The next morning, Palan woke up to Cleo pulling a layer of skin off of her arm. Discarded bits of paper-like flakes lay on Raea’s blanket. Cleo raised her head and smiled at Palan while waving the flap of skin in her hand. “I’m growing!” she said and laughed. “No more tiny Cleo!”
“You’re still a midget,” Palan said. There was no visible difference in Cleo’s size compared to yesterday. “And you laid an egg.”
“Huh?” Cleo said and blinked three times. “What?” Palan pointed at the egg he placed on the bedside table. Cleo stiffened and fell backwards off the bed before scrambling to her feet. She picked the egg up and wailed. “No! No, no, no, no, no!”
Raea bolted upright, her hair disheveled and wavy. “What’s going on?” she asked and threw her blanket off, causing flakes of dead skin to fly into the air like confetti. Raea stared at Cleo who was kneeling on the ground, clutching the egg to her chest with tears in her eyes. She scrambled out of bed and placed her hand on Cleo’s back. “What happened?”
Cleo responded by sobbing and wailing. Palan raised an eyebrow as he dusted dead skin off of his head. Stubble prickled his palm; his hair was starting to grow back. “She laid an egg,” Palan said, causing Cleo to sob harder.
“Is that a bad thing?” Raea asked as she hugged Cleo to her chest.
Palan shrugged. “It’s small, but we can still eat it,” he said. Raea gasped. “Lizard eggs sold for a decent amount in Eljiam. I met a demon who raised lizards and had them lay eggs for him.” Palan licked his lips. “He tasted like a lizard.” He glanced at Cleo, causing Raea to angle the orange lizardman away from him.
“What’s the matter, Cleo?” Raea asked.
“It’s all over,” Cleo said and sniffled. A line of snot trailed out of her nostril as she looked up at Raea. She hiccupped and held the egg out. “All over.” She shook her head and sobbed.
“Isn’t it supposed to be unfertilized?” Raea asked and furrowed her brow.
Cleo raised her hand and threw the egg against the wall, causing it to shatter and splatter whitish-yellow fluid on the wood. “It’s not about the egg!” she said, the sunlight shining on her face causing her eyes to glisten. “I can’t grow anymore.”
“Huh?” Raea asked as she stared at the yellow stain on the wall.
“Lizardmen stop growing once they mature,” Cleo said and wiped her eyes with the back of her hands, leaving some dead skin on her cheeks. “This is my final growth, and I’m still so small.” She sniffled as her tail curled around her leg. She hugged her knees to her chest and buried her head in her knees. Raea frowned and pursed her lips, unable to think of anything to say. Instead, she placed her hand around Cleo’s back and hugged her.
Raea raised her head and glanced at Palan, mouthing, “Say something.” Palan laughed and got off the bed.
“Don’t laugh at her!” Raea mouthed and knit her brow. Cleo didn’t say anything as she trembled in Raea’s embrace.
Palan walked over to Cleo and separated her from Raea. He tapped her forehead, causing her to let out a whimper. “Hey,” he said. “Why are you crying? Because you’re tiny?” Cleo raised her head and eyed Palan but remained silent. She sniffed. “Do you know how much harder it is to steal things if you’re bigger?” Cleo stopped trembling and froze. Her mouth fell open. Palan continued, ignoring Raea’s disapproving gaze. “People drop their guard around children too.”
Cleo uncurled from the ball she had formed with her body. “And I don’t have to worry about strength because you’re a freak,” she said and blinked. She placed her hand under her chin and scratched, causing flecks of skin to fall like snow. “Why are you so smart? It’s not fair.”
“Praise me more,” Palan said. Danger Noodle’s tongue flickered.
“Genius!” Cleo said and clapped.
“Partner in crime!”
“That’s enough,” Raea said and covered Cleo’s mouth with her hand. She frowned and retracted her hand when she realized she just copied Palan. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice or care.
Cleo sighed and stood up. “I guess it’s time to train you two,” she said. “I have to be responsible and do adult stuff now like teaching the kids how to take care of themselves.” She glanced at Raea and shook her head.
“Excuse me?” Raea asked and raised an eyebrow.
Cleo nodded and strutted in a circle around Raea who tracked the lizardman’s movements with her head. “That’s right,” Cleo said. “You’re not an adult yet, so I have to watch over you.” She puffed her chest out and lifted her head to the side. “Alright,” she said. “Time for training. Chop chop.”
“Why do I need training?” Raea asked and frowned at the flakes of dead skin on her robe.
“Because you’re pathetic,” Palan said. “You can’t control your own strength and rely on your chains too much.”
“There’s nothing wrong with relying on something I have,” Raea said and pouted.
“And if you enter a zone of charity?” Palan asked as Danger Noodle slithered towards the closet and took out Raea’s armor. It dropped the set by her feet.
“I’ll just avoid those,” Raea said and looked away. Cleo, Palan, and Danger Noodle stared at her. Cold sweat dripped down her back and she sighed. “Fine.” She stripped off her robe and began to put on her under armor.
Someone knocked on the door. “Raea?” Elrith’s voice asked.
“She’s changing,” Cleo said.
“How many times do you think I’d fall for that?” Elrith asked. The door swung open. Elrith made eye contact with Raea and cleared his throat before turning around and closing the door behind himself. Cleo burst out laughing.
“Angels are so weird,” she said. “Who cares about clothing? Right?” She turned her head towards Palan. He was staring at Raea, completely ignoring Cleo. “Hey.” Cleo waved her hand, attempting to draw Palan’s attention, but her fingertips didn’t reach past his chest. “Eh?” Cleo scratched her head and looked at Raea. She was just starting to put on her cuirass. Cleo turned back to Palan. “Really?”
“Hmm?” Palan asked and looked at Cleo.
“You’re really looking forward to grappling, aren’t you?” Cleo asked with a smirk on her face.
“What are you talking about?” Palan asked and snorted.
“Nothing,” Cleo said in a singsong voice. “Palan and Raea sitting in a tree. K-I—“
Raea bopped Cleo on the head with her bundled up robe. “Go clean up the mess you made,” she said and pointed at the shattered eggshells on the ground. She glanced at Palan, her face redder than usual. His expression hadn’t changed, and Raea wanted to hide in a hole after remembering that there were no trees on Eljiam.