Written while I should have been writing Tree of Thoth or Angel Saga for next week.
Disclaimer: I don't own Devil Survivor, Shin Megami Tensei in general, the Bible, or anything else in this fic.
The roles are as they are in the Cain and Abel story because of the resentment herding cultures had for the farmers that were supplanting them, although that's an oversimplification. You could make a convincing argument that according to the Old Testament, agriculture & veganism are worse than homosexuality. The Book of Genesis is a very interesting read. There are a lot of references in this fic to some of the more interesting little tidbits, like the prelapsarian gender roles God intended and the specifics of the curse laid on humanity. There's also...
Well, like the SMTverse in general, this fic works better if you've read the Old Testament and some of the OMFG stuff in there. It amazes me that sects of Christianity can claim to be following the Bible exactly and at the same time have as doctrinal tenets that God is good, wise and infallible. The only excuse for tons of that is Hanlon's Razor: never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. Or just not knowing a better way.
The fruit of the tree of knowledge was almost certainly a pomegranate. We call it an apple nowadays because the Latin word for apple, malum, is the same as their word for evil. It's an ancient pun.
The fic also has SMT references, of course, and a throw-away reference to Good Omens. Some apocryphal stuff, but they're things SMT uses.
My apologies for the pun there.
And here we have the original Big Screwed-Up Family.
Edit: Ah, yes. I thought I should mention that a reliable narrator Naoya is not, due from being far from well. Also, the person that described Naoya's situation in the game was certainly biased. Or perhaps what he said was the truth, or eventually became true when 'God got religion' as Terry Pratchett described the New Testament, but it may just be too late.
To this day, he doesn't like eating meat. Milk is entirely different.
When he was an infant he cried a lot at first, because his mother's milk was thin and he was hungry. In retrospect, he feels guilty about this, because they were hungry too. Except they were crying, too. His parents were very open about their emotions, at first. He watched them learn to hide them.
It was an ewe that first volunteered to nurse him, he remembers now. He remembers everything now. She and his mother were friends, but then his mother was friends with all the animals, except for cats. Cats were mean, they'd snigger when they saw her and she'd curl up and cry against Father or whoever was closest. They'd drink the milk that she put in the hollows of rocks for him or the snakes, because the snakes had trouble finding food now and she felt responsible for them. Mother always felt responsible for everything.
The first dead thing he ever saw was a tomcat, although at the time he didn't understand what was going on at all.
His mother never really could understand that they were mean, and the tomcat had decided to pretend to be nice, the way it had been before. She was petting it, and started to smile, and then it had reached up, clawed her face, and ran away sniggering. He couldn't hear the sniggering the way mother could, but he could tell. Cats were easy to read.
She'd collapsed, crying again, so she hadn't seen what happened next. One of his nursemaids, the mare, and two of the snakes, a cobra and a quetzalcoatl, had chased after it. The mare had been so furious that when she kicked the tomcat into a tree she'd broken the quetzalcoatl's wing.
His mother tried to set it later, but she was still trying to figure out how to get things to hold steady and the quetzalcoatl could never fly again.
None of the animals ate the tomcat. Not because they saw anything wrong with meat, except the ones who didn't eat it, but because they didn't want to even look at the bastard.
No one told his mother what had happened, either. She would have blamed herself, she always did, and the animals were so tired of watching her cry.
One of the kittens was so ashamed of what his father had done that he started guarding the garden, since the mice and rabbits and so on meant well, but they couldn't think very well and they would forget and eat everything Father had grown sometimes. Father never got angry, because the animals were family too, but the other animals forgave the cats, after that.
His mother couldn't drink milk. Father couldn't either, and neither could he once he stopped being a child. Nowadays, he knows words like lactose intolerance and evolution.
His father grew carrots, berries and other things that grew on or in the ground. Or, well, he tried to grow them, but he was never very good. Mostly it was their aunts and uncles who did. He never saw their aunts and uncles until he was old enough for Mother to let him out of her sight even though he couldn't understand the animals when they tried to warn him about things like the fact he wasn't a cow and shouldn't eat rocks. Father had tried, when he was hungry and didn't want Mother to know, like Mother had tried to get Father to think that she didn't get sick from drinking milk.
His parents never really got the hang of lying, or rather they didn't want to, but they didn't want to see each other cry. Didn't want to make each other worry.
He was there for the arguments his mother had with the snakes and birds, because they wanted her to eat eggs, when there wasn't enough food, and she didn't want to. It wasn't hunger that made her give in, it was the fact they looked up at her with pitiful eyes and said they hated seeing her like this, even he could tell that. And if she was eating them, then she could convince Father to eat them.
His mother only ate meat twice.
Once was when the mare got her leg broken and no matter how many times his mother tried to reset it nothing worked, the mare just got worse and worse, and there was one of those long conversations he couldn't understand until his mother gave in and hit the mare in the head with a rock. Again and again until it worked and the mare's pain-filled wickers stopped.
Nowadays he understood about bacteria, and food sickness in general, but he was still quite certain that had nothing to do with the reason his mother could only keep about half of it down.
The second time his mother ate meat was when his little brother offered her some, all proud of himself, and she couldn't bear to turn him down. His little brother acted like an inconsiderate bastard half the time, but to be fair that was really because he didn't understand what was going on half the time and no one really wanted him to know.
His mother had taken it, and not eaten very much because she wasn't hungry, and their father had eaten the rest. He always did after that, so she didn't have to. His parents were always trying to look after each other, because before it had been his mother's job to look after his father and now it wasn't anymore but she still felt responsible.
They'd been family, even Grandfather.
He always associated his aunts and uncles, well, his real aunts and uncles, not the inconsiderate bastards he saw nowadays, with whispers. They were always around the edges of things, where his father and mother wouldn't see them, sneaking into the garden at night and draining away the extra when his father had overwatered an eggplant enough to drown the poor thing, or encouraging a berry bush to grow just a few more. They fled the first times he saw them, but when nothing bad happened eventually they'd let him get closer.
He never told his parents about them, even when he finally figured how to talk. His parents could talk to him, just like they could talk to the animals, but he had to learn 'words' from his aunts and uncles, once they let him close enough and would pat his head and peel oranges for him.
They were always skittish, though, and he somehow knew that they weren't supposed to be doing the things they were and he shouldn't talk about it unless he wanted them to have to go away. For some reason, saying thanks alarmed them. Like the myths of brownies, kind of.
The closest any of them ever came to a normal speaking voice was one of his aunts, when his little brother was born. Something had gone wrong, and his mother was bleeding much, much more than any of the animals ever had. Well, the animals that survived, anyway, and he hadn't known that but they had.
His father was wailing worse than his mother, and…
The whispers had been frantic, loud enough he could hear them even sitting near his mother and trying to push away the blood, as though that would make her not be bleeding.
And then, finally, one of his aunts, not in a whisper but in a quiet voice packed with so much emotion and force that it should have been a scream said, "I can't take it anymore."
And came into the clearing.
His mother and little brother had lived, but he never saw that aunt again. Since the others didn't leave, just… withdrew for awhile, nervous, and then would let him come closer again, he didn't think she'd been punished, just that she was too scared of being punished to come back, to do anything that might attract any more attention. Or she hated that she'd been disobedient, all of his aunts and uncles did.
No one talked about it. He didn't think anyone had ever told his little brother about Aunt Gabriel.
He'd met his Grandfather for the first time long before he'd gotten his first clear glimpse of any of his aunts and uncles.
He came to visit Father sometimes. Just Father, not Mother. Mother always left quickly, ashamed, and Grandfather would glare after her.
Father was Grandfather's son, and Grandfather really did love him. Mother was… a servant, a failure, and she'd failed his son. Nobody blamed Grandfather. Not even he had, back then. Before was this whole… Mother and Father had been children, and hadn't known what they were doing, and Grandfather had been acting like one but he was still their father. They could never hate him, or even be angry at him. Father wasn't happy withhim, though, and it hurt Grandfather and the fact that it did hurt Father, and no one knew what to do about any of it.
And Grandfather claimed to know everything and be wise nowadays. It was ridiculous, he couldn't even figure out how to get his son to forgive him.
Or actually he did know, it was obvious, and was just too immature to forgive Mother and stop hurting them like this.
Not that anybody was mature, back then.
It hadn't been invented yet. No one had been around long enough, or seen good examples. They were just… trying to figure this out, trying not to hurt each other.
Hate might not have… No, hate had been invented alright. By his aunts and uncles.
He doesn't know why everyone thinks that the devil is good at lying.
Frankly, he couldn't lie worth a damn.
Certainly not well enough for his mother's damnation to have been worth it, to have been anything but a cruel joke.
As he'd found out, oh, centuries later, from one of his uncles, the infamous event that had changed everything had gone something like this:
Lucifer (he wasn't going to call him a snake, that was an insult to snakes) had said, "Eat that fruit."
Mother had said, "But Father said not to."
Lucifer's response had been along the lines of, "He changed his mind: he wants you and Adam to eat it right away."
And of course Mother had said, "Ok."
So they had eaten the fruit, because Mother hadn't had any idea that anything existed that wasn't truth. And then they'd had all this knowledge dumped into their heads, including all sorts of confusing stuff about objectifying people and it had been embarrassing and they'd basically been melted down until Grandfather came by, and they'd wanted to pretend this wasn't happening and then he'd felt betrayed because his son had lied to him.
And he hadn't been smart enough to just blame the entity responsible. The rest of the snakes hadn't had anything to do with it, either. It had just been this whole huge embarrassing mess, like taking candy from babies, and he'd started hating Lucifer long before Grandfather, because Uncle Lucifer had just been jealous. He'd done that to Mother, to the snakes, to everyone because he'd been jealous of Father.
No wonder he'd been Grandfather's favorite before Father. He and Grandfather were so much alike.
And then he'd come along decades later and tried to act like he and Cain were buddies. Like what he'd done to Mother was a good thing.
His response was the second act of violence Cain had ever committed.
The one time Lucifer had come near the camp when he was growing up, Uncle Michael and tons of the others had chased him away. Uncle Rafael had been chewing on a feather and looking very pleased with himself for days. It had been funny to see an uncle with all his wing feathers plucked out. He'd laughed, years later, when his little brother had done that to a goose. At the time, he'd thought it was all a game or a big joke. He didn't know what anger felt like until years later, and there wasn't a word for it for centuries.
It put Aunt Lilith in a bit of a difficult situation, though. Of course, the whole thing was a difficult situation.
Mother had been created to look after Father, but Grandfather had created Aunt Lilith first, and Aunt Lilith had decided she didn't want to. Mother liked looking after people, but Aunt Lilith had fallen in love with one of the snakes, not Father, and Grandfather hadn't liked that she wasn't spending time with Father, so he'd made Mother instead since Lilith hadn't worked out. She had started playing with Uncle Lucifer, who didn't hate her because Aunt Lilith was an aunt, not a human, even if she did have free will, since he was the head of other disobedient people and the aunts and uncles didn't want anything to do with people who weren't what Grandfather wanted in case it rubbed off.
He couldn't really blame the aunts and uncles for loving Grandfather and thinking it was all about him. They didn't have a choice, they'd been made that way. Aunt Lilith had been made to not love Grandfather the most, and he'd messed up somehow so she'd gotten free will.
Aunt Lilith was the first to fall in love. Being in love meant loving one person more than you loved other people, and that had been a bad thing, back then, because everyone had loved everybody. The aunts and uncles even loved Lucifer, which was part of why they were so furious with him, and Grandfather had loved Mother, really, even if she was a servant who had failed. Just not as much: he didn't love anyone as much as Father. Father was supposed to be the one who would be like Grandfather, and Grandfather must have been lonely, with only people who weren't like him and didn't have a choice about loving him or not.
Aunt Lilith hadn't been on Lucifer's side until what happened to Mother. She'd visited sometimes, when he was small, and Mother had set out milk for her snake, and she'd tease Father until he'd wrestle like in the old days, before he found out about nakedness and cheating and lust and embarrassment. Unlike Grandfather, Father hadn't really cared that Lilith hadn't loved him best. Anyway, if Lilith hadn't left, Grandfather wouldn't have made Mother.
Lilith had felt responsible for what happened to Mother, though, because if she hadn't been disobedient, then maybe Grandfather wouldn't have gotten the idea that Mother had. Aunt Lilith was really upset that her snake's legs had dropped off, too.
Or maybe Lucifer was good at lying, or at least at manipulating people.
He'd gotten Aunt Lilith to be mad at Grandfather instead of both of them, after all.
When he was six, he'd started helping Father in the garden.
Father didn't grow fruit trees, even though they were easier and a lot lower maintenance, because of the memories. His aunts and uncles had shown him how. His aunts and uncles had shown him how to do a lot of things.
They'd been made to help Grandfather, and first Grandfather had extended that to Father and then he'd said that Father had to work for his own food and so on, which was why they'd been trying to find ways to help that didn't quite break that rule. Upset or not, Grandfather hadn't really wanted Father and Mother to freeze or starve.
The aunts and uncles who had been created afterwards didn't understand, but the older ones who had been in existence for the whole mess knew that it was the rift between God and man that had hurt Grandfather, that it was a mess instead of just humanity's fault. They'd always been trying to do what they could, but they didn't know how to patch things up. There had never been a rift like this before, except Uncle Lucifer, and they hadn't been able to resolve that, either.
Conflict resolution and therapists hadn't been invented yet.
So everyone had just… tried to pretend that the argument hadn't really happened, which hadn't exactly worked. They'd told him that Grandfather hadn't really meant what he'd said about Mother, of course not, he wasn't like that.
Mother and Father had tried to make clothes with leaves, and used ones on vines since they stayed on better. That was when they'd figured out knots. Of course, Uncle Uriel had told him, leaves weren't very warm and what they'd really needed was more fur, except they hadn't been able to make that stay on, so they'd made a big pile of all the shed fur the animals gave them for warmth, but that hadn't helped when Father had to tend the garden in winter. So Uncle Uriel had gotten the aunts and uncles together and they'd tied lots and lots of knots in all the fur they could find, to make it stay together.
The aunts and uncles had the patience for that sort of thing, and it wasn't like they'd had anything else to do but fret about Grandfather and Father and Mother and him, since he'd been on the way then and small animals were small and lost heat faster. Not that he was an animal, but the same principles applied.
By the time his little brother had been born, things like hats and featherbeds had just been showing up. Everyone had known about it, and of course Grandfather knew, but no one had talked about it. They were family, and family did what they could for each other.
The flaming sword that was supposed to guard the gates of Eden so Father and Mother couldn't go back in had ended up being used to light campfires, and it didn't rain at inconvenient times.
The animals, too, did what they could, digging holes for Father in the garden and telling Mother where berries were.
He'd wanted to help to, and not just keeping people company when they did things. He'd decided that it was his job to talk to the aunts and uncles first, since he couldn't talk to animals and they weren't supposed to talk to Mother or Father. That was when he'd started finding out about things.
The first things he actually planted were bulbs that he'd asked one of the uncles to ask one of the pigs to dig up and bring him, because there had been flowers all the time in the garden and there weren't any in the camp. Mother brought some home for Father sometimes, but Father had a hard enough time making food grow.
It had made Father smile, and stroke him on the head, happy and proud and relieved, since if Cain could grow things he wouldn't have to worry about being hungry.
He and Father had been figuring it out as they went along, and the first hoe had been Uncle Michael's spear. Frankly, modern humans were so lazy. Even the ones that said they were inventors were used to cribbing from research other people had done, inventions that had already been made. They had to learn how to figure things out for themselves, instead of just doing it. Other programmers all praised his lateral thinking, but that was just because they'd grown up playing inside the box when he'd helped make those boxes.
It was one of the aunts who told him that it was possible to transplant small fruit trees, and helped him figure out how to keep them from dying. He'd made an orchard, and at first Father and Mother had stayed well away from it, but eventually…
The camp had become more and more like the garden, or he'd thought so. He'd never seen the garden.
By the time he was eight and Father and Mother thought it was okay to have another child (they hadn't known about children even though Grandfather had said something about letting them make more of themselves when they had him), they were barely ever cold or hungry anymore.
Father and Mother were not two people.
It was actually kind of clever of Grandfather.
Cain would bet it was because of the aunts and uncles, though.
He'd made them to love him, but that wasn't quite real, so he'd made Father. Then he'd made him Lilith, but since Lilith had a choice to love him or not, she'd ended up not loving him.
Then he'd made Mother, and Mother was a part of Father, or had been. Part of the reason he had to learn language from the aunts and uncles was that Father and Mother didn't really talk to each other. They knew each other too well to really need to, and when he was young they were mostly not talking about things, like being cold, sad and hungry. And worried for him.
Father and Mother were never googly-eyed at each other, or courtly, much less worshipful. They were just there for each other. He never heard them complete each other's sentences, but for all he knew they might have, talking to the animals.
Father thought that Mother was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He also clearly thought it was silly of Grandfather to have made her responsible for him, because he hadn't needed a babysitter and he'd been around longer and knew more, but even after Grandfather had said that Mother didn't have the final say on what Father did anymore, not that she'd ever used it, they still looked after each other.
Hand in hand. Or two hands of the same soul.
Pregnancy was the cruelest thing Grandfather had ever done to Father. And Mother, but especially Father, because Father was Grandfather's son, after all. And now he couldn't create life without hurting Mother?
Grandfather took pieces from Cain after he was born, but didn't make him a Mother then.
He only found out when Abel was sixteen that Grandfather was going to give his soulmate to Abel and Abel's to him.
Now, it seemed sensible, due to things like incest and genetic diversity. Now, no one had soulmates anymore, and expecting to get one was a sign of a child who didn't know how it worked. But then, he'd been one of those children.
And Grandfather had wanted to give his soulmate to Abel.
Abel had always been clueless. Or maybe not.
The entire thing about the garden and before was this big painful mess that no one really wanted to talk about, and by the time Cain had managed to teach Abel to talk Grandfather had been visiting regularly and things were more or less good.
The animals had all been given to Father to take care of, and Mother and the rest of humanity, all four members of it, by extension.
The only ones Cain had much to do with were the ones that liked fruits and vegetables and were willing to volunteer as garden labor for goodies.
It was grossly unfair that unicorns had been declared demonic. They had been such a help breaking the ground after frosts.
Since Father had Cain to help him, and do the things that he found difficult, it had been more or less assumed that Abel would be Mother's assistant. And handle certain things.
Like mercy killings.
The meat-eaters had to eat too, after all, and they'd been made so that the old and sick wouldn't die painfully. It was still painful to be torn apart.
They hadn't asked it of Mother, not after the mare, and Father couldn't handle anything like that, he'd known them even longer, but Abel wasn't Mother.
One of their uncles had given him a little knife.
Abel got along with all the animals even though he couldn't talk to them. Mother said that he'd managed to get the lions and sheep to make up, and they hadn't been speaking to each other since the oldest lion, who had been going more than a little soft in the head, to be fair, had been really hungry one time and just jumped on one of them without even asking first, leaving her poor lamb without a mother.
Everybody loved Abel, especially Grandfather.
Perhaps because he was an innocent, in a world that had lost its innocence and was still trying to pretend that it could have it back.
Perhaps Grandfather was hoping that he could do right by Abel, as he hadn't by Father. Or Cain, who had grown up in the lean years, while they were learning to survive in the wasteland Grandfather had made in order to exile them to.
At first Grandfather had turned his back on them, and it was because he hadn't been paying attention to them (supposedly) that the aunts and uncles had dared to do what they had. Father and Mother had been much stronger than humans were nowadays, Aunt Lilith was still one of the stronger demons, but they still could have died, and he'd… well.
Abel was the one who hadn't suffered because of Grandfather. That was why Father and Mother had had him now, too. They wanted a new future, one where children wouldn't know suffering.
Now sensible people knew that life was pain, but Father and Mother had gone so long before experiencing it. They still hoped that things could go back to normal someday, and they finally were.
Abel was their darling, their golden boy, the apple of their eye.
Cain? Well. Cain had been an accident, that was how they put it nowadays. A burden they hadn't been ready for. Part of Grandfather's curse. They'd been children themselves, dealing with a suddenly harsh world. They'd thought Mother had an infection or a worm or something at first, and almost cut him out. They loved him, but in the same way they loved all the beasts of the field and birds of the air.
It would have been petty to resent Abel for it and he didn't, not really. He was mature enough by the time Abel was born, even if by the time Abel was sixteen he still only looked a couple years older. He was glad that Abel had all these things he hadn't had, really. They were the things Father and Mother had had, no, not even as good as that.
One of the unicorn foals had misplaced a hoof one day, and he'd remembered the mare as he carried it to Abel.
He'd sighed with relief to see how quick it was, but somehow that very mercy had disturbed him. How much practice had Abel had? How could it not affect him? No, even if he didn't wail he still seemed thoughtful, solemn. "Cain?" he said after a moment. "Have you ever thought about…"
"Have I ever thought about what, little brother?" Honestly, he would never get tired of calling him little brother. He'd been the youngest his entire life, except for the animals and he couldn't talk to them. It was kind of fun to have someone to talk down to, who knew less than he did.
"This is going to be us someday."
That had startled Cain. "What are you talking about? The animals have to age and die so that they don't overwhelm the earth and eat all of the plants, but we're not animals."
"What's the difference? They think, too. Grandfather made them, too."
"Think about our aunts and uncles. Some of them have been around for eons."
"We're not like our aunts and uncles. Grandfather said so. He cursed Father and Mother: they'll die, like animals. They'll become part of the ground and they won't exist anymore. They'll just be meat, for animals and the roots of your plants."
Cain had laughed. "Like that will really happen."
"Grandfather hates lies," Abel said. "He hates them more than anything. That's why he sent Father and Mother away, not because of the fruit. The fruit was a mistake, but they lied to him about it. When they knew better. They didn't trust him to forgive them." Abel was sad for Grandfather: that had hurt.
"They weren't thinking straight. You know Father and Mother, when certain things happen they just…" They just couldn't deal with it. "Remember when you froze on that cliff?" When Mother had been teaching him how to swim. Abel had been young, and too freaked out to either dive or move away from the edge for the longest time.
"If you hurt an animal, even by accident, it will be afraid of you for a long time. I think that lie was the first time he was ever hurt. And if he went back on that curse, if he saved them, then he would have lied to them. Grandfather doesn't want to hurt them like that. So they're going to die." Like animals. Like sheep, like Abel's wolves, the ones that helped him herd the panicky herbivores away from flooding rivers and other dangers.
"That won't happen." Cain hadn't even insisted on that. It had just been a given. Father dying, Mother dying? Abel might as well have suggested that Grandfather was on his deathbed. "If Grandfather was going to let any of his children die, it would be Uncle Lucifer. You know the aunts and uncles would have ganged up on him and not let him escape by now if Grandfather hadn't ordered them to let him go home to the place Grandfather made him."
Abel had looked anything but convinced.
Now Abel thought he knew everything, and he disagreed with Cain and didn't even think it was worth trying to convince him?
"You know Grandfather. He's… but he's not…"
"Yes. I know him," Abel said finally, and wiped his knife on the foal's hide.
Abel did it to prove a point, really.
Random acts of kindness were just how it was back then. There weren't holidays, and no one had really been in a position to keep track of birthdays. Abel had been born in the spring, but Mother and Father didn't even know what season Cain had been born in. They had been a little distracted at the time.
He had planted vines that did well in half-sunlight to grow around the entrance to the cave that was the main camp for Father a few months ago. He'd roasted a lot of nuts for Mother to mix with the dried berries she took with her when she went to visit all the animals that had started to spread out farther from the garden, and he and Mother had made more of that mix for Abel to carry when he was out with the animals nearby, in case he was too busy to stop for a meal.
The aunts and uncles didn't eat, were odd about being thanked and generally didn't understand the concept of possessions. The considerate thing was to not make an issue of it, since a few of them especially were… edging on the borders of the curse Grandfather had made, and if Abel was right then it really was a bad idea to risk bringing it to his attention.
Grandfather could make anything he wanted himself, but it really wasn't the gift. A few vines wouldn't make this the garden. It was the thought that Cain was trying that made Father smile.
He'd always had the sense that Grandfather didn't quite know how to deal with him. He hadn't been able to deal with his children, and now grandchildren? This wasn't the first time Cain had done something like this. Father did, even Mother tried to please him, tried to reconcile.
Grandfather had always been touched, had at least accepted the gift, even if most of it was eaten by the animals.
Cain had maybe thought it was a little rude for Abel to show up and say he was giving his gift at the same time. He'd known which one Grandfather would prefer: this was Abel.
Even as he watched them die, he still knew that Grandfather would prefer, and he'd tasted bile in the back of his throat.
They weren't sick. He doubted they had done anything cruel. They were young animals, the kind Abel had mentioned the carnivores preferred because the meat was still tender.
It was better to eat meat while it was fresh so one didn't get sick from it, but killing them here, right in front of them?
"He's used to the carnivores, and we are omnivores," Cain had tried to tell himself. "He's not being cruel. Mother's not here. There's nothing wrong about this."
They bleated, and some of them struggled. He'd tied their legs. The blood ran down.
The first animal sacrifice, Cain knew in retrospect.
And God was pleased, that they had been killed for him. That blood had been spilled in his name. That Abel loved him enough to end the lives of young creatures that had trusted him.
For this, this gift of death, Cain's gift was utterly ignored, tossed aside. Sinful? What about his gift was sinful? Wasn't needless death more sinful? Was it wrong to want to do something nice for family? Was it wrong to think that death and suffering and blood were wrong?
In hindsight, he knew that he'd been in shock, that the rising laughter had been hysteria. In hindsight, Abel should not have followed him when he went to get away from there, should not have tried to talk to him about Father and Mother and Grandfather, should not…
Nowadays, people used, "I was so angry I wanted to kill him" as a metaphor. It hadn't even been anger, not quite. Not at Abel, not quite.
Cain didn't know what he'd been feeling when he beat Abel's head in, to be honest. Even with the perfect recall he'd been cursed with, to reflect on his crime. To never forget what he'd done.
He knew that he hadn't meant to kill him, at least.
He hadn't actually thought that Abel would die until he'd stopped, shoulders heaving, panting for breath, and come to his senses enough to think that it was odd that Abel hadn't gotten up and hit him yet. Or even moved.
He'd wanted it not to be happening, he'd wanted his brother not to be dead, not to be a corpse, out of sight out of mind… Denial was the first stage of grief, and he hadn't come out of it when Grandfather came.
So he lied. Or maybe he'd been insisting that it was the truth. That Abel couldn't be dead, not really.
And he wasn't. Grandfather hadn't let him die after all.
And he wouldn't let Cain die, not and stay dead. First he'd been immortal, like the aunts and uncles, and now he aged and died. Humans lived such short lives nowadays. Sadistic, to give him a normal life.
His life should never have been normal.
Normal should have been the garden. Should have been youth and health, immortality and family and love. A world where lies were unforgiveable instead of everyday.
He'd been broken then, and ages and ages of the sinful earth had left him anything but sane. At first he'd been glad, that he kept finding his young brother. But he kept… dying, or… Too many lives, too many centuries, and it wore on him, until the littlest thing could make him snap, and then he'd have another body to explain and wasn't it just so much less trouble to die?
Everything he touched withered, nothing grew, and all too often he had to become a herdsmen, or even a soldier, eat meat or profit from death or have nothing at all.
He thought that was why he liked computers so. They were technically unliving, so he could grow them, tend them and they wouldn't die on him. Not because of his curse, at least.
Why couldn't Abel have been right? Why couldn't he have just ceased to exist, became dust?
He watched the angels that stayed to help his nieces and nephews fall for it, one by one. Saw the new angels openly preach the doctrine that Lucifer had been banished for, that humanity was inferior and would bring God nothing but pain: only angels and their perfect obedience were worthy. Saw Grandfather abet rape, order genocides, throw tantrums and kill even his favored children. Even Abel among them.
He promised to stop with that flood, but the ordeal meant that he was even lying now. Had lost the one tenet he had held to, as much as it cost them.
Things got… better, gradually. Abel stopped acting so much like himself. Stopped setting him off. He'd thought that he was recovering, that he could do this, and then he'd found out that the ordeal was coming.
It had all fallen together so perfectly. Yes, use Abel as Grandfather must have been planning to use him to reclaim those lost sheep. Stop Grandfather, bring him down, and just… put an end to this.
It all went perfectly, his little brother was such a good puppet, what the angels said provided more than enough evidence for Atsuro and the others that this was necessary, Aunt Gabriel, all of the four archangels couldn't fight with their full power and he was the only one who knew why…
He laughed when Metatron summoned his power point-blank, because his death would only drive the others on and either he'd be reborn to see how it all turned out or he wouldn't…
And was struck dumb when Metatron fell.
It wasn't that he had been killed. He'd seen plenty of aunts and uncles die and not come back. It was how.
He knew the knife that had buried itself in Metatron's throat. That shine was unmistakable: it had been forged from the flaming sword intended to guard the gate of Eden.
His brother's knife.
And his brother's hand was still outstretched, after flinging it, when that knife returned to his grasp and disappeared again.
They didn't say anything. They didn't need to, and even if they had Naoya didn't think he could have.
Abel the shepard. Abel the killer. Abel his brother.
Abel remembered, and Cain had suffered, and Grandfather had lost it, and the old, senile and mad? Those who lashed out at others, harmed the innocent?
Mad dogs were put down.
Uncle Lucifer. It had to be. No one else could have given Abel his memories and twisted Cain's punishment. No one else would have dared. Well, perhaps Loki, but Loki wouldn't have had the power. Naoya had tried to restore his memories a few times, wanting his brother to forgive him, wanting his brother to know what not to do so he wouldn't do it, so Naoya wouldn't keep snapping and killing him and his hands were too drenched with the blood of his family already.
And that was alright.
Abel wasn't him and his fruits, or Mother and her friends, or Father and his flowers.
Abel had never minded a little blood.
He'd thought he'd corrupted Abel, turned him against God. Should he be angry that Lucifer had beaten him to it, and that was why he'd sent Belzaboul? No. This wasn't Lucifer's doing, even if he had unleashed it.
This was his brother.
"Hey, Naoya, you ok?" his student asked, hurrying over with his demons, ready to order them to heal him.
"I'm fine," he told Atsuro. "I'm fine."
When this was over, he was planting a garden. "Apple and pomegranate, I think. To start with."
Atsuro was clearly convinced that he was delirious.
He only had the pleasure of finding such a perceptive student once ever few centuries.
The original covenant with humanity goes into a lot of detail on animal sacrifice: when (any time anyone made a prayer, practically) and how much (I think there was a two-dove minimum). And public health, but Old Testament God was disturbingly into blood.
Shin Megami Tensei protagonists tend to be very dangerous people (the Demifiend, anyone?), and especially given the relationship humanity was originally supposed to have with the animal kingdom, between a farmer and a shepard, given what shepards get up to, I know which one I'd be more worried about.