Chapter 50:

Arriving in New York

Draconia Offline

I look at the helicopter and take a step back, bumping into Erik behind me. He hugs me tight so that I won’t run away. Or fly away.

“No way!” I protest. “I’ll fly to the airport myself!”

“Don’t make a scene, Aefener,” Liana sighs, following right after us. “I’m not thrilled about it either but I want us to travel together.”

“Taranah and my guards could fly,” I frown. “And Emi was permitted to use a car.”

“Just tell him the surprise, Erik,” she rolls her eyes.

“Hon, I’ll be the one flying it,” he says proudly and tingles me under my feathers.

“You will?” I turn around to face him and my anxiety mitigates.

“Yep,” he grins. “Do you feel better about it? You can even sit in the cockpit next to me.”

I do feel better about it so I let Erik push me inside. Obviously, seats weren’t made for Celestials and while Liana’s luxury helicopter is exceptionally large, my feathers are everywhere when I sit down and at least partly fold my wings.

“Don’t worry, Your Majesty, we’ll put up shields around the helicopter and police drones are accompanying us,” Vermiel assures me when he notices that I’m eyeing my surroundings.

That’s not what I’m worried about, though. I’m worried I’ll get claustrophobic when the door closes. Celestials are not meant to fly in metal boxes.

“Stop moving, Ryuu, and let me fasten your seatbelt,” Erik is struggling with me and I accidentally hit him with the joint of my left wing because I can’t fold my wings comfortably.

In the meanwhile, Liana, Fefnir, Luviael and Vermiel take the back seats.

“I’m counting on you, dear. Keep things orderly here,” Liana says to Ingri who sees us off. Ingri’s parents disagreed with her travelling to New York. Besides, she wouldn’t be of much use to us anyway. While we do consider her part of our inner government, she’s still just a teenager.

When we’re all safely inside, Erik puts headphones over my ears, takes his own and announces that we’re taking off. He feels so excited about flying a helicopter again that I decide to focus on his feelings instead of mine. And it works. The claustrophobia doesn’t hit so hard and I can enjoy the moment because my partner is enjoying it.

“Love, can you lower your wings? I actually need to see to the sides as well,” he asks me. “Also, your feathers are all over the control board.”

I try, I really do, but the cockpit is too small and the seat isn’t manufactured to hold a Celestial.

“That will have to do then,” he caresses my left wing with a smile.

“Uhm,” my stomach turns upside down when the helicopter jerks but I hold on somehow. It’s not that I’m afraid of flying all of a sudden. It just feels totally unnatural not being in control.

“How are you holding back there?” Erik asks through the intercom.

“We should manage,” Luvi answers, her voice mirroring her uneasiness. “How’s His Majesty? Unfortunately, our racial weaknesses have even bigger impact on him.”

“On the verge of puking,” he teases me so I have to poke him.

The flight isn’t long but I have to keep touching Erik’s arm to calm myself down. I don’t know how I’ll manage those ten hours on the plane.

Planes don’t shake unless there’s a turbulence and you’ll have much more space there, Erik comforts me, catching my worry. Besides, I bet it’ll be one of those luxurious private jets with beds.

A plane with beds? Is that a thing? I don’t believe it. Some people can hardly afford to flat-share and there’re planes with beds? Is Erik pulling my feathers?

I’m the first person to get off when Erik lands and the motor stops. I don’t care that I might not look dignified enough and stretch my wings to all sides while furiously flapping them. All my Celestial friends hop out after me and stretch as well so at least I wasn’t the only one being uncomfortable.

“You Majesty, Your Excellency!” the Czech Prime Minister is waiting for us on a runway and greets us.

Our guards are also waiting for us and take a protective formation immediately. We’re in the open here I realise. Even though we’re quite far from the airport building, I don’t feel good about it so I’m grateful when they cast a protective shield.

“Oh, that’s…,” Baueova is lost for words because the shield is erected around her as well. She curiously touches the transparent membrane. “What a strange sensation!”

“Ryuu, it’s Vindigo 673,” Erik pulls my sleeve, excited, when he sees our transoceanic transport. “We’ll get to experience one of the most luxurious private jets!”

“Aircraft nerd,” I manage to smile and notice several people in blue uniforms slowly approaching us.

I don’t have to be a telepath to see how nervous the plane crew is about the whole thing. The flight attendants show us inside extremely politely and are even more careful not to touch us accidentally. I relax a bit when I find out that the interior looks like a proper room so I don’t feel like trapped in a metal coffin.

“This way, Your Majesty, Royal Consort,” our maid Cien, who arrived in advance, takes over and shows us to our seats. Liana is taken by her own servants.

Seats? It’s a whole compartment! I thought Erik was kidding me but rich people actually have beds during long distance flights in the first class? He puts down his hand luggage and asks for a glass of wine right away, openly enjoying the luxury.

That’s probably the biggest difference between us. He’s a sociable extrovert who enjoys everything pleasant life has to offer. He’s not ashamed to indulge. I’m an introvert with quite narrow geeky interests. I don’t care about expensive shiny stuff. Being in the centre of attention makes me anxious.

“Just relax, Ryuu, it shouldn’t make you sick,” he pulls me to him. “Once we take off and the plane stabilises, you won’t even know we’re flying.”

“Hopefully,” I sigh and let him kiss me. I moan when he slips his hand under the robe between my wings but an irritated cough takes us both back to reality.

“Royal Consort, I hate to remind you that Her Excellency has a compartment next to you and she can hear you, this place isn’t soundproof,” Cien interrupts us. “We’re taking off in five minutes and then you have a meeting with the Prime Minister.”

“Why is it always me being scolded?” Erik shakes his head.

Taking off isn’t as horrible as in the helicopter so my stomach doesn’t turn upside down this time. Liana picks us up after a few minutes. We go through narrow aisles around other compartments and I’m astonished for the second time when I discover that there’s a bar on this plane.

“Careful, Your Majesty,” Miruel has to push my right wing out of the way because I almost bumped into a cart. However big the space is, it still isn’t big enough for several Celestials.

Bauerova is already waiting for us at the bar and there’s a woman with black hair wearing a beautiful dress by her side. She’s familiar but I can’t remember where I’ve seen her.

That’s Bauerova’s wife, basically the first lady, Liana brushes my wing to send me a hint.

Emi and Fefnir arrive just a few seconds after us and we sit around the table, me and Liana taking bar chairs without back rests.

“I’ll have an espresso,” Liana orders without even looking at the menu.

“Twice then,” Erik seconds confidently as if ordering drinks on a luxurious plane is something he does every day. He certainly looks like a rich businessperson in his perfectly fitted suit.

I quickly flip the menu to discover that there’re no prices. All-inclusive?

“Fresh orange juice, please,” I say, uncertain who I should say it to.

The cabin crew is nervously stepping behind the bar, did they even hear me?

“And to eat, Your Majesty?” Cien is suddenly standing next to me.

“Nothing right now,” I shake my head.

Cien purses her lips. Oh, so it wasn’t really a question. I frown.

“An avocado toast looks really good,” Erik leans to me. “Let’s have it, love. Two of those and… let’s get this cheesecake.”

“A mozarella sandwich,” Liana adds to her order. “And that cheesecake as well.”

Cien nods and goes to the bar to tell the crew our order.

“You Celestials don’t have to watch your diet, do you? How lucky!” Bauerova’s wife grins with a hint of playful jealously. “By the way, my name is Elizabeth.”

She doesn’t stretch her hand to me. Instead, she bows. It looks really natural, is she used to it? I guess the Prime Minister’s wife is expected to represent and meet royals from other countries. She’s looking at us curiously but without any disgust. I like her mind. It’s a bit similar to Erik’s, actually.

Bauerova doesn’t beat around the bush so we start right away. She managed to persuade the Bohemian government to support our claims so we’ll be presenting our cause mostly together. Again, I realise how fortunate we are to have her as an ally. Bauerova and Liana are clashing from time to time but in a good competitive way.

“We should get some rest before the conference to minimise jet lag,” Liana states after two hours.

“Definitely,” Bauerova seconds. “I hate these endlessly long flights.”

It’s obvious that only Liana, Bauerova and her wife have experience with transatlantic flights. As for the rest of us, we have no idea what to expect. Is it really going to be as bad as they say?

We return to our compartment. I prefer not to know how expensive this first class is but I’m grateful for the bed right now. I was dreading human seats so this is a big relief. I just hope the rest of our delegation is also reasonably comfortable. Will I ever get use to luxury and stop feeling guilty about enjoying it?

“Just so you know, this isn’t the place and time for sex,” Liana reminds us dryly before she disappears into her own compartment.

Erik sighs and helps me take off the embroidered layer of my robe which is quite heavy and not comfortable to nap in. Then he takes off his jacket and lies down next to me. Cien closes the door to our compartment but I know the privacy is only relative. The walls are paper-thin.

Your telepathy is so handy, especially in situations like this, Erik appreciates. Do you want to sleep right away since cuddling is forbidden?

Yeah, I yawn.

Despite being anxious about upcoming events, I rarely have difficulties sleeping. My brain is always so tired that it takes every opportunity to shut down and rest. Erik hugs me and keeps caressing my feathers until I fall asleep.


“Ryuu, wake up!” Erik shakes me gently. “We’re almost here.”

“W-we are?” I yawn, still half-sleeping.

“Yeah, and you’re the only one who slept through the whole journey,” he laughs.

I stretch my six limbs and sit up. My maid Ayala comes in to quickly comb my hair and adjust my robe while the flight attendant folds the bed back just in time for landing. The long journey I was dreading so much is over and it wasn’t bad at all.

“Now what?” I ask. I was so focused on politics and our agenda that I didn’t even ask about basic organisation.

“We check into our hotel, of course,” Erik answers.

“A normal one with lots of humans?” I get a bit apprehensive.

“A luxury hotel for ambassadors and with maximum security,” he says as if it should have been obvious. “Don’t worry, the government made sure there won’t be regular guests, just other state representatives staying for the conference.”

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Liana greets me when we meet in the corridor. “Although it’s already afternoon here.”

We proceed to the exit and I see Rien talking with his aunt Bauerova. Oh, now that I think about it… Emi intends to take him with her, meaning he won’t return to Europe. I wonder if his parents are worried. I bet they are. Bauerova certainly looks really worried about her nephew.

“Your Majesty, please, talk some sense into him,” the Prime Minister pleads desperately when she notices me. “He’s too young for such an endeavour.”

“I’m twenty-two,” Rien shows off his wolfish teeth in defiance.

“He didn’t even tell his parents about it,” Bauerova cries. “He told me literally just now.”

“Because you would try to stop me, duh,” Rien retorts.

“And what exactly does Aefener have to do with it that you’re asking him?” Emi emerges and looks pissed.

“He’s the Emperor,” Bauerova says simply.

“The Celestial Emperor,” Emi reminds her, annoyed. “I’m Rien’s Supreme Alpha.”

Damn, it happened again. Why the hell do humans think that I somehow represent all Draconians? Just because it’s me who is most visible in the media? I hope this misunderstanding will be finally cleared during the conference.

“Your Majesty, Your Excellency, our escort is waiting,” Miruel informs us impatiently.

“We’ll talk about it at the hotel,” Bauerova concludes for now, refusing to give up.

The guards make a protective formation around us and we exit the plane in a strict order. I can feel the cabin crew is relieved that the flight was without an incident.

I take a deep breath of New York air that feels very different from Prague. My nose isn’t even close to Clawfang and Earthborn sensitivity but my Celestial lungs can tell it’s foreign. Erik stiffens and clutches my hand firmly. He tries to act all confident but he doesn’t feel safe out in the open even if the guards are putting up shields around us.

I look down and see a numerous crowd of people and an avalanche of conflicting human emotions hit me. I try hard to focus on Erik and my fellow Draconians as my safe haven. I realise I stopped being used to perceiving so many humans at once. Since my transformation, I was surrounded mostly by Draconians and my telepathy got even stronger. Will I be okay during the conference?

My feathers stand up a little, mirroring my jarred emotions. The people in suits must be politicians but most of our escort seems to be the army. For the first time ever I’m actually glad to see the press being present as well. The American government shouldn’t try anything funny when the whole world is watching.

Don’t let anything show on your face, Aefener, Liana warns me, brushing her wings against mine so that I can hear her thoughts. I know that you’re scared but we’re safe. They just want to intimidate us.

We slowly descend the stairs and our whole entourage gathers. I thought we took a lot of people, maybe too many, but now I’m starting to think it’s not enough. The Celestial delegation consists of thirty people in total: me, Liana, Luviael, Taranah, Vermiel, Miruel, my maids Ayala and Cien, two Liana’s maids and twenty guards.

Emi brought Rien and her pack, twenty-two people in total. Fefnir took only ten Dragonkin with him since Deminas is bringing the rest. As for the Earthborn, there aren’t any representatives coming with us. Ingri stayed home, and most of the Earhborn left already. The Earthborn delegation is entirely up to Twyla and Werden.

As for the EU representatives, Miss Ortega and Bodin returned to Brussels a week prior to the conference but I have no doubt I’ll see them here. Together with the EU President Bennett I’m not exactly fond of.

“Welcome to New York,” a middle-aged woman in a very formal business suit steps forward to greet us. She has shoulder-length brown hair and piercing brown eyes. “My name is Yasmine Behera and I’ll be taking care of your safety during your visit.”

She offers her hand to all of us but me. I’m grateful for that even though I still don’t feel comfortable with people bowing to me. Emi doesn’t accept the handshake. In a normal formal interaction, it would mean a huge faux pas but it seems Ms Behera simply thinks that it’s a Clawfang custom or something so she doesn’t dwell on it.

I was hoping Emi would mostly overcome her trauma by now. She does like Erik a lot and she even got used to Julia over time. But I was mistaken. While her burning hate for humans isn’t so dramatic anymore, she just doesn’t trust them and maybe she never will.

“Please, follow me,” Ms Behera shows us the way. “We’ll escort you to your hotel.”

I gulp because there’re several cars waiting for us. I was hoping it would be a helicopter again even though that’s not much better. But remembering Liana’s words, I let nothing show on my face. I just clutch Erik’s hand more firmly.

It’ll be okay, Ryuu, he comforts me. Look, they’re limousines so you should have enough space for your wings.

I’m not worried only about that. All those human emotions are getting to me, soaking into my brain. And they aren’t nice emotions at all. I don’t want to claim that all Americans hate Draconians by default but compared to Europeans, they’re definitely more antagonistic towards us in general.

We divide ourselves into cars, Celestials taking limousines out of pure necessity while other races board SUVs. Limousines are supposed to be the epitome of luxury cars but I can’t bring myself to enjoy our generous transport. It’s still a metal box to me and my wings are too big so I take one whole seating area. Erik is able to sit next to me but he can’t lean back. Liana occupies the seat in front of us and Vermiel somehow manages to squeeze next to her so that he can maintain the shield around our car.

I hope I’d be able to relax at least a bit but Yasmine gets into our car, sitting next to the driver and rolling down the window separating us.

“No need to be so wary, we’re monitoring the area we’ll be passing through by police drones,” Ms Behera tells us, eyeing the thin layer of protective shield enveloping the car and trying to act nonchalant about it.

I study her emotions and the overall impression she’s giving off and I come to the conclusion that she’s someone we can’t mess with. She’s not just our assigned escort, Ms Behera probably holds a very important position in the government. Is she from the Department of Homeland Security? I bet that’s the case. Her job is to protect us as much as it’s to keep us in check.

Our cars leave the airport and the moment we enter regular streets, I see it. Protesters. They are lining up on the pavements, holding up signs with various messages against Draconians. Their emotions hit me hard. The sheer amount of hate is overwhelming.

“Uh, I think I’m going to throw up,” my stomach turns upside down.

Fortunately, Erik is ready with a plastic bag. He was keeping one in his pocket ever since our helicopter flight, thinking it might come in handy. It certainly does now.

“Are you okay, Your Majesty?” Ms Behera gets startled and surprisingly even tiny bit worried.

“Just motion sickness,” Liana explains quickly so that our escort won’t get strange ideas. “We don’t cope well with means of transport that are unnatural to us and our Emperor is very sensitive.”

“Oh, I see,” Ms Behera nods and her emotions tell me that she believes us. Well, it’s not like she has any reason not to.

The mood in the States is even worse than we expected, Erik sends me his anxious thought and keeps hugging me to calm me down. Is it too much for you, love?

I clutch his hand in response and try to focus entirely on my partner. If it wasn’t for his presence, I think I would have fainted already from the telepathic overload. How will I hold on during the conference?

There won’t be as many people, Erik is assuring me.

I dare to look out of the window again and watch in horror as a group of human protesters gets into a quarrel with a group of opposing Draconians.

“We have to stop it!” I shriek, terrified.

Liana chews her lip while Ms Behera just tells the driver to go faster.

“We were expecting riots during your visit,” she says, keeping an undisturbed expression even when her mind is anything but that. “Let our police force handle it.”

We pass the rioting group and my heart sinks. How can I do nothing?

Don’t feel responsible for everybody, Ryuu, Erik tells me gently. You’ll do your best for them at the conference.

I try closing my eyes but that makes all those emotions I perceive even more vibrant. It feels like forever but we reach our hotel eventually. I’m wobbly when we finally get out of the car but Erik provides me with his support so skilfully that it doesn’t look that suspicious.

My head is pulsating with a blinding migraine and my guards, quickly hopping out of their cars, take notice that something’s wrong with me immediately. I’m really grateful that they know about my telepathy because they get the gist of what’s going on right away and act.

I hear Ms Behera asking in panic what’s going on but I’m already surrounded by my people who shelter me with their wings so that it’s impossible to see that Erik has to take me into his arms because I start shaking.

Liana speaks on our behalf with Ms Behera and the staff but I focus only on Erik. I can vaguely feel that we get into an elevator and walk somewhere but everything is hazy to me. When my head decides that it wants to shatter me completely, I’m put down on a soft surface. Did we get into our apartment?

“He couldn’t take it?” I hear someone new talking but all I see is Erik and my maids blocking the view.

“We were afraid that might happen,” Liana answers anxiously. “Can you help him somehow? Mitigate his migraine?”

“I can try,” the voice says and the person finally emerges from behind Liana’s wings.

“Werden?!” I blink, not sure if I’m seeing right.

“Yep, that’s me,” the Earthborn King himself smiles. “We arrived a few hours before you so Liana texted me right away that you need a Draconian doctor.”

I’ve seen Werden many times before, of course, but that was only via a screen. He’s even more impressive in person. While he maintained his general facial features so that he stays recognisable even to humans, the rest of his body is augmented beyond recognition.

His hair is non-existent, he grew long thin tentacles instead of it. They appear to be sensory because he keeps stretching them after every little disturbance. He also prolonged his ears so they resemble an elf and he has something very similar to gills on his neck. His skin is dark green and he isn’t wearing any clothes. Instead, he augmented his own skin into protective leafy scales. A true Earthborn.

“Lie down, Ryuu, ale let Werden examine you,” Erik says gently and together with our maids, he helps me out a few layers of my robe.

Werden attaches his rooty palm tentacles to my arm and flinches when I connect to him telepathically. It’s almost impossible for me to resist this automatic instinct of mine when I’m weakened. But he gets used to my telepathy quite quickly and fully connects to my body the Earthborn way as well.

It’s a strange sensation. I’ve experienced it several times before with Ingri and Noage but I still can’t wrap my head around it. I can feel Werden examining my very genetics, looking for clues to my migraine. I can feel him getting excited that he can study my unique DNA. He has to try hard to stay focused on his mission and not to examine me as a whole. It’s the Earthborn quirk, they can’t resist a tempting genetic material.

“I’d call it a telepathic overload,” Werden announces after a while. “I’m afraid there’s no other cure than rest without excessive sensory inputs for a while. Sleep will help.”

I don’t feel like sleeping. I was sleeping on the plane after all but before I can say anything, Werden injects me with something through his tentacles. I want to protest that I didn’t consent to this but soon I’m too weak to do anything else than close my eyes.


The migraine is gone when I regain consciousness but I can still feel that the emotional pressure is much greater than in Liana’s skyscraper. Even though there’re many Draconians in the hotel, humans make most of the guests. It’s going to be a tough week.

“How are you feeling?” Erik asks, leaning over me, and kisses me on my forehead. “Everyone is super worried about you. Those who know about your telepathy twice as much. They’re scared you won’t be able to attend the conference.”

“I’m much better now,” I assure him and slowly sit up.

I rub my eyes and inspect the bedroom. It’s huge, twice as big as the one we have in the skyscraper. I’m lying on a king size bed which is really comfortable but I wish it would be even bigger, my wings won’t fit fully.

“We’re in a presidential suite and it’s still not enough for you?” Erik laughs and massages my sore wing muscles. Then he gets serious again. “Ryuu, are you sure you’ll manage?”

“If I’m not forced to go through the whole city again,” I say, uncertain. “I’ll fly to the conference building as far from humans as possible and I won’t hear otherwise.”

“Liana thought as much,” he nods. “To be honest, they also don’t want to repeat that journey. Besides, the Celestial delegation arriving at the venue in the Celestial style would be very impressive so I have no doubt you’ll be allowed.”

“What time is it anyway?”

“Five in the morning,” he informs me. “Jet-lag is a bitch. I slept for a few hours when you did but my inner clock is confused just as they say. What about you? How can you sleep so much anyway?”

“My brain is always exhausted I guess,” I shrug. “But don’t let Werden do that again to me, I hate not being in control.”

“We had to, you were seriously hurting, Ryuu,” Erik sighs sadly. “You scared us, even Ms Behera seemed deeply concerned. She was evidently made responsible for our safety.”

“Was I suspicious?” I ask, worried.

“Not really, Liana told her that you’re just not feeling well after the long journey. Only,” Erik clicks his tongue, “it’s now kind of obvious that Celestial weaknesses have a heavier toll on you. We were trying to hide that fact.”

“At least next time I’m not feeling well, they’ll already know that my body is frail so they shouldn’t pry that much,” I wave my hand.

“We don’t want any next time, we should prevent you developing migraines in the first place,” Erik says with resolve. “Luckily, there should be lots of Draconians at that conference. Can’t you focus on them or something?”

“I’ll certainly do just that,” I nod and look around. “Where’s my laptop? I imagine some work must have piled up.”

“You should take all the rest you can, hon,” he shakes his head. “What about a nice morning meditation?”

“You’re still afraid I won’t manage the conference,” I frown.

“We are, naturally,” he doesn’t try to hide his worries. “How about you practice now?”

I roll my eyes that he’s forcing me into it but he has a point. I fold my legs into a proper meditation posture, straighten my back, spread the wings to the sides and close my eyes.

“Focus on me… your friends… your fellow Draconians,” Erik guides me, caressing my wings. “Others don’t matter so stop paying attention to them. They’re like ambient sound.”

When I focus, emotions all around me intensify so meditation is a double-edged sword. I try focusing solely on the Draconians in the building. Most of them are sleeping, the guards are patrolling and some are suffering from jet lag. I can also feel many Draconian telepathic imprints that are new to me, no doubt Twyla and Werden’s Earthborn delegation and Deminas with his entourage.

“See? You’re surrounded by friends,” Erik hugs me. “Forget humans and focus on them. And me, of course.”

“Focusing on you is sometimes distracting,” I open my eyes again.

“I’m well aware,” he chuckles. “Say…,” he slips his hand between my wings. “Since neither of us can sleep anymore and there’s still time until breakfast, do you feel like using this presidential bed for something naughty?”

“Aren’t be both too nervous for that?” I ask but I can feel that Erik got horny already.

How can he get excited like that when we’re so far from home and our first meeting starts in a few hours?

“Because I don’t allow my head interfere with my down parts,” he grins, sensing what is going through my head right now because we’re touching. “You’re thinking too much, hon.”

“I am,” I admit and let his excitement channel to me.

Erik is the best aphrodisiac for a telepath like me. I can get aroused through him. We start cuddling and when I connect to him at the deepest levels, I stop being bothered by all those humans around me. If he’s by my side, I should manage somehow. And there’s also Liana, I love connecting to her as well. I’ll be okay.

After making love, we stay in each other’s embrace for a little longer. Erik is so relaxed that he even falls asleep. I’m glad for that, he needs to rest. I suspect he was awake most of that time I was sleeping. I use this time to enjoy him, staring at his handsome face and caressing his hair. He mumbles something in his sleep which is ultimately cute and grabs my left wing to cover himself. He’s totally used to using my wings instead of a blanket.

The magical moment is interrupted after an hour or so by soft knocking at the door and Erik wakes up immediately. He was always a light sleeper. He yawns, claiming that he had a good nap, and stands up. I admire how he can be so energetic right away. As for me, I usually need several minutes to get out of bed.

“Your Majesty, are you okay?”

“Should we call the Earthborn King to check up on you?”

Our maids Cien and Ayala storm the room and Erik doesn’t even flinch anymore. He accepted their presence as inevitable. He disappears into the bathroom while the maids start the long process of putting a ceremonial robe on me after I assure them that I’m fine and well-rested.

“Wait, I’ll fly in that?” I realise.

“I’m afraid you will have to,” Ayala shrugs. “There won’t be time or space to change from a flying robe.”

“We packed several models that were made in advance specially for the conference,” Cien boasts, showing me the embroidered fabric. “Naturally, you and Your Excellency can’t be seen in the same clothes more once during the event.”

Who makes such ridiculous social rules? I bet Emi won’t bother with that. Erik returns freshly shaven and with his hair styled and also puts on a new three-piece suit. It’s super formal but at the same time super stylish. There are times I can’t believe how handsome my boyfriend is.

“We couldn’t be more different,” he bursts laughing when he looks at me.

I’m wearing a five-layered ceremonial robe and the maids partly braided my ridiculously long hair into a complicated knot with an ornamented hairpin. I look like someone straight out of historical Asian dramas while Erik is the embodiment of a stylish contemporary man out of fashion magazines.

“I love you in a suit,” I flatter him.

“And I love you in a princess dress,” he smirks.

“For the thousandth time, it’s not a princess dress,” I oppose but let him kiss me.

It’s a tiny distraction, we’re both delaying the inevitable. We have to get out of our apartment and face the world. Literally. Breakfast comes first, though. The first hurdle. Nothing is simple at an international conference, not even eating because all the guests we meet in a hotel restaurant will be state representatives.

“Finally!” Liana exclaims instead of a greeting, impatiently stepping in the hall and waiting for us. “Did you manage to get enough sleep? How are you feeling, Aefener? We were worried that you won’t… you know…”

“Good morning to you, too,” Erik raises his eyebrows because she blurted all of that with one breath.

“I’m fine, really,” I say and study her dress.

Celestial fashion doesn’t really distinguish gender, it’s all up to a person’s preference. For this occasion, Liana surprisingly decided to go for a model with brighter colours and narrowed cut. Well, she can afford it, her figure is perfect. I’d look too skinny in such a cut so my robes are loose on purpose.

Our guards form a protective circle around us and we get into the elevator, half of the guards riding in advance to secure the perimeter downstairs. Liana touches my wing with hers and not necessarily because of the lack of space.

Nervous? she sends me her thought so that our guards don’t know what we’re talking about. I’m sure they must know we’re talking telepathically, though, and I hope we’re not being rude. Vermiel, who rides with us, doesn’t seem bothered at all and just winks at us knowingly.

Anxious beyond imagining, I admit.

Emi and Deminas departed just five minutes before us, we’ll be mostly among friends, she assures me. Luviael, Twyla and Werden are there since seven to make sure our food is safe.

You expect poison? Erik gulps, joining our conversation because he can hear Liana through me.

Not really, it would mean disaster even to humans if one of the rules got murdered, she shakes her head. But giving an unpopular politician stomach-ache on purpose isn’t unheard of. I don’t think they would do that to us but still. Better be safe than sorry.

Human emotions intensify when we leave floors designated for Draconian delegations. I instinctively clutch Erik’s hand firmer and I also grab Liana’s because her Celestial mind is also very soothing to me.

Not very royal I’m afraid, my Viceroy sighs but clutches me back in comfort. I’m sorry, Aefener, but we can’t afford to show any weakness. Will you be okay with visibly holding only Erik and touching my wings whenever we’re close enough?

Hopefully? I say but I know I don’t sound certain. I mean… I was managing quite fine before the Great Evolution. Maybe I’m just nervous?

Your telepathy did get stronger, hon, Erik reminds me. And you have a Celestial brain now so it won’t be the same as before. We have to be careful.

Suddenly, Vermiel steps closer to us, as if he couldn’t stand anymore to be left out of the silent conversation, and touches my wing with his.

Your Majesty, I think it’s better if you don’t talk about your telepathy here at all, he says, dead serious. While we checked all our rooms thoroughly, public spaces are most probably bugged. Please, do talk aloud as much as possible when it comes to mundane stuff, so that it’s not suspicious you’re too quiet, but never mention your special ability even if you think no one else is listening.

Vermiel is right, Liana agrees. And you two be especially careful, you don’t talk enough when you’re next to each other.

I bite my lip. Nobody knows about me being able to channel my thoughts to Erik long-distance, not even her. We have to be twice as careful then.

The elevator stops and there’s Ms Behera waiting for us. Will she watch our every move during the visit? Did other race rulers also get their watchers?

“Do you feel better, Your Majesty?” she asks right away.

I have no idea why she’s so concerned about me. Wouldn’t it be better for humans if I was indisposed and couldn’t attend the conference?

On the contrary, it would be bad for everybody. Don’t forget that you’re the only one Celestials are willing to obey without a question, Liana clarifies. She let go of my hand a second before the elevator door opened but we’re standing so close that our wings are touching.

“I’m okay now, I just wasn’t feeling well because of the long travel and jet lag,” I say quickly.

“I see,” Ms Behera is genuinely relieved. “We have two hours for breakfast, then we have to depart. Her Excellency informed me already that you won’t be using cars this time which, honestly, gave me several wrinkles, but we should manage with drones following you.”

She shows us the way and I notice that the halls are full of security guards and soldiers. Are they here to protect us or monitor? Possibly both. I can feel their tension, they’re staring at us with strong emotions of fear, disgust but also envy in some cases.

As expected, all eyes are on us the moment we appear in the restaurant. Although many Draconians got here before us, we still get most attention. I hope I’m not crushing Erik’s hand too obviously. Human delegates are whispering to each other and stare. I see a few of them trying to chat with Draconians but everyone is mainly keeping their distance for now.

“Your Majesty, here!” Bauerova is waving at us frantically, occupying one of the big tables near the windows. Her wife is with her, wearing a bright yellow dress and looking exceedingly positive.

I was never more relieved to see a friendly human face so we happily head to their table before I even get the chance to see where other race rulers are sitting. Well, we can always socialise over coffee later. Now it’s important that we’re seen in a friendly interaction with humans.

“We’re really sorry about the chairs,” Luvi joins us. “We were trying to get you something more comfortable but their bar chairs were too high. At least Queen Twyla made sure that the food is absolutely safe.”

“That’s okay, thanks anyway,” Liana appreciates and sits down next to the Czech Prime Minister.

I’m seated next to my Viceroy and I expect Erik to sit to my left but Luviael is quicker. Erik doesn’t seem surprised, though. He kisses me into my hair and sits next to Bauerova’s wife.

Sorry, it was decided beforehand and I didn’t want to stress you, Erik sends me his thought long-distance. I’m supposed to bond with Elizabeth. But we can still talk at least like this. Connect to Liana and your adjutant to calm down, they’re waiting for it.

I’m not happy that I wasn’t told all the details again but I resist sighing and look at the plate someone just put in front of me. What the hell?! Who dares to draw a heart symbol with ketchup on my egg omelette?

“Prepared with love,” the waiter adds cheekily, still standing behind me for some reason.

I blink, confused. What kind of sentence instead of the usual enjoy your meal is that? Isn’t he afraid of me? I look up with a frown and in that exact moment the waiter leans down and brushes me with his wings.

“I’m at your service, Your Majesty. All yours,” Gotrid grins, gently takes my right hand and kisses it.