“There are no goblins this time, right?” Raea asked, turning her head to glance at Palan as her horse jolted her up and down. Her contracted demon’s plate armor shone red in the sunlight.
“I don’t smell anything. They shouldn’t be there,” Palan said. “Unless they all wasted water and took baths.”
“Good,” Raea said and nodded. She faced the road and sighed. “It would be difficult to fight a group of them with only the six of us.”
“Six? There’s only five of us.”
“Stop forgetting about me!” Cleo said and pouted. Emergency Victuals ran alongside Palan’s horse with the orange lizardman on its back. “And don’t tell me you’re afraid of goblins.” She stared at Raea. “All you have to do is smack them around a bit and they’ll run away or beg for mercy.”
Raea glanced at Palan with a wry smile on her face. “I think I’m beginning to understand why you took her under your wing,” she said. “You two are quite similar.” Cleo crossed her arms and stuck her tongue out at Raea. “Very similar.”
Palan snorted. “I didn’t do anything. She’s just following me,” he said. Palan squinted his eyes, staring into the distance. A wooden outpost appeared in the horizon as the group continued forward.
“Praise the Creator,” Gerome said. His voice was nasally and one hand pinched his nose. The lizardman chieftain’s corpse was strapped onto the rump of his horse. “We’re finally there. Someone else rides with the body next time.” Carmella chuckled, but no one volunteered.
They soon arrived in front of the wooden outpost’s gate where Raea announced her presence, much to the surprise of the soldiers. The doors creaked open and Raea led the group through. They dismounted and passed the horses off to nearby angels while Gerome carried the corpse with a wrinkled nose. Palan raised an eyebrow as the horses were led away and asked, “Are we stopping here for today?”
Raea nodded. “If we left now, we could make it to the first outpost by nightfall, but I would rather meet Captain Ishim during the day,” she said. She removed her helmet and brushed her hair behind her ears. She turned to face Owen. “We should secure our lodgings for the night. Can you do that for us?” Owen nodded. Raea smiled and faced Palan. “In the meantime, we will find a place to eat. No furry stuff this time, got it?”
Palan snorted. “I eat what I want,” he said. He spat out a tooth that was promptly retrieved by Cleo. Raea sighed and shook her head. Heavy footsteps approached the group, causing them to turn around. Lieutenant Sharr was walking towards them with his arms crossed.
“So you made it back alive,” Sharr said and frowned as he rubbed his chin. “I was not expecting that. Now what am I supposed to tell the school?” He sighed as he stared at Palan.
“What do you mean?” Raea asked.
Sharr glanced around to make sure no one was listening before he opened his mouth to speak. “I told the school that a group of dire wolves killed their students,” he said. Raea’s eyes shifted downwards as her lips drew into a line. “Of course, the principal did not believe me, spouting some nonsense about excellent students. He gave me a little something”—Sharr grinned and scratched his head—”to loosen my tongue. I figured you two were as good as dead and told him that his students died after encountering Lieutenant Raea. I think he is going to be upset when he finds out both of you are still alive.”
“What does that mean?” Palan asked. His hand touched the hilt of Anidun’s dagger as he stared into Sharr’s eyes.
“Hey now,” Sharr said as he took a step backwards. “Don’t give me that look. I was just giving you a heads up. The school can be pretty persistent and annoying.” He paused as he stared at the axes strapped to Palan’s back. “I could help you out, you know? If I don’t testify as a witness, then there’s no proof that you did anything.”
“You want these axes.”
“No, no,” Sharr said and waved his hand. “I was just—”
“Here.” Palan dropped the axes onto the ground in front of Sharr. He cracked his neck and rotated his shoulders. “They’re fun to play with, but not very practical for me to carry around.”
“Palan,” Raea said and furrowed her brow as Sharr grinned and rubbed his hands together. “Is this how you got me free last time?”
“Pretty much,” Palan said and nodded. Sharr’s arms bulged as he attempted to lift the axes off the ground. He exhaled and raised them up, propping them against his shoulders. A vein could be seen running up his neck.
“Good stuff,” Sharr said and nodded as a tremor ran through his legs. Owen returned to the group and frowned at the lieutenant as he stood behind Raea. “Where’d you get them?”
“I killed a greater demon,” Palan said and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Owen narrowed his eyes as he studied Sharr’s face. “Those were his.”
“A greater demon?” Sharr asked and raised an eyebrow. “From the lizardmen camp? Or did you kill another poor student?”
“The lizardmen camp,” Palan said. “And I never killed any student.”
Sharr nodded. “Odd. Probably a runaway. It would make sense if no one found out with him escaping to the border and all,” he said. “Did he have an angel with him?”
Sharr frowned. “Well, whatever. You dealt with him just fine, yeah?” he asked and shrugged. “Maybe that’s why no one else was able to subjugate that city before. Anyways, I have to go store these axes before people start asking questions. If you ever need my help, just throw a bag of essence stones my way.” He smiled as he turned around and staggered away, leaving behind a trail of deep footsteps.
“It seems Lieutenant Sharr was unaware of Anidun’s existence,” Owen said as the group watched the lieutenant disappear around a corner. A few angels whispered and pointed at the axes he held. “I still don’t feel as if I can trust him.”
Palan shrugged. “He’s the most straightforward angel I’ve met,” he said and walked towards the center of the outpost. “Much easier to understand than all of you.”
“Where are you going?” Raea asked as she followed after Palan. “And I think I’m very straightforward. Kind-hearted and patient. Those are easy to understand, no?”
“You’re as straightforward as a spiral staircase,” Palan said and snorted. Raea pursed her lips. “Let’s get some food. Something smells fluffy over there.”