“Stop trying to eat me, you stupid noodle,” Cleo said and smacked Palan’s tail as she tried to crawl away. “It’s a good name!”
Raea sat on the ground by the fire, her clothes still wet, and watched Cleo’s futile efforts. A smile was on her lips, but her eyes still seemed sad, threatening to wet themselves at a moment’s notice. Palan frowned as he stared at Raea and lifted Cleo fifteen feet into the air with his tail, causing her to scream bloody murder, scaring away all the birds in the nearby vicinity. The clasp on her bag came undone, and objects began to pour out: Raea’s discarded cocoon, Palan’s rotting severed hand, a necklace with over thirty teeth, multiple orbs borrowed from Pyre, a smaller pouch containing hundreds of essence crystals, a clump of musky wolf fur.
Raea gaped as more miscellaneous objects continued to pour out of Cleo’s bag. “How do you even fit all of this inside that tiny bag?” she asked. A cloth object fell onto Raea’s face, blocking her vision. She removed it from her face. She quickly flicked it to the side. “Whose panties are those?”
“My stuff!” Cleo said with a wail. “Let me down, Danger Noodle!” Her arms flailed in the air as she hung upside-down, reaching towards the ground. Raea stood up and picked up the cocoon she discarded with an odd expression on her face. “Palan!” Cleo said. “Stop bullying me!”
“I could make some nice garments out of this,” Raea said as she brought the cocoon to her nose and sniffed it. It smelled like flowers.
Raea nodded as if she didn’t hear the protesting lizardman. She covered her body with the cocoon like a cloak and stripped off the wet robe she was wearing underneath, hanging them up to dry in a nearby branch. She exhaled and sat down next to Palan, leaning her back against the splintered tree stump. She closed her eyes and let the warmth of the fire wash over her. The cocoon seemed to glow as a few sparks and embers flew towards it.
Palan’s tail lowered back to the ground and released Cleo who scrambled to gather up her stolen goods. Palan turned his head to look at Raea. Her wet hair clung to her cheek. “Why did you run?” he asked.
Raea opened her eyes and lowered her head to stare at the ground while pulling the cocoon around her body tighter. “I don’t know,” she said and bit her lip. Her body shivered, and she sniffled. “I just wanted to get away from there.” She shook her head, droplets of water falling from her hair. Palan didn’t say anything and turned his head away from Raea. He watched Cleo cram the innumerable amount of objects back into her bag, her mouth spewing a string of nonstop profanities.
“Do you want to see your brother again?” Palan asked, breaking the silence between the two.
Raea’s hand trembled and she clutched the cocoon tighter. “Not right now,” she said.
“Alright,” Palan said and nodded. “Hold your breath.”
“What?” Raea asked and turned to look at Palan in alarm. “Are you going to throw me back into the river?”
“No.” Danger Noodle crawled around Raea’s body and positioned itself behind her. Its jaw unhinged and swallowed Raea whole before she could respond. Its body twitched as Raea struggled from inside.
“Where’s Raea?” Elrith rode on top of his earthen hill, heading straight for Palan. Raea stopped struggling inside of Danger Noodle, which opened its mouth to let in air. The general stopped in front of Palan, glaring down at the sitting demon.
Palan shrugged. “I was attacked by angels and lost track of her,” he said. “So I built this fire to send her smoke signals.”
“If you were attacked by angels, then Raea was attacked too!” Elrith said and clenched his fist. “Which way did they go?” Palan pointed towards the northeast. “Raea deserves a better demon than you. You don’t even look injured.” He snorted as his hill traveled past Palan towards the northeast. Cleo’s eyes gleamed as she watched Elrith disappear into the forest. Moments later, Danger Noodle vomited Raea out of its stomach, the cocoon completely undamaged, albeit a bit wet.
“Never do that again,” Raea said and glared at Palan.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” Palan replied. “You taste disgusting.”
Raea frowned. “I’m not sure if I should be offended by that,” she said and sighed. She shook her head and walked over to the river, washing the stomach acid out of her hair and cocoon before returning to Palan’s side. “Where did Elly go?”
“That way,” Palan said and pointed towards the northeast again, not mentioning the fact that Ishim’s camp was in that direction. Raea nodded and the two leaned back against the tree stump. Cleo was fighting against Danger Noodle with a stick she had picked up off the ground. The fire crackled and popped, releasing a steady stream of smoke into the air.
Raea turned her head to look at Palan. “So you evolved?” she asked.
“Did you just notice?” Palan asked, turning his head to face her. He smelled the flowery scent of the cocoon.
“No,” Raea said and slightly lowered her head, but quickly raised it up again when she remembered Palan wasn’t wearing any clothes. “I just couldn’t find the time to bring it up.”
“And what happened to you?” Palan asked, staring into her golden serpentine eyes. Raea bit her lip, and her gaze shifted to the side. “Your eyes are”—Raea flinched—“a lot more impressive.”
“Huh?” Raea asked. “But they’re not blue. Isn’t that weird?” Palan stared at her with his red eyes. She blushed. “I’m not saying your eyes are weird, even though they are, but all angels have blue eyes.” She inhaled and closed her eyes, then exhaled and opened them again. “Don’t I look like a monster? I even have these scales.” She stuck her leg out of the cocoon, revealing the line of black scales running up her calves and thigh.
Palan’s face hardened. “I’ve seen a monster before,” he said, recalling the giant bird from the night he went to the town with Andrea. He snorted. “You’re cute compared to it.”
“Eh?” Raea asked and retracted her leg. “Stop. Why are you being so nice? Isn’t this where you usually beat me over the head with my faults and insecurities?”
“Didn’t I already say I don’t make fun of you just because?” Palan asked and flicked her forehead. The corner of his lips turned downwards. “If you looked like a monster, that’d be the first thing I say.” Raea stared at Palan with her brow furrowed. Palan stared back.
“Now kiss!” Cleo said while hanging upside-down in the air from her leg. Danger Noodle released her, and she fell on her head with a yelp. She grumbled, “Rude.”