Redemption

Prologue:

Oreta tsubasa o habatakase

Subete o keshite mise you

itsu no hi ka owari o mukaeru

Saigo no kane ga nari yamu made

We're a dying breed.

The angels that were just above us on the scale—the dogs of heaven, if you will—were spending their free time in the Apocalypse hunting us.

What a pity that those we once called "Brother," and "Sister," should now be hunting us to the brink of extinction.

I'd even once or twice spotted Gabriel murder a Fallen or two over the years. He always returned to Heaven as if nothing had happened. But we all knew better.

I had always thought he was cold and heartless. Now I knew he was just too eager to please, like a hound that wanted his master to notice him.

I pity Gabriel for that.

After saving the human race (so far), Michael had all but vanished from existence. His prescence was felt, feared, and even rumored of. Few knew the truth.

Michael had been watching over the Messiah from above for the last eighteen years. Though we all feared his wrath, he was nowhere near us. Or, frankly, even concerned with us. The Messiah was all that was on his mind, and I knew that.

The only knowledge we had in common was that if Michael was ever sent here, it would be to kill us all. And he would do it ruthlessly, mercilessly, and swiftly, until we all burned in Hell with our tyrannous king.

I remembered his eyes as he cast me out, alone, personally. The rest had been taken care of previously. He wanted to speak with me alone, and he knew this was the only way he could do it.

"Ariel," he said softly, his blue eyes seeking my soul. "Why?"

I shook my head in shame and defeat. "He was . . . too convincing."

Michael gently touched my cheek. He pressed his forehead to my own. I felt his tears as they landed on my face.

I stepped back, removing my holy outer garment, pure and pristine, unfurling my wings. "If you're going to do it, do it now." I turned my back to him and spread my wings, saying goodbye to them forever.

"Ariel," he said, his hand lingering on the dark, metallic feathers for a moment. I heard him draw his blade. "This is going to hurt."

"I know."

I think he screamed with me, though I can't be sure.

As I started to fall, he refused to let me go. He held me by the waist, holding me up.

"Michael," I said softly, "you have to let me go."

He shook his head. "No," he growled, "I won't."

"You must." I'm such a hypocrite, for as I said this, I held my arms around his neck.

He pulled me into one final embrace—holding me as though I was the only thing that could save him from dying.

Of course, I couldn't.

"Let me go," I commanded. I pressed my forehead to his one last time.

Finally, he let me go.

My body slid from his grasp until his hands were around my wrists.

We held our gaze for a long time. Finally, he let me go.

As I fell toward the earth, I saw Michael reach for me, his wings spreading as though he wanted to take flight after me.

Gabriel pulled him away from the edge, trying to restrain him as he fought against the force holding him away from saving me.

Finally, the Kingdom of God left my sight and the earth came into view.

My name is Ariel.

ARIEL: (AYR-ee-ul) "Lion of God."

NOTE: I don't own Michael, Gabriel, or the Gackt song, "Redemption," which is featured at the beginning of this. Though I wish I owned Gackt.