“Akira?” Don’t… “Don’t leave me, Akira!” I can’t… I can’t lose you. Not again. “Akira!”
Ryo blinked. Here he was, yet again, about to whisk Akira away. He sighed.
Was this where he was going wrong?
Was it because of his own selfishness that he kept losing Akira?
No, it had to be something else. It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be.
He felt Akira come crashing into him. He spun him in a tight hug and pulled him into the car.
The Sabbath party was the same. Always the same.
Too tame, too tame.
Ryo felt the blood splatter his face, stain his clothes, drip down his hands.
Was this where it went wrong?
He stopped himself, only stabbing half as many people this time. Just as many devils appeared, and Akira… Akira, killing them. Saving Ryo, who didn’t deserve it.
Once again, he woke up in a hospital bed. He cursed.
He didn’t know who needed to die and who didn’t. How could he keep Akira alive? No matter how hard he tried, he’d always end up alone.
Ryo was ready to scream. He’d done this dozens of times now, but Akira always ended up dead. Maybe if he turned away now, got someone else possessed instead, Akira would live. But no, he’d certainly die with the rest of humanity. He collected Akira one more, his mind racing on how to save him. And once again, Akira died.
On Ryo’s hundredth try, Akira lost to the devil.
On his two hundredth, Akira was killed by the government.
It seemed that no matter what, Akira was meant to die. But he just couldn’t keep letting that happen.
He didn’t know how much more he could take.
On Ryo’s three hundredth loop, he didn’t hug Akira when he picked him up. This time, he kissed him instead. He missed him, even as he held him in his hands. Ryo knew he was going to lose Akira, so he’d love him while he had the chance.
He felt Akira’s surprise, and he felt it melt as he leaned into Ryo. He heard Miki’s shocked outcry, and Wamu’s confusion.
He pulled Akira into the car. Maybe… maybe he wouldn’t lose him this time. But he still took him to the party, still revealed him, and still lost him.
By loop four hundred, the reveal was dropped. Akira Fudo was, in society’s eyes, human. But the fight still came, and again, Ryo lost him.
By five hundred, Ryo was losing his mind. He’d lost so much, too many times.
Was it even worth it?
By six hundred, Akira was no longer a devilman. Ryo kept him away from the party, but still, he died with the world.
By seven hundred, Ryo was tired. He was tired of devils and men and devilmen. He just wanted Akira.
So, he saved him.
He trained him, helped him to become faster and stronger on his own. He brought Akira along to kill devils. Maybe if they killed them, Akira would be safe. He would live.
But again, Ryo lost him.
At seven hundred and fifty three, Ryo kept Akira away from devils entirely. If one threatened Akira, Ryo killed it first.
Somehow, he still lost Akira.
By eight hundred, Ryo was keeping Akira alive longer and longer.
By nine hundred, Akira made it to the next year.
And when Ryo opened his eyes on loop one thousand, something felt different.
He came for Akira on the dock once more, only to find the dock empty. He found himself unarmed. He turned.
Where was Akira?
A light filled his vision, and a voice flooded his ears.
“You’ve done well, my child.”
Vision returned to Ryo and he found himself sitting on the edge of the dock.
“Ryo! There you are. I’ve been looking for you.”
Ryo turned. Akira stood at the top of the step in nice clothing, his arms folded loosely across his chest.
“You didn’t show up for our date, so I thought maybe…” Akira’s voice shrank. “I thought maybe you’d changed your mind.” Ryo stood.
Had he done it? Had he… saved Akira?
Akira held out his hand, and as Ryo took it, he felt peace wash over him. Yes, he could be with Akira, and he’d be peaceful.
It had been harsh on him, it had worn him down, nearly broken his spirit, but maybe, just this once, God had been merciful.