Author's Note: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Years! This chapter has been in the works for a long time, as I faced numerous delays due to working on my Capstone Project. However I'm happy to say that I will be resuming regular monthly updates on this as well as Highschool DxD Star Shooter and Death in Halkeginia. Stay tuned as I've been on a Code Geass binge lately and I feel a possible story coming out soon.
With the Magician powering it gone, the barriers surrounding the room, trapping them within its confines, disappeared. However even with it gone no one moved, their minds still trying to process what they had seen. Mechanically they sent out pulses of magic, trying to understand the situation that they had found themselves in.
The angels, both of the Heavenly Host and the Fallen, had fared much better than their Infernal counterparts, and even in the presence of Sirzechs' released form, the Light flowing through them had protected them against the worst effects. In addition they had been stationed at the perimeter, and only fought Magicians who had not been aiming to kill.
Michael and Azazel sighed in relief, and though they would never acknowledge it they were both happy that the majority of their forces would be able to walk away from this unscathed and those that had suffered grievous wounds had been stabilized by their comrades.
Better the more populous Devils suffer than them.
For Serafall Leviathan the picture was bleak.
The Devils, who had been guarding the outer complex had all been turned to ash, their bodies sucked dry of all their energy, for what purpose they did not know, but the results spoke for themselves. Of the hundreds strong force that they had brought, the majority of which were made up of both her and Sirzechs' Elite Honor Guard, not even 50 remained, and that included both her sister's and Rias' peerages.
Tentatively they left the remains of the meeting room, wary for any traps that the Magician might have left behind to hinder them. To their surprise, they found none. Though with his strength there's no need for him to use a surprise attack. Azazel thought ruefully. Once it was deemed safe Grayfia was the first one from the room, heading straight for the crater where her husband had been struck down.
"Lord Michael!" A contingent of Angels came flying towards them. "Thank Father that you're safe."
"And you as well" Michael smiled. "What's the situation?"
"The Magicians are fleeing through portals, and the majority of our forces are engaged with their rearguard. Skirmishes have broken out as our scouts encounter detached units, but we are gradually pushing them back with the help of the Fallen. Several groups have reported injuries however there have been no fatalities reported for either side."
"Good." Michael said nodding along. "Good job, continue securing the perimeter, and designate an area to treat any of the wounded. Have you been able to contact Heaven?"
The angel shook his head. "We're still trapped within this pocket dimension by the Magician's magic. All attempts at communication with the outside world have failed, not even the Fallen have managed to pierce the wards surrounding us."
"I see." Michael said sorrowfully, turning his gaze to the severed arm of his former brother, Azazel. The Governor had refused anything more than the minimum treatment, which did nothing more than cauterize the wound to prevent him from bleeding out. The Fallen had poured all his remaining strength into the barriers protecting them, barriers that the enemy mage had crushed with ease.
Hadrian Ambrosius. The Descendent of the Legendary Magician.
His power had upset the trap so carefully laid by them. They had expected an attack, after all there were dozens of vocal dissenters to the peace that they had been trying to make, and for every screaming voice there was a snake in the grass waiting to strike.
And strike they did.
What they hadn't expected was the overwhelming force brought against them, and in their arrogance they had thought that the combined might of 2 Satans, the Governor of the Fallen Angels, A Seraph, as well as the 2 Heavenly Dragons would've been enough to turn the tide against even the strongest of foes.
They were wrong.
Their trap to demolish the Old Satan Faction had failed.
Many had lost their lives, and the leadership of the Devils was in tatters.
Sighing to himself, sending a prayer of forgiveness to his Father for the blood that would need to be spilled to combat the latest threat he felt a pang of anger flow through him. He flinched at the feeling, wondering where it had come from.
The righteousness and divinity that had accompanied it made him think of the System. The Marvelous Creation of God that enforced his will upon the Angels and brought Order to the Chaos. Even now after His Death the System was still working albeit barely. That anger worried him, as the System contained within it a fragment of his Father's Will.
Was he right in seeking peace?
The accusations of the Magician still rang in his ears, the accusing stare, the sense of sadness in the man's eyes as he confronted the Seraph. Most surprising of all was the disappointment directed at him, and Azazel.
Even though he did not know the boy, he could not help but wilt under the gaze, as if he were standing contritely before his Father's Throne, feeling once more like a guilty child under his stern Father's gaze.
However, they had no choice, with the loss of his Father the arduous task of protecting his brothers and sisters, all of The Mortals on Earth and the souls that resided in Heaven fell to him.
Was it so wrong that he would embrace his former enemy in order to protect that which he held dear? To embrace the hated enemy of his Father in order to protect the masses that prayed to him daily. While he would love to save everyone, it was impossible. Everyday more and more people fell prey to the machinations of the Devils but for every one that fell a thousand more would pray to his father. It was his sworn duty to protect those unable to protect themselves and he did the best he could with what he had.
He had to make sacrifices in order to protect those that he could.
As the thought passed through his mind he could not help but shiver in disgust. When did he become so Machiavellian weighing the worth of one person's soul against another? Turning his gaze to the sky, he sighed forlornly, wishing once more than his Father still lived. He remembered the time as a boy when he would sit by his Father's side and ask him questions, questions he always knew the answer to. The question did not matter, the complexity nor the uniqueness of it; his Father always knew the answer.
His Father would know what to do.
For now he knew his duty, to protect those that he could, shelter the broken, and guide those fallen in battle to their eternal reward. With a steely gaze he took command of the situation, a battlefield was no place to be distracted, there would be time to mourn and contemplate his decisions later. In an instant Michael the Archangel, General of the Armies of Heaven, and Bane of Devils everywhere took over. "Keep working on the communications. Try to reach the Underworld, the Shinto or even the Norse, if we cannot communicate with Heaven directly, maybe we can use another realm as an intermediary."
"I have my men doing the same." Azazel said descending to his side. "It could be worse. My casualties were light when compared to the Devils."
"They're almost nonexistent to the death toll that the Devils suffered. We at least have a resistance to the power of Light and Holy attacks." Michael commented. He did not miss the narrowing of the former Angels eyes, at the almost disrespectful tone when speaking of the dead.
"You know if I didn't know better, I would almost think that you had a hand in this. The Devils almost wiped out, the Fallen weakened, yet the Angels are still perfectly fine, your reserves have yet to sortie whilst ours are exhausted. Now would be a perfect time to have your forces swoop in and eliminate all the other Factions." Azazel said narrowing his eyes.
"Don't be ridiculous." Michael countered. "Our goal here was peace, not for me to restart a war that we could've won."
"Maybe in your dreams." Azazel snorted.
"God's Fury." Michael said simply, smirking at the dumbstruck expression on Azazel's face.
"It still works?!" The Cadre said shivering at the memories of the ancient weapon that their Father had created. He was their the first time it was fired, how it had been used to strike a decisive blow against the Underworld, a blow that they still had yet to recover from. The attack had killed over 1/3 of the Devils at the time from the initial blast, and the aftereffects had spread like radiation, poisoning water and land, converting the natural magics that resided in the area into a Holy one. Water burned as if blessed by the strongest of Seraphs, the air filled with Holy Incense scorching a Devil's skin while burning out their lungs, and just touching the ground itself blistered and burned as if they had touched the True Cross itself. Ironically the Holy Light that had been used to cleanse the Devil Filth had created an unassailable safe haven for the Fallen, and now served as the Headquarters of the Grigori.
Those that feared only the Darkness knew not what the Light could do, and God's Fury was the eye opener.
"Yes." Michael answered, his tone saying that he would say no more on the matter.
"Where do we go from here?" Azazel asked. "I'm all for peace, especially in the face of this new terrorist group."
Glancing around and seeing the numerous people still around them, Michael wordlessly raised a barrier around himself and his Fallen Brother. Azazel raised a brow inquisitively, "Am I doing the right thing?"
Turning to his Brother, Azazel could not help but look at the downcast expression, the slumped shoulders as he was forced to bear the weight of the world, millions of wishes constantly assaulting his very being. "I don't know." Azazel answered glumly. "All those years ago when we stood side by side, smiting the enemies of Father, driving the Devils back to Hell, and watching over the Sons and Daughters of Man, those were simpler days; we knew where we stood and what to do, now…the world isn't so black and white."
"Back then we were so confident, so devout; to us Father could do no wrong." Michael said sadly.
"Was it wrong that we loved humans?" Azazel countered. "I remember the day that Adam and Lilith were created, the day that Lucifer refused to bend his knee to the greatest of Father's children. It was not you, or me, or Gabriel that was Father's favorite, it was Lucifer, and yet without hesitation Father smote the Morning Star, and threw him and his followers into Hell. How could Father not see that we would be curious about his latest creations? He assigned us to watch over them, and it was only a matter of time until we fell in love with them. When we fell in love we gained a desire to protect them, we shared with them the knowledge of how to protect themselves. We taught them how to make fire, to create weapons and craft tools. Penemue taught them to read and write, I taught them the arts of metallurgy-"
"And was responsible for the first wars." Michael interjected. "It's not the fact that you gave them the knowledge that Father objected, it was the fact that they didn't discover it naturally. They had all this knowledge but no wisdom to use it properly, and as such were perfect targets for Lucifer's machinations. I remember those days well, brother turning on brother, fathers killing sons, the raping and pillaging. Thousands crying out for salvation while a thousand more praised our Father while spilling the blood of innocents."
"And for that we were censured." Azazel defended. "Forced to watch as Father washed away all of our deeds, our children killed with Floods, and Plagues, and Sword and Spear. How many of us fell that day when we took up arms to defend our young? You speak of Brother turning on Brother, well let me ask you Michael." Azazel said harshly. "How many did you kill? How many of your friends died cursing you as you smote them from existence? How many screamed and begged for forgiveness as you bound them in shackles and threw them from the Palace of Heaven? As others were sealed in the Second Heaven to be punished by you and your ilk personally?"
"YOU BROKE FATHER'S DECREES!" Michael all but roared, his golden wings flaring behind him, radiating the majestic power inherent in only an Archangel. "BROKE HADRANIEL'S HEART AND DARED TO PARADE YOUR CHILDREN IN FRONT OF HER. THE NEPHILIM WERE NOTHING MORE THAN ABOMINATIONS NEVER MEANT TO EXIST!"
Rather than being intimidated, Azazel responded, 12 wings of darkest black whooshing to life as they radiated tainted light. "And there's the Michael I remember. The loyal dog of Father, the obedient son, always pining for God's favor. Tell me on the dark and cold night, when you look at yourself in the mirror do you hear Father's praises? Or do you hear their screams?"
For a moment it looked like they were about to come to blows, and even though they were not able to hear exactly what their leaders were saying, both sides readied themselves for battle once more. Golden weapons were birthed by the Angels as corrupted light dyed in every hue of the rainbow were summoned by their Fallen brethren. "There was a time when you were the same." Michael pointed out. "I remember when you and Kokabiel razed the Tower of Babel, how Penemue tore through Sodom and Gomorrah with zealous fury, singing praises to Father whilst bathing in the blood of his enemies." Forcibly reigning in his power he sighed and upon seeing their leader lower his weapon the Angelic Army did the same.
"What happened?" Michael asked softly. "What did you see that you were willing to abandon Heaven, Paradise, to turn your back on Father's Love?"
Azazel slowly lowered his own weapon, his face pensive and pained. "Love and Lust." He started slowly. "Even at the best of times, it's hard to differentiate between the two. For a being that only knew and loved one person, it is easy to get confused. What I thought was love turned to lust, and what started as a small seed slowly grew and corrupted. You don't know what it's like Michael." He smiled rapturously, madness and sin in his eyes. Once upon a time the Fallen had been prone to committing depravities and debauchery that could put even the old Devils to shame, and it was only after the Death of their Father did they begin to reign in their bacchanalian tendencies. "The thrill and power that comes with committing your first sin. First I was distraught, crying and begging, hoping that Father either wouldn't find out."
Michael barely suppressed an uncharacteristic snort. How could you possibly hide something from a God with the power of omnipresence and omniscience?
"I never felt as low as I did in that moment and nothing I could think of was able to get me out of my depression. And in my weakness I committed another sin, allowing the flesh of a filthy animal to touch my lips."
"Bacon, delicious and succulent pig, fried and salted to perfection."
If anyone was eavesdropping on their conversation they were sure to be stunned, but it had been their Father's decree that the flesh of swine and the unclean was never to be partaken by his faithful. "Not the most serious of sins I know, but it's the fact that I did it. The first time is always the hardest, but after that…it becomes easier." Azazel stared at the crimson sky, a side effect of the spatial magics that were being used. "I did horrible things with my time here watching over humanity. Once that first sin had been committed, its influence began to spread through me, things that I would never have done before I began to do. Gluttony, Lust, and Envy were my sins, and I reveled in the freedom that they brought me."
"Freedom is nothing more than an illusion." Michael countered. "Every foul deed that you committed was just another link, another weight round your neck, and you were a fool to think that there would not be a reckoning when Father called for you. Indulgence after indulgence, sin after sin, and your once pristine wings now filthy as you reveled in your depravity. What choice did Father have but to cast you from Heaven's splendor?"
"Your greatest crime was not falling to sin, but dragging the rest of the Grigori down with you. When Lucifer Fell he took with him a third of the Angels of Heaven, and with your decadence another third fell to temptation." Michael declared, turning once more to his Fallen brother. "It is for that reason, the damning of so many Stars of Heaven that you are one of only two beings never offered forgiveness. That is why I feel a weight round my neck, your very presence tarnishing the Holy Light that resides within every Angel. Your corrupt acclaim is sickly and repulsive, that is why, Dear Brother, I fought you, and why every instinct within me is screaming to strike you down before you can corrupt any others."
"Then why don't you?" Azazel challenged. "That is if you think that you have the strength for it."
"Because Brother, no matter what Father said, I still believe that there is still a sliver of good within you. That same sliver that prevented you from committing foul acts against the Angels of Heaven, what made us join together against the Devils in every battle."
Azazel snorted in amusement. "Don't let Raphael here you saying things like that, he'll still thinking that you've gone soft. In fact, did you and Gabriel switch positions? She's supposed to be the merciful one of the family, and yet here you are preaching forgiveness to me."
"I'm sorry to say that Gabriel has very little mercy towards those that try to spy on her while she's bathing." Michael deadpanned, his response lightning the serious mood that surrounded them.
The Fallen Governor barely held back a chuckle. "5 more seconds and I would've gotten to see Heaven's greatest treasure, but those blasted cherubim ratted me out just as the towel was about to drop." The two brothers shook their heads in disbelief. "Anyways I didn't realize that Angels could hold grudges. Doesn't that whole anger thing lead you to Falling?"
"You should know that what causes us to Fall is acting against the Will of Father. If an Angel fell every time they felt strong emotions, there would be very few of us left. We may be soldiers of God rather than the messengers the Bible portrays us as, but we aren't unfeeling automatons."
Both were silent, digesting their conversation, until finally Azazel broke the silence. "Can I trust you?"
"More than you can trust The Devils." Michael replied without hesitation.
"They are nothing but allies of convenience, a tool to guarantee the Survival of Angels."
Mulling it over for a moment, Michael extended his hand. Azazel stared at it before grasping the appendage firmly. "To the Dominion of Angels."
"To mending bridges." Azazel replied. He would never admit it to Michael but there were many within his faction that had tasted sin and Fell because of it, only to wish to return and confess their sins. Second Generation angels, born from their Fallen parents were cursed with Blackened wings just for the sin of being born. They grew up on the stories of the splendor of Heaven, of the endless horizon and beautiful cities, only to realize that they would never enter paradise. Many dedicated themselves to asking for forgiveness, taking on the role of Angels of Mercy in an attempt to show their dedication to Heaven's teaching, while others embraced their Fallen status. They saw their darkened wings as being the sign that they were chosen by God to do that which his other angels could not.
Angels cannot kill humans.
That was the first and greatest of the commandments God gave to the legions of Heavens, and breaking it would lead to a fate worse than Death. However, for the Fallen, devoid of their Father's Light, Death would have been preferable. So they embraced their cursed fate becoming the Wardens of Humanity, dealing our punishment as Angels of Vengeance and Retribution, daring to dirty their already stained hands so that others would be able to live in peace. Assassination, poisoning, manipulation, and abject cruelty were the tools of their trade, anything and everything was permitted so long as it completed their missions. At the sound of their terrible voices, armies broke and fled. To those who dared question their Lord's commandments, the light of a million spears fell upon their cities, and to those who dared to even peak into the Ark ruin befell their people.
Maybe just maybe, with the union between the two factions of Angels, they would be granted a chance to wander the gilded street of Heaven, to gaze upon the wondrous Throne of Heaven, and to feel their lingering Father's presence. For those who Fell during the war it was a chance, no matter how miniscule that they were willing to take.
"Now then." Azazel said heartily, attempting to clap his hands only to realize he was still short an arm. "Well that doesn't work anymore." He mused before shrugging his shoulders. "With all that terrible business behind us, let's move towards the future. Our medical facilities are ready and willing to take in any wounded that you might have."
"At this moment the Gates of Heaven are barred to everyone but angels and human souls, but everything that we have on hand will be dedicated towards the recovery and healing of your people." Michael explained. "Raphael and The Virtues of the Second Sphere Fifth Order have been complaining about how their abilities have gone unused in a long time."
Nodding his thanks, he gestured towards the barrier surrounding them, prompting Michael to lower it.
"Do you have anything to share with the rest of us?" Serafall asked with narrowed eyes as she stared at the Angels. Gone was the playful and childish woman that Sona had associated her sister with, an in her place stood the Leviathan, a monster that had carved a bloody swath through the annals of history, cementing its place as one of the greatest enemies of man and God.
"Just some logistical necessities." Azazel lied smoothly.
The Leviathan did not look like she believed them for a second, but before she could push the issue a commotion drew all their attention. What remained of the Devil's honor guard began rushing towards the center of the crater, streams of curses and threats spurring them to fly faster. A glowing blue circle appeared next to Serafall, as she listened to the voice on the other end, her eyes gradually widening, until with a determined look she kicked off the ground and dove towards the crater, opening her wings at the last moment to slow her descent. The remaining two faction leaders glanced at one another before following the female Satan into the crater.
There they saw a sight that left them dumbstruck.
Sirzechs' broken body. Alive!
"He's still breathing!" One of the devils screamed, applying magic in an attempt to stabilize their defeated leader. "Does anyone have phoenix tears?!"
"How?" Azazel asked dumbstruck. "How can he still be alive? And more amazingly in one piece?"
To the two Angels, both of whom had seen the Fury of God, had watched as 1/3 of the Devils entire population had been killed and the seas of the Underworld vaporized, it was surreal.
"Ruin of the Extinct must've dispersed the attack." Michael commented, his voice laced with disbelief. Neither one of the Sons of God believed it, after all their Father's opening move still had visible repercussions to this day, dealing a blow that his enemies would never recover from. Or our enemy meant for Sirzechs survival. Michael thought grimly. They would have to be warier in the future, the enemy's capabilities were still unknown and his potential devastating.
"BE CAREFUL MOVING THAT!" One of the remaining devils screamed, chastising his underlings as they moved some of the rubble. "WE DON'T KNOW HOW STABLE THIS AREA IS!"
As if to punctuate his words, a tremor shook the crater, causing all the devils to freeze in fear. "Move." The lead devil whispered making eye contact with all the others gathered. "By Lucifer's Rotting Corpse Go! GO! Go!" Moving as quickly as they could the gathered devils began throwing the rubble off their fallen leader as the ground began to shake.
"We need to move!" Azazel yelled his gaze turned towards the sky. The cracks that had formed earlier during the titanic struggle between Sirzechs and Ambrosius were more than enough to upset the delicate balance required to seal the area away from prying eyes. The sealed dimension was beginning to crumble with them in it, and he had no wish to find out what would happen should they still be within when it rejoined the dimensional gap.
Already he could see pieces of the sky falling, specks of the real world beginning to bleed through as the spell began to rapidly unravel. "Michael, Serafall!" He called to his fellow leaders, "Continuity Contingency."
They both nodded as they began to direct their remaining forces towards escape points. The only benefit of the collapsing realm was that the communications blackout they had been experiencing failed and they were finally able to communicate with the outside world. The bad news? Every single communication line lit up like a Christmas tree as dozens of operators began squawking all at once.
Through the chaotic din they were able to pick up snippets of different conversations going on, each report filling them with more and more anxiety.
"We need to get out of here." Michael said grimly, flaring his prodigious powers for the first time in millennia, summoning spears of light. Thousands of golden spears blotted out the crumbling horizon, each baring the magnificent radiance and holiness of God. This was the power of a Seraph, the strongest of God's Soldiers and the mightiest of Heaven's children. To those that had fought in the war they were death incarnate, their sheer power enough to completely erase any mid-class devil that dared look upon their celestial forms. In the wake of the first Armistice, their powers had been forgotten, written off as myth as Devils tried to justify and exaggerate their own importance.
The World may have forgotten them, but Michael reminded them.
In a moment he reminded those gathered exactly why it was that He led the Armies of God, that he was God's treasured General and the only Angel that Lucifer never faced alone. Why only God himself could command him and entire civilizations trembled at his decrees. As his hand rose the light of a thousand thousand stars ascended smashing into the dimensional walls surrounding them.
"Go." A command, his voice filled with Divine Might that had the gathered devils fleeing in instinctual fear. Even Serafall for all her own power shuddered at the tone, summoning her own magic as she didn't bother individually teleporting everyone, but rather encased the entire area in a dome of ice that teleported them before shattering into a million crystalline fragments. "Azazel."
The Fallen Governor nodded once before he and the entire contingent of Fallen Angels vanished in a whoosh of blackened feathers. "To me, sons and daughters of the Almighty God." Angels clad in immaculate robed and armored with the finest trappings of Heaven flew to his side. Looking over their grim faces he nodded to them, offering his thanks that each would be returning with him. Too many times had he lost Brothers and Sisters to war, and he was just thankful that he would not be burying any today. With nary a thought he engulfed each one of them in a field, teleporting them from the ruined battlefield to the steps of the First Heaven.
In their wake a crumbling ruined landscape, desolate and devoid of life, a portent of future battles.