“Ryuu, what’s wrong?” Erik gently grabs my chin and kisses me. “I’ll be back in no time and Gotrid won’t leave your side.”
“It’s not about that,” I sigh and put my hair behind my ears because the wind currents are constantly messing with my hairstyle.
The helicopter’s engine is already on, Erik is dressed in a sporty overall and the only thing that’s delaying his departure is me. I just wanted to see him off and wish him a safe journey. Instead, I started worrying like crazy. What if something happens to him? What if he gets attacked? What if…?
“I’ll be okay, honey,” Erik assures me. “I have Royal Guards and police drones accompanying us. I’m as safe as I can be.”
“When will you be back?” I ask anxiously.
“Well, I need to make several flights to the airport and back,” he says. “I’m afraid it will take the whole morning.”
Right, I forgot for a moment that this isn’t a simple pleasure trip, Erik volunteered to transport our new ministers from the airport. Originally, we planned to keep their arrival secret, but the information got out. Not because of a leak from our side, those damn airlines babbled to the press, so Liana decided it’s best if we avoid using cars.
Celestials can fly to the skyscraper on their own, but their family members and other races have to be transported by helicopter. And that’s where Erik enthusiastically came in, claiming that it’s a perfect combination of work and fun.
“Maybe I could fly after you and…?”
“Love, you’re speaking nonsense,” Erik laughs. “Besides, when I drop off the first batch of newcomers, you’ll be too busy to miss me.”
“My Emperor,” Gotrid takes my hand and has to lead me away or I’d never let Erik go.
When the helicopter takes off and disappears from my keen sight, Erik’s telepathic imprint disappears as well. I hate to be so clingy, but I can’t help it. My telepathic brain gets anxious when I can’t feel my beloved.
But Erik was right. I hardly take care of two minor tasks when Luviael announces that the Minister of Education is here. Her name is Sarayah, she’s from Germany and has an impressive resumé as a high school teacher, winning the best teacher award two years in a row.
None of the ministers I’ve chosen is actually a politician. None would be even remotely qualified to be a human minister. Most of these people are extremely young (but, hey, so am I), but all of them have something that makes them perfect for the job. We have to start somewhere.
Sarayah enters the Royal Office and it’s like a beam of positive energy came in. She’s one of those rare people who are almost always in a good mood and enthusiastic about things. She has pink hair that would look ridiculous on a human minister, but the colour suits her and doesn’t look inappropriate at all. Besides, fuck human conventions.
I stand up to greet her, but, instead, I’m staring at the tips of her beige wings. Colours, so many colours. How? It wasn’t possible in the game. Yet, Sarayah’s bottom feathers are playing with all sorts of colours. It’s so pretty!
“Your Majesty,” Sarayah bows deeply and even though she can’t touch me, I can tell she’s a hugger. Her urge to go automatically for a hug is overflowing, but she’s well aware she can’t hug the Emperor.
Does she know I’m a telepath I wonder? It’s no secret among Celestials, but Liana implored everyone to spread it only by mouth in case of online leaks. So far we managed to keep it a secret which is a miracle considering thousands of people know. I’d rather she hears it from me than random co-workers.
“Welcome, Sarayah, it’s a delight to have you,” I smile, still staring at the tips of her wings.
“Oh, this?” Sarayah grins. “It’s just hair chalk, not permanent.”
“I love it,” I admire her style. “Maybe I could try it as well? It would catch well on my feathers.”
“I think it would look fabulous on you, love, but your white is royal and mustn’t be stained,” Gotrid says, amused.
“Sarayah, do you know about me…?” I look at her puzzlingly. There’s no good way how to hint at it, but, fortunately, there are only Celestials in the office right now.
“About what?” she tilts her head and I feel she has no idea. So Liana’s ban on mentioning my telepathy online is working. My people sure are devoted to the bone.
I’m a telepath, I send her my thought, hoping I won’t startle her too much.
Sarayah twitches, her feathers stand up and her eyes widen. She falls on her knees in the deepest bow.
“You truly are so godly, Your Majesty!” she’s moved to tears.
“Please, stand up,” I say quickly. I got used to normal bowing, but seeing someone on their knees unnerves me to astronomical heights.
“Come, Sarayah, the Viceroy is waiting for you with onboarding,” Luviael grabs her arm and leads our new Minister of Education out of the office.
“That went… well?” Gotrid comments. “Oh, by the way, I heard that the Minister of Ecology and the Minister of Commerce are married. They got married long before the Great Evolution and they have a kid who also changed. I wonder how they are managing, considering they are a mixed couple.”
“Why wouldn’t they be managing?” I don’t understand. “I have a human partner.”
“You didn’t notice, hon?” Gotrid pets my left wing. “Romance between different Draconian races isn’t exactly common. Most couples, who were dating before the Great Evolution and became opposite races, broke up.”
“B-but…,” I clutch his hand firmly.
“I’m not worried about us,” Gotrid shakes his head. “I can feel your love for Erik isn’t any smaller than your love for me.”
Despite his reassurance, I get up and kiss him deeply on his lips. I don’t quite understand why interracial romance doesn’t work for most Draconians, but surely it must work for some, right?
“Ehm, Your Majesty, Royal Consort,” Vermiel coughs, interrupting our sudden cuddling session. I forgot for a second that we’re still in the Royal Office.
“Sorry,” I blush and notice that three people are waiting at the door.
“Lord Erik has returned with the first group,” Vermiel announces.
I quickly search for Erik with my mind, but he must have gone off immediately. I sigh. If I paid more attention, I could have sent him a cute little message. Never mind, now I have different things that require my focus. I’m pleasantly surprised that the newcomers are that mixed couple we were just talking about.
“Your Majesty,” a Celestial woman with long blond hair and speckled brown wings bows deeply. “I’m Evaniel, honoured to serve as your Minister of Commerce.”
“I’m Forent,” her Earthborn husband bows as well, though not as deeply. His appearance is very plant-like with green skin and hair resembling roots rather than tentacles.
The third person is a young Earthborn girl, probably still a teenager. She has dark purple skin, slightly greenish, with loose rooty hair, dark brown with some radiant green at the ends. Her ears are pointy and she has two long branches growing out of her head like horns.
“Come on, Namph, introduce yourself,” Evaniel pokes her.
The girl is staring at me, but she bows politely.
“This is our daughter Namphiel,” Forent says. “She’s only eighteen, but really great at botany. If it wasn’t for the Great Evolution, she would be starting university next year. I know that she’s very young, but the best Brazilian universities were after her, Your Majesty. I’m sure she’ll do great in the research division.”
Namphiel blushes and two small mushrooms suddenly sprout in her rooty hair.
“S-sorry,” she apologises, embarrassed. “I was experimenting with fungi spores recently and now I can’t get rid of it.”
“Queen Twyla said our Namph is a prodigy,” Forent boasts.
“I do not doubt that,” I smile. “Welcome to the Draconian government.”
I expect that the skyscraper will become really lively in the upcoming days. It’s not only about a handful of new ministers arriving, they are often taking their whole families with them and we also accepted a lot of new people into research and crafting divisions.
The months we were just desperately trying to hold things together and negotiate our standing in the world are officially over. With our rights granted in most countries and the initial panic calmed down, we can start focusing on building our societies and making money.
“I’m so sorry, Your Majesty, I’m late,” a Celestial woman with caramel brown and white wings that resemble a magpie and long light brown hair storms in.
“There’s no late, Rina,” I address her by her name because I recognise her from our video calls, of course. I personally appointed her to become the Minister of Magical Research. Rina widens her eyes and shivers because she gets a full dosage of my enormous mana.
“I travelled by the same plane as Namph and her family, but I couldn’t help myself and flew here while they used a helicopter,” Rina explains frantically while bowing several times.
“You two are friends?” I’m happy to discover. We need more interracial friendships.
“Ever since we started playing the game,” Rina nods. “We even became friends in real life and went through the change together. I can’t express how overjoyed I am that you chose me and Namph’s parents as Ministers, Your Majesty.”
“We might not have been in the same guild, but your passion for magic and lore was well-known, Rina, even I read your blog,” I smile. “Real age doesn’t mean anything, we all played Draconia more or less for the same amount of time before the Great Evolution.”
“Four years for me,” Rina says timidly. “You started playing on the launch day, Your Majesty.”
“I was playing for three years,” Gotrid comments.
“Oh, it totally slipped my mind!” I slap my forehead. “The scientists should have a pretty good idea of who changed and who didn’t, right? There should be a solid statistic by now?”
“We can try asking Julia or Noage,” Gotrid suggests. “They would know.”
“Luvi, can you ask them to come here?” I turn to my adjutant. “One of them is enough, I bet they’re busy.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” Luvi nods. “I’ll just assign someone to our guests first.”
“Evaniel, Rina, I want to talk to you about something before you go, Celestial business only,” I say and wait until Luvi leads Forent and Namph out of the office. They both look at me puzzlingly, so they don’t know yet.
I gently touch Evaniel’s and Rina’s minds and send them my thoughts and love. They are startled, of course, amazed, but not terrified. It seems Celestials take for granted that their embodiment of magic would be special in more ways than just one.
When they leave, I check the rest of the list. Almost everyone will be arriving today, except for the Minister of Crafts and Fefnir who will arrive together in a few days. We decided and Deminas approved it that Fefnir should become the Minister of Defence and return to Europe after his short stay with the Patriarch.
As for the Minister of Labour, after very long consideration, we agreed that Rien would be a good candidate. Emi thinks the boy has potential and his family background and political education are a perfect combination. Besides, we desperately need at least one Clawfang in the government, so that all races are properly represented.
“You had some questions, Your Majesty?” Julia shows up just a few minutes after my request. “By the way, what’s this?”
She points at a half-eaten sandwich next to my computer.
“I didn’t send for you to scold me about my diet,” I whine.
“But she’s right, finish that, please,” Gotrid nudges me.
I roll my eyes, but take the sandwich and resignedly bite into it.
“I wanted to ask you about the percentage of Draconia players who changed,” I say between chewing. “It wasn’t everyone, right?”
“Not by far,” Julia shakes her head. “The scientists collected the data on players and created a pretty accurate statistic. It turns out a person would have to be playing Draconia for at least one year intensely and not stop playing until the Great Evolution started.”
“So it rules out occasional players and people who stopped playing altogether,” Gotrid ponders. “I guess that makes sense.”
“We’re not any closer to finding out how such a thing is even possible in the first place,” Julia admits. “But, at least, we know the requirements now. Generally, people with longer gaming experience and higher immersion levels had the transformation quicker and are finding learning new abilities easier. But all Draconians have the potential to master all skills, it’s just a matter of time and diligence.”
“So Aefener with his 100% immersion level who was playing Draconia since its launch intensely every day would have the transformation quickest and abilities strongest,” Gotrid summarises.
“Basically,” Julia agrees. “Still, the study doesn’t reveal what makes His Majesty the actual embodiment of magic because it’s most probably not his immersion level alone.”
“The fact that he’s a telepath?” Gotrid tries.
“There are still many things we don’t know,” Julia sighs. “The research reveals the Great Evolution happened because a player’s brain was convinced they were a different race, so it started to mutate one’s DNA to match that mental image, but it’s still thin ice. We don’t know anything solid yet. Our current technology simply isn’t advanced enough to cause something like this.”
“Alien technology?” Gotrid suggests carefully because he’s casually hinting that my father might be alien.
“I don’t know, Royal Consort, but it’s possible,” Julia shrugs. “We’d know more if we could examine His Majesty before the Great Evolution. Now it’s too late, I’m afraid. His Majesty’s brain is still unique, but the rest of his body is purely Celestial.”
“Ouch, w-wait a sec,” I massage my temple.
“What is it, hon?” Gotrid clutches my hand and starts to panic a little.
“Strong disturbed emotions,” I say and stand up. “Something must have happened, Clawfangs are in disarray.”
“Your Majesty, you’re not going there,” Vermiel doesn’t allow me. “Let Clawfangs sort their own business. Rien is there and should take care of it.”
“Do you sense danger, love?” Gotrid asks.
“Danger? No, not really,” I shake my head. “But the emotions are really tense.”
“Probably because of the new ambassador, she arrived with the last transport,” Luviael declares. “Emi warned me she’s an alpha. I bet her presence is making Clawfangs all crazy and threatens Rien’s authority.”
“Wait, there can be more alphas?” Julia gets confused.
“Emi is the Supreme Alpha,” I explain. “Individual packs have their own alphas.”
“Are you okay, love? Did you develop a headache? Damn Clawfangs, always making a ruckus,” Gotrid pets my wings to comfort me.
“I’m okay, Draconian emotions don’t overwhelm me as much,” I assure him. “Oh, Erik is here again!”
Welcome back! I send him my thought together with my love.
Ryuu, you startled me! Erik replies immediately. I have the engine running, dummy.
I’m sending another family your way. Then one more trip for the scientists. Love you!
“Your Majesty, you need to stop doing that in public,” Luviael warns me. “What if somebody, who isn’t supposed to, notices something’s off?”
“It’s only people who know about my telepathy here,” I protest.
“I apologise for my bluntness, Your Majesty, but you’re not as careful as you used to be,” Luvi berates me a little bit. “Draconians in the skyscraper are suspecting there’s more to your blessings than just a taste of your mana. Also, some noticed that Celestials flinch seemingly out of nowhere when you’re reaching to us telepathically.”
“Okay, I might have gotten more lenient lately,” I admit. “That’s because I really enjoy not having to hide it all the time.”
“And we understand that,” Gotrid kisses my feathers. “We’re just concerned about the possible consequences of your telepathy getting out. Apart from the global craze that would cause, politicians might become afraid to deal with you in person.”
“I know and I will try to be more careful,” I promise. “If I don’t seem that worried anymore, it’s because I trust you’ll protect me even if it gets out.”
“Your trust in us is heart-warming, Your Majesty,” Luvi smiles. “Still, it would just complicate things unnecessarily at this point.”
“Point taken,” I give in. “By the way, another new Minister and his family are here.”
“Perks of having the telepathic Emperor,” Gotrid grins proudly and nods at the guards to let the newcomers in.
I knew that our Minister of Foreign Affairs is bringing his whole family from India, but I wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of emotions. A family of five comes in and, except for the Celestial Minister and a little human girl, everyone is feeling scared and conflicted. Scared of me and conflicted about being forced to move to Prague.
“Laurin, welcome,” I greet the Minister, a Celestial man with brown skin, long black hair and bronze wings.
“Your Majesty, it’s an honour to finally meet you in person,” Laurin bows deeply and pulls one of his human sons down with him because the boy just stands there. “Your presence is just as godly as I heard.”
“I don’t know about godly, it’s just my mana,” I murmur and look at the rest of his family.
The boy Laurin had to pull down for a bow doesn’t look older than thirteen and his expression is both scared and defiant. A slightly older boy is a puma Clawfang with black fur, so another gamer in the family. Laurin’s wife is a dignified lady in her mid-40s and the youngest member is a little girl no older than five, probably less. I was never good at guessing ages.
“Dad, that angel is so pretty!” the girl exclaims excitedly. “Can I pet her wings?”
Laurin turns pale and starts to panic.
“I’m so sorry for Desna, Your Majesty,” he blurts out, embarrassed. “She’s just four, she doesn’t know better.”
“That’s okay,” I chuckle and duck to the girl. “Hello, Desna, my name is Aefener. I’m not a lady.”
“Not a princess?” Desna blinks, totally confused. She studies my face and even dares to touch my hair before Laurin can stop her. “You look like a princess,” she pouts which is unbelievably cute.
“I’m the Celestial Emperor,” I say. “Basically… your father’s boss?”
“What’s a boss?” Desna is even more confused now.
“Sorry, I don’t know how to talk to children,” I bite my lip.
“I’m really sorry, Your Majesty,” Desna’s mother takes the girl away from me.
“Think nothing of it,” I stand up, still smiling.
The family leaves soon after, but I ask Laurin to stay for a while longer to tell him about my telepathy. I’m surprised he didn’t know either. Are Celestials really that devoted to me that they wouldn’t babble about it online even to other Celestials? I have to admire them for that.
When Laurin leaves, I finish two more minor tasks when I notice that Erik is back again. This time for good. He was right, I didn’t have time to feel lonely, but I did miss him. I don’t know if it’s my telepathic brain or just my personality that makes me addicted to my partners, but, the truth is, I crave him. When he appears at the door, still in his sexy pilot uniform, I envelop him in my wings and start kissing feverishly.
“It’s been just a few hours,” Erik laughs, amused, but happily accepts my affection.
“Was it safe? Did you have a good time?” I ask between kisses.
“The media were a bit annoying, but Bauerova helped,” he informs me. “As for the flight, I really enjoyed it.”
I delve into his mind, as deeply as he lets me, and I’m joyful that he’s joyful. I want him this happy more often. Generally, Erik is more than content with his current life and the state of things, but the flight made him ecstatic. He loves flying almost as much as Celestials do. I do not doubt that if he played Draconia, he would be a Celestial.
That idea crossed my mind before, you know, he says in his mind because he doesn’t want Gotrid to hear it. If I played your game, I’d definitely pick a Celestial.
Erik with wings. I try to imagine that and just the mere idea arouses me. But I love Erik as he is. I love Erik the human. I don’t need him to be a Celestial. The only thing that bothers me is our entirely different life spans.
With the current medical care, humans can live up to a hundred these days, but Celestials live much longer than that. Much, much longer. We still don’t know if everything that’s in our lore will come true, but I can tell that my mana circuit is automatically repairing my body cells, granting me miraculous longevity.
I love everything about Erik, yet I fear this one thing. Him inevitably dying of old age. What if we find the device that stands behind the Great Evolution and it still works? Would it be possible to change Erik into a Celestial? And would he even want that? I lean for another kiss, intentionally hiding my worries from him.
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