Uzziel frowned as he ran through the camp, heading towards General Michael’s tent. The angels sitting around the bonfires were pale-faced and twitching. Their weapons lay close by. They had been told to wait where they were until the medics arrived. Uzziel arrived at Michael’s tent and tossed open the flap. “General Michael,” he shouted and saluted, panting slightly. “We have an issue!”
Michael raised his head. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor with a map on the floor in front of him. His brow creased as he asked, “Another one?”
“The food was poisoned, sir,” Uzziel said. “On my way here, I saw that nearly everyone had been affected by it.”
“I knew this ten minutes ago,” Michael said. “The medics are already working on it, and I have Colonel Simon searching for the culprit with squad ten. We know that it was the cook who did it, but he fled before the symptoms appeared. Is that all you have to say?”
“Uhhh … yes, sir,” Uzziel said. He ground his teeth together. If only Tara hadn’t delayed him, he would’ve made it earlier.
Michael sighed. “This is why you are still a colonel,” he said. Uzziel lowered his head. “And how is the little Caelum doing? Have you reformed her demon?” Michael knew that this wasn’t the best time to ask, but he couldn’t help but feel concerned for his best friend’s youngest daughter.
Uzziel shuffled his feet. “About that … her demon was a pride demon,” he said, not meeting Michael’s eyes. “I think I helped unlock his powers while trying to discipline him.”
“A pride demon?” Michael asked. He rubbed his chin. “Are you sure you are not mistaken?”
“He displays the same powers as an angel lost to pride,” Uzziel said. “I would have gone about it differently if I had known.”
“That is not your fault,” Michael said and shook his head. “A pride demon has never submitted to an angel before. I suspect it may be because he is only a regular demon. The problem is, where did she find him? I thought she picked him up in the first sector, but that evidently is not the case. Hailing’s headmaster told me about a gradual increase in stray portals over the last decade, but I did not think they would be so close to our borders.” Uzziel stared at his feet while Michael crossed his arms and closed his eyes. After a moment passed, Michael’s eyes opened. “Bring the little Caelum and her demon to me. I need to ask them some questions. Also, have the men outside wait in the ouroboros formation. I get the feeling that tonight is going to be rough.”
“Yes, sir!” Uzziel said and brought his fist to his chest before exiting the tent.
Michael watched as the tent flap closed, blocking Uzziel’s back from his view. After this mission, he was thinking of telling Uzziel to retire. The poor colonel lived his whole career compared to a genius, giving him an inferiority complex. He might not have even become a colonel if it weren’t for the sheer number of years he had spent in the army. He was starting to get better, but after meeting the little Caelum…. Michael sighed and shook his head.
Uzziel shouted, “Ouroboros formation. Medics in the center, healthy people and demons on the outside. Squad one take the north point.” Metal clanked as soldiers started to move, helping those who couldn’t. Uzziel nodded and walked towards his own tent while the soldiers began to make a rough circle with their bodies, encompassing the whole camp. “Be prepared for anything.”
Uzziel opened the flap to his tent and stepped inside. Raea was speaking, “—bleed every month. It’s really nothing you need to worry about.”
“Won’t it attract predators? If I can smell it, plenty of other animals can as well,” Palan said and furrowed his brow. “How has your species managed to survive if you act like walking lures every month?”
“What are you two talking about?” Uzziel asked and raised an eyebrow. Raea turned her head to look at him while Palan frowned and turned his head away.
“Periods,” Cleo said before Raea could speak. Raea lowered her head and sighed. “Angels are so weird. We don’t get anything like that. And you guys have live birth too. So gross.”
Uzziel blinked a few times. “Are the soldiers moving outside?” Raea asked, her face flushed. “We heard a commotion, but no one has said anything to us.”
Uzziel nodded. “They’re taking a defensive formation in case the people who poisoned us follow up with an attack,” he said. “It would be pointless to use a non-lethal poison otherwise. As for you, General Michael would like to speak with you.”
“Me?” Raea asked. She glanced at Palan who started to narrow his eyes and clench his hands. “Do I have to?”
“Yes,” Uzziel said. “And your demon has to go too. Those are orders from the general himself.”
Raea frowned and placed her hand on Palan’s. He brushed it off. “Promise me you’ll behave?”
“I’m going to sucker punch that archangel if I get the chance,” Palan said and snorted, meeting Raea’s eyes.
“Isn’t that kind of shameless?” Cleo asked as she climbed onto Palan’s back. The demon made no motion to stop her.
“There’s no shame in winning,” Palan said, “only in losing.”
Uzziel stroked his chin, debating whether or not he should tell Michael beforehand. Raea noticed and spoke up, “He is joking. Please don’t take that seriously.” She turned her head towards Palan as she stood. “Right?”
Palan stared at Uzziel. “You better watch your back too,” he said and used Cleo’s hands to block his ears before the colonel could respond.
Uzziel sighed and shook his head, but he wasn’t mad; after all, the general would take care of the problem today. Then he would never have to worry about the demon ever again. He opened the tent flap and stepped outside, glancing behind himself to make sure Raea was following him. She was. Uzziel nodded to himself as he led the two—technically three—towards General Michael’s tent. Uzziel knew that Michael was definitely going to discipline Palan after he attempts to sucker punch the general. So why did he feel so uneasy?