“Palan?” Cleo asked as she poked the demon’s unconscious body. She tilted her head and blinked at him. It was the first time she saw him sleep while lying down. He was always sitting up, but now he was lying on his stomach with his face planted into the floor of the tent. His arms were spread out to the sides, and his legs were slightly parted. In front of his head, there was a perfectly spherical rock. Cleo’s tail swished as she glanced at Uzziel. He was dozing off with his chin resting against his chest.
The blanket stirred behind Cleo, and she picked up the rock and stored it inside her pouch. Moments later, she heard Raea groan. “Raea,” Cleo said and tore the blanket off of the sleepy-eyed angel. “Something’s wrong with Palan.” Raea became instantly alert as her heart missed a beat.
“What happened?” she asked as she scrambled towards Palan.
“I don’t know,” Cleo said and flipped Palan’s body over. His eyes were dull and unfocused, constantly moving around but focusing on nothing. Cleo blinked a few times. “Why weren’t his eyes damaged?” She reached out and poked his eye with her claw before Raea could stop her, causing the angel to panic. Before the claw could reach the fleshy part of Palan’s eyes, it hit his clear nictitating membrane. Cleo’s jaw dropped open, and she tapped on his eye a few more times. “That’s so cool.”
Raea seized Cleo’s wrist and placed a glowing hand on Palan’s chest at the same time. Raea pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. “There’s nothing wrong with him,” she said and withdrew her hand. “At least, nothing that I can fix.”
“What’s going on?” Uzziel asked as he yawned and stretched. “Are we under attack? It’s not that noisy though.”
“Palan collapsed,” Raea said. There was a crease on her forehead. “I think he overexerted himself with his meditation.”
Uzziel laughed. “He still hasn’t gotten up yet?” he asked and opened the tent flap, poking his head outside. The second sun was beginning to rise. Uzziel brought his head back in and closed the flap. “He was using his powers yesterday after you fell asleep. He seemed to reach his limit after using it four times and I told him that. I guess my comment provoked him. He used his power two more times before collapsing like a log.” Uzziel chuckled as he thought about it. “I was never one for grudges, but that was really satisfying to watch.”
A groan escaped from Palan’s lips, and Cleo hid her hands behind herself while backing away. The three conscious occupants of the tent stared at Palan as tilted his head, trying to bring it off the ground. “Don’t try to move,” Raea said and placed a hand on his forehead, gently pushing him back down. “You obviously went too far. After running out of mana, your body uses your stamina to power your magic. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you about this. I figured the standard feeling of wanting to die after running out of mana would make you stop.”
Palan breathed in through his nose and winced. His chest burned, and his face contorted. Raea sighed and placed a glowing hand on his chest, causing the fiery feeling to cool down. “How do you feel?”
“Like I was swallowed by a diamondback that was on fire,” Palan said. “If it only drained my stamina, can’t you heal me? Didn’t you say you could cure exhaustion?”
“It’s different,” Raea said and shook her head. “Not even an archangel could cure you. Your body has to recover naturally.” She looked at Uzziel and opened her mouth to speak but closed it. She turned towards Cleo. “Can you bring us some water? Maybe some stew too?”
“Okay,” Cleo said and nodded. “Too bad EV isn’t here. Walking feels so slow when everyone else is two times my height.” She sighed as she walked up to Uzziel who was still sitting on a chair in front of the tent’s exit. She placed her hands on her hips. “Move.”
“I can’t let you do that,” Uzziel said. “What if you’re a spy for the rebels? It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to shirk my duties.”
Raea frowned, and Palan felt her hand tense against his chest. “Colonel,” she said towards Uzziel. “Would you let Cleo outside? I can swear to the Creator that she is not a spy.”
Uzziel shook his head. “If she was and the general finds out that I’m the cause for leaked information,” he said and crossed his arms, “then it is my career that goes down the drain. If your demon heeded my advice, he wouldn’t be in his current situation.”
Palan covered Raea’s mouth with his hand and glared at her. His arm was shaking, and beads of perspiration formed on his brow. Raea placed her hand on his wrist and lowered his arm to his side. “Didn’t I tell you to stop cutting me off that way?” she asked, trying to sound stern but ending up sounding concerned instead.
“You may not have any pride,” Palan said, “but I do. I refuse to eat anything brought to me with Uzziel’s permission.
“But,” Raea said and bit her lip.
“I’m not going to die if I don’t eat or drink,” Palan said and snorted. He winced from the pain the snort brought on.
“So I don’t need to get water?” Cleo asked and returned to Palan’s side.
“I guess not,” Raea said and sighed.
“You know we are marching today, right?” Uzziel asked. “The general decided to give the medics an extra three hours of sleep, but we begin when the first sun reaches its zenith. I suppose you could always break your contract with him and leave him behind.”
“I will not,” Raea said. “I will ask the general to let Palan ride an elephant.”
Uzziel frowned. “Our elephants are very sensitive creatures,” he said. “They wouldn’t let just anyone ride them. Only General Michael can freely do that. The wisdom angels who can speak to them and raise them aren’t even allowed.”
“Then I will say he is wounded and needs to be carried,” Raea said and pursed her lips.
“No one in their right mind is going to carry a demon for you. Most people refuse to even touch demons unless it’s with the tip of their lance.”
“Then I’ll carry him myself,” Raea said, squeezing down on Palan’s chest, causing him to wince. Raea’s face softened, and she relaxed her hand. “Sorry about that.”
“I’ll walk,” Palan said.
“Do you really think you can walk for that long?” Uzziel asked. “What if Miss Caelum wasn’t around to reduce the pain? She’ll overexert herself if she tries to accompany you the whole way.”
Palan didn’t respond, and Raea bit her lip. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll speak to the general and work something out.”
“I’m not worried,” Palan said. “And I refuse to accept his help as well. I still remember that bastard destroying my chest, you know? I’m not going to let him repay his debt.” After all, Palan had already decided; the price of the general’s debt was his life. Nothing more, nothing less.
Trumpets blew and footsteps could be heard outside of the tent. Uzziel stood up. “It’s time to march,” he said. “Don’t forget to pack the tent.”