Chapter 58:

58. Panic Escape

Draconia Offline

Being forcefully woken up is never a nice experience. Erik is trying his best to be gentle but he disturbs my deep sleep so I wake up disoriented and groggy. We went to bed immediately after we returned to the hotel and had dinner yesterday but I still feel like I didn’t get enough rest.

“What’s the time?” I groan, unwilling to open my eyes just yet.

“Five thirty,” he starts tickling me under my feathers. “Sorry, love, but the night guards woke us because the situation demands it. Monsters appeared in Europe a few minutes ago.”

I’m suddenly wide awake, quickly sit up and accidentally hit Gotrid with my wings. But he’s not annoyed at all and gives me a good morning kiss. I calm down a bit. For a second, I thought that I have to solve everything myself—such is my Emperor’s nature I guess—but that’s not true. I have my partners and other people I can rely on.

“Dress me immediately,” I order my maids because they’re waiting at the door anyway.

It seems I was the last person they woke up. All the guards are on the highest alert, I sense Liana working in her apartment and my partners are already dressed. What the…?

“It’s more efficient that way,” Gotrid answers my unspoken question. “Now we can focus on quickly taking care of you while you had a few more minutes to sleep. You’re the one who needs to be well rested in order to make important decisions.”

I resist arguing with them, run off to wash my face and let my maids dress me. My today’s robe is dark violet with golden ornaments, really pretty and royal. I want to speed the process but Ayala and Cien insist I need to look my best and spend the usual amount of time combing and styling my ridiculously long hair.

“It happened in Greece,” Liana blurts out the moment we meet in the hall.

“How many casualties?” I gulp and clutch Erik’s hand.

“Four, it was only low-level monsters this time and a few Clawfangs who were nearby managed to put them down rather quickly,” she summarises for me.

I shiver. Four is still four too many. Four people who didn’t have to die. If my father is somehow responsible for this, then he’s a psychopathic criminal and he needs to answer for it.

“We have to get to the UN headquarters under thirty minutes,” Vermiel tries to hurry us. “The other representatives are already on their way.”

“If we start arguing about political bullshit again…,” I frown.

“I doubt that, not this time,” Liana shakes her head. “We need to agree on specific steps how to deal with the threat, there won’t be any sugar-coating and nonsense.”

“Gosh, I’d kill for a cup of coffee,” Gotrid cries.

“You’ll have quick breakfast once we get there,” Cien assures us.

“Emi didn’t return at all?” I notice that I don’t feel her in the hotel. That’s strange, where did she sleep? I hope she’s okay.

“No idea,” Vermiel waves his hand and makes it clear that their only interest is me, their Emperor.

“What took you so long?” Deminas is waiting for us in the lobby. His wife Anya isn’t with him. He either let her sleep or didn’t take her with him on purpose in order to protect her.

No such luck with Erik, he simply wouldn’t let me leave him here. But I’m actually glad for that. We’re going into a political battle, not real combat, so I don’t have to fear for his safety. Besides, I’ll need all the support I can get and having a proactive partner is definitely a plus. Erik senses what goes through my head right now and give me a reassuring smile.

“His Majesty was exhausted after the battle, Celestials need to sleep much longer than the Dragonkin,” Gotrid purses his lips at Deminas while I decide to just ignore his rude remark.

“Fefnir, hi, I didn’t see you much yesterday,” I greet my old friend who’s standing by his Patriarch.

“I was in charge of transporting that chitin,” Fefnir grins at me proudly. “Exciting, right? If innocent people weren’t killed, I’d enjoy it.”

“Exciting isn’t the word I’d use,” Erik murmurs, quite disturbed.

But I actually understand Fefnir, I really do. The battle yesterday was both scary and exciting. If I wasn’t worried about the civilians, I’d also enjoy casting high-level spells and coming up with a strategic plan. I don’t admit it in front of Erik, though. He wouldn’t get it.

“Any idea where Emi is?” I ask Fefnir.

“Oh, she didn’t return?” he scratches his scaly chin. “The last time I saw her she was telling me that she’s going to meet Clawfang packs living in New York. I bet she stayed with them. Don’t worry about her, she can take care of herself and she has her pack. I think she pretty much ditched politics by now anyway.”

Ditched politics—what luxury! Emi is lucky her race is so carefree. There’s no such thing as ditching politics for Celestials. Other races are probably right; we are intellectual snobs.

I kiss Erik who joins Deminas while we prepare to take off in front of the hotel. Despite the early hour, the parking lot is in an uproar with drowsy delegates quickly getting on their transport. Ms Behera isn’t here to check on us this time, I bet she’s too busy and we finally earned some of their trust so they eased our surveillance.

We spread our wings and get into the air. The journey goes as usual, we get higher up so that the city isn’t so draining on my brain. The flight is relaxing whether we feel like it in the moment or not—I guess it’s the combination of exercise, fresh air and dopamine.

“Hold!” Vermiel suddenly stops our squadron and makes us hover.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, confused. It’s still a bit dark and Celestials don’t see that well in the dark, our eyes are adjusted to bright sun. But Vermiel must have spotted something.

Gotrid automatically flies in front of me just in case. Liana takes my right side, Taranah my left, Miruel goes behind me and Ayala below. They form a protective circle around me.

And then I feel it—sentient minds, hundreds of them. No, thousands even? What the hell is happening? I finally make out countless small dots in the sky which are growing bigger and soon I recognise those figures have wings. Celestials are coming from all directions.

I shouldn’t be afraid. I mean, these are my people. But the sight of it makes me uneasy. What are they doing here? Will they feel about me the same way as my closest subjects? What if they won’t? But the other prospect is even scarier: What if they will?

The flock reaches us and there’re countless winged-people everywhere. I don’t feel any bad intentions but it’s evident they intentionally blocked our way. We’re surrounded.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Liana shouts authoritatively. “You’re obstructing our official state business. We have an important governmental meeting.”

One Celestial man leaves the flock and flies to the hearing distance. He has grey wings with a black pattern, short blond hair and a face with sharp but quite handsome features. He might be around the same age as Liana and the predominant trait I’m catching from him is headstrong. His wing colour and pattern seem somehow familiar.

“We come in peace,” the man declares. “Although not without demands, esteemed Viceroy.”

“You dare to demand something? Now? When the world is in crisis?” Liana gets angry. “How did you even find us?”

“We came to claim our Emperor,” the man says simply. “And we can feel where our embodiment of magic is at any time. Don’t you? Or are you selfishly never leaving his side so you didn’t notice?”

I blink several times, not quite understanding. What did he just say? Maybe I’m just not as wide awake as I thought I was.

“We wanted to wait after the conference so that His Majesty can do his job without us interfering,” the man continues. “But there’s no point in kindly waiting now, not after yesterday. You can obstruct us no longer, Viceroy. You were deaf to our pleads and this is the result. We’re done being patient.”

Liana hisses and bites her lip.

“Li? What is he talking about?” I frown because I can sense that Liana is hiding something. Unlike me, she knows exactly what he’s talking about.

“You’re Soren, aren’t you?” she wrinkles her nose. “The agitator of… whatever this is.”

“I’m happy that you finally remembered my name despite that fact that I’ve been bombarding you with requests for an audience for weeks now,” he snorts.

“Liana, what is it all about?” I get anxious.

“I’m sorry, Aefener,” she apologises and looks at me guiltily. “But I used your trusting nature and didn’t always tell you everything.”

“Wh-…?” I open my mouth. “You lied to me about something?!”

“I’d never lied to you,” she shakes her head violently. “I just didn’t always tell you all the things that are going on. We didn’t want to overwhelm you unnecessarily. Erik was afraid that you have too many worries as it is. You were often this close to collapsing.”

“Erik is in it with you?” I can’t believe my ears.

“We just wanted to protect you,” she says firmly. “Aefener, have you never thought it strange that we allow only a selected few Celestials to actually meet you?”

“What do you mean by a few? I’m always surrounded by dozens,” I don’t follow. “I’m hardly ever alone even in my apartment.”

“I mean in comparison to this,” Liana points around. “We didn’t want to overwhelm you so we deliberately kept the number of people that could approach you an absolute minimum. We meant to keep increasing it gradually until you get used to it and other races leave the skyscraper to make more space. But your subjects ran out of patience. They’re angry at us for hoarding you to ourselves.”

I stare at her in disbelief. Hoarding? Me? I’m not a thing one could hoard! I look at Gotrid and since he’s been with me only for three days, he couldn’t have been part of their crazy scheme. Yet, it seems he suspected that Celestials are angry with Liana for keeping me in isolation. He knew and didn’t tell me anything.

“Your Majesty, we simply want to serve you,” that man—Soren?—says softly. Not a chance that would calm me down. But I finally remember why his wings and name sound familiar.

“Are you the guild master of Silent Star?” I guess.

Silent Star was one of the wealthiest Celestial merchant guilds specialising in enchanting and trading gems. I think I met Soren once or twice while he had an official business with the royal guild but I wasn’t the one handling the trade and his virtual face was obviously different from his real one.

“I’m honoured you remember me, Your Majesty,” he appreciates. “I’m really sorry, we didn’t want to startle you but we had to act. The Viceroy and her inner circle can’t usurp you forever. I understand that you needed time to adjust and we gave you some time but monsters from Draconia appearing change everything.”

“What do you want from me?” I still don’t understand his agenda.

“From you?” he laughs, amused. “No, Your Majesty, the question is what do YOU want from US. We’re prepared to follow your orders.”

I quickly analyse the feelings of all the Celestials gathered here. They’re overjoyed to finally meet me in person, excited that they have a reason to seriously level up now and eager to prove themselves to me. They’re hungry… for a conquest.

Even though Celestial minds don’t strain my telepathic brain, my head spins. I suddenly find it hard to breathe. It’s been weeks since my last episode so I naively thought that I overcame my panic attacks by gaining some confidence. But facing human politicians isn’t half as scary as facing thousands of fanatical Celestials who expect great things from me and treat me as their god.

I… I need a breather… time to think… to collect myself and decide what to do next. To be finally ALONE! My logical thinking is overshadowed by panic in an instant. I need to get out! All my thoughts are focusing on one thing only—how to escape this situation. It’s neither brave or reasonable, it’s pure anxiety.

I’m surrounded but I have a huge advantage. I’m confident that I’m the fastest Celestial in the world. If I utilise all my skills, they won’t be able to catch me.

I fold my wings closely to my body, create a mighty air thrust to propel me and shoot out like a rocket. Everyone is too shocked to react immediately which gives me a few seconds of head start. And those few seconds are all I need to slip through their bodily barrier.

I flap my wings freely now that I have space and speed like no other Celestial can. My subjects are screaming by now and come after me but they can never catch up. I’m the embodiment of magic as well as the air and this is my domain. I use the wind to help me speed up even more while creating reverse currents to slow my pursuers.

And then I lose them. I’m finally alone. Alone in a broad vast sky.


I don’t know how long I’ve been flying but it must have been at least two hours because what snaps me out of it is exhaustion. Even the embodiment of magic has limits. Especially the embodiment of magic who didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast and is starving by now.

To my horror, I realise I wasn’t paying attention to the scenery below me and was flying without any sense of direction. The long flight cleared my head and calmed me down. It allowed me for a moment to forget the weight of responsibility and my lack of freedom. But now I’m facing a peculiar problem—I seriously have no idea where I am.

Dammit. Of course, I don’t have my phone! Recently, I don’t really carry it with me. My old account was deleted so that my previous human acquaintances can’t contact me and my new Celestial ID was created only so that I could browse the internet. The Celestial Emperor has little use for a private phone since every communication towards me is handled by the Royal Office first.

So… now what? Should I try flying higher to see better into the distance? But I suck at geography so it probably wouldn’t help and my current robe isn’t made for low temperatures. I can’t risk catching hypothermia.

I have to land, it’s inevitable. My wings are tired and my mana almost depleted. I used too much air magic to get away. I still have a significant amount in my feathers but I don’t want to use it just to prolong my flight. I might need it to defend myself.

Have I just done the most immature thing in the world? I flew away. I didn’t face my subjects properly. I didn’t convey my needs and thoughts on the matter in a calm reasonable way that could be understood. I let panic get the best of me and this is the result. I’m lost, starving and exhausted.

I desperately want to go back and feel the minds of my friends again. I crave my partners. I’m not even mad at Erik and Liana anymore, I understand why they did it. They wanted to shelter me from my fanatical subjects for as long as possible, considerate of how fragile my mental health is.

Not knowing what else to do, I head down into the forest below me. It’s vast with huge trees so I bet it must be a reservation. Funny, I’ve never really visited a real forest before as greenery is rare in cities. More of a reason to see it and make most of my little… trip. Gosh, Liana is going to kill me.

I carefully go for landing, not sure how soft or firm this forest ground is—I’m a city person through and through—but it’s softer than expected and comfortable to land on. I fold my wings and take a deep breath of smelly forest air which is so different from the air in high altitudes.

My problem didn’t disappear with me safely landing, though. I still have no idea where I am and since it’s just me and my feelings, I can be sure there’s nobody in the vicinity. It’s both a good thing (I’m safe from humans) and a bad thing (there’s no one I could ask for directions).

I walk around for a few minutes, admiring the trees and touching the greenery. I feel animals around me but their emotions are too weak and crude for me to hold onto them. Also, I find out that they avoid me. Do they instinctively sense I’m dangerous? I guess I don’t have to be afraid of encountering bears and wolves then.

After a while, I resignedly sit under a tree. The nature is beautiful but I’m simply not equipped for such environment. My legs are starting to hurt because my shoes aren’t meant for this kind of terrain and moreover because my Celestial feet are rather delicate.

Fefnir is often making fun of us—saying that we’re birds—but he can’t be further from the truth. Birds are part of nature so forests and parks are their home. Celestials, however, belong to floating cities. Ideally, we’re not meant to touch natural ground at all. Our bodies are not adjusted for that.

I’m starting to think I’m screwed. I’m getting dizzy because of hunger and my stomach is rumbling painfully but I’m no Earthborn to expertly find edible berries and mushrooms. I’m definitely no Clawfang to hunt and I’m not able to digest meat anyway. And I’m no Dragonkin to survive literally anywhere. I’m a frail Celestial who belongs to the sky and shiny palaces, not here.

I notice that my feathers got dirty and it makes me even more anxious. I hate seeing my white wings stained. It’s unbecoming of a Celestial, not mentioning of the Celestial Emperor. I suddenly feel like taking a long bath and for once long for my nosy maids. They’re doing such a good job taking care of me, my partners and my home, I see it now. I make a promise to myself to appreciate them more.

“Ouch,” I whine and massage my temples.

I’m starting to develop a headache which is strange considering there’s nothing that could agitate my brain. Or maybe exactly because of that? Maybe telepaths aren’t meant to live in seclusion. Maybe we need a constant telepathic stimulation. Total emphatic silence is stifling and unnerving.

But how could I know that beforehand? Nobody taught me anything. As far as I knew, I was the only telepath. Now there’s also that Takeda person who might or might not be my biological father but I don’t want to think about him at the moment. I’m starting to arrive at the conclusion that too many emotions are still a better alternative than no emotions at all.

I sigh. What should I do? I can rest my wing muscles just fine but that doesn’t fix the fact that I desperately need to eat something. But I don’t dare to eat anything in the forest, my stomach is weak as it is. I can’t afford even weak food poisoning.

Too exhausted, hungry and sleep-deprived for coming up with any sort of plan, I snuggle into my wings and lie down. The moss is soft enough but I can’t shake off the unpleasant feeling that it’s dirty and there must be bugs everywhere. I think the Earthborn and Clawfangs can emit pheromones to repel insects, lucky them.

The consequences of what I’ve done are slowly coming to me. Liana must be so furious while Gotrid and Erik worried-sick. I’ll get punished this time, definitely. My prospects don’t look good but I’m too tired and my feathers are nicely warm. I decide to take a short power nap before finding my way back.