“No, don’t stop the car!” I say quickly because my partners start to freak out. I wasn’t blocking them out of my mind so they heard everything that just happened.
“But he must be near!” Erik is still trying to make the driver stop.
“The streets are overcrowded and there’re countless buildings all around, he can be anywhere,” I shake my head. “Besides, he’s seriously dangerous. I don’t think any Draconian would stand a chance against him.”
“But he’s still human,” Gotrid opposes. “What could he do when facing magic?”
“Fry his opponent’s brain from the distance,” I say darkly. “And I don’t forget he isn’t completely human, just like I wasn’t.”
“What did he say to you?” my Viceroy asks because she didn’t hear it.
“Not much but he confirmed to be my biological father,” I clutch my fists.
“Not much,” Liana rolls her eyes. “Aefener, you’re the son of a multi-billionaire!”
“Who’s most probably a psychopath,” I add, not happy about the prospect.
“Love, are you okay?” my partners worry.
“He didn’t do anything to me,” I assure them. “And this time I was ready to push him back if needed.”
“Still, it shows how defenceless we are against something like that,” Liana chews her lip. “Telepaths are possibly even more dangerous than monsters.”
“Well, thank you very much,” I snort, offended a little.
“Aefener, do you even realise that the only thing stopping you from abusing your special ability is the fact that you’re kind, respectful of others and have high morals?” she points out. “Most people would have used it to their benefit immediately. Ever since you told me, I’ve come up with hundreds of applications. If I had that kind of power, I could become this country’s Prime Minister in a year.”
“Would you?” I’m taken aback.
“Well, maybe not the Prime Minister, it’s more trouble than it’s worth I think,” she answers hesitantly. “But it’s for the best you have it and not me. I’d definitely use it for my own personal reasons.”
“Don’t forget Ryuu is an empath above all,” Erik reminds her. “He…”
“Oh, that’s it!” I almost jump and the seat belt painfully squeezes my wings. “Takeda… I mean my father… I don’t think he’s an empath.”
“How can he not be?” Liana doesn’t understand.
“He can certainly do long-distance telepathy and read other people’s thoughts on direct touch just like me. He can even harm other people from the distance,” I theorise. “The thing that was bugging me about our first encounter and I didn’t realise it until now was that he could talk to me but he couldn’t perceive my emotions or send some of his to me.”
“Which is a good thing? It means he’s not as powerful as you,” Liana scratches her left wing nervously.
“On the contrary, I’m afraid it’s a very bad thing,” I shake my head. “If he can’t perceive what others feel, he won’t care as much.”
“That’s… damn,” Gotrid curses.
I stay silent for the rest of the ride but my partners can feel that I’m thinking frantically. They’re caressing my wings, letting me sort my thoughts and feelings. So I do have a living father. I’m Ryuuto Takeda. Not that human surnames mean much to a Celestial but it’s still something.
Did my Mom work for him while creating a prototype of Draconia Online for Nebula and they fell in love? And then she left when she uncovered something sinister about her lover? Maybe she didn’t know she was pregnant at that time so my father couldn’t read it in her mind. I doubt he would let her leave if he knew.
The rest of the journey is uneventful, giving us a rare breather. We arrive at the airport, the plane takes off and we resort to our compartments. It’s only morning but we’re dead exhausted from the conference. I don’t have the energy to talk about my father so Liana doesn’t open up that topic for now. Besides, we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it while on the plane anyway.
I snuggle to my partners and we spend the journey cuddling, watching movies and snacking. I’m happy that Erik doesn’t make a scene every time Gotrid’s wings touch him accidentally anymore and that he seems to be slowly warming up to him. Similarly, I’m happy that Gotrid doesn’t see Erik as an inferior human but an equal rival even though I don’t want them to be rivals. I doze off, feeling comfortable and safe in their embrace.
“You’re kidding!” I’m standing with my mouth open wide when we finally get home.
When the door of the elevator opened, I expected to see the familiar hall that leads to the apartments on this floor. Instead, it looks like we entered someone’s lobby right away.
“This whole floor is yours now, Your Majesty,” Ayala announces proudly. “We’re sorry it took so long but they couldn’t remodel the walls with you being here.”
“B-but… where will the others be?” I’m left speechless.
“Her Excellency and your adjutant Luviael occupy the floor directly below you,” Ayala explains. “Ingri wanted an apartment closer to the ground level because she hates the hights and she flat-shares with her friend ten minutes away from here. Lord Fefnir and Rien have an apartment two floors under you. We have much more space now that almost all Clawfangs left and we never had many Earthborn to begin with.”
“There’ll be thousands of new Celestials coming, though,” I remind her. “We’re wasting space.”
“This building is the official seat of our government, Your Majesty, it won’t serve as a sanctuary anymore,” Cien shakes her head. “We’re securing suitable apartments for our people nearby within a pleasant flying distance.”
“It’s amazing, Ryuu!” Erik is running around, opening all doors and peeking inside.
“Sweet, we won’t be squeezing here after all,” Gotrid is relieved. “Where’s my stuff?”
“Your luggage should arrive in a few minutes, Royal Consort,” Ayala assures him. “There isn’t any agenda for today so make yourself at home.”
“Let’s go exploring!” Erik grabs my hand and with a huge smile pulls me after him.
In just a week, the people Liana hired managed a miracle. I guess when one has money, anything is possible. I’m a bit nervous in the beginning because I don’t recognise anything but then I notice my possessions being carefully positioned all over the apartment.
I find my retro gaming consoles in one of the rooms with a cosy Celestial-friendly sofa, a huge screen and shelves for my figures, most of them still empty and waiting to be filled with Gotrid’s contribution. I’m astonished when I discover a proper study. Yay, I won’t have to sit with the computer on my lap in the living room to do some last-minute evening work!
But it’s the bedroom that astonishes all of us. It’s a spacious room and there’s a huge custom-made platform bed with a real canopy! I take off my shoes to try it out right away. I lie on my stomach, fully spread my wings and there’s still a lot of space left on both sides! That makes me instantly happy and I start rolling, my feathers suddenly being everywhere. Humans don’t realise how uncomfortable it is to be a different species and being forced to use regular furniture you don’t fit.
“What about let us join you?” Erik pokes me. “I’ve never seen a bigger bed in my life and you still somehow manage to take all the space, hon.”
I smirk and because he isn’t expecting it, I pull him down to me and make him lose his balance. I sit on his thighs, tower over him and spread my wings in victory. It doesn’t happen often I get an opportunity to top him in bed. I forget about my father for a second and just feel ecstatic we have this moment to just enjoy ourselves.
“Out!” I hear Gotrid hastily ordering the guards and closing the curtain around our bed.
I lean down and start kissing Erik feverishly all over. He hugs me around my back and his fingers find my sensitive spot between the wings. Gotrid helps with undressing me. Our jet lag is momentarily gone, overshadowed by desire.
“My Emperor,” Gotrid whispers into my ear and the way he says it makes me shiver.
Everything dissolves and only love remains. Gotrid and Erik are my treasures, I’d conquer the world for them. I pity my father for not being an empath and missing all that. Telepathy should automatically go hand in hand with empathy so that the bearer of such a gift won’t become dangerous and forget about the others.
“I love you,” I say aloud because I like how it sounds.
And then there’s no more room for talking or thinking rationally. My love is overflowing and I let it out.
“So,” Liana is looking at me with pursed lips. “You know what you did at least?”
I’m sitting on the edge of our bed with Erik and Gotrid, wrapped in blankets, and we’re all afraid to meet her strict gaze. We’re repenting obediently.
“I know what I did,” I confess. “But I didn’t do it on purpose!”
“And I believe you,” she nods. “Still, it simply can’t happen again. You’re lucky only Celestials could feel it or we’d be in serious trouble.”
I bite my lip. The reason why I’m being yelled at by my Viceroy right now is that I slipped during our love-making and let my feelings flow out. Literally. And Celestials in the skyscraper felt it. Translated: I just let all Celestial know that I’m having wild sex with my Consorts. Utterly embarrassing.
“It won’t happen again?” Liana hisses.
“It won’t happen again,” I swear and nudge Gotrid who’s barely holding up giggling.
“Good,” she says, content. “Luviael got startled and dropped her tablet when it hit her. You’ll buy her a new one from your salary, not the royal chamber budget.”
“Noted,” I repent but I’m actually glad Liana is still able to scold me like that even after what happened in the forest. As the Emperor, I won’t tolerate disobedience but I need people who aren’t afraid to give me their honest feedback, however harsh, if needed.
“And now let me rest for goodness’ sake!” she cries. “I was about to finally fall asleep in my new bed, you know. And I bet I wasn’t the only one, jet lag is a bitch.”
“Sorry,” I apologise again.
“Seriously, I’m starting to doubt whether having a telepathic Emperor is an asset or rather a nightmare,” she mumbles grumpily under her breath on her way out.
“Okay, that was both embarrassing and hilarious,” Gotrid finally dares to laugh.
“Not so much for me,” I sigh. “Now everyone knows that…”
“So what?” Erik shrugs and is also chuckling. “Let them know their Emperor is well taken-care of by his Consorts.”
I throw a pillow at him and suddenly there’s a fierce pillow fight. With respect to Erik, we’re not using telekinesis so he’s actually winning over both of us because Celestials aren’t the fastest and the most agile creatures when we can’t fly. Then we fall into blankets, panting and laughing. And we fall asleep eventually.
It sounds too good to be true but after we sleep off our jet lag, we’re generously given one more day to organise our new apartment because there’re no emergencies. I haven’t had a day off since the Great Evolution started which feels like ages ago.
I’m watching Gotrid as he’s putting his own geeky figures on the shelves and I can’t stop smiling. This place finally feels like real home. We have enough space to put up our favourite things proudly on display, a cosy spot to chill in the evenings, a bed that will fit all three of us, a study that will allow me to keep work and private life separate while being conveniently close and Erik got his dreamy walk-in closet.
“Most of the clothes here are yours, though,” he comments when thoroughly exploring the closet. “Your robes take a lot of space.”
“Not my jurisdiction,” I defend myself. “Talk to the maids about it.”
“Just joking,” he grabs my waist and pulls me closer. “The Celestial Emperor can’t be seen in the same attire more than once a month. Besides, you know I like you in a princess dress.”
“For the millionth time, it’s not…!”
He silences me with a kiss.
“Hey, not fair!” Gotrid peeks inside only to catch me and Erik cuddling.
“If you end up counting your turns, I’ll go on strike,” I roll my eyes and free myself from Erik’s embrace. “What did Vermiel say? Can we go flying now? I seriously need to stretch my wings, we skipped yesterday.”
“We can and our new sporty robes should be ready as well,” he nods. “Let me call the maids and…”
“No way, I want to do at least something myself,” I say stubbornly. “Robes for flying can’t be that hard to put on.”
I browse my inventory and do find a fresh set of several robes for flying, a Celestial equivalent of sporty clothes. Erik helps me get out of my royal garments but as I’m about to put on the under-robe made of some insulated material, Gotrid stops me. Only now I notice he’s holding something quite large and flat under his arm.
“Sorry, love, but could you just hop on this for a second?” he asks me carefully. “Cien gave it to me, telling me that some person called Julia I have yet to meet sends her regards and demands updated data.”
I recognise the object he’s carrying and turn pale. It’s a scale, my mortal enemy.
“Come on, love, you know you have to be naked in order to be accurately weighted,” Erik gently grabs my wrist because I want to run away. “The mighty Celestial Emperor can’t be afraid of scales.”
I struggle but Erik is much stronger than me and manages to lift me off and put me on top of that hated object. I know the number isn’t good without even looking at the screen and just feeling Erik’s emotional response.
“It used to be higher before the conference I presume?” Gotrid raises his eyebrow.
“It used to be higher,” Erik nods. “Julia will be furious.”
“You can tell her a slightly different number?” I suggest hopefully. “I promise to eat a lot this week and get it back asap.”
Now they’re both raising their eyebrows on me. Erik lets me go and I try to make myself look busy putting on the robe for flying. But I know it’s futile, Julia will know by the time I return from my flight and I’ll be forced to drink those protein drinks of hers for the rest of the month.
“We mean well, hon,” Gotrid helps me tie my kimono belt. “We can’t hide important information from your doctor.”
“I know,” I mumble. “Tell Vermiel we’re ready. Where’s the nearest balcony anyway? I don’t want to go all the way to the top every time.”
“Huh? Didn’t you notice? Our apartment has one,” Gotrid says, confused. “It’s connected to the lounge. I guess the curtains were closed when you went to look so you missed it.”
“WHAT?!” I widen my eyes. “Those people Liana hired to re-model our apartment are miracle workers but I doubt they’d be able to add a balcony in just a week. You’re pulling my feathers.”
“The lounge used to be part of Liana’s living room,” Erik says. “Of course, they didn’t add a balcony in a week.”
“She had a balcony all along?” I refuse to believe it. “And she still made me go all the way to the roof every time? And you knew about it, Erik?”
“Well,” he looks at me guiltily. “We were afraid you’d be tempted to just jump off her balcony any time the urge to fly would come to you so we didn’t tell you on purpose.”
“Seriously?!” I get offended. “What prevents me from jumping off now then?”
“Your guards,” Erik says calmly. “They couldn’t fly as soon as you could but that changed.”
“Oh, so apparently I can’t be trusted with a balcony,” I retort.
“Honestly? You can’t,” Erik says rather harshly but he goes for a comforting hug immediately after that. “I’m sorry, Ryuu, but you know it’s true. You can’t be trusted with a balcony. Your urge to fly is much higher than in other Celestials. We accepted that you can’t help yourself so we’re not angry with you anymore but we have to watch over you all the same.”
“Let’s go, my Emperor,” Gotrid teases me with my title. “The guards are ready.”
I sigh and leave our walk-in closet only to be apprehended by my maids because I forgot to tie my hair. When I enter the lounge, the curtains are open now so I can see there indeed is a balcony. Liana was enjoying it all by herself!
“We’re ready, Your Majesty,” Miruel reports. “We have a few new faces accompanying us today so I’m sorry in advance if our formation isn’t perfect.”
“I don’t care about formations, this is just a leisure flight,” I wave my hand.
“Have fun, love,” Erik brings a cup of coffee and a book to relax on the balcony while awaiting my return.
It’s nice to be back in Prague again. Home. New York is mostly covered in super futuristic skyscrapers but Prague retained its original historical medieval core because it’s protected by UNESCO. I love flying above the Old Town and the river Vltava, it’s so relaxing.
Do you like Prague, Gotrid? I ask my partner.
If I like it? I love it! he’s overjoyed by the view. Too bad we can’t land. I’d like to explore those picturesque streets.
We can’t land. Gotrid said it simply but there’s cold reality behind his words. There may be time in future when Draconians will be just as common as humans and doing all sorts of ordinary things like being tourists and go sight-seeing. But I’m the Celestial Emperor so I’ll never be treated as a normal occurrence.
Gotrid feels my sudden inner turmoil and to distract me, he takes something out of his robe. Before I can even focus my eyes on the object, he throws it away, propelling it with an air thrust. The thing shines silver when the sun beams into its surface and all my instincts shout to chase after it. So I do. I change my direction so abruptly that I startle the guards and use air magic to gain on speed.
“Got it!” I’m holding a little silvery ball with an immense feeling of victory. When did Gotrid slip it into his robe? When the maids were tying me hair so I wasn’t paying attention? Anyway, if he wanted to surprise me with a game, he managed.
“Your Majesty, you can’t suddenly fly off like that!” Miruel scolds me when the guards finally catch up to me.
“Sure can!” I throw the ball with telekinesis and make it pass Miruel by centimetres. Not even a Celestial captain can help herself and goes after it.
We’re playing fetch until total exhaustion but we’re happy. Erik got almost into one fourth of the book when we return. We must have been gone for at least two hours then.
“Sooo tired,” I collapse on his lap and let my wings drop down.
“Why do you overdo your regular flights?” Erik is shaking his head and starts caressing my sore wings.
“We were playing an aerial game,” Gotrid collapses in an armchair next to us. “But it’s good, our wings need exercise. They’re proper limbs just as your hands and legs, Erik. Imagine dragging your hands all day without using them. Well, that’s what we’re forced to do for most of the day.”
“I know,” he admits and lets me breathe for a few minutes before pointing out that an afternoon snack is waiting for me.
I turn my head and notice there’re sandwiches and coffee on the table. Gotrid hungrily grabs one and starts stuffing his mouth. Flying takes a lot of calories.
“I had to report your weight to Julia,” Erik announces and sees to it that I also take one.
“And?” I bite into the bread. It has very good cheese inside.
“As expected, she was furious that we didn’t feed you properly during the conference,” he sighs. “I explained all those things that happened but she wasn’t very satisfied with our excuse. So I’m afraid you’ll have to drink this every day for two weeks.”
My fear came true—there’s a protein drink waiting for me as well.
“You already had a sandwich?” I ask because Gotrid takes another one and there’s only one more left for me.
“Love, you do realise I’m human?” he tickles me under my feathers. “I can’t be snacking like that, I’d put on weight. And I’m hitting the gym again on a regular basis starting tomorrow. I’m sure you don’t want me losing my muscles you like so much.”
“I don’t,” I admit but add: “But I’d love you regardless of what you look like.”
“Even when I’m old and grey?” he suddenly gets very serious and a bit uncertain.
“Even when you’re old and grey,” I assure him with a kiss.
“Ehm,” a sound of someone coughing interrupts us.
Luviael is standing in the door and is looking at us with a raised eyebrow. I guess seeing her Emperor sitting on a lap isn’t very regal in her eyes. Good that I don’t care how it looks like, these are my private quarters and I’ll do as I wish here.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, Your Majesty,” she says. “We wanted to let you rest but there’re some urgent matters requiring your attention.”
“That much for our day off,” Gotrid grunts.
“You two rest, I’ll take care of it,” I stand up, properly folding my wings.
“Don’t be ridiculous, love,” Erik rolls his eyes and he and Gotrid stand up as well.
I’m quickly changed from the robe for flying into official royal garments and we make our way to the main office. I don’t mind that my day-off has been half-cancelled. I feel rested enough and my Emperor’s nature is starting to feel a bit anxious that I was away from ruling for that ‘long’.
“Your Majesty!” someone hugs me despite the protocol the moment my guards open the door.
“Ingri,” I hug her back. “I missed you. And you don’t need to use my title, you know that, right?”
“Only the Viceroy, your Consorts and other race rulers should have that privilege,” she shakes her head. “I should have been more polite before and I apologise.”
Another person who stopped using my name. But at least Ingri is still otherwise familiar with me and isn’t afraid to hug me.
I look around the office. It feels like ages since I’ve been here and I’m happy to be back. Liana is here as well, occupying her usual seat and hard at work already. Then I notice one more person, a new face.
“Hello, we haven’t met yet,” I try to put on a friendly smile.
The person in question is a Dragonkin. Quite young by the looks of it and even though taller than an average Celestial, rather short and slender for a Dragonkin. I want to ask for a name but several things happen in a quick succession.
The Dragonkin opens their mouth to say something but only fumes come out. Then the Dragonkin bows deeply, knocking over the chair behind them with their tail. It goes down with a loud thud. The Dragonkin suddenly feels horrified, turns pale and… storms out of the office.
“You scared them, Your Majesty!” Ingri scolds me and runs after the startled Dragonkin.
“I… what?” I’m left totally confused.
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