambient. But right now everyone’s nervous and that only makes my anxiety stronger.


I look forward to the end of the day, hoping I’d find Erik in our apartment. But when I arrive, I only find several Draconians still re-designing. They smile at me and… bow. Honestly, it sends shivers down my spine. Is this going to become a new norm? Luviael sits on the sofa as if she’s at home here and continues working on her laptop, murmuring that she must go through my tomorrow’s agenda.

I stare blankly at all those people invading my private space and my heart sinks. I can’t do this. Not without Erik. He was always the extroverted one opening me. He might have stopped being my bridge to humanity but he was still my anchor, helping me deal with my social anxiety.

“Are you okay, Your Majesty?” Miruel gently touches my left wing because she’s supporting me instead of my boyfriend. “Dinner should be here in ten minutes.”

“Not hungry,” I shake my head and before anyone can react, I gently push Miruel aside and disappear in the bedroom. Sound-proof apartments are bliss, I can’t hear anyone when I close the door. I can still feel them, though.

I collapse on the bed because I overstrained myself with those few steps on my own—the bed that Erik chose for me. Our whole apartment is being remade to suit my new special needs. Was my boyfriend even taken into consideration? And did Erik consider himself when he was trying to surprise me with these adjustments? I’m so selfish while he’s so selfless. I don’t deserve him.

I snuggle, enveloping myself in my wings like a security blanket. Despite wearing a four-layered robe, I suddenly feel cold. I try manipulating the air to raise the temperature and it’s surprisingly easy to do. My mana is flowing out of my body, warming the room. How magical. How miraculous. But I can’t get excited about it without Erik by my side. Being able to do magic just for my sake seems pointless.

Telepathically checking the skyscraper again, I assure myself that Erik is indeed still inside but he’s too far for me to find out how he really feels. This might be the last straw and he might be thinking about leaving. That prospect scares me shitless and I start shaking. I’ve always been an overthinker but it doesn’t sound too improbable, right?

My eyes water and I hate myself for being so weak and dependent on him. I don’t understand why dealing with the prominent EU officials did almost nothing to me but thinking about losing my boyfriend brings me on the verge of a panic attack. Which reminds me that I didn’t have one in almost forever. Well, here it is now… in full force.

Trying to breathe deeply in and out is harder than it sounds when one’s heart is beating wildly. I snuggle even tighter, making myself a feathered cocoon. This isn’t the worst episode I’ve ever had but I feel strangely alone even with all those people just a few metres away in the living room.

I’d always been alone but when I discovered how it feels like to have someone, having it taken away is twice as devastating. My consciousness fades away eventually but it doesn’t give me any rest because I’m still frantically searching for Erik in my dreams.