Chapter 76

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“I can finally move,” Palan said as he sat up in bed. He clenched and unclenched his hands while laughing. Cleo climbed off of Palan’s legs and rubbed her eyes. She let out a yelp and curled up into a ball as a loud banging sound resounded through her ears. Powder fell off of Palan’s fist as he brought his hand to his side. There was a new fist-shaped hole in the wall next to him.

Raea sat up in her bed across the room. “Palan?!” she asked as she threw off her blanket. “What happened?”

“What’s going on?” a sleepy voice said. The door opened and Pyre stepped inside the room. The army had traveled to the outpost under much harassment and occupied it quite easily because it was empty. Uzziel was willingly replaced by Pyre as Raea and Palan’s watcher. “Young people are so lively.” Pyre yawned and pulled up a seat. He sat down and took out his pipe.

Palan glared at Raea as she approached him. His contractor hesitated before speaking, “You’ve recuperated? That’s great.” Palan’s face hardened, and he bared his teeth at her. “W-why are you looking at me like that?” Raea took a step back and gulped. Cleo shuddered and hid underneath Pyre’s chair as Palan climbed out of bed. “You’re starting to make me nervous,” Raea said as she took in a deep breath and placed her hands on her hips. A slight tremble ran through her legs.

Palan chuckled and grabbed the edge of his blanket. In one motion, he yanked it off the bed and wrapped it over Raea’s head as if catching her with a net. Raea yelped and struggled to throw the blanket off. She heard wood splinter as she freed her head. Her hair was a mess as she glanced from side to side. “What was that for?!” she shouted. The door was completely shattered and Palan was nowhere to be seen. She turned to the couple by the chair. “Where’d he go?” Cleo pointed at the empty hallway outside of the room. Raea stared blankly down the hall as Pyre burst out into laughter.

“I think you humiliated him too much this week,” the angel said. Puffs of purple smoke escaped from his nostrils as his body shuddered.

“What do you mean?” Raea asked as she gathered the blanket in her arms. Her forehead was creased as she made Palan’s bed.

“Think for yourself,” Pyre said and tapped his pipe against the side of his chair, scattering ashes over Cleo’s head. The lizardman shook her head like a dog and crawled out from underneath him. She sat on Palan’s bed and dusted off her face. “What did you do to him this week?”

“I took care of him,” Raea said and frowned. She walked back to her bed and sat down. She drew the blanket around her towards her chest and leaned forward. “I don’t get it.”

“You can only blame so much of your denseness on your age,” Pyre said. “Do you really not get it? Did he ever ask for you to take care of him?”

“No,” Raea said. She thought back to the times Palan adamantly protested against her feeding him. She sensed Pyre staring at her with his blindfolded eyes. “But I had to! What else was I supposed to do? Leave him alone for a week? Do unto others as you’d have done to you.” Raea pursed her lips.

Pyre shrugged. “I’ll just ask you this,” he said and took a long draw on his pipe before speaking. “If you were the one that was debilitated, how would you feel if Palan changed your pants for you?”

Raea froze before burying her face in her blanket. The tips of her ears were so red that they were practically glowing. Pyre brought his hand to the blindfold on his face and lifted it slightly. A smile erupted on his face, and he repositioned the cloth, making it seem like he didn’t touch it at all. Cleo gaped at him. “You’re not blind at all!”

“I already told you that, did I not?” Pyre asked and chuckled.

“But I thought you said we couldn’t always believe what you said?” Cleo tilted her head.

“About the spiders,” Pyre said and nodded. “Not about me not being blind.” Cleo’s face wrinkled as she pouted. Her tail swished behind her, messing up the blanket.

“But no one else would change his pants,” Raea said, her voice barely audible as her head was still hidden.

“He wouldn’t have soiled them if you didn’t feed him, you know?” Pyre asked. “That was another thing you insisted on doing. And bathing him?” Pyre raised an eyebrow. “I’m starting to think the capital’s repression raised you into some kind of pervert.”

“My intentions were pure!”

“Were? So they no longer are?” Pyre asked and smiled.

“Stop twisting my words!” Raea said as she threw her blanket to the side and dashed towards the door. Pyre stuck his leg out and tripped her, causing her to land on the floor face first.

“If I let both of my charges escape, then I really will have failed as a watchdog,” Pyre said and stood up. He walked towards Raea and sat on her back, causing her half-raised body to fall back to the floor. A glowing white chain snaked out of Raea’s back and wrapped itself around Pyre’s body. “You’ll really be treated as a deserter if you leave like this. Are you sure you want to do that?”

The chain disappeared as Raea sighed. “What about Palan?” she asked.

“I’ll just say I sent him out on an errand,” Pyre said and shifted his weight. “Your back is too bony, not comfortable at all.”

“Please get off me.”

***

Palan frowned as he sat in a tree and watched a group of armored angels run underneath him. In his haste to get away, he left behind his dagger and leather pouch. The missing items left him feeling naked, almost like the silken white pants he was wearing. He gritted his teeth as the breeze blew past his bare chest, and he turned his head to watch the soldiers disappear into the underbrush.

Images of Raea’s concerned face appeared in his head. He smashed his hand into the tree trunk beside him, causing a squirrel to scream and run away. He didn’t even want to think about the events that happened this week. He inhaled through his nose for a good thirty seconds, taking in all the surrounding smells before exhaling sharply through his mouth. His chest burned, and his heart beat louder, the pulse pounding in his ears. He dropped from the branch he was standing on, landing onto the ground on all fours.

His eyes narrowed and followed the footsteps that the soldiers had left behind. He stared at them and the pounding in his ears grew louder until he thought his chest would burst. Palan exhaled and shook his head; those angels were off limits. But there were other angels that weren’t untouchable. He straightened his back and gazed towards the northeast. Pyre said that the scouts hadn’t returned from that direction.


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