Palan hacked apart a shrub with the two metal axes in his hands. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead and dripped to the floor. Raea frowned as a rabbit scrambled out from the pile and asked, “Couldn’t you have just walked around? There was no need to destroy it.”
Palan shrugged and walked around the shredded shrub, propping his axes up against his shoulder. “These are pretty fun to play with. Metal’s extremely hard to come by back at home.”
“Destruction of a habitat should not be classified as fun,” Raea said as she glanced behind herself. Carmella and Gerome walked side by side, their bodies dressed in full plate armor with their visors raised. Owen was following behind the two with his gaze fixated on the ground ahead, his greaves leaving two lines trailing behind himself as he trudged forward.
“Can’t agree with you there,” Palan said as he hacked at another shrub. “This is a novel experience. All I’ve ever seen was sand. Sand for miles and miles with the occasional cactus and oasis. There wasn’t much to destroy.”
“I think you’re missing the point,” Raea said as Emergency Victuals sniffed at the fallen shrub. “Is destroying things really that much fun?”
Raea sighed and shook her head as she followed after Palan.
“We should be there soon,” Palan said. “I can smell a lot of them.”
“What do they smell like?” Gerome asked as he stepped around a cluster of white mushrooms. Carmella dropped to her knees and plucked the mushrooms. She dusted the dirt off of them before putting them into her bag.
“Like spicy sandroamers,” Palan said and licked his lips. “I wonder if they taste the same. Their skin does look similar in texture.” Gerome made a face, but didn’t say anything.
“Do you have a plan?” Carmella asked. “There are hundreds of lizardmen and only five of us.”
“Well, what was the original plan?” Palan asked. “Raea kept saying something about subjugation and not extermination.” Palan, Gerome, and Carmella turned to stare at Raea. Owen glanced at Raea before turning his gaze back towards the ground.
Raea scratched her head. “I was thinking of awing them with a show of force by subduing their military. Then we would negotiate with the chieftain by using their soldiers as a bargaining chip,” she said and sighed. “That clearly did not go as planned.” Her face burned as she stared at her hands, trying to ignore the gazes of her companions.
“Captain Ishim asked for the chieftain’s head though,” Gerome said.
Raea nodded. “We would just bring him back. A head attached to the body is still a head, right?” she asked. Carmella stared at her with a raised eyebrow.
Palan’s eyes narrowed for a brief moment before he started to chuckle. “You’re right,” he said and smiled at Raea, “absolutely right.”
Raea frowned as her brow creased. “Why do I feel wrong now?” she asked and sighed. “Palan is making fun of me, yes?” She glanced at Carmella and Gerome. Her lips quirked downwards when she saw Owen’s downcast face.
“No,” Palan said and placed his axe against his shoulder. “I just didn’t think you angels would abuse loopholes like that. Interesting.” He chuckled again before proceeding to hack a trail through the undergrowth.
“Is he alright?” Gerome asked. Raea tilted her head, staring at Palan’s armored back as bits of green flew into the air. Carmella shuddered before shaking her head.
“W-wait!” Raea called out after a moment. She ran up to Palan, followed by the rest of their companions. “Did you have a plan?”
“I’m just going to go up to their gates and say that the greater demon wanted me to greet Anidun, using these axes as proof,” Palan said as he knocked the two weapons together, creating a ringing noise.
Raea’s brow furrowed. “Are you sure that’s going to work?” she asked. “That doesn’t sound very safe.”
“Who’s the one with wisdom here?” Palan asked and snorted. “I don’t believe Anidun could kill me that easily. I have a plan for when I meet him.” His eyes narrowed, and he licked his lips. He knocked aside the hanging branches of a willow tree, revealing a wooden structure off in the distance. “We’re there.”
“No, no,” Raea said and shook her head as she grabbed Palan’s shoulder. “Even if I may not be blessed by wisdom, I can still tell your idea is completely stupid. Anidun is an archangel. He is fundamentally greater than us. If—”
“According to you,” Palan said and shrugged off Raea’s arm. “I’m just a regular demon. But in the end, I still killed a greater demon.”
“That was that,” Raea said and frowned. “This is this. I forbid you from approaching Anidun in this manner.” She placed her hands on her hips. Palan narrowed his eyes.
“I will go,” Owen said. The angels and demon ahead of him turned around and raised their eyebrows. Owen gripped his lance and raised his head. “I will do it. I will kill Anidun.”
“Owen,” Raea said as her lips pressed together. Her eyebrows creased towards each other. “Do you realize what you are saying?”
Owen nodded. “Your demon, though I hate to say this, may be onto something,” he said. “Anidun is most likely impaired in some manner due to the death of his contractee. The best time to strike is now.” He lowered his head and took in a deep breath. “And I have to prove myself. I should have died when I attacked you. Allow me to do this at least.”
“Palan,” Owen said as he pulled out a yellow crystal. He crushed it with his gauntlets, causing a piece of paper to materialize in the air. “I, Owen Caelum, will say hello to you within one month. In return, you, Palan the pride demon, will give me a bag of your most potent poison.” Owen scratched his face with the edge of his gauntlet and dripped a drop of blood onto the paper.
Raea blinked. “Eh? Wh—”
Palan raised an eyebrow. “Interesting,” he said and bit his thumb. He pressed it on the piece of paper before Raea could say anything. He reached into his bag and lobbed a closed cloth bag at Owen. “You’ll need these too, I suppose.” Palan dropped the axes onto the ground in front of Owen.
Owen nodded and strapped his lance to his back before bending over to pick up the axes. He let out a groan and the muscles on his arms bulged as he picked them up. He gritted his teeth and propped the axes up with his shoulders. Owen shot a glance at Palan with his brows furrowed before he turned away and walked past the group, heading towards the lizardmen’s camp.
“Owen!” Raea said and moved to stop him, but Palan grabbed her shoulder. “How could you let him go?”
“He volunteered,” Palan said and shrugged. “It works out for all of us. If he dies then we’ll know through this contract. With those axes as proof, the only thing that should be able to kill him is Anidun.”
“It’s too dangerous!” Raea said and knocked Palan’s hand away. She rushed after Owen.
“Stop her,” Palan said to Emergency Victuals. The dire wolf snarled and dashed towards Raea. It tackled her to the ground and sat on her back. White chains flew out of Raea’s back, but Emergency Victuals pressed the angel’s head into the ground, disrupting the magic.
Owen didn’t look back as he marched towards the wooden fort.