Chapter 44 – Unyielding Rage

On the fields of the Mighty Melee, a grand battle was about to take place.


The crowd cheered, much of their attention focused on the clear battle about to take place along one side of the arena instead of the somewhat chaotic mess the middle had become.

“So, we meet again, tall man,” Yvonne said, sizing up her opponent with staff in hand.

The tall, bandaged man across from her nodded slowly, his silver armor loosely covered by the same trenchcoat he’d worn when he’d beaten her in the previous part of the tourney. Which honestly looked kinda stupid over armor, but the guy won the joust, so whatever.

“Still the silent type, I see. Well, that’s alright. I don’t need to hear you talk to take you down.”

Morthru nodded, again, before hefting his greatsword, the pair of newly made rivals ready to–


Yvonne blinked, before she and Morthru turned as one to stare at the sudden gore on the other side of the arena–Then there was an eruption of fire and the two of them decided to save the rematch for later.

Pine had about half a second between trying to crush the human beneath him under foot and a flaming fist crashing full into his face, smashing teeth, bone, and actually bursting some pretty important stuff up there before he went sailing across the entire arena. Only the magical barriers set up to prevent debris from flying into the audience kept him from smashing into the stands and there was a sudden scramble of spectators as people saw a giant cat demon nearly crash into them.

As is, he nearly fell back to the ground, but then there was a foot smashing into his stomach and he bent around it before shooting off towards the sky as Cardinal Michael, Angel of Fortitude, whirled around to glare straight at the demon Coco with burning eyes that promised violence and pain.

“Huh. I see why Lady Thrillseeker likes you,” the demon commented, his head tilting, before he caught the spear Michael flung for his face and slammed his enlarged fist into their face when they dove for him.

Michael crashed into the ground, scorching the soil and searing the sand to glass before they twisted back to their feet, a shriek of genuine, pure rage erupting from their mouth in a rush of flames, all four of their wings fully out and bringing a sudden level of heat to the field that sent former combatants scrambling back. All the while, the badge pinned to their chest sparked almost feebly, the last heart nearly melting already by the time it was broken. The rest of the badge soon followed, dropping to the ground in a clump of molten tin.

“Guess that badge couldn’t handle this form huh? Seems I hafta do this the old fashioned way then.” Coco rumbled, before snapping a finger. The noise was nearly drowned out by the roar of building flames and the cracks of breaking stones–the shields that protected the combatants starting to give out from the sheer heat as they raced to escape–but no one could mistake the way the arena suddenly went dark. Though that wasn’t quite it.

It was more like, for those who still remained in the arena, the sky had gone black, the rest of the world distorting as the demon cracked his knuckles. “Isn’t this better, angel? Now the only mortals you need to worry about cooking are–”

He caught their fist again, but his head snapped back as they kicked up and he suddenly felt himself going up–The angel threw him, fully, sending him crashing across the field before he rolled to his feet and paused, blinking all six of his eyes as Michael knelt beside Noriko, their flames taking on a greenish tinge where they pressed their hand down, healing the damage wracking the human’s body.

“…Seriously? You’re healing some worthless human? Why? You’re in the middle of a fight,” Coco reprimanded, rolling his shoulders and loosening his limbs before he burst across the field and drove his foot into the angel’s skull. “SO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY–!”

Or so he intended. His eyes went wide when they caught his foot, before the angel’s baleful gaze turned on him, their rage so hot he could feel his fur starting to singe and burn–Then Michael crushed his foot in their hand and he bit back a howl of pain before a plume of flame blasted straight into his head–

But before the flames could sear the demon’s flesh from his skull, the angel grabbed their friend and flew back, avoiding the massive foot of a truly giant, giggling Pine, who turned his wide, wide grin towards the angel as the bells hanging from his head jingled and jangled. The cat demon looked like a twisted jester now, his crimson and purple striped clothing now covered in frills and bells, all four of his clawed hands looking sharper than ever. “Cahahahahaha~! Ahh, Coco, calm down, have fun~ I’m sure the angel’s willing to take us seriously once we show just what we can do~”

The hellhound huffed, glaring at the angel clutching their smaller friend to their chest, before snarling as metal plating spread across his clothes and fur. “Fine. Lady Thrillseeker won’t mind if we kill this blessed angel.”

“Of course she won’t~! Not as long as we make the show fun~” Pine cackled again, clapping his hands as the sky above became striped with purple and the arena twisted, becoming more akin to a circus tent as jaunty music began to play. “Welcome to the field of Knights and Knaves, oh brave angel~! Step right up and show us your stuff~! Or we’ll kill both you and your little human friend~”

The giant hellcat pulled a quartet of scimitars from the air, giggling madly as he twirled them, while the hellhound knight drew a sword and shield, his eyes gleaming within his metallic face.

“…Okay. I’ll take you two seriously,” Cardinal Michael stated, before they turned and set their friend down. Noriko was breathing fine, her eyelids fluttering as she fought for consciousness.


“It’s okay. I’ll handle things.” They gave her head a pat, before gripping the badge on her chest and pulling it free, before crushing the damned thing in their hand. Not one bit of the crimson pain within it came anywhere close to Noriko. 

Instead, the angel turned, forming a new spear out of scarlet flames. The same shape as before, a mix of sword and spear, with their hand high on the haft. “Ready.”

“Set~” Pine crooned.

“Go.” And in a burst of motion, Coco swung hard–And saw his sword miss entirely before his forearm split off–Then pure flame went straight through his waist, splitting him in half–

And Michael turned, swinging up as Pine appeared behind them, splitting through the hellcat until confetti erupted all around them and they twisted, catching Coco’s thrust on their spear and blasting him straight in the chest, sending him off his feet before they drove the butt of their spear into another Pine’s throat–

In the darkness and chaos of the demons’ domain, neither one of the pair died in a mere strike, instead forming and reforming from the shadows as they kept coming in and began pulling on their own natures–Ice coated Coco’s armor, his shield and blade, each swing coming hard and yet nowhere near enough as Michael moved and struck–Pine’s grin grew strained as he wasn’t even entertained with a dodge, only hard swings that cut through illusory body after illusory body, more and more burning confetting filling the air as the angel’s wings shone bright in the dark–And he tried to grab at one, to pin them, but the heat burned his hand and the angel turned–

Pine shrieked as the cut scored deep, splitting across his right eyes with a holy light that ruined them worse than any blade could–And the instant Michael saw that weakness, their flames surged, blasting over the stumbling demon just as he managed to wrap the veil of dark over where he just was.

“Tch.” They turned towards Coco, fury guiding their actions yet leaving their mind unclouded. They stood, spear in hand, watching the demon as melting frost rolled down his armor like sweat. “Well? You wanted this fight.”

“…Yeah. Yeah.” He cracked his neck, standing straight. “Call it a desire to prove myself. Or something.” His hand was trembling on his sword, the blade wavering in his unsteady grip.

“Even a demon should have stronger convictions than that,” Michael stated, their disappointment making the armored hellhound bristle.

“You…Shut up. I don’t give a shit. I’ll kill you. I’ll rip your head off and give it Lady Thrillseeker. How’s that for conviction? Huh? Isn’t that conviction, angel? Serving your god? I’m serving mine, you’re serving yours, so where do you get off lecturing me about CONVICTION?!

“Then do it. You’ve made your declaration.” They held their spear at the ready, at least giving him that respect. “Now come at me.”

And he hesitated, his grip still unsteady, his feet…stumbling back, for just the barest moment, as it came to him that he genuinely could die in this moment.

Then another voice sounded out. “NOT SO FAST!”

Pine’s voice was nearly a shriek, pain and anger finally robbing him of his smile as he scowled, one arm around Noriko’s throat, another over her mouth, the remaining two holding her struggling arms over her head and keeping her kicking legs in place. “MAKE ANY MOVE, ANGEL, AND I’LL TEAR–”

And in one swift motion, Michael threw their spear full force, the weapon passing straight through Noriko without any damage before plunging into his heart and ripping out his back in a spray of gore–

Then the angel turned and caught Coco’s enormous blade in their hand, glaring into the coward’s eye as his jaw dropped. “Wh-H-How–”

Then their fist sunk into chest and an eruption of pure fire burst out his back, the twin flames ripping into the fabric of the demons’ domain and bursting it in seconds. The flames washed across it all as the sun’s rays shined down and the crowds returned to see the demon’s grip slacken, before his sword dropped and he collapsed right as his partner did, both bodies hitting the ground in plumes of soil and sand.

Noriko, meanwhile, blinked up at Michael, who had caught her in their arms. “…o-oh. Uh…h-hey.”

“Are you okay?” the angel asked, their wings still fully out and entirely visible to every single person in the arena. Not that they really noticed, mainly focused on their increasingly red-faced friend.

“…Y-Yeah, ah…just…reliving some childhood fantasies, it’s all good…”


“N-Never mind, ignore me…”

Michael regarded their friend with a raised eyebrow, before glancing at the field where the pair of gigantic, demonic corpses were beginning to dissolve into smoke, shadow, snow–Lots of things, really. Better than the corpses sticking around. That never turns out well…hm.

The angel sighed as they touched down to the ground, frowning.

“Uh, what’s up?”

“Just…thinking about Seona.”

“Oh.” Noriko nodded, slowly. “Yeah, that…this gal didn’t think anything like that would…yeah.”

“Yes. Though she was a demon, she was a noble ally, and I am grateful to have met her.”

“Aw, that’s really sweet of you to say!”

“It’s the truth. I–Wait.” Michael blinked, before glancing down at the ground. Where Seona’s head was. Where she was smiling up at them.

“It was really nice to meet you too! Crazy how that tournament turned out though, huh? I mean, seriously, that got brutal there.”


“…Okay, this gal knows Seona’s a demon, but also what the fuck.” Noriko summed things up rather concisely there, Michael felt–


There was a faint cheer there, a “go Misha!” from over in the stands. So Anaya apparently appreciated their efforts, which was nice.

“So much for your cover,” Noriko mumbled, earning an amused huff from Michael.

“I sincerely doubt it was still intact after all of that.”


“Seriously? He still wants to continue the competition??” Noriko asked.

“Well it is his job. I don’t think any mortals remained on the field though, so maybe we’ll win by default–” Michael paused, glancing over at the dissolving mass that was once Pine’s body as it bulged oddly, before bursting into ash as a figure in a trenchcoat erupted up from it, raising his hands triumphantly to the sky.




“…” Noriko gave Michael’s cheek a poke.

“Shut up.”

“Not saying anything.”



Lepo eyed her employer for a moment, noting the increasing heat emanating from Seeker’s body, along with the wind kicking up around the office. She debated whether or not her employer would attempt to hurt her if she caught her attention, before erring on the side of caution and poking Gesilstra so she’d do it instead.

Gesilstra blinked at the sudden poke, refocusing on the situation at hand instead of idly fantasizing over barbecue. “…Hey boss.”


“So…hey. Uh…At least…we got…uh…” She searched her brain for something and found absolutely nothing. “…Did we actually get anything out of this?”

“…” The whipping winds became a full on tornado, prompting Lepo to sneak out before the entire room exploded. 

She didn’t get far enough.

“Just to confirm, you’re completely fine even with your entire body gone?” Anaya asked Seona, the dullahan’s head currently “seated” on a table out in the fairgrounds where their group was attempting to come up with a new plan of action, now that their previous one failed. Again.

“Yep!” Seona answered, smiling brightly despite her current situation, “Sure, it hurt a ton to get ripped up like that, but I’m totally fine so long as my head’s fine! And my head’s pretty durable! You’d probably need Michael to do any damage.”

“Which I’m not going to do,” Michael insisted, in between munching on a hashbrown. The angel was a bit more bundled up than typical, with a full, hooded robe covering most of their body. Mostly because outing themself as an angel had elicited a lot more interest than they’d expected. 

A surprising amount of people started crowding around them after they left the arena, asking for blessings and wanting to know things like if the gods were angry at the king or supported the king or wanted more offerings or could lower taxes–that last one honestly just confused them–so they elected to leave in an appropriate manner. Really, it was good that Noriko decided to bring along those smoke bombs. Hm…I wonder if I could manipulate smoke instead of fire to do something similar? I’ve never really tried…

“You sure? It would be way more convenient for you guys. That, and it’s just sending me back home to the Sixth, so it’s not like it’s any real trouble.”

“I’m an angel, so I could do actual damage even inadvertently. Besides, would that let you get your body back immediately?”

“Ehh…no, not really, it still needs to regenerate.”

“What does that even look like?” Noriko asked, “Your head isn’t connected to your body, so…”

“Hm, true…what does that look like…It’s been a really long time since I’ve had to grow back anything more than just a limb, so I guess I don’t really know? Maybe a new body will just pop right out of my neck hole!”

“…Ew. Sorry, just…that’s a horrible mental image.”

“That’s alright! I know people can be weird about this type of thing!”

“It’s not weird to be grossed out though…”

“Seona’s situation aside, we’ve lost our chance at getting another set of tickets,” Michael noted, frowning. Thankfully, their back didn’t hurt as much as it usually did when they brought out their second pair of wings, so they were fine moving around, but losing again, even if demonic interference caused the loss, did annoy them.

“Oh yeah, speaking of that tourney, shouldn’t we go visit Ophelia and her friends?” Anaya asked, “They did get injured during the melee after Pine popped up.” 

“We do owe them for helping us out as well,” Michael muttered.

“Should probably be careful though,” Noriko said as she fed Seona a hashbrown–Where did that even go? “Gonna look pretty bad if we walk around with a disembodied head.” 

“Hm…Seona, if you don’t mind, I can hold you under the cloak I have on.” Looking up with a hashbrown still in her mouth, Seona beamed and…moved herself in a way Michael assumed was a nod. It was hard to tell. “Very well.” 

“Oh, can you bring the rest of the hashbrowns? They’re really good.” 


Michael didn’t think they’d ever hold a dullahan head in one hand, while feeding said head hashbrowns with the other, all while hiding them under their cloak, and yet it happened. At least it wasn’t the worst thing that occurred that day. They weren’t sure it was even the weirdest.

“…where do you think those go?” Noriko asked as she glanced towards the hidden Seona. 

“I don’t think I wanna find out.” 

“Mnf, nnhtuh dhbiss,” Seona…answered? Regardless, the group soon made their way to the medical tent, where they found Ophelia waiting around with Yvonne–Oh, so that’s where she wound up–while Naomi and Tanya were being tended to by a pair of healers, one human and one drake. And Michael couldn’t help but feel at fault as they looked upon their bandaged bodies. 

Sure, the two were seemed well enough–Naomi was sitting up as the human healer pressed a gleaming green hand to her shoulder while Tanya seemed to be chatting with the drake healer as she laid back, her bandaged foot elevated by some straps–but there was still some guilt–

“Hey there tall and bitchy,” Noriko greeted, waving at the leviathan and interrupting Michael’s thoughts. 

“Hey yourself, shortstack,” Ophelia replied, raising a hand in turn.

“Hi again, Yvonne,” Anaya greeted.

“Hello again to you, Anaya,” Yvonne returned.

“Sup, Redwing,” Naomi greeted–Wait, that’s out of order.

Michael shook off their confusion. “Ah…hello Corsaro?”

“Aw, I don’t have anybody to say hi to,” Tanya moped.

“I can say hi if you want! Hi, ah, what’s her name?” Seona asked, her voice echoing out from Michael’s cloak and drawing several eyes to the angel.

“…Ignore that.” They shifted their cloak slightly to look down at Seona. “Her name’s Tanya and please stop talking.”

“Oh, alright.”

“…I’ll just assume that’s another curse you have going on,” Naomi said, looking away from where the voice came from, “Was there something you needed?” 

“We just came to check up on you,” Michael answered, “You were caught up in this mess because those demons were after me, so…I apologize for–” 

“Yeah yeah, you’re very contrite, it’s fine. We’re adventurers, remember? Injuries aren’t unexpected.” The bard grinned. “You’re just lucky they showed up, otherwise we would have won the melee.” 

The angel huffed, resisting the urge to roll their eyes at the ridiculous people around them. “It wouldn’t have gone down that easily for you.” 

“So you say, but I seem to remember landing the first hit,” Ophelia pointed out, smirking, “I still think I could take you, even if you are some type of fancy angel.”

“I’m the cardinal of fortitude.”

“You’re a fancy harpy with a halo.”

Michael stiffened, affronted in a way they weren’t really sure how to articulate, only for Anaya to speak up, her voice audibly amused. “Harpies have wings on their arms, not their back, so I think Misha would be closer to a dragon, maybe? One with feathery wings.”

“Dragons have full other forms though. Hell, I’m closer to a dragon than Redwing.”

“You can’t fly,” Michael retorted.

“I could if I wanted. It’s not hard.”

“Wh–No?? You don’t have wings, to start–”

“I’ll just learn wind magic. Or some of that esoteric stuff. I’m sure I can crack flight easily.”

“…You’re ridiculous, and I don’t know why I visited you.”

“Because you’re a decent person. I’ll admit that. You’re still an asshole, but a decent one.”

“…I suppose the same could be said of you.” Michael ignored the leviathan’s laughter as they glanced over at Yvonne, a little curious. “Also, just to ask, but why are you around here? I didn’t know you knew these three.”

“Ah, funny story there. We met in the melee, back when I was trying to face off against Morthru. Then the whole demon attack thing started happening and I saw Ophelia trying to rescue her friend Naomi there, so I went to help carry her off the field.” Her smile fell to an annoyed frown as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Of course, that was apparently enough to get me disqualified because I ‘left the arena’, or at least that’s what they decided to tell me after the fact. Personally, I think the announcer just flubbed the competition so they were looking for an excuse.”

“Well hey, I still appreciate you saving my life!” Naomi called out with a smile, “Aaaand, if you happen to, say, want to join up with a certain group of adventurers traveling the Light Lands, well…”

“So are you trying to be coy with that job offer, or…?”

“We’d like you to join up with us,” Ophelia stated, “We do want to pay you back for helping us out, and the best way to do that is if we stick together. Not to mention, your skills would be a boon to us.” 

“Well, I appreciate the offer, but can’t decide that on my own. Traveling with someone myself, so gotta make sure he’s okay with it as well.” 

“Of course, take your time.” 

“Feel free to say no if you want Yvonne,” Noriko piped up, “Trust this gal, she calls her tall and bitchy for a reason~.” 

“Because you’re bad at nicknames.” 

“Hey at least this gal tried! You’re just calling her shortstack!” 

“It’s quick, easy, and descriptive. You just have adjectives, that’s not a nickname.”

Anaya giggled as the two continued to snipe at each other. “Aw, it’s nice to see Nori making another friend.”

Michael blinked. “…is that what’s happening?”

“There’s no ire behind their words at least.” 

“…hm. I suppose so.” Staying quiet for a moment, Michael reached into their pocket and pulled out a few diamonds, before handing them to Naomi. “Here.” 

“…uh, Redwing, what’s this?” 

“You helped us out, and this is the only way I can pay you back. I would offer to help heal you all, but I’m not certain that would go well if you have any demonic heritage in you.” 

“…Hmph. I’d refuse your money, but I feel like Fifi would get mad at me,” Naomi said as she took the diamonds, “But if you really want to pay me back, you can do me a favor instead.” 

“Which would be?” 

“The reason I’m traveling with my friends in the Light Lands is simple, I want to show the world that darklanders aren’t all evil. And someone in your position would certainly help prove my point.”

“…I am not certain my Father would approve, so I do not think I can assist in such a manner.” 

“Hmph, well, I don’t know how your relationship with him is like, but aren’t you your own person? Even if your father doesn’t agree, you should make your own decisions.”

Michael shook their head. “That isn’t how things work for me. I am an angel. The will of my god comes above all else. I am not a ‘person’. Not in the sense that you mean it.”

“Wow, that’s…” Naomi laid back in her bed, apparently thinking, and Michael noticed an uncomfortable silence in the air. One that….really rankled, the longer it dragged on. “…Hey, speaking as someone who, uh…somewhat knows what you mean, you don’t have to live for your parents. You know?”

“Our situations are not similar. I was not born. I was created with a specific intent in mind. And I realize that is not how it is for mortals, but it is for me, and it is not a problem. I love my Father, and I am happy to serve.” And they meant it too. The conviction was there in their voice. So why did Naomi look…pitying? “…I hope you recover quickly, I need to see to other matters. We still need a way to Orindaco, and I can’t waste time.”

They left before anyone could reply. It wasn’t as though they were retreating. They really did have things to do, as soon as they could think of what those things were–

Michael paused a few feet away from the tent, frowning at the odd sensation against their chest. It almost felt like…They opened their cloak and raised an eyebrow at Seona, who was still there. “What are you doing?”

“Trying to give you a hug.”

“…I don’t need comfort.”

“Well a hug can be nice anyhow, right?”

Michael grimaced, but gave the dullahan a pat. It was only right to return the favor. Especially as a thought crossed their mind. “…If my Father ordered your destruction, I would do it without hesitation.”

“Oh, I know, I’ve met angels before. Most were pretty intense, but some of the ones I’ve met were pretty sad.”

They blinked, partially surprised at her complete lack of reaction to their confession–admission, not confession–and partially surprised by the mention of other angels. “Really? When?”

“Ehhh…different times. The most recent was when I was traveling with Julius for a bit. I think that was a few years ago–Wait, no, not years, the smaller one. Weeks?”

Michael raised an eyebrow. “Months?”

“That one! Yeah, sorry, my brain can get a little scrambled sometimes. Mortal world, losing your body, you know how it is.” They didn’t–Well, they partially understood the “mortal world” part. “Anyhow, we met some heat angels and they were pretty sad. It was a little intense? But then it got very melancholy because they all miss their mom a bunch.”

Heat angels. Right, the angels of Surodus…Hm. What would that even feel like? Missing your god, not knowing if they even live…losing that connection… They shook their head, refusing to think on the subject any further. “We should do something else.”

“Oh yeah, that totally failed at being comforting, my bad. It’s ironically really difficult to keep things light around here, huh?” They didn’t have an answer to that. “Hmm…well, you wanna get something sweet? I did smell a bunch of really tasty stuff while I was looking around here–”

“Misha Redwing, there you are! I’ve been looking for you.” 

Michael paused, before glancing behind them and upwards at the smirking face of Lonnie Redridge. “Oh, Redridge. I saw you earlier.”

“You did! While I was reffing. Good show out there! Turned a lot more wild than I think any of us expected.” He chuckled, before raising an eyebrow at Seona, who Michael just remembered was actually in view. “Well hello there, Miss. I remember seein’ you out on the field too. It was a real big surprise to see one of your sort out there.”

“Uh…hey there! Heh…” Huh. Why does she sound so awkward? “Er, so, hey, uh, Misha, not to be rude or anything, but do you think you could cover me up again? Because, you know.”

“Right, sorry,” they apologized, wrapping the cloak around Seona again before looking up at Redridge, “You’re…remarkably calm about seeing me with a severed head.”

“Ha! What sorta man’s put off by a severed head? I know I’ve removed a few myself in my time, but I digress! I’m real sorry to be comin’ up t’you outta nowhere like this, especially since I had to dip out afore we could talk again the other day, but you and I, well, we did make a bet.”

Ah, of course. “We did, yes. I believe I owe you a favor?” 

“That you do! Thanks for remembering!” Keeping up his smirk, he cupped his chin. “Now then, what was it I wanted to ask you for…” 

“Whatever it is, make it quick–”

“Oh, now I remember! All I want is whatever’s closest to you~. That’s my favor. So just hand it over.” 

Tensing up, Michael couldn’t help but step back as something felt… off. There was a sudden pressure they felt as Redridge extended his hand, almost as if he were about to reach into the angel and tear something out–


“…” Blinking, the angel looked up to see the Seeker pillow on their head. “…Here you go.” 

Reaching up, Michael grabbed the pillow and handed it over to the deeply confused minotaur. “Huh?”

“It’s a cursed object that was tied to my soul, therefore it is the closest object to me, enjoy.” And with that, Michael promptly left…whatever that was. Again, not retreating, but that was just weird and the angel had better things to do than dwell on some weird minotaur.

“That dude was creepy,” Seona spoke up, her voice slightly muffled by their cloak.

“…I suppose so, yes.” A thought occurred, and they looked down at the dullahan while walking through the fairgrounds. “Did you notice anything strange about him?”

“Oh for sure, he’s ridiculously bright. It actually hurt to look at him.”

They paused, stopping in the street. “It did? That…so he had a holy aura?”

“Yeah, I guess, but not like you have one. Yours is like a…campfire, sort of. It might hurt if I decided to stare straight at you while you’re flaring your angelness, but I can look at you just fine. Honestly, you feel…sort of cozier than other angels I’ve met? Less harsh, which is funny because you’re definitely harsh. Or, guarded? No, harsh sort of works…”

“…Your impressions of me aside, you mean to say Redridge wasn’t like that.”

“Oh no, not at all. If anything, he was too bright. It wasn’t harsh, it was painful! Like a focused light shining in my eyes, trying to blind me if I look too close.”

“That definitely does sound unnatural…” They glanced back through the crowds, but the minotaur was gone already. “…hm. Another mystery.” 

They were really starting to dislike mysteries…

Lonnie Redridge, such was his name, strode through the Queenshill fairgrounds with a jaunty whistle to his lips and a surprising new prize under his arm. He hadn’t really expected the gamble he tried to work at all, not least with how many loopholes there were to his phrasing, but hey, life’s full of fun misses.

“And so’s death,” he murmured under his breath, before lifting the ring on his chest to his lips and giving it a little kiss, “Ain’t that right, darlin’? Here I am, a lowly sinner, and I get to talk to a top angel, all on account of you.”

There was no reply from his ring, not that he imagined there would be one, but if there could be, he’d like to think it was positive. Call him a romantic, but he liked it better when people played along with him willingly.

“You boys could learn from that,” the man called Redridge commented as he reached into his pocket and plucked a pair of marbles. One yellow, one blue. “Heh. Never knew why the boss went for ‘Coconut’ for you. I’m sure there’s gotta be some other white fruits out there. Pineberries, maybe? Though then you’d be Pine and Pine and that just doesn’t work right at all…ah well.”

The taur kept walking, further and further from the arena, then out towards the fields away from the fairgrounds. Queenshill was a large place, so it stood to reason there’d be farms around to keep the commonfolk fed. There were orchards in the city, last he remembered, but what he was looking for was a cornfield. And he found one, easily enough.

There was something about walking through rows that distorted the world. The identical, stretching onward and outward, never ending yet ending all the same. It made the world thinner, and with one step in the right spot, rows of corn became rows of cabinets, and Lonnie adjusted the crimson tie that stood so stark against his white suit as he walked from one place to the next.

Hooves became boots, a hat became a crimson helmet, and the scorpion on his belt peeled back as he let his tail free, the sharpened point sizzling for a second as he let it stretch. Then he opened up the door to his boss’s office and paused at the sight of the whole room, well…not looking that great.

“…Howdy, boss!” Lonnie greeted, deliberately reforming the cowboy hat over his helm, entirely because it felt like it’d be fun, “I see your viewin’ party was a grand ol’ time.”

Seeker always looked good, in Lonnie’s opinion, and her current look–seething in pure rage with parts of her face fully burning with hellfire while the sleeves of her shirt were torn to pieces from the tangled mass of wind and fury her arms had become–just reiterated that face in his mind, to the point that he felt his grin get even wider when she turned those furious eyes towards him. “…Oh, Cherry, it’s you.”

“It’s me! Back from the mortal realms, not fully a conquerin’ hero, but I did at least get somethin’ fun outta the mix.” He grinned as he held up his prize, wagging the pillow as his boss’s eyes narrowed.


“Yes, your bossy bossness?”

“Why the fuck do you have my gift to Misha?”

“Well I tried to see if I could con them outta their halo and it didn’t work, so I just got this pillow instead.” He idly glanced over to an overturned couch–one of his boss’s special furniture, the type she let herself break when she was mad–and noted the bits of black underneath it. “Hey Lepo, you alive down there?”

“…” The black beholder peeked an eyestalk out of her shelter, glancing about, before retreating again. Lot like a snail there.

“Very alive! Nice to see.”

Seeker, meanwhile, was pinching the bridge of her nose. “…So you stole my fucking gift to Michael, huh?”

“In a sense, sure. And I ain’t givin’ it back neither.”

Back came the golden-eyed glare. “What.”

Which honestly just made Lonnie grin all the wider. “What can I say~? I need a new pillow, and why wouldn’t I want one showin’ off my gorgeous boss~?”

“…You’re fucking flirting with me right now? Seriously?”

“Course I am~. After all, I’ve got some good news. First bein’ that I made sure to keep your pair of eights from getting reshuffled.” He held Pine and Coco’s marbles in between his fingers, grinning wider in his helm as Seeker’s eyes flicked towards them.

“Fuck–Alright alright alright, that’s not too bad, they won’t be working for a while, but at least I didn’t lose them…” It did his heart good to see his boss’s caring side. Or her possessive side, but then, that was the same thing for an Avaritian. “What else you got for me?”

“Well the second’s that I got a new pillow, real nice and cozy–”

“Cherry, do not fucking test me–”

“And third’s that our good friend Misha Redwing, Cardinal of Fire, never once realized I was a devil.” He really wished he could show his smile at the moment, if only to show his boss just how delighted he was to see the immediate interest in her eyes. “Yeah, that’s right. A cardinal couldn’t see past one tiny ring. I even walked right up to Misha and their dullahan buddy and neither could see past the light this baby gives off.

He plucked the halo on a string from it’s place around his neck and held it up for his boss to see, the tiny thing glimmering faintly even in the depths of hell. “Complete disguise. Didn’t matter how I acted, my buddy here hid my nature better than any Fraud I’ve seen. We’re talkin’ pure obfuscation, no chance of them seein’ through it.”

“…hahahaha. Hahahahahahaha, ahahahahaHAHAHAHAHA–”

Lonnie waited patiently for his boss’s maniacal laughter to calm down. In the midst of it, he noticed a zipper on the wall being peeled down as Gesi peeked in with her good eye. She noticed him looking and gave him a small wave, so he waved back, before gesturing for her to make herself scarce again. Best not to interrupt the boss during one of her moments, after all. 

“–HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA–” Alright, maybe some interruption was needed.

“It also works pretty well to see through objects if you hold it up to your eye. You’d be surprised what type of underwear ol’ Misha wears–”

Seeker’s gaze immediately snapped back towards Lonnie, much to his amusement.

“Glad to have you back, boss.”

“…Right, yeah.” The demon prince of the 4th Hell straightened, a smirk coming to her face. “Good boy, Cherry, very good of you. Even if there were some hiccups along the way, we did get something out of this, in the end, and that’s the type of thing I like to see! Especially since we can hook our clients up! Those lousy fish will be clambering for a way to keep outta the angels’ sight!”

“That we can boss, that we can.”

“Heheheha, and this means I can send any of our boys after Michael without any chance of them catching on too! Hmm, maybe I oughta send out Lemon and Lime next, see if doubles might work better with a different pair–Ah, but is that playing it too early? Could maybe send Pom to do it, she’s always been fucked in the head, it could work, maybe maybe–”

Lonnie watched with a fond smile as his boss descended into muttered ramblings and conspiracy. It was nice to see her lightening up.

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