Palan and Cleo followed after Raea, and soon, the three arrived outside at the gathering point. All of Elrith’s and Michael’s soldiers were standing in formation. Raea spotted Owen at the head of the army, leading a group of noticeably less well-armored soldiers. She made eye contact with Elrith, and he looked away, causing her to frown.
Michael turned to look at Elrith as the elephants began to fall into their ranks. “Why are you bringing the storage chests?” he asked.
Elrith snorted. “What happens if we march their and they’ve relocated their camp?”
Michael nodded. “It will give them an easy target for an ambush though,” he said. “This rebellion is giving me a lot bigger of a headache than I thought it would. I even had to ask you for help.”
“That’s because you’re getting old,” Elrith said as the elephants finished assembling. He turned his head to face the soldiers. His voice echoed over the two thousand or so soldiers, “There’s nothing that I need to say that hasn’t already been said.” He glanced at the back of the army and saw close to two hundred angels wearing crossbows on their backs. The harpies had clearly left a deep impression. “We march!”
“Your brother sucks at motivating speeches,” Cleo said to Raea from Palan’s back. “Where’s the cheers? The bloodlust? The cries for victory?” She shook her head. “I feel cheated. My village had a lot more spunk than this.”
“Well,” Raea said. “Motivating them right before a few hours march won’t really do any good. The morale will die down as we walk.”
“Why are we even walking?” Cleo asked and sighed, resting her head on top of Palan’s. Her tail swished in the air above Danger Noodle. “Don’t you angels have any cavalry?”
“You seem to be awfully dissatisfied today,” Raea said.
“Of course,” Cleo said and puffed her cheeks out. “I was keeping my skills a secret, and Palan tickled it out of me. That’s not fair at all.” Palan touched the bottom of her foot, causing her to yelp. Her toes curled while her body shuddered. “Stop it!”
Raea’s lips twisted into a wry smile. The rest of the army was silent as they walked, but no one reprimanded the trio for talking. Palan stopped walking, causing Raea to stop as well. “Palan?”
“I agree with Cleo,” he said as he walked back towards the elephants. “I don’t feel like walking.” He climbed on top of a storage chest and sat down with his legs crossed. He took in a deep breath and began to meditate, his back starting to glow with a blue light. Raea bit her lip and glanced towards the front of the army. No one seemed to care, so she climbed up the storage chest as well.
Her chest glowed with a blue light as she sat across from Palan. Her brow furrowed. “Do you really have to take my mana before a battle?” she asked.
“Well, I’m not going to take it during the battle,” Palan said. “The contract said I can absorb your mana anytime I want.”
Raea sighed and pulled out a yellow crystal. Palan raised an eyebrow. “I’m double-checking,” Raea said as the crystal dissolved into powder. The contract appeared in her hand. Palan shrugged and resumed his meditation.
Moments later, Raea’s face paled. “Uh, Palan,” she said. Her voice quavered. “We have a problem.”
“What?” Palan asked and sighed as his concentration was broken for a second time.
“You know how we had a level six contract before?”
“No,” Palan said.
“Well, we did. It’s level seven now,” Raea said and bit her lip.
Raea didn’t say anything and handed the contract to Palan while keeping her head lowered. He furrowed his brow and took it from her, holding it up in front of his face. His expression hardened. “You can’t be serious,” he said. He lowered the paper and glared at Raea. “Did you do this?”
“No!” Raea said and shook her head. “I swear I didn’t. I don’t think it’s even possible to adjust a contract without both parties’ permission.”
“Then how did this happen?” Palan asked. He grabbed the top of the contract and attempted to tear it apart. The paper didn’t budge or even wrinkle.
“I don’t know,” Raea said and chewed the inside of her lip.
“Dissolve it!” Palan shouted and grabbed Raea by the neck. Cleo’s eyes widened, and she released Palan’s back, inching away from the duo.
Raea’s brow furrowed. “You read it yourself,” she said, her voice strained. Her eyes were wet. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t know that this would happen.”
Palan glared at Raea with bloodshot eyes while taking in deep breaths. His teeth were bared, and all the muscles in his body were tensed. The hand wrapped around Raea’s neck trembled, but she didn’t do anything to resist. The two were as still as statues: tears rolled down Raea’s face as they stared at each other. After a long moment, Palan released her, causing her to fall limply to the ground. He growled and asked, “What’s the Creator’s judgment?”
“I don’t know,” Raea said as she sat up with a pale face. Her heart pounded in her chest. “The Creator has a monument in the capital.” She lowered her head. “That might be where it is.”
Palan exhaled and crossed his arms over his chest before sitting down. He held his hand out in front of himself, palm facing up. He narrowed his eyes. Raea winced and her already pale faced turned as white as a sheet. A glowing, white chain shot out of Palan’s palm and twirled around in the air. Sweat fell from Raea’s and Palan’s foreheads. The chain vanished as Palan snorted. “At least there were some benefits,” he said. Cleo took tentative steps towards Palan, but Danger Noodle hissed at her, causing her to scurry away to the far edge of the storage chest.
“Are you still mad?” Raea asked after a moment of hesitation. Her brow furrowed as she gazed at Palan.
“Don’t talk to me right now,” Palan said as he wrapped his tail around his body. He crossed his legs and began to meditate, going over the contents of the contract in his head. The piece of paper in his hand glowed with a faint yellow light before disappearing. Raea wrapped her arms around her legs and brought her knees to her chest, watching Palan.
The suns traveled across the sky. Countless numbers of trees passed by as the storage chest rolled on. Palan stopped meditating and sighed before turning around to face Raea. “It’s not too bad,” he said and narrowed his eyes. “As long as we can still dissolve it in the capital, nothing’s really changed.” Raea nodded and bit her lip. Going to the capital to send Palan back was one thing. Breaking into the council’s room to see the Creator’s monument was a completely different beast.
“So you two are good now?” Cleo asked from her distant spot.
“For now,” Palan said. Cleo smiled and tackled Palan.
“You shouldn’t have yelled at Raea,” Cleo said. “You have to treat your wife nicely in the fut—“
Her voice was cut off as Danger Noodle ate her.