Chapter 98

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Ishim stood on top of a building overlooking Elrith’s retreating army with his arms crossed over his chest. “You are going to let them go just like that?” Ishim asked and turned his head to the side. Solra sat on the edge of the building with his legs dangling off the side. The one-eyed angel raised his head to look at Ishim.

“You’re underestimating their abilities,” Solra said in a raspy voice. “If I wasn’t here to cancel out their powers, they wouldn’t have lost a single person.” Ishim turned his gaze towards the retreating army. Arrows flew after them, most of the arrows bouncing harmlessly off their armor.

“Then what is the plan for the future?” Ishim asked. “Do we have a chance if we can’t beat them here?” His eyes narrowed as he stared at Elrith’s unconscious body that was being carried by a bull-headed demon.

“Didn’t you say you trusted me?” Solra asked. “Anidun and I have been waiting for decades.” He stood up and dusted off the back of his robe. “Have some patience. The goal is the capital and the council, not some measly army.” Ishim exhaled and turned around. The sound of flapping wings drew his attention towards the sky. Madison flew overhead, carrying two figures, one in each talon. She alighted on the rooftop and released the figures.

“Well done, Liana,” Solra said towards the female figure. The figure removed her helmet, revealing a red face with white hair. She was Elrith’s attendant. Solra’s lone eye wandered until his gaze stopped on the second figure. “You must be Yulia’s son. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mister Khondra.” He paused. “Your father was an interesting demon.”

Pyre removed his blindfold, revealing his bright-red eyes. “You knew my parents?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “You must be ancient.”

Solra chuckled and nodded. “I’ll be a hundred and ten by the time the year ends,” he said. He muttered, “Or was it a hundred and twenty? It doesn’t matter.” Solra sighed and shook his head. He stared at Pyre. “I assume you’re willing to help us?”

***

Raea’s eyes lit up when she saw the army marching up the hill. “Elly!” she shouted and tackled her brother, wrapping her arms around his neck. Elrith grunted as the wind was knocked out of him. Raea looked up at her brother, tears in her eyes. “I thought you died.” She lowered her head and sniffled. “It’s all my fault.”

Palan balanced on his tail behind Raea with his arms and legs crossed. Elrith glared at Palan, accusing him with his eyes before sighing and placing his hand on Raea’s head. Elrith had been healed by his soldiers the instant they left Solra’s zone of charity. “I’m still here, aren’t I?” he asked his sister. “It’s not your fault. We even found the location of their camp.” Raea raised her head, her eyes red. An angel walked next to Elrith and kneeled next to Raea.

“Lady Raea,” the kneeling figure said. Stubble decorated his jaw, and soot covered his face.

“Owen!” Raea said and broke away from Elrith. “You’re alright!” she said. “Where’s Carmella? And Gerome?”

“They were sent away,” Owen said. “I don’t know what happened to them.” He raised his head and looked at Raea. His eyes widened. “What happened to you while I was away?” Raea touched her face and lowered her head, half-closing her eyes. Owen turned his head to look at Palan, his eyes widening even further. “It was your fault, wasn’t it? You did this.”

Palan glanced at Owen before snorting and looking away. Raea’s brow furrowed. “You two really don’t get along,” she said and sighed.

“It’s great that you two reunited, but we really should be moving,” Elrith said as he turned his head towards Ishim’s camp. The halflings had stopped chasing them after they exited the wall of skulls. “I want to make it back before nightfall.” His face hardened as his gaze roamed over his army; nearly a quarter of them had died. “Forwards march!”

The second sun was just about to set, illuminating the sky with a red hue, by the time Elrith’s army returned to the outpost. Palan hadn’t said a single word to Owen the whole way back; instead, he spoke with Cleo and had her identify all the items in her newfound bags. Raea seemed to have mended her relationship with her brother. Tuic avoided her like the plague when she was with Elrith but spoke a few flirtatious words to her while her brother was away.

The gates to the outpost swung open, and Michael appeared in the doorway of a nearby building. Elrith raised his head and nodded at Michael. “Get some rest,” Elrith said and raised his hand while turning towards his army. “You deserve it.” A few weary cheers echoed through the air. He whirled around and walked over to Michael. Tuic prevented Raea from following after her brother, causing her to bite her lip. Palan whispered something to Raea before following after the demons from Elrith’s army.

“Elrith,” Michael said and crossed his arms.

“Old man,” Elrith said, also crossing his arms. The two generals glared at each other for a minute. Elrith broke the silence. “Did you find Liana and Pyre?”

“No.”

“I see,” Elrith said and nodded before turning around to leave. “I’ll have a written report prepared for you tomorrow.”

“You can’t just tell me in person?” Michael asked, his brow slightly creasing.

“Too tired,” Elrith said and walked away. Michael watched as Elrith nodded at Tuic, sending him away, before talking with Raea. The bald general sighed as he turned around and walked back inside the building. He strolled into his bedroom and stripped off his armor before lying down on his bed. The mattress was lumpy. He sighed as he rolled onto his side and clapped his hands, turning off the lights. His gut churned. He couldn’t help but think there was something wrong with the whole situation: Solra’s unexpected appearance, the reemergence of the dwarves, Pyre’s disappearance. He closed his eyes and shut out the noise coming from outside before finally falling asleep.


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