After traveling through the forest for a couple of days, Palan made it to the wall dividing the borderland and third sector. Cleo’s mouth fell open as she stared up at the towering red structure. The wall was made out of the same material as Anidun’s dagger. Its surface was smooth and reflective, leaving no purchase for climbing. “How do you even make something like this?” she asked and tapped the wall. “This makes a full circle?”
Raea nodded. “Unless you can fly, you won’t be able to go over,” she said. She squinted her eyes and shielded them with her hand as she looked up. “And even if you could, there are patrols up there too.”
“This is pretty impressive,” Palan said and raised an eyebrow. The wall was slanted towards him, the top hanging overhead. “Are all the walls for the sectors like this?”
“The ones closer to the capital are taller,” Raea said. “This is the shortest one. I think it’s twenty feet tall?” She cupped her hands over her mouth and yelled, “Anyone up there?” A few moments passed before the outline of a person appeared near the edge of the wall. The two suns were in the air behind the figure, making it impossible to discern the person’s image.
“What is it?” the figure asked.
“Which way to the checkpoint?” Raea asked. The figure pointed towards the left. Raea bowed. “Thank you.” The figure nodded before disappearing from view. Raea sighed as she raised her head. “I can’t wait to take a bath when we reach the checkpoint. How many days has it been?”
“Two,” Cleo said as she climbed back onto Emergency Victuals.
“Only? It felt like so much longer,” Raea said and shook her head. “I don’t think I’ve ever done this much walking before in my life.”
Palan snorted. “This is nothing,” he said as he started to walk towards the checkpoint, following the wall. “I ran nonstop for a whole week before.”
“Of course you did,” Raea said and sighed as she massaged her feet before following after Palan.
A procession of soldiers were walking along the road with fields of crops growing from either side. Leading the group was an armored elephant with a bald angel sitting on its back. His back was straight, and his arms were crossed as he stared straight ahead. A towering red wall could be seen in the distance with a black pair of double doors embedded in it. On either side of the doors were buildings that sat in the shadows of the wall.
Michael turned his torso around to look at the army behind him. The soldiers looked lifeless as they marched along, the two suns bearing down from overhead. Michael clicked his tongue, but he understood their pain. Sixteen hours of marching every day for two weeks would do that to a person. Behind the soldiers, a procession of elephants traveled forward relentlessly, threatening to trample any stragglers.
A floating gray blob caught his eye. It was the wrapped up sloth demon that Colonel Uzziel had contracted. The corner of his lips turned downwards as he turned back to face the approaching wall. How strong would a demon have to be in order to continuously exercise her power for two weeks? He had asked Uzziel why the demon didn’t take a break while they were setting up camp one night. The colonel’s response was, “She is too lazy and does not want to wake up to cancel her power.”
“We are nearly there,” Michael said, his voice easily echoing over the thousand soldiers behind him. “You have done well to keep pace, but it is only going to get harder starting tomorrow. We will recuperate at the checkpoint for the rest of today.” He believed his soldiers would have cheered if they weren’t so exhausted. He had to make do with the sounds of their shuffling footsteps instead. The army approached the double doors, and they swung open. A male angel walked out with a few armored angels standing behind him.
“Welcome, General Michael,” the angel said and saluted. “We have prepared the lodgings to accommodate your army. Also, there is an angel waiting to speak with you. She has been here for a few days now. Would you like to settle down first or should I send her to you?”
Michael appraised the man standing beneath his elephant for a moment before speaking, “I will meet with her now.” He dismounted from the elephant, kicking up a small cloud of dirt as he landed on the ground with his knees bent. He stood up and straightened his back, sending his gaze towards the saluting angel.
The angel trembled. “Very well,” he said as he lowered his hand. “I will bring you to her.” He faced the armored angels standing behind him. “Show the rest of the army their lodgings.” They nodded and walked around their superior, heading towards the waiting soldiers.
The general followed after the angel and walked through the double doors. They rounded a corner and approached a one-story building. The angel knocked on the door. “Lieutenant Raea,” he said. “The general has arrived.”
“One moment,” Raea’s voice said through the door. Michael crossed his arms over his chest and stared daggers at the door, almost as if he was trying to see past it. He wanted to see how his friend’s daughter measured up to her father. The door opened, revealing Raea who wore a simple white robe. Palan stood behind her with Cleo peeking her head out from behind his legs. Raea’s eyes met with Michael’s and she involuntarily took a step back, taking in a breath. She exhaled and stepped forward before saluting. “Lieutenant Raea greets the general.”
Michael nodded and turned towards the angel who guided him here. “You may leave,” he said. The angel saluted and ran away, almost as if he was expecting Michael to change his mind. The general chuckled at the retreating figure before turning his gaze back towards Raea. He entered the building as Raea stepped aside and dipped her head downwards. “So you are Caelum’s youngest daughter. Do you remember me?”
Raea pursed her lips as she raised her head. “I am sorry,” she said. “I do not.”
Michael smiled at her. “That’s fine,” he said as he took a seat on the couch in the center of the room, ignoring Palan and Cleo. “You were only a child the last time I met you. I still had my hair back then.” He glanced around the room. “You’re alone? Didn’t that old man assign you any guards?”
Raea bit her lip. “My father did assign me guards,” she said. “You will find out what happened to them soon.” She sat down on the couch across from Michael and placed her hands in her lap.