He remembers everything. That's his curse, after all. Cain remembers Naoya at age three as clear as a bell (much the same way he remembers Meshar, Saral, and all the others). His new parents are visiting their only remaining relatives. The young woman who resembles his mother picks him up and settles him against her, smiling widely.
Cain feels something strange about this woman at first, familiar as ever, if especially strong. A piece of Abel's essence buried deep inside her, he realizes. A large piece. But nothing more than that.
That's what he thinks, of course, until he meets her years later. This time, her belly is large and swollen with child, and Cain can feel it- feel him inside her stomach. She smiles and urges him to put his small hand against it, and the instant he does so, this ages' Abel stirs in response.
This Abel, called Kazuya, is unlike the other incarnations he's encountered. He adores his cousin Naoya, cooing and giggling in his arms once birthed and awkwardly waddling after him as soon as he's able to walk. Perhaps this would be the one, Cain thinks. The true chance for him to get his revenge. The notion brings a cold smile to his face.
He decides to begin Kazuya's education with general concepts, the ones he'll need for later on: guilt, blame, fault, creation and God. Kazuya scrunches his nose at most of Naoya's words, but he nods along anyway, pretending he understands.
Naoya pats him on the head. "You're so attentive. That's good."
There's a stray kitten little Kazuya feeds sometimes, because he isn't allowed to have any pets. Naoya finds it under the porch steps next time they visit, its white body tiny and shivering, mewing pitifully for another scrap of charity.
"Why can't I keep it? It's cold and hungry..." Kazuya asks, running his fingers over the cat's bony back.
"Your parents told you that you couldn't."
"That's not fair..."
"Sometimes life isn't fair."
And those words are later proven further when that little white kitten is found mutilated on the doorstep. Kazuya sees the body before anyone can stop him, and his parents have to calm him down and reassure him before anxiously trying to explain why kitty has gone away and won't be back anymore.
Later that day, Naoya explains death the proper way. Everyone dies eventually, even if they aren't sick, or killed.
"That's how we're made."
Kazuya stares down at the small mound of dirt Naoya had piled up, marking the grave.
"Does... dying hurt?"
"Not always. But it looked like it was cut open while it was still alive."
A small hiccup, but no more sobs. Just a shaking voice. "B-but... why? Why would someone do that?"
"Bad things happen. That's the way things are."
"I don't like it!"
Naoya smiles. "Well, maybe you can change it." Kazuya nods slowly, doing a good job fighting back another round of tears, and squeezes his cousin's hand even tighter.
The very next day, Naoya uses the same boxcutter for his science project.
Everything is going well- until his new father's sporadic illness finally takes a turn for the worst. That's when his mother makes the decision to move. Far away from the city, back to her and her sister's hometown, where the fresh mountain air would hopefully alleviate a decent fraction of his father's symptoms.
They stay one last night at his aunt's before the long drive to the countryside. Kazuya finally manages to fall asleep after spending the whole day crying and making Naoya pinkie promise to write, visit, and call often. Honestly, Cain is just as displeased about this turn of events- everything had been going just the way he'd hoped, but as a minor, Naoya couldn't do very much but focus on the other pieces of his plan while he was away.
On the way to the guest room, he catches a hushed conversation in the living room between the adult siblings over the coffee table. "If something ever happened to us... You would take care of our Naoya, wouldn't you?"
It takes a whole year for everything to fall into place, but something does.
"You'll live with us from now on, Naoya," his aunt says, curling her arms around him. Her eyes are still glistening with tears as she looks at the photographs of her sister and brother-in-law. "It's what your parents wanted."
Naoya helps Kazuya with his reading when he isn't studying for class, and reads him stories from the Bible before bed, even if he doesn't really understand them. He skips Genesis.
Little Kazuya grows. Naoya graduates high school a year ahead of schedule, and zips through college even faster. At 20, he finally moves into the big city for good. It's not exactly surprising when Kazuya takes the train to the city and finds his way to the new apartment all by himself at precocious 13- but it is extremely satisfying. He grows older, smarter, and visits regularly.
Naoya takes a break to brew a cup of coffee, his eyes sliding over towards his little cousin. He was growing well, already in his first year of high school in the blink of an eye.
Naoya takes a long sip, then says suddenly, "If I said I knew when and how a murder was going to take place and could easily stop it, but didn't... what would you think?"
Kazuya looks at him for a long moment, searching his eyes before finding nothing, as always. He scowls at him and throws a water bottle at his head. "That you're a jerk." Naoya smiles wryly.
The lockdown goes just as planned, with everyone trying their hardest to turn his darling cousin to their side, but Cain knows him best. Cain trained him well over the last few years. Abel was ready to finally rebel against his creator and take his place beside him.
Come to me. Now.
Cain waits for the fruit of his efforts. Waits until dawn breaks.
"...So you've chosen another path, my brother..." Naoya murmurs softly. Cain can only feel a solid block of disappointment settling in his stomach. He'd been so close- so damn close to finally having his revenge. But it wasn't perfect. He could have taught Kazuya more things. Could have been stricter with his teaching, less vague and more direct.
That's when he hears it- that Kazuya, that the human Bel with the potential to destroy God has spit in his own kin's face and chosen to serve Him once more.
This news brings Naoya's blood near boiling until he calms himself into a colder, steely rage. This... was far from his idea of perfect. Far from salvageable. This was the worst possible outcome, and Cain had been so sure it'd never happen that he'd never seriously considered it before. How could Kazuya be so naive? So stupid? And after everything his doting older cousin had gone through to steer him to the correct path.
Cain should have simply brainwashed him from the very beginning. He should have never let him choose!
But he underestimates more than Abel's faith and foolishness- if Abel was anything, it was strong. Not strong enough to kill him, of course (he doesn't try, doesn't even want to for a reason that makes his chest burn). But strong enough to give him pause, and make him retreat, relent, resign.
There was no point in looking for a way to change things now. Kazuya was too stubborn in his own way. That was one thing they both inherited.
His beloved cousin had succeeded in making Earth into a holy, ordered paradise.
A living hell for the inconsistent and rebellious beings known as humans.
But even if Abel was God's little lamb, Kazuya was different. He was Abel, but Cain had planted a seed of doubt in him. He would come to understand man's true nature, the true face of the God he serves, and realize the two were incompatible.
"Isn't it ironic?" Naoya says slowly from his hospital bed.
Kazuya looks just as young and lovely as the day he chose the path of self-proclaimed righteousness. That cute face is marred by his frown when he reaches for Naoya's hand; the old wrinkled skin is such a battered sight against Kazuya's pale, soft flesh. Naoya is the last one to slip away from Kazuya. Even faithful Atsuro and devoted Amane hadn't made it past their seventies- an unfortunate effect on most of those who'd lived though the lockdown. Cain thinks the angels are more than happy to let the tainted ones die out.
"You did the 'right' thing. I did the 'wrong' thing. And yet, aren't we being punished in the same way?"
Kazuya doesn't reply, just holds Naoya's hand until the blips on the screen grow further and further apart. Naoya can't open his eyes if he wanted to, but he thinks he hears a quiet sob.
It's hard, isn't it? Having to be strong for everyone while losing the people you love. Forever. Enforcing "order" upon inherently entropic beings who never seem to learn. Because even if man is shaped through interaction and socialization, there is something individual and unique inside every single human from the very beginning. Something that cannot be weeded out, that shouldn't be.
Naoya's consciousness fades and for a few seconds, everything is blissfully blank- Cain used to live for that fleeting moment of respite more than anything. But then the world bursts open again as a blur of sight and sound.
It feels like a long time before he can use those senses properly, and make out individual words. Mother. Father. Sabri. It takes a moment of desperate concentration to be able to understand language once more. Sabri, they were calling him. His new name.
In this disgustingly ordered world, Sabri hears the legend of the Messiah as he grows up- the youth who ascended to a higher plane to bring order to the land. Cain isn't surprised to hear that there are still those who rebel against him and the angels, who seek the return of the old ways. And those who believe that are shamelessly turned in to the angels, executed without defense or chance at repentance. The angels are harsh, unforgiving beings, he's told, so don't do anything wrong. The Messiah was the only light. The only human heart among them. Unlike his God, the Messiah could not see everything or be everywhere. And as such, he had eventually accepted the angels' words: to keep order throughout the entire world and protect the innocent, the wicked must be removed. Excised before the rot could spread.
Cain hopes Kazuya can see what his decision has wrought before it's too late for him to change.
It won't be any time soon, he's sure. Kazuya is too stubborn. Too hopeful. But some day, not too far from now, he will see his folly.
Sabri grows old and dies in waiting, and another body rises up in its place.
The young blond boy named Jason is only ten when he is given the opportunity of a lifetime. Millions make the pilgrimage, but only hundreds are allowed past the temple's atrium and into its core. It's the dream of so many to see him, let alone touch him or speak to him, and Jason is one of the lucky few allowed to meet the savior. Their Messiah. His Abel.
Those eyes look so vacant now, that last glimmer of hope fast-fading as he performs like a puppet on strings, dancing to God's will. It angers him to see it. The Messiah walks through the crowd, letting his worshipers grasp at his fingers and touch his feet in reverence.
When Kazuya finally reaches him, Jason takes both of the savior's hands in his small fingers, leaning down to kiss his knuckles. He whispers just barely against them, but Cain can tell the message is received when Kazuya's eyes shift, briefly shining with purpose.
Dear cousin. Beloved brother. We can take this world back and build it anew. Come to me.
This time, he doesn't have to wait for long.