Chapter 23

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Palan sat behind Raea on her horse with forty or so cavalry riding behind them, riding along on a dirt road. In front of the group was a naked, scaled humanoid figure riding on a boar the size of a horse. The figure was green with clawed hands and toes. Its back had a vertical set of spikes running down its spine all the way to the tip of its tail.

The lizardman turned his head to glance at the angels riding behind him before he extended his left arm out and pointed. The boar he was riding on squealed and turned towards a clearing in the forest with the horsemen following after it. After another ten minutes or so of riding, the group arrived at a glade. The lizardman pat his boar on the head and it slowed to a halt.

“Why did we stop?” Raea asked as her horse trotted to a halt, its metal armor clinking. The second sun was at its zenith as it shone on the group below.

“This is as far as I can take you,” the lizardman said, his voice rasping. His sharp teeth clicked together as he spoke. “Beyond this point is the lizardmen territory. They don’t take kindly to traitors like me.” The lizardman’s tongue flickered as he wet his lips. He pointed at a tree with a red line drawn on its trunk. “If you can see those marks, then you know you’re in their lands.”

“I understand,” Raea said and nodded at the lizardman. “Thank you for guiding us.” She dismounted and signaled for her soldiers to do the same.

“Of course,” the lizardman said and blinked its green eyes as it scratched at a metal collar on its neck. “Then I’ll be taking my leave. I wish you luck, Lieutenant Raea.” It pat the boar’s head and disappeared back in the direction the group came from.

Raea watched the lizardman leave before she turned to face her soldiers. “We will establish our base here. For the time being, we should send scouts ahead to gather more information about the lizardmen’s camp while the rest of us make camp.”

“So you’re not as incompetent as I thought,” Palan said as he nudged Emergency Victuals away with his foot. “Here I was thinking you’d just charge in and try to talk to them.” He glanced at Raea as the dire wolf whined and licked his foot.

“Palan. Please stop undermining my authority in front of my subordinates,” Raea said and sighed as she removed her helmet. “Are there any among you who feels confident in scouting?”

One soldier stepped forward and saluted. “I am, lieutenant. I was raised near a forest and I used to go on hunting expeditions with my parents,” the soldier said. His voice sounded young, but his speech was confident.

Another soldier stepped forward and also saluted. “I am also confident in my ability to navigate through a forest. I apprenticed to an apothecary and used to gather herbs for her before I was sent to the borderland,” the soldier said in a feminine voice.

Raea nodded. “What are your names?”

“My name is Gerome Castor,” the young soldier said.

“I am Carmella Zul,” the female soldier said.

“Then Gerome, Carmella,” Raea said as she nodded at both the angels, “I leave scouting to you. The rest—”

“Let me go too,” Palan said, talking over Raea. He licked his lips. “I’m tired of sitting around.”

Raea glared at Palan and frowned before she faced the rest of the soldiers. “As I was saying, the—, eep!”

Palan poked Raea in the side through a gap in her armor. “I want to go,” Palan said as he dodged Raea’s hand swipe. Owen frowned, but didn’t say anything.

Raea growled as she put her hands on her hips. “Were you not afraid of me getting killed?” Raea asked as she faced Palan. “Why would you abandon me now?”

“Well, you’re awake and wearing armor,” Palan said. “And you can restrain whatever’s attacking you for an indefinite amount of time, right? There shouldn’t be any issues. I think. Maybe. Actually, now that I really think about it,”—Palan frowned—”you’ll probably step on a poisonous bug and die or something. I guess I can’t go.” He sighed.

“How fragile do you think I am?” Raea asked as her brow furrowed. The soldiers fidgeted in place as their lieutenant bickered with her contracted demon.

“If I hit you with an egg, you’d probably break,” Palan said and nodded.

Raea sighed as her head drooped. “Go.”

Palan raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”

“I said go. Go scout. You have to come back before nightfall though,” Raea said before straightening her back. She faced the soldiers and cleared her throat. “Th—”

“I thought you wanted me to stay? Why are you telling me to go?” Palan asked.

Raea sighed again. “Your talents would be of more use in the scouting party than out here. I am more than capable of keeping myself alive,” she said and sniffed. Palan rubbed his chin as Raea addressed the soldiers for the fourth time. “Everyone else, set up a—”

“Will you really be alright?” Palan asked.

“I’ll be fine! Stop interrupting me!” Raea said as she whirled around to face Palan. She inhaled. “Please.”

“Alright,” Palan said as he scratched his head. “Is that an order?”

“Yes!” Raea shouted and put her hands on her hips. “All of you”—Raea glared at the soldiers—”set up the base! Make sure nothing will be able to approach undetected. Do you understand?!”

“Y-yes, si—ma’am!” the soldiers shouted in unison as their bodies tensed.

“I thought you were supposed to be patient,” Palan said to Raea as Gerome and Carmella stripped off their armor, revealing leather underarmor.

“What part of me is not patient?” Raea asked and tilted her head. “I am literally the embodiment of patience. Why have you not left yet?”

“If you say so,” Palan said and grunted. He looked at the wolf by his feet. “Make sure she doesn’t get herself killed. Got it?” Emergency Victuals barked and trotted next to Raea before sitting next to her.

Palan glanced at the two angels who had volunteered to scout. They changed from their metal greaves into leather boots and their lances were nowhere to be seen. Gerome sported a buzzcut while Carmella’s hair was tied in a bun behind her head. Germone said, “We are ready to depart when you are.”

Palan nodded and took one last look at Raea who was unloading supplies from one of the horses with Emergency Victuals glued to her heels. “Let’s go,” Palan said to the two angels as he walked past them. “I’ll lead.”

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