“Why did you stop digging?” Raea asked and looked at Palan’s face. A sliver of light shone through the crack Palan had dug open, illuminating his face. His brow was furrowed, and his mouth was slightly parted. Raea tried to look over his shoulder to see what he was seeing, but she could only see a splotch of brown. “Palan?”
He didn’t respond. Selena sat with her back to a wall, taking slow and steady breaths as she focused on staying conscious. Her brow furrowed when she saw Palan stop, but she didn’t have the strength to call out. By her feet, Cleo and Sally lay unconscious. “Palan,” Raea said again, using her hands to shake him this time. “Are you okay?” She started to walk towards the wall to finish breaking through, but Palan held her back while putting a finger to his lips.
“What’s going on?” Raea whispered.
“I know the person on the other side,” Palan said and sighed. His tail moved, widening the fissure. He wasn’t sure why more dirt didn’t just fall from the ceiling, but he didn’t question it. He positioned himself in front of Raea and swept the rest of the loose dirt away, clearing the original entrance to the farm. He crossed his hands in front of his chest and stared at the four-winged figure in front of him. “Why am I always running into you?” he asked.
Madison’s wings fluttered as she took a step towards Palan. Her eyes were cold and narrowed. “So this was your beautiful friend?” she asked and smiled as she stared at his neck. She seemed to be looking through him, and Raea couldn’t help but shudder at the cloying voice. She took a step to the side and got a good look at the four-winged, beaked demon. Madison took a step forward. “Is she really prettier than me?” Her gaze traveled down Raea’s body. “Is it her hair? Her eyes? Maybe her mouth and nose? Or do you like her legs more than mine?” She tilted her head and looked at Palan. “I can remove all of those.” She smiled.
Raea reflexively summoned her chains of patience when Madison smiled. “Eh? Powers work?” she asked. She took a step back. “Palan? Who is she?”
Palan didn’t respond. Instead, he lunged at Madison, swinging his fist towards her head while his tail circled behind her. She didn’t react, letting him collide with the translucent film she set up earlier. There was a cracking noise, and Palan’s fist flew backwards and began to bleed at the knuckles. Danger Noodle attempted to wrap itself around Madison’s body, but she stepped on its head before it got the chance. Madison blinked and asked, “Is that all?”
Palan flicked his tail, knocking Madison off Danger Noodle’s head, and retreated backwards while pulling Raea. He tossed Raea towards Selena and said, “Heal them.” He stared at Madison who hadn’t moved. “What do you want?” he asked.
“Nothing much,” Madison said. She held our right arm out to the side. An outline of a hammer began to form in the air. “I just want their lives.” The hammer fully formed, and she pointed it at the group of four behind Palan. “Give them to me?”
“They’re my property,” Palan said and narrowed his eyes.
“Well, I want them,” Madison said. She frowned as Raea knelt and began to heal the unconscious halflings. “You said they were prettier than me. A hundred million billion trillion times prettier than me. I have to get rid of them.”
“That isn’t going to happen,” Palan said. He bared his teeth as Madison swung her hammer at him. He used the striped, red scales on his tail to block the blow. A dull pain spread through his tail, but he ignored it. His body began to glow with a black light, and the ground beneath his feet bowed inwards. He lifted his leg and kicked forward, stomping towards Madison’s chest.
“Stop!” Selena shouted, but Palan ignored her. His foot made contact with the barrier around Madison. There was a snapping sound, and Palan was launched backwards, crashing into a mushroom. The black glow around his body faded before he touched the ground. “She’s a narcissism demon,” Selena said while staring at Madison. “Any force applied to her barrier will be applied back to you.” Her face paled. “She might be an archdemon. I’ve never seen any demon manipulate their barrier to form a weapon.”
“Aren’t I awesome?” Madison asked as she waddled forward with her translucent hammer slung over her shoulder. Raea looked up after she finished healing Sally. She wanted to run over and heal Palan, but she didn’t know if Madison would suddenly attack her if she tried to move. Although the four-winged demon was smiling and looked relaxed, Raea felt like she was being suffocated by her presence. A hand touched her shoulder.
“Heal me,” Selena said to Raea. Raea nodded and gripped her sister’s hand, sending a white light through her arm.
“It’s pathetic when worms struggle,” Madison said. She stopped walking and watched as Palan sat up while Raea healed Selena. Cleo and Sally also began to stir. “I don’t understand why you said they were prettier than me. They’re so weak.” Madison waited. The only sound that could be heard was the heavy breathing of the people within the cave. “Well? Why aren’t you saying anything?” She glared at Palan.
“Fuck you,” Palan said and stood up. Raea trembled and gasped before letting go of Selena’s hand and clutching her chest. She hunched over and began to pant. Tears formed in her eyes as her hands closed into fists.
“This…,” Raea said, “this feeling.” She turned her head to look at Palan while Selena grabbed her shoulders. Palan’s hands started to shine as if he had a layer of oil on his skin. He ran forward and charged at Madison.
Madison frowned at the sheen on Palan’s hand and raised her hammer to block his assault. There was no sound when her hammer collided with his hand. Instead of bouncing off like before, Palan remained firmly rooted in place. “Greed?” Madison asked and raised an eyebrow as she tried to shake Palan’s hands off of her weapon. He was grabbing the head with his right hand, and his left hand grabbed the shaft. “You were a greed demon too?”
“I want this hammer,” Palan said and grinned at her, ripping the translucent hammer out of her grasp. It disappeared when it left her hands, but he didn’t seem to mind. He stretched his hand forward and reached for her neck. Madison retreated backwards with a flap of her wings.
“How come I didn’t sense it in your evolution?” Madison asked and tilted her head. “All I got was a little bit of pride.” Her black wings fluttered as she ran her fingers through them. She sighed and materialized a translucent sword. “I’ll ask you again. Do you really think they’re prettier than me?”
“No! They’re hideous. Absolutely disgusting to look at. How can they possibly compare to you, Lady Madison? You’re the most beautiful and glorious demon that ever laid foot on the ground. When you fly in the air, birds fall out of the sky because they forgot to flap their wings after seeing your grace. The flowers dare not show their petals out of shame when you walk amongst them. Even the sun and moon shine less brightly when you smile. Nothing can possibly compare to your grace. Compared to you, we are just weeds while you are a flower.”
Everyone turned to look at Sally. She was prostrating herself while spouting off more and more lines of excessive praise. With every line, the smile on Madison’s face seemed to become bigger. Madison clapped her hands when Sally finished. “I like you,” she said. She pointed at Palan. “But I want to hear it from him. I want him to do an even better job of praising me.”
All eyes turned towards Palan.