“I’m sorry, Erik. I swear I didn’t do it on purpose,” I apologise again and stretch for a blanket because I can’t stop shivering. Why is the room so cold?
And why am I apologising if I don’t feel guilty? They forbade me to fly far but they said I could go up so I did. Okay, maybe they didn’t assume I would go so many kilometres up but still. Admittedly, I lost Fefnir’s drones but they were just too slow.
“Which is even worse, Ryuu,” Erik shakes his head. “It means that you have no control over yourself when it comes to flying.”
No control? NO CONTROL?! Does he have any idea how much self-control it takes for me to skip a day and not fly at all? How much I wanted to finally feel free but they gave me a very limiting radius around the skyscraper?
I want to answer something venomous but, unexpectedly, I sneeze instead. My shivering gets worse and it’s starting to freak me out. What’s happening to me?
Erik blinks and his anger transforms into concern in an instance.
“Ryuu, love, what’s wrong?” he finally sits next to me and puts his hand on my forehead. “Could you possibly… catch cold? Vermiel, call the doctor immediately!”
The guards turn pale and Vermiel quickly takes out his phone.
“It’s so chilly up there, I need warmer clothes next time,” I say faintly and feel the strength leaving me. I’m developing a fever. “Oh, Erik, don’t be mad at me anymore and give me some of your warmth.”
He takes me into his arms, not a trace of anger in him now, only worries. I fold my wings to make it easier for him carry me. He transports me into our bedroom and changes my improvised flight robe for a sleeping kimono. Then he undresses as well, hugs me tight and after evaluating that this time just my feathers won’t be enough, he wraps me into two blankets.
I delve into his mind I love so much but this time it doesn’t provide me the usual comfort.
I don’t know when I dozed off but I wake up feeling strangely hot and cold at the same time. My body is shivering uncontrollably and I feel weak. There’re Earthborn roots stuck to my forearm. Noage is examining me.
“Thirty-eight degrees Celsius,” Noage assesses. “His Majesty’s body is battling hypothermia with fever. It seems to be an automatic Celestial defence mechanism. He was up there for too long, Royal Consort. It’s freezing six kilometres in the sky and his robe wasn’t made for that.”
“Will he be okay?” Erik is caressing my feathers but I don’t open my eyes. I decide to just listen. I’m too drowsy for anything else anyway.
“Please, tell me he’s going to be okay. Why aren’t you treating him better?” my boyfriend is panicking.
“I can’t give him any human medicine, Erik, I could make it potentially worse,” Julia opposes.
“We haven’t documented Celestial hypothermia yet but it doesn’t seem that much different except for the fever,” Noage says and his rooty tentacles move from my arm to my chest and slip under the robe. If I wasn’t so low on energy, I’d never let him touch me there. Only Erik is allowed to.
“So just keep him warm, wait and that’s it?” Erik becomes extremely irritated. “What is the Earthborn miraculous healing good for then?”
“Royal Consort, I understand your concern, we’re all scared for His Majesty’s health,” Noage tries to calm him down. “But this isn’t an open wound or disease. Celestials are weak towards cold by default but at the same time they have safety mechanisms against it—thus the fever. His Majesty’s body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do in such a situation.”
“First we lose him for two suffocating hours and now he gets sick as a result,” I hear Liana grumbling. Her anger pretty much transformed into worry as well but she’s still pissed, unlike Erik who seemed to forgive me.
Do I need to be forgiven, though?
“It won’t get out, Your Excellency, don’t worry,” Miruel assures her. “Only His Majesty’s private guards and maids know about it and we’re sworn to absolute secrecy.”
“You’re right, it can’t,” Liana clicks her tongue. “The situation has barely calmed down after we announced that our Emperor returned safe and sound. Besides, Celestials would blame us for underestimating his protection. How fast is he going to recover, Noage? Any predictions?”
“I dare to say that Celestial cold may seem dramatic in the beginning but His Majesty should get well quickly. I checked him thoroughly and his body is battling hypothermia bravely. It’s just a matter of getting his temperature back to normal. Two days max,” he estimates.
“Good, it would be suspicious if it was longer,” Liana is relieved. “Let’s cover it, announcing that he was given a much-deserved day off.”
I want to listen to the rest of their conversation but fever overcomes me and I fall asleep again.
This time I wake up in the middle of the night. Erik is wiping sweat from my face and my vision is blurry.
“Your fever is at its peak, love,” my boyfriend says and kisses me gently on my forehead.
“Thirty-nine degrees Celsius but it should be going down now,” Noage elaborates. “Do you hear us, Your Majesty? Don’t worry, it’ll get only better from now on.”
“Pull His Majesty up, Royal Consort, he has to eat at least something,” I recognise Cien’s voice.
I whine in disagreement but a spoonful of sweet rice is shoved into my mouth all the same. It’s smooth enough to gulp so I do just that. They’re very patient with me but it’s still force-feeding. I hate every second of it even though I’m aware that my body needs nutrients.
“Erik…,” I say hoarsely when I finish the bowl.
“Shh, don’t fight it and go back to sleep, honey,” Erik lies me down while the maids help him to make my wings comfortable.
I close my eyes and fall into restless sleep. I dream about flying but every time I want to reach the horizon, my own people catch me and put my wings into shackles.
I wake up with a twitch because it feels as if someone is groping my wings. I turn my head wildly but it’s just Ayala. She wanted to kindly change my wings’ position so that I don’t feel so sore. I calm down when I make sure about her good intention but I can’t shake off the feeling that she was touching me more than was necessary.
“Where’s Erik?” I ask, startled that he isn’t with me.
“You didn’t seem like you’d be waking up soon, Your Majesty, and Her Excellency came to visit,” Ayala explains. “They’re talking in the living room.”
“Oh, right,” I sigh out when I verify it with my telepathy. I must have woken up exactly because unconsciously I didn’t feel my partner close.
“Do you feel better?” she smiles at me, relieved. “I’ll notify the kitchen to bring you breakfast. Doctor Julia insisted on vegetable broth.”
I realise that I do feel better. Much better. I’m still a bit dizzy but it seems my fever went down and I don’t feel cold anymore. I quickly inspect the room. Vermiel is standing watch by the door from the inside and he’s looking at me with both concern and sternness. As if he was afraid I might break the window any instant.
“You should still rest, Your Majesty,” Cien gets alarmed when I push myself to sit up.
I ignore her, envelope myself in my wings so that I don’t have to look at them and start rubbing my feathers anxiously. The dream was so vivid. Analysing it rationally, I know that the shackles were just a symbolic representation but at the same time it points perfectly to my current problem that’s only getting worse.
I can see it clearly now. Celestials—my own people—are increasingly limiting my already limited freedom. Being the Celestial Emperor, I’m painfully aware that there’re certain things I can’t do anymore and that there’re a ton of things that are expected of me.
I’m willing to sacrifice myself for my subjects in almost every aspect of my life but I won’t let them take away from me the one thing I love the most. If I’m the embodiment of magic itself as they claim, it also means that I’m the embodiment of air which is our racial element. I can feel it in my hollow bones. I can feel it in my feathers. It’s true.
“Your Excellency, Royal Consort, come quickly, something’s wrong with His Majesty!” Vermiel opens the door and shouts.
Liana and Erik barge into the bedroom and find me enveloped in an avalanche of feathers that got all puffy with my arising wrath. They freeze on the spot because I radiate that emotion out. I didn’t know I could do that but it works like a charm. Everyone starts trembling. It’s one thing to witness Celestial wrath but entirely other experience to feel it pointed towards you.
“What did you discuss with the Celestial Council, Liana?” I open my feathered cocoon and my voice is a whip. “How much further do you want to limit me in the name of my so-called protection?”
“Your Majesty, we…,” the title slips from her tongue which makes me even more furious.
“USE-MY-FUCKING-NAME,” I cut every single word and objects in the room start shaking menacingly. “You of all people!”
“Aefener,” she corrects herself but it doesn’t sound convincing.
“I do everything you want from me, Liana,” I hiss. “I’m learning politics and etiquette even though I don’t enjoy it. I work more than ten hours every day. I never complain. You take away my privacy. I hate it but I endure it. I can’t go anywhere but I somehow got used to it. Flying is the last thing I have, Liana. My only freedom. I won’t let anyone take is as well.”
“Ryuu…,” Erik looks broken-heartedly at me but doesn’t dare to approach me.
“And you agree with them, don’t you?” my eyes water. “I told you once, Erik, that I might enjoy being owned by you but not like this.”
“We just want you to be protected,” Liana says defensively.
“No, you just want to control me,” I don’t believe her. “I’m not a symbol for Draconians to use in their propaganda, Liana. I’m a living feeling person.”
“I know you are,” she mutters but she’s too apprehensive to meet my eyes which makes me miserable. We shouldn’t be like this. She’s my Viceroy but above all she’s supposed to be my friend.
I take a deep breath and feel the magic within me. Within… within where exactly? Where does mana come from anyway? Celestials I talked to describe it as a circle along their spine that flows into their wings but for me it feels more like every cell of my body is pulsating with energy.
I take another deep breath to clear my head and pour mana directly out of my pores. Like that, it’s very easy to make the air help me get up in my weakened state as if I was riding on a windy cushion. Everyone gasps for breath watching me do it.
I slowly float towards Erik and Liana, my body perfectly relaxed and my feet not touching the floor. I spread my wings only to make me look even more impressive.
“As the embodiment of magic, I’m naturally also the embodiment of air,” I state to make it perfectly clear to them. “If you stop me from flying until other Celestials are able to accompany me, I’ll go crazy for sure. Now I’m in full control but I can’t guarantee it will stay that way if you limit me further.”
“As the Emperor, you’re bound by Celestial laws—especially the law about your protection,” Liana reminds me but it’s just a feeble attempt. She’s trembling when facing my might.
“I think I’m letting you protect me just enough already,” I say through my teeth. “I’m sorry that you were worrying about my whereabouts but I did everything you wanted from me. I couldn’t go further away so I went up. The drones are too slow so come up with something else if you need me under supervision all the time. Put a tracker on me or something, I don’t care. Just let me do the one thing I long for–fly.”
Liana finally looks into my eyes and her expression softens. There’re many conflicting emotions within her and she’s thinking frantically but it seems my arguments got through.
“You’re right,” she admits and feels deep regret that they forced me to resort to this. “We were being unfair, weren’t we? We didn’t consider your feelings at all.”
“Ryuu, I’m also very sorry. I was so afraid that something bad might happen to you that it clouded my judgment,” Erik seconds and slowly stretches his hands to me.
For a moment, he’s scared that I won’t accept him but being pissed at Erik for too long is a very hard thing to do. Besides, I’m getting exhausted from pouring my mana out. I deactivate the air cushion and fall into his arms. Literally. I’m still weakened from the fever but I feel good about myself. I proved my point. I learnt how to assert myself.
“Oops,” he pulls me to his chest because I wobble. “You overdid it again, hon.”
“Well, I think I had to,” I huff. “You needed a lesson. How scary was I?”
“Godly-level scary,” he smiles now that the tension is over and I relaxed. “How did you do it?”
“Just another application of air magic,” I say and I’m glad that he helps me back to bed.
“No, I mean… we could really feel your Celestial wrath,” he specifies. “Did your telepathy grow stronger again?”
“Hope not. I think it’s also just an application,” I sigh. “Can I eat something now? I’m actually hungry now.”
“O-of course, Your M-Majesty,” Cien, who was really shocked by the manifestation of my power and was crouching in the corner during the whole time, runs off.
“Aefener,” Liana slowly sits on the bed and I can tell she’s thinking twice about every word she’s about to say. “I admit that we went overboard but you do realise why?”
“I do, Liana,” I assure her. “And I’m compelled to listen to you when it comes to my protection, I know that, but as you said—you went overboard this time so I had to go on strike.”
“I’d like you to know how we felt when you went missing. Can you connect to me, please?” she pleads. “You should know our side of things. How we perceive it.”
“No, I don’t want to,” I say plainly. “You rely on my telepathy too much, Liana. We should actually talk about things.”
“Fair enough,” she agrees and apparently doesn’t know what to do with her hands so she grabs my left wing and caresses my feathers. I’m relieved to find out that I still enjoy it from her.
“And that emotional outburst you did, Ryuu?” Erik refuses to let me off the hook easily.
“I guess I somehow projected my emotions out,” I shrug, unsure myself.
“Can you do it again?” Liana looks up from my wings.
“Maybe… I’m not sure how,” I say truthfully. “I guess you’ll have to wait until you call me by my title again and it pisses me off.”
“Oh, that,” she chews her lip. “Sorry.”
“Li,” I sigh out sadly. “I consider you my closest friend. Call me by my name because we’re friends, not because I like it from you. You didn’t have problems with it before.”
“A lot of things changed since then, Aefener,” the pronounces my name with careful articulation. “You think that we treat you like an incompetent child that must be protected but the opposite is true. We want to protect you so desperately because we realise how precious you are. I know that especially we Celestials are fanatical about it but we can’t help it. It’s in our instincts to protect the embodiment of magic at all costs. Which you’ve just proven you really are.”
“Damn, I dug my own grave, didn’t I?” I roll my eyes.
“Quite so,” she finally manages a smile. “That meeting we had… Celestial Council… we were all panicking. We have no scenario for the possibility of our Emperor dying. Unlike other races, our ruler is irreplaceable.”
“Stupid lore,” I grunt. “Why are we so bound by it anyway? Do we still know nothing at all about the Great Evolution? Why Draconia Online? There’re so many hardcore role-playing VR games. What does it all mean?”
“The developers are still missing and all data from game servers has been wiped out,” Liana summarises. “We’re only dealing with consequences, knowing nothing about the origin.”
“And your telepathy might be related,” Erik reminds me. “Your Mom could have had something to do with it for all we know.”
“My Mom?” I scratch my chin, doubtful. “It’s not like I was playing Draconia when I was small, she was supposedly working on improving VR helmets.”
The moment I finish that sentence, though, I get goosebumps. Wait a second, I had to play something while using the helmet, right? I was just four at that time but… THINK! What kind of game was it? How did it feel like at least? I let out a cry when a very familiar feeling hits me.
“Ryuu?” Erik clutches my hand. “What is it?”
I look at him, bewildered. It’s very hazy in my memory but I think I can recall how the game I tested for my Mom felt like.
“Guys…,” I gulp. “Something just came to me. I… I can’t be sure but… I think I remembered some fragments just now. You know that I was testing VR helmets for my Mom on the pretext that it blocks my telepathy so that I could relax, right? I wasn’t good at controlling my ability when I was a child.”
“Yes, we know. So?” Liana nudges me nervously.
“And you know that I was the only Celestial player who could fly on the first day of game launch?” I say, mostly for Erik who isn’t acquainted with our gaming history.
“Of course, the developers thought it was a miracle. They predicted human brain would take weeks to adapt in order to control new limbs,” she nods wildly. “You were a total anomaly.”
“The moment I logged it into Draconia for the first time, I remember that everything felt strangely familiar to me,” I say extremely slowly, letting them process it. “I forgot about it later on because I thought that my brain was just playing tricks on me.”
“Familiar?!” they almost stop breathing. Vermiel is also leaning in, listening closely.
“Especially having the wings,” I say. “Guys… I think that the game I was testing for my Mom might have been a prototype of Draconia Online.”
Please log in to leave a comment.