Chapter 35:

Urge to Protect

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“Is something wrong, Your Majesty?” Vermiel flinches when I burst the door open.

I don’t have time to explain. We could have only minutes before something really bad happens if we don’t prevent it in time. That prospect scares me shitless but I can’t afford to freeze right now. I can’t afford to have another panic attack when everything depends on me.

“Brace yourself,” I say but I don’t actually have the luxury to give him even a second before I clutch his hand and establish a full telepathic connection.

I don’t even have the luxury to think about all those other Celestials in the room watching us—my adjutant Luviael, the maid Cien who kindly brought us dinner just a few minutes ago when it all seemed so peaceful and one other guard whose name I don’t recall.

Vermiel’s mind is very different from Erik’s. Colder, more goal-oriented… totally Celestial. And since he’s not prepared at all, it’s not as inviting. But I can’t be gentle right now so I force myself in. I push all the necessary information into his brain at once, hoping he won’t faint. Fortunately, he doesn’t. He blinks a few times but recovers quickly. Is a Celestial mind more attuned to withstand my telepathy?

“All available guards in the vicinity to floor five, immediately!” Vermiel shouts into his phone, his wings shivering with both fear and excitement.

“Ryuu, w-what’s…?” Erik finally catches up, not understanding a thing.

I look at him and my heart aches with overwhelming love. I realise I have to protect him at all costs, even if it’s against his will. He’s both my strength… and my weakness. I can’t afford to lose him. I can’t let him get hurt just because he decided to stay by my side.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper and push Erik back inside our bedroom with telekinesis.

It pains me to see his shocked expression before the door closes and I lock it but I don’t berate myself for it. He’ll be definitely angry with me later but all that matters now is that I keep him from harm. Then I voluntarily cut off our emotional telepathic connection which is providing me with his human perspective. As much as I cherish it, that would be a burden for what’s to come.

“My partner is forbidden to leave the room until it’s safe again,” I order Luviael who is just as confused as Erik and has no idea what happened between me and Vermiel.

Dammit, I didn’t plan to reveal my ability in front of her like this. I was meaning to tell Luvi myself when I’m confident that I can really trust her. I wanted to sit with her, have a proper conversation. Why am I always exposed by circumstances? Can’t I decide when I feel comfortable sharing my secret with someone else? It feels too much like a forced coming out.

Erik starts pounding on the door but I’m long gone, running through the corridor with all the floor guards joining me, leaving just a few to protect Erik and Liana who is resting in her apartment. It’s up to me now. I have to protect her as well.

“Six humans… yes, floor 5… probably dressed as the maintenance or something,” Vermiel keeps shouting into his phone, giving more precise instructions. “Potentially armed and dangerous.”

“Do not startle them or they might try something sooner. Unless you know exactly who they are, don’t act and just observe,” I add quickly when we get into the elevator.

“Aefener, is that you?!”

Thank God, it’s Fefnir. How glad I am it’s him! Right, he became the head of security after all.

“Did you… you know,” he’s carefully hinting at my telepathy.

“Yeah, I did,” I confirm. “Are you close? Let’s meet there.”

I use the time while we’re descending to quickly analyse the guards accompanying me. Their mana capacity is very high, they were no doubt level 70 or 80 in the game but their current casting can’t be better than level 2. I just hope it’ll be enough.

They’ve joined the Imperial Guard but they’re no battle mages yet. Will they be even able to help me? Gosh, just two months ago they were still human, worrying about their mundane lives. One of them looks around the same age as me, the others slightly older. What if I’m leading them to their deaths? Can I be responsible for that?

They’re staring at me, bewildered, but not questioning me. They know we’re going to face danger and they follow me anyway. To minimalize the risk of them or anyone else getting hurt, I’m afraid I can’t rely on slow verbal communication. I might have to use my telepathy with them. I bet Liana has them under the strict confidentiality contract so they shouldn’t leak anything but still.

“Whatever weird happens around me, you’re not to talk about it, understand?” I click my tongue and leak my mana on purpose. They all gulp and nod silently. Good. I can tell they won’t. I’d prefer to be kinder about it but that wouldn’t have the same effect. I need to play the Emperor.

We finally reach the fifth floor and Fefnir is already there. I sigh with a relief. Having an all-Celestial squad is the worst choice for cramped places but Fefnir as our tank should help a lot. I could really use Emi’s agility and speed right now but it’s too late to call her now. Come to think of it, I don’t feel her in the skyscraper.

“We can’t let them be alarmed too soon,” I touch Fefnir’s arm to transfer to him what I’ve discovered. The intruders feel confident and to even breach the security like that must mean they’re professionals.

Fefnir’s mind is just as resistant as his body is. We’ve had a few brief telepathic connections before because he was curious but never anything too deep. He got much sturdier since that, both physically and mentally. I’m surprised how different his mind feels when compared to Celestials. Foreign, not homely at all. I doesn’t make me nauseous the way human minds do but I don’t feel exactly comfortable.

“We cut off the entire floor, no one left or came since Vermiel called,” Fefnir assures me. “Where are those bastards, Aefener?”

“What’s twenty meters to the left?” I ask instead. “Why do I feel so many Draconians there?”

It’s too late to keep appearances in front of the guards or trying to explain now. I just have to hope they’ll cope somehow.

“The dining room for the lower floors. Kurva!” Fefnir swears in Czech. “The worst place ever!”

“When Fefnir opens the door, touch my wings,” I turn to the Celestial guards who are only starting to grasp what I might be. “We can’t hurt our people or innocent humans so I’ll tell you exactly who they are. Hit them hard with telekinesis!”

We run to the dining room and Fefnir pushes me behind him. The brief touch conveys that his scales should be bulletproof now. Should. He wants to test that if it comes to the worst. I’m worried for his safety, of course, but at the same time I can’t help feeling proud of my brave friend.

“Touch me now!” I order the guards and spread my wings.

The Celestials don’t even think about disobeying me. I have their hands on me and it’s anything if not disorienting to connect to so many at once. Thankfully, the adrenalin suppresses any kind of possible nausea. Fefnir opens the door and we barge in—into the room full of merry Draconians eating and chatting.

“Oh, it’s His Majesty!”

“What is he doing here?”

“Lord Fefnir as well, awesome!”

Shit, really the worst place ever! The moment Draconians spot us, they start making a ruckus and flood to us. I hate having to use my powers against them but there’s no other way. I’ve never done such a feat before but I somehow manage to create a telekinetic wave strong enough to push everyone away from us while making sure I’m not hurting anyone.

There’s a second of absolute silence, shocked confusion and a bit more space so I can finally identify the specific humans whose minds emit absolute hate and destructive intent. As expected, they’re wearing either maintenance of diner uniforms. I send that information to the guards and I’m pleased they’re holding quite fine considering they had no idea I’m a telepath just a few minutes ago. Well, they do now.

For a second, those six intruders are confused by my sudden appearance but, being professionals, they realise in an instant that they’ve been found out. And they immediately reach under their staff uniforms.

“NOW!” I shout.

The air gets heavy with our released mana. Too much mana for simple telekinesis. Some of the guards are not good at mana channelling yet. But telekinesis is a basic racial skill for Celestials so all of them are able to make it work at least. Disappointingly, not everyone is able to hit their target or make the wave strong enough to render the intruders unconscious from such distance. I do with my targeted intruder but, sadly, I’m the only one.

At this point, genuine panic breaks out. Draconians and humans alike start screaming and trying to get out. I lose sight of the five remaining intruders in the crowd and shiver goes down my spine when I perceive their rising anger and hatred. Fefnir tries to subdue panicking people with his intimidation skill but with little effect. This is no honorary battle of wills, it’s pure chaos.

And then the sound of a gunshot echoes ominously through the room and makes everyone even more panicky. Then another gunshot… and a cry of pain I feel too vividly to my own benefit. More gunshots follow… more tortured cries. The suffering and distress all around almost makes me lose my mind. My Celestial nature takes over completely. Not, that’s not precise. My Emperor’s nature—the burning urge to protect my people.

I’ll smash those bastards to bits. Destroy them! I just have to see them!

I look up and the ceiling seems high enough so I decide to try levitation. I was able to do it once in my sleep and once when I was outside in Liana’s mansion. But that time there was the wind to help me and in my sleep I wasn’t exactly conscious to control that. I feel a repulsive power around me forming but it’s not enough to lift me. Okay, wings, I know that you still need to grow some more but please cooperate with me here!

“Aefener, don’t…!” Fefnir’s eyes widen when he realises what I’m about to do and tries to stop me.

But he’s too slow. I spread my wings, flap them mightily to create a thrust and push myself with the levitation spell. Momentarily, I suck all the air around me which makes everyone gasp. I am flying!!! Joy overcomes me but I can’t lose myself in it right now. I keep flapping my wings so that I don’t fall down, supporting myself with levitation while making sure I won’t hit the ceiling. I quickly look around.

There they are, those motherfuckers! They managed to hurt four of my people! I hit the one closest to my left first and throw him against the wall. I don’t bother controlling my strength and there’s something satisfactory about that. The second one is hiding behind the counter so I drop the counter onto him. Damn, that was hard! I wasn’t able to lift anything even remotely that heavy during my training.

I can feel my mana being depleted but I’m not done yet. Another gunshot is fired directly at me but, fortunately, the intruder misses. Close, that was too close! But I can’t afford to waver. My instinct to protect is stronger than fear. The shot gives the intruder’s position away so I use that to smash him. Why don’t I feel any remorse?

Another one is standing by the sinks, apparently reloading. Oh, that’s almost too easy. I feel thrill when I telekinetically tamper with the pipes, let the water burst out and lead it right onto her. And then I freeze it instantly. Will I get points for being inventive?

One more gunshot, no less ominous. Did someone get hurt again? Will I be able to heal them in time when the fight is over? Then I see peripherally that my pristine white feathers on my right wing are becoming red. For a second, I think it’s rather funny—red isn’t really my colour—until my brain finally decodes what happened.

The adrenalin rush fails me, my levitation fails me. Only the pain doesn’t. My wings stop moving and I hit the ground. Too hard. Breathing is somehow difficult, did I break a few ribs? But I protected everyone, right? I have no regrets. I can feel Fefnir going berserk and taking care of the last intruder, we should be safe now. Erik should be safe.

And then I don’t feel anything. The darkness is comforting at least.