I’m staring at the heligorr and, surprisingly, my panic mitigates. I still can’t believe it but I instinctively know what I have to do. I take a deep breath and with a little focus, I’m pretty sure I can point towards the source of that disturbance we’re all feeling.
My Celestial nature kicks in full force, ready for a battle. My Emperor’s nature follows, ready to give orders. I don’t have time to analyse the situation or ponder how such a thing is even possible. All I know is that we have to stop it.
“You three stay here to protect my partner,” I assign two guards and Cien, “the rest departs immediately,” I command and my voice is absolutely firm. Just in case, I release my mana to make Celestials obey me without protests. Not that I really need it, the idea of not listening to their Emperor doesn’t even cross their minds.
“Ryuu!” Erik clutches my hand, terrified. He’s slowly realising what I’m about to do. He twitches when he tastes my mind. I’m not making even the tiniest effort to feel more human to him right now but he doesn’t let go of my hand. I love him for that.
“Your Majesty, we’re ready when you are,” Liana addresses me with my title but this time I don’t mind, it feels appropriate. Her eyes are burning with readiness.
“Emi, Deminas, Twyla, Werden,” I turn to other race rulers. “Do you know where to go? Can you feel its direction? It’s not very far. We’ll try to hold it until you get there.”
They all nod, swiftly instructing their own forces.
“Love!” Erik shouts at me desperately when I push him to the guards. It breaks my heart because I promised him I won’t do it again but there’s no other way.
“I need to keep you safe,” I whisper. “I’m sorry, but you won’t be of any use in a battle. Try to keep everyone calm here, please.”
We have to go, a second lost might mean another innocent civilian killed. Windows in these super modern air-conditioned buildings usually can’t be opened so I decide to shatter them with telekinesis. The delegates scream but I safely steer the shards away. Then I jump, spread my wings and take off with one mighty flap.
I love you and I’ll come back to you, I send Erik one last thought before we’re out of range.
Our coordination is perfect. We immediately form a neat squadron with me, Liana and Gotrid in the centre and there’s no hesitation in the minds of my subjects. Questions will have to wait, now we need to focus solely on the quest awaiting us. Despite confusion and disbelief, I find myself feeling excited for the upcoming battle and so are my friends.
I’m really grateful to Cien that she forced me to eat so much in the morning. I’ll need those calories. Dammit, I shouldn’t have skipped dinner even if I didn’t have any appetite yesterday. I make a quick promise to myself to eat better in future. It never occurred to me before that my eating peculiarity could jeopardise anything. But it can, I see it now.
I look at Gotrid flying next to me and he looks back with a mixture of excitement and fear. I feel both relieved to have him by my side and worried that he might get hurt. Still, there was no chance he would listen to me if I ordered him to stay with Erik. Celestials have to obey my commands unless it concerns my protection and I bet he would justify it as being there to protect me.
My love, whatever happens, Gotrid sends me his thoughts. I hope you understand that our priority is to protect our Emperor. Should the battle go wrong, we’ll do anything to get you to safety.
Noted, I answer to calm him down because I was expecting it anyway.
“Shit, it’s really a heligorr!” Miruel shouts when the monster becomes visible.
“Damn, it’s huge!” Taranah gasps for air.
The monster is as big as three elephants but this is where the similarity ends. Its mouth is full of spiky teeth in three rows, it has four eyes, two in front, two at back, black thick skin, six legs and a shell on its back. Its pincers resemble a crab but only remotely.
I see several police cars around it. The police officers are firing at the monster and trying to get people to safety. But their weapons have little effect, bullets cannot pierce its thick skin and even thicker shell and even if they hit its legs, they don’t do any damage.
“Vermiel, fly to the police and tell them to get out of here,” I order. “Miruel, Taranah, shield the civilians. The rest of us will focus on dealing damage.”
“Heligorrs are vulnerable to ice, they hate the cold,” Gotrid recalls. “If they’re the same as in the game…”
“We also hate the cold,” Liana reminds everyone. “Let’s be careful with our spells. We’re not losing anyone, do you understand? And protect our Emperor at all costs!”
We descent and it’s as if the monster can sense our mana. It looks up, stops attacking civilians and turns its attention to us.
“Acid spit!” Taranah warns us because he recognises heligorr’s posture.
Fortunately, it cannot reach that high but as the spit drops down again, it starts falling onto the police officers. Vermiel quickly casts a protective shield above them, shouting to get the hell out of here. They finally start running away.
I make sure that there’s no chance I might hit humans accidentally and cast the biggest ice spike I can at my current level. I send it falling on the heligorr and it lands on its hard shell with a loud thud but except for angering the monster and scratching its shell, it doesn’t do much.
“We need to attack its head,” Liana suggests. “The shell is too hard to break with our current skills.”
Everyone starts conjuring smaller ice spikes and throwing them on the monster’s head. They hit more often than not and the heligorr seems to hate the cold but we still don’t do much damage. We try aiming at those four eyes but it’s as if its eye lids are iron.
And then the heligor takes a nearby car into its pincers and throws it at us, just like that. We’re hovering fifty metres above so it seems impossible but the car reaches us and shatters two of our shields. One of the royal guards gets thrown away because of the shock wave but, fortunately, she manages to catch her balance again.
We try to distract it by flying around in circles and while the heligorr does have four eyes, it has only two front pincers it can use to grab things. Still, our shields keep shattering one by one. In the game, a heligorr was a level 20 monster found in dungeons as a floor boss. No easy task for beginners.
Unlike the game, however, we can be much more flexible here. We’re not bound by pre-programmed environment that won’t allow certain things and we can combine our skills in creative ways. I’m confident we can defeat it.
Li, look out!!! I warn her telepathically because the heligorr spits again in her direction while she’s trying to help Taranah get a human from under the rubble. The heligorr is smarter than it looks. We were trying to make it busy but it still went after our momentarily weakest link.
Liana’s eyes widen when she hears my telepathic message but she evades in time and creates a shield above Taranah who finally manages to telekinetically lift the debris and free the person underneath.
I realise that I revealed my little secret just now but I had no other choice, Liana wouldn’t hear me otherwise, it was too noisy to shout. And I don’t mind really, what’s some stupid secret in comparison to saving my best friend? At least I could test that it works with my Viceroy as well because I wasn’t sure.
“Oh no!” Vermiel cries because he spots smaller figures starting to crawl from behind the building to our left.
“Filandras?!” I open my mouth, shocked by another type of monster appearing.
Filandras are rat-like monsters, not really that dangerous but quite big and they always attack in huge numbers. We’re safe from them in the air but there’re still people scattered around the place, too hurt to move or trapped. Filandras might be mere pests for Draconians but serious threat for humans who have no means to defend themselves.
Just as I’m about to panic that we won’t be able to save everyone, I hear a battle roar and it’s lovely music to my ears. Emi and her pack arrive, running faster than a car in city traffic. They got here just in time!
“Aefener, focus on the heligorr, keep it busy and leave filandras to us!” she shouts at me. “The Dragonkin should be here in five minutes, they aren’t such fast runners.”
I feel relief that I can focus on the heligorr again. In the game, a medium-level Dragonkin with a hammer could crack its shell but no such luck here. We need a different strategy. It would be handy if I could lift off the heligorr so that it can’t do any damage with its legs and pincers but the monster doesn’t even budge when I try. It must weigh at least 12 000 kilos.
“What about sucking all air around its head?” Gotrid suggests when another ice spike of his gets shattered, just scarring its skin a bit. We’re gradually becoming exhausted, we have to end it quickly or we’ll run out of mana.
“It can hold breath for hours,” I shake my head. “I’ll try to freeze its head completely in one go but you’d need to hold it for at least three minutes while I’m preparing the spell. I’m afraid it’ll focus its attacks on me when I do. I suspect it can sense when we activate our mana circuit.”
“Protective formation around His Majesty!” Gotrid commands the fleet, gets in front of me and casts another shield just in case. He becomes my last line of defence. I just hope it won’t come to that.
I take a deep breath and start casting the spell. I’m not sure if I can actually manage to pull it off because ice barrier is a level 20 spell but I need to try. I should have enough mana so it’s just a matter of whether I can channel it efficiently and create such an elaborate transfiguration symbol with my current level which is about 15 at the moment.
In the game, the system wouldn’t even let you attempt a skill above your level but there’s no such limitation here. The only limitation now is our own mana capacity, channelling technique, knowledge of a specific spell and the ability to execute it properly. Which is, in fact, much harder than in the game even though one limitation disappeared.
Celestials are elemental mages. We can control any element except for the earth which is the Earthborn territory, obviously. But while we can freeze the water, we have to be aware that it’s still our racial weakness and not let it get too close to us. Even the transfiguration symbol that materialises as a hologram in front of me gives off chilly air that makes me uncomfortable.
I get startled when one of the shields around me breaks because the heligorr does focus all its attacks on me now but Miruel has two more in place and is immediately restoring the broken one. I have to trust my friends and not be distracted.
That’s the problem with complex magic—it requires a long preparation and absolutely no interruptions. I focus again and the symbol gets stronger. I decide to put two more minor transfigurations inside to strengthen it and feel my mana being quickly depleted. Can I finish the spell before running out of fuel?
I chew my lip. I do have much bigger mana capacity than the rest of Celestials but my problem is that I just don’t eat enough. I don’t have any fat I could burn. Although my very body cells are full of mana—and that’s what makes me the embodiment of magic I guess—it would endanger my life to channel it from there so I have only my mana circuit just like any other Celestial. Or… not?
Wait a second! Gotrid and the others claimed that my mana in monstruous, they can’t mean the mana in my cells, right? Oh, I’m so stupid! There’s another source, an outrageously rich one. My wings! Unlike normal Celestials, I have the unique ability to store mana my circuit produces in my feathers! How could I forget about it?
I try harnessing that power, channel it to strengthen the spell and… it does work! The transfiguration symbol finally shines bright blue as it should and is ready to deploy.
“Now!” I shout at Gotrid who makes an evasive manoeuvre so that he’s not in the way and I throw the spell at the heligorr.
It has emotions I realise a second before the spell hits its head. They’re primitive and crude but it does feel. The heligorr experiences dread and panic as it senses instinctively that it’s going to die. But I don’t feel sorry for it, that’s not in my Celestial nature. We’re in the battle and it’s my enemy. It hurt and killed many innocent people. It deserves to be eradicated.
I mercilessly seal the spell and heligorr’s head turns into a huge cube of ice. The monster desperately tries to break the ice with its pincers but it’s futile. This is no mere ice crust; I froze every cell in its head instantly. Its last attempt is just a bodily twitch, nothing more.
The monster… is dead.
I gulp. I needed protection while casting but, in the end, I killed it single-handedly. I feel proud about myself, I get a dopamine rush and my Celestial nature is overjoyed. But I also realise that I’m potentially much more dangerous than some heligorr. And that was just a level 20 spell, nothing to brag about if Draconia was still a game.
Humans have every right to fear me. To fear Draconians. It’s in their best interest to want peace because war would be devastating to them, not us. Sure, no shield can probably protect against a nuclear bomb but Draconians don’t have a country humans could attack. We’re scattered all over the world, we live everywhere. And that’s what makes humans uneasy the most.
“You did it, Your Majesty!” Celestials start flying around me in a joyful victory dance.
It might be too early to celebrate but as I look down, I see that the Dragonkin finally arrived as well and are decimating filandras side by side with Clawfangs. I’m impresses seeing Fefnir literally tearing one monster apart with brute force of his hands. Giving them proper swords, they would be unstoppable.
But it’s no time to relax yet. While I don’t sense any new monsters emerging, I feel the pain of injured people all around me and it’s maddening. I might be the best Celestial battle mage but, first and foremost, I’m an empath. I can’t help feeling compassion towards people, regardless of whether they are my race or not.
“We have to help them!” I say urgently and head down.
I land neatly but my legs give in the moment they touch the pavement and I end up on my knees, panting. I’m more exhausted than I thought now that I’m not so pumped up with adrenaline. And I’m starving.
“My love!” Gotrid lands just a second after me and goes for a comforting hug. “Here, eat this.”
He fishes a protein bar out of his robe and I have never been more grateful for food in my entire life. I gobble it in a matter of seconds.
“Cien gave it to me this morning just in case you skip a meal again,” he explains with a smile and is caressing my wings. “We did it, love! We killed it! You killed it!”
“Is His Majesty okay? Gosh, that must have taken a ton of mana,” Taranah lands next. “A level 20 ice barrier? Amazing!”
“Just tired and hungry,” Gotrid assures him and everyone else because all Celestials go for landing one by one, worried sick about me.
When sugar from the bar gets into my blood stream, I feel immediately better. I still need a proper meal as soon as possible but at least I’m able to stand up again.
I shudder when I look around. The heligorr wreaked a havoc and the street is full of dead humans. But there’re also a lot of people we saved and should be okay when given medical attention. I see Fefnir taking a heavy pole off a person buried under it. It’s a young woman and looks about my age. Probably still a student.
“I can’t feel my legs,” she’s crying.
My eyes get teary when I fully realise the gravity of what just happened. These innocent people were attacked by a monster from our game! How is that even possible? Will it happen again? And what if it’s somehow our fault? But I don’t have time to ponder when there’re people suffering around me.
“You’ll be okay,” I hurry to the woman and catch her hand. Her pain and fear overwhelm me for a second but I don’t flinch. “Don’t be scared, we can surely heal you.”
“Your Majesty,” the woman keeps crying and is freaking out that the Celestial Emperor is touching her but otherwise it seems she trusts me. I let her pet my feathers to calm her down while I active a transfiguration symbol for a level 15 healing, hoping it’ll work on a spine injury. But as I’m about to apply it to her, a hand lands on my shoulder.
“Leave healing to us, Aefener, you’ve done enough.”
It’s Werden, the Earthborn have finally arrived. Unfortunately, being slow when it comes to movement is their racial weakness. Celestials can fly, Clawfangs can run really fast and the Dragonkin have great stamina so they can also run reasonably well. The Earthborn were the only ones who had to use cars to get here. But that’s fine, their powers will be most useful after the battle anyway.
“Hello, young lady,” Werden kneels and takes her hand instead of me. “Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s nothing our Earthborn healing wouldn’t be able to mend. You’re hurting too much, I’ll put to sleep, okay? When you wake up again, you’ll be in hospital and in need of some rehabilitation but you should feel your legs just fine.”
“Thank you,” the woman sighs out in relief. She believes every single word Werden said and Werden himself is confident about his abilities. He can really mend a broken spine!
“My darling, King Werden is right, let’s leave healing to the Earthborn. We’re too exhausted anyway,” Gotrid pulls me up.
I hug him tight because my head spins. I feel light-headed because of starvation and the emotions all around are starting to overwhelm me. But I have him with me and finding refuge in his mind helps a lot.
“This thing,” Deminas is curiously knocking on the heligorr’s shell, “do you think we could turn it into useful materials for crafting?”
“I’m afraid secret services will be here soon and confiscate the monster for research,” Liana has to disappoint him and glances at me with narrowed eyes. I guess we’ll have a serious conversation about my levelled-up telepathy when we return.
“Eh? No way, we’re taking it,” Deminas frowns. “We need that chitin.”
I watch him, astonished, as he orders his subjects to start peeling the heligorr out of its shell. I have to turn around because the sight of it makes my stomach turn upside down. Celestials never used parts of dead monsters, not even when Draconia was still a game. It seems we won’t be starting that now either.
Then federal agents start arriving. Ms Behera with the army shows up as well and also damage control, paramedics and the media. Humans are running all over the place: taking care of the wounded, freaking out over dead monsters, documenting and interrogating witnesses.
The Dragonkin don’t let anyone get even close to the dead heligorr so agents are twice as anxious. They try to disperse the onlookers but we’re in the middle of New York and people are watching from office buildings, slowly getting out of shops where they hid and everyone is holding their phone.
The government officials aren’t brave enough to antagonise Draconians in any way. We killed the beast while their police couldn’t do anything. The Earthborn are cooperating closely with paramedics and I see Emi carrying a little boy who got separated from his parents. Not even she with her hate for humanity is indifferent towards children.
The paramedics are astonished by what the Earthborn can do. Doctors are watching in disbelief as broken bones and open wounds are being mended in front of their eyes and firefighters are in genuine admiration with Dragonkin strength and fire-proof scales.
“Your Excellency, please,” Ms Behera approaches us, pleading. “We need samples but the Dragonkin won’t let us near that crab monster.”
“They just want the chitin, you can have the rest for research,” Liana assures her. “Did any street camera catch the moment those monsters started appearing?”
“We have no idea how such a thing is even possible!” Ms Behera is freaking out.
“It doesn’t seem any less possible than us turning into fantasy races,” Liana says impatiently. “Do have the recording or not?”
“We’re just processing the request,” Ms Behera gulps and looks around again, horrified. “This is insane… insane!!!”
“Your Majesty, eat this,” Luvi is suddenly shoving a hot dog and a can of iced coffee into my hands. “It’s vegetarian and one of the Earthborn checked it so it’s safe to eat.”
“W-what?” I don’t understand how she came by food but I take a bite immediately. My body desperately needs calories.
“I got it from there, desperate times call for desperate measures,” Luvi points towards an abandoned food stand.
I take another bite. It’s just cheap street food, nothing that my subjects would serve me in a normal situation, but it tastes heavenly.
“Want some?” I offer the hot dog to Gotrid because I can sense that he’s also quite hungry even though his hunger isn’t as urgent and doesn’t make him dizzy.
He politely shakes his head and keeps caressing my feathers until I finish eating. When he feels I’m stronger and hopefully won’t faint, only then he opens his wings and lets me face the commotion again.
My subjects don’t want to let me but I insist I want keep helping. I entrust dealing with agents to Liana and focus on helping people who weren’t hurt themselves but were still affected. Every stressed-out person we help means less telepathic strain on my brain. I’m somehow managing only because Gotrid is constantly touching me so I can stay connected to him.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
A man who had his shop damaged by the heligorr thanks me when I use telekinesis to get the shards of his broken shopping window away and use my healing powers on his dog that got cut. No paramedic would bother with a pet right now but I’m not indifferent towards animal suffering either.
“You know,” the shopkeeper speaks up shyly when I’m about to leave to help another person. “I was against you.”
I slowly turn around and study his face. He’s a man in his fifties and I notice a little cross on a necklace around his neck. He’s feeling bewildered, scared, still in a shock and doesn’t really understand what just happened. And right now he’s talking to the Celestial Emperor who was just a very distant figure from the media until now. The idea of meeting me in person was unthinkable for him.
“But you’re kind,” he continues. “You might be alien but you’re no monster. I’ve met a monster today and it wasn’t you.”
“Ehm… thank you?” I’m not sure how to react.
“You mess with my beliefs, though,” he nervously plays with the cross. “Because right now I’m looking at angels. It’s too much to digest, to be honest.”
“You can take your time,” I say softly, “we don’t want to force anyone to understand right away because we’re still figuring things out for ourselves but… maybe… don’t hate us just because?”
The man is staring at me for a long while, thinking frantically.
“That might be a good start,” he nods in the end.
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