“The last thing I remember was healing someone who was crushed by a boulder,” Raea said and bit her lower lip. “Then a series of dreams overwhelmed me. They felt so real.” She shuddered and pulled the cocoon tighter around her body. She raised her head and looked at Pyre. “Has Palan returned?”
Pyre answered as if he could sense her gaze. “Not yet,” he said. “But it seems like he’s evolved, or you wouldn’t have had to gone through that … metamorphosis.”
“All of you,” Elrith said and looked around the room, “scram. I want to speak with Raea alone.”
“Can I just plug my ears?” Pyre asked. Elrith’s attendant sighed and grasped Pyre’s hand, tugging him outside the room. Michael narrowed his eyes and stared at Elrith while walking towards the door, continuing to make eye contact until Elrith closed the door in his face.
“Now then,” Elrith said and turned around. A white chain opened the door while another wrapped itself around his waist. Elrith’s eyes widened as he was tossed out of the room.
“Let me put on some clothes first!” Raea’s voice said from beyond the door. Michael chuckled at Elrith who was sprawled out on the hallway’s floor. The door opened again and a squealing orange lizardman landed on Elrith’s face before he could sit up.
The golden cocoon slipped from Raea’s shoulders as she stood up. She grabbed her blanket and wiped off the remaining mucus-like substance that clung to her body. Her hand trembled when she touched the layer of black scales on her forearm. She glanced down at her body. Another layer of scales grew along both sides of her thighs, extended from her hips to her ankles. She couldn’t see what her back looked like, but she had felt two spherical bumps near her shoulder blades underneath her skin when she wiped herself off with the blanket.
She inhaled through her nose and staggered backwards. “What is this?” she muttered and shivered as she looked around the room. Colors overwhelmed her vision: red, orange, yellow, blue. She saw the outlines of the angels who waited outside her room, their bodies wrapped up in red and orange. The floor beneath them was blue. She exhaled through her nose, causing the colors to disperse. She hugged her shoulders and crouched down, bringing her knees to her chest. “What happened to me?”
A minute passed. “Rayray?” Elrith’s voice asked through the door. Raea’s head jolted upwards.
“Not yet!” she shouted. She slapped her cheeks with her hands and pressed on her face before shaking her head. Her face hardened as she stood up and walked to the closet, putting on a simple white robe. Her armor had dissolved inside the cocoon. She took in a deep breath, ignoring the shift in vision, and opened the door. Elrith stepped inside and shut the door before anyone else could enter.
Elrith and Raea stared at each other without saying a word with Raea biting her lower lip. Elrith ran his finger through his hair and scratched his head. “You got taller,” he said and raised an eyebrow.
“Really?” Raea asked and tilted her head. “But it’s only been a few months since I last saw you.” She lowered her head, recalling the image of Elrith lying in his bed with a green face.
“Yeah,” Elrith said and took a step forward. “You changed a lot since I last saw you actually. Like those scales.” Tears sprang to Raea’s eyes as she hugged her brother. Elrith’s eyes widened as he took one step back before placing one hand on her head. He ran his fingers through her hair.
“It’s going to be alright,” Elrith said and pat her back as Raea sobbed. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
“B-but Mom a-and Dad,” Raea said, her body shaking. She raised her head, her face wet with tears. “What happened to me?” Her body hiccupped uncontrollably. “I’m scared.” Her hands tightened around Elrith’s back, causing him to wince.
Elrith continued to run his fingers through Raea’s hair. “Everything will be fine,” he said. “We’ll find a way to change you back. Mom and Dad won’t even know, so don’t cry. Okay?” Raea didn’t respond. “Didn’t you think you were going to die when your sins were exposed? You’re still alive, right? I told you, you’d be fine and you were, so believe in me this time, alright?”
Raea took a step back and sniffled. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and nodded. Her body still hiccupped occasionally, but she gradually calmed down. “Feel better?” Elrith asked as he led her to a chair and had her sit down. Raea nodded, still not talking. “Good.” Elrith took a flask out of the small bag by his waist. He offered it towards his sister. “Water?”
Raea took the flask and drained it in one gulp. Elrith took the empty flask away and sat on the edge of Palan’s bed. “I heard you contracted a demon,” he said. “Why?”
“I wanted my own partner,” Raea said, her voice raspy. “Nina always read me fairytales about demons. And then I was exiled from my own home, a lot like most characters in the stories.” She bit her lip and sniffled.
“And you met a demon just like in the fairytales,” Elrith said and nodded. He sighed. “I should’ve came with you.”
“Don’t say that,” Raea said and furrowed her brow. “You were … sick … at the time. I’m really really sorry about that still.” She shut her eyes and clasped her hands in her lap.
Elrith snorted. “What kind of older brother would I be if I let my sister’s weak and meager power kill me?” he asked and grinned. He stood up and ruffled Raea’s hair. “You’re still too young, Rayray.”
“I’m almost an adult now,” Raea said and pouted. “My birthday’s next month.”
“To me, you’ll always be the Rayray that peed her pants at night and came crying to me for help,” Elrith said and laughed. Raea covered her ears and made a half-squealing half-growling noise. “I’m glad you’re okay, Raea.” Elrith paused. “Even if you’re a bit … creepy now, you’ll always be my sister. Don’t forget that.”
“You’re the best, Elly,” Raea said and stood up. She hugged her brother and sighed.
Screams drifted in from the window, startling the two. “What was that?” Raea asked. Elrith separated from Raea, and the duo looked out the window, shielding their eyes from the sun. A soldier by the gates flew into the air while screaming. “We’re under attack?”