“You may leave,” Michael said. Uzziel nodded and walked out of the tent, leaving Palan and Raea behind with Cleo still hanging onto the demon’s back. “Have a seat.” Michael gestured at the cushions on the floor. He was sitting on a cushion with his legs crossed. A low wooden table rested in front of him, the top reaching his chest. The map that was on the floor was now on top of the table with humanoid figurines on top of it.
Raea sat down, her thighs on top of her calves and butt on top of her ankles. Palan crossed his arms and remained standing, glaring at Michael, causing Raea to purse her lips. Michael paid him no heed and gazed at Raea. He asked, “Do you know why I called you here?”
“No, sir,” Raea said.
Michael chuckled as he swept the figurines off the map. “No need to be so tense,” he said. “You’re practically my goddaughter.”
“Yes, sir,” Raea said.
Michael sighed. “Alright,” he said. “I just wanted to ask you a few questions. Where and how did you contract a pride demon?”
The corner of Raea’s lips turned downwards. She shifted her body, readjusting the weight on her legs. “I first made contact with him when I was sent to subjugate the king of the forest after it ate Lady Menyel.”
“Lady Menyel? From the Aor family?”
“Yes,” Raea said and nodded. “Palan was fighting the king of the forest and losing”—she heard a snort coming from behind her—“and I used my powers to save him. My squad managed to bring down the weakened king, and we brought Palan back to the outpost.”
“Why was he fighting the king of the forest?” Michael asked.
Raea turned her head to glance at Palan before facing Michael. “He said that it looked at him funny so he stabbed it,” she said with a straight face.
Michael blinked. “That was not the answering that I was expecting at all,” he said. “But why was he in the vicinity? Who summoned him?”
Raea shrugged. “I assumed Lady Menyel summoned him before she died.”
“Impossible,” Michael said. “It takes the academies ten greater angels to perform the ritual.” He turned towards Palan. “How did you come to Div’Nya?” Palan uncrossed his arms and stuck his middle finger at Michael. “Under normal circumstances, I would kill you, but I do not want Miss Caelum to suffer any setbacks. I would gravely injure or maim you again, but then she would have to expend mana to heal you.” Palan smiled and held out his other hand, sticking his other middle finger into the air. Michael turned back to look at Raea. “Did he tell you how he arrived?”
“I think he said that he stepped on an altar and appeared here,” Raea said.
“I see,” Michael said. “And how did you form a contract with him? All the pride demons that were summoned killed themselves after they were captured.”
Raea raised an eyebrow. “I asked him to form a contract with me,” she said, smiling slightly, “and then we shook hands.”
“Didn’t you have to do anything to convince him?” Michael said and sighed. He cracked his knuckles underneath the table.
“Not really,” Raea said. “I just told him he would die if he did not form a contract with me.”
“What level contract did you make with him?”
“That is confidential,” Raea said and bit her lip.
“You can tell me,” Michael said and smiled, placing his hands on the table and clasping them together.
“She said it was confidential,” Palan said as Raea hesitated. Michael ignored his outburst and continued to stare at Raea. Palan took a step forward and a white chain came out of Raea’s back, tying his leg. It was almost as if she knew what he wanted to do. Palan clicked his tongue and snorted before spitting out a tooth towards Michael. Raea intercepted it and passed it to Cleo, wiping the saliva off on her armor.
“I do not feel comfortable telling you,” Raea said to Michael and lowered her head. “Forgive me.”
Michael frowned. “Fine,” he said and unclasped his hands. “I am worried about you though, you know? I couldn’t meet your father in good conscience if you were tainted by your demon and I didn’t do anything to stop it. The subservient demons rarely transfer their traits to their owners. Your demon is the exact opposite of subservient.”
Raea didn’t say anything.
“Are you sure you don’t want to replace your demon?” Michael asked.
Raea shook her head. “I am trying to bring him back to the capital to send him home,” she said.
Michael’s facial expression didn’t change, but Raea sensed that he was not happy with that answer. “Why the capital?” Michael asked. “You can go to the academies to send him back.”
Raea shook her head. “I want to send him back to where he came from,” she said. “I heard that the capital could send people to wherever they wished on Eljiam.”
Michael grunted. “I suppose that makes sense,” he said. “Why would you want to send him back?”
“It is part of my contract.”
“Is there a time limit?”
“Then you can keep him until he’s right about to die.”
“I cannot do that,” Raea said. She could sense Palan’s body tensing through the vibrations in her chain. “I made a promise.”
Michael scratched his chin. “Angels of kindness are too limited,” he said. “Do you want me to take you to the capital after this is all over?”
“Can you do that?” Raea asked, blinking her eyes. “I was exiled.”
Michael hummed as he rubbed his palm against his bald head. “That may be slightly problematic actually. Sariel is a real stickler for the rules,” he said. “Well, I am too, but not to Sariel’s extreme. How about this? If a war really does break out and you manage to do something outstanding and noticeable, then I can bring you back to the capital for a promotion. It’ll only be for a day or two at most, but you should be able to transfer your demon in that time.” Raea’s eyes lit up. “However, it’s going to be quite difficult. All the soldiers I brought with me are seasoned veterans and not likely to make mistakes.”
“Literally everyone got poisoned,” Palan said and snorted. “Veterans my ass.”
Michael ignored him and continued to speak to Raea, “Do you think you can do it? Be careful not to push yourself too hard, or you’ll wind up captured or worse. There’s nothing wrong with a slow promotion.”
“I understand,” Raea said and nodded. She turned her head and met Palan’s eyes. She smiled. “You’ll be with Andrea soon.”
Palan shifted his eyes away. She seemed so happy to be helping him. Would she still be able to smile like that when she found out he killed Uzziel and Sariel? For the first time in a long while, his stomach sank like someone placed a stone in it. He frowned.
“Palan?” Raea asked. He met her gaze. “Work hard, okay?”
Palan’s face hardened and the sinking feeling went away. He gave her a slight nod.