A/N: There is a sequel to this: Trials of Love.
If anyone is an artist and would be interested in doing some cover art, please contact me! :)
To address inevitable criticism: I include things about priests and God for a simple reason: this entire show deals with questions about sin, forgiveness, Heaven, whether angels can be evil and demons good, and so on. To expect me to write a deep story in this show necessitates me going into places where I can answer those questions.
I hope you all enjoy this ending!
What happens to a purposeless heart?
It ceases to beat.
If Maou had to describe his life for the twenty-four hours after the Incident, it would be just that: heartless, in a more profound sense of the word. A life suddenly absent of meaning.
By the time he had finished reading her letter, it was approximately two o'clock in the afternoon; she had died around ten that morning, and the police came on the scene within the hour due to an anonymous phone call. Maou had arrived by noon.
And now he sat in the police station. Ashiya knew his King well enough to leave him alone; like the good steward he was, he called MgRonalds, informing the manager that Maou was experiencing a deep, personal tragedy. She gave him a month leave of absence, allowing Ashiya to work in his place. Someone has to pay the bills, after all.
The others drifted back to the lives, one by one. Chiho was going to stay with him, but Suzuno convinced her to let him grieve. This was a very old and complex relationship; better to let him sort through it himself.
In some part of his mind, he was surprised. When did his world become so human? When did his enemy become his friend?
Or, if he were being totally honest: more than a friend?
His mind kept replaying moments with her: her many facial expressions, the rarest and most beautiful of which was her smile; her passionate drive that pushed her to keep running, no matter what; her beauty; her life, vibrant and fiery and fundamentally good…
But what really killed him was the reason she died.
She died to save him.
With that realization, it was like everything else failed to matter. Even if he did have dreams to conquer the world: why? Why does that matter? If someone as good and incredible and excellent as her was willing to give everything up to save one life…
She had something he didn't, he realized. She found meaning in things that he didn't. After all, he was the Devil King; she was the Hero. He had always assumed that her motivations were the same as his–just on a polar opposite. They were just playing chess: she played as White, he as Black.
Perhaps that was true between him and Olba; in the end, Olba and many ministers in the Ente Isla Church probably wanted something similar to what he wanted. They really were playing a game of chess, with no real difference besides the color of the pieces.
But that wasn't true for Emi. She really was different. Her values–her very heart–differed from his.
In Ente Isla, he valued power. Strength. Control. The dark energy was like a corrupt, passionate thing, which sought more and more power. It would inspire in him a desire to consume and devour anything it touched. As a demon, that was what he fed off of. Even on Earth, he could feel those passions: fear, despair, sorrow, anger, hatred, and so on. He could reach out and grasp them, letting them feed the inner demon.
But when he came to Earth as a human, he began to feel something else. He felt almost like two creatures; there was a hunger within him for darkness, but another voice awakened within him–one he hadn't heard in a long, long time. A sense of goodness.
It whispered to him in the silence of his heart: smile at them; it will make their day better. Help that lady cross the road; it will make her smile, and that is a reward in itself. Save those people's lives; it is good to do so.
Slowly, he began to listen to that second voice, as quiet as it was, until it became a true contender for his heart; and now, sitting in the police station, cradling his head in his hands, he realized the truth of it all.
That voice in his heart was love; and that was what set Emi apart from everyone else. She had grasped onto that same voice in her heart; but where he rejected it in his youth, she accepted it and followed it, as wholly as she could, even to her death. True Love.
Of course, she wasn't perfect. But out of everyone Maou knew…
You can be one too.
He stared at those words, at the bottom of Emi's letter. "Can I?" He whispered. He had been holding back his grief since he heard the news and saw the body; but it began to bubble up, threatening to consume him.
His train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a police officer.
"Mr. Maou? I understand you were close to Ms. Yusa."
He nodded bleakly.
"We can let you come see the body once more, before the autopsy, if you would like. It's the last chance you'll have to see her for some time."
He stood up slowly, feeling a great burden on his heart. He nodded.
The officer led him through a set of double doors to an elevator. As the doors closed and the officer pressed the button for the morgue, Maou leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.
The last time he would see her before the funeral…
Earlier that morning.
Archangel Iustia walked through the door of the church, frowning.
It was an awfully strange church, compared to those on Ente Isla. Their main focus seemed to be on a man crucified; while Iustia always appreciated a focus on justice, he felt this might be going a bit far.
Though it was strange; he saw images of crosses anywhere, but no one actually being crucified.
Maybe it meant something else.
In any case, Iustia got the feeling he wouldn't like it much.
He pulled down his hoodie, letting his (literally) glorious blond hair shine through the church. Thankfully, no one else was here. For once in a long time, he desired to be alone. His heart felt heavy.
He wandered about, looking at the different portraits. Saints being killed. Men dying. Each scene struck his heart more; it was like he was seeing Emi in each martyr, and his own face in each of the murderers.
He sighed, and finally took a seat, leaning back to stare at the ceiling. Earlier that morning, he had killed Emi, unleashing all of the sacred power that he had, to deliver the just punishment upon her, in place of the Devil King.
But he couldn't shake the feeling in his heart that what happened wasn't just. Sure, she volunteered to take another's place; and justice had to be served…
He stood up and continued walking around the church. He would force himself to look at the paintings of these martyrs; eventually, he would be able to overcome these feelings and move on. As he always did.
As he watched, he noticed something strange; he never saw the punishment of sinners. In fact, he began to realize that the person shown crucified wasn't a criminal.
He paced around the church in increasing anxiety. Unfortunately, the pictures themselves didn't seem to explain what was happening.
He didn't notice the presence of someone else until she coughed politely.
He turned around swiftly before relaxing. "Suzuno."
She bowed low before him. "Archangel Iustia. An unexpected pleasure."
His heart began to trouble him again, as he faintly recalled her friendship with Emi. "Indeed." He spoke curtly, turning away.
"I saw the signs."
"The sacred energy all around her corpse. The lingering energy from an Archangel. It wasn't hard to deduce."
He looked at the ground as she continued to speak.
"Why Emi? Why would Heaven send an Archangel of Justice after her?"
"They didn't." He spoke softly.
She kept silent.
"The target was the Devil King. But…"
There was a pause, as Suzuno sighed.
"She invoked the clause."
Suzuno took a seat in a pew, laying her head across the pew in front of her. "Why does this require so much of us?"
Iustia knew what she was asking. If they were doing what was right, why did it hurt so much? Why did it feel so wrong? How could justice cause so much pain?
Suddenly, a third person joined the conversation:
"Because it is not yours to do."
Both Iustia and Suzuno flinched from surprise, whirling around to spot the third party.
It was the priest from yesterday.
"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." The priest spoke quietly.
"But it is our duty." Iustia spoke, turning piercing eyes on the black-clad man.
"I desire mercy, not sacrifice." He spoke again.
"Impossible," the Archangel spit out. "Mercy is letting someone free of justice. It is not just to those who suffered."
"Is that so." The priest began to walk around the sides of the church.
"You cannot erase evils in the world!" Suzuno spoke, directing her gaze to the young priest. "There must be due recompense for causing evil; otherwise…"
"Otherwise, it seems evil has won, hmm?" The priest continued walking towards the altar. The other two stood and followed him. "But what about the place where mercy and justice meet?"
"There is no such place. It is impossible." Iustia spoke once more. "One cannot both be punished, and yet find themselves free of punishment."
"Is it not true that your own law allows for justice to be done to another? So certainly one man can be free of punishment, while justice is also served."
"But then an innocent dies! You cannot escape death!"
"Ah!" The priest laughed. "There, my friend, you underestimate God."
He stopped in front of the altar, gazing at the Crucifix hanging above it.
"You see, there is one way for justice to be done and mercy to be given."
Iustia and Suzuno watched him with a terrible curiosity evident in their eyes.
"The One who dies must be able to conquer death."
Iustia laughed scornfully. "What a fool. Resurrection of the dead is impossible! No one can do it! No one except–"
Suddenly, he froze. A look of horror ran across his face.
Suzuno seemed to follow his train of thought, as she suddenly gazed at the crucifix with a mixed look of horror and wonder.
"You can't possibly mean…"
The priest smiled.
"You are right, of course. There is only one who, by dying, can conquer death. Only one who can free us from the death of justice and bring us the eternal joy of love."
He turned back and faced the crucifix and the image of the One lying upon it.
"That would be God."
Words could never describe what she experienced, though she would certainly try when she returned.
It was like laying on a beach, where the sun's rays shined on your skin; but these rays were like pure joy and peace, and they shined on her heart.
It was as if your heart was immersed in pure love, being so overwhelmed and overcome that you are surprised your heart can hold that much within you.
It was the pinnacle of all the joys in her life; this love of God surpassed everything she had ever experienced.
In short: Emi was experiencing a glimpse of heaven; or, to be more specific, a glimpse of God.
She felt as if her heart was going to explode from the immensity and infinitude of the pure life she felt from Him, burning within her heart but never consuming it.
It only lasted for a short time; but she counted every moment with Him as more valuable and more good than anything she ever felt on earth.
She wished to stay; but she felt a calling and pull back to Earth. There was still a mission left for her. So she let the guiding hand of God lead her back, back down, away from the brilliance of true Heaven's light, until…
The doors to the morgue opened.
Maou had prepared himself to see many things; but he hadn't prepared himself for this.
Mainly because "this" was nothing.
The morgue was empty.
The officer scratched his head. "Hmm. They said they would bring her right over…"
They walked into the back room. One of the morgue technicians nodded to him.
"Hey. Have y'all gotten Ms. Emi Yusa's body here?"
The technician shook his head. "I heard they had a surprise Code Blue in the hospital, so they delayed any traffic to the morgue."
"Code Blue?" Maou asked, his interest slowly coming back.
"Ah, yeah. Code Blue is a patient who needs immediate medical treatment to survive. Usually a heart attack." The officer turned back to the technician. "A surprise one? Why would that obstruct the morgue elevator?"
"Well, I think the Code Blue was in the morgue elevator." He shrugged. "Might've been your Ms. Yusa."
At that, Maou froze. It was like his heart stopped.
The officer knew how terrible a false hope would be, so he hurriedly called on his radio. "Details on the Code Blue?"
The response, though filled with static, came through clear enough: "Code Blue was in the morgue elevator. Emi Yusa turned out not to be dead. She's in Operation Room Two."
"They have yet to say."
"She's…" Maou fell back against the wall. It felt like his heart had suddenly begun beating again; each beat felt invigorating, but painful. His body suddenly felt sore, as if it were coming back to life after a long time in the grave. Even though it had only been a few hours since they found her body.
"She's alive. It happens, occasionally; though I wouldn't get your hopes up too high." He laid a hand on Maou's shoulder. "It's very rare for someone to be as close to death as she is and recover."
Maou nodded. Still. There was a chance: she might survive.
Emi might survive!
The next few hours were anxiety-ridden. He sat in the waiting room as doctors and nurses ran, here and there, with reports and medical supplies.
He was soon informed that she had made it through the most difficult stage; they would hopefully have her stable soon. But, alas! He couldn't see her just yet.
More hours passed. He distinctly recalled Ashiya bringing him food and Chiho bringing him a pillow and blankets. Not that he would use them.
The doctors told him that she was getting stable; they would know in the next few hours whether she would make it.
Though he insisted he was fine, the hospital staff forced him to take a nap.
When he woke, several hours later, a smiling nurse had brought him goods news.
She was going to make it. And, though she was unconscious, he could see her now.
He felt numb. The nurse took his hand and guided him to the room where she was resting. He walked around the corner, brushing aside the sheets that separated him from her…
And then he saw her.
She lay in the bed, her brilliant red hair still splayed with specks of her own blood. Her body looked tormented. But, above all, she was alive. Her chest rose, as she breathed in deeply.
Maou's heart suddenly was flooded with emotion, the most prominent of which was joy. All the emotion proved too much for his poor heart; he began to sob.
The officer and doctor smiled tenderly as they watched him; it was rare that they got to see something as beautiful as this.
"Emi! Oh, Emi!" He fell to his knees, grabbing her limp hand and holding it to his tear-ridden face.
For a minute, he couldn't speak. He just cried over her hand, gripping it like it might fly away at any moment.
"Emi…I thought you were dead. I thought…" He sniffed, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. A little late for that, as her hand was soaked in his tears. "I thought I'd lost you!"
He kept his eyes on her hand. It looked weak and frail, which only made him want to cry more. "When I got that phone call from the police station that something terrible had happened to you, it felt like my heart stopped. I was so scared. I ran to your place and…" He closed his eyes, forcing those images away. "And when I read your letter, I realized something that I should have known a long time ago."
"Emi Yusa, I love you!" He burst into tears again. But he kept speaking through it. "When I see you, my heart stops; when I heard that–that–" He fought to speak, as his crying made it difficult. "–that you died, I felt like my heart had died. Everything else seemed colorless without you. Emi, you're what brings me to life!"
With that, his confession completed, he rested his hand on hers, and laid his head along her arm.
"But what killed me was hearing about why you died." As pathetic as he knew he looked, he couldn't help it; he began to sob again. "You loved me so much, Emi, more than I've ever been loved. More than I've ever deserved! Oh, Emi!"
As he sobbed into her hand, he heard some shuffling. Looking up, he saw Emi's bright, green eyes looking at him. She smiled gently.
"Maou…" She said softly. Her hand, limp as it was, grasped his. She was too tired to do much more than that; it seemed like every word was exhausting. "I forgive you."
With that, she fell back asleep.
Emi's recovery, it was decided, should be partly done in the hospital, and then moved to a comfortable home-living situation. Maou volunteered to help her recover; somewhat to his surprise, Emi agreed.
And so, a week after the almost murder, Maou found himself carrying Emi into her old apartment. She felt exceedingly light; it felt like he was carrying a weighted pillow.
But he carried her with all the tenderness he could muster–which was plenty. His heart raced as he held her in his arms. He felt as though he were holding something of endless worth.
He glanced down at her as they walked. She was semi-conscious, drifting in and out of sleep. Even with a week of rest, her body had a lot of trauma and blood loss to recover from; it would take another few weeks before she was back in shape.
As he walked into the apartment, he laid her down on the couch, laying a blanket over her. Then he sat on the edge of the couch, watching her.
He continued to be captivated by how beautiful she was. It made his heart swell–to be able to help care for her. It gave a sense of intimacy.
He brewed a cup of tea and went about taking care of chores around her apartment; it wasn't until close to dinner that he finally finished with everything and brought a small plate of food to her.
He gently roused her. "Emi. Hey, Emi. Wake up."
She stirred, blinking owlishly. "Hmm?"
"You up for dinner?"
She exhaled heavily. "Yeah, that'd be good."
She attempted to sit up, but couldn't. Maou laughed gently. "Ah, can't even sit up. How sad."
She scowled at him for the first time in weeks, which made him laugh again.
"Alright, let me help you."
Emi expected him to help her sit up; but apparently, that wasn't his intention. Instead, he sidled over close to her and prepared to spoon feed her.
"You must be joking."
He raised an eyebrow. "Do you want to eat?"
"Ugh." She moaned. "I knew having you as my caretaker was a terrible idea."
"I guess that's a no…" He began to move away.
"Wait!" He stopped. She sighed. "Fine. Go ahead."
He smirked and lifted the spoon for her to eat. She grimaced at how helpless she was; but she ate.
Once they were finished, Maou began to eat his dinner beside her. He could feel her green eyes watching him.
"Thank you, Maou."
He almost dropped his soup. "What?"
She blushed slightly. "Thank you for taking care of me."
He turned to her with a serious face; he ran a hand through her hair as he spoke. "Emi…"
She closed her eyes and hummed comfortably.
She trusts me, Maou realized, as his heart skipped a beat. She feels comfortable with me, even though she's entirely powerless.
This simple fact was powerful enough to dampen his eyes.
"Emi, I will always be here for you. After all, you gave your life to save mine; this is the least I could do."
She murmured. He leaned in closer to hear.
"Is that all?"
He froze, as his mind slowly worked through what she was asking. Her eyes opened to watch him with a slight smile.
You're enjoying this, aren't you, he thought, as she merrily watched him blush.
"…well…no." He blushed more fiercely. "I…uh…"
"I love you, Emi."
Her smile grew as she closed her eyes again.
"I love you too, Maou."
For a moment, they sat peacefully in each other's company, before Emi began to murmur something. Maou leaned in again.
"Are you going to be a Hero?"
"A demon can't die for others, Emi."
She turned bright, green eyes upon him.
"But a human can."
He leaned in and kissed her, whispering in her ear:
"You became my Hero when you died for me; I think it's about time that I became yours."
Maou had finally gained the heart of a hero.