After Cleo finished wiping up the yolk and eggshells, she tossed the dirty rag into a corner of the room. She glanced at Palan and Raea and snickered before dusting a piece of dead skin off her arm. “Are you two ready?” she asked. “I don’t plan on being nice with my regimen! I’ll give you two the full warrior’s course.” She wandered over to the door and opened it before closing it again. Elrith was standing outside with his arms crossed over his chest. “You can open the door,” she said, looking at Raea while nodding and hiding behind Palan. “First step of training.”
Raea pursed her lips before walking past Cleo and opening the door. “Good morning, Elly,” Raea said.
“Ray,” Elrith said and uncrossed his arms. His face softened. “Can we talk? It seems like I haven’t gotten the chance to sit down with you ever since we reunited.” Raea glanced at Cleo who frowned but didn’t say anything.
“What do you want to talk about?” Raea asked.
“Does there have to be a specific topic?” Elrith asked. “Can’t we just have a conversation?” His eyes shifted towards Palan then back to Raea. “I just want to make sure you thought things through, you know?”
“Shouldn’t you be resting?” Cleo asked and pointed at his face. “You got beat up pretty badly yesterday. Raea’s busy with stuff.”
“Who’s the halfling?” Elrith asked Raea. Cleo shook her fist at him but ducked behind Danger Noodle when Elrith glared at her.
“Her name is Cleo,” Raea said. “She’s my friend.”
Elrith furrowed his brow. “Friends with a halfling?” he asked. “I know you were always nice to even animals but don’t you think there should be a limit to your kindness?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cleo asked and wrinkled her nose. “That I’m lower than an animal?” She pat Palan’s thigh and pointed at Elrith. “Beat him up for me.” Elrith tensed as his right hand went behind his back and grabbed the handle of his shield.
“Since when did you get to order me around?” Palan asked and flicked Cleo’s forehead.
“But he’s bullying me,” Cleo said and pouted. “That means he’s bullying you because I’m your slave.” She tapped the metal collar on her neck. Palan frowned. Cleo beamed at him. “Right?”
Raea sighed and sidestepped in front of Palan and lowered her head. “Why does it always end up like this?” she asked to herself before turning around to face Palan. “Elrith is my brother. Please don’t antagonize and fight him.” She faced Elrith without waiting for Palan’s reply. “Palan and Cleo are my friends. Treat them as you would treat any other angel.” She crossed her arms over her chest and took a step to the side, letting Palan and Elrith stare at each other. “Let’s try to get along, okay?”
“I dislike you,” Elrith said and narrowed his eyes. “You lied to me about Raea.”
“Shouldn’t you hate yourself for believing me?” Palan asked. “It’s not my fault you chose to listen to a demon.” Palan smiled, revealing his white, pointed teeth. “And you’re the one who made Raea run away in the first place.”
“Bullshit,” Elrith said and took a step forward. “You’re the one who morphed her into a freak.” Raea flinched and looked down while biting her lower lip. “Er, I didn’t mean it like that,” Elrith said and took a step towards his sister. Palan snorted. “I just meant he was the one that transformed you.”
Raea took a step back, her eyes staring at her feet. “Please leave,” she said, her voice quavering.
“Ray,” Elrith said and took another step forward. Palan grabbed his shoulder and squeezed, causing the general’s metal pauldrons to dent.
“She said leave,” Palan said and threw Elrith out the room with a single arm. The archangel crashed against the ground and rolled until he hit a wall, splintering it. Palan raised an eyebrow and looked at his arm. “That was fun.”
Cleo stuck her tongue out at Elrith before slamming the door. She turned around and looked at Palan and Raea. “I guess we’ll do training in the room. I’ll begin with a lesson,” she said and shrugged. She climbed on top of Raea’s bed and cleared her throat. “What’s the most important thing for a lizardman while fighting? Raea!” She pointed at Raea, startling her.
“Not dying?” Raea asked and scratched her head.
“Palan?” Cleo asked.
“Both of you are wrong,” Cleo said and sighed, shaking her head. She puffed her chest out. “It’s their tail!”
Raea turned her head to look at Palan. “Can she really teach us anything?” she asked. Palan shrugged and turned around to open the door.
“Wait,” Cleo said and jumped off the bed. She tugged on Palan’s armor. “I was just joking, joking. Jeez.”
“Then what is it?” Raea asked.
Cleo chewed her lip and mumbled, “It really is the tail though.” Her tail swished and knocked over a chair as she stared at Raea’s feet. Her feet slid across the ground as Palan continued to walk, dragging the orange lizardman along. “Wait, wait! I have an idea,” she said and released Palan. “It’s a good one this time. I promise.” She waited until Palan turned around to look at her. “You try to kill Raea. And Raea tries to live.”
Palan glanced at Raea, a light flashing in his eyes. Raea shivered and took a step back. “Did you seriously consider that just now?” Raea asked.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Palan said recalling the time Raea tugged on his arm. “Your strength is close to mine somehow.” He creased his brow. “But I’m not allowed to hurt you due to the terms of the contract.”
“That’s right,” Raea said and nodded. “We should find some oth—!?” Raea’s eyes widened as Palan lunged towards her neck with his mouth wide open. She fell over backwards and covered her head with her hands. She lowered her arm and lifted her head. Palan stood over her with his arms over his chest. “What was that for!?”
“If I get hit by lightning and you’re standing right next to me, then wouldn’t that hurt both of us?” Palan asked. “Don’t let me hurt you if you don’t want to get shocked by lightning.” He grinned at her.
“You can’t be serious,” Raea said, her face blanching. “I order”—Palan plugged both his ears with his fingers—“you to ….” Raea turned her heads towards Cleo. “Help?”
Cleo climbed onto Raea’s bed and smiled. “Isn’t it cute when two children play-fight?”
“I’ll scream,” Raea said to Palan and furrowed her brow. “I really will.”
It seemed like Palan read her lips because he answered, “The only weak part of you is your personality. Your physical strength is on par with mine after my evolution. Your control over your patience chains is praiseworthy.”
Raea’s face softened. “You really think so?” she asked. “I guess we can tr—!?” She dove to the side as Palan lunged at her again. Eight glowing chains burst out of her back as she scrambled to her feet. She took in a deep breath as Palan stood up and smiled at her. She pursed her lips. “I can do this,” she muttered to herself. “He won’t actually hurt me. He’s doing this for my own good.” She nodded, and the chains on her back flew towards Palan.