Chapter 135

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A flock of harpies flew through the pitch-black sky, chattering the whole way. At the head of the group, Madison was flying while singing a song about her glorious deeds, praising her own beauty, cunning, charm, and sensibility. There was a purple, glowing orb in her talons that the harpies were using as a beacon. A harpy with light-brown hair and green eyes flew up to her. “Ma’am,” the harpy said and bobbed her head, “why did we stop so soon? I thought our orders were to continuously harass the angels.”

Madison’s face turned dark as her song was interrupted. She smacked the harpy’s wing, causing her to careen out of control and spiral downwards. Moments later, the harpy flew back up under Madison’s hard gaze. “It’s not your job to think. Stupid birdbrain,” Madison said and clicked her beak. “Who’s the prettiest leader that’s in charge here?”

“You are, ma’am,” the harpy said. Her voice cracked. “But I don’t understand. I thought—“

Madison smacked the poor harpy’s wing again. “What did I just say?”

“You’re the prettiest leader that’s in charge here,” the harpies behind her chorused.

“That’s right,” Madison said and nodded. “You stupid birdbrains can’t even see in the dark. I know that you’re inferior to me, but in that case, you shouldn’t resemble me so much. All of you armless, wings-missing, four-taloned, beakless fools are ruining my image.” Madison sighed. She had five talons on each foot: four in the front, one in the back.

The harpies made illegible noises as they chattered amongst each other. Madison crinkled her beak as she turned her head one eighty degrees to stare at them with her body still flying forwards. An object whistled through the air and crashed into Madison while she wasn’t looking. She let out a shriek as she was dragged downwards, plunging towards the ground. The harpies let out cries of alarm as their guiding purple light disappeared. The harpy that had her wing smacked blinked and peered towards the ground while hovering in the same spot. “I think we should go after her.”

“No one cares what you think, Sally,” the harpies surrounding her said. “Didn’t you hear what the glorious leader said? We’ll wait right here. You’re not the precious matriarch’s daughter anymore. We don’t have to listen to you.” Sally sighed and blinked back tears as she started to circle around in the air.

***

Palan let out a groan as he sat up. Underneath him, a four-winged figure was pressed against the forest ground. “What the hell?” Palan asked as he stood up. “Madison?”

“You stupid Piano!” Madison screeched as she got off the floor and dusted her body off. She started to preen her feathers which were still black from Palan’s leftover evolution residue. “Do you even look at where you’re going when you fly!?” Madison paused mid-preen. “Fly?” Her head tilted as she lowered her wing. “You can fly?” She blinked.

“Maybe you should’ve watched where you were going,” Palan said and snorted. “I was in the sky first.” His tail uncoiled from his body and started to size Madison up. Its tongue flickered.

Madison’s beak wrinkled. “You keep that stupid worm away from me,” she said and dismissed Danger Noodle with her hand. She cracked her neck and shook out her legs. “But how did you fly? I’ve never seen you sleep. Pride? Pride? You’re a pride demon?” Madison’s head extended forward, keeping her body still. She blinked at Palan and inspected his face. “You’re awfully weak for a pride demon.” Her wings flapped hard once, and she alighted in a tree, avoiding Danger Noodle who lunged at her.

“Just my luck,” Palan said and sighed. “Of all the people to run into; I meet the idiot.”

“Scatterbrained fool.”

“Same thing,” Palan said. “How about we pretend we never saw each other and continue on our respective ways?”

“Noooooope,” Madison sang and smiled. “I haven’t been outside in aaages. I’m going to follow you.”

“Do you even know where I’m going?” Palan asked. His brow creased.

“Doesn’t matter. Doeeeeesn’t matter. It has to be more pleasant than tunnels,” Madison said and sighed while shaking her head. She buried her face in her hands before glancing up at the sky. “Alas, beauty such as mine should never be kept underground. It must be presented freely to the—hey! Where are you going? I’m still monologuing.”

Palan tried to ignore her as he leapt into the air. Madison followed after him, but not before picking up the purple orb on the ground. The duo rose over the treetops. Bird cries reached their ears as the flock of harpies above them flew towards the glowing orb. “What the hell?” Palan asked as he turned his head to stare at Madison who was flying alongside him. “Are they going to follow me too? I can’t go anywhere with a group of feather-people following me.”

Madison’s head bobbed up and down. “They follow me because I’m beautiful. And I’m following you, so it makes sense that they’ll follow you too,” she said and smiled.

“Are you serious?” Palan asked himself under his breath.

“I’m never not not never serious,” Madison said. The first harpies began to arrive. They flew much faster than Palan floated. “Hey, everyone,” Madison said and waved at the harpies. “This is, Pi— … Pa— … Po? This is Pipapo. He’s my best friend.”

Sally blinked her green eyes at Palan. He didn’t seem very enthusiastic. She could tell even though his face was barely illuminated by the orb. Sally opened her mouth, and asked, “Are you sure? I don’t think—“

“What did I tell you about thinking?!” Madison screeched and smacked Sally’s wing. She snorted and glanced at Palan. “They’re not as smart as I am.” Palan didn’t respond. “They always have these ideas that should never be expressed. They wanted me to follow Solra’s orders exactly. Can you believe that? An archdemon like me, following orders. The nerve.”

“Don’t you have to follow orders?” Palan asked and raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that how the whole contract thing works?”

Madison blinked at him. “What contract?” she asked.

“You know,” Palan said, “the yellow paper that binds you to Solra?”

“Don’t have one,” Madison said.

“Wait. What?”

“Come on, Pipapo,” Madison said. “I’m going to get mad at you. You’re supposed to be smarter than them.” She gestured towards the harpies following behind them. “Maybe you didn’t hear me? Do I have to clean your ears? I have this secret recipe that leads to clean skin and clean ears.” She nodded and reached for Palan’s face. He batted her arm away, the impact changing his flight course slightly.

“How did you meet Solra then?” Palan asked.

“He’s my uncle,” Madison said.

“Huh?” Palan asked, even more confused than when he started. “What kind of messed up family do you come from?”

“Oh, silly. You have to be ten times prettier before you can even be considered to meet them,” Madison said, her eyes fluttering.

“I give up,” Palan said and tossed his hands into the air. Sally sympathized with him. Her wing still stung.

“Give up what?” Madison asked and tilted her head. “Don’t worry. Maybe one more evolution will make you more handsome. What do you think? One more evolution, yes? Let me watch when it happens.” Her eyes gleamed.

“Nope. I’m done. Done. Stop talking to me. I can’t do this right now.”


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