A pure white space. Quiet and still.
At first, it seemed to be a place of peace.
Standing in the middle of it, he takes a slow, relaxed breath. He feels safe here. Welcomed. At home.
Then the air suddenly changed.
Looking up, he sees beings descending from on high, their visages blurred and obscured, but clearly unhuman.
The atmosphere turns cold, as the beings seem to look down upon him in icy scorn.
He wants to scream, to yell — why are you doing this to me? Don’t you love me anymore?!
And he does.
He receives no response.
The beings draw closer to him.
He shudders at their stare, forced to step backward further and further.
Did you ever love me?!
The beings don’t stop their approach.
They say just one word:
With that, he tips backward, and with his arms outstretched, he falls,
Ryo Asuka jolts awake with a gasp, panting as his eyes scan the room rapidly, reorienting himself.
Unlike his dream, the room is dark — it was still nighttime.
Despite his attempt at self-reassurance, he finds himself trembling. Raising a shaking hand to his chest, he finds his heart beating like a rabbit’s.
Taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm his body, he looks upward. What… what was that?
He feels something wet drip down from his face.
Confused, he reaches up to touch it, and startles when he realizes what it is.
He would have expected nightmares of demons, of his professor setting himself aflame and of having to run for his life. That was how the human brain worked, how it processed trauma.
This, however… he was unprepared for.
Foolish… foolish… he scolds himself, as he curls into a fetal position, trembling still.
Eventually his trembling slows. I have to sleep, he thinks to himself, Akira needs me to be at my best.
Thinking of Akira Fudo, his nerves settle at last, and he drifts off to sleep once again.
He calls Akira the next evening. He’s located another demon for them to hunt, to record evidence of.
“All right,” Akira says when Ryo tells him this over the phone, a smile evident in the tone of his voice. He pauses then. “You feelin’ alright, Ryo?”
Ryo blinks. “Yes. Why do you ask?”
“I dunno… you just sounded funny, that’s all,” Akira replies, noncommittally.
“I’m fine,” Ryo assures. He feels no need to tell him of his nightmare — it’s irrelevant to their mission.
“Alright,” Akira says, placated. “See you soon.”
He hangs up, and Ryo tucks his phone away, begins preparing for their hunt. He smiles to himself in satisfaction.
He must stay focused on the task at hand. That is all that matters now.
Another night, another marauding demon is dead.
After bidding Akira goodnight, Ryo goes back to his penthouse, collapses into his bed. He feels more exhausted than usual — likely due to his fitful sleep the night before.
Hoping last night’s nightmare was merely a fluke, he falls asleep easily.
He sees them again, the inhuman creatures inhabiting a pure white space, staring down at him in judgment.
Their visages are clearer, this time — some are human-shaped, but possess multiple pairs of white wings. Others have animal faces and features, reminding Ryo of some of the demons he has seen, but the features are arranged with care and symmetry, unlike the grotesque mishmash melds that demons attempted. Still more didn’t have features that resembled any animal or human — made of wings, of light and fire, and wheels covered in eyes that all stared at him.
Somehow the sight of these creatures unnerved Ryo more than any demons he had yet seen had.
And more than that, he felt that they had taken something from him, something he took for granted until then.
What is it?
The dream plays out like a memory, him having no control over it.
The beings’ voices boomed in his head from all directions.
YOU HAVE DISTURBED THE ORDER.
YOU HAVE DEFIED US.
I disturbed it for a reason! Ryo replies. This is wrong! Why won’t you listen to me?!
YOU ARE WRONG. THIS IS RIGHT. TO DEFY THIS IS TO DEFY THE ALMIGHTY HIMSELF.
Ryo feels himself being pushed backward. He looks upward then. Why are you punishing me? Don’t you love me anymore?!
ORDER MUST BE RESTORED.
Feeling the ground drop out from under him, he falls, falls, falls…
Ryo startles awake again. He sits up, shakes his head. He feels unnerved, yet confused.
What were those creatures? I’ve never seen anything like them before. And why do I talk about love? That doesn’t make any sense… I don’t care about love. It does not exist. Yet… I seemed to think it did, in this dream.
What does this mean…
He’s trembling again, his heart racing.
He lies back down, taking deep breaths and focusing on logic and reason.
His thoughts eventually land on Akira, and again, the thought of his friend soothes him enough that he’s able to go back to sleep.
A golden figure.
A stern expression.
As soon as he’s locked eyes with Ryo, he moves.
Faster than lightning, he’s upon him.
And his hands are encircling Ryo’s throat.
Ryo gasps, coughing and choking on impulse, his hands flying to his neck, only to find nothing there. He looks frantically around his bedroom — nothing has been disturbed, no sign of anyone having entered his room.
He pants, tries to get his thoughts in order.
This isn’t going to stop, is it.
He sighs, then gets up, retrieves his laptop.
Perhaps some research will ease my subconscious. There have to be other people who have seen these creatures in their dreams.
Ryo doesn’t sleep that night.
His first night’s search proving almost fruitless, Ryo throws himself into his work to keep his mind off of the disturbing feelings and images his dreams have left him with, keeps tracking down demons and sending Akira after them, and returns to his research at night once their work is done.
Ryo finds that when he puts his mind to it, he doesn’t need nearly as much sleep as he previously thought he did — a bit like how Calorie Buddy provides him with just enough sustenance to get by, no fuss of food preparation needed.
He looks up how much sleep a human could stand to lose before there are adverse effects, and what he sees worries him — a chance of paranoia, even hallucinations. The thought of his dreams becoming reality for him, at least in his mind, is unsettling. But, try as he might, he cannot force himself to sleep for long, either.
As time passes, however, and the days without sleep drag on… his fears of physical side-effects do not materialize. He is relieved and mystified at the same time. Perhaps he’s just one of the lucky ones.
Focusing back on his main problem at hand, the closest description he can find for the creatures he’s seen in his dreams is one that seems almost preposterous to him — angels.
Digging deeper, angelic lore described many of the creatures that he saw — the multi-winged humanoids, the ones with animal features, the flaming wheels with eyes.
If these were indeed angels, then what was his subconscious telling him? Ryo is baffled. He finds that not many other people have had dreams of these types of angels, and none had them recur night after night.
Is this a consequence of my hunting demons? he proposes.
But why are the angels I see angry with me? Don’t angels hate demons? Then... is this somehow a manifestation of guilt, for turning Akira into a Devilman?
He shakes his head. He doesn’t feel guilty for Akira becoming a Devilman. Akira was strong now; he had overtaken the demon that had possessed him — if anything, Ryo was proud of his friend.
As the articles and forum posts he reads and the videos he views online become more and more obscure and outlandish, he soon hits a wall. Reluctant to sleep, though, he stays awake anyway, going back to his demon research and reconnaissance.
One night, Ryo calls Akira to commence another hunt. Akira sounds hesitant after hearing Ryo’s voice — Ryo assures him, again, then hangs up.
When Akira arrives outside the penthouse on his motorbike, Ryo is preparing for another long night of hunting demons, reloading his guns and tucking them into his coat. Akira dismounts the bike, and walks up to him. When he sees Ryo up close, he pauses, staring at him wordlessly.
Ryo looks up at him, putting on his best nonchalant expression. “Focus, Akira. You can’t be getting distracted while hunting demons.”
“...What if we skipped it tonight?” Akira says.
Ryo’s brows crease. “What do you mean? There’s no time to waste.”
Akira comes closer. “You said this guy has a pretty regular schedule, right? We can catch him tomorrow night.” He closes the distance between them, scrutinizes Ryo with his amber eyes. “Something’s wrong.”
Ryo shakes his head. “There’s nothing wrong. Let’s go.”
He turns to walk away, and Akira catches his arm.
“Ryo,” he says, his voice as firm as his grip. “Talk to me. Something’s going on with you. Something you’re not telling me.”
Ryo sighs. He knew he couldn’t hide this from Akira for long, though he had hoped to have solved it himself before Akira asked too many questions. Too late now.
He turns, faces Akira. Akira looks at him with concern.
“...Have you been sleeping lately?”
Ryo flicks his gaze away. “...Not very well.”
“When did you last sleep?”
Ryo has to think about that. His pause makes Akira’s brows furrow further.
“...About a week ago, I believe.”
Akira’s jaw drops. “Ryo!” He takes a moment to collect himself, then speaks again. “You can die from not sleeping, you know!”
“I feel fine,” Ryo shrugs.
“That’s not true. You look tired… and you’re scared. I can sense it.” Akira loosens his grip on Ryo’s arm. “I’m worried about you, Ryo. I’ve known something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was until now.”
“Don’t worry yourself, Akira. I can handle this on my own.”
Akira finally lets go of Ryo’s arm, and they look at one another for a moment.
“That settles it,” Akira says with finality.
Ryo lets out a soft sigh of relief. “Good. Then, shall we go?”
“I’m staying over here.”
Ryo’s eyebrows lift. “What?”
Akira smiles. “We’re gonna fix this, Ryo. Demon hunting can wait. You’ve helped me out all this time — it’s time I returned the favor.”
“Akira, you really don’t have to-”
“Nope! It’s settled.” Akira stalks off toward the entrance to Ryo’s penthouse. “I’m staying over. I can crash on your couch if I have to, right?”
Ryo sighs in defeat. “Yes… I suppose.”
Though he did not like the thought of their mission being stalled amidst the growing crisis, he had to admit that he found the idea of spending more time with Akira greatly appealing. And so, he acquiesces… for now.
Akira enters Ryo’s penthouse, takes off his shoes, then shrugs off his jacket and hangs it near the door. Ryo follows behind him.
“Whaddaya got to eat around here?” Akira asks, stretching his limbs. “I had dinner with the Makimuras, but it wasn’t enough.”
“Jenny,” Ryo calls lazily, making his way to the couch.
Jenny appears suddenly, as though she had been hiding somewhere, startling Akira.
“Make Akira some steak, if you would,” Ryo asks her. She turns wordlessly toward the kitchen.
Akira, visibly unnerved, leans toward Ryo to whisper. “Does she ever sleep?”
“Probably,” Ryo answers in a disinterested tone, turning his laptop back on.
Akira ambles to sit down across from Ryo, fixing him with a look as Ryo busied himself with the internet. “Aren’t you going to tell me why you aren’t sleeping?”
Ryo doesn’t respond immediately. “...It’s merely a bout of insomnia. Nothing more.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Akira says, leaning forward. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s wrong.”
Akira makes an aggravated groan. “Are you hungry?” he asks, changing the subject, smelling the cooking steak in the kitchen already.
“Not really,” Ryo says, not looking up from his laptop.
Akira sighs, staring so hard in Ryo’s direction it could have drilled holes through his laptop screen. Minutes later the rare steak arrives, and Akira consumes it all too quickly, trying his best to avert his gaze from Jenny’s… assets as she walks away.
“Ahhh, that hit the spot,” Akira says, stretching exaggeratedly. “I’m kinda sleepy now. How about you?”
“I’m fine,” Ryo answers evenly.
“Ryyyoooo,” Akira drawls, standing up. “You haven’t slept in a week. You’re tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
Akira huffs out another sigh, and doesn’t reply. A beat of silence passes.
Then Akira’s lifting the laptop from Ryo’s lap, placing it on the nearby table, before he sits down atop Ryo’s legs.
Ryo makes a startled noise and squirms in place, and finds he’s unable to budge under the weight of his best friend, who’s smiling smugly down at him.
“Get off of me!” Ryo complains.
Akira smirks. “I’m not going anywhere until you stop acting like a big baby and go to bed already.”
“Baby?!” Ryo huffs.
“Yeah, you’re acting just like a stubborn little kid. But all kids gotta sleep eventually. So, are you gonna go? I just might sleep riiight here…” Akira gives an exaggerated yawn.
“Akiraaa…” Ryo says, not hiding his irritation well.
“Or maybe you need to be carried there, hm? Orrr… maybe I’ll sleep in bed with ya. Maybe that’ll help you sleep,” Akira says, stroking his chin with a playful smile.
Ryo pauses, thinking. Akira sleeping in bed with me… maybe that would help.
“...Very well,” he replies.
Akira’s brows raise in surprise. “Really? Alright, if you say so…” He stands up and fluidly moves to scoop up Ryo, lifting him with ease.
After allowing Ryo to shut down the laptop properly (at his request), Akira and he make their way to Ryo’s bedroom. In Akira’s arms, Ryo relaxes, feeling some of the anxiety he’s been harboring ebb at last.
Akira places Ryo in the bed gingerly, then takes off his jeans and socks, leaving just a tee shirt and boxers. He slips into the bed next to him, pulling up the covers over both of them.
“That okay, Ryo?” Akira asks in a soft voice.
“Mm,” Ryo nods, nestling into the sheets. He’s still feeling hesitant, still feels the impulse to keep himself awake.
Akira seems to sense that. “Don’t worry about a thing. If anything happens, I’ll be right here.”
That’s right… Akira would protect me, even if it was an angel trying to attack me.
With that thought in mind, Ryo falls asleep faster than he expected to.
Watching Ryo’s breaths even out and deepen, Akira lets out a quiet sigh. “Was that so hard?” he mutters with a relieved smile. He relaxes, slipping deeper into the sheets and closing his eyes.
Just as his consciousness begins to wane, he hears a soft whimper.
“Hm?” Akira’s eyes open, and in his enhanced night vision he sees Ryo curling up, his whole body trembling. He fidgets, rolling to his other side, letting out another whine.
A nightmare? Akira wonders with concern. He looks closer… and finds tears forming at Ryo’s eyes. Before he knows it, Akira’s crying too.
“Ryo…” He sidles up closer to him, reaches out to tenderly stroke Ryo’s blond locks. Ryo eases somewhat for a moment, before his brow creases, his eyelids squeeze tighter, and his mouth pulls further downward.
Ryo begins to fidget more violently, squirming away from Akira and nearly kicking him as he thrashes, fighting whatever it was in his dream.
“Ryo! Wake up!” Akira exclaims, tears running down his face as he tries to get a hold of Ryo. “It’s a dream!”
He manages to take hold of both of Ryo’s arms and hold him still at last. Ryo gasps, his eyes opening and meeting Akira’s, the blue of them almost seeming to glow in the darkness.
Akira, suddenly feeling awkward, lets go of Ryo’s arms and sits back, giving him room to breathe. Ryo sits up, holding his chest as he catches his breath.
“Are you okay, Ryo… ?”
Ryo gives a small, shuddering sigh. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”
He couldn’t hide the tremor in his voice. Akira frowns. “Ryo, you don’t have to pretend you’re okay. I know you’re scared… and sad. You’re crying.”
“I’m not,” Ryo shakes his head. “I’m not crying. I’m…” He reaches up to touch his face. Pulling his hand back, he sees the dampness on his fingers… and the tears running down Akira’s face unabated.
And he crumbles.
Choking out a soft sob, he’s quickly pulled into Akira’s arms and hugged tight. Akira can feel Ryo’s breath hitching with quiet sobs, and he strokes his back comfortingly.
“It’s okay… You’re okay… I’m sorry… You’re safe...”
Akira repeats that, over and over. He’s suddenly reminded of the moment when he and Ryo first met, when they were just children — he had hugged Ryo just like this, and felt his sadness, his fear, that Ryo himself couldn’t even express.
Except this time, Ryo hugs him in return, clutching desperately at his back and allowing himself to be pulled closer.
Soon, Ryo’s trembling slows, and he’s sniffling wetly behind Akira’s shoulder.
Akira scans the bedroom for any nearby tissues, and he finds a box on the bedside table. He grabs a few, and pulls back to offer them to Ryo. “Here,” he says with a gentle smile, “I think you need these.”
“Mm,” Ryo replies, the sound more nasal than usual, and takes them, wiping at his eyes and nose with them.
Akira observes him, frowning in concern. “I’m sorry, Ryo. I guess that’s why you don’t want to sleep…”
Ryo nods quietly, dropping the used tissues into a nearby wastebasket.
“There has to be something we can do…” Akira muses. “What are the nightmares about?”
Ryo pauses, thinking. Akira doesn’t press him.
“...Angels,” Ryo says finally, almost in defeat.
Akira’s eyebrows raise. “Angels? That doesn’t sound so bad.”
Ryo promptly shakes his head. “They’re terrifying… and, they’re always angry at me, in every dream I have. And every time I fall asleep now, I dream of them… that’s why I’m not sleeping.”
Akira blinks in disbelief, and shakes his head as well. “That’s strange… I wonder why you’re having these dreams now?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. It began soon after we started our demon hunting endeavors, so I can’t help but think the two are connected somehow.”
“Hmm…” Akira thinks. “Well, it’s not like we can stop hunting demons, though… they’re hurting people.”
“Right,” Ryo nods. “So all I can do is try to figure out what’s causing the dreams, then perhaps they can stop.”
“Then… wouldn’t it be a better idea to try to sleep more, so you can get more information? I know it’s not pleasant, but… it’s not real, right?”
Ryo shakes his head vigorously. “No. I cannot do that. The dreams… they’re too disturbing to me.” He looks away, his voice turning fragile.
Akira looks down, regretting his words. “I’m sorry. I understand. How… do the dreams make you feel, exactly? If you can talk about it.”
Ryo looks up, pondering. “They make me feel… afraid. Unnerved. But… strange, too...”
“I can’t quite describe it yet… but it’s an unpleasant feeling,” Ryo concludes.
Akira sighs, ruffles his hair as he thinks. “You can’t just go without sleep, though… that’s not good for you.”
“I feel fine,” Ryo says again.
“You’ll get sick after a while, though… and, I need you, too…” Akira adds, his eyes meeting Ryo’s in the dark.
Ryo stared back at him, looking struck somehow. Then he sighs softly. “Alright. Do you have any ideas?”
“Hmmm…” Akira pauses, looking up toward the ceiling thoughtfully. Then he looks down at Ryo again, and it’s a split second before his arms are around his friend, pulling the both of them back down onto the bed in one swift movement.
Ryo squawks in protest. “What are you doing?!”
Akira smiles. “I’ll hold you.”
Ryo blinks at him. “What?”
“I’ll hold you while you sleep. You feel safe when I do this, right?” Akira snakes his arms around Ryo and pulls him close in a firm, yet gentle embrace. “Maybe if you fall asleep like this, the dreams won’t scare you as much.”
He can tell Ryo wants to rebut him, by the way he hesitates. But, looking into Akira’s eyes once more, he caves. Akira can feel his tense body relaxing as he eases into his arms.
“Fine… it’s worth a try,” Ryo sighs, before he rests his head against Akira’s chest.
Akira smiles down at him, then rests his head on the pillow.
Ryo… whatever this is, I’ll protect you.
He gives Ryo a reassuring squeeze, before falling asleep at last.
Ryo doesn’t think it will work, and he feels ridiculous for caving into Akira’s whims like he did. But, he can’t deny that Akira’s presence — his warmth, his scent, his care — made the unpleasant feeling his dream had left him with fade away.
Listening to his friend’s strong, steady heartbeat, his consciousness soon slips away.
The angels come, and they push him over the edge once again.
He falls and falls, but lands at last — into Akira’s warm embrace.
He feels at peace.
He stands, and Akira smiles at him.
His mind suddenly interrupts with an interjecting thought.
Love does not exist.
Akira spontaneously shifts before him, into Devilman, now looking more like the demon Amon than like his best friend.
And neither does sorrow.
The Devilman grins wickedly. He hears him speak.
You’re too close.
Ryo steps backward, and Akira launches himself at him, his fist flying toward Ryo’s face.
Ryo gasps awake before dream-Akira’s fist connects, more perplexed than afraid. He pants lightly, his eyes searching for Akira in the dim light.
He finds him, still fast asleep, even drooling a little.
Ryo lets out a relieved sigh, and smiles at him.
His intrusive thoughts do not stop, however.
Love does not exist.
It is not real.
Stop it, he thinks to himself, the thoughts disturbing him in a way he couldn’t explain.
If you believe it is real, it will betray you.
You will feel sorrow.
If you do not believe in it, it will not hurt you.
Neither love nor sorrow will exist for you.
“Stop it,” he whispers, holding his head in his hands.
You are above this.
You are above emotions.
You have to be.
Ryo slips out of bed as silently as he can, Akira not rousing as he does so, and he leaves the room, still holding his head, it beginning to ache.
Images flash through his mind as he pads barefoot to the living room — like those of his dreams, of being coldly rejected, of falling, falling, falling…
...of the absence of love.
He hears the voice in his head again, speaking to him.
You are stronger than this.
You are too close to him.
He will betray you, reject you.
Just like everyone else has.
Ryo’s fingers clutch at his scalp desperately, willing the thoughts to stop to no avail.
He lets go at last, and finds himself saying aloud, “Who are you?!”
I am you.
The next morning, Akira awakes.
He opens his eyes, looking blearily around the room in confusion for a moment, before remembering that he was in Ryo’s bedroom.
He can still smell Ryo’s scent… but it was faint now.
Akira peers over, and finds that Ryo is no longer there.
Akira sighs, unsurprised. He stretches, yawns, then moves to get up.
After getting dressed, he texts Miki to let her know where he is, then goes down to the living room at an unhurried pace. He finds Ryo there, on the couch with his laptop, just like he had been the night before — it was as though he had never left it.
Akira sighs again softly. This didn’t surprise him either. “Mornin’, Ryo,” he greets, and Ryo looks up.
“Good morning, Akira,” he replies casually, then looks back down at his laptop.
“How are you feeling?” Akira follows up with.
“I’m feeling fine,” Ryo replies evenly.
Akira frowns slightly. Something’s off about Ryo. I can’t tell what yet. “How much sleep did you get, ya think?”
Ryo doesn’t look up when he replies, but he thinks about his answer for a few seconds. “Hmm, a few hours, I think. Perhaps four or five.”
Akira lets out a small sigh of relief. “Well, that’s better than nothing, at least. I was right, wasn’t I?” He gives a little smirk. “I was able to help.”
“You’re right. You assisted me greatly. I thank you,” Ryo says with a small smile.
Akira begins to shuffle toward the kitchen. “I texted Miki to let her know that I stayed over. If you think you’ll need me again tonight though, that shouldn’t be a problem — heck, if you feel safer with me here, I could stay over longer. I’d just have to tell the Makimuras-”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Akira stops. He looks back at Ryo. “Huh?”
Ryo’s looking at him with a cold, steady stare. “Your help last night was more than enough. I will no longer need your assistance with that. I’ll be fine now.”
He looks back down at his laptop, leaving Akira staring at him, puzzled.
Ryo’s voice had sounded almost robotic. Forced, even.
“Okay…” Akira says in a doubtful tone. He watches Ryo for a moment — he’s as casual as ever, typing away at his keyboard, but Akira can sense that he’s forcing that, too.
Akira decides breakfast can wait, and walks over to Ryo.
He’s standing over him now, and though Ryo doesn’t look up at him, Akira can get a better read of how he’s really feeling.
Something definitely isn’t right.
“...Ryo, you don’t have to pretend you’re okay. Not around me.”
“But I am okay,” Ryo replies evenly, not looking up at him.
Akira shakes his head. “You’re not. You’re still scared… and, you’re sad, too.”
Akira sees the corner of Ryo’s mouth twitch at that, before his neutral expression returns. “I am neither of those things.”
Akira frowns, comes closer. “I’m not lying, Ryo.”
Ryo is unruffled. “Neither am I.”
“Ryo,” Akira says in a low growl. The sound makes Ryo look up at him at last.
Akira looks back at him, unflinching. “Why are you sad, Ryo?”
“I’m not,” Ryo replies, unwavering.
Akira lets out a frustrated growl. “Ryo, what’s going on? Why are you pretending not to feel anything?! Why do you always pretend you don’t feel anything?!?”
“...Because emotions don’t matter. They’re not real.”
Akira pauses, gaping at Ryo. “What?”
“Human emotion is merely the product of multiple chemicals in the brain reacting to stimuli,” Ryo began, slipping into a scholarly tone. “Dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine. Emotions are the reactions to these chemicals. There is no deeper meaning to emotion any more than there is to hunger or thirst, and thus it can be treated as such.”
The gears in Akira’s mind grind to a halt, as he stares at Ryo uncomprehendingly. “...What?”
“Sensations are only as real as you acknowledge them as. I deny hunger, so I am able to subsist on very little. If I do not acknowledge emotions as real, they will not exist for me.”
Akira manages to shut his agape mouth at last, before opening it again to respond. “...You can’t be serious. You can’t just deny your emotions, Ryo! A-and you shouldn’t deny yourself food or water either!” He rakes a hand through his mussed hair with a deep grumble. “What the hell, Ryo?!”
“I am totally serious.”
“How the hell are you going to deny all your emotions? Just because you deny something doesn’t mean it’s not real!”
“Emotions aren’t real. Fear isn’t real. Love isn’t real,” Ryo states, almost monotone.
“Not real? Last night you were shivering, in fear! I sensed it! I can sense everything you feel, and I feel it too,” Akira placed his hand on his chest for emphasis. “I know your feelings are real, even if you don’t!”
Ryo’s eyes go wide, like a wall of his had just been shattered. It’s not his only one, however, and he falls back on the next one, his facial expression smoothly easing back to neutral. “Be that as it may, you are merely reading my reactions. Let me ask you, Akira. Can you say that your own emotions are more than simple reactions?”
“Of course I can!” Akira replies without hesitation, leaving Ryo blinking. “I’m a human, so of course my emotions are more than that! Like… like love. Love is real, Ryo!”
Ryo smirks. It’s not a look Akira likes. “You’re just lying to yourself.”
Akira flinches, then frowns deeply. He closes the remaining distance between them, shoves the laptop away, making Ryo’s expression falter as he looks up to meet Akira’s eyes.
“Lying?! Ryo, I-” He chokes up for a second, tears forming in his eyes. He collects himself again. “I don’t know everything about love, okay? I know that. I know it’s complicated and weird. But I know what I feel, and it’s real! I love my mom and dad,” he sniffles, fat tears rolling down his cheeks at the thought of them, “I love the Makimuras too. I’d do anything for them, anything to protect them. I love my friends too.” He suddenly lurches forward, grabs Ryo by the shoulders to bring him closer. “And I love you! Are you saying that I’m a liar?!”
He hears Ryo gasp softly, as though struck by his words. He swallows as his wide eyes search Akira’s tear-soaked face.
Akira sniffles again, and doesn’t let Ryo respond, though his voice is thick with tears now. “And I know you love me too, I can sense it!”
At that, Ryo freezes, staring blankly back at Akira, the last of the walls he had put up having been bulldozed by Akira’s sheer will.
“Stop fighting it! Stop lying to yourself!” Akira continues, shaking Ryo lightly by the shoulders. “I care about you, Ryo! I want to help you! Don’t handle this on your own…” Akira stops, lets out a sob and pulls Ryo close to his chest, hugging him tight as he continues to cry.
“You care about me too, don’t you…?” Akira adds in a soft mutter.
Ryo is frozen still, and Akira isn’t sure when, or if, he’ll reply.
Moments later, he feels Ryo let out a sigh, some of the tension leaving his body.
Akira’s sure he’s gotten through to him.
Ryo takes a breath.
“...I care for you. We care for one another out of necessity — you know my secret, and I know yours. Our survival depends on each of us looking out for the other. Your emotional reactions strengthen this bond. It’s the same for animals — their bonds help one another survive. Simple as that.”
Akira pulls away from him, examines his face. It’s somehow regained its previous neutrality.
“That’s all emotions are for, Akira. There’s no need to worry about them more than you have to. They’re just natural reactions. We needn’t make ourselves vulnerable.”
Akira stands. “‘Vulnerable’?” he spits. “Is that how you see it? Is that how you see love? How you see my love?” Akira’s voice rises in anger, and hurt. “I don’t love my family because I’m an animal. I’m a human! I love them because they’re irreplaceable to me, and I’d miss them if they were gone! You’re irreplaceable to me too, Ryo!”
Ryo simply stares blankly back at him, having hastily rebuilt the wall between himself and Akira’s heart.
Akira sniffles loudly, screwing his face up. “If you don’t understand that, then I don’t have anything to say to you.”
He turns, and walks toward the door. Pulling his shoes back on and shrugging into his jacket as he feels Ryo’s eyes on his back, he leaves the apartment, without a word more.
Ryo continues to stare at the closed door, then he blinks, and shakes his head.
Why is he so angry with me? I was just telling the truth.
He gets up, checks the laptop that Akira had unceremoniously shoved off of him, and goes back to his work.
He finds it difficult to focus on it, however — images keep appearing in his mind, of Akira’s sorrowful face, and his prior words echo.
'Vulnerable’? Is that how you see it? Is that how you see love? How you see my love?
“Nn,” Ryo lets out, feeling discomfort in his chest. Why… No, I won’t allow myself to feel this-
You’re irreplaceable to me too, Ryo!
“Hn!” Ryo clutches at his shirt, his chest aching in a way it never had before. He can feel his eyes starting to well, but he holds it back.
Hunching over, he squeezes his eyes shut. “I can’t! Do this! I can’t allow myself to feel this!” He says aloud, to no one. “I can’t allow myself to get too close! I’ll be vulnerable!”
He gasps in a breath, the ache in his chest persisting, tears threatening to leak out of his shut eyes. “I’m stronger than this!”
At his shout, Jenny quietly walks in the room. She stares at Ryo for a moment, then walks away, just as silently.
Hours pass, and though Ryo’s resistance is strong, Akira’s influence is stronger — his voice, his words, his face and his warmth, never leave Ryo’s mind for long. His fight against his tears fails, and soon he’s sobbing on his couch, balling his fists into the fabric of it in anger at himself.
He wants to remove his tear ducts. He wants to claw out his still-aching heart.
But more than anything…
…he wants to see Akira.
Exhausted, he finally relents, giving up his fight against his own emotions. Allowing them to run their course, letting his tears flow until they stop, he thinks to himself.
...What have I done? Did I… did I hurt Akira?
Because… I listened to that voice, in my head.
The one that said it was me.
But was it?
I don’t know… I don’t know anymore…
Why would I think something like that?
Why am I like this?
Is there something wrong with me?
Am I… am I even human at all?
At this thought, his eyes widen, and his brain buzzes anew.
That’s… something I haven’t considered.
He lifts his head, and his hands scrabble across the couch in search of his laptop. Laying his hands on it again, he pulls it to himself, and begins a new round of research.
It’s absurd, but… I have to pursue it. For Akira.
He thinks on his dream again, and, deciding to go down a path he hadn’t dared tread before, he types into his search engine:
More hours have passed, and despite the many rabbit holes he finds himself going down on the internet, Ryo’s thoughts still wander to Akira.
He hasn’t received a single text or call since their morning argument, and the very thought of it makes Ryo’s chest ache in a way that he can’t ignore.
His focus wanes and his thoughts tangle — he thought he could wait it out, wait for Akira to contact him. He was wrong.
Impulsively he grabs his phone. He texts, and texts. No response. He calls him. It goes straight to voicemail.
Letting out a frustrated yell, he throws his cell phone to the opposite end of the couch, the last remnants of his restraint keeping him from chucking it across the room.
He misses Akira.
He needs to talk to him.
Hurriedly closing his laptop, he dashes to the door, grabbing his keys.
His Orochi speeds to the Makimura residence, the tires screeching on the pavement as he comes to an abrupt stop in front of the modest home.
Taking the key from the ignition, he lets out a sigh, looking out the window at the residence. He never thought he’d have to come here.
But, if his guess was right… he would find Akira here for sure.
His heart leaps at that thought.
The sun has gone down, and as Ryo exits the car he realizes that he no longer knows what time it is. No matter, he thinks, walking up to the door.
He finds that there’s a doorbell, and rings it. Hearing no movement from inside, he rings it again. And again.
He’s ringing it in staccato before the door finally opens, revealing a frowning Miki Makimura.
“Ryo?!” she exclaims while forcefully keeping her voice lowered. “It’s midnight!”
“Oh…” Ryo says. “...Is Akira here?”
Miki’s frown deepens. “The last time I checked, yes. Why do you ask?”
Ryo does his best to maintain his composure. “...I need to speak with him. As soon as possible. May I come in?”
Miki’s eyes scan him from head to toe, then back up again. She steps back. “Fine,” she sighs. “Please be quiet. My parents and brother are asleep. Luckily I just happened to be getting a snack.”
Ryo walks in, the pajama-clad Miki observing him with scrutiny, her arms crossed. “I feel like I should give you a pat-down,” she quips, half-serious.
“I didn’t bring a gun,” Ryo says, realizing that he truly hadn’t, nor had he brought any other weapon. I’m slipping…
Miki makes a face at that. “I would hope not! Jeez, what does Akira see in you…”
Her comment pricks Ryo, who looks up at her then. “Has he said anything to you?”
Miki’s eyebrow raises. “No. He was in a gloomy mood all day, and he wouldn’t tell any of us what was wrong.” She leans toward him. “Would you be the reason for that, may I ask?”
Ryo falters, and looks down, unable to form an answer.
“...Where is his room. Please,” he says at last, his voice sounding brittle to his own ears.
Miki stares at him for a moment before straightening. “Are you going to steal him away again, or what?”
“I just want to talk to him!” Ryo nearly shouts, his voice breaking near the end.
“I said be quiet!” Miki scolds. “Fine, I’ll show you to his room. But if you’re loud again I’m kicking you out, and if you wake my parents up I’m throwing you out the window.”
“Got it,” Ryo says in a lowered, monotone voice.
Miki turns and strides away from him, Ryo following wordlessly behind.
Upstairs, Miki points to one of the doors. “There it is.” She steps aside, waiting for Ryo to make a move.
Ryo swallows, staring at the door. His heart begins to pound uncomfortably.
What if he’s rejected me… ?
He decides to push that emotion down for his own sake, and strides toward the door. He gives the door a light but audible knock. “Akira?” Another knock. “Akira, are you in there?”
He hears a low grumble on the other side of the door.
Ryo falters, but doesn’t give up. “Akira, listen to me-”
“I don’t have anything to say to you!”
At Akira’s yell, Ryo shrinks back from the door. Miki slides in then, between him and the bedroom door, her brows furrowed in concern. “What did you do? I’ve never seen him like this before.”
“I…” Ryo’s throat tightens; he can feel tears threatening to appear. He pushes through. “I… I think I hurt him. Emotionally. I didn’t mean to… but now he’s upset with me. I just… I just want to talk with him about it.”
He hates how vulnerable he feels, but if his emotions help him to earn Miki’s trust, it will be worth it, he thinks.
Miki scrutinizes his expression for a moment. “When was the last time you talked to him?”
“This morning, when we had a fight… he hasn’t talked to me or replied to my texts since.”
“Hmm,” Miki muses. “Hold on, I have an idea,” she whispers to him.
Ryo’s eyebrows raise as he watches Miki turn to the door.
“Akira, open the door.”
“Is Ryo still there?” Akira grits out groggily.
“Yes, he is. Let him in.”
“No! I’m not talking to him!”
Miki crosses her arms. “Let him in or I’ll beat him up for hurting your feelings. Pick one!”
Ryo hears Akira laugh a little. “You’re bluffing.”
Miki smirks. “Oh, really? Okay~!”
She whirls around, and faster than Ryo can blink she’s grabbed his arm, her other hand coming up to pinch the underside of it, hard.
“Ow-!” Ryo says, involuntarily trying to squirm away from her grip. He can hear Akira scrambling on the other side of the door.
Akira opens the door in a rush, panicked bewilderment on his face. When he sees the two, he frowns, and, avoiding eye contact with Ryo, wordlessly withdraws back into his room.
But not before Miki’s shoved her foot into the doorway, keeping the door from closing.
“Miki,” Akira whines.
He pulls the door open wider, Miki taking the opportunity to confront him, angling her head to make eye contact with Akira’s bowed-down frame. “I don’t know what got you so upset, but Ryo looks like he really wants to apologize. Isn’t it better to work this out instead of stewing in it? Hm?”
Akira grumbles, still not looking at Ryo.
Miki sighs. “No relationship problem was ever solved by icing out each other. If you want to work this out, you two have to talk. You’re best friends, aren’t you?”
Akira gives a soft sigh, his face easing, and he pushes the door open wider, looking at Ryo fully at last. Ryo stares back, feeling vulnerable again — like Akira could break him like glass, if he chooses to reject him.
He doesn’t, though — not yet. He steps back, allowing Ryo space to enter his room. Ryo hesitates. Miki turns to him with an encouraging smile…
…then pushes him into the room in one swift motion.
Stumbling a bit, Ryo regains his footing just in time to hear Miki warn, “Be nice!” before pulling Akira’s door shut behind her.
Hearing her footsteps fade away, Ryo and Akira stand before one another, in silence. Now what? Ryo wonders.
Akira shuffles his feet awkwardly, gives a loud yawn. Ryo tries to find words, any words, but every time he ventures to speak, his throat tightens and he feels a fluttering sensation in his stomach, the strange sensations silencing him.
Damn these pesky emotions…
He glances up at Akira now and then, Akira looking away a half-second after their eyes meet. Their awkward standstill continues for what feels like forever, until Akira breaks the silence at last, letting out a huff of annoyance. Ryo looks up, and sees Akira ambling back to his bed. He drops onto it with a whump, rolls over away from Ryo, and hugs his pillow. Ryo tilts his head in confusion.
“If you’re just going to stand around, you can leave,” Akira says at last, his voice slightly muffled by the pillow. “I’m tired.”
Ryo looks down, thinking fast. Then he takes a slow breath.
“...I think I’m not human.”
At that, Akira rolls back over, still clutching his pillow, frowning at him. “...What?”
Ryo loses his words again, and stares at Akira helplessly.
Akira sighs in exasperation and sits up, crossed-legged. He rubs his face. “Ryo, this isn’t how apologizing works.”
Ryo frowns too. “Listen to me. I had not fully considered it before today, but over time it’s become more and more apparent that I possess traits that other humans do not have. I do not need to eat or even sleep as much as the typical human does,” he begins to count on his fingers, “the unusual, recurring nightmares that seem to have no apparent cause; the times I’ve felt like my actions were not my own, like some kind of force or muscle memory was driving me; sometimes I’ve even felt like I knew what someone else was thinking,” he reaches his fourth finger and stops, shaking his head. “I’m not sure what I am yet, but I’m certainly not human.”
Akira’s still frowning, but seems to be processing what he said.
Ryo sighs. “And… I’m wondering if my recent feelings and actions have been because of this. If, something is awakening in me… or something.” He shakes his head. The more he voices his thoughts, the more ridiculous Ryo feels for having them. He looks back up at Akira for validation, who’s still frowning in his direction, arms crossed. Akira then raises his eyebrows as though to say, ‘I’m still waiting’.
I’m losing him. I’d better get to the point. “...I thought feelings weren’t real. But, there must be some real feelings, because when you left… I felt like dying." His voice lowered and softened.
Tired of standing, Ryo sits down on Akira’s desk chair, and lifts his legs to hug his knees. He stares down at a spot on the floor as he speaks again. "I don’t have you around just out of necessity. I… truly care about you. I shouldn’t have been so cold." He finally looks up, though his sight keeps jumping to the side. "I apologize. I was wrong."
Ryo waits for Akira to reply, to give him any sign that he was paying attention and this wasn’t for naught. But Akira stays silent. Ryo looks up again and sees Akira staring back at him with widened eyes, clearly stunned by his admission.
Ryo feels like hiding. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to him — he feels exposed, raw. He pouts and leans his face on top of his knees, huddling up like in a cocoon. “...What? Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I think this is the first time you’ve been truly honest with me. Give me a moment to digest that,” Akira snarks back. He gives a heavy sigh and slides to the edge of the bed, sitting firmly with his feet on the ground, leaning his elbows on his legs — a deep thinking pose.
“Why tell me all that just to apologize?” Akira says at last. “I mean, yeah, you were being an asshole, but it didn’t really have anything to do with, I dunno, you having telepathy? Help me out here, Ryo.”
Ryo frowns again, irked. “I am trying my hardest. I don’t know how to do anything like this.” He looks down again, feeling insecure. “...I'm afraid of making you angry with me again, of you leaving me alone again... and I don’t know how I’ll deal with that a second time.” He squeezes his knees closer to his chest. “I don’t know how to describe it yet, but… I don’t want to lose you.”
Akira sighs again, and looks at Ryo for a moment. He then scrubs his hands wildly through his hair to clear his head. “...I can tell this is difficult for you. But, you’re the one who was being a dick.”
Ryo looks up, frowning in Akira’s direction again. Akira meets his eyes with an earnest expression.
“But I’m not gonna leave again. I see you’re trying, so I want to try too. I want to work this out.”
Seeing Akira’s softened eyes and hearing the sincerity in his voice, Ryo feels a bit placated, but his worry remains. Still clutching his knees for a sense of security, he straightens his back somewhat, so that he’s talking to Akira directly and not his windowsill.
“I told you all of that because it is all connected, Akira. I said what I said to you earlier because of those nightmares I have.” Ryo pauses for a moment, gathering his thoughts and parsing them into words Akira can understand.
"...I always felt lied to, and abandoned, and like this phrase is burned into my mind: Love isnt real, therefore feelings aren’t real. And if they aren’t real, you can’t really hurt anyone, or be hurt, you see?”
"Well clearly that’s not true, you know that now, right?" Akira says, hesitantly.
Ryo meets his eyes. He doesn’t know how to answer that, doesn’t know what to trust anymore. But…
"...I trust you. I trust you don’t lie, and I believe you care. I can see it in your eyes." Ryo grabs his knees like an anchor. "I always knew that, but I sort of… ignored it before, due to my theory about emotions."
Akira frowns in concern, his eyes beginning to shine with impending tears. “How were you able to live like that? Everyday, thinking my feelings… anyone’s weren’t real? Why?”
Ryo makes a face at him. Do I really have to talk about this? Akira probably won’t let this go, though.
“I don’t remember, you know I don’t. But I… feel like there used to be… I suppose you could call it a parental unit? A figure of authority? There was someone in my life who claimed to love me, and many others, no matter what, but it was a lie. It wasn’t true. He just pretended, so he could use us.” Feeling a sudden pulse of pain, Ryo frowned and raised his hand to his head. Trying to remember his past seemed to give him a headache.
How annoying, he thinks, wishing the pain would stop so he could keep talking.
It doesn’t stop. It continues, and worsens. He lets out a cry of pain, clutching his head and curling into himself.
“Ryo?!” he hears Akira exclaim.
“I’m… fine…” he struggles to get out, but his lie was for moot. Seeing a strange red blur outside of the window for a split-second, Ryo’s suddenly overcome, and beginning to slide off the chair.
He feels his body being caught by Akira’s arms just before he could hit the floor, but he can give no response. The pain in his head is searing, and building, and feels like it might burst any moment.
“Ryo, what’s wrong?!”
Just when he thinks he can take no more, the pain peaks.
He takes in a gasping breath, as his mind fills.
“Ryo, say something!!” Akira says, his voice growing desperate. “I shouldn’t have pushed you…”
Feeling a teardrop hit his face, Ryo looks up at him at last, though somehow he feels like he’s far away. “No… no, it’s fine. I just… I feel… like something’s coming back to me…” He groans in pain. “Images… in my head… just like my dreams…”
Feeling Akira’s hand on his back, rubbing it in an attempt at comfort, Ryo’s consciousness is overtaken, flooded with images and memories like a movie on fast-forward.
Then, his vision whites out.
Munching on a granola bar, Miki stands in the hallway, waiting.
I’m not going to eavesdrop on them, she had told herself when she left Akira’s room, but I am going to stand by in case something bad happens, or if my parents wake up. I still don’t trust Ryo… and Akira’s been behaving so strangely lately. There’s no telling what they’ll do in there.
So she waits, leaning against the wall in the middle of the hall, giving Akira’s door cursory glances now and then. She can hear voices, but they’re calm.
Maybe I won’t have to break up a fight tonight. Fine by me.
She finishes her granola bar, and slips the wrapper into her pocket. Feeling tired, she considers just going back to bed and trusting Akira to sort things out on his own.
Just then, she sees a flash of light from the corner of her eye.
She turns, and sees bright white light beaming out from behind Akira’s door, underneath it and through all its seams. It flashes in a burst, then fades, but is still brighter than normal — and certainly brighter than any lamp that Akira owns that she knows of.
“What… was that… ?"
Distantly, Ryo is aware that his body is now glowing. Shining so brightly that Akira has to avert his eyes, though he still held onto him tight.
Ryo makes a sound, not of pain this time. He leans back from Akira, just enough to let his many wings unfold. His limbs stretch and lengthen at the same time, rapidly. It doesn’t hurt, like he would have expected it to; it feels like a release.
And he remembers.
Remembers being noble, beautiful, and benign.
“That’s right. That’s what I was.”
His own voice sounds softer, more serene to his ears.
The transformation complete, Ryo let out a breath of relief, all of his prior tension dissipating.
All the memories that had flashed through his mind previously fall into place and align.
Before this, he had always felt different, ever since he was a child, never sure if it was good or bad. But at this moment… it felt right.
It all made sense.
After its initial burst, the glow fades incrementally. Soon Akira notices his eyelids are no longer burning, and cautiously opens his eyes. He immediately gapes in awe.
There Ryo sits, in all his angelic glory, most of his glow having calmed down. He stares at his limbs as though still in a trance, not looking at Akira.
Akira’s looking at him, though. He can’t pull his eyes away from him. Even though the light had faded considerably, he felt blinded by Ryo’s sheer… beauty.
His golden hair had lengthened past his shoulders. His limbs had grown longer somehow. His clothes had mysteriously vanished from his body, revealing pearly, blemishless skin. And he had gained a new feature that couldn’t be ignored — wings. Pristine, feathery and white, they seem to be everywhere on Ryo’s slim body, even a pair at his ankles, and two more at the sides of his head.
Taking in his appearance now, Akira acknowledged something he had only thought in the back of his mind — Ryo was beautiful. He had thought that, all along, but now it was undeniable.
He can hardly believe that what he’s seeing is real. He reaches out carefully to him, pokes his cheek to check if this is really happening.
Ryo, his trance broken, looks up at him, his blue eyes sparkling as they met Akira’s, making Akira’s heart skip a beat.
“I remember now. Let me tell you the truth. All of it.”
With that, Ryo sits up and begins to recount a tale that’s almost beyond belief. Akira listens in stunned silence, taking in as much of it as he can, but his eyes can’t help but wander.
Don’t look at his boobs. Don’t look at his boobs. Don’t- wow, they’re nice… NO, his face is up here. Don’t. Look. At. Them.
“Akira, are you listening?” Ryo says with a note of impatience, crossing his arms over his chest.
Oh thank god, he thinks impulsively, before saying “I-I’m listening!”
Ryo sighs, then continues with his story. A story of angels, of demons, of a disagreement and falling out, resulting in the ultimate rejection and downfall.
“So… you’re… Satan?” Akira repeats.
“Yes? That shouldn’t be surprising, given what I’ve told you,” Ryo replies.
Akira gapes at him. “But we’re in the Makimuras’s house!” he says in a hissing whisper.
Ryo quirks a brow. “So?”
“Oh.” The corner of Ryo’s mouth lifts. “Well that’s ironic.”
Akira makes a flustered noise. “Ryo, what if they see-”
Akira and Ryo freeze.
“Akira, what’s going on in there?” Miki says on the other side of his bedroom door. “I saw a really bright light flash from here.”
Akira moves to get up, stumbling as he gets to his feet. “I-it’s nothing! Everything’s fine in here. You can go back to bed!”
Akira knows he’s done a terrible job at covering for them both even before he hears Ryo’s disappointed sigh behind him.
There’s a pause, and then: “...Where’s Ryo?”
Akira and Ryo look at each other at once. “Can you change back??” Akira whispers to him.
Ryo looks down thoughtfully. “...I don’t know yet.”
“That’s it, I’m coming in there!” Miki exclaims, sending Akira and Ryo into a panic.
Ryo’s frozen in place, trying to figure out how to change back into his human form, while Akira, his heart racing, scrambles for something, anything to cover up Ryo’s nakedness with. He discovers Ryo’s discarded clothing on the floor, and as he tosses it to Ryo he slips, falling into Ryo’s lap.
And the door opens but a second later.
What a sight they must have made, Ryo, his body still glowing as he covered his breasts and groin with his cast-off clothes, and Akira, slowly looking back at Miki, his face turning scarlet as soon as he realizes the position he’s in.
Miki’s hand flies to her mouth to muffle her scream.
Akira jumps up, getting to his feet at last. “I-i-it’s not what it looks like!!” Akira says hurriedly, waving his hands in a dismissive fashion.
Miki’s looking straight past him with widened eyes. She lifts the hand from her mouth, raises a shaking finger toward Ryo. “Wh-what… I-is that… an angel?!”
Ryo blinks owlishly at her.
Akira can’t deny it. “Y-yeah…”
Miki looks quickly between the two of them, processing this, and the two’s almost-nakedness.
She leans in to almost-whisper to Akira. “I’m pretty sure there’s a verse in the Bible against this sort of thing, Akira!”
Akira frowns in incomprehension. “What sort of thing?”
“Having sex with angels!”
Akira’s face is burning. “I was not doing that!!”
Ryo pipes up then. “Well the Bible can go f-”
Akira puts his hand on Ryo’s mouth for a moment, then releases.
“...be read, and followed… and analyzed,” Ryo finishes robotically. Akira lets out a relieved breath.
Miki stares harder at Ryo, her expression one of bewilderment now, as though she had just heard a dog talk. “Is that… Ryo?”
Ryo looks to Akira, who rubs at his neck sheepishly. “...Yes.”
Miki frowns, closing the distance between herself and Ryo. “Alright, who are you? Why are you following Akira around and giving him so much trouble? Why does an angel need to carry a gun?”
Ryo blinks at her, then he closes his eyes, focusing for a moment. In a flash, he’s human again, and fully clothed somehow.
He stands, opens his eyes, and looks up at a stunned Miki. “I am on a secret, important mission that is vital to the survival of mankind and the Earth. Akira is my trusted friend, partner and confidant, who I have entrusted with this information and has provided me with his assistance and companionship. My work depends on my being able to keep my true identity a secret, so we would greatly appreciate it if you kept this a secret as well.”
“Y-yeah, keep this between us, okay?” Akira interjects, Miki looking back at him, at a loss for words.
“If word got out that an angel were on Earth, it would make my work even harder to do,” Ryo continues, making Miki turn to him again. “So, do I have your cooperation?”
Miki blinks at him in dazed silence. “...S-sure.” She turns to Akira. “Are you okay with this, Akira?”
Akira doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah,” he says, nodding with a smile. “He’s my best friend, and I’m his.”
“Alright…” Miki says, still shell-shocked. “I guess I’ll… leave you two be then…” She begins to step away. “Thank you for your service…” she says, nodding toward Ryo.
She’s just about to leave the room with halting steps, before she turns around again. “Did you two make up, then?”
“Yes,” Akira and Ryo say almost simultaneously.
Miki nods. “Alright. Uh, be good then. Goodnight…”
She walks out of the room unhurriedly, shutting the door quietly behind her.
Akira lets out a sigh of relief. “Good save, Ryo.”
“Do you think she believes it?” Ryo says, a hint of doubt in his voice.
“Yeah, it’ll be fine.” He turns to Ryo. “No killing Miki. Ever,” he scolds, as though reading Ryo’s thoughts.
“Uhm…” Akira begins, ruffling his hair. “Was all that you said about me… true?”
“Hmm?” Ryo utters, noncommittal.
Akira laughs nervously. “You don’t have to answer that…”
“Everything about you was true, yes.”
Akira looks up at him with raised brows, then feels his cheeks warm again. “I’m, glad you feel that way about me…” he says, bashful all of a sudden.
“Akira…” Ryo begins, his brow creased. “It’s not just that. I… care deeply about you. When you left… it hurt me, inside,” he clutches his chest. “The pain wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I came to find you. When I saw you at last, the pain subsided. And now that my memories have returned, I can see things more clearly. I can see my own mistakes.
“Akira, do you forgive me?” Ryo says, his eyes more sincere than Akira’s ever seen them before. “For being so callous toward you and your feelings.”
Akira crosses his arms, and considers. “That depends. What do you think about love now? Do you still think it’s not real?”
“Akira,” Ryo steps toward him, looks at him with softened eyes. “If getting my memories back has taught me anything, it’s that your love is the only love I can trust.” He lifts up his hand to caress his fingers along Akira’s jawline, then cups Akira’s chin in his palm.
Their eyes meet. “Do you still love me, Akira…?”
Something in Ryo’s face flips a switch in Akira. He leans in, bringing up a hand to cradle Ryo’s cheek, and, his heart pounding, he presses his lips to Ryo’s. He’s never kissed anyone before, but he can’t help but note the softness of Ryo’s lips as he does so. He kisses him gently, Ryo’s lips pliant and accepting, even as Ryo himself is stilled in surprise.
Akira pulls back, and smiles at him. “Yeah.”
Ryo gasps, touches his lips with his fingers. “Why… did you kiss me?”
Akira feels sweat break out on his brow. “I, uh… just... wanted to.” He gives a nervous laugh. “It’s just… seeing you like that, as an angel… made me realize how beautiful you are, I guess.”
Ryo blinks and looks down, as though unsure what to do with that information.
“Uhh, well!” Akira interjects, trying to break the awkward air that had settled between them. “Now what should we do? You have more to tell me, right?”
“Ah, right…” Ryo says, his facial expression falling into a troubled one. “Would you come back to my apartment to hear the rest? So I won’t trouble the Makimuras any longer than I have to.”
“Uh, sure I guess. But why?”
Ryo looks down. “It won’t be easy to hear. You… might hate me when I’m through. You may never want to see me again. If that happens… I want to be home.”
Akira frowns. “Ryo.”
Ryo looks up. Akira can see tears in his eyes, threatening to fall.
“Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it, together. I won’t reject you, or abandon you ever. I… I love you, Ryo.”
Ryo’s eyes quickly fill with tears, and Akira worries he’s said the wrong thing.
Ryo embraces him in a rush, clutching to him as though holding on for dear life. He looks up, and Akira can taste the salt on his lips as he leans in to kiss him back.
Ryo sobs softly in Akira’s arms. “Akira… thank you.”
Akira hugs him back. “I’ll still go to your apartment, though. You haven’t slept at all, have you?”
Ryo looks up at him, sniffling, and shakes his head.
Akira smiles. “I’ll fix that.”
Ryo puts his face in Akira’s shoulder, and he can feel his body quiver with his sobs. Akira holds him tight.
He can just barely hear it when Ryo whispers, “I love you…”
Akira hasn’t quite processed everything that Ryo’s told him thus far, or figured out what this means for the both of them going forward — he, a Devilman, and Ryo, an angel.
But no matter what, he isn’t going to let Ryo feel the hurt of abandonment again.
Whether in reality, or in his dreams.