“Hurry up and heal me,” Uzziel said to Raea. His body was trembling and twitching in odd places. Uzziel wasn’t certain that Palan was correct. His body could’ve been twitching because of a placebo, but he didn’t want to take that chance.
“I, I can’t move,” Raea said, her eyes widening.
“You didn’t drink the stew,” Uzziel said. “Why can’t you … Tara?” He turned his head towards the floating demon. Her eyes were half-open, and she was running her fingers back and forth over Cleo’s scalp.
“Do you want me to release her?” Tara asked with a smile. “You can easily command me to.”
“Didn’t you say you’d be more agreeable to my orders?” Uzziel asked, his face scowling. He stood up and tried to grab Tara, but the blanket repeatedly avoided him.
“That’s your fault for taking a demon at face value,” Tara said and laughed, her eyes twinkling. Cleo’s face was turning green as the blanket continued to make sharp turns combined with sudden accelerations and stops.
“Why are you doing this?” Uzziel asked as his leg spasmed, causing him to fall to the floor. Palan couldn’t help but smirk at the sight.
“It just seems like so much effort to fight in a war,” Tara said and floated just out of arm’s reach from Uzziel. “If you use your last command here, then you can’t command me to fight. I just want to sleep.”
Uzziel snorted. “Things won’t go your way,” he said. He crawled off the floor and approached the tent flap. He tried to push it open, but it was as solid as a rock. He glared at Tara before opening his mouth. “Som—“
A sock flew into his mouth, cutting off his words. Tara blinked at her contractor before looking towards the ceiling and whistling. Uzziel spat the cloth out of his mouth. His voice was low as he spoke, “You really want me to use up my last command?”
Tara yawned and hugged Cleo in response.
“I, Uzziel Desti, command you, sloth demon Tara, to capture the person who poisoned our food,” Uzziel said, narrowing his eyes.
“Unreasonable,” Tara said and shook her head. “I refuse.”
“What? You can’t refuse!”
“Sure I can,” Tara said. “It’s in the contract. Of the limited amount of commands you can give me a year, I can refuse them if they are unreasonable. If you don’t know who the culprit is, how am I supposed to? Thus, I believe it’s unreasonable.”
“It’s not unreasonable! If you go out and do some investigations, you can easily figure it out.”
“Nope. I refuse. I have to find out who the person is and capture them? Two commands in one is completely unreasonable.”
“I only commanded you to do one thing.”
“One thing that has multiple parts that can expand for an unknown amount of time. Are you sure you want to argue the meaning of unreasonable? How many more people do you think have been poisoned in the time we’ve spent talking? Just command me to release Raea so she can heal you, and I’ll let you out of the tent.”
“When we get back to the second sector,” Uzziel said, practically growling, “I’ll have you replaced and executed. I command you to release Raea and not interfere when she heals me.”
“That’s also unreasonable,” Tara said and smiled. “Two blatant commands in one?”
“It’s not unreasonable at all!” Uzziel said. “Not interfering should be the natural inclination of a sloth!”
“Fine, fine,” Tara said in a singsong voice and glanced at Raea. “You can move now.” Tara floated above Uzziel towards the tent’s entrance. “And that’s your last command for the year. I’m going to find a place to sleep now.” She rotated the blanket towards Palan and tossed Cleo at him. Her eyes narrowed and she spoke in a hard voice, “I’ll be waiting.” She drifted out the tent as Raea placed her glowing hands on Uzziel.
“You’re not going to stop her?” Raea asked.
Uzziel snorted as his body tingled. “The only reason she stayed nearby was because she had to be ready to follow commands at a moment’s notice. Now that I can’t command her, she’s free to go wherever she wants until the start of next year.”
“What about the rules? All demons must have an angel to accompany them or they’ll be killed on sight.”
“She’s better off dead,” Uzziel said and pinched his eyebrows together. “Our link is only temporary sensory loss.”
“But her actions will reflect back onto you,” Raea said. “Isn’t that what you told me?”
“What actions? She’ll just find a cave to hibernate in until the year’s over,” Uzziel said and rolled his eyes. “The joys of raising a sloth demon.”
The tent flap flew open, and Tara came drifting back inside. Uzziel frowned. “Did you change your mind?”
“Yes,” Tara said and nodded. “I thought about it for a couple of seconds.” Cleo squeaked as she was lifted into the air tail first. “I want her.”
“Palan,” Cleo said and clung onto Palan’s arm. She pouted. “Save me.”
Palan watched as lines of blood appeared on his arm as Cleo was slowly torn away from him, her claws digging into his skin. “You can have her,” he said and nodded. “Just don’t forget to feed her or else she’ll die and rot while you’re sleeping.”
Tara paused, causing Cleo to hang limply in the air. “That’s slightly problematic,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to wake up to a rotting corpse. I changed my mind again.” Cleo fell to the floor and scrambled behind Raea, shooting a glare at Palan with her cheeks flared. Palan turned around, hiding his hands from view.
“So you just came back to leave again?” Uzziel asked. Raea could feel his muscles tense.
“Is that a problem?” Tara asked and combed her hair with her hand. “I’m free to do what I want.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a golden light disperse by Palan’s feet. “I’ll be leaving now.” The tent flap closed behind her as she drifted away.
Raea exhaled and wiped away the sweat on her forehead as she separated from Uzziel. “All done,” she said. Uzziel nodded and stood up.
“I have to inform the general about this,” he said. “You two should stay here.”
Raea turned towards Palan after Uzziel left the room. She frowned when she saw his thumb. “You’re bleeding,” she said. “When did that happen?”
“The spoon was sharp,” Palan said as Raea grabbed his hand. His face softened as he thought about the contents of the contract Tara passed him while Cleo was struggling. “And what about you?”
“What do you mean?” Raea asked as her hands glowed.
“I wasn’t sure, but I am now. You stink of blood and some rot,” he said. “I didn’t see you get injured.”
“That’s not for you to worry about,” Raea said, her face turning redder than usual as she retracted her hand. The cut on Palan’s thumb had disappeared. “I’m perfectly fine.”
“How can you be perfectly fine? If you’re dying of an illness, I need to know,” Palan said.
“I feel glad that you are concerned about me,” Raea said and lowered her head, “even if you are going to say something like, ‘it’s not for you, but for me,’ but I am perfectly healthy.”
Palan didn’t look convinced. Ten seconds passed in silence.
Raea sighed and buried her face in her hands. “I never thought I’d be giving someone older than me the talk about babies.”