Chapter 48

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Cleo yawned and opened her eyes as she stretched her arms upwards. The room was red from the sunrise when she crawled out from underneath the desk, stepping on Emergency Victuals’ tail. She hissed and smacked the dire wolf’s snout when it whined and nipped at her arm. She saw the tied-up female assassin sleeping in the middle of the room and tilted her head. Cleo blinked and yawned again while turning towards the bed. She walked to the edge and saw Palan staring at her, following her movements with her eyes. He was sitting with his back pressed against the wall, his legs lay horizontally across the sleeping Raea’s stomach.

Cleo grinned and reached out to tickle the bottom of Palan’s feet with her pointed claws. Before she reached his soles, Palan stirred and retracted his feet. He yawned and stood up on the bed, causing Raea to groan. He asked, “What do you want?”

“Nothing,” Cleo said and smiled at him, blinking a few times. Her tail swished as she clasped her hands behind her back. “I just wanted to know if you could really see or not when you’re asleep.”

Palan leapt off the bed and landed next to the sleeping female assassin. He lifted her by the ropes binding her arms and legs together and walked to the door. She stirred as the movement woke her and screamed as Palan lobbed her out of the room into the street. Palan closed the door while Cleo watched him with her mouth agape. Palan glanced at her. “What?”

“That was awfully rude of you,” Cleo said and scratched her cheek. “You could’ve untied her first.”

“Good morning, Cleo,” Raea said as she sat up in bed. Dark bags hung underneath her eyes as she blinked and ruffled her hair while yawning. “Did someone scream?” She blinked and looked around the room. “Where’d the assassin go?”

“Palan threw her out,” Cleo said and pointed towards the door. Raea rubbed her eyes and stared at Palan. He shrugged.

“No point in keeping her,” Palan said as he sifted through his bag. He frowned at the lack of poison within. “The angels probably won’t attempt to kill you in broad daylight.”

Raea grunted as she climbed out of the bed and walked over to the corner of the room with the closet. She pulled out her garments and started to change out of her robe. She undid the belt by her waist and turned her heads towards Palan. “Did you kill Lieutenant Malak while I was sleeping?”

“No,” Palan said as he pulled out the glowing blue orb from his bag. All the brown colors had disappeared. “The assassins were too spread out.”

“Good,” Raea said and nodded as she slipped a on a pair of leather pants.

“Good?” Cleo asked as she stared at the orb in Palan’s hands. The surface seemed to squirm, as if he were holding a ball of water. “I thought you wanted him to die.”

“I wasn’t in the right state of mind yesterday,” Raea said and buttoned up a cloth shirt. “The proper way to deal with Lieutenant Malak would be to report him to Captain Ishim.” She smoothed out her hair and nodded as she closed the closet door and walked over to the stand holding her armor. “Laws are made for a reason. Justice should be served by the court, not by vigilantes.”

Palan placed the orb back into his bag and glanced at Emergency Victuals who climbed out from underneath the desk. “Whatever,” he said. “I bet he would’ve tasted bitter.” He cracked his neck. “Like Anidun. My strength didn’t even improve after eating his organs.”

Raea sighed. “Don’t say that in public,” she said as she donned her armor.

“I’m not stupid,” Palan said and strapped the greater demon’s axes to his back. He pat his waist, making sure Anidun’s dagger was still there. “It’s just you and me here after all.”

“Hey,” Cleo said and pouted. “What about me?”

“You don’t count,” Palan said and snorted. “You’re like that pup over there.”

Cleo crossed her arms and stared at Emergency Victuals. “Why do you follow this guy?” she asked with her cheeks puffed out. The dire wolf whined and licked her face, causing the orange lizardman to squeal in protest.

“Because I’m awesome?” Palan asked and opened the door. “Obviously.” Raea had finished putting on her armor and was in the process of combing her hair with her fingers. She sighed as she followed Palan out of the room.

“Keep telling yourself that,” Cleo said as she sat on Emergency Victuals’ back and steered the dire wolf outside. The tied up assassin was nowhere to be found and the streets were empty. A few angels wearing armor could be seen sitting on the walls of the outpost, some of them clearly asleep.

“We agreed to meet at the stables at sunrise,” Raea said and yawned as she rounded a corner. “The sooner we leave this outpost, the better I’d feel.” The group headed towards the stables, keeping an eye out even though the streets were barren. They arrived in front of the wooden structure with no delays. Gerome and Carmella were waiting, sitting next to each other on a bench nearby. They stood up when they saw Raea approach and saluted her.

“Is Owen not here?” Raea asked after gesturing for them to stand at attention.

“He’s saddling the horses over there,” Gerome said and pointed beyond the wooden double doors. Raea could see minute movements of shadows within the stables. She nodded.

“As soon as Owen prepares the horses, we depart. I don’t want to see Lieutenant Malak again.” Raea sighed as she approached the entrance to the stables and pushed the doors aside.

“I do not think you will see Lieutenant Malak again,” Owen said as he led a horse outside. Dark marks encircled his eyes, and his cheeks were sunken in. He passed the reins to Raea and shuffled back into the stable, picking up a saddle from the wall on the way.

“Are you alright?” Raea asked Owen’s departing back. “You seem … tired.”

“It is nothing,” Owen said and waved his hand. He yawned as he opened the door to a pen and placed the saddle onto the horse inside. “I just found it difficult to sleep last night. I should be fine.” He fitted the horses and passed the reins to everyone in the group. When he got to Palan, he frowned. “What is it?”

A smirk was on Palan’s face. His nose twitched as he stared at Owen’s fingernails. “Nothing. It seems I need to re-evaluate my opinion of you.”

Owen’s brow furrowed, but he didn’t say anything as he led the last horse out of the stable. The group mounted up and headed off towards the northern gate. As they exited, Palan passed by Owen to ride alongside Raea, but not before Owen said, “I don’t know how you found out, but don’t tell Lady Raea.”

Palan exhaled through his nose and continued on as if he didn’t hear what Owen said. Cleo tilted her head. “Tell her what?”

“Nothing,” Owen mumbled as he stared into the forest. His hands were white from gripping his horse’s reins.

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