Chapter 70:


Draconia Offline

“I did it, Erik! I did it!” I collapse in my partner’s lap the moment I land on our balcony because I’m exhausted. Exhausted, but totally happy.

“I’m not sure what you did, but congratulations?” Erik kisses me and caresses my wings which are still shaking from overstraining.

“I reached my ultimate speed,” I explain proudly, grinning from ear to ear. “And that officially makes me the fastest creature on the planet!”

“Congratulations again then!” he finally understands and kisses my face all over.

“You know that some birds like falcons and eagles can be really fast when diving after their prey?” I continue enthusiastically. “That’s the speed when they are basically just falling down. But I can match that speed when flying in any direction I want!”

“He scared the hell out of us up there,” Gotrid is panting and also collapses in the armchair. “One moment he’s hovering peacefully, then he shoots up like a rocket and we lose him completely. The guards freaked out.”

“But I came back immediately,” I remind him. “I would never fly away again. Shouldn’t you all be happy that I can do my Emperor speed now?”

“Happy and scared at the same time,” Miruel folds her wings. “I have no idea how we will be able to match your new speed, Majesty.”

“I won’t be using it all the time,” I set the record straight. “It’s very taxing on my wings and mana consumption.”

“And calorie consumption I bet,” Cien speaks up, listening to our conversation from the door. “Lunch will be served in ten minutes.”

We hurry to change our clothes and, in a few minutes, we’re sitting in our dining room. I had no appetite after the incident with Taranah, but Zetraya’s psychological intervention really helped me, then I successfully scolded my subjects and now I’m overjoyed that I achieved my ultimate speed. Long story short, it’s a small miracle, but I find myself ravenous.

I gobble the starter in a few bites and, for once, my maids overlook my poor table manners. I quickly pour the soup down my throat and tell Ayala to give me a mountain of rice. Carbohydrates, I totally crave carbohydrates. Erik and Gotrid are grinning at me, content that they don’t have to force me to eat, especially after what happened in the morning.

“Aefener, hi,” Liana appears rather suddenly and unexpectedly. She’s the only person in the entire world (apart from my partners, the guards and the maids, naturally) who doesn’t have to officially ask to be let inside the Royal Chambers.

“Li, join us,” I invite her.

“Do you feel okay?” she chews her lip, still not sitting down. “Sorry that I didn’t come earlier, but I had to deal with Taranah and the EU representatives.”

“I feel much better now,” I swallow and ask for another helping.

“If you’re eating, it must mean you do,” she smiles and finally takes an empty seat at the table that’s reserved for her anyway. “I want you to know that Taranah received exemplary punishment.”

“Exemplary?!” I stop eating.

“Oh no, not like that,” Liana waves her hand. “I know you wouldn’t wish him any harm, but there are other ways how to punish a proud Celestial. Like making him clean toilets for a week.”

Erik spits out his orange juice and I’m glad that I had nothing in my mouth at the moment because I’d probably end up with the same reaction.

“You made Taranah clean toilets?!” I need to make sure I heard right.

“I did,” she grins gleefully. “And you should have seen that dread in his eyes when I sentenced him.”

“I’d make it a whole month,” Gotrid raises his eyebrows. “I didn’t think you’re so benevolent, Viceroy.”

“Just this once,” she takes a mouthful of the starter the maids just served her. “Taranah is an integral part of our inner government and we need him to continue working on his projects as soon as possible. I think that simply showing our people that nobody gets away with harassing the Emperor should do the trick. Taranah will be made to cover all Celestial floors, so everyone will see him.”

“Exemplary indeed,” I approve her decision and resume eating.

“But I don’t really think it will happen again,” Liana shrugs. “Not after you let every Celestial in the skyscraper know how fed up you are with us.”

“Oh, that,” I realise and blush. “Sorry, was it too much?”

“No, we deserved it,” she shakes her head. “Feel free to do it more often, don’t keep your frustrations with us bottled inside, okay? It’s rather obvious we desperately need our Emperor’s honest feedback from time to time.”

“Ehm, Your Majesty,” Miruel coughs. “You still didn’t tell the Viceroy the news.”

“You mean Aefener being unable to use magic against Celestials?” Liana sighs sadly. “Vermiel told me. It’s a significant complication, but nothing we can’t handle. Besides, under normal circumstances, there shouldn’t be any need for Aefener to defend himself against his own people. That’s just ridiculous.”

“I mean the good news,” Miruel says impatiently.

“Ooooh, that!” I gulp a mouthful of cheesecake and grin. “Li, I’ve achieved my ultimate Emperor speed.”

“What?! When?” she blurts out after a long moment of just staring at me, astonished.

“Literally just a few minutes ago,” I explain proudly. “They let me fly before lunch.”

“But how? I thought such speed isn’t possible in the real world,” she continues questioning me, still taken aback.

“I poured mana out of my wings, made the air cooperate with me and the rest is my exceptional wing work,” I summarise.

“Miruel, was it safe?” Liana turns to the Guard Captain.

“Well…,” Miruel steps nervously. “We lost His Majesty for a minute or so.”

“I wasn’t lost, they just didn’t see me above the clouds,” I add quickly. “And, for the record, I returned immediately!”

“He did,” Miruel confirms.

“Okay,” Liana takes a deep breath.

“I’d never run away again, Li,” I puff that I have to repeat myself. “You know I wouldn’t. I know better now.”

“I know,” Liana calms down. “It’s just… you know we panic every time you’re not perfectly protected.”

“His Majesty didn’t do anything wrong, he was just testing a new ability in the spur of the moment,” Miruel stands up for me. “Next time, we’ll be prepared.”

“I’m not angry, not in the slightest,” Liana shakes her head and finally return to her plate. “I was just worried.”

“Celebrate instead,” Gotrid smiles. “Our Emperor is officially the fastest being on the planet, isn’t that amazing?”

“Sure, amazing,” Liana tries to smile but fails. “And terrifying, to be honest. We will never be able to match your speed now, Aefener.”

“It’s not like I’ll be using it all the time,” I explain softly because I feel she’s seriously worried about that. “And I definitely won’t cheat in our aerial games. I promise!”

“R-right,” her mouth finally curls into a smile. “Sorry, I was just startled. It’s wonderful news, of course.”

When we finish our lunch, Liana asks me if I want to return to work or rest. I appreciate that I’m given a choice because that hardly ever happens with my schedule.

“Then,” I start thinking. “Could I maybe take a look at the Dragonkin crafting instead of my usual schedule? I heard there was a breakthrough.”

“I’m also intrigued,” Liana admits. “Luviael? Can you contact the Dragonkin embassy and tell them if they have time to show their findings to us?”

“Of course, Your Excellency,” Luvi nods and runs off to take care of our request.

“Gosh, it totally slipped my mind!” Liana suddenly taps her forehead. “We never asked Mrs Anya about that ring you enchanted for her!”

“It probably didn’t work or Deminas would say something?” I shrug.

“Let’s find out right away, the time difference is only two hours,” Liana suggests enthusiastically.

We go sit in the living room and take my laptop. It’s a computer I use mostly for fun, but it has all encryptions installed, so it’s safe for governmental calls. I’m pleased that Deminas picks up almost immediately. He must have me set as a priority call.

“Is something wrong?” he asks without greeting and is quite surprised.

“Hi, Deminas,” I smile at him. “No, nothing’s wrong. I’m just calling to ask how things in Russia are and I’m also curious about that ring I enchanted for your wife.”

“Russia didn’t refuse Draconian help, so things started to get better recently,” Deminas informs me. “As for the ring…,” he gets weird all of a sudden.

“It didn’t work? Just tell me,” I encourage him. “It was my first try, no hard feelings.”

“It worked,” he answers rather hesitantly.

“Yeah?” I get excited. “How long did my mana last? How is Anya feeling?”

Deminas looks guiltily sideways for some reason.

“We… ehm… we tried embedding the crystal from the ring into a helmet,” he says extremely slowly.

“You ruined Mrs Anya’s wedding ring?” Erik is shocked. “Was she okay with it?”

“She wasn’t talking to me for a week,” Deminas sighs, a light fume coming from his mouth. “Even though I had the ring repaired with the same kind of gem.”

“Well, duh!” Erik gets dramatic. “It’s not the same gem, Deminas.”

“I did it for scientific advancement and…,” Deminas continues, but Liana interrupts him.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” she purses her lips at him.

“We’re still testing it,” Deminas coughs out another small fume. “It’s interesting, but we don’t have definite results to share yet.”

“So let me summarise it,” Gotrid gets irritated. “You took the ring our Emperor enchanted for Mrs Anya as a present and used it for experiments?”

“It’s high time we start to take crafting seriously,” Deminas frowns. “These monsters will keep attacking and we need proper armour.”

“We’re not arguing about that,” Liana says tiredly. “We’re angry that you didn’t tell us.”

“I’m more concerned about the fact that the ring was supposed to help Mrs Anya,” I’m saddened that Deminas is turning this way.

The Dragonkin are notoriously known to be crafting fanatics, but that’s not the real problem here. The problem is that Deminas took his wife’s ring without her approval—the ring that was supposed to help her and was precious to her. Isn’t he ashamed? He doesn’t look ashamed. He looks like he doesn’t understand why his wife made a fuss about it in the first place.

“I got Anya the best Earthborn healer, she’s well taken care of,” Deminas doesn’t like what I’m indirectly accusing him of. “And we’ll share the results when we have something definite to share.”

“You’d better be, enchanting is Celestial technology and the gem was enchanted by our embodiment of magic himself,” Liana comments venomously.

I don’t want the conversation to continue in a weird unfriendly way, so I end it abruptly because I can feel that Liana and my partners are getting pissed.

“Can you believe him?” Liana rants when she closes my laptop.

“That’s the Dragonkin for you,” Gotrid remarks. “They’re nice lethargic guys, but when it comes to crafting, they would sell their kidney for new undiscovered material or technology.”

“Not every Dragonkin,” I poke him. “Fefnir is a good friend and he isn’t even an artisan but a full-fledged warrior. Draconians might succumb to stereotypes easily, but we’re still unique personalities. Never forget that.”

“Sorry, you’re right,” Gotrid admits and kisses my left wing in an apology. “I let my Celestial nature get the best of me just now. Pride.”

“Your Majesty, the Dragonkin from the embassy are overjoyed to show you their craft,” Luviael appears again, bringing good news. “They will be ready for a little presentation in an hour.”

“Great, I’m really looking forward to it,” I clap my hands enthusiastically.


When I’m walking the corridors again, Celestials are bowing and staring as usual, except now they wouldn’t dare to touch me without my consent. It seems my telepathic scolding did the trick, but I hope I won’t need to use it too often. I love my race and it’s hard for me to express anything but that.

I got used to the fact that, for some reason, I deeply love all my subjects, even though I still don’t know where it comes from. I doubt it’s just because I’m the race ruler. Is it connected to my telepathy perhaps?

“Maybe a combination of factors?” Gotrid answers my unspoken question. “You’re a race ruler AND an empath AND it’s in your lore.”

“Other race rules don’t feel the same?” Erik gets curious.

“I don’t think so,” I shake my head. “Emi felt responsible for her pack and keeping her people in line, but I didn’t perceive overwhelming love for every single Clawfang. Deminas keeps to himself in Russia and has little interest in the Dragonkin all over the world. As for Twyla and Werden, they focus on building their community, but they aren’t set on every single Earthborn either.”

“Well, other races were never keen on centralising,” Liana points out. “Lore-wise, only Celestials live in one place, flocking around the embodiment of magic.”

“You had a flying city ingame, right?” Erik asks. “What was it like?”

“Assiath was a marvel to behold,” Liana says dreamingly. “To be honest, I really miss it. It was a safe haven for all Celestials and so beautiful. Living in a skyscraper is good enough, but nothing beats a flying city. And palace. How I miss the palace!”

“Sounds wonderful,” Erik agrees. “Love, can you imagine us living in a real palace? Too bad it’s just a fantasy.”

I don’t reply. The moment Liana mentioned Assiath, I got overcome with nostalgia all of a sudden. Our own city, flying in the sky. A safe place for my people and, possibly, more freedom for me? It does seem like a fantasy, but maybe in future… what if… yes, that could work… and we could try… crystals would provide energy… and level 50 transfigurations for levitation… and then also…

Gotrid freezes and makes me stop as well because we’re holding hands.

“My love, you’re seriously considering it?” he asks, his mouth open wide.

“Considering what?” Liana turns to us, confused. She moved to discuss another topic with Luviael because she thought our small talk was over.

“Well,” I say very slowly, still thinking it through. “Theoretically, I mean purely magic-wise, if we had crystals big enough and thousands of them, then level 50 levitation spells should be able to hold pretty much anything. Even a city.”

For a moment, I’m afraid that I said something incredibly stupid because now everyone freezes, including the guards and random Celestials we’re passing.

“Okay, forget it,” I say quickly. “I was just pondering that maybe…”

“My Emperor!” Gotrid cries and hugs me tight. “You think it’s possible? Really?”

“Theoretically?” I repeat, a bit startled by everyone’s reaction because I feel careful excitement and hope.

“Aefener, and if we had those resources?” Liana’s eyes widen.

“Then… sure?” I shrug.

I don’t know what they would like to hear. It’s one thing to make a big crystal float and build a platform on it. But we’re talking about thousands of crystals and thousands of platforms perfectly interlacing. Where would we even get so much material? Not even Liana would be able to finance building a whole city from the scratch.

“So you mean to tell us,” Liana takes a deep breath. “That building Assiath in the real world is possible?”

“Yeah?” I shrug again. “If it’s just a matter of enchanting crystals with a levitation spell, we can do it once we level up. However, it would take a tremendous amount of resources and that’s the main problem.”

“Dammit, Aefener,” Liana is starting to go a bit crazy. “Do you even realise what you’ve just so casually said? That building Assiath isn’t a dream anymore!”

“How can you be so confident about it, love?” Erik doesn’t understand. “A flying city in the game is one thing, but in real life?”

“Confident?” that takes me aback. How indeed? “I just… know somehow?”

“If our embodiment of magic says it’s possible, then it’s possible,” Gotrid grins. “Sorry, Erik, I know it goes against all logic, but it’s exactly that.”

“I just instinctively feel what’s possible when it comes to Celestial magic,” I try to explain, even though I don’t fully understand it myself.

“Meteor superior?” Liana tries me.

“Not possible,” I shake my head. “Conjuring a huge meteorite out of nothing? Nope.”

“Lightning?” she tries again.

“Possible,” I confirm. “Sorry, I don’t know how I’m doing it.”

“I believe you, love, it’s just hard to digest for me,” Erik caresses my left wing and gets anxious. He always does when he encounters something inherently Draconian that just eludes him.

I continue walking to the conference room, but the mood of my companions stays exalted. I suspect they won’t let it go easily. Yes, building a flying city is theoretically possible, but the costs of such an endeavour would be astronomical and the project would take decades. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. I don’t want to give them false hopes.

“Your Majesty, Your Excellency, Royal Consorts,” the Dragonkin artisan team is overjoyed to meet us. I recognise all of them from the recent battle of Prague—they are those over-zealous Dragonkin who were peeling the heligorr chitin instead of helping the injured. But I don’t let dislike show on my face, I need to accept that some Dragonkin are like that.

Instead, I focus on their work. The samples are spread on the tables and I can tell the Dragonkin feel really proud about their achievements so far.

“They are lighter than I expected!” I weigh a prototype arm protector in my hands. “Not quite something a Celestial could wear, but lighter nonetheless.”

“Heligorr chitin has unique properties,” one of the artisans, a huge stout Dragonkin with grey scales and bent horns, explains proudly. “It’s light, easy to bend, yet very firm. We could start mass-producing armour made of chitin right away, but we don’t have enough material. One adult heligorr is enough for three sets only. We need tens of thousands.”

“Oh, where’s Haldis?” I realise they aren’t here only now.

The Dragonkin are suddenly looking as if they ate something sour.

“Not part of our research team,” the huge grey Dragonkin hisses irritably.

I stare at him for a moment, analysing his emotions. The Dragonkin perceive the world very differently from Celestials, but what I’m catching from him is obviously disgust. I have never really studied Dragonkin society in detail and Fefnir never had any problem with my sexuality, but… is it possible that the Dragonkin aren’t keen on accepting other genders and sexual orientations?

“We would love to cooperate with Celestials from now on,” the grey Dragonkin continues as if nothing happened. “Our craftsmanship is the best among all Draconian races, but enchanting pieces of armour would strengthen it tremendously.”

“We’ll gladly cooperate, of course,” Liana answers for me because she notices I’m rather hesitant to deal with these Dragonkin.

The Dragonkin bow to me and leave, making sure they take everything with them. They came here to boast, not to share.

“That was quite… cringy,” Erik comments, confused. “And did you notice how they reacted to Ryuu mentioning Haldis?”

I clutch my fists. I was kidding myself, Draconians aren’t any better at acceptance than humans. We’re so different, yet the same in certain aspects. I know that Fefnir and many other Dragonkin aren’t like that, but these artisans are total bigots. Poor Haldis. First shunned by their human family, then rejected by their own race. No, I just won’t have it!

“Luvi, can you contact Ingri and tell her to bring Haldis?” I ask my adjutant. “I wish to speak with them.”


Ingri and Haldis show up just an hour later when I’m drinking my afternoon coffee. They’re both nervous because they have no idea why I requested their presence all of a sudden. Ingri is a bit more chill because she’s been with me from the beginning, but Haldis is on the verge of a panic attack.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I say quickly to calm them down. “I just missed you at today’s artisan presentation, Haldis.”

The Dragonkin can’t really grow pale, but it’s obvious Haldis is really uncomfortable about it by the way they are waggling their tail.

“Because those pricks didn’t let them join, Your Majesty!” Ingri says angrily.

“Figured as much,” I sigh. “Are they giving you a hard time, Haldis?”

Haldis lowers their head and doesn’t dare to meet my eyes. I can feel they’re deeply hurt and saddened. And I hate it. Haldis’s situation is simply too close to home for me to ignore.

“They said they won’t accept a no-female-nor-male into their guild,” Haldis whispers. “They said I’m a waste of a good female.”

“I admit that I don’t know that much about Dragonkin social structure,” I say slowly. “But I bet it has a lot to do with the fact that 80% of the Dragonkin population is male.”

“That pretty much sums it up,” Haldis nods, their tail twitching. “By the Dragonkin standards, I failed my people by refusing to be proper female since they are so rare.”

“B-but… that’s terrible!” Erik is outraged.

“I love being a Dragonkin, but I envy Celestials,” Haldis finally looks up. “You’re so equal and free when it comes to genders and sexual orientation. Your Majesty is a living example of that.”

They make me think about it for a moment. It’s true that Celestial society is absolutely egalitarian when it comes to gender. All Celestials have more or less the same fragile physique and the only thing that matters is a magic skill, especially when it comes to the Royal Guard, so distinguishing between men and women is meaningless to us.

As for sexual orientation, lore doesn’t say much about it. Draconia Online as a game promised to protect the rights of all minorities, so any hateful actions or harassment were penalised severely. Still, it’s lore that applies to us now, not some company policy. And where lore is rather hazy, there is space for our racial tendencies to unfold.

“True, Celestials consider these things to be up to an individual,” I nod after a short consideration. “I’m sorry it’s not the same for the Dragonkin, Haldis.”

Haldis looks down and nervously waggles their tail.

“Just say it, Haldis,” Ingri encourages her friend. “I’m sure His Majesty will give it a thought at least.”

I smile because it’s not hard for me to guess what Haldis is about to say. But I don’t rush them. It’s better if they come with it themselves.

“I… I would like…,” Haldis is stuttering, their anxiety rising. “I… would like to… work directly for Your Majesty!” they blurt out the last part.

I feel Haldis expects I’ll turn them down. After all, while Celestials are more than willing to cooperate and trade with other races, we never let strangers into our midst. Assiath was a good example of that, only Celestials were allowed to enter as opposed to other Draconian capitals that didn’t have any racial restrictions.

But I’m the Celestial Emperor and my word is the law. If I say that I accept specific Draconians into my direct services, then nobody can object. Erik and Gotrid are right, I should start using the perks my position brings. I’ll do that now.

“I was about to propose you the same thing,” I say gently which makes Haldis look up again.

“You were…?” they are speechless.

“I met your kin today and they want to cooperate with our enchanters,” I say. “But it was obvious they weren’t keen on sharing their discoveries or work on purely Celestial projects. I’d really welcome someone who’s eager to experiment with Celestial technology for the benefit of Celestials.”

“Haldis is exactly that someone,” Ingri grins. “They prefer light armour and jewellery anyway.”

“I… I’d be honoured,” Haldis mumbles in a daze. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful or daring but… ehm… will I be given creative freedom?”

“Absolutely,” I assure them. “There are some things we need to tackle as soon as possible, but we’re not against any innovative solution if it gets the job done. My only worry is whether your people will be okay with it. I don’t want them to hate you even more.”

“I don’t care what they think,” Haldis clutches their hands into fists. “Besides, the Dragonkin don’t have to necessarily swear allegiance to the Patriarch. While it’s expected to craft for Dragonkin guilds, we can be adopted by a third party if we don’t have a clan affiliation.”

“Adopted?” I’m taken aback by Haldis’s strange choice of words.

“Dragonkin clans are like extended families,” Haldis explains. “But I was disowned by my original clan when they found out I’m non-binary in real life.”

“I think that what Haldis is trying to say is that they are free for the taking,” Ingri chuckles. “I really hope that clan will regret bitterly what a talent they lost.”

“Your Majesty, I’ll gladly swear my allegiance to you if you would have me,” Haldis says with anxious anticipation and careful hope.

“And I’ll gladly accept,” I confirm with a smile.

I expect the matter to be over, but Haldis quickly stands up, almost turning over the chair they were sitting on. They kneel in front of me, this time not afraid to meet my eyes.

“I swear my allegiance to the Celestial Emperor,” they say solemnly. “From this moment on, I have no responsibilities towards my race, not even the Patriarch. I promise not you bring you shame and, in return, all I ask is to be accepted for who I am.”

“I accept and promise to honour your wish,” I reply. I’m not sure how the Dragonkin ceremonial allegiance works, but Haldis seems content with my response.

“Ehm… Your Majesty?” Ingri speaks up, uncertain. “I’d actually like to do the same. I love my people so I won’t be leaving them because they don’t want me, but I want to be affiliated with you. While I deeply respect our King and Queen, my place is here.”

“Don’t the Earthborn need permission when they want to change their root?” Liana recalls. “Haldis was disowned, so there was nothing in the way, but it’s not that straightforward for your people, right?”

“We do need permission and I asked for it shortly before this meeting actually,” Ingri reveals. “The Queen herself called me to say that she’s sad to see me leave, but she agreed that I’ll be most useful working for the Celestial Emperor.”

“She let you go rather easily, not very Earthborn-like,” Liana gets a bit suspicious.

“Easily? Not really,” Ingri laughs. “The Earthborn monarchs feel guilty about leaving all politics to His Majesty, so I’m to be their gift, a gesture of goodwill. Yeah, and I have to undergo my official Earthborn training under their tutoring at some point, forgot about this tiny little catch. Sorry, we don’t have any fancy oath and I’m pretty sure the Earthborn ceremony isn’t Celestial-friendly.”

“We’ll be overjoyed to have you, Ingri,” Liana is relieved it turned this way. She learnt to depend on her capable assistant. “But training with the Earthborn monarchs themselves? When do you want to go?”

“Not anytime soon,” Ingri shakes her head. “Definitely not until you return from Japan because I need to hold the fort for you.”

“It doesn’t work the other way around, does it?” Erik nudges me. “Can a Celestial swear allegiance to someone else?”

“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous,” Liana raises her eyebrows at him. “Celestials are totally devoted to the Emperor.”

“Of course,” Erik retorts a little. I can feel he’s annoyed that it’s another thing that eludes him.

“Don’t let it bother you, Erik, Celestials were always peculiar even to other Draconians,” Ingri waves her hand.

“When can I start? And where?” Haldis speaks up, excitement building inside of them. Liana rolls her eyes, but not always catching social cues is actually something I really like about Haldis—breaking conventions is refreshing.

“I’ll tell Tara-… oh, wait, I can’t, he’s cleaning toilets,” I realise. “Luvi, could you assign someone else to show Haldis around the Celestial floors? Also, make it perfectly clear to everyone that Haldis is one of us now and they are to be respected.”

“Who is cleaning toilets and why?” Haldis whispers to Ingri.

“I will,” Luviael nods and escorts Ingri and confused Haldis out of the room.

A few minutes after Ingri and Haldis leave, Noage suddenly appears. At first, I’m afraid that he came to check up on my health and bring me a protein drink, but he kneels in front of me.

“I’d like to serve as your personal physician, Your Majesty,” Noage asks without any fuss.

“Don’t you already?” I tilt my head. “I mean, you’re helping Julia and she is my personal physician.”

“I heard Queen Twyla allowed Ingri to swear allegiance to you and I asked for the same,” he explains.

“I’d be overjoyed to have you, but aren’t the Earthborn monarchs bothered that they’re losing subjects?” I point out.

“Not when they are in your service,” Noage assures me. “On the contrary, King Werden thought it’s a brilliant idea, especially considering… ehm… Your Majesty’s frail condition. The Earthborn monarchs want a dedicated Earthborn healer to be taking care of your health so that they can sleep soundly.”

“Are you really okay with it?” I bite my lip. “I don’t want you to be forced into it just because Twyla and Werden feel guilty about leaving all politics to me.”

“Your Majesty,” Noage almost laughs, “you really have no idea what an honour it is working directly for the Celestial Emperor, do you? You’re too modest.”

“Told you,” Erik pokes me. “Just accept, love.”

“If that’s what you really wish to do, I’ll gladly accept your services,” I nod. “You and Julia certainly make a great team.”

“Dr Julia is a delight to work with and I appreciate her unique human perspective since that’s something we lost,” Noage says honestly.

“As do I,” I clutch Erik’s hand.

When we finish for the day and depart home, I meet Taranah in the hall. He’s wearing a simple work robe instead of his usual rich attire and is holding a mop and a bucket. He’s scared to cross my path, but I feel he desperately wants to talk to me, so I nod at my guards to let him approach him.

“I’m so sorry, Your Majesty,” he lands on his knees, sobbing. “I don’t know what got into me. The moment I saw you, all I could think of was receiving your blessing. Your telepathic message snapped me out of it, but I realise it’s been entirely my fault.”

“Stand up,” I say softly. “I’m not angry. I forgive you.”

“Disappointing Your Majesty is even worse than your wrath,” Taranah shudders.

I don’t like Taranah feeling this way, but I know I had to let my subjects know that even their Emperor who loves them unconditionally has boundaries. Celestials have to realise that their embodiment of magic is a living feeling person, not some idol they can put on a pedestal and touch whenever they feel like it.

“But we can, right, love?” Gotrid gets a bit startled because he’s holding my hand, so he knows what goes through my head right now.

“Yes, you and Erik can touch me whenever, do I have to spell that?” I roll my eyes and let them both kiss me. And I feel hopeful again.