Chapter 79:

Sense of Direction

Draconia Offline

“Ryuu, the war was avoided, surely you can rest now?” Erik puts his chin on my shoulder and tickles me under my feathers.

“Just a minute,” I approve another funding order and check how many there are left. Twenty-seven. Our Minister of Finances Evaniel did a very good job at preparing everything, but the final decision still has to go through me. Even though I told her that she has my utmost trust and my blessing to authorise it herself, she claimed that she would feel much better with my approval.

“You said that half an hour ago,” Erik complains. “It’s almost dinnertime.”

“Your Majesty, I’ve finished your itinerary for tomorrow,” Luviael approaches my table and hands me a tablet.

“I have an objection,” Erik frowns after studying it briefly. “Only two short coffee breaks?”

“I’m sorry, Royal Consort, but we don’t have any time tomorrow, the diplomatic visit is approaching fast,” Luvi apologises. “War has been avoided, but there are hundreds of other matters that require His Majesty’s immediate attention.”

“Wait, where’s my flying session?” I panic because there’s no time slot for that anywhere.

“Ehm… we could skip one day?” my adjutant bites her lip nervously. She must have anticipated I won’t like it one bit.

“I will go crazy if you don’t let me fly regularly,” I protest. “And I won’t be able to concentrate with sore wings. Give me at least twenty minutes.”

“It’s never only twenty minutes with Your Majesty,” Luvi sighs. “First of all, you need to change your clothes, then the guards have to secure the perimeter in the air and it’s a real chore to make you return after such a short time when you don’t have nearly enough.”

“I’ll take not nearly enough over nothing,” I say vehemently. “You can’t keep me on the ground all day, I’m the embodiment of air and I need my daily exercise. This is part of my well-being, just make time for it, I don’t care how.”

Luviael bows, apologises profoundly and runs off to make adjustments to the timetable.

“How come you don’t feel the urge to fly every day?” I turn to Gotrid, annoyed with my adjutant and her attempt to rob me of my joy. “Don’t tell me your wings aren’t sore when you can’t use them for hours.”

“I can skip a day,” Gotrid shrugs. “Sure, I would love to fly every day, but if that can’t be done, we don’t suffer nearly as much as you.”

I puff irritably and stretch my wings to the sides. I did go flying today, yet I’d welcome one more chance to fly before dinner.

“Hon, you’re making a mess,” Erik scolds me because I accidentally swept a stack of papers with my feathers.

“Aefener, what’s that?” Liana speaks up from her desk and rolls her eyes. “Have I just felt a breeze? Casting air magic inside is dangerous.”

“I didn’t do anything,” I shake my head.

“You often do magic subconsciously,” Liana stands up and walks to me, but instead of further scolding, she gently caresses my feathers. “I’m sorry,” she sighs. “I know that you need to fly much more than we do, but there’s just so much work only you can do and not enough time.”

“I do realise that,” I say, but I intend to stand my ground. “And I’m trying to stay calm and focused all the time, but this is torture.”

I wasn’t thinking much about the word I just let out of my mouth. People use serious words in not-serious or downright funny situations all the time. Yet, the word ‘torture’ lands heavily for some reason. Everybody in the Royal Office stops working and looks at me in panic. I blink, confused. Did I say something wrong?

“Is this how you feel about it?” Liana is shocked and her hand petting my wings freezes. “Oh, Aefener… I… we…”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” I wave my hands because everyone started to feel seriously disturbed because of it.

“You did, love,” Gotrid laments. “And we were too preoccupied to notice that we’ve been torturing our Emperor all this time. We’re freaking out about your well-being, yet we fail to give you the one thing that’s most important to you. We should be ashamed.”

“I’m really sorry about this, Aefener,” Liana is deeply saddened. “I’ll talk to Luviael and the Ministers and we’ll find a way how to make it work.”

“How about—instead of finding time for flying sessions in between meetings and tasks which is tricky—make it the other way around?” Erik suggests practically. “Make his flying session a priority and structure everything around it.”

“That will be challenging, but we’ll do our best,” Liana approves. “Aefener, please, tell us your wishes and be blunt about it. You’ve been hiding discomfort for too long and we’ve been too blind to see that we’re hurting you.”

I look at Liana, then at my partners and everybody currently present in the room. I guess now’s the right time to let my wishes be heard.

“I want to be able to fly twice a day,” I say and bite my lip because I know I’m asking for a lot considering my packed schedule. “An hour before lunch and an hour before dinner.”

“That’s…,” Liana gulps. She wants to fulfil my wish, but what I’m asking for is too much.

“I’m willing to combine afternoon flying sessions with training,” I add quickly. “Besides, it would be much safer to cast advanced spells in the air where we have proper space and don’t have to be afraid of freezing or putting on flame nearby objects.”

Liana’s face brightens.

“I’ll talk to Taranah, but that could actually work,” she says enthusiastically. “I agree that training in the fitness suite is too limiting and suitable only for beginners. We need to be able to execute spells in the air when many things can potentially distract us.”

“Also,” I cough to clear my throat so that everyone in the room can hear me, “we seriously need to strengthen our wings. Flying around the skyscraper isn’t enough. Celestials should be able to fly for hundreds of kilometres without any problems, yet you barely caught up to me when I flew away from you in the States.”

“You’re right, of course,” Liana admits. “Ideally, we should be using our wings more than our legs. I understand and get your message loud and clear, my Emperor. We’ll make necessary adjustments.”

Wait, I got through? That easily? I expected Liana to list a thousand reasons why it’s not possible. What gives?

“Aefener,” Liana pronounces my name with sadness and slowly continues caressing my feathers. She’s feeling what I’m feeling right now. Just as with my partners, I don’t usually hide my emotional state from her when she touches me.

“We know that we’re being overprotective and we know that you don’t have any freedom as a result,” she says slowly. “But we want to see you happy regardless, the Emperor’s wellbeing is our priority. Yet, we were stupid enough to deny you the one thing that makes you most happy if I don’t count your partners—flying. Please, forgive us.”

“You should have said so sooner, my love,” Gotrid takes my hand and kisses it. “We had no idea the absence of regular flying was hurting you so much. You never say anything.”

“Does he ever?” Erik sighs. “You know Ryuuto rarely complains. Imagine how insufferable it must have been for him to finally speak his mind.”

“That’s exactly why I feel so ashamed right now, it’s us who should have known better,” Liana lowers her head. “Aefener is both the embodiment of magic as well as air, how could we have been so ignorant? We haven’t been protecting our Emperor, we’ve been torturing him all this time.”

“It’s not that horrible,” I say quickly because I can feel that everyone is really shaken by it. My guards are stepping nervously in one place and Luviael is hiding her face behind the tablet, embarrassed to the bone.

“Frankly, I sometimes get cramps in my wings,” Miruel guarding the door dares to speak up. “His Majesty is right, Celestials belong in the sky.”

“We lost a track of what’s truly important under that pile of never-ending work,” Liana nods. “Erik is right, we should structure our schedules around regular flying sessions, not trying to squeeze them in between.”

“Just to be clear, it’s not only about my wish to fly more,” I emphasise. “Our bodies are frail so we have to make sure we don’t get hit in the first place. We should be able to do aerial acrobatics, fly for hours and hundreds of kilometres without a sweat. So far, I highly doubt we can.”

“The Emperor has spoken,” Erik claps his hand impatiently. “All the same, today’s work is over. I don’t care that you still have documents to look at, hon. If it’s not a matter of life or death, it can wait until tomorrow.”


I tell Vermiel to position the guards further away because I want to try my divine speed. Vermiel doesn’t like it at first, but he has to admit that nothing could ever hit me when I’m flying that fast. I wink at Gotrid before I fully spread my wings, flap them mightily and use the air itself to propel me upwards.

It’s chilly and tranquil when I emerge above the clouds, but my sporty robe is warm. I left the guards below me (I overdid it again), so I tell them telepathically where I am and wait. They catch up in a few moments, I get scolded by Vermiel and we continue our flight.

They took my yesterday’s order very seriously and finally agreed that we can venture beyond the city. It would be impossible just two weeks ago but since then all the guards mastered the shield spell. Confident that they can protect me anywhere now, Liana okayed long-distance flights.

“Your Majesty, we’re getting too far from Prague,” the Guard Captain warns me. “We’ve been flying in the same direction for thirty minutes now, we should return.”

I look down and realise that what I’m seeing under me are fields and greenery. My first thought is to ask Vermiel if we can land and enjoy some nature, but that urge disappears as quickly as it appeared. It was just a momentary whim, I don’t feel like landing and I don’t need to rest my wings just yet. I feel most comfortable here, up in the sky.

“Let’s return, love, we will be late for lunch,” Gotrid says.

I nod and we head back. I have no idea which direction we came from because I never pay attention to my surroundings when I fly. Strangely, it seems everyone in my flock is generally good at telling cardinal directions even without looking at their GPS. I really suck at it, no kidding. I once read that birds possess some kind of internal compass and the same is apparently true for Celestials as well, but I have literally nothing.

“Gotrid, do you feel where to go?” I ask my partner because he doesn’t look at his navigation either.

“Yeah?” he answers. “You don’t, hon?”

“Nope,” I sigh. “How can you tell?”

“The north is there and we left Prague from north-west, so…,” he starts to explain.

“Wait, how do you know so precisely?” I frown.

“I just feel it somehow I guess?” he shrugs and flies playfully around me.

“I don’t feel anything,” I bite my lip and try to focus more. Maybe it just doesn’t come as naturally to me as magic does. Still, I get nothing even with intense focus.

“Where would you head if you didn’t have us?” he tests me, intrigued that I’m not good at something for a change, especially because it’s supposed to be natural to Celestials.

“There?” I point, uncertain.

“Why south?” he tilts his head.

“It just feels interesting,” I say vaguely. “Like an adventure. Like a rift opening.”

“You feel a rift opening nearby, Your Majesty?” Vermiel panics because he overheard part of our conversation.

“Our Emperor was just being imaginative,” Gotrid calms him down. “Let’s speed up, I’m getting hungry.”

We head back, but I can’t shake off that weird feeling that I would like to fly south. It’s faint, but I even feel my body getting battle-ready. Maybe I just had too much coffee in the morning? An anxiety-prone person such as myself shouldn’t overdo the caffeine.

We land on the balcony closest to the Royal Office. I feel a slight emotional disturbance in Draconians, so I go to the Royal Office straight away without changing my clothes.

“Hi, hon, sorry that I didn’t wait for you, but we have a situation,” Erik explains and is standing in front of Liana’s computer.

“A serious situation?” I ask.

“Another monster attack,” Liana announces, staring at the live streaming.

“Is it going to be okay?” I worry. Monster attacks are becoming a rather regular occurrence, but I still worry that innocent people will die each time it happens.

“Two heligorrs,” she reports. “But local Draconians are managing. It’s one of the professional battle units we established recently. They are doing more than fine.”

“Where?” Gotrid asks eagerly.

“Austria,” Liana says. “It’s a country…”

“I know where Austria is, Viceroy,” Gotrid gets offended. “I’m not your stereotypical American who sucks at geography. It’s south of Bohemia. South!”

“So?” Erik doesn’t understand why Gotrid is so bewildered about it. I’m starting to understand, but it has to be a coincidence. There’s no way I’d feel it when it’s so far away.

“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” I take Gotrid’s hand, hoping he will drop it.

“It turns out that our Emperor lacks any sense for cardinal directions which should be innate to Celestials,” Gotrid pushes it despite my efforts. “Instead, he can sense in which direction a new rift is opening, even if it’s hundreds of kilometres away.”

“It’s just a coincidence,” I insist. “I just told you the first random direction that came to my mind back then. Is it so hard to accept that I suck at something for a change?”

“Let’s test it then,” he grabs my hand and before I can do anything, he spins me several times to the point I get almost nauseous.

“Which way is the rift?” he asks me with urgency in his voice.

“Uff, you stupid, my head is spinning now,” I whine and massage my temples. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“Answer the question, Aefener,” Liana stands up and her emotional state changes drastically. She’s dead serious and won’t take any excuses from me.

“There,” I point my finger and feel stupid because I’m pointing to the wall. I’m simply saying where I’d head if I could fly again.

It takes them a few minutes to asses precisely where my finger is pointing.

“That’s exactly right,” Erik exclaims in disbelief and hugs me. “If Ryuuto flew in that direction, he’d get to the rift eventually.”

“But I had no idea south is that way,” I say feebly. “I suck at telling directions.”

“You don’t have to know cardinal directions to instinctively point where the rift is, hon,” Gotrid caresses my feathers to calm me down. “We’ve just discovered that you possess another super sense, why do you feel down about it? It’s amazing, you’re amazing!”

That takes me aback and makes me think. Why indeed? I used to be scared of my powers before because I desperately wanted to be normal, even though I was never human in the first place. When I changed, I hoped to be normal among Celestials at least and, obviously, that never happened either. It seems I’m still reluctant to fully accept my abilities because it alienates me from others.

“So every time Aefener got lost, it wasn’t because he’s just hopeless at paying attention while flying?” Liana ponders. I’m grateful that she can see my weaknesses and isn’t afraid to talk about them. That’s what friends do and something my subjects would never do.

“Not every time, he’s still hopeless at paying attention when flying,” Gotrid chuckles. I nudge him, but I’m glad that he’s making fun of me. Nobody else would dare.

“If I may,” Vermiel speaks up, “I think His Majesty’s ability to feel rifts from huge distances might be interfering with his sense for cardinal directions.”

“That would make sense,” Liana agrees. “We’ll be testing it from now on. Aefener, every time you feel even a little bit tense and yearning to fly in a certain direction, tell us, okay?”

I look at the screen again. Austrian Draconians just defeated the first heligorr and are decimating the second one. It’s amazing what proper training and coordinated teamwork can accomplish in such a short amount of time. It gives me hope that we will be able to keep people safe. Stronger monsters might appear in future, but we are getting stronger with each passing day.

Naturally, everyone is excited about my newly found ability and there’s zero chance it would remain secret by the end of the day. To be honest, I’d exchange it for the sense of general direction immediately if I could because that’s useful in everyday life. But my subjects don’t operate in the terms of common when it comes to their Emperor.

“I’ll gladly be your compass, honey,” Gotrid comments jokingly.


“Fefnir, I missed you!” I want to go for a hug the moment I see my dear friend enter the office, but I stop myself at the last second. Right, annoying Royal protocol.

“It’s good to be back,” Fefnir smiles, revealing his spiky dragon teeth. “Erik, Gotrid,” he nods at my Consorts.

“Your Majesty, I’m Artisa,” a Dragonkin woman with grey and yellow scales bows deeply, but she doesn’t prolong it unnecessarily which I appreciate.

I study her. I saw her picture when she applied for the job, of course, but the Dragonkin are much more impressive in person. Artisa is shorter and much leaner than Fefnir and her head horns aren’t that big, but I notice strong horns growing on her tail, something that Dragonkin males don’t possess. Do females use them to fend against obtrusive suitors?

I’m catching some vibes from Fefnir who feels rather restless next to her. As for Artisa, it’s obvious she’s annoyed with him and won’t hesitate to use her tail to hit him if he tries anything funny. Frankly, the Dragonkin gender dynamics are a mystery to me.

Females make up only 25% of the whole Dragonkin population which wasn’t a problem in the game, but it will most probably cause significant problems in near future. I recall Haldis and their unfortunate fate—being rejected by their own people for being non-binary because females are so rare so the Dragonkin see it as a waste.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Artisa,” I greet her. “I’m so glad we finally have all the Ministers present.”

“I’d like to start immediately,” she says and studies me in return. I wonder what other races think when they see me for the first time, but I can’t just touch her to find out. At least I can sense that she’s both impressed and a bit intimidated by me.

“Good, you can start with putting together crafting teams,” I suggest. “Your people have formed guilds already, but I need you to organise other races as well.”

“As you command, Your Majesty,” Artisa feels honoured. “It’s my job to ensure that Draconian races share their discoveries and trade fairly.”

“And mine is to keep Draconians safe,” Fefnir says, also proud about his task.

“Artisa, can I ask you to coordinate the Celestial research team first?” I ask. “Don’t worry, I told my people to listen to your suggestions and there aren’t only Celestials on the team.”

“Of course,” Artisa smiles. “I can’t wait to see your shield technology. Just imagine what we will be able to do if we combine Celestial magic and the Dragonkin crafting techniques.”

“The Dragonkin weren’t overly cooperative so far,” I sigh. “It will be your job to change that. I also ask you to make sure our inventions won’t get stolen again. We need to establish proper trade between our races.”

“Right,” Artisa clicks her tongue. “I’m embarrassed about my liege’s behaviour, Your Majesty, believe me. What he did wasn’t right, he should have asked you. Moreover, that ring was a gift to Lady Anya from Your Emperorship.”

“We didn’t approve, but we couldn’t go against our Patriarch,” Fefnir says, waving his tail guiltily.

“Don’t worry, I’m not blaming you two,” I shake my head. “Take the rest of the day off to unpack.”

“I’d like to meet the Celestial research team right away if that’s okay with Your Majesty,” Artisa asks carefully, afraid she’s overstepping her boundaries.

“Sure, if you wish,” I shrug because I don’t see any problem with that. “Why the rush, though? Sleep off your jet lag.”

“Actually, I want to see my babies,” Artisa chuckles.

“Babies?” I tilt my head, confused.

“Namph and Rina,” Artisa explains quickly, realising she confused everyone. “I was their mentor ingame when they started playing and, being almost a decade older than them, I somehow ended up being their virtual mamma. It’s a running joke and I’m not sure it’s understandable for anyone outside our little party.”

“Oh, that’s cute,” I smile, genuinely moved. “I’m glad you can be reunited with them in the real world. Go hug them.”

When Fefnir and Artisa leave, I have a sudden urge to kiss my partners and I do exactly that. I’m not embarrassed about it in front of others because I have so little privacy that I would be always waiting for the right opportunity. Seeing Draconians reunited with their ingame friends or making new bonds is heart-warming.

“Not that we don’t enjoy it, but you still have to approve the final version of your itinerary,” Erik reminds me when I finally lean back.

The itinerary he’s talking about is my schedule for Japan. I look at the list, trying to imagine all those places I’m going to visit. Japan might be my homeland, but these names are just words on paper for me, I don’t feel any connection to my roots just yet. I can’t help wondering how that’s going to change in just five days. Will it give me a new sense of direction perhaps?