“Interesting?” Raea asked. “Shouldn’t we be concerned?” She frowned at Pyre’s smiling face as the soldiers bustled and regrouped in front of the elephants. Michael started to approach Raea’s group.
“When you reach my age,” Pyre said and tucked his pipe away, “most things just cease to matter. I’m most likely going to die within the next decade. Minor things like rebellions don’t affect me; I wouldn’t even care if the capital was overturned and ran by demons.” Michael stood on a layer of wind and floated up to the top of the storage chest. He walked behind Pyre.
“Pyre,” Michael said.
The blindfolded angel continued to look off the edge of the storage chest. “Michael,” he said. “I borrowed Miss Caelum as a guide. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I don’t,” Michael said, not sparing a glance at Raea. “I need your opinion on where to go from here.” Pyre raised an eyebrow. “Ishim’s side clearly has the advantage of the terrain. Our troops are a higher caliber than his however. The problem is we don’t know their exact numbers, and they have two people at the arch level. Colonel Simon returned during the night and reported that the cook was under the effects of chastity, confirming the presence of an archangel who I suspect to be Solra. It is possible that he formed a contract with a wrath demon and promoted him to the archdemon level as well.
“I can take on Solra, and a dedicated squad can take on the archdemon, but they refuse to fight out in the open. My plan is to occupy the first outpost, which I suspect they have abandoned and use that as a base. The problem is I don’t know the region well enough to determine where their forces are situated.”
“And I suppose that’s where I come in?” Pyre asked.
“I know you read every book that comes out. There must have been a few atlases with details about the terrain among them.”
“You’re correct,” Pyre said. “I’ve been keeping mental tabs on where they could be considering our location and the angle of their attacks along with their retreating patterns. There’s not enough information to figure out where they are, but if you let me have twenty scouts, then I would be able to figure it out.” Pyre scratched his head. “They might die though.”
“Very well,” Michael said and nodded. “Then tonight, I’ll get you everything you need. Is there anything else you know that may be relevant to our current situation? Any records of wars or battles fought in this manner? I’d rather not repeat a simple mistake that was already made before.”
“You need to keep the morale up. You should give your soldiers time to relax and loosen their tensed nerves,” Pyre said. “It’s good to be prepared, but if they are in a constant state of alertness for a few months, then they’ll begin to feel fatigued. During the genocide of the ogres, the troops became dispirited due to the nature of the war. The circumstances were very similar to the ones we are in now. I suggest you request for General Elrith to come with his army as reinforcements.” Pyre smiled and raised his head, facing the first sun. “It’s overkill, but it’s not like angels are too prideful to cooperate.”
Michael rubbed his bald head with his palm. “Alright,” he said. “I will take your suggestion seriously. Why Elrith though? Didn’t you say I should keep the morale up?”
“Sometimes, I just want to watch the world burn,” Pyre said and chuckled. Michael snorted and rolled his eyes. “But if the Tyrant Elrith is here, the war should end much quicker, eliminating the need for a heightened morale. He’s still the best choice from the remaining three generals.”
“I don’t think my brother’s that scary,” Raea mumbled.
“Alright,” Michael said to Pyre. “I knew I made a good choice in bringing you along. Are you sure there’s nothing you want?”
“I’m fine,” Pyre said and shook his head. “The chance to befriend a pride demon is enough for me. Once I get an orb of pride, I’ll have every sin and virtue collected. Imagine what would happen if I used them all at the same time. My butthole is clenching in anticipation.” Pyre grinned.
“Too descriptive,” Michael said, shooting a glance at the wide-eyed Raea. “I’ll be off now. He leapt off the storage chest and floated to the ground before walking back to the head of the army. Raea sat down next to Palan, getting as far away from Pyre as she could.
“Hey,” Palan said. “Is there a way to read without looking at the letters?”
“Not that I know of,” Raea said and tilted her head. “You’re right.” She turned towards Pyre. “How do you read books?”
“The same way you do,” Pyre said. “I pick them up. Open them. And then I read the contents on the page. When I’m done, I move onto the next page.”
“I mean, aren’t you blind?” Raea asked.
“Who said I was blind?” Pyre asked and raised his eyebrow. “Just because I wear a blindfold doesn’t mean I’m blind.” He shook his head. “You make too many assumptions. Observe the world with a more open mind; not everything is as you see.”
“Then why do you wear a blindfold?” Raea asked.
“When I was sleeping,” Pyre said and sighed, “a special kind of spider came and burrowed inside of my right eye, laying its eggs in the gelatinous fluids before crawling out. Then the eggs hatched the next morning and formed a colony in my brain. The blindfold’s there to prevent them from crawling out or I’d die.”
Raea shivered while Cleo shuddered. Cleo said, “I think I just felt my butt clench.” She sidled away from Pyre.
“Are you … going to be okay?” Raea asked and bit her lip. “Would you really die if the spiders left your body? Could I heal that?”
Pyre sighed. “And you can’t believe everything you hear either. You capital babies are really sheltered,” he said and pulled out his pipe, lighting it with the red orb. “You think someone wouldn’t wake up if a spider dug into their eyes while they were sleeping?”
“Makes you wonder how they’re still alive, right?” Palan asked. Raea’s forehead was crinkled as she looked back and forth between Palan and Pyre.
“I feel like I’m being bullied,” she said.
“At least you aren’t completely oblivious,” Pyre said and blew out a cloud of smoke. “There’s hope for you yet.” The storage chest rumbled as it started to move. Raea sighed as she stared towards the top of the red wall in the distance behind the army.