Chapter 76:


Draconia Offline

The atmosphere is as tense as it gets when I’m heading to the Royal Office the next morning. Everybody knows that I’m about to take a super important video call that can either start a war or avoid it entirely. Nobody wants war, not even the most battle-hungry Draconians, because that’s not our idea of conquest. In the game, it was always about discovering new lands and competing, not brainless killing and destruction.

Although I feel Celestial wrath coming from all my subjects, I’m not worried. Celestial wrath could potentially hinder peace talks, but what everybody wants right now is the truth. We all feel deep in our bones that we should be fighting monsters, not humans.

I meet with Liana at the elevator and Soren is with her. I’m glad because I wanted him to be present and it seems Liana thought the same thing—he can speak for American Draconians and present his point of view. Strangely though, I don’t feel any wrath coming from him. Instead, he’s feeling deeply saddened and despaired.

I usually don’t react to the emotions of other people, but something in Soren makes me halt. He looks at me with eyes that are begging me to reconsider, even though he wouldn’t dare to oppose me.

“Wait,” I stop my entourage. “I want to speak with Soren.”

“What? Now? Why?” Liana frowns. “The meeting starts in twenty minutes.”

“Then we have twenty minutes, so find us an empty room,” I order with a voice not allowing any disobedience. I admit that it feels good to be the Emperor in times like these.

Soren is looking at me both frightened and grateful that I’m willing to hear him out. Liana realises that it’s not a whim and in just a minute, we’re sitting in one of the smaller lounges. I take only Soren, my partners, Liana and a few guards inside.

“Soren, speak freely,” I encourage him softly because I can feel his anxiety and desperation.

“Will you go to war, Your Majesty?” Soren lowers his head and his wings are shaking. “I will follow your orders, of course, but the States is my homeland and there are good people despite what you experienced during your brief visit.”

I still have the New York conference in my vivid memory—the way American politicians looked down on us, their hate and disgust and especially the way those protesters in the street felt like.

“Tell that Yrienne and Kaileen,” I sigh.

“I know those girls and I’m well aware of what they’ve been through,” he says. “I took them under my wings when they ran away from home. Still, not all American Draconians have the same negative experience with their families, just as not all European Draconians have positive experience with theirs. And definitely not all Americans voted Delgado.”

“What about your experience then?” I ask him openly.

“I came to serve you, Your Majesty,” Soren swears. “My family was supportive during my transformation and I left only to be with you. I profoundly apologise for being so daring, but how familiar are you with the political climate in the US, apart from your one unpleasant experience, my Emperor?”

“Only the stuff from the news,” I admit reluctantly. “What are you trying to say?”

I look at Gotrid and clutch his hand. He’s also American and his experience with growing up and transformation are overly negative. But I’m willing to offer Soren my ear. Admittedly, my perspective might be biased because of what my beloved partner has been through.

“Before Delgado became a politician, he was a corporate man,” Soren explains. “Yrienne and Kaileen probably told you that money is everything in the US and that much is true. Neither of us was even born at that time, but, in 2054, there was a huge economic crisis.”

“I obviously learned about that at school,” I assure him impatiently.

“It didn’t affect Europe and Asia much, but it threw America into chaos,” Soren summarises for all of us just in case. “Democratic principles were trampled over by merciless mega corporations who promised the poorest masses to take care of them in exchange for their digital privacy and loyalty. The poor uneducated class took it because there wasn’t much that they could do except starve and started to support corporations.”

“But corporations didn’t solve the problem of poverty, right?” I frown. “Yrienne and Kaileen were born in slums decades after that.”

“In slums but with electricity and VR appliances?” Soren points out. “Corporations are leasing VR headsets to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them. Fortunately, Yrienne and Kaileen escaped into hardcore role-play gaming, which probably saved them from corporate influence, but most people use the internet to watch TV shows, porn, endless commercials in between and cleverly included corporate propaganda.”

“That still doesn’t explain the hate for Draconians,” I don’t understand.

“If you’re hinting at those protesters in the streets during the conference, did you take a good look at them?” Soren implores me. “I bet most of them were manipulated or downright paid to do it. Corporations wanted to show in the media that most Americans are against Draconians and thus sway the rest who were still hesitant. American corporations fear us because we threaten their position and established order.”

I expect Liana to interrupt us, we have hardly ten minutes left, but she’s listening attentively. It seems Soren’s point of view is new even to her as well. Erik is really grateful for the explanation, he was never a study type, while Gotrid is feeling conflicted. I send him my love to calm him down.

“As for hatred, it wasn’t always the same,” Soren continues. “America of the first half of the twenty-first century had its own problems, but it was slowly trying to promote rights of sexual minorities, gender equality and finally deal with racism. However, the economic crisis had its tragic toll on that.”

“How does the economy relate to human relationships?” I’m quite lost frankly, but then I recall what my new maids told me just a few hours ago: People can do the strangest things when they don’t feel safe.

“Long story short, corporations needed a scapegoat—someone to blame for America’s fall from glory,” Soren concludes. “They couldn’t afford to appear racist, so they decided to blame everything on sexual minorities, other genders and generally people who were somehow different or lived alternative lifestyles, claiming they ruined a traditional family model and thus indirectly caused the crisis.”

“So corporations put Delgado on the pedestal to show off that they aren’t racist and get additional support?” Liana is making sure she understood it right.

“Delgado was a third-generation immigrant, he was American enough for most,” Soren nods. “He was a role model of a hard-working achiever with a foreign background but fully assimilated and straight, exactly what they needed.”

“But if what you’re telling us is publicly known, why did so many people still give him their vote?” I frown.

“Because he promised to bring bread to their tables,” Soren sighs. “And he did, however much I don’t like to admit it. I come from a middle-class educated background, so I was never really struggling with money, but if you’re fighting for survival, you want to find someone to blame for your misfortune. Being able to love freely regardless of gender is a luxury, Your Majesty.”

Now I get it. I took several history classes at university because I was interested, so I know what his point is. Homosexuality was considered acceptable only within nations with a certain level of prosperity, education and high cultures such as Ancient Rome and Greece. When times were rough, humanity feared it would threaten their survival. People in the past rarely got married out of love—it was a rational arrangement that was supposed to bring families prosperity and secure offspring.

“You have every right to be wrathful, Your Majesty,” Soren declares. “But it’s not true that most Americans want to see us dead. I’m staying in contact with some of my human friends and they are simply scared. The world turned upside down and the previous government wasn’t exactly good at comforting American citizens that humans and Draconians can coexist.”

I take a deep breath and think about everything Soren just told me. Some Americans might have chosen to be ignorant and just follow their corporate Big Brother, but I know that doesn’t make them inherently bad people. It makes them desperate people and—if anything—me, Liana and Erik are guilty of being too Europe-centric and pampered by the generous European social system.

“Thank you, Soren, I’ll certainly take it into consideration,” I assure him. “I have to admit that my opinion is too one-sided and European, so I hope that I can rely on your guidance in these matters from now on.”

“We’re not at war with the States, Soren,” Liana adds and looks at him almost admirably. “We’re at war with those from the government who fired the missiles.”

“I know,” Soren bites his lip. “But there are innocent casualties in any war.”

“I promise to give the new President a fair chance,” I reassure him. “If she convinces me that her new Cabinet had nothing to do with the attacks and Delgado’s accomplices will face justice, I’ll gladly take it. Still, it will take more than an apology to persuade me. She’d better do her best.”

“Your openness is all I ask for, my Emperor,” Soren bows in the deepest respect.

“I appreciate you telling me this,” I manage a faint smile. “Next time, don’t be afraid to just speak up, okay? I value my subjects’ opinions and it makes me sad when you feel hesitant to express yourself.”

“Your Majesty, I hate to interrupt you, but you really have to go now,” the Guard Captain Vermiel reminds us and his tone is urgent. “The whole world is waiting.”


Erik and Gotrid realise there’s only one free chair left by my side because Liana automatically occupies the seat to my right. They stare at each other with pursed lips for a few moments and then look at me to decide.

“Sorry, Gotrid, but I need Erik right now,” I say. “Having my human partner be seen next to me will be comforting for many.”

“I know,” Gotrid pouts a little and demands to be kissed before he settles for a chair next to Liana.

We adjusted the fanciest conference room in the skyscraper for this historic event and it was decided that while the camera will primarily focus on me, Liana and Erik, it will occasionally show the Ministers sitting around the table. Humans and Draconians alike need to see that we have a fully functioning government now.

Diplomatic negotiations are rarely streamed online, but I wanted the whole world to be present. I want everyone to see that we’re open to peace talks and transparent, but, at the same time, there’s no messing with us. We have to secure our position once and for all so that we can finally focus on fighting monsters and investigating rifts.

I look at Liana and her expression is confident, but she feels tense inside. Despite her rather bossy personality, she’s glad that the final decision isn’t up to her. I expect at least some level of panic to overcome me, but nothing happens. Sure, I’m nervous, but there are no doubts in my mind anymore. I’m the Celestial Emperor and I’ll do anything in my power to protect my people.

Ingri, who’s behind the camera, shows me a thumbs-up which means that we started streaming. Just a few seconds after that the projector lights up and President Behera appears as a hologram.

“Your Majesty, thank you for your patience,” she starts and looks like someone who hasn’t slept for two days which she probably hasn’t.

“Mrs President,” I nod respectfully.

When she was taking care of us during the conference, she might have been overly cautious around us, but she never wronged us. In fact, it was Mrs Behera who sought me after the conference and begged me to stay open. She deserves a chance I’m more than willing to give her.

“First of all, I want to assure you that the former President Delgado acted without the consent of the Senate,” President Behera claims strongly. “Most of the government, me included, had no idea what he was planning to do.”

“Hacking a Korean military satellite would require tremendous resources and spies,” Liana purses her lips, not convinced. “He couldn’t have pulled it all by himself.”

“He didn’t, Delgado had the support of several highest-ranking military officers and four Secretaries,” President Behera admits surprisingly honestly. “Three of the main culprits are dead, the rest arrested for treason.”

“Dead, including your ex-president,” I narrow my eyes in suspicion. “How did that happen?”

“When we found out Delgado fired those missiles, we went to arrest him immediately,” Behera says slowly, weighing every word. “He barricaded himself in the Oval Office with those most loyal to him. It was obvious he didn’t expect that the attacks would fail. He must have thought that he would become a hero if he succeeded and all would be forgiven.”

The new President pauses for a second or two. She genuinely acts like someone who became the President by totally unprecedented circumstances, is seriously sleep deprived and the fate of her country rests on the result of our diplomatic negotiation. I can’t help it and find myself sympathising with her.

“There was a fierce fight between a part of the Secret Service that was loyal to Delgado and those who clearly saw his actions as treason,” Behera continues. “For a few minutes, the White House became a battlefield which never happened before in our long democratic history. Delgado was killed when he refused to surrender. We tried to arrest him, but he was holding a gun and was firing around like crazy. I think he lost it when he realised that his plan had failed.”

There’s silence for a few moments, we all need a second to take it in. I have just one final inquiry that will decide everything.

“If Delgado succeeded, would you arrest him all the same?” I ask simply, but that one question contains everything. Everything depends on that one answer now.

“We would arrest him regardless, we don’t support war criminals,” President Behera says and her voice doesn’t shake. She’s looking straight into the camera, bravely facing the whole world as someone who’s gambling her very honour. And I do believe her, she won me over.

I also think she’s telling the truth, Liana agrees in her mind.

I don’t have the best memories of the States, but I don’t wish to see my homeland burn, Gotrid voices his opinion as well. Bigoted people are everywhere and Americans were just encouraged to hate by manipulative corporations.

I will keep supporting you, my love, whatever your decision is, Erik assures me. But if you at least partly believe that the States can be redeemed, I beg you to give them a chance.

I realise that my silence must have been grilling President Behera. She’s professionally keeping her appearance, but a sweat drop is pouring down her temple.

“Let’s say I’ll take you by your word and we’re open to a peaceful solution,” I say slowly. “How will you repent? The Earthborn ranch and the Dragonkin mansion were completely destroyed and several Draconians died. How will you make amends?”

A huge relief shows on President Behera’s face and she’s not the only one. The pressing tension dominating the room is finally lifted and I bet that the people around the world watching us also sighed in relief right now.

“For the starters, we will provide all necessary funds to help the Earthborn and the Dragonkin rebuild,” the President proposes. “Naturally, we’ll ensure that Draconians in the States are protected.”

“I ordered Draconians to leave hostile countries, you’ll face an exodus in the upcoming days,” I reveal because the order was conveyed only through Draconian channels. “But I’m grateful for your offer and we would appreciate it if you could make sure that Draconians are safe at the airports and possibly cover their moving expenses.”

“All Draconians?” she blinks, visibly taken aback.

“Did you hope to have a few around in case of another monster attack?” my voice is intentionally 0indifferent. “Tough luck then. India and Brazil are currently offering Draconians lucrative jobs, so most of them will relocate there. I’m willing to maintain peace between us, but unless I see it’s really safe for us in the States, we won’t be coming back.”

“I understand,” President Behera nods. “We will help Draconians with relocation then, but, please, don’t think of it as us happily getting rid of you. American citizens fear future monster attacks and we’re not blind. We see how effective Draconians are at fighting those creatures and my government would like to cooperate with you from now on.”

“Mrs President,” I sigh because despite trusting her words, I don’t have any other choice. “I believe when you say that you and your new government weren’t involved in the attacks, but a lot of Americans still hate us nonetheless. It’s my duty to protect my people and I can’t forgive you that easily. The best I can do is take you by your word, accept your compensation and label you a hostile country we won’t be involved with. At least for some time, I’m willing to stay open.”

President Behera is evidently thinking hard.

“That’s… more than generous,” she admits. “Still, I hope to convince you that my government will be different from Delgado’s.”

“Surprise me then,” I say positively. “With Draconians gone, you can focus on your internal issues. Although I can’t see you as our ally at this moment, I do wish you success. A lot of my people are Americans and they would love to see their homeland get better.”

I expect no reaction from her, but she nods in agreement. Maybe I read her wrong at the conference. Maybe there’s a good person somewhere under all those years of dirty politics and Delgado’s influence. Perhaps she will make a difference after all, but I can’t afford to wait that long. Draconians are leaving the States and that’s final.

And it’s done. President Behera’s projection disappears, Ingri turns off the camera and everyone can finally take a breather. We’ve just avoided war and possibly made history. Erik and Gotrid kiss me and compliment me that I did amazing. Liana looks deeply impressed and the Ministers didn’t expect anything less from me.

“I’d like to fly now,” I stand up and stretch a bit. “I feel strong enough and my wings are sore. Ready the guards, Vermiel. I’m going and I won’t hear otherwise. I put up thousands of shields around the whole skyscraper, I think I should be able to put up a few just for myself.”

“As should we,” Vermiel boasts and conjures up a shield in a blink of an eye. “We’ve been practising whenever we weren’t on guard duty.”

“Damn, I’m behind,” Gotrid laments.

“You’ve been taking care of me non-stop,” I caress his feathers. “And I can teach you personally after work.”

I suddenly sense that Erik feels left out, so I switch my attention to him and envelope him in my wings. I’m broken-hearted to discover that he felt useless for a moment, thinking that he won’t be able to protect me from danger the way Gotrid is thanks to magic.

I assure him that it’s a silly thought he should throw away because he’s saving me every single day just by being with me. He’s my anchor, he’s my bridge, he’s my everything. Celestials underestimate it—they certainly don’t protect him nearly as much as me—but the truth is that should something bad happen to him, I could possibly go destroy the world.

You wouldn’t, Erik disagrees and kisses me. You’re the kindest person I know.

I hope to never test that theory.