Palan leaned back against his wooden chair, causing it to balance on its hind legs. His bare feet were propped up on the desk in front of him with his arms across his chest. Anidun’s dagger dangled from his waist on the opposite side of his leather bag. His head was turned to the side, facing Raea as moonlight streamed through the window in front of him and illuminated his face. His contractor sat on a bed with her knees against her chest. She wore a cotton robe that was provided with the residence. Beneath him, Emergency Victuals was curled up in a ball with Cleo sprawled out on top of its fur coat.
“You want me to kill Malak?” Palan asked as he stared at Raea. Her hands were white as she clutched the edges of her robe, eyes downcast. She didn’t respond as her lips quivered. Faint red handprints could be seen on her cheeks. “I don’t care either way.” Palan shrugged as his lips parted. He exhaled. “I wouldn’t mind eating him though. He seems like he’d be very … nourishing.”
“Killing is wrong,” Raea said and bit her lip, her voice barely above a whisper. Her eyes glistened as she raised her head and stared at Palan. “I don’t know what came over me today. My chest burned. My hands were hot. It felt like needles were being jabbed into my skin. I could feel my jaw and muscles tense.” Her body shuddered. “There was a voice screaming inside of my head for me to kill him. I’ve never felt that way before.”
Palan raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that just anger?” he asked as his chair rocked back and forth. “He did intentionally screw you over. It’s reasonable to get angry and want to kill him.”
“Is it?” Raea asked. Her brow furrowed as she rested her chin on her knees. “So that’s what anger feels like? I’ve never been so angry at someone before.”
“Haven’t you been angry at me a few times?” Palan asked and snorted. Emergency Victuals ears twitched at the sound, smacking Cleo’s face. She made a sound halfway between a grunt and a squeak as her eyes blinked open. “Like when I killed that rabbit-demon and her angels.”
“I think that was more akin to sulking,” Raea said as her face flushed. “I did not wish for harm to befall you; I just did not want to talk to you at the time. With Lieutenant Malak, it was different. He’s the very first person that I wished would die.”
“How old are you?” Palan asked as he stared at Raea.
“Fifteen,” Raea said. “Why?”
“What?” Cleo asked as she crawled out from underneath the desk. “You’re only three years older than me and you call me a child?” She latched her claws onto the edge of the table and pulled herself up. She turned around and sat with her legs dangling off the edge.
“Fifteen years old and you’ve never wished for someone to die,” Palan said and tilted his head. He glanced at the orange lizardman. “What about you?”
Cleo tilted her head back at Palan. “You killed her,” she said. “The person I wanted to die.” The two turned their heads to stare at Raea.
“Well, I apologize for being so sheltered,” Raea said as her forehead wrinkled. “Everyone has always been nice to me. The capital’s a perfect place.”
“So why are you here?” Cleo asked. “Why not stay in the capital?”
Raea ruffled her hair with one hand as she lowered her head. “I was, er, kind of … exiled?” she said, mumbling into her knees.
Cleo blinked as her tongue flickered out of her mouth. “Why?”
“I developed a sin, two sins actually, and hurt the people close to me,” Raea said as she sighed and raised her head to make eye contact with Cleo. “Truthfully, I should have been executed, but due to my parents’ influence, I was sent here as a Lieutenant instead.” A crooked smile appeared on Raea’s face. “My dad told me I could go back to the capital if I obtained enough merits to balance out my crimes. Whether I can stay there or not depends on the strength of my virtues and sins.”
“Isn’t killing Anidun a great merit?” Palan asked.
“We didn’t kill him though?” Raea wasn’t quite sure if she was asking a question or making a statement. “Owen said Anidun was already dead when he found him.”
Palan snorted. “No, that’s not what happened. I invaded the lizardman village by myself and killed Anidun. Then Owen found his body.”
“Wait. Really?” Raea asked.
“It’s the truth if no one can prove me wrong,” Palan said and smirked.
“Palan,” Raea said and frowned. “I cannot lie. Integrity is a major part of being an angel of kindness.”
“Then just keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking,” Palan said and narrowed his eyes at Raea. “That’s not lying, right?”
“It falls under the same umbrella,” Raea said. “Deceiving someone by not saying anything still counts as being dishonest.” She chewed her lip. “If you take away my integrity, then what do I have left?”
“Uh, compassion, patience, mercy, forgiveness, your hair?”
“You know what I mean,” Raea said and rolled her eyes. “I am not going to lie to get merits. We’ll get some for burying Anidun’s body and reporting it, but it would’ve happened to anyone who subjugated the lizardmen’s city.”
“Must you make things so difficult?” Palan asked. He ground his teeth together and spat out a tooth. Cleo hopped off the table and retrieved it before returning to her spot. Raea blinked at the lizardman’s actions.
“Yes,” Raea said and nodded. “It defeats the purpose of coming to the borderlands if I just lie about what I’ve accomplished in order to return to the capital. I’ll get sent right back.”
“Do what you want,” Palan said and snorted as he climbed out of his seat. He pat his bag and dagger to confirm that they were still there as he made his way to the corner of the room and picked up one of the metal axes he obtained after killing the greater demon. He took them with him before the group left the lizardmen’s city.
“Where are you going?” Raea asked.
“To vent off some frustration,” Palan said and made his way to the door.
“Shouldn’t you stay here? Just in case?” Raea asked. “What if an assassin comes while you’re gone?”
“Weren’t you the one who said no one would try to assassinate you because angels don’t do that the last time we were here?”
“I changed my mind,” Raea said and crossed her arms over her chest.
Palan smiled. “So it’s possible for you to learn,” he said and opened the door. A crate rested against the wall, beside Palan’s feet on the outside of the building. Palan lifted the axe and swung it downwards, smashing the crate into pieces of the back of the axe. A scream came from within the splinters of the crate and Palan thrust his hand towards the figure underneath the wood. He lifted up a bleeding angel by her neck with one hand and smiled as he twirled his axe in the other. “Sneaking around this late at night with weapons. Makes one wonder if you’re an assassin or not.”
Blood poured from a gash on the angel’s forehead. She tried to speak, but she couldn’t. Her face turned blue as Palan’s grip tightened. “If you don’t respond, I’m really going to kill you,” Palan said and smiled. He laughed as the angel clawed feebly at his arms and deflected her kicks with his axe.
“Palan!” Raea said. “You should question her first!”
Palan glanced at Raea. “I am questioning her,” he said. “She’s just not responding. There’s nothing I can do about that.” Raea glared at him.
“We can find out valuable information from her,” Raea said. “Don’t kill her. Please?”
Palan stared at the struggling angel in his grip. Her eyes were bulging as she held onto his forearm with her hands. Palan walked inside the room and closed the door behind himself before dropping the angel. She coughed as she gasped for breath and whimpered as Palan sank the blade of his axe into the wooden floorboard next to her hand. He smiled at her, showing his teeth. “If you make any movements other than talking, I’ll kill you. Understand?”
“Y-yes,” the angel said. Her body shuddered as Raea sighed and walked next to Palan who was stripping the guest of her weapons.
“Who sent you?” Raea asked.
“Lieutenant Malak,” the angel said. Her lips trembled as Palan squat next to her with his axe propped up against his shoulder.
“Are you here to assassinate me?” Raea asked.
The angel bit her lip as her eyes shifted towards Palan. She hesitated before responding. “Y-yes.” Raea stepped in front of Palan before he could swing his axe, causing him to frown.
“Have you done something like this before?” Raea asked.
“No,” the angel said, her voice quavering. “I didn’t want to, but Malak said he would torture my son if I didn’t listen to him. I’m telling you the truth. I swear.” Tears formed in the corner of her eyes.
“Don’t kill her,” Raea said to Palan as she eyed the axe in his hand.
“She was going to kill you,” Palan said. “Showing mercy is showing weakness.”
“Then I guess I am weak,” Raea said to Palan. She turned towards the assassin and bound her arms and legs. “I’ll protect your son from Lieutenant Malak. He is so despicable. He is in the highest position of authority in this outpost, yet he abuses his powers.”
“Isn’t that how it works?” Palan asked as he snorted and sat on Raea’s bed. He raised an eyebrow at Raea’s handiwork, and the corner of his lips twitched in approval. “But just so you know, there’s more than one assassin. They’d probably attack you the instant I left the room.”