Chapter 48:

In Between

Draconia Offline

“What do you think, Aefener?” Liana asks me nervously while I’m examining her wings.

“You’re being impatient,” I roll my eyes and massage her wing muscles. “You could theoretically fly even without those five more centimetres but it’s not only about wingspan. Your muscles have to get stronger as well and your bones are still gradually becoming hollow.”

“So can I fly right away or not?” she’s back to her original question as if she didn’t hear me at all.

“Sure, for a few minutes before you’d completely exhaust yourself,” I shrug. “Give it two more weeks, Li. You’ll know when you’re ready. You’ll wake up one day feeling strangely light and not being able to think about anything else than the sky.”

“Hmm,” she sighs.

“Alternatively, you could try leaning off the skyscraper’s balcony to see how your body reacts but I don’t think you’ll be thrilled to fly at this point,” I say and scratch her under the feathers. “Why are you in such a rush anyway?”

“I want to be prepared when we go to the UN conference,” she explains and thoroughly enjoys me petting her wings. “I doubt you’ll manage to go without flying for six days so it would be convenient if we could finally accompany you.”

“You, Taranah, Miruel and Vermiel definitely will,” I assure her.

“And you know that how exactly?” she narrows her eyes.

I blink. How indeed? I just know somehow.

“Aefeneeer,” Liana prolongs. “Did you discover some new ability again and forgot to tell us?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I scratch her under the feathers which makes her twitch because we’re ticklish there. “I guess I can tell by feeling your mana circle?”

“Your Majesty, Your Excellency, I’m afraid your break is over,” Luviael peeks into the lounge where we’re sitting on the sofa, drinking our afternoon coffee. Her eyes flash when she notices we’ve been petting each other’s wings. I feel a sting of envy from her.

I resist shaking my head. I’d be happy to caress her wings as well but that’s something only friends do when it comes to Celestials. And while I do consider Luvi to be my friend, for her I’m the Emperor—her superior. Luvi wouldn’t let me, thinking it’s improper and totally against the protocol.

“Luvi also shouldn’t take much longer,” I say. “Her transformation will be finished just in time for the conference.”

“Oh, it will?” Luviael exclaims happily and flutters her patterned wings.

I hope that I’m not naïve again but I really hope they’ll let me fly for longer than one hour a day when my fellow Celestials finally join me and discover how intoxicating flying is. And that they’ll let me venture further in their company. Flying just two kilometres around the skyscraper is starting to get quite boring, to be honest.


“So? Does it fit well?” my maid Cien asks me when she and Ayala dress me into a proper flying robe Ingri designed for me.

“It’s marvellous!” I’m overjoyed and try moving around in it.

Ingri has outdone herself this time. The robe is both practical and stylish. I have to smile when I realise that it reminds me of Jedi robes from Star Wars. The basis is a short-layered kimono ending at my knees with pants, thermal leggings underneath and high boots. I feel warm but it’s still easy to move in and doesn’t make me feel underdressed. These are real Celestial sporty clothes!

I want to show myself to Erik but he isn’t here. He’s attending an important meeting with Czech officials. My flights became a normal occurrence after a week so my boyfriend and Liana aren’t always present because for them it’s just a waste of time to wait for me on the ground.

I understand that, I really do, but I still feel a bit sad that Erik isn’t waiting for my return. But he’s simply too busy. We all are. Moreover, we’re trying to get used to not spending every minute together and test how long I can go without my telepathic craving kicking in.

“Are you okay, Your Majesty?” Ayala pulls my sleeve because I kept staring at my reflection in the mirror for too long.

“Just lost in thoughts,” I look away. “Can we go now? I need to clear my head.”

It’s true, I really do. Fefnir is seriously concerned about the skyscraper’s security and has been panicking everyone ever since that incident with the spy drones. As if I didn’t have enough worries already. The security managed to solve the situation without me in the end and I’m glad but the intrusion showed how vulnerable we still are.

Sure, we’re meticulously checking every incoming person and shipment for explosives and weapons but how can we check for technology in this age? Moreover, Fefnir didn’t discover anything even after finally seizing the drones. The sender wiped their memory cards the moment the drones got apprehended. Who knows what they managed to stream back to their owner.

I finally step outside on the balcony and breathe in the fresh air. I shiver when the wind blows into my feathers. I stretch my wings and all the worries disappear the moment my feet leave the ground. Flying is such a liberating experience that nothing comes even close to it. I lose myself completely in it every time. I become the air. I become the wind. I feel free.

“Your Majesty, come back this instant!” a call through my watch gets connected automatically. “Didn’t you feel the band vibrating?”

“Sorry, Vermiel,” I apologise. “I didn’t, I was too absorbed in the moment.”

I don’t want to listen to him. I want to rebel. But it’s not worth the scolding I’d get later for disobeying them. Because it’s not like I can just fly away and escape my cage made of gold, glass, marble and concrete. Because there’s nowhere on the planet the Celestial Emperor could hide.


“Let’s ask for a proper day off,” Erik tells me that evening.

I’m sitting on his lap and we’re cuddling. After being mostly separated for the whole day, I’m craving him like crazy.

“What about after the conference?” I suggest. “We should have more time by then.”

“I was thinking every week,” Erik raises his eyebrow. “You know… like normal people have. You do realise that it’s common to have Saturday and Sunday free, right? Well, I know that two days are unthinkable in our situation but we should try negotiating Sundays at least.”

“That would be nice,” I agree but I doubt it will be possible in foreseeable future. Not every week that is. I lean closer to kiss him again. We do have this moment and I mean to make most of it.

“Ryuu, I’m serious,” he grabs my chin gently and stops me. “We should fight for our free time. Four hours in the evening is hardly enough.”

He makes me think about it. I’d welcome to have more free time but I’d never do it at the expense of work for my subjects and fellow Draconians.

“Of course, you wouldn’t,” Erik sighs because we’re connected right now so he’s catching what is going through my head.

He’s annoyed. Rightfully. All he wants is to spend more private time with me and I don’t seem that enthusiastic about it.

“You’re right,” I say quickly and shower him with assurance that I want that as well. “Damn, when did I become a workaholic?”

“I’m afraid it goes hand in hand with your job description,” he sighs again but this time more cheerfully. “Are you still free tomorrow afternoon?”

“Of course, and I told Luviael that I won’t permit any disturbances,” I nod. “I’m looking forward to meeting your friends.”


“What about this shirt?” I hand Erik a leisure blue shirt he likes wearing in our apartment.

“Too casual,” he shakes his head and it seems he can’t decide between two suits.

“Erik, you’re meeting your friends, not going for a business negotiation,” I tell him. “Your friends won’t appreciate a three-piece suit.”

“Hon, I don’t look gorgeous even with my bed-hair,” he retorts which takes me aback. “Unlike you, I need to make an effort.”

“You do look gorgeous with your bed-hair,” I murmur, hurt by his reaction.

I don’t know why but something in me stings a little and suddenly I feel my eyes watering. We did have some arguments in the past about much more serious topics than this nonsense. But for some reason it’s such a nonsense that makes me extremely sad.

“Love, what’s wrong?” Erik finally stops browsing his wardrobe and gives me his full attention. “Are you… crying?”

Alarmed, he goes for his default—a hug. That never changes and I always find comfort in it. I grab him tight and he keeps apologising to me even if he doesn’t exactly know what for. I’m also not sure what went over me just now. Did I feel insecure? Confused by his behaviour? Am I blaming him for turning into a vain person?

Erik openly enjoys the luxury. He likes wearing expensive suits, leather shoes and brand watches. His part of the wardrobe is stuffed at this point. When did he buy all those clothes and accessories? Admittedly, my part is overstuffed as well but I didn’t buy anything myself. My maids did. I don’t care much about what I’m wearing as long as it’s comfortable and warm. But Erik does.

Naturally, I want to provide my partner with abundance. I want him to be happy. I want him to enjoy that we finally have money. But I don’t want him to become vain and conceited. I have enough problems with my prideful subjects.

“Damn, you really think I’m turning that way?” he senses what I’m thinking about and chews his lip. “I guess… I needed that feedback.”

I’m relieved that he understood me but I’m still shaken.

“Sorry for retorting at you,” he apologises. “You meant well. You were thinking about my friends feeling comfortable in my presence. I’m afraid I am becoming rather vain. I mean… I was never poor but I never had serious money either. How come it didn’t get into your head?”

“I’d rather spend my money on merch and videogames if I had time to actually enjoy it,” I finally manage a smile and let Erik dry my tears into his sleeve.

“Once a geek, always a geek?” he smirks. “How cute, the mighty Celestial Emperor is secretly a geek.”

“It’s no secret, I just don’t have time anymore,” I say. “And I also want to apologise.”

“What for?” he blinks. “It me who made you dry.”

“For making light of your wish for more free time,” I say. “We both need it. We have to unwind sometimes or we’ll go crazy. I think the pressure is getting to us.”

“So…?” he becomes hopeful.

“I’ll ask Liana for Sundays off… every week,” I promise.

After clearing the misunderstanding, we go back to dressing up. Erik doesn’t go for a three-piece and chooses a casual smart suit instead.

“I would look tragically underdressed next to you if I wore just a shirt,” he justifies his choice.

“Oh, I don’t have any actual casual clothes,” I realise.

When it comes to the robes I wear when we’re spending time in our apartment, it’s usually just a matter of dropping the upper embroidered layer.

“Maybe I could ask Ingri to design a hoodie and normal pants in Celestial style?” I’m thinking aloud. “I don’t have any homely clothes after all.”

“I can’t imagine you in human clothes anymore, love, and you’d be cold anyway” Erik laughs. “Let’s go, I don’t want to keep them waiting.”

I’m glad that we made up immediately but the bugging feeling stays within me. Recently, I started to notice things I either didn’t notice before or choose to ignore. I notice how he narrows his eyes at every perspective Celestial man who just looks at me for too long and how ostentatiously he clutches my hand in public.

He’s not nervous around Vermiel and Taranah only because he asked them openly some time ago whether they’re gay and they assured him that they’re straight. As for other races including humans, he doesn’t mind. Does he suspect that I’m not attracted to human men anymore? Is that the source of his insecurity? That calls for another visit to the psychologist.

“Do your job properly!”

All of a sudden, Erik bursts at my guards because one Celestial managed to touch my wing when we’re passing the usual crowd waiting for me in the corridors. And this thing. He’s so over-protective.

“Erik, it’s fine,” I squeeze his hand more firmly. “She was just curious.”

“Groping you isn’t curiosity, Ryuu,” he purses his lips.

“Hello, what’s your name?” I turn back and face the person who touched me.

It’s a young Celestial woman, not much older than Luviael. I don’t want to be passing my people just because I’m always busy. I don’t like it. I want to be closer to them. Get to know them.

The girl widens her eyes when she realises I’m actually talking to her. She starts stuttering something that might be her name but I don’t quite catch that. Her wings are still small, only half my size. She must have been a low-level ingame.

“Do you like it here? Is your job okay?” I ask with concern.

“I’m honoured to be here, Your Majesty,” she finally manages a reasonable reply.

“That’s not the answer to my question,” I sigh and gently take her hand. “It’s fine, let them,” I tell my guards because they try to get the people away from me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that because the moment Celestials see their chance, they’re all over me. But their presence doesn’t evoke any bad feeling in me. They’re my subjects, not humans who would want to hurt me.

“Are you looking forward to flying?” I try to make a conversation and let gracefully slide that the way they’re touching my wings now that I permitted it does feel like groping.

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

“I can’t wait!”

“Your feathers are so soft! Much softer than mine!”

Unexpectedly, I feel someone touching me really inappropriately, a hand reaching under the robe between my wings. I let out a suffocated cry and everyone is thrown away from me by a telekinetic wave. I didn’t do it, though. I’d never use my powers against my own people. My guards intervened.

“That’s enough!” Miruel gets furious and my bodyguards form a protective circle around me again.

“Who was it?!” Erik is even angrier than her.

The crowd, realising they’re in trouble, disperses.

“Dammit, that shouldn’t have happened!” he clicks his tongue and hurries to me. “Ryuu, do you know who they were?”

“No, it was too sudden,” I lie.

I didn’t see their face but I’m sure I could recognise their emotional imprint if I faced them again. But I choose not to pursue it. I would with human offenders but not with Celestials. I’m sure they were just too eager to see me. Too mesmerised by my enormous mana leaking.

“No need to report it!” I prevent Miruel from taking out her phone. “I’m fine.”

“Ryuu, it’s not nothing,” Erik hugs me. “Your wings are shaking.”

“I’ll be more careful next time,” I promise. “I just thought… I simply wanted…”

“Connect to your people?” he finishes and feels extremely sad for me.

“I’m fine, really,” I assure him. “Your friends are waiting, let’s go.”

He doesn’t want to let it go easily but I catch his hand and pull him to move on. I’m sure I wasn’t traumatised just now. I’m pretty sure. My wings are shaking but it’s only a shock that something like this happened. It doesn’t remind of those three times I was groped on the metro in the past. Right? Right! I’m fine!

Erik keeps frowning the whole way to the lounge and puts on a forced smile only when the door opens and we’re facing our visitors. It’s three women and two men. Erik is very extroverted so I’m sure he has more friends than this so either the rest of them wasn’t free this time or… he lost a lot of his so-called ‘friends’ because he’s dating me.

They bow to me and it’s quite cringy but polite enough. I don’t tell them they don’t have to. Actually, I think they should. They have no direct connection to me and I’m the Emperor. When did I become someone who thinks like that? But I don’t mind. I’m proud to be who I am.

After basic formalities, we sit down and Erik, being really good at social events, starts the conversation right away. I’m glad he does because I’m more interested in analysing his friends telepathically. It’s been some time since I’ve faced so many humans at once.

I was at ease when Erik’s parents visited, I even tried to negotiate that I don’t need my guards present inside. But this time is different. I’m glad that my bodyguards are here with me and I’m glad that so many.

Erik’s friends are not bad people, they’re really not. But they’re far from the kind Anderles who love their son unconditionally so they decided to accept me unconditionally as well. These people have too many mixed emotions when they look at us. Curiosity, fear, envy, slight disgust, fascination… you name it.

They pretend to chat merrily but I see how they’re eyeing Erik’s expensive watch and brand suit. How they’re envious of his shoes when real leather costs a small fortune these days. How they’re looking… at me. Only two of them are truly interested in Erik as a person and their friend. The rest is here just for the spectacle.

If the security didn’t confiscate their phone, they’d be taking countless pictures of me and everything around. I see their fingers twitching and reaching into empty pockets too many times. But Erik seems happy around his kind. He’s asking many questions and his smile widens. He’s relaxed.

Originally, I wanted to stay for a full hour but I don’t think I’ll manage. I don’t feel comfortable. I want out.

“Sorry, I forgot there’s a document I have to finish today,” I stand up, slowly on purpose so that it doesn’t look like I’m running away.

“So soon?” Erik blinks, confused, and checks his watch.

“Sorry, love, it slipped my mind,” I smile apologetically, hoping I’m not being too obvious. “Have fun, okay? Stay as long as you wish.”

“Oh, what a pity!” one of the women says disappointedly. “We were hoping you’d tell us more, Your Majesty.”

About what exactly? And what does she plan to do with that I information? Put it on social media and boast that she met me?

“We hope to see you again,” she bows but then she hesitates and stretches her palm to me.

I’m staring at it for a while. A handshake isn’t a Celestial custom and definitely not when it comes to the royal protocol. The woman chews her lip when I don’t move. She wants to touch the Celestial Emperor and tell stories about it. I don’t want to give her that satisfaction but Erik starts to worry if everything’s okay. He doesn’t understand why I won’t do it. So I do. For him.

His Majesty is really beautiful but he gives me goosebumps, her immediate thought hits me. Damn, I hoped to touch his wings.

I don’t jerk away only through sheer willpower. Now that I shook her hand, the others also line up for a handshake, thinking it’s okay. Erik is watching me so I force myself.

I didn’t know Erik was such a gold-digger. The Celestial Emperor must be loaded.

What’s sex with a Celestial like? I wonder how often they fuck and do wings get in the way?

Is it offensive to ask Celestials for one of their feathers?

My head spins from nausea but I stand my ground and let nothing show on my face. Erik’s friends aren’t dangerous so I’m not afraid to leave him with them but they make me sick. They’re too petty. Too… human.

“See you in the evening,” I somehow manage to kiss my partner and close my mind to him completely so that he doesn’t suspect a thing.

I gracefully leave the room but the moment the door closes behind me, I put my hand over my mouth and start running. My guards, confused and shocked, follow me. It’s a miracle but I make it into the nearest bathroom and puke into the sink.

“Your Majesty…?” Miruel gently taps my shoulder. She’s mad worried about me. I guess seeing her Emperor throw up isn’t the nicest sight.

“Their human emotions made me sick,” I explain weakly and wash my mouth with water. Fortunately, there’s no one else in the bathroom so unnecessary rumours won’t spread.

“Should we call the doctor?” Miruel doesn’t know what to do and starts panicking a bit.

“No need, I just need to lie down for a while,” I shake my head and dry my face with a tissue.

Miruel doesn’t look convinced but she walks me back into my apartment. I should be okay after I find my balance again and I look forward to my bed. Instead, I find Liana stepping in front of my apartment, apparently waiting for me. I whine. Did one of the guards contact her?

“Aefener, you look terrible,” she’s horrified when she sees me. Am I that pale? “Come to my apartment and tell me what happened. Starting with that incident in the hall.”

I frown at Miruel for telling her about that but my guardian just shrugs, indicating that it concerns my protection so I have no say in the matter.

I realise this is the first time I’ve been invited into Liana’s quarters but there’s not much to see, her apartment is almost identical to mine and Erik’s. Except maybe that Liana’s apartment is much tidier and minimalistic because she doesn’t collect that many geeky things.

“So,” she seats me in front of her on the sofa and stretches her wings to me. “What exactly happened in that hall? Miruel texted me, explaining that you wanted to chat with your subjects.”

“Well, I tried,” I lower my head, saddened. “It didn’t go as I envisioned it. They surrounded me and in all that confusion, someone touched me between my wings.”

Liana hisses angrily. Humans might not understand but for Celestials it’s an equivalent for going after one’s crotch or breasts.

“I didn’t feel any danger so I couldn’t react in time,” I add. “Besides, I’ve experienced groping before when still human. Nothing new to me. I should have been more careful.”

“Aefener,” Liana takes my hands into hers. “Would you blame the victim for not being careful enough? It’s a sexual assault. And what’s worse, the offender was one of us and it happened when your guards were present.”

“We’re really sorry, Your Majesty, Your Excellency,” Miruel apologises and feels really guilty about it. “We didn’t anticipate that our own people… but that’s no excuse. It won’t happen again.”

“You bet it won’t,” Liana narrows her eyes at the guards.

“I want to be able to talk to ordinary Celestials, Li,” I tell her so that she won’t think of some extreme solution such as forbidding me to speak to common people entirely.

“Sure, but not like that,” she shakes her head. “Your guards must be able to protect you even in the crowd.”

“We’ll think of something, Your Excellency,” Miruel assures her.

“But that’s not all, isn’t it? I take it meeting Erik’s friends didn’t go well?” Liana continues.

“Not exactly,” I lean my chin against her shoulder. “They were thinking some nasty stuff and I hated their human emotions.”

“You touched them?” she hugs me around my wings. “You never touch our political guests.”

“I wanted to make Erik happy so I shook their hands,” I say. “I shouldn’t have. It made me nauseous and… well… let’s say I had to visit the bathroom.”

“Oh, Aefener,” she caresses my feathers. “Go ahead and connect to me if you need to calm down.”

“I don’t want to impose,” I lean back but she hugs me tighter.

Her mind is so inviting that I’m not able to resist anymore and connect to her. We’ve connected several times before but never so deeply. It’s different from my connection to Erik so I’m twice as surprised that it’s not necessarily shallower.

Liana isn’t my partner but I love her all the same. I enjoy that she’s a complete opposite of my boyfriend and how familiar her Celestial emotions are. I understand that it’s a thankless job to be the Viceroy who has to constantly restrain the flight-obsessed Emperor but she does it simply because she wants to protect me.

We create a cocoon out of our wings and let the outside world disappear. The Emperor and his Viceroy, white feathers and black feathers—we’re like a yin-yang. Liana provides what I lack and vice versa. We stay like that for quite some time and I can’t ignore that bugging feeling anymore.

I’m starting to crave a Celestial mind.