This special extra chapter happens outside the main timeline. It contains minor teasers of future events but no spoilers so it's safe to read for anyone past chapter 63. Enjoy! 😆
“You want to celebrate what?” Liana is looking at me, puzzled. She’s buried under a ton of documents and the adjutants are constantly bringing her more.
“Halloween,” I repeat carefully because it’s obvious from her annoyed expression she thinks I’m just wasting her time.
“You’re not a child to go trick and treating, Aefener,” she rolls her eyes. “Besides, it’s not a Celestial tradition.”
“Just imagine how many houses we could cover since we can fly, Li,” Gotrid is barely holding his laugh.
“Not trick and treating,” I assure her. “What I have in mind is a costume party and a horror movie night.”
“Hmm,” she’s seriously giving it a thought which is more than I hoped for.
“We would invite the ministers and other high officials,” I add quickly. “Gods know they need to unwind. We all do.”
“That’s… actually not such a bad idea,” she admits in the end. “Why costumes, though?”
“Because it’s Halloween and because it’s fun,” I grin.
“It won’t be dignified if you dress up,” she opposes.
“Exactly, we need to unwind,” I argue. “Come on, Li, relaaaaax!”
“All right then,” she sighs. “But don’t expect me to help you organise it, I’ll be glad if I can finish all this by the end of October.”
“Ingri is on the job with me, don’t worry,” I say. “All I want from you is to bless the event and show up wearing a costume.”
“I’m still not sure about costumes,” she shakes her head. “Can you imagine proud Celestials wearing them?”
“That’s why I won’t let anyone not wearing a costume in,” I smile diabolically. “It’ll be a compulsory prerequisite.”
“Clever,” she praises me. “They would never a miss an opportunity to socialise with you so they’ll swallow their pride for once. What are you planning to wear anyway? Nothing silly, okay? You’re still the Emperor, even at the Halloween party.”
“That’s a secret,” I smile mysteriously.
“So Her Excellency okayed it?” Ingri is overjoyed when we shop up in her workshop with huge grins on our faces.
“She did,” Erik confirms and looks around curiously. Ingri’s workshop is getting messier and messier, she’s been receiving too many orders for custom clothes lately.
“Gosh, I need to start working on the costumes right away then!” she starts to panic. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? There’s barely two weeks left!”
“Ask Harut for help,” Gotrid suggests.
“Eeeh? She would definitely want to make a costume for His Majesty and we would argue,” Ingri pouts. The two girls quickly became friends but there’s rivalry between them when it comes to sewing.
“She won’t argue because I’m commissioning you personally,” I assure her. “She can make costumes for my Consorts.”
“Okay then,” Ingri agrees enthusiastically. “What do you want me to make? I’m open up to anything on the condition you must look gorgeous in it, Your Majesty. I’m sure Her Excellency insists on the same.”
“This,” I grin and pass her my phone.
“Oh,” she giggles. “Okay, that will work just fine.”
“Get on with it then and don’t worry about money, I’ll gladly pay for anything you need,” I say. “Make it fabulous and as real as possible.”
“It’ll be unrecognisable from the movies,” she promises.
“I don’t care about food being luxurious,” I repeat for the tenth time. “Just make it cute and spooky.”
“B-but Your Majesty,” the head chef, a stout Dragonkin lady with sandy scales named Tateena, is nervously whipping her tail. “We can’t serve you anything that’s not the highest quality.”
“So use quality ingredients,” I shrug. “Just make the muffins green, decorate the cakes with marzipan spiders and serve pumpkin soup instead of asparagus.”
“It’s His Majesty’s wish,” Gotrid tries to persuade her. “For once, the dishes don’t have to look so serious.”
“I understand,” Tateena concedes even though I feel she’s having her doubts. I’m afraid being a personal chef to the Celestial Emperor inevitably left a mark on her.
“It can be Halloween-themed and still luxurious,” Erik shows her a feed of inspirational photos on his phone.
“I see,” Tateena calms down after studying the photos intensely. “I’ll do my best then.”
“Thanks, I love your cooking,” I flatter her.
“He really does,” Erik seconds. “Ever since you started cooking for us, he usually eats without protests and you know how picky and peculiar our Emperor is when it comes to food.”
“I’m honoured, Your Majesty,” Tateena smiles and suddenly feels much more enthusiastic about her special task.
“Like this, love?” Erik shows me the tables he arranged himself.
“Perfect!” I appreciate after inspecting that the buffet tables are covered with black and orange cloths and decorations nicely spread.
“Like this, my love?” Gotrid calls for me. He’s hanging spooky garlands using telekinesis.
“I think that’s high enough,” I nod.
The servants are assisting us but I insisted we decorate the room mostly ourselves simply because it’s fun.
“Your Majesty, Royal Consorts, you should go change your clothes now,” Ayala reminds us. “The party starts in an hour but I suspect the guests will start arriving sooner than that. Everyone is really looking forward to the event.”
“How many people confirmed in the end?” I ask. “Maybe I shouldn’t have booked the biggest conference room. It will look weird if it’s half empty and I’m afraid I ordered too much food.”
“Are you still having these naïve worries, hon?” Erik bursts out laughing. “It’s the Celestial Emperor organising it personally, the place will be packed!”
“Two hundred twenty-six people confirmed,” Ayala informs me. “I actually had to order much more food than was your initial estimate, Your Majesty. I can’t say if Tateena was thrilled or horrified. But she assured me just two hours ago that everything is prepared, she hired helpers.”
“T-two hun…,” my jaw drops. “It was supposed to be friends only!”
“You have many friends, Your Majesty,” Ayala says matter-of-factly. “Now go change, Cien is waiting for you with your costumes.”
“It’s even better than I hoped for!” I cry with joy when I open the box with my costume.
“My turned out pretty nice as well,” Erik comments after opening his box. “I’m not looking forward to putting on make-up but I’ll do it for you, love.”
“How’s yours?” I peek into Gotrid’s box.
“The fake beard is as real and funny as it gets,” he laughs. “Oh, I love the hat!”
“And my weapon?” I look around because I can’t see it in the box.
“Here, arrived two days ago,” Cien hands me a smaller box. Right, only now I realise the weapon isn’t something Ingri would be able to make, nor Haldis because it’s not exactly blacksmithing.
“We’ll leave you to it, Your Majesty,” Vermiel comes to check up on us before Cien closes the door of the walk-in closet. Only my partners and the maids have the privilege to see me naked. Besides, we want our costumes to be a surprise.
“How do I tie this?” I’m struggling with my costume and look at Erik who’s putting on make-up while watching a tutorial on his tablet.
“Let me,” Cien hurries to help out. “It’s actually not so different from Celestial robes. The belt works on a similar principle.”
“As if I can tie Celestial robes,” I sigh and let her do the job. “Do you have a costume, Cien?”
“Naturally,” she smiles. “Costumes are mandatory, are they not?”
“Thanks, go change then,” I release her and have to roll my eyes because she hides behind the wardrobe door. She sees me naked every day and we’re all gay here, yet she’s shy about that.
“You’re making it worse, love,” Gotrid steals the comb from my hand.
I sigh resignedly and let him do my hair. He untangles my partial braid, combs it until my hair is perfectly even and then ties it into a high ponytail even though most of my dense hair is still left loose.
“How am I supposed to fight like that? It doesn’t look convincing,” I complain and fasten the weapon to my belt.
“But you’re cute,” Gotrid smirks and puts on the fake beard and a grey wig. “How do I look?”
“Hilarious,” I giggle and steal his hat. “Not fair, I wanted to be a wizard!”
“You know Liana and Ingri would never agree to that,” he claims his hat back.
“Ehm… guys? Do I look weird?” Erik turns to us, feeling uncertain.
Gotrid’s first reaction is to chuckle but he doesn’t because he has to admit that Erik did a very good job. He made his face unnaturally pale, there’s a hint of a tiny bloodstream coming out of his mouth and he also went into the trouble of putting on fake pointy teeth and red contact lenses.
“But now I can’t caress your face!” I realise.
“I refused to put on lipstick,” he stands up and, to prove his point, he kisses me, careful not to ruin his make-up.
“My sexy Dracula,” I purr.
“Permission to taste your royal blood?” he dares.
“Are you sure my Celestial blood isn’t an instant vampire killer?” I play coy.
“We’ll be late!” Cien reappears, suddenly finding out we took longer than expected.
“Wow, nice costume!” Gotrid whistles.
“Thanks, Harut made it for me,” Cien says proudly. She looks like a vampire countess from the eighteenth century with huge skirts and a corset. “Originally, I wanted to have bat wings but I can’t exactly wear another pair above my real ones.”
“Costumes are peculiar for Celestials,” Erik smirks. “Unless you want to cosplay angels.”
“No, thank you,” I roll my eyes. “Shall we?”
We step outside the closet and a big surprise is awaiting us—my guards dressed up as samurai! To be honest, they were the only exception to the costume-required rule, yet they made an effort. I’m really happy about that.
“You look amazing!” I praise them excitedly.
“Thank you, Your Majesty, it’s Haldis’s work,” Vermiel explains. “The armour looks real enough but I’m afraid it doesn’t provide any protection, it’s made of some hardened foam or something.”
“Yeah, a common material for cosplays,” I nod knowingly. No wonder Haldis had to use foam, Celestials aren’t able to carry kilos of iron.
Vermiel gathers the guards and we are on our way. The moment we step out of the elevator, we immediately meet many Draconians in costumes that are also arriving. I’m studying every single one of them because it’s obvious they put a lot of thought into their costumes.
“Barely one-third of the costumes here are actually scary,” Erik comments and it makes him twice as proud that his costume is traditional.
“It’s basically an excuse for grown-ups to dress up,” Gotrid laughs. “It’s always been that way in the States.”
“Sure, Gandalf, but I still prefer spooky,” Erik bares his fake teeth boastfully.
“Oh, Your Majesty, you’re so authentic!” Luviael finds us, looking very distinctly like Morticia from The Addams Family.
“Wow, classic,” Erik nods approvingly. “And where’s our mighty Viceroy?”
“Being shy,” Luvi giggles. “Her costume is perfect. Maybe too perfect for the character she has chosen.”
“Now I NEED to see it,” I utilise my telepathy to pinpoint her exact location. I feel her just twenty metres to my right which means she’s hiding in one of the smaller lounges. When I notice Soren stepping in front of one of the doors, I’m pretty sure she’s inside there.
“Cool,” I praise his samurai costume that’s different from my guards’ because he isn’t wearing armour. “A ronin, huh? If you’re trying to impress a certain somebody, I think you’ll succeed.”
“If that certain somebody ever leaves the room,” Soren sighs.
“Oh, she will,” I assure him. “Li, the party is on!” I burst the door open with telekinesis and stay frozen for a few seconds because I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing.
“Eek, don’t look!” Liana screams. “It was a stupid idea, I should have known. I’m taking the makeup and the horns down!”
“Don’t you dare!” I hurry to her and catch her hands. “Li, you stupid, you look gorgeous!”
“R-really?” she almost sobs.
“Really,” I send her my feelings. She calms down a bit because she knows I can’t lie emotionally.
“I still think it’s too much,” she shakes her head.
“You mean too much because you look exactly like the character you’re portraying?” I grin and hug her. “Oh, Li, you’re the best Maleficent ever!”
“And you’re supposed to be a Sith Lord?” she notices the lightsaber hanging on my belt.
“Aren’t we the best ruling duo ever?” I wink at her and touch her horn headband.
“You two could play in a movie right away,” Gotrid says.
“Liana sure could,” Eriks laughs. “Not sure about our beloved, though. He’s too cute for a Sith Lord.”
“You don’t say, Dracula,” she purses her lips at him.
“Come on, Li, you’ll miss all the fun,” I take her hand because she still refuses to leave and drag her out of the room.
“Good evening, Your Excellency,” Soren greets her and studies her costume with a half-suppressed smile. “You look beautiful. Ehm… not that you don’t look beautiful any other day!” he adds quickly and blushes.
Gosh, he’s hopeless at compliments, Gotrid sends me his amused remark.
Liana flutters her black wings irritably and clicks her tongue. Seriously, will those two finally go on a proper date and give us a break?
“Hon, I’m starving,” Erik complains. “Let’s eat something and mingle.”
The security in the room is a bit more relaxed because only people we know well were invited but my guards still follow us like a second shadow. But for once, I don’t mind at all. I enjoy being guarded by fancy samurai, it’s cool.
When we reach the buffet tables, Erik stuffs a few canapés with violet spread into his mouth and prepares a small plate for me. Any other time, it wouldn’t be dignified for the Emperor to eat while standing but this is a party so court procedures aren’t that strict for once.
“Tateena really outdid herself,” I’m surprised by how spooky everything looks while still tasting heavenly.
“So eat a lot, love,” Gotrid puts more canapés on my plate. “There won’t be a proper dinner, everyone is expected to snack between socialising. We’ll sit down for a pumpkin soup later.”
“Hey, Elizabeth! Katerina!” Erik frantically waves at our only human guests if we don’t count Julia whom I’ve noticed for a second when we entered and I could swear she looked like a zombie wearing a ragged lab cloak.
“Your Majesty,” the Czech Prime Minister and her wife bow to me. “Thank you for the lovely invitation. God knows we need to unwind.”
“Exactly my argument,” I’m glad we share the same sentiment and study their costumes. Elizabeth came as a noble Cleopatra but Bauerova surprised me by dressing up as Princess Leia.
“We’re from the same universe,” Bauerova grins, eyeing my lightsaber. “Why not a Jedi Knight, though? I’m sorry if I sound rude but black isn’t really your colour, Your Majesty.”
“It’s Halloween, I wanted something spooky,” I explain. “I hoped the black will contrast nicely with my silver.”
“It contrasts,” Bauerova agrees but stays sceptical. “It’s just impossible to imagine you as an evil overlord, Your Majesty.”
“Told you,” Erik pokes me.
“But the design is really practical. I could maybe wear something similar for a battle?” I suggest hopefully.
“No way!” someone burst out laughing behind me. Ingri just showed up.
“What are you supposed to be?” Gotrid narrows his eyes.
“A forest fairy, my own original character,” Ingri announces and turns around in a dance, her huge skirt made of tiny little leaves flickering many autumn colours.
“You even adjusted your ears for that?” I notice they’re very pointy now, like an elf’s. “And the dress? Is it a dress or a part of you?”
“I think I might keep these ears, they’re lovely. As for the dress, it’s actually both,” she reveals. “I let it grow on me but it can be peeled off quite easily like excessive skin.”
“Uhm, we were still eating,” Erik cries. Only an Earthborn can talk about such topics with ease.
And then Haldis finally shows up. Late. But it’s kind of obvious why. Their costume must have taken forever to put on.
“This is the most brilliant costume I’ve ever seen!” I hurry to them and my enthusiasm is overflowing. Fortunately, only Celestials can feel that.
It’s difficult to describe what Haldis is wearing. It’s as if they decided to go for a ‘steampunk meets dragons’ theme. They’re wearing clockwork-ornamented armour that’s as real as it gets (forget cosplay foam) and has a pair of mechanical wings attached to their back. Naturally, they get a ton of attention which isn’t exactly good for Haldis’s social anxiety.
“Your Majesty,” Haldis tries to bow which proves challenging in the armour.
“Is it functional?” I ask curiously. “Can I touch it?”
“Of course,” Haldis nods hesitantly. “Functional… well, let’s say it’s a functional prototype at least.”
“It’s not metal?!” I find out immediately after I caress it.
“Heligorr chitin,” Haldis explains. “Lighter than metal but very firm. Pretty tricky to bend but I can use my breath and my hands are fireproof so I managed.”
“Aren’t they an artisan savant?!” Ingri nudges them. “Dragonkin crafting guilds are always trying to recruit them.”
“I like it here,” Haldis shakes their head. “I have Ingri and I can craft for His Majesty. That’s more than enough for me, I’m happy.”
“Deminas is still angry with me for usurping such a talent,” I comment guiltily.
“I swore my allegiance to you, Your Majesty,” Haldis assures me. “It’s different for the Dragonkin, we’re not as centralised as Celestials. Deminas is still my Patriarch but my direct liege is you.”
What a strange concept for Celestials, Gotrid sends me his thought. We can’t imagine answering to anyone but our Emperor.
“Do you like it, Haldis? My design!” Ingri boasts, pointing at my costume.
“So that’s the thing you were trying to keep secret from me,” Haldis finally understands. “His Majesty hired you personally?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t commission you as well, Haldis, but robes aren’t exactly your speciality,” I say quickly because I feel Haldis became a tiny bit jealous.
“I could have made you a lightsaber at least,” Haldis says dreamily. “One made of metal, not plastic.”
“That would weigh too heavily on His Majesty’s belt, Haldis,” Ingri shakes her head.
“My lightsaber might not be functional but I can use the Force!” I grin. “Literally.”
“Riiiight,” my partners barely hold out a laugh. “You’re a true dark overlord, hon.”
“I think I’d make a fine cosplayer,” I purse my lips at them. “If only Liana would let me attend Comic-Con!”
Haldis, who sometimes has slight problems catching humorous social cues, suddenly lets out a deep glottal laugh. They’re so loud everyone is turning to us.
“The Celestial Emperor… at Comic-Con…!” their eyes got all teary from the laugh and I get a nice show of all their spiky teeth.
“I can dream,” I murmur, embarrassed.
“This is maybe a bit like Comic-Con?” Erik tries to comfort me because, unlike Haldis, he knows that I’m sore about this topic.
“Cue: His Majesty was serious and his inability to attend Comic-Con actually makes him said,” Ingri nudges her Dragonkin flat-mate.
“Oh,” Haldis stops immediately, realising their error. “I… I didn’t know… it’s hard to imagine that His Majesty would…”
“Haldis, let’s disappear before His Majesty’s protectors use the Force on you,” Ingri takes their arm and pulls them away.
I try to find Liana again and I easily spot her cosplay horns in the crowd. Iconic! I want to join her but then I notice Soren is standing very close to her and she doesn’t seem to mind. They’re talking about something and look busy. Okay, better leave those two alone.
“Don’t forget we still have our own private Halloween celebration,” Gotrid reminds me. “A horror movie night!”
We socialise until 11 PM and despite the fact that we’re really enjoying ourselves, we decide to call it a night as far as the official program goes. The guests are sad to see me leave but they understand my Consorts want me for themselves.
When we return to our apartment, Gotrid takes off the fake wizard beard and Erik wipes off his make-up but, otherwise, we decide to stay in costumes. Originally, we wanted to watch some classic horror from the 20th century but that plan evaporated as soon as an innocent kiss from Erik while picking up a movie transformed into something much more passionate.
“I’ve always wanted to try to have sex in a cosplay,” Gotrid jokes when we abandon our plan entirely and head to the bedroom.
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