“Ryuu,” Erik clutches my hand and is trembling. He can see the urgency in my eyes, he can feel I’m ready for a battle. And he knows there’s nothing he could say to make me reconsider.
“You’re not going anywhere, Your Majesty,” Vermiel and three other guards block my way.
“Are you serious? This is my home!” I hiss. “Combat units are barely forming and we can’t rely on Draconians in the vicinity spontaneously showing up. Don’t you feel it? Something much more sinister than a heligorr is coming through, we desperately need high levels. If you won’t let me go, we might have hundreds of casualties.”
The guards gulp. They do feel it and they’re torn between anxiously protecting their Emperor and every fibre in their body urging them to find the source of this disturbance and subdue it.
“I promise not to join the first line, you can come up with any protective formation around me and I swear to respect it but we have to go NOW!” I shout urgently.
I also shout out in my mind to call for all high-level Celestials in the building. I make it clear that I want only those of level 8 and above as the rest would be a burden but I’ll be glad if they help later with damage control and healing. The surge of eagerness is enough assurance that they heard me.
“You two stay here to guard my partner,” I assign two Celestials from my personal guard.
“As you command, Your Majesty,” they straighten up. They aren’t being left behind, they know how much I treasure Erik and that I’ve just entrusted him to them which is just as big of an honour as going to battle with me.
“I love you and I’ll return as soon as possible,” I kiss Erik deeply. “Call Bauerova, try to calm the citizens.”
“You won’t lock me up in our apartment this time?” he tries to joke.
“I’m putting you in charge,” I correct him. “With Liana gone and Gotrid coming with me, you’re my deputy.”
“I’ll do my best then. Be careful,” he kisses me again one last time before I let go of him and hurry to the balcony.
There’s no time to change for a sporty robe so I just drop the top embroidered layer and take off immediately. Above the skyscraper, I stop for a while and hover. Even I’m not that crazy to go to a possibly fierce battle with just ten battle mages. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for long, Celestials start flying out of every available balcony.
“Love!” Gotrid joins me and I instantly feel much better with him by my side. With Gotrid supporting me and Erik taking care of politics in my absence, I have much less to worry about.
I’ll give you commands through telepathy, I tell the Celestials to speed things up. Not even one of you is dying today. Those injured will get away from the battle immediately, that’s an order. I’ll allow no brainless heroism.
After that, we depart. I don’t have to lead the flock because every Celestial feels where to head so I can be positioned right in the middle as always. I’m overjoyed that when we’re almost at the site, we meet with Liana’s party. She’s with Soren and the last batch of American Celestials. Reinforcements will surely come in handy.
“They shouldn’t have let you…,” she starts to complain the moment she sees me but I don’t let her finish.
“I’ll command from above and prepare advance spells,” I explain to calm her down. “I won’t be in danger but I won’t stay idle either. This is my home, Li.”
“Okay,” she sighs but nods in the end. “We’ll listen to your orders but you have to let us protect you. You’re not getting close to those monsters, understood?”
“Understood,” I promise and I really mean it because I know for sure that if I didn’t obey, they wouldn’t allow me to join a battle ever again.
We fly to Vinohrady, the historical core of Prague, and then we see it—monsters appearing out of the rift in space itself. We came early this time, it seems we can sense these rifts a few minutes before they tear out completely. I look down and see a mass of panicking people trying to escape.
Vermiel, take at least ten others and navigate these people as far away from the monsters as possible, I order the Celestial captain. If someone isn’t able to run, carry them with levitation.
Vermiel nods and flies off. Celestials might see humans as inferior but I don’t think there’s anybody in my flock who would want to see innocent people killed. If Celestials see themselves as protectors, even with a bit of hubris, I’m okay with it provided it gets the job done.
“Love, there are three heligorrs,” Gotrid observes. “And that one… gods, is that a tripoderra?!”
I look left and it’s indeed a tripoderra, a spider-like monster of a medium level. Its hairy body and many black eyes make it look especially terrifying. A tough enemy for a group in which an average level is about 10 at best. But we have an advantage—we’re numerous! And I bet other races will join us sooner or later, we’re just the first ones to get here.
“Your Majesty, up this instant!” Miruel insists and the royal guards push me upwards high above the buildings.
I want to object that this is too far but then I discover that I have a pretty good view of the whole battlefield. I can do it. I can command the whole flock from here and my guards can’t complain afterwards that I was in danger.
Celestials are frantically flying all over the place, not knowing what they’re supposed to do because most of them are newcomers. My first task is to organise them, efficiently allocate our forces and see to it that everyone has a clear objective.
I can’t read their thoughts but I can roughly tell everyone’s level based on their current mana capacity. I send those with lower levels to shield the civilians and use high levels to attack. It’s surprisingly not difficult to command them telepathically and it saves precious time. I just hope it won’t look suspicious how well coordinated we are.
I sigh out in relief when most humans are almost out or safely hiding inside buildings. With part of our forces keeping the monsters busy, the rest doesn’t have much difficulty leading people to safety.
“Hon, what about me?” Gotrid asks because he’s just hovering next to me. He knows I don’t want him in the heat of the battle because then I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else than protecting him but he wants to contribute nonetheless. He’s a battle mage at heart.
“Help me with spells,” I say. “I think we should be able to cast advanced magic above our current skills if we synchronise.”
“Synchronise how?” he doesn’t understand. “That wasn’t possible in the game.”
“Then it’s a good thing this isn’t the game anymore,” I quickly conjure a levitation platform and land on it. It’s big enough to hold both of us so he lands as well.
“Love,” he catches my hand and wobbles when he feels all that panic and fear coming from humans below us through me. “How can you feel all that and stay sane?!”
“I’m used to it,” I shrug. “Do you remember a tripoderra’s weakness?”
“Fire,” he replies and knows I was just testing him since I’m basically a walking Draconia Online encyclopaedia.
We hear a loud thud so we both look down. The monsters are quickly adapting to a new environment and are starting to wreak real havoc. It somehow feels wrong to be so high in the air where the monsters can’t reach us while the others are in danger but I have to obey my protectors and we’ll need undisturbed time to prepare the spell anyway.
“A tripoderra was a level 20 monster in the game,” I remind him. “Most of the royal guards are level 12 at best.”
“W-which means?” Gotrid gulps.
“They will have to take care of heligorrs while I come up with a spell to defeat the tripoderra that’s even above my current level,” I say and chew my lip. It’ll be very difficult even for me, the embodiment of magic. But I have to do it, there’s no other way.
“Aefener, what should we do?” Liana flies to us. She’s confused because she didn’t receive any orders from me. Nor did Soren who is right behind her.
“Li, do you think you could manage to cast the Ice Barrier? The same spell I did in New York,” I ask, being well-aware that this is no small matter but there’s no one else who would be at least potentially able to do it.
“N-not sure,” she answers hesitantly. “I know how the spell works and should feel like but I don’t think my channelling technique is good enough for it yet.”
“Soren, could you help her?” I turn to the new royal guard. “Cast a levitation platform for her so that she doesn’t have to focus on flapping her wings and lend her some of her mana if she runs out.”
“Mana channelling to another Celestial?” he widens his eyes. “That wasn’t possible in the game, Your Majesty.”
“Forget about the game, it is possible here,” I say firmly even though I honestly have no idea where are my confidence and assurance coming from. I just somehow know it should be possible. Is it because I’m the embodiment of magic? I’m still reluctant to admit it but when it comes to magic, it does come naturally to me.
“I don’t think I can do it, it’s a level 15 spell,” Liana starts to panic.
“Li, you’re my Viceroy, trust your magical ability a bit more,” I try to encourage her. “Soren will back you up, you can rely on him.”
“Rely on…,” Liana gulps and I feel she’s experiencing inner struggle.
I know she hates relying on other people if it’s something super important but she’ll have to learn it. And right now, the hard way I’m afraid. Just as I had to stop being afraid of my true self, she has to learn how to open up. So far, I’m the only person she trusts completely but I see a ray of hope that Soren might change that.
“Am I going to do mana channelling as well, love?” Gotrid asks.
“No, I don’t need your mana,” I shake my head and quickly speak to all the Celestials again: Hold the heligorrs with Ice Spears and the tripoderra with Fire Blasts for now! We need time to prepare.
“S-so?” he chews his lip nervously.
“I want us to combine Fierce Flames,” I reveal my plan.
“B-but that’s a level 20 spell, I can’t…,” Gotrid has even greater doubts than Liana.
“This isn’t the game anymore,” I caress his face. “The level system is only a guide now, it doesn’t bind us. We should be able to do spells a few levels above our current skill. As for the mana, take mine, I have more than enough for both of us. Trust yourself. Trust me. We can do it.”
“I trust you with my life,” he dares to go for a quick kiss despite the heat of the battle.
“Then close your eyes and follow my guidance,” I kiss him back and it works like magic. Because love is magic.
We hold our hands, close our eyes and start with the initial mana channelling technique. The moment I let my tremendous mana out, the monsters below us roar and switch aggro to us. So they can feel mana after all, at least to a certain extent. We’ve just pretty much confirmed it.
We’re quite high up but Gotrid is still anxious that they’ll hit us. Heligorrs are known to be able to throw things into astonishing distances with their claws and tripoderras can spit venomous acid for dozens of metres.
Don’t let them distract you, the guards will protect us, I assure him. I know it’s hard so focus on me instead.
He does and his channelling gets more precise. When we accumulate enough mana, I show him the spell. He knows most Celestial spells by heart but it’s very different to have purely theoretical knowledge when the game system helps you execute it and to materialise the transfiguration symbol yourself.
I’m proud to discover that my subjects are quite efficient at slowing the heligorrs’ progress through the city which gives humans more time to evacuate. And I’m overjoyed when I feel other races finally arriving as well. I decide to trust they’ll do their best while Gotrid and I are doing our part.
The monsters are attacking repeatedly and my guards are busy keeping the venom and thrown objects from us. I feel Liana fiercely focusing on the spell that’s beyond her current comfortable level but she can do it, I believe in her. She’s the best caster after me.
The only thing that’s distracting me is the panic and suffering down below. People in distress, a lot of them injured—very hard to just ignore. But the incoming Earthborn are on the job now while Clawfangs are trying to keep monsters away and the Dragonkin dealing some serious damage. Will they be able to take out at least one heligorr on their own I wonder?
Love, you’re not responsible for everyone, Gotrid send me his tender thought because now it’s me who’s not focusing properly. We’re taking down that ugly spider, that’s our target.
I lean closer and kiss him again. I connect our minds, hug him with my wings and we keep casting in a feathery embrace. Since there’s no such ridiculous thing as having to stretch our hands, we can create our spell at a distance away from us.
Gotrid is draining himself quickly so I channel some of my mana to him. He’s a very good caster for his current level and I have no doubt he’ll become a master battle mage in future. But for now, his mana channelling is lacking so I back him up. He gobbles my mana hungrily, enjoying the boost of energy and the fact that it’s coming from me.
I don’t think that dual casting is possible for anyone who isn’t a telepath or the embodiment of magic. Two spells would clash under normal circumstances but since we know each other’s intentions, we smoothly interweave our transfigurations into one another.
Something like this definitely wasn’t possible in the game and even I might be able to do it exclusively with my partners and no one else. What Liana’s attempting isn’t even close, she’s just getting a mana boost from Soren. But even that’s extremely handy, we’ve discovered a new application any Celestial can use if needed.
Are you ready, love? I make sure when our complex spell is finally finished. It’s hard to track time but I suspect it took at least ten minutes during which we were completely defenceless. Such is a disadvantage of high-tier spells and the caster’s main vulnerability.
I am, he answers firmly.
Don’t worry, I’ll steer it, I assure him as I toss our spell at the tripoderra.
The monster tries to avoid it, of course, but I’m not just throwing the spell, I’m manoeuvring it with my very mind so it hits the target straight ahead. Our combined spell explodes monumentally and tears the tripoderra apart. Instant kill. If the Dragonkin want some parts, they’ll have to scrape them from the pavement.
Liana releases her Ice Barrier just a few seconds after us and manages to freeze the head of one of the heligorrs. Instant kill as well, that’s my Viceroy! She’s totally drained afterwards and falls to her knees but she did it. I’m grateful to Soren who comes to her aid immediately.
“Two more to go,” Gotrid is also tired but not exhausted because he has access to my mana. He can still go on.
“Or not,” I point towards the heligorr to our right. It’s surrounded by the horde of the Dragonkin, it looks pretty beaten and…
“Are some of them holding swords?!” I can’t believe my eyes.
“They are,” Gotrid confirms. “They don’t look like the Dragonkin weaponry just yet, probably bought from some medieval hobbyist, but they seem to be working.”
“Let’s focus on that one then,” I say quickly because I notice that several Draconians got injured and are being carried away from the battlefield. I don’t feel anyone dying but it still makes me worried.
Gotrid nods, much more confident now. We close our eyes again and even though I’m perfectly capable of executing the Ice Barrier all by myself, Gotrid’s contribution is significant when it comes to focusing so I won’t be so mentally strained afterwards. I’m starting to love dual-casting.
The Ice Barrier doesn’t take as long with both of us working on the spell so the second heligorr goes down in just three minutes. We want to help with the third one but it seems our help won’t be needed after all. The Dragonkin look unwilling to let Celestials near their prey anyway and, soon enough, the last monster is eradicated.
“We did it!!!” Draconians start celebrating but I know it’s too early for that.
While we arrived early and had a lot of people on the job, many humans were still injured. But I don’t think we lost anyone, at least I didn’t feel anyone dying. Injuries are another matter, though. I feel pain all around me and it’s maddening.
I hurry to Liana who’s panting and isn’t able to get up. Soren is trying to channel more of his mana to her but channelling is no mana transplant, it’s only a temporary boost for a forming spell—it can’t be used to replenish the mana inside one’s body.
“Soren, get her to our skyscraper, make her eat something and lie down,” I order him. “If she objects, I give you the authority to see to it she rests.”
“Aefener, I…,” Liana gasps for breath.
“You did really well,” I praise her. “I’m proud. Now go, your part is over.”
As expected, Liana wants to protest but Soren hears no objections and heads for the skyscraper. That’s one person taken care of, dozens more to go. Fortunately, the Earthborn are starting to flood the place from all directions. They were just waiting for the monsters to be gone. The Earthborn are no cowards but their powers are very peculiar and not fit for the front lines.
We land right in the middle and start helping immediately. The priority is to help those whose injuries are life-threatening or too painful to bear. It’s not hard for me to find the first person to help. The pain I’m perceiving is so insane that it can mean only one thing—we have a Celestial with an injured wing.
I run towards the source, dragging Gotrid with me. My guards follow without objections because they suspect it’s connected to my telepathy. In a narrow opening between two historical buildings, I find three Celestials in hiding. Two of them look okay but the person they rescued isn’t.
“Y-Your Majesty!” they are relieved to see me and instantly calm down as if I’m the guarantee everything’s going to be okay.
I shudder when I look at the Celestial woman they’re holding. Her left wing is clearly broken, it’s lying in an unnatural position. Just seeing it gives me goosebumps, not to mention I can feel her agony.
“I… I… I’m… so s-sorry… Your Majesty… I… I panicked and got h-hit…,” she’s stammering over tears.
“Shh, that’s okay, Gwyn,” I hug her and pull her name out of her mind. “You’ll make a full recovery and fly again, I’ll see to it personally. But I need to straighten your wing first,” I say as softly as I can. “It’ll be hellishly painful but it needs to be done.”
“U-understood,” she replies bravely and catches me around my back in desperation.
I take a deep breath because it won’t be exactly pleasant for me either, then I activate telekinesis and straighter the bone in her wing with one snap. While it causes only mild nausea for me, poor Gwyn screams and faints. But it’s done, the worst part is over.
I cast a level 15 healing spell and it actually works much better on a Celestial than any other race because her mana circuit is cooperating. I keep hugging her for several minutes, showering her wing with warm healing energy until it loses its immediate effect so I seal the spell and leave the rest up to her own body.
“She’ll need a special fixation for the wing,” I say when I’m finished and gently kiss Gwyn on her forehead. “I mended what I could but her wing will need much more time to heal.”
“Your Majesty…,” the two Celestials who carried her to safety are looking at me with almost religious awe. They’re both Americans, newcomers just like her. Friends maybe? I bet they didn’t expect a battle would be waiting for them the moment they reached Prague.
“She’s stabilised, transport her to our skyscraper,” I order them. “Use GPS on your phones and when you get there, ask for Julia and Noage. Julia is human but I trust her completely. You’ll listen to what she says.”
“As you command,” they bow and with extreme caution lift off their friend and cast a levitation platform for her.
We return to the main street and I notice a handful of impatient Dragonkin already scavenging the monsters. I have to turn around when three of them tear off one of tripoderra’s legs. Unbelievable, there’re still people suffering all around them but they’re rather focusing on the loot?! Our racial tendencies are manifesting more and more.
“Your Majesty!” Luviael lands in front of me. “Your orders?”
“What do you think? We’re not leaving until everyone is in hospital,” I snap at her because all that suffering makes me anxious and she has to ask something so obvious. “Cooperate with the Earthborn and clear out the debris using telekinesis if the Dragonkin aren’t helping.”
“As you command,” she bows, spreads the wings again and goes to organise our forces.
“You’re disappointed, my love,” Gotrid clutches my hand and is saddened.
“I am,” I admit. “I’m disappointed that the only people genuinely interested in helping the injured humans are the Earthborn. Clawfangs came just for the battle and are dispersing as we speak, the Dragonkin are after the loot and Celestials are helping only because I order them so.”
“Not everyone,” Gotrid points at several Dragonkin who actually are lifting off the debris. “Our racial tendencies are very strong and it’s hard to resist them but we’re individuals.”
Paramedics start arriving and so do firefighters and the police. They’re shy around Draconians at first but a common goal quickly unites us and we work next to each other without significant problems. Surprisingly, Bauerova shows up as well. That lady has style, not like Delgado who didn’t bother.
“Your Majesty, you took care of it personally,” she’s grateful beyond compare.
“Of course, this is my home,” I emphasise. “I don’t want to be overly optimistic before the damage control has finished but I think nobody died.”
“That would be miraculous,” Bauerova sighs out in relief.
“We have a lot of injured, though,” I note. “Can you persuade the paramedics to cooperate with the Earthborn and let them into hospitals? Modern medicine is amazing, I had no doubts about that, but the Earthborn can help a ton.”
“I’ll take care of it,” the Prime Minister nods and runs off to discuss the matter with the rescue forces.
“She’s a priceless ally,” Gotrid comments.
“She is,” I agree. “If only more human politicians were like her.”
We’re helping for another hour until the situation gets under control.
“Your Majesty, if think we’re pretty much done here,” Miruel announces. “The Earthborn took over healing the injured completely, we checked thoroughly that there’s no one trapped under the debris and the fire brigade will clean up the rest. I’m sure we don’t want to be here when the Dragonkin make their way to the flesh of those monsters.”
“We certainly don’t,” I second that and don’t dare to look their way.
I devote a minute to make sure I really don’t feel anyone suffering and being overlooked before I allow my subjects to return. I see the full extent of damage those monsters did when we get higher. Two historical streets are ruined, I hope the EU will send money to restore everything to its original shape.
Is this our new everyday reality? Gotrid speaks in his mind. Monsters randomly popping up and destroying everything in their stride?
They must be appearing out of somewhere, I point out. Maybe we can find a way how to seal those rifts.
And possibly explore where they lead? he suggests carefully.
That idea certainly crossed my mind before. These monsters aren’t just materialising, their minds are primitive but I can feel they are aged. They must have grown somewhere to reach their monstrous sizes. In a different dimension perhaps? A dimension similar to the world of Draconia Online?
We reach the skyscraper and I half-expect Liana to be waiting for us, pissed that I sent her away. But I feel she’s actually asleep, the spell was way beyond her current skills and exhausted her completely. There’s still someone eagerly awaiting my return, though.
“Ryuu!” Erik almost crushes me. “You’re not injured?”
“I’m fine,” I assure him and we spend a few long moments kissing feverishly.
“I did my best in your absence,” he says proudly. “I talked to Bennett and took care of several things you don’t have to address anymore.”
“Thanks, I know I can rely on you,” I caress his face and smile. I’m so glad to see him again. “I think there weren’t any casualties, we arrived early.”
“That’s wonderful news, love,” Erik is overjoyed. “To be honest, my parents were really scared when they called me. Their apartment is near Vinohrady.”
“It is?” I’m shocked just thinking that Erik’s parents might have been in danger as well. “Won’t they reconsider now? We could move them into the skyscraper.”
“Nah, they would hate that,” he shakes his head. “I proposed it to them many times and their answer is always the same. They still didn’t come to terms with us hiring them bodyguards but they at least tolerate that much. Well, they have to.”
“So I imagine they won’t be happy if I assign them two Celestials,” I bite my lip. “After what happened with my Grandma, I won’t take any chances.”
“I actually wanted to ask that of you,” he’s relieved we’re on the same page. “The agency guarding my parents is the best on the market but I’ll feel more at ease with magic casters.”
“Luvi, can you take care of things here? I’d like to visit the infirmary to make sure our wounded are okay,” I turn to my adjutant.
I feel that something’s wrong the moment Luviael’s emotional state changes for the worse and her excitement from our victory is overshadowed by a new fear. She’s staring at the screen where we usually take the most important conference calls.
“I’m afraid that will have to wait,” she gulps. “You have the Japanese Prime Minister on the phone. Tokyo is under attack.”
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