A moment of silence passed as Palan unsheathed and sheathed Anidun’s dagger before strapping it to his waist. “Why would you even want to kill an archangel?” Raea asked. “Did Michael leave that bad of an impression on you?”
“Didn’t you just say we shouldn’t be talking about this?” Palan asked in reply. He stood up and glanced out the window. The moon was still visible in the middle of the night sky.
“Yes. But I got curious,” Raea said and scratched her cheek.
“I just wanted to name a price that old man couldn’t pay,” Palan said and glared at Pyre. “His smug face was bothering me.”
“Oh?” Pyre asked as he pat the floor around his chair with his feet. He stepped on his pipe and broke out into a smile. “Is that so?”
“You’re not lying to me, right Palan?” Raea asked gazing at Palan’s face.
“Of course not,” he said, his countenance unchanging. “Have I ever lied to you before?”
“Well, you did deny making a promise with me,” Raea said and crossed her arms over her chest. “I still don’t get why you’d rather stay in Eljiam.” She tilted her head. “There’s still so much of Div’Nya I have to show you. I’m sure you’ll change your mind after seeing the capital.”
“Are demons even allowed in the capital?” Palan asked.
“Nope,” Pyre said as Raea hesitated. “Sure, they can visit for a day or two as long as their skin isn’t exposed, but they can’t permanently reside there.” The blindfolded angel stuffed some purple plants into the bowl of his pipe and lit them. “And there’s a bunch of bureaucratic hoops that you have to jump through to enter. Of course, it’d be up to Miss Raea to solve those for you.”
Palan glanced at Raea. She frowned. “I’m sure the first sector is just as pleasant as the capital,” she said. “You’ve only seen the borderland. That’s not a fair representation of Div’Nya at all.” She stared up at the ceiling, a faint smile on her lips. “In the capital, foods abundant and free; you can take what you want whenever you want. There’s outdoor bathhouses with hot water that can keep you perfectly warm even when it snows. The library is open to everyone at any time. Crystals power the streets so it’s never dark at night, and self-driving carriages cart people anywhere they want to go.” She sighed. “I miss it. I especially miss the indoor plumbing system.”
“And I can’t have any of that,” Palan said and nodded.
“But the first sector should be similar!” Raea said. “Demons are allowed in the first sector … I think.”
Pyre chuckled. “Does the capital really have all that?” he asked. “Interesting, interesting.” A purple haze lingered around his face, and he scattered the smoke away with his hand. “I live in the first sector now. It’s a nice place but nowhere near as extravagant as you make the capital sound. We have self-driving trains, that run at set times to go in a loop around the sector. None of that personal carriage nonsense.” He broke out into a coughing fit that continued for half a minute. “Excuse me. And our baths are cold unless you heat them up yourself by burning wood. Food costs crystals. The train costs crystals. The library and schools cost crystals. Hell, everything costs crystals. If you want to flush your toilet, it’ll cost you a crystal.” He exhaled. “And if you choose not to flush your toilet, they’ll fine you for two crystals per day. I learned that the hard way. Worst thirty crystals I ever spent.” He nodded.
Raea grimaced. “You went fifteen days without flushing your toilet?” she asked.
Cleo tilted her head and glanced at Palan. “What’s a toilet?” she whispered. Palan shrugged.
“It was actually thirty days, but they only charged me for fifteen. I bargained with them in the bathroom when they came to inspect it,” Pyre said with a smirk on his face. “I guess they just wanted to get out as fast as possible. Bunch of pansies.”
Raea gagged and shuddered. “I am thoroughly appalled.”
There was a knock on the door. “Come in,” Pyre said with a smile.
The door opened and a young-looking angel with a bowl cut poked his head inside. “Does Jeb happen to be here?” he asked and glanced around. “I guess not, sorry about that.” The boy disappeared just as quickly as he came, shutting the door without a sound.
“How common is the name Jeb?” Palan asked.
“Not very,” Pyre said. “He’s probably referring to Jebriel, the angel who was sent to find you after you frolicked outside the outpost.”
“Do you know everyone in the army?” Raea asked.
“Of course,” Pyre said. “Michael gave me a roster to read with all the names and descriptions of the soldiers. I tend to remember everything that enters here.” He tapped his forehead with his pipe. “I’m responsible for rooting out spies or suspicious fellows, like yourself.” He smiled at Raea.
“Why am I suspicious?” she asked and furrowed her brow.
“Nice try,” Pyre said and chuckled. “I’m not letting you cover up your faults.” Raea frowned and glanced at Palan.
“Am I suspicious?” she asked.
“How?” Raea asked. She pursed her lips and crossed her legs on the bed.
“Well, you’re you,” Palan said. Raea tilted her head. “Nothing about you is normal. You have zero survival instinct. I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
Raea sighed and shook her head. “You’re one to talk,” she said. “I shouldn’t have asked you.” She glanced at Pyre. He had a faint smile on his lips. “Wait. Is that seriously why you think I’m suspicious?” Her mouth fell open as Pyre began to chuckle.
“Isn’t it a valid reason?” Pyre asked. “You wouldn’t expect a fish to live out of water for so long. But don’t worry. You’re pretty low on my list of suspects.”
Raea pouted. “Well, excuse me for being pampered in the capital all my life,” she said. Her shoulders seemed to shrink as she lowered her head. Palan’s brow slightly creased as he stared at her.
“At least you can play music well?” Palan asked. Raea raised her head and stared at him.
She blinked twice. “Are you trying to cheer me up? I never thought this day would come.”
Palan snorted and walked to the door, opening it. Raea followed his movements with her eyes. “Where are you going?” she asked.
“For a short walk,” Palan said. But a long run, he added in his head. He closed the door before Cleo could follow after him.