In the end, Abel objected to Naoya kicking Amane out into a demon and thug infested city, in the dark, with only a single adult who was a rookie tamer and couldn't do or survive a lot of magic and said that either Amane stayed or he went, so an extra couple of sleeping bags were taken from the pile that had been acquired… Somewhere. If Naoya had acquired them in advance, where had he kept them until now?
A black-haired woman Haru's greeting identified as the musician Aya arrived a little after most of the kids had gone to sleep, or at least pretended to after Naoya had said, "I know, why don't we do a traditional summer camping activity and tell scary stories? I'll go first." His grin had been answered with a lot of hurried, 'Thanks, but no thanks'es and Atsuro's fake snores. Well, except for Midori, but Yuzu had quickly shushed her.
Aya disappeared down the hall that lead to a few offices, which was where Gin and Naoya were sleeping and where Naoya had moved the equipment, after giving Haru a hug and talking quietly for awhile: something about a background check, and somebody being hired, and yes, they were sisters!
Which showed that somehow, these people were communicating with those outside of the lockdown. All Naoya had to do was upload the comp program somewhere and they would have failed to contain the demons.
'Sorry, kid," Izuna mouthed silently to Abel, because he really had done a lot to help her mission and he was a good kid. But the mission came first. Naoya telling her to escort Amane was as good as handing Izuna a chance to report to Fushimi and see if he could get new instructions from the government, but Cain would be a much better source than even the Founder's daughter, and he had to be taken down now, if it wasn't already too late to stop the spread of the demons.
First, she had to identify which of those offices Naoya was sleeping in.
Behind her, Keisuke opened his eyes: having someone keep watch was too ingrained in him by now for him to fall asleep just because someone that obviously evil said it was safe. He saw her go, knew that if she'd taken the time to make it look like she was still in her bed she wasn't going to the bathroom, and frowned. But he still didn't wake anyone up, not yet.
Izuna was in luck, because one of the doors was slightly open. Gin and Aya were lovers according to her intel, and Naoya would have locked away his equipment, but she could imagine him being paranoid enough to want to hear anyone coming his way.
Except as she crept closer, needle at the ready she could hear sounds coming from that door, soft little hmms and sighs. Finally Gin whispered, "Should we close the door?" Clearly he didn't know that whispers carried further than just speaking very quietly.
The next person to speak did. "No. If they're attacked, I want to hear it."
Aya murmured, "Stop peering out the window and come to… nest, Gin." Since this wasn't really a proper bed.
When she peered through the crack, silver and black reflected the moonlight, moonshadow as they pulled at him, a bright laugh and a dark chuckle.
Gin smiled. "I don't know, Naoya. I saw their faces earlier."
"I led them on a forced march across Tokyo. Of course I had to motivate them." Naoya knew he was failing utterly at sounding sweet, much less innocent.
"You have too much fun being a jerk," the dark one teased him in a silvery voice.
"You remind me of me when I was young and innocent," Naoya told her, catching that that hair and pulling her gently by it towards another side of the concave mound of comforters and pillows, an angle where they could look up at Gin easier. And make a more tempting picture.
"Technically," Gin pointed out, looking down at them all spread out for him, Naoya in a silk dressing gown he hadn't bothered to tie closed and Aya in one of those skimpy things he'd never bothered to learn the name of because honestly, he liked them better off her.
"Yes, yes, she is me, just young, definitely not innocent, and female. Fortunately, Jezebel didn't look anything like Haru. Except for the tops her false Amanes were falling out of."
Gin poked him with a foot. "Any way we can get that other rib out of you?"
Naoya and Aya both laughed, the sound mingling together. "Could you really handle three of me?" Aya asked, leaning up to brace her elbows on his knees as he sat in that chair and look up at him.
"Hey, I'm still young," Gin reminded her, carding a hand through her hair.
"Absolutely not," Naoya said sighing. "Then I'd never get anything done. How absolutely hypocritical of Remiel, incarnating this," he waved at Aya, "and presenting me with a temptation to indulge in sloth, and lust-" On that word he pulled Aya back down: she let out a quiet laugh of delight at the surprise of it all, and twisted atop him to join her lips to his, pushing him down into the nest. "You are going to make me soft," he accused her, but it was more a familiar joke than anything else. "You and this catch of yours."
"Is it working yet?"
"Mmm, no, I almost made Yuzu cry over all those dead babies and called up divine glory in front of a nephilim/hellhound boy, even if making him think he was gay might have made him a little less likely to get that 'justice or death' attitude back. If anything, you've made me more willing to indulge." To play, like by running his hands up her sides.
"You're such a bitch," she accused him. "I kind of want to be like that, to give myself permission to be wicked, but then I think of all the broken hearts I already leave in my wake. You really should…"
"That's what that girl said. That I wasn't even trying to be good anymore. Well? No one is righteous, not one." He'd quoted that in his program: it was from one of Paul's letters reminding the Roman congregation that all humans were sinners, and because of this no one had any right to claim that they were better than anyone else, or condemn another, not when they needed to work on their own soul, try to keep themselves from sinning against others. The new covenant had much to recommend it. If only it was real. Or if only humans paid any attention to their own invention, instead of preferring the cruelty and self-righteousness of the old covenant, the true YHVH.
"Because it's a better world if people try?" Gin pointed out. "And which girl?"
"The maiden. That was her speaking, not just parroting Remiel's words. Someone with a demon eating her soul had the gall to pity me."
Aya and Gin looked at each other, than at him.
"What?" Naoya asked them, annoyed.
"You just be quiet for tonight, alright?" Gin said, lowering himself down.
"We'll take care of you."
Well, Izuna thought as she pulled back, face as flushed as her hair, she wasn't going to be able to subdue and kidnap Naoya while he was tangled up with two other powerful demon tamers. Maybe if he left at some point in the night, but it didn't sound like that would be happening anytime soon.
What was this about ribs, and… her task force had brushed up on Judeo-Christian mythology as soon as their country was effectively invaded by angels. And demons, but the demons had more variety. Did this make Aya the Eve to Naoya's Adam? They even had matching names: how cute.
And maybe she was a dog, or a fox (weren't they related?) because she wanted to snarl, because he had no right to be so beautiful, to have something so perfect.
Abel woke up as soon as he heard the first notes. As he sat up, he heard Yuzu make a soft sound beside him, but Atsuro was still sound asleep.
Aya, Haru and strangely enough Amane were all singing. Haru was focused on the song, and Amane had her eyes closed and hands stretched up and out, as though offering her voice to heaven, but Aya looked at Gin with a raised eyebrow until he gave in and started singing as well. Although not as well in the sense of as skillfully: he had some practice, because Aya often made him do it, especially when she was practicing a duet, but Aya and Haru were professionals.
From the way Amane's hair was floating, just a little, she was channeling Remiel's singing ability, even if Abel was somehow sure this wasn't actually Remiel singing.
Naoya was leaning against a wall, red eyes focused on the singers. Naoya took mental notes, not physical ones: that wasted paper. Abel suddenly wondered if it was just old habit instead of environmentalism, even though Naoya liked trees.
"Wow," he heard Yuzu quietly breathe, not wanting to drown out the singers, as Izuna kept stuffing her sleeping bag back in its bag.
Hearing that, Naoya glanced over at them and tilted his head to their left, indicating that one of them should nudge Atsuro awake so he didn't have to come over there and do it. His apprentice shouldn't miss this.
"What-Oh!" Atsuro sat bold upright after Abel reached over to shake his shoulder a bit. "The sound files! Which one is this?"
"It's the primal common tongue," Naoya said, annoyed, "So hold yours." Now Naoya closed his own eyes, concentrating fiercely, as though he was fighting a hated enemy rather than appreciating something beautiful.
When they finally stopped, he sighed, frustrated, and shook his head even as Midori declared, "That was great!"
"Yes, it was," Keisuke agreed.
Aya took Haru and Amane's hands and bowed with them, which made Yuzu and Abel start applauding, followed by the others. Gin just looked a little embarrassed and when the clapping subsided asked Naoya, "No luck?"
"None. I've tried to relearn it or at least figure it out before. I wonder if part of the spell that stripped it from every surviving human's minds was a component to keep us from reverse engineering it. I can't believe I was so close to certain that it wasn't even tonal, let alone…" Naoya smiled with bitter malice born of old loss in Amane's direction. "All this time the angels were still speaking it, and I didn't even realize it was the same thing. I can keep memorizing passages, but the primal common tongue came from the heart and soul, so just rote memorization can't be the same thing."
"Every surviving human?" Izuna wondered.
"Angels don't understand the meaning of the word civilian. They don't understand that children… They meant to wipe out all technology and culture. When we lost the primal common tongue, it became almost impossible to coordinate our defenses and the shields protecting the capital from bombardment were down for two hours. None of the other cities were able to get them back up." Because they didn't have any single mages capable of setting up and maintaining shields that had to protect against so many different elements without needing any assistants. "The area around the Mediterranian Sea contained the vast majority of the human race at that point, just like the area that now is the Mediterranian Sea held all of earth's cities before the Great Flood. Humanity won both of those ordeals, in that we weren't extinct and still had free will afterwards, and both times the population was reduced to a tenth of what it was before."
That was why Naoya had already made arrangements to send the Harmonizer portion of his comp programming to every military on earth if he was no longer alive or in a position to tell the 'dead man switch' program not to send it. The harmonizer strengthened humans and their weapons, allowing them to fight and survive hits from demons and angels. Since armies that used harmonizers would have soldiers that wouldn't die from a single bullet no matter where it hit, every army would have to develop the technology. Of course, they wouldn't be able to if they could no longer understand messages.
Of course Izuna was aware he was telling her this so that she would pass it on, that he meant to manipulate the high command, turn them against the angels, but that was why Naoya was only telling the truth. All they'd have to do to confirm that he was actually understating what had happened was ask the angels themselves.
"It was you, brother," he told Abel, "Who said that I should first teach what I knew to the people of the nation you built and then learn every craft, every art. Just in case it happened again, and once again there was no one left alive who remembered how to smelt iron or sew up a wound. That advice has served me, and many others, well."
Kazuya looked embarrassed, like he didn't really think he was that wise. Well, he wasn't right now: he didn't know enough to think of things like that, to recognize the grim necessity of them. "You said that Bel meant master in Akkadian."
"The language that became the new common tongue of what once was the core of the empire, that many other languages are descended from: yes, it did. Your name became the word for lord, king, god, master, rightful ruler… Your people loved you, brother. And you earned that loyalty."
Abel looked a little skeptical. "But I was a demon?"
"So? Amaterasu has also been branded a demon, and yet the Emperors hold this country's throne because they claim descent from her, not in spite of it. The angels want to conquer humanity, and they're also demons. You were born a human, and you returned to Earth to protect it. Not for power, but because you cared about," your family, your nieces and nephews, "our people. Your heart and mind were still human: that's why the core of you has been reborn as one since the angels murdered you. Humanity can only be free if it is ruled by a human." Not a demon like Belberith, an angel like Metatron or God himself. "If you don't become the King of Bel, the remaining pieces of you in the demon realm will be drawn to Earth once again, because it's this world that you care for. The war will repeat itself a thousand years from now, and the angels will use that as an excuse to inflict another ordeal on us." It wasn't in Kazuya's nature to let a threat like that loom over people just so that he didn't have to deal with it now. He would have to deal with it eventually, anyway. "You do have alternatives, but as long as you remain incomplete, this world is in even more danger than it was already, with the angels hanging over our heads."
Kazuya frowned, because, "How did I become a demon in the first place?"
"…I think I've said enough. You have to make up your own mind, and prepare to fight Belial, among others. I have to get back to work myself." So many contingencies to prepare for, so much intelligence to gather. "Don't forget to take food and water with you when you leave."
"…I don't think I'll forget that." Not after enduring the lockdown, after having to fight through crowds to get at the SDF supply crate drops.
"Exactly how many times did you forget your lunch until I just started putting it in your backpack for you?" Naoya wondered. "You'd remember your homework, but not your lunch. It's still strange to me that food is so plentiful in this era that people can think that way. Let's try to keep things from going back to normal," he told his brother, and started walking back towards his bedroom. Oh, right. "Gin, I'll send you my Garuda so you don't have to walk back."
"Thanks. I hope my stock didn't get too smashed up." He was thinking of opening it tonight: the kids should get a chance to celebrate beating Belial, even with the deadline looming over them.
"Three break-in attempts last night, according to the notification system. I've noticed that after a place has been broken into once, especially if it looks like it was broken into by demons since they're the only ones left, it doesn't seem as wrong to break into it a second time. Well, at least you won't have bodies to clean up." The demons summoned by the comp Naoya left attached to the alarm system would have eaten them.
"…And let me guess, you forgot to program the demons not to attack me."
"Would I really make a mistake like that?"
"…Meaning you deliberately didn't identify me as a friendly." Probably because Gin needed the practice and it wouldn't look like he was in league with the demons if he had to kill them to take back his own place.
Naoya smiled, not so much proud but as though he'd expected that Gin would figure it out, and as though the joke was one they shared instead of one on Gin. Being on the vanishingly small list of people Naoya, or rather Cain, actually respected was, well… It was like when he'd realized that he and Aya were actually going steady, and then that they were partners. Even if Aya still yelled at him sometimes about having no appreciation for the beauty of nature and the world around them and, well, Aya had taught him to love Tokyo but Gin was a fairly laid-back guy, while Aya was focused, driven, even if not as obsessively as Cain. So he just wasn't going to get as excited about this stuff as she seemed to think he should be.
"Right, well, see you guys later. I'll be at my bar if you have any questions I can actually answer, Captain Izuna."
"That would be appreciated." Izuna caught Naoya's warning glance: humans had been taking hostages to ensure others' good behavior for thousands of years, after all. He wouldn't let Gin be within the SDF's grasp if he hadn't taken steps to ensure his lover's safety, and he knew she'd better know that. If the task force still tried to capture him, they would have initiated hostilities and in Cain's mind, this was war. The government could be his ally, stay out of his way, or be aiding and abetting the conquest or elimination of the human race by making it harder for him to defend it.
Even if he knew what mercy meant, that cup had since long runneth dry, when he saw himself as fighting an enemy that wouldn't have any.
At the end of it, Gin stands at Eikojuki, guarded by Aya and Izuna, Amane and Yuzu, as he uses the sword of Jikoku and Take-Mikazuchi to reform the barrier protected by the four devas.
Aya is there because he's her lover, Izuna is there because this is for the sake of protecting Japan, Amane is there as penance for slaying Jikoku and Yuzu is there because she knew Gin before all this started and they need her to tell them which direction the next demons are coming from so they can get ready.
At the top of the tower Babel was summoned to, Kazuya slays Babel and breathes all that knowledge and power back into his soul. Belial and Belzeboul and all the others are no longer just part of him: demons are nurtured by belief and Belial has a partner and a little girl, Beelzebub stands at the right hand of the Great Darkness, but he's taken back the part of him that was in them.
At the top of the tower Haru is singing, and Kazuya is the server that hears her song and obeys it/executes the program, and the demons are charging the barrier desperately because if they don't get past that barrier, they'll be sucked back into the demon world, their wills unable to hold out against the command of a demon god, the being whose name became the first word for Master. For king, for god, for the one knelt before, and served, for he is worthy.
At the top of the tower Midori cheers, and Keisuke stands next to her and smiles with relief, because the demons are gone. Mari would clap and give them an A+, but she's standing in the plaza beneath with Fushimi, and Kaido who got roped in to help hold off the demons for awhile. Kaido is grumbling about all the fun being over, but because Mari's still here and went to get him specifically and he avenged his brother, eh, it's not all bad.
At the top of the tower Naoya is smiling as Atsuro watches, but his teacher's eyes are only for his brother and the one whose hand he holds. Those red eyes are soft, and proud, and patient, because this is enough for now. Kazuya has refused to war on heaven, not yet, but now he is immortal again. When the next Ordeal comes, when Metatron descends with an army, his brother can and will fight. His brother does not remember yet, but he will. Soon Naoya will have what is left of his family back, his brother will be able to defend himself again (with Naoya's guidance), and Atsuro can see Naoya stand a little taller, somehow, as the weight is taken off his shoulders. When Naoya is next reborn into a family that does not know him, that is likely to be struck by tragedy, he will have a home to return to.
He will have more than one person to return to, more than one person to depend on. More than one person to care for, and Atsuro remembers his teacher's lessons, his games, how he encouraged Atsuro and expected that he could accomplish great things, program like no one else because he was the one Naoya had chosen as his student. He remembers being invited to sleep over, or rather to stay a few days, when the house got a little too empty and the internet wasn't enough to drown out all the silence. He knows that no matter what Naoya sighs and says, he likes watching children run around the place, making noise and enjoying life with an enthusiasm he barely remembers.
Atsuro knows that Naoya will make sure to tell him and Yuzu that they have done well, that he's proud of them, and it will be true, like he's going over to tell Kazuya and Haru now…
At the top of the tower, Naoya drops to one knee before Abel. "My brother. My king."
"Naoya?" Kazuya asks, then belatedly adds, "Cain?" Because he knows they are the same person, but it might make a difference to Naoya which one he's called, might make him worry that Kazuya accepts his cousin Naoya but still resents Cain's manipulations. Or… something. Naoya is hard to understand, but part of the reason Kazuya was willing to accept Babel, to take in this big mass of emotions and thoughts that used to belong to a different him, to himself in a totally different and much longer life, is that he wants to understand Naoya, Cain, his cousin, his brother.
He kind of wants to say, 'you don't have to kneel,' but it could be worse, he could be prostrating himself. From what Kazuya knows, he figures that just going to one knee when swearing loyalty, or renewing it, was pretty low-key under the circumstances. He doesn't want to act like he's rejecting this, since it's important to Naoya.
He's still glad when Haru squeezes his hand, and he knows that she's smiling and would be telling him not to worry so much about it if she wanted to interrupt a brotherly moment.
Naoya reported that, "I've already gotten in contact with Shoji." At first he'd thought that a reporter was a bad friend for Abel to make, when uncontrolled information could do so much damage, but information was power, after all. "Charges against Amane will be dropped, and charges against me will simply not be filed."
"Blackmail?" Kazuya guessed.
Naoya smiled and nodded: that was his cousin, but, "Not just blackmail. I had months to prepare, after all." To phantasm into places he wasn't supposed to be and leave bugs or steal the recordings that already existed.
Broadcasting the angels' demands, the angels' arrogance, and what happened to Shoji's mentor and Atsuro's friend 10Bit will undermine both them and the current government: they'll become the scapegoats the angry and grieving people of Tokyo, of this entire country and all the others who had people in the city when it was locked down, will need.
And people will start thinking about what just happened, about contingency planning, about how it might someday be necessary to go to war with a species and a power that has, in the past, attacked humanity and committed genocide and as good as announced its intentions to do so again at the first opportunity.
Naoya doubts he'll need to wait a thousand years for his next opportunity, not now that Kazuya is King of Bel and determined to protect this world, not now that certain people know that Naoya exists and that he is a living encyclopedia of knowledge of how to combat the angelic threat.
Blaming the angels… It was Remiel that gave him the idea, really. It's easier for people to blame angels, blame the other, than face the fact that God, their own creator, their own Father and Grandfather, is evil.
And who knows, it might even be true. Or, at least, it might be true that there's some part of God that knows that what he's doing is wrong, that he should have mercy on his children and the suffering he's inflicted on them.
Naoya doesn't really care, he finds, because either way he'll have vengeance, either way humanity and his brother will be safe, either way he's…
He's accomplished enough in this lifetime that he can take some time off from his main project to figure out how to make Gin immortal, he calculates. Maybe Atsuro, he's useful. And…
The sky overhead is no longer as red as his eyes.