Palan frowned as he stood over the six dead bodies. If Tara had chosen to fight him, who would have won? He hated to admit it, but she had the advantage because she could fly and attack at range. His brow furrowed as a layer of black light covered his body. He hesitated before jumping into the air. His body soared above the treetops, his ascent gradually slowing, until he was starting to float towards the ground. He counted the seconds, while attempting to maneuver in the air, but he couldn’t. The wind would push him at times, but nothing he did allowed him to move in a direction he wanted.
He resigned himself to his fate and glanced at his surroundings. The treetops looked like spears underneath his body. Ahead of himself, he could see the tops of the checkpoint wall. Rows upon rows of crossbows and ballistae decorated the edge of the red metal. He saw ant-like figures dressed in brown digging holes in the ground in front of the wall. One of them seemed to be staring up at him, but he couldn’t be sure due to the distance. Behind himself, he saw a circle of black and brown: The trees were dead. The ground was exposed. A few burnt carcasses littered the forest floor. He shielded his eyes from the sun rays and could barely make out the four buildings that the army was camping in.
Beads of sweat formed on his brow as he was getting close to a minute in the air. He increased the gravity on his body and plunged towards the ground, letting out a short yell. The wind was knocked out of him as he crashed through a layer of branches before landing on his back. He gasped for breath and stared up at the broken tree. Next time, he’d just stop using his powers instead of increasing it. After a moment of groaning, he sat up and spat out a tooth. He almost expected Cleo to appear out of nowhere to snatch it away. His brow furrowed and he shook himself off, climbing to his feet.
It was then that he realized he should’ve embraced his powers a long time ago instead of being too stubborn. He was proud of his body’s newfound strength and thought that was all he needed. His body wouldn’t fail him in a zone of charity. Isn’t that what he told Raea? Palan snorted and punched the already abused tree. The bark on the trunk shattered, causing the treetop to wobble and drop leaves down to the ground. He knew the real reason why he stopped using his powers. Having Raea carry him that one time when he overdrew his mana pool had mortified him. His usage of powers had been sparse ever since that day.
Palan shook his head, removing the image of his weakness out of his mind. He ground his teeth to get rid of the bitter taste and took in a deep breath through his nose. What other powers did he have access to? He recalled the virtues and sins Raea had: patience, kindness, envy, greed. If only he knew how to use envy and greed. He should’ve asked that two-faced demon before they parted ways. His forehead tingled. The sound of footsteps crunching over leaves caught his attention, and he whirled around while crouching, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.
A brown-robed figure walked into view. He leapt, knocking the figure to the ground. The figure let out a cry which was cut off when his hand snaked around its throat. Just when he was about to squeeze with all his strength, he froze as his eyes widened. He recognized the face staring up at him. “Raea?”
Selena coughed as the purple demon released her throat. Shivers ran down her spine as the red eyes stared at her. The demon was still sitting on her chest, the shock on his face slowly fading away. His face hardened as a black and red snakehead hovered over her face. “Y-you know my sister?” Selena asked. Her palm touched the ground. She could feel the earth beneath her starting to form into spears beneath the surface. Earlier, she thought she saw a purple fish flailing in the air before plunging straight towards the ground. It seemed like she was the only one who saw anything, and she went to investigate. She was confident in her abilities at a greater angel, yet here she was, pinned to the ground by a demon who mistook her for her sister.
“You’re Raea’s sister?” Palan asked and raised an eyebrow. His face softened again and Danger Noodle moved out of the way. “What’s your last name?”
“Caelum. My name is Selena Caelum,” she said. Tremors ran through her hand as the spears crept closer to the surface. Depending on his next actions, she’d have to strike.
“Selena,” Palan said and furrowed his brow. He recalled something Raea had yelled at Elrith before. “Sely?” Selena’s eyes widened. “Is that what she calls you?”
“That’s me,” Selena said and nodded. “You know her? Is she alright?”
Palan climbed off of Selena and distanced himself from the angel on the ground. “Stay right there, I still don’t trust you yet,” he said when she sat up. He frowned and scratched his head. “If I killed you, I wonder if Raea would still be able to forgive me.” Selena’s eyes widened, and the earth beneath her feet churned.
“Calm down,” Palan said and snorted. “I could’ve killed you three separate times already.” The earth stopped moving as Selena frowned. “You seem a lot smarter than your brother.” He nodded.
“Who are you?” Selena asked. She narrowed her eyes at Palan. A second later, he winced and growled, charging at her and knocking her over.
His hand was once again on her throat, squeezing this time. Her face started to turn blue as she clawed at her throat. “I don’t know what you just tried to do to me, but if you ever try that again, I will tear you apart and feed you to your sister,” Palan said as his tail hissed. Selena’s vision started to turn grey, and a dull droning sound reached her ears. Her arms tingled and fell to the side. Right before her vision fully disappeared, it started to regain clarity.
She gasped and sat up, eyeing Palan as he took a step back. “I tried to inspect you with my powers of knowledge,” she said, deciding it was best to reveal everything. He still looked pissed. “It’s a classifying type of power that allows me to compare you to things I’ve seen before.”
“And what did you see?” Palan asked. His head still hurt from that stare.
“Nothing,” Selena said. “You’re on the same level as me or higher. Greater demon?”
Palan didn’t respond. “So you’re an angel of knowledge,” he said, thinking of Pyre. “You don’t seem very eccentric to me.”
“Nothing,” Palan said and shook his head. “I wonder what I should do with you.”
“Are you my sister’s contracted demon?” Selena asked and pursed her lips. She took a step back when Palan glared at her. “Elrith sent a letter home saying Raea had some snake-like changes due to her demon.” Her eyes glanced at Danger Noodle before meeting Palan’s gaze. Crunching sounds echoed through the forest, causing Selena to turn around. She saw the captain of the gate approaching her.
“What happened?” he asked. “You suddenly ran off. Did you find something?”
“Uh.” Selena scratched her head and turned around. Palan was gone. “No, I thought I heard something so I came to inspect the area.”
The captain looked around. “Well, you definitely heard something alright,” he said. “Look at this tree. It’s like a bear ran into it without looking. Let’s go back. It’ll bring trouble to me from the capital if you go missing under my watch.”
Selena nodded and followed after the captain. She took one last glance behind her but didn’t see anyone. She bit her lip. There were so many things she wanted to ask him. She felt a sense of frustration at the captain for interrupting, but she shoved it out of her mind.