"Oh, for pity's sake," Barbiel said, slamming the folder down on Raphael's desk. "If you miss him that badly, go find him already!" She scowled. "I cannot stand another minute of this moping!"
Raphael blinked, and settled on a response. "I'm not moping," he said.
"Like hell you're not moping," Barbiel grumbled. She pointed at the door. "Out. And don't come back until you two have made up."
"You can't kick me out of my own office," Raphael protested.
Barbiel planted her hands on the desk and leaned over it, until they were nose-to-nose. "Watch me. Out."
Discretion seemed the better part of valor at this point, so he went, and had to admit he was glad for the excuse to go find out what had been keeping Michael out of his hair lately. Not that he had been moping over not having his offices blown up on a regular basis, of course. Where did the woman come up with her ideas? But it wasn't a bad idea to look in on the angel of fire and see what he was up to.
"Not here?" Well, judging from the progress the work crews were making on Michael's palace, it was obvious that Camael wasn't lying, and that Michael hadn't been around for some time. "Where is he?"
Camael seemed as puzzled by Michael's absence as Raphael was, but distinctly grateful for the chance to get some much-needed structural work taken care of. He shrugged. "We think he's been spending his time in Assiah. Shall I let him know you've been looking for him?"
"No need," Raphael said. "I'm sure I'll bump into him sooner or later."
Considering that there were no active wars on at the moment, and no prophecies coming due, there was an insane amount of divine and diabolic activity happening in Assiah, more than could logically be accounted for by the Messiah's presence. Raphael wrinkled his nose and avoided Kanagawa Prefecture entirely--it stank of Belial, and he had no desire to tangle with that one--and settled for tracking Michael's movements across Tokyo.
He very nearly bypassed the first school, figuring it for a fluke, until the boy with glasses looked directly at him, sighed, and inquired, "We're not interested, but thank you anyway." He eyed Raphael. "You might try Hyoutei."
So, not a fluke after all. Raphael studied the boy, who was obviously a seer of some sort--well, the old bloodlines still ran true, sometimes. "I'm not here on business," he said. "I'm looking for an associate."
"I sent Michael to Fudoumine," the boy said promptly. "If you're looking for Lucifer, he was looking for Michael."
Raphael willed his blood not to drain from his face (Tokyo, after all, hadn't gone up in flames yet, so he still had time). "Thank you," he said, and hurried off.
The tennis courts at Fudoumine were tranquil--much more so than he had expected--and when he landed next to Michael with a thump, Raphael wasn't sure whether to be relieved or annoyed by the absence of any cataclysms.
"Raphael." Michael eyed him. "What lit a fire under your ass?"
Raphael shook his wings out, irritably, and furled them away. "Nothing," he said, looking around. "So this is where you've been."
"Yup," Michael said, looking embarrassed.
"Yo, Michael, who's this one?" one of the humans called out.
"Just a guy I work with," Michael said, lazily, waving them back to their game. "Nothing to worry about."
"Ah, so Lucifer has been here after all," Raphael murmured. "And the place is still standing?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Raphael turned to see a young human female watching them. "Mika-chan isn't known for his restraint," he murmured, "and Lucifer has a way of bringing out the worst in him."
"Does he?" She cocked her head. "Michael-kun, are you going to introduce me?"
"You don't wanna know this guy," Michael warned her. She gave him a look. "Fine, fine. This is Raphael, angel of wind and all-around pervert. Raphael, Tachibana Ann."
"A pleasure to meet you," he said, bowing over her hand.
"...Right." Ann didn't seem particularly impressed. "What brings you to Fudoumine, Raphael-san?"
"Curiosity," he said, and looked back to Michael. "Care to explain to me why you're supporting a junior high tennis team?"
Michael opened his mouth, and then closed it. Raphael raised an eyebrow, waiting, and Ann looked back and forth between them, openly curious. Finally Michael lifted his chin and glared at Raphael. "'Cause these guys are cool," he said. "I like them." His expression dared Raphael to say something about it.
Raphael held his peace, out of consideration for the humans present, and pursued a slightly different subject. "Yes, but... tennis?"
Michael shrugged. "Hatter started it, with Rikkai. Seemed like a good idea to counter her."
The logic behind that was purest Michael: Belial was Lucifer's creature, so anything se did was at least tacitly approved by the Lord of Hell. Therefore, countering Belial was really countering Lucifer. "You really are a simple creature," Raphael sighed.
"Never claimed to be anything but," Michael said, calmly. He looked past Raphael, to the tennis courts. "They're looking good today," he observed.
"They are," Ann agreed, sounding pleased. "Demons or not, we're going to give Rikkai hell at Nationals."
And as neatly as that, he had been dismissed. Raphael sniffed, but Michael ignored him in favor of a discussion of a training regimen, and eventually he gave up and left.
"I said we weren't interested." Tezuka looked at Raphael over the rims of his glasses, and it wasn't quite a glare, but it was close.
"I know you did," Raphael said, calmly, "but consider this: Your shoulder, while recovered, is still vulnerable, and in conjunction with the fact that all of your closest rivals now have angelic or demonic support of various kinds, Seishun Gakuen is at a considerable disadvantage. You can try to do this on your own, but there comes a point where pride must give way to practicalities."
"Tezuka, your shoulder--" Oishi began.
"My shoulder is fine," Tezuka snapped.
"It is not." Raphael crossed his arms. "Trust me, I should know. I am Heaven's most renowned physician."
Fuji opened his eyes. "Tezuka." They locked eyes. "None of us will think any less of you for accepting his aid."
Tezuka's mouth thinned to an angry slash, but Echizen spoke before he could. "Buchou. You didn't have a problem sending an angel to Tachibana," he said. "And I know you're looking forward to meeting Yukimura. Why is what's okay for them wrong for you?" He paused for a beat, to let that soak in. "Besides, they deserve to meet you at your best."
Tezuka sucked in a breath, but when he let it out, his mouth had softened. "Well done, Echizen," he murmured. The boy grinned, and adjusted his cap. Tezuka looked back to Raphael, who had observed this byplay with interest. "We accept your offer," he said, slowly, "but only for as much aid as is strictly necessary." His team let out its collective breath in relief, and Tezuka swept his gaze over them. "Back to practice, all of you."
They grinned at him and dispersed, Momoshiro lifting Echizen's cap in order to ruffle his hair as they went.
"I have to admit," Raphael said, after they had gone, "I didn't think you would accept my offer."
Tezuka was quiet for a long moment before replying. "I would rather not have," he said, finally. "But... to be able to play, all-out, against Yukimura, and Tachibana, and Atobe, without lingering fears..." His smile was quick, gone as quickly as it had come. "It is very compelling."
"So I see," Raphael said. He reached out, probing Tezuka's shoulder, and made a face. "If you had gone ahead without me, you would have ruined this. It's just as well that I came back here."
Tezuka snorted. "I had wondered about that. You seem more Hyoutei's type."
"Quite possibly I am, but I detest Sakaki Tarou and his artistic pretensions," Raphael explained, sending a bit of power through the joint. "There."
Tezuka rotated his shoulder. "Ah. Better. Thank you." He picked up his racquet, ready to head to practice, but stopped. "Raphael-san. A question?" Raphael inclined his head. "Why are your people getting involved?"
"I can't speak for the demons, but as far as the angels..." Raphael shrugged. "Would you believe me if I told you it goes back to sibling rivalry?"
"I might, but that still doesn't explain your presence," Tezuka murmured.
Raphael smiled, and gave the most honest reason he was willing own up to having. "I'm trying to piss Mika-chan off."
Tezuka raised an eyebrow, but let the matter drop, and moved off to join his teammates at practice.
Raphael laced his hands behind his head and contemplated the summer sky. It was, he decided, a beautiful day.