Owen took a deep breath as he knocked on the wooden door in front of him. He wore a new set of plate armor without the helmet, and no weapons could be seen on his body. A voice replied from behind the door. “Come in.”
Owen exhaled as he gripped the doorknob and pushed the door open. He entered a windowless room that was lit up by crystals emitting a white light. Lieutenant Malak sat behind a desk, his body facing the door. In his hands was a book with no illustrations on either cover. Two guards stood in the corners behind him with their lances drawn. Malak raised an eyebrow and shut the book, placing it on the desk. He clasped his hands together and smiled at Owen, his gray armor faintly glowing. “I was not expecting you. I suppose Lieutenant Raea sent you?”
“No,” Owen said as he stared at Malak. “I am here of my own accord. Lady Raea does not have anything to do with this.”
“Oh?” Malak asked. “And you expect me to believe that? Regardless, state your business.”
Owen glanced at the guards in the corners of the room before crossing his arms over his chest. “The topic I wish to talk to you about may be a bit sensitive,” he said. “It pertains to a certain archangel named Anidun.”
Malak’s face hardened as he narrowed his eyes at Owen. “I am not the person who you are supposed to be reporting this to,” he said. “Save it for Captain Ishim.”
The corner of Owen’s lip turned upwards as his heart raced in his chest. “I really think you would be interested in hearing it,” he said and inhaled deeply through his nose. “It may reveal something about your relationship to him after all.” His gaze flickered towards the guards before glancing back at Malak. He couldn’t tell what the guard’s expressions were like underneath their helmets. The lieutenant’s body stiffened before he exhaled and leaned back into his seat.
“You two,” Malak said and gestured towards the guards. “Leave.” They looked at each other before heading towards the door. Before they reached Owen, Malak called out to them, “Stop. Look at me.” They stopped and turned their heads towards their superior. Pink rays of light shot out of Malak’s eyes and enveloped their helmets in a bubble of light. Owen gasped as the two armored angels fell to the floor, their heads still glowing pink. Their bodies spasmed and twitched while letting out groans as Malak stood up.
“What did you do to them?” Owen asked. He eyed Malak as he crept forward and picked up one of the guards’ lance. “This is … lust?” His eyes widened as the guards writhed and panted, making screeching noises as their metal armor rubbed against the stone floor.
Malak smiled as he placed his arms behind his back and walked around his desk. “I just put them into a trance they won’t wake up from,” he said. “It would be problematic if false rumors started to spread about me. Think of your next words very carefully.” The guards’ faces turned blue as they tried to scream while bucking their hips. Their throats bulged outwards as their faces bloated.
“Stop!” Owen said. “Do you have to go this far?” He frowned as he hovered over the guards, trying to think of a way to save them. There was nothing he could do as their bodies went limp and stopped moving. Their backs were arched with their arms at their sides, bent at the elbows.
Malak picked up two kiteshields hanging from the wall and sat on his desk while staring at Owen. “Now speak. What did Sir Anidun tell you?” he said and narrowed his eyes as he equipped the shields, one on each arm. A pink dot of light meandered through the whites of his eyes, disappearing and reappearing seemingly at random. Cold sweat rolled down Owen’s back as he realized Malak used an honorific to address Anidun.
Owen’s face was paler than usual as he raised his head and looked at Malak. “We need to go somewhere more secluded,” he said and grimaced. “I refuse to speak in the presence of recording crystals.” His heart raced in his chest as he tried to maintain a steady breath.
Malak raised an eyebrow. “I can assure you,” he said. “There are no recording crystals in my room. Would I openly kill my guards if that were the case? The capital’s too stingy to send something as expensive as that out here.”
“Perhaps you are the one responsible for monitoring them,” Owen said and dipped his head downwards. “Forgive my paranoia. It really just is a delicate topic.” His body was tense as he raised his head back up and stared into Malak’s eyes. The pink dot was still there, twisting and turning.
“Are you trying to lure me to a secluded area so Lieutenant Raea’s pet demon can assassinate me?” Malak asked as he drummed his fingers against the tabletop. He frowned when there was no change in Owen’s facial expression.
Owen shook his head. “That demon would never trust me enough to do something like that,” he said. “I already told you; I am here of my own volition.”
Malak wet his lips with his tongue as he stared at Owen. “I would kill you right now, but I really am curious as to what you have to say,” he said and stood up. His kiteshields clanked against the desk as they hung from his forearms. “Where do you want to go to talk then?”
“The forest. I believe you have a way to leave the outpost without being seen.”
Malak smirked. “Very well,” he said as he walked over and picked up one of the dead guards on the ground. “Get the other one. We can dispose of their bodies in the forest while we are there.” He glanced at Owen. “And leave the lance behind.”
“You are willing to go to the forest alone with me?” Owen asked and raised an eyebrow as he lifted up the blue-faced corpse on the ground. “Aren’t you afraid I’d do something?”
“I don’t believe you would have returned alive if you had met Sir Anidun,” Malak said and opened the door. “And since you returned with the chieftain’s corpse and know of his existence, there are only two conclusions I can draw: one, you really do have a message for me, or two, Sir Anidun was killed. I do not think it is possible for your group to kill him though.” He smiled at Owen as the two walked down a flight of stairs into a rocky corridor. Malak kicked a wall, and the stones rumbled as they shifted apart, revealing another tunnel. “Also, I have multiple assassins watching your little lady and her pet demon. I am not worried about being killed.”
Owen’s brow furrowed as he followed after Malak. “Is that so,” he said as he squeezed through the winding tunnel. For once, he was hoping that Palan stayed in Raea’s room for the whole night.