“Owen!” Raea shouted and tackled him. “I thought you were dead.” Tears formed in her eyes. Carmella and Gerome stood on either side of the two angels. Gerome scratched his head, while Carmella eyed Palan who had his arms across his chest. The first sun was just beginning to set, the trees casting long shadows on the ground.
Owen extricated himself from Raea’s embrace and glared at Palan. His armor was caked in a layer of dirt. He snarled. “The hell was that?”
Palan tilted his head. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“The poison!” Owen shouted. “Everyone died because of you!”
Gerome and Carmella took steps back as Owen marched forwards with his lance in hand. Palan snorted and unsheathed the two axes on his back. “You’re still alive aren’t you? Maybe I should rectify that.”
Raea’s face blanched. “Stop! Please,” she said and grabbed Owen’s arm. “What do you mean?”
“Your demon ran away and scattered poison over the whole battlefield,” Owen said and spat on the floor. “If I reacted a second slower, I would probably be dead.”
Carmella and Gerome nodded. Gerome cleared his throat. “I actually ran away with Carmella when I noticed Palan climbing a tree. Well, it was more like Carmella dragging me away,” he said.
“I had a really bad feeling,” Carmella said and nodded.
Palan shrugged. “I killed the greater demon and all the lizardmen. What’s the issue?”
“The issue is you killing everyone else,” Owen said and pointed his spear at Palan, jerking his arm out of Raea’s grip.
“They would’ve died to the greater demon anyway. It would’ve endlessly regenerated as long as the blood around it was pure,” Palan said as he knocked the spear away with his axe. “Everyone was resolved to give their lives for the mission, no?”
“Palan,” Raea said and furrowed her brow. Her lips quivered. “Did you really?”
“I told you I was going to,” Palan said and snorted. “It’s not my fault you didn’t stop me; I took your silence as an approval.”
“I was unconscious!”
“Not my problem. If I didn’t do it, you would be dead,” Palan said to Raea before making eye contact with the other angels. “All of you would be dead. If I had the chance to do it over, then I would make the same choice.” Carmella bit her lip before nodding and walked over to Palan with her lance lowered. She stood next to him and turned around to face Owen, Gerome, and Raea.
“He tried to kill you,” Owen said and glowered at Carmella. The wavy-haired angel shrugged and planted her lance into the ground, leaning against it. Gerome drew his lips in a line before he sighed and also walked over to Palan’s side. Owen’s eyes narrowed. “You too?”
Gerome scratched his head as his eyes flickered towards Carmella. He let out a weak laugh, but didn’t say anything. Raea bit her lip and hung her head, staring at her feet as Owen’s hand tightened around his lance. Palan raised an eyebrow. “Why are you two here?”
Carmella hummed and brushed her white hair behind her ear. “I feel as if fighting against you now would result in my death,” she said as her face warped into a bitter smile. “Honor doesn’t really mean much when you’re dead, right?”
Gerome nodded. “I’ve decided to follow Lady Carmella, no matter what choices she makes,” he said, his face glowing a deeper hue of red than usual.
“Following that demon will only lead to your death,” Owen said. Raea’s body trembled as she raised her head.
“Now is not the time to be fighting amongst ourselves,” Raea said with her brows furrowed. She spoke in a low voice, but everyone heard her clearly. She looked at Owen and took in a deep breath. “As an angel of patience, I have already forgiven Palan for what he has done.” A bitter smile appeared on her lips. “I have already grieved and found my resolve earlier. Truthfully, I already suspected something like this happened, but I did not want to admit it. What has happened has already happened, and nothing I do can change that. The best thing we can do is to continue forward and not let their sacrifices be in vain.”
“You cannot be serious,” Owen said. His voice quavered as his lance trembled in his hands. “They’re dead: Karl, Max, James, Talin, Micah. Your guards who have followed you since you were a child, they’re all dead, poisoned to death by the demon in front of you, and you want to forgive him?” Tears formed in the corner of Raea’s eyes as Owen gazed at her.
Palan snorted. “Cut the crap,” he said as he raised the axes in his hands. “Did you want me to wait for the greater demon to hack them into pieces before I applied the poison? If you want to be mad at someone, get mad at Ishim for sending us out here. Or get mad at Raea’s parents. It’s not my fault your friends were completely incompetent.”
“Raea,” Owen said with bloodshot eyes, ignoring Palan. His voice was gruff as he fell to his knees. “Please punish him. He must be punished for what he’s done. I can feel our companions’ souls crying out to me in my heart. They want justice for what happened. We could’ve killed the greater demon if we worked together, but he”—Owen pointed at Palan—”denied us that chance!”
Raea shook her head as tears flowed down her cheeks. “I can’t,” Raea said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I, too, am at fault. What right do I have to judge Palan?” She touched Owen’s cheek with her hand. “You have to forgive him too or the unrest in your heart will fester and consume you.”
Owen let out a hollow laugh as he lumbered to his feet. “I will never be able to forgive him,” Owen said as he turned away from Raea. He trudged towards the forest, heading in the direction of the battlefield. “Never.”
“Owen,” Raea said and frowned as she touched his shoulder. Owen twitched and brushed her hand aside. “Where are you going?” Raea’s voice trembled.
“To bury them.”
Raea bit her lip while turning around. She saw Palan sheathing his axes while Carmella and Gerome stared at Owen’s back. Palan turned around, gesturing for the angels behind him to follow. “Let’s go, Raea. You’ll get poisoned if you touch the corpses.”
Raea stood in the center of the field, watching Owen and Palan walk further and further away from her in opposite directions. Her brow was furrowed as she yelled, “Stop! Both of you, please!” Her body glowed white and chains made of light shot out from behind her, enveloping Owen along with Palan’s group. The chains tightened and shrank, dragging everyone towards Raea before stopping right in front of her.
“You couldn’t have done this in the battle?” Palan asked as his body futilely struggled against the white restraints.
Raea shook her head, causing beads of sweat to roll down her face.
“You really have forgiven him,” Owen said and sighed.
Raea nodded. “We have to work as a team. I want Palan and Owen to hug each other and truly mean it. I don’t care how long it takes. Until Owen and Palan are best friends, we won’t be moving from this spot,” she said and closed her eyes. “I am serious.”
Palan frowned and asked Carmella, “How long does it take for an angel to die of dehydration? I don’t believe he can outlast me.”