After another cycle of torture and healing, Tuic finally broke down and dissolved his contract with the bull-headed demon. The demons knocked him out and assured the other angels that they would be kept alive if they cooperated. The remaining contracts were dissolved without the use of torture, much to the insect-like demon’s disappointment. Palan didn’t care either way and nodded at the four newly freed demons, with Raea in Danger Noodle’s grasp, still enchanted. The four demons grinned and slaughtered their previous contractors before eating them.
Palan went over to the corpses of the angel and demon who died during the battle with the centaurs. He cut out the demon’s heart and stored it inside of a leather pouch before eating the rest of the organs. He found that mana was much more concentrated in the organs than within the flesh. He finished eating the angel as well, and tossed the corpses to the bull-headed demon.
“You’re free now,” Palan said as he wiped the blood off his mouth. “Don’t forget the terms of the contract: It wasn’t me who freed you. You all owe me a nonlife-threatening favor. You can’t hurt me or my angel unless I attack first or allow it.”
The insect-like demon nodded at Palan before scuttling away, carrying the corpse of its contractor. The other demons didn’t stop him. The bull-headed demon lumbered away as well, taking away the skeletons of the dead. The two-faced demon stroked both of its chins before smiling at Palan. “I plan on returning to Eljiam,” it said. “Maybe I’ll see you there.”
The scorpion-tailed demon raised an eyebrow. “Can I go with you?” she asked the two-faced demon. “Life’s difficult for a lust demon when angels aren’t attracted to you.”
The two-faced demon shrugged. “Do what you want,” it said. “But I’ll kill you if you get in my way.”
“Fair enough.” The two turned to leave.
“Wait,” Palan said. “How long until she wakes up?” He jerked his thumb back and pointed at Raea.
The lust demon’s eyes glowed pink, causing Raea’s body to shudder. A gasp escaped from her lips. The demon blinked and rubbed her eyes. “She’ll wake up in twenty minutes or so,” she said and waved, following after the two-faced demon.
Palan licked his lips and looked at the battlefield. Dozens of centaurs lay dead on the ground with their armor mangled beyond repair. He began to gather their corpses and tied them together with the ropes the demons had used to bind the angels. He couldn’t return to the camp empty-handed after all. Tuic’s idea wasn’t that bad.
Raea stirred and let out a groan as her eyes cleared. “W-where am I?” she asked. She was still suspended in the air by Palan’s tail with her arms stuck to her sides.
Palan turned his head and released Raea. “So you’re finally awake,” he said. “How do you feel?”
“Awake?” Raea asked. She paused and blinked as memories of the battle came rushing back to her. She remembered the lust demon enchanting her. And then she remembered the illusion she went through. Her face turned bright-red. Raea lowered her head and mumbled, “I don’t know how I feel right now.” Palan shrugged and continued gathering the centaur corpses. “W-wait,” Raea said as she raised her head. Her gaze avoided Palan’s eyes. And body. And general direction. “What happened to everyone? Where’s Tuic?”
“They died, probably,” Palan said. Raea’s mouth fell open as she turned her head to face him.
“The centaurs beat them. I saw you twitching and moaning on the battlefield, so I retrieved you and retreated,” he said. “The centaur leader had that orb which canceled out the angels’ and demons’ powers, and they were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. They were subdued, and the centaurs took them away.”
“We have to go after them!”
“Nope,” Palan said. “We don’t have to do anything except bring these corpses back to the camp. Our job was to find food. We found some.”
Raea made a face and bit her lip. She did realize it was unrealistic to storm a camp by themselves, especially if they were connected to Ishim’s army. “Then,” she began to say but stopped. Palan had walked right in front of her, tugging on a rope connected to the centaurs. He had managed to tie most of them together. The ones he couldn’t were thrown on top of the pile.
“Then what?” Palan asked and stared at Raea. She blushed and turned away, covering her face with her hands. She took in a deep breath and slapped her cheeks before turning back around. She turned away again and squatted while curling up into a ball. Palan furrowed his brow. “In that illusion—“
“Stop!” Raea shouted and covered her ears. They were redder than usual. She screamed as Danger Noodle snaked underneath her arms and wrapped around her waist, lifting her into the air. “Put me down! Put me down!”
“I refuse,” Palan said and lifted his arm. A bolt of lightning split the clear sky and struck his palm, causing him to wince. His body spasmed, and the tremors reached Raea, causing her to stop struggling.
“Why?” Raea asked and furrowed her brow. The sound of thunder seemed to have cleared her head for the moment.
“We have to go back,” Palan said and raised an eyebrow. “What if the centaurs return? There’s no time to amuse you at the moment.” Raea covered her face at the word amuse. She nodded wordlessly and let herself be carried off by Palan.
After walking in silence for a few minutes, Palan opened his mouth. “Was it me?” he asked. He tugged on the rope in his hands, pulling the centaurs over a stump. He was leaving a clear trail of blood on the ground he walked, but he didn’t seem to care.
“Was it you what?” Raea asked and bit her lip. She was still suspended in the air.
“In the illusion,” Palan said. “Was it me?”
“What illusion?” Raea asked and squirmed, turning her head away.
“In the illusion you just had around an hour ago,” Palan said. “Was I in that il—“
“Stop!” Raea said and held her hands out with her fingers splayed. “Please.”
Palan fell silent. He knocked over a tree with a battleaxe and pulled the bundle of corpses over the leftover stump. “So I was,” he said and nodded. He continued to face forward, sparing Raea the embarrassment of looking at him. She didn’t reply. “Do you know how the illusions work?”
“Can we please not talk about this?”
“But I’m curious,” Palan said. The corners of his lips tugged upwards.
“I don’t know! Okay!?”
“You don’t seem very patient right now.”
Raea took in a deep breath, clenched her hands, and pursed her lips. The two returned to the camp in silence.