The elephant continued to march after the army, pulling the storage chest along. After a while, Raea took a deep breath and looked up while wiping away her tears. She saw Sally in a harpy sleeping posture, and Cleo squatting next to her. “Where’s Palan?” she asked in a whisper.
Cleo looked around and tilted her head. “Odd. I didn’t know he could turn invisible,” she said and started to sniff the air.
“He left,” Sally said and pointed off the storage chest with the wing she wasn’t hiding her head under.
“Did he say anything before leaving?” Raea asked and pursed her lips. “Why would he leave right after Sely?” She sighed and rested her chin on her knees. Cleo walked to the edge of the storage chest and squinted off into the distance. She went back to the other end of the storage chest and scrambled up the reins connecting it to the elephant. A chunk of vegetables appeared in her hands as she maneuvered her way across the elephants back.
“Slow down a bit, Mr. Bubbles,” Cleo said to the elephant and pat its head, offering it the vegetables in her hand. It trumpeted and snatched the food away with its trunk. Its walking pace slowed until it was the last elephant in line. Cleo nodded and ran back to the other end of the storage chest and waited. Time passed. “I think I see him coming back,” she said when she saw a purple demon floating towards them in the air. “I think Danger Noodle was just hungry. He looks very full now.”
Raea looked up just in time to see Palan land on the storage chest. Danger Noodle squirmed around oddly. It opened the top entrance of the storage chest and lowered itself inside before puking something out. Palan closed the storage chest as his tail wrapped itself around his torso. He sat on top of the entrance. The elephant’s pace slowed considerably.
The three stared at Palan, but he didn’t seem to notice their gazes. Cleo was the first to speak. “What did you just do?” she asked and tried to push his body away to open the top of the chest. Palan poked her forehead, causing her to fall over.
“I’ll tell you later,” he said. He turned towards Raea. “Do you know where we’re going?”
“We’re going towards the capital, but I don’t know if that’s our final destination,” Raea said. “We could be stopping by the second or first sectors.”
“Hey,” Cleo said. “What’s your brother doing?” She pointed at the head of the army. Elrith was leaving Michael’s side and heading towards the back of the marching soldiers. He passed the storage chests and ignored Cleo’s calls for his attention.
“Don’t bother him,” Raea said. “I’m sure he has his reasons. As the general of an army, he can’t always spare his time to talk to his little sister. Duty first.” A wry smile appeared on Raea’s lips. “You’ve seen Selena.”
“Your family is full of fuddy-duddies,” Cleo said and wrinkled her nose. Elrith walked past the last elephant and storage chest and glanced at the moving army before staring at the ground. He placed his palms against the road and closed his eyes. The earth trembled and farmers let out cries of alarm. In certain areas, the ground began to sink downwards, creating an uneven landscape of hills and valleys. Elrith continued channeling his power, ignoring the destruction he was causing to the farms. Cleo clung onto Palan’s body as the storage chest rumbled and started to shake. “What is he doing?”
“Collapsing tunnels,” Palan said and raised an eyebrow. The earth bobbed up and down like waves in the ocean, the ripples spreading out far beyond where Palan could see. However, the earthquake only seemed to be affecting the areas behind the army. He wrinkled his nose. “Why can’t I do something like that?”
“What do you mean?” Raea asked. Her face was pale. Dozens of lizardmen and goblins were screaming as they huddled next to each other in the shaking fields.
“My power can’t cover such a huge area like this,” Palan said. “I can’t even see where his power ends.”
“He’s an archangel,” Raea said. “And all powers have their own specialties. There’s no reason for all of them to be able to do the same thing.” She frowned and looked at the storage chest. She thought she heard a muffled scream. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Palan asked. “There’s lots of things to hear.” The ground suddenly ceased trembling, and the surroundings were only filled with the sound of wailing. The farms were totally destroyed. Raea’s stomach sank when she realized why the army had insisted on cramming the storage chests full of food before leaving.
“Did he just destroy his own farms?” Sally asked. She had sat up after the storage chest stopped shaking. “Why would he do that? Does he want to starve?”
“Why would he starve?” Palan asked. There were no such things as farms in Eljiam. There was the occasional animal breeder, but those people usually didn’t last very long.
“It would be like me destroying our mushrooms,” Sally said and watched as Elrith walked past the storage chests again towards the head of the army. His face was dark. “We’d have nothing left to eat.”
“You can eat each other?” Palan asked. “I don’t see what the issue is.”
“I think they grow the farms so they don’t have to eat each other,” Cleo said.
“Well, it doesn’t look like they have much of a choice now,” Palan said and snorted.
“There’s still the northern, eastern, and southern sections of the third sector,” Raea said. “Our territory is like giant concentric circles with each sector in the circles. I want to believe Elrith was destroying the rebels’ tunnels and not the farms. He wouldn’t do something so cold-hearted without a reason. The army fights for the people; it shouldn’t hurt them.” She wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince—her companions or herself.
The four rode in silence when Mr. Bubbles, the elephant, suddenly trumpeted. The ground beneath its feet cracked and fissures formed. Palan’s eyes widened, and he lunged at Raea, bringing her into his embrace. The earth collapsed and swallowed the elephant along with the storage chest. The army ground to a halt. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to find the elephant that vanished. Elrith even raised columns of earth out of the ground but to no avail.