Chapter 41:


Draconia Offline

“Ehm… what are you doing, hon?”

Erik shakes me gently. I reluctantly open my eyes, still very sleepy. For a few moments, I feel disoriented and don’t know why I’m snuggling into my wings while lying on the floor.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall asleep again,” I recall and rub my eyes. “I guess I finally dozed off when staring out of the window.”

“Silly, you should have woken me up. Up you go,” he pulls me onto my feet. “Aren’t you sore?”

“A bit,” I admit and stretch, careful not to hit anything with my wings.

And then the realisation hits me. I couldn’t fall asleep because I was too excited that my transformation has finished. My body is fully prepared to fly! I want to share the happy news with Erik immediately but something stops me. Erik is looking at me with concern. He’s analysing my huge wings which I can’t even stretch properly in our bedroom.

“You’ll be able to fly soon,” he says, not knowing that I already can. “I’m worried, Ryuu. How do we make it safe for you? What if some lunatic tries to shoot at you?”

Shiver goes down my spine. Okay, I haven’t thought about that. Erik did and he feels really anxious as a result. He’s afraid to let me out.

“I’m training to be able to cast shields,” I assure him.

Do I tell him now? But I don’t think he’s going to help me persuade Liana that I’ll be fine on my own. He will most probably take her side instead. I have to approach it differently like trying hard at today’s training session. Did I really hold back last time? Was Taranah right? Well, I have a new motivation now!

“Hopefully, we should still have some time and Liana will come up with something,” Erik says, oblivious to my inner turmoil as I hide my thinking from him. I don’t feel good about it because I don’t want any secrets between us but, at the same time, I don’t want to worry him unnecessarily.

Erik opens the door and lets my maids in. While we were given some privacy in the evening, morning is evidently a different chapter. I quickly go to wash my face, brush my teeth and then obediently stand up, allowing Cien and Ayala to put a royal attire on me. I think I’d manage just fine if I used telekinesis but they’re definitely much faster and know how to tie every layer properly without crumpling the fabric.

“Do we have a hairdresser in the skyscraper?” I ask when they proceed to style my hair. “I need a haircut. My hair is too long and gets in the way.”

“There’s no way we’re cutting your beautiful silver hair, Your Majesty,” Ayala rejects the idea without even thinking about it for a second. “If you feel it gets in the way, we can braid it.”

I frown. It’s my hair, don’t I have any say in the matter or what? It seems I don’t. The maids start arguing about a hairpin and totally ignore my request.

So are you their Emperor or not? Erik is confused about it but pretends that he’s busy dressing up so that we don’t leak our sweet little secret.

Draconia Online was a fantasy game set in a fictitious historical era with magic but Celestial culture was actually based on ancient China, I answer him, pondering myself.

No shit. I don’t know much about it but I suspect ancient Chinese Emperors didn’t have it exactly easy, right? Endless political meetings, strict court procedures and keeping appearances?

Well, let’s hope not everything got transferred here to the letter, I say. Besides, Celestial culture is still a bit different, it was only inspired by it.

But still… damn, Ryuu.

“We’re done, Your Majesty,” Cien informs me.

I check myself in the mirror. She tried to tie my hair so that it doesn’t get in the way so much but she still left most of it loose. I resist sighing and stand up. Erik looks so modern and smart compared to me. Do we look weird together? But I simply don’t care about that, smile at my boyfriend and we leave our apartment as a proud couple.

I meet Liana in the hall which is rare. She usually wakes up much earlier than me and Erik. She looks rested and energised. For a second, I can’t help wondering. Did she take it as friendly advice (which was my intention) or an order from her Emperor? Would she even listen to me like that? I’m afraid to find out.

“Thanks for yesterday,” she tells me instead of good morning. “Sometimes I don’t know when to stop.”

“You don’t,” I chuckle but then I get serious.

How do I tell her? Will she listen to me? I used to think she at least partially kept her human perspective but ever since she disclosed my secret to other people without consulting with me first, I know for sure that she didn’t. She’s just relaxed around me, unlike others, so it might seem that way. I don’t think she’ll let me out on my own no matter how much I plead.

“Where’s Ingri?” I ask instead. “I feel her but she’s quite far away.”

“She wakes up very early and goes out every morning,” Liana says. “Apparently, the Earthborn don’t need to sleep so many hours but they need the sun and fresh air to recharge.”

Okay, now we’re back to my yesterday’s question.

“Li? Why do I feel everyone can get out but me?” I ask and look straight into her eyes.

My Viceroy sighs but withstands my stare.

“Because that’s exactly how it is right now, Aefener,” she answers honestly. “We’re just one skyscraper surrounded by other skyscrapers and countless smaller buildings in this business area. Our security guards the perimeter fiercely but the fluctuation of people around us is very high. It simply isn’t safe out there.”

“Ingri can get out, though,” I remark enviously.

“I hate to say it but Ingri is nobody,” Liana bites her lip. “Sure, she’s quite famous for being seen next to us all the time so I assigned her some bodyguards when she goes out, of course, but she’s just a glorified secretary. By the way, I can’t go out either.”

“But Emi can,” I narrow my eyes.

“Emi is a race ruler, I have no authority over her,” she rolls her eyes because Emi really doesn’t listen to anyone. “She takes her whole pack for her morning jogs so she should be safe enough. Besides, Clawfangs think differently about their ruler.”

“Differently how?” Erik pulls my sleeve. “I thought you’re all rulers for life—medieval style.”

“Actually, that’s true only for Celestials,” Liana explains to him patiently. “When it comes to Clawfangs, anyone can challenge the Supreme Alpha and if they win the duel, they become the new ruler. It’s the same for the Dragonkin. As for the Earthborn ruling duo, they lose the post if their harmonic relationship breaks.”

“So Ryuu can’t abdicate?” Erik is taken aback. I guess he was hoping that if things get too unbearable for me, I could just resign or something.

“That word doesn’t exist in the Celestial lore,” Liana shakes her head and takes out her phone that starts vibrating.

“If that was ever an option, I’d do it already,” I confirm with a sorrowful sigh.

“That’s so… alien,” Erik scratches his chin.

“It’s Luvi, we’re late,” Liana says and that means the end of the topic for now. “Let’s get to work, boys.”


I want to somehow turn the conversation to my finished transformation during the day but I don’t get any favourable chance. We’re so busy that we have just a sandwich for breakfast while already dealing with more meetings. As for lunch, Bauerova invited some members of her government to discuss how Bohemia should continue supporting us.

In order not to embarrass myself, Liana sits right next to me, our wings touching, and gives me hints which cutlery to use and when. I have no idea how one can enjoy formal lunches. I’d like to focus on my meal but, instead, the invited ministers just go on discussing work, not bothering with any actual break.

“Ryuu, finish that,” Erik nudges me because I don’t feel like eating everything on my plate when I can’t properly enjoy it. “Luvi told me you have a medical check-up at four and I don’t want to hear from Julia that you lost weight again.”

I resist rolling my eyes but I eat the rest. Liana looks at me approvingly.

You don’t have to be special in everything, you know? She tells me in her thoughts, half-jokingly. We Celestials should naturally have a great appetite because of our fast metabolism and calories being converted into mana. Yet, for some reason, our Emperor is an exception again and we have to constantly force you to eat properly.

I’m trying, I sigh in my mind.

In the afternoon, we call our Celestial communities all over the world. After that, Liana makes me record another official statement. She doesn’t say so explicitly but I have no doubt it’ll appear on the main news. I decide not to confirm that, choosing blissful ignorance.

“Medical check-up, then training,” Luvi reminds us when political work is finally over.

I haven’t been nervous about visiting the infirmary ever since I befriended the doctor but I get a bit nervous now. Julia is working on analysing my DNA, right? Will she have some early results? Will she find out that my transformation is over?

The infirmary has changed rooms it seems, the guards lead us just two floors under the main offices. I meet countless Draconians hard at work and minding their business until I show up. While they behave much more orderly because they apparently got important jobs within our headquarters, my appearance still causes a stir.

“Have you fully recovered, Your Majesty?”

“Oh, your right wing is still missing some feathers!”

“You protected all of us!”

I’m trying to smile at everyone while my guards make some space so that we can pass. Fortunately, my guards are evidently well-respected so nobody dares to bother me too much. Erik’s influence is also helping a lot. He’s menacingly frowning at anyone who comes too close and is hugging me behind my back protectively.

I’m comforting myself that they just have to get used to me, that’s all. I’ll be better when I finally get to know everyone in our administration personally. So far, they mainly know me from the media, no wonder they make a fuss. Whether I like it or not, I became the face of Draconia. It’s creepy to think that I probably come up in every internet search with connection to the Great Evolution and new races.

“Good afternoon, Your Majesty,” Julia opens the door because she must have heard the commotion coming from the corridor. “You’re just twenty minutes late, that’s good.”

“Just?” I sigh. “Sorry for being late, Julia, we had an important online meeting with the Asian Celestial community.”

“Don’t be sorry, it’s not like you’re late on purpose,” she waves her hand and shows us inside.

“Oh, neat!” Erik comments enthusiastically and looks around.

I also scan the room. The space is half infirmary, half laboratory. Everything is brand new and super modern. Julia isn’t here alone, I notice her Earthborn assistant she was mentioning. So that’s the guy who knows my secret and I haven’t even met him until now? That’s sooo weird!

“Your Majesty, my name’s Noage,” the Earthborn bows to me deeply and I notice the roots in his hands poke out. “Oops, sorry, that’s embarrassing. But I can’t help it, I’m just too excited to finally meet you.”

Is he that eager to examine me? The Earthborn are genetic engineers by trade after all. Even Ingri said she couldn’t help herself when I was injured and wanted to start healing me right away. Noage looks very different from my friend, though. His skin is dark blue, his eyes orange and his hair doesn’t resemble hair anymore, more like countless tiny leaves. He’s also very tall, even taller than Erik. If I didn’t have my huge wings, I’d look tiny next to him.

“As I already assured you, Your Majesty, Noage’s background has been thoroughly checked by the Viceroy herself and he has signed the strictest confidentiality contract possible,” Julia says quickly.

“I’m a Draconian, I need no contract for that,” Noage puffs and looks offended. “I’m honoured that her Excellency chose me among so many candidates and I promise to do my best.”

It makes me ponder. Is Draconian loyalty really that unquestionable? Noage is an Earthborn so I have no authority over him, he’s Twyla and Werden’s subject. Still, I study his feeling and it doesn’t seem probable he would betray us. Not to humans anyway.

Julia then tells me to sit on the bed and starts by examining my ribs and my right wing.

“Perfectly healed,” she assures me. “Is the wing muscle still a bit sore?”

“No really,” I shake my head.

“Good,” she smiles, content. “Would you let Noage work his magic? We’re analysing your samples but we didn’t get too far, I’m afraid. Genetic research is very time-consuming. Maybe the Earthborn special power will tell us something.”

“I’m training every day and I don’t want to boast but I should be among the best Earthborn healers,” Noage says and wants to sound humble but he’s anything but that. He’s too proud of his abilities. Well, at least someone is confident if I’m not.

“Okay,” I allow, curious what a full Earthborn connection is like. I’ve experienced it with Ingri before but Noage seems to be a much higher level with actual medical knowledge.

Noage grins happily, pushes a chair next to me and asks me to roll my sleeve. Then he gently grabs my hand and attaches his rooty tentacles all over my forearm. Erik sits on the bed behind me and starts caressing my feathers to make himself busy.

As expected, Noage’s connection is much more confident than Ingri’s. I bet he’s been training on many patients. While Ingri does it intuitively, Noage seems to be perfectly aware of what he’s doing and goes after specific things with utmost precision. Earthborn doctors will be truly impressive once they gain enough experience and level up.

I’m sorry but I’ll be seeing a few things in your mind whether I want to or not, I tell him telepathically. I can’t help it when someone is touching me.

I know, Your Majesty, he doesn’t even flinch which is admirable. Her Excellency told me everything. Please, relax and let me examine you.

I close my eyes and focus on Erik caressing my wings. If I was in a better seating position, I might have dozed off. Gosh, I’m so tired after today.

“I’m happy to inform you that your transformation is complete, Your Majesty,” Noage says solemnly after several minutes of total concentration. “You’re purely Celestial now.”

Dammit! He’s that good at reading my body?

“Oho!” Julia claps her hands happily. “That’s great news!”

I chew my lip.

“Huh? Aren’t you happy about it, love?” Erik kisses me on my cheek, also more than happy.

“I… I knew already,” I admit and avoid his gaze. “That’s why I couldn’t sleep tonight. I was too restless.”

“Why didn’t you tell us then?” he grabs my chin so that I look at him properly. “Silly, you could have told me at least. Are you that nervous about it?”

“Because they won’t let me fly anytime soon anyway and everyone would make a big deal out of it,” I mumble. “Can’t it stay just between us for the time being?”

But Julia is holding her phone, frantically typing something.

“Medical privacy, doc?” Erik frowns.

“What?” she finally looks up but her finger sends the message. “Oh, I’m afraid that’s not in my contract. Her Excellency needs to be informed about His Majesty’s health condition.”

“Is that even legal?” Erik gets angry while I was half-expecting something like that. And, to be honest, I don’t have the energy to get angry about it anymore. It is what it is. It’d be naïve to assume that Celestials are democratic.

“You mean legal in the EU or according to the Celestial lore?” Julia says calmly. “That’s two very different things, Erik. And we’re in the Draconian embassy.”

“Could you stretch your wings for me, Your Majesty? Let’s measure your final wingspan,” Noage asks me politely and also doesn’t think it’s weird in any way. I’m the Emperor so my closest subjects have all the right to know everything about me.

I carefully stretch my wings while Erik quickly moves things in my immediate vicinity away. I still can’t unfold them fully because of the furniture but the laser measuring tape doesn’t require that, fortunately.

“Oh, 7.2 meters!” Noage is taken aback. “I guess a few centimetres might differ slightly from Celestial to Celestial, taking into account the person’s height and body structure.”

I sigh and fold my wings back, accidentally smashing Erik’s face but he doesn’t complain. My poor boyfriend is kind of used to it by now. Celestials are very clumsy on the ground and especially in small spaces.

“Why are you sad, Ryuu?” Erik kisses my feathers that smacked him just a second ago. “Your wings are beautiful and magnificent.”

“Because I want to fly right now!” I whine.

Suddenly, the door bursts open and Liana barges in.


“True,” Noage confirms proudly. “His Majesty’s wingspan is 7.2 metres.”

“Oh, measure me! Come on!” Liana presses the young Earthborn medic. “So? How much do I still need to grow them?”

“Your current wingspan is 5.7 metres, Your Excellency,” Noage informs her. “You still have at least three weeks in front of you.”

Three weeks!?

“Li, I can’t possibly wait that long,” I implore her.

“It’ll pass by quickly, we’re extremely busy,” she waves her hand, oblivious to my turmoil. “I’m sorry, Aefener, but we really can’t let you out alone. At least you’ll be more motivated to train. Taranah told me you’re not trying hard enough.”

Okay, that actually offends me. Not trying hard enough? Just because I’m not meeting their ridiculous expectations of me? My feathers get all puffy with irritation.

“That came out wrong,” Liana apologises readily, noticing my fluster. “I’m really sorry, Aefener, but we’re too afraid something bad might happen to you if you go alone. Could wait for us, please? And practice the Minor Shield in the meanwhile?”

I slowly nod. But I know deep down that I’m possibly promising something I won’t be able to keep.


“Your Majesty, be care---!”

Eager to master the shield, I put in my everything. However, the spell not only breaks its symbol, it goes berserk. The telekinetic wave throws me, Taranah, Liana and four guards away while shattering the mirrors on the wall.

I gasp but, fortunately, I land quite safely on my butt. I quickly look around but it doesn’t seem we have any injuries except for a few bruises. Glass shards are all over the floor but we weren’t standing near the mirrors.

“Li, are you okay?” I get up as soon as possible and hurry to my friend who is swearing loudly because she sat on her wings which is extremely uncomfortable for a Celestial.

“S-somehow,” she wheezes and lets me help her back on her feet. “Damn, Aefener, now you’re overdoing it.”

“I’m really sorry,” I apologise profoundly. “Everyone okay?”

Taranah gives me a thump up but it seems he hit his elbow. The guards are mostly without a scratch because they managed to brace themselves against the impact. I guess Fefnir chose only those more physically fit and sharp for the position.

“Let’s call it a day,” Liana shakes her head and tries to fix her robe. “Our Emperor is obviously too excited for casting right now.”


“Don’t be grumpy,” Erik pokes my forehead and squeezes next to me on the sofa.

I got home but I still have to process a few emails so I’m sitting with my laptop on, replying to our Celestial community in Thailand. I’m trying to give them some encouragement while thinking hard how to answer their question on how they should manage themselves without me being there.

“Every country would need their representative,” I’m thinking aloud. “We can’t possibly communicate with every group, it’s too time-consuming and simply not effective. I’m afraid I need to appoint officials who would carry out our directives in my stead.”

“How many Celestials are there anyway?” Erik gets curious.

“Well, Draconia Offline had over 15 million players world-wide,” I say. “Celestials should make at least one tenth of that.”

“What? Not a quarter?” Erik doesn’t understand.

“Not that many gamers played as Celestials,” I explain. “While it’s surely attractive to be able to fly, a great majority of people are afraid of heights even in VR and get vertigo. In addition, a high percentage couldn’t persuade their brain to control non-existent additional limbs to a functional level. A tail doesn’t seem to be such a problem apparently.”

“Hmm, so there aren’t that many of your race,” Erik ponders.

“Clawfangs were the most popular choice followed by the Dragonkin. The Earthborn were also not as numerous since their skill system is very difficult to comprehend,” I say.

“Emi certainly has a lot of people to manage then.”

“Yeah, I don’t envy her that,” I nod and have to slap Erik’s hand because he’s touching where he’s not supposed to. “I’m still working if you can’t see that.”

“You shouldn’t be, it’s already half past eight,” Erik purses his lips.

He’s totally right about that, of course. But I have to finish it, they’re waiting for my response. Erik wants to pet my wings while waiting but I have to reject him. I wouldn’t be able to focus if I was getting his thoughts.

“Will you shower today?” he asks, standing up after he finally gave up his advances.

“Nope,” I shake my head. It’s a big advantage that Celestials don’t sweat much because it’s a bother to shower with my huge wings.

“I’ll get an early start then,” he kisses me and goes to the bathroom.

I’m so focused that I notice only when Luviael sits next to me that the guards let my adjutant in. So much for the privacy in my own apartment. But she stopped by because she means to help me so I appreciate her assistance.

“Do we have some free funds to send them immediately?” I ask her. “They want to establish their own embassy but they don’t have much money to rent a house big enough for that kind of thing. Most of them lost their jobs.”

“The budget is tight,” Luvi sighs. “Her Excellency’s company is still making a huge profit but she can’t spend it all overseas.”

I frown and log into my personal account. I almost faint when I see the amount of money that accumulated there while I wasn’t checking. My followers keep sending me donations and I also get a generous salary from Liana because, on the paper, I’m technically the employee of AstraTech. With my Mom’s loan already paid in full, it feels weird to become so rich out of the blue.

“I don’t need my salary, Liana is wasting money on me,” I shake my head. “Why the hell do I even earn as much as some renowned CEO anyway?”

“Because you’re working as hard as one? No, even harder,” she points out. “Besides, you’re the Emperor, not some common director.”

But I don’t care. I have no use for that kind of money. I don’t even pay the rent for this apartment or for clothes and food. So I send a decent sum to the Thailand community.

“Your Majesty, you’re so generous,” Luviael is moved.

I don’t feel generous. I feel responsible. And privileged. I live protected in Liana’s skyscraper while my people out there have to struggle every day. We might have been acknowledged as nations but racism towards Draconians didn’t cease at all. I get reports everyday saying that employers refuse Draconians and not many landowners are willing to rent them places to live.

“It’s the least I can do,” I murmur.

As I’m about to finally shut the laptop close, there’s a call. Is the work never ending? I pick up and it’s one of Thai Celestials that was temporarily chosen to represent them. I don’t know her from the game, she was from some guild that wasn’t that high in the charts. She’s thanking me on behalf of all Celestials living in Thailand. But it’s actually me who feels truly grateful. She’s trying to hold things together over there without any resources.

“Ryuu,” Erik returns, smelling after his favourite soap, and gets seriously annoyed that I’m still working and my adjutant is here.

“Done,” I finally close everything and put my laptop on the table. I quickly get up and kiss him. “You smell nice.”

“Good night, Your Majesty, Royal Consort,” Luvi flees because Erik is giving her very strong signals that she’s not supposed to be here at this hour.

“Sorry, are you angry?” I hug my boyfriend because I feel uneasiness coming from him.

“Not at you. I’m angry at people stealing your attention after work hours.”

“Erik, this isn’t exactly a job with a fixed timetable,” I remind him.

“And I know that,” he sighs. “But I can be still pissed about it, right?”

“You have my full attention now,” I kiss him again and make it into an avalanche of tender kisses. His mood finally brightens and I take him whole.


Once again, I wake up in the middle of the night. My back hurts, my wings are sore and I shiver with restlessness. I feel like crying. My Celestial nature longs for the sky and the realisation that I can’t reach it anytime soon is maddening. Will lying next to the windows help? Or will it make it even worse to stare at something I can’t have?

I try sitting up but Erik’s strong arms capture me. I was so focused on my discomfort that I didn’t notice he woke up. His peaceful sleep was probably disrupted by my jarred emotions.

“Don’t suffer it alone, silly,” he tells me softly.

“It hurts, Erik,” I complain.

“Lie down on your stomach, love, I’ll give you a massage,” he kisses me on my forehead and helps me change position.

His hands always give me pleasure and this time is no different. My wings strop trembling a few minutes into the massage when my poor muscles finally relax. I don’t know when I finally dozed off.


Erik’s massage last night helped me a lot but when I wake up, I feel sore again. I have to force myself to smile at him and pretend that the relief he gave me didn’t last only for a couple of hours. I don’t want to worry him more than he already is.

I feel awful. I’m groggy and everything I perceive is kind of veiled. The maids dress me up but I don’t bother looking at myself in the mirror. Not even Erik being really handsome in his suit excites me. Luviael waits for us in front of our apartment and tells me something but I don’t really pay attention and answer something generic.

“Are you okay, Your Majesty?” Luvi tils her head, noticing the change in me.

“Just tired,” I lie and yawn.

“He couldn’t sleep well, his wings were sore,” Erik sighs.

“I can arrange a professional wellness massage for you,” she offers readily. “Today after your magic training?”

“That would be great,” I answer but I doubt it’ll provide any long-term relief.

We get to the office and someone puts a fresh sandwich and a smoothie into my hands. I chew and sip mechanically, not really feeling any particular taste. Everything is in a haze. There’s a meeting and, fortunately, Liana does most of the talking. I say something from time to time, probably not anything clever.

There’s lunch. Oh, did four hours pass already? When did the meeting end? I can’t focus. My back hurts. I feel my mana strangely disarrayed. I think I might be to developing a migraine but not because of too many emotions around me—because of my back killing me. I close my mind to Erik just in case.

“Sorry, what did you say?” I ask again, wondering how I got to the main briefing room because I can’t remember walking in here.

“I was asking whether you wish to look at the candidates for our officials now,” Luviael repeats and hands me a tablet.

I take it and realise that I can’t decipher any words on the screen. My head is pounding at this point but I don’t want to take a break because the workload would be crazy tomorrow. I step aside from the table to stretch a bit, hoping it’ll help.

Thoughtlessly, I walk to the window while trying to read the names. A few are familiar but not many. I longingly look out. It’s so bright out there, just a few clouds in the sky. So blue. So inviting. So close I can almost touch it but my fingers meet the glass.

It feels almost funny. Is this fragile thing stopping me? Or am I stopping myself? Suddenly, the glass under my fingers cracks. Subconsciously, I must have poured my mana into it. I drop the tablet and it meets the group with a loud thud.

“R-Ryuu?” Erik stands up from the desk, startled. Liana looks up in panic.

I turn back and look at them. Even my beloved boyfriend is in a haze. Erik’s eyes widen in a sudden realisation of what’s about to happen. But he’s too late. He can never reach me in time. Nobody can stop me now.

The glass shatters into pieces and it’s beautiful. I carefully steer the shards with telekinesis so that no one gets hurt when the gust of wind hits the room. Then I unfold my wings and jump. I’m free.