To say this had been a long time coming would be the understatement of the eon.
Akira looks over to his friend, demon lord Sa-
To Akira, and Akira alone, the angel beside him was Ryou.
To everyone else, Ryou was Satan.
Which is fine by Akira.
“Ryou Asuka” was the name that had tied both of their fates together, and was proof of their bond.
It was the name that Akira knew him by, back when they had a human existence, back when he was his best friend — before he, and Ryou himself, learned his true identity.
It was the name that remained in Akira Fudo’s still-human heart, even through his journey through Hell — though it had been his friend who had sent him there.
And it was the name on his lips when he realized, at last, that despite everything, he was in love.
That love drove him to learn the truth, to learn what had happened to his friend and why. It was that love that made him take a daring, unprecedented move — to this day, he didn’t fully understand how it worked, but he wasn’t complaining. He was out of Hell, alive again.
And it was that love that inspired their reconciliation, at long last.
Just in time to fight what was now their common enemy.
A false, tyrannical god, and his army of angels and heavenly beasts — they had been Ryou’s enemy since long before Akira knew him. But, now that he had learned the truth, about Heaven and Hell and what Earth had become, they were Akira’s enemy as well.
And now, instead of fighting each other, Ryou and Akira were fighting together, to bring Eden back to this world.
Ryou stood atop a fearsome, seven-headed beast, arms crossed over his chest, staring resolutely ahead. Akira, in his devilman form, stood the same way, riding atop a fearsome demon of his own, right alongside Ryou’s.
The roars and screeches of the demons and devilmen around them, ready for battle, were near-deafening. The Earth below them was pitch-dark, humankind nearly extinct.
The only source of light, was directly ahead of them.
None other than Heaven’s army — scintillating angels in glowing spheres; terrifying shogun warriors in gleaming suits of armor that breathed flames; dragons with long bodies and cold, piercing eyes.
And leading the charge was a multi-headed, multi-winged horse, ridden by a tall, golden-armored angel wielding a long trident — the Archangel Michael, God’s best warrior.
Akira was surprised by Michael’s physical appearance, and turned briefly to ask Ryou about it — Ryou told him that he and Michael looked identical because they were the left and right hands of God. Twins, more or less.
“Now, let’s go, Akira!” Ryou exclaimed. “This is the first battle in our war against God! The true world that we call ‘hope’ lies on the other side of this battle!”
‘Hope’ was a word that hadn’t been in Akira’s vocabulary for many years. But Ryou’s words kindled a flame in his heart that he thought had been long extinguished. Letting the feeling of it fill him, Akira let out a fierce battle cry of his own, making the air shudder.
They got close enough to Heaven’s army to be within earshot, then stopped. Akira, the demons and devilmen all looked to Ryou, waiting for his cue.
Suddenly Ryou’s voice entered their minds, telepathically.
We’ll attempt negotiation first.
Akira looked at him quizzically. Really?
Ryou didn’t respond to him, instead he stared straight at Michael.
“Parley,” Ryou said, breaking the eerie stillness.
Michael frowned, then spoke. “Why do you fight on the side of demons, Lucifer? They only make this Earth ugly and vile, and soak it in blood and gore.”
Ryou smirked. “Like your precious humans haven’t done their fair share of that.”
Michael glared at him. “Humans have potential far greater than that of your demons. They have the capacity for peace.”
“Doesn’t seem it.”
Michael seemed to sigh, then he recomposed himself, spreading his arms wide. “Brother! I will give you one last chance. Come back to us, to Heaven’s army! We can right what is wrong, and humanity will have a chance to survive! Earth will be as it should be!” He looked past Ryou. “Devilmen! Don’t deny your human nature! Humankind can still survive, if you make the right choice!”
“Humans are almost dead,” one of the devilmen heckled in a surly voice.
Michael smoothly ignored him, fixing his gaze back on Ryou. “What do you say?”
Ryou’s smirk widened, his mouth becoming slanted.
“How about a counteroffer?”
Michael’s brows lowered in displeasure. “I’m listening.”
Ryou straightened. “You asked why I fight on the side of demons. At first it was to defend their right to live, against those who would destroy them for their appearance, ” he said. Michael’s eyes narrowed.
“But, last time around, I realized I had done wrong. I inflicted the same fate upon humans that had once been inflicted upon demons — I was no better than those who sought demonkind’s extinction.”
Michael seemed to brighten at this, eyebrows raising.
Ryou met Michael’s eyes. “Just because a being is strong doesn’t give it the right to steal the rights and lives of the weak. Whether they’re a human, a demon…or a god.”
Michael’s brows lowered.
Ryou pointed forward. “Here is the truth that has been concealed from you, that your eyes have been blinded from seeing! The God that you serve so dutifully is false! He is nothing but a tyrant, who has made Heaven a prison, not a paradise, and sent good people to suffer in Hell!”
Michael’s stern expression broke, blinking in surprise.
Ryou’s eyes narrowed, his arm lowering. “There may well be a true God out there, higher than the one you pledge your servitude to, just outside our perception — perhaps they are watching us right now and laughing. Or maybe they’re just waiting for a damn good show. Either way, reality isn’t what you think it is. I see now, my enemy, our enemy, is neither humans nor demons, but God himself!”
Michael went silent for a moment, then recomposed himself, his expression hardening. “I side, with humans,” he said, clenching his teeth, evading the subject.
“Don’t you see? This is so much more than humans versus demons. The real fight, is between tyranny and freedom! Michael! Don’t you want to see what this world can be like, without interference from beings like us?”
Michael stared at him, silent.
“Think for yourself, for once in your life! If you do, you’ll know that what I’m saying is true.” Ryou spread out his arms. “Join me, brother! We’ll make this world into what it should be, and Earth will be beautiful again!”
“...You’re saying I should trust you?” Michael said at last. “You, the deceiver?”
“That is a mistruth made up by the side you’re on. Look at the evidence — you’ll find the truth.”
Michael paused, and thought, and thought. The soldiers of Heaven’s army looked his way, puzzled.
Then, Michael clenched his fist.
He spoke in a low, booming voice. “...How dare you. Tempting me with your blasphemous lies!”
Ryou frowned deeply. “You’re a fool, Michael!”
Michael raised his trident. “Your treachery will damn you.”
“And your loyalty will damn you,” Ryou said lowly, sounding almost disappointed, yet unsurprised.
Michael gave a terrifying smirk. “We’ll see about that.” He raised his voice. “Onward!”
Ryou turned to the demons and devilmen. “You heard him! Attack!”
Satan’s army screeched in response, and the first fleet moved in for the strike.
Heaven’s army let out a high keening cry, then retaliated.
Their clash released an unsettling shockwave, as the shogun warriors met some of Hell’s strongest demon warriors. The blast cleared a forest below them in one shot.
Michael summoned spheres of light that hovered around him… then with a swing of his trident, they went flying in Ryou and Akira’s direction.
The pair acted fast, dodging the blasts of holy light. Some of them hit their demon steeds, them letting out roars of pain, though they kept aloft.
Why did you try that? Akira thought at Ryou. Negotiating with Michael?
It was worth a shot, Ryou shrugged back, dodging another blast. Michael would have been an advantageous ally to our cause. But, it is what it is.
Does this have anything to do with him being your brother? Akira prodded.
Now isn’t the time for that! Ryou replied, hurriedly dodging another blast of light, a near-miss.
Akira thought for a moment, as he evaded the small blasts. It’s alright if you still care about your brother, even though you ended up on different sides… I’d kind of understand that.
Ryou sighed, knowing what Akira meant. It’s just… I hate seeing him like that. Seeing what I might have become, if I had stayed. Utterly brainwashed. He shook his head. I wanted to give him a chance to see the truth, maybe even save him from this fate. I can’t say I didn’t try.
Now I almost pity him, Akira thought back.
Ryou gave a small smirk. Don’t. You’ll let your guard down.
Akira nodded, and looked forward. They had a fight ahead of them.
The demons around them battled the angels and heavenly beasts — with casualties on both sides. The devilmen held back, waiting their turn in the second wave to come. Akira had appointed Masami to oversee them, and organize and execute their attack plan on his command.
This was a fight they would win. Akira knew it.
But it wouldn’t be easy.
Michael sent out more light spheres, but Ryou, Akira and the devilmen had gotten better at dodging them with minimal injury, and striking back at Heaven’s army.
Michael stared down at them, displeased that his spheres of holy light had done so little damage.
Then, he smiled.
And summoned a beam of light from his palm.
Before either of them could blink, he had aimed it at Akira.
Akira leapt out of the way as quickly as he could — but something felt wrong.
“Akira!” Ryou said, flying to his side. “Akira!!”
“I’m fine, don’t worry,” Akira smiled. “What happened-”
He looked down.
One of his legs was simply gone.
The shock of it made his stomach drop — but seeing the look on Ryou’s face was worse.
His eyes were wide, his mouth moving wordlessly. All of his bravado, gone in one second.
“Hit a weak spot, have I?” Michael yelled. “Have another!”
“No!” Ryou put all of his wings up and encircled Akira, as he summoned a forcefield around them both. Akira felt Ryou’s feathery wings cradling his body gently — but he could feel them trembling. He looked up at Ryou’s face again, which was now hovering over his, and his eyes were squinted shut, traces of tears around them.
Right then, Akira understood.
Ryou seeing Akira harmed by the blast of an angel… reminded him of the fatal blast he himself had dealt Akira, long ago.
It likely brought back those memories — and reminded him of what he couldn’t afford to lose.
The all-powerful angel and demon lord Satan, strong and immortal, had only one fear: Losing Akira.
“Ryou…” Akira said, watching Ryou take the blasts and wincing from them. “You have to fight.”
“No… I can’t lose you again,” Ryou said, tears falling from his eyes onto Akira’s chest.
Akira’s human heart squeezed — in that moment he could easily forget that Ryou was an angel, how he was now reminding him so much of what he had been like when he was human.
Akira reached up and touched his cheek. Ryou met his eyes.
“I’ll be fine. I don’t know how much, but… I think I’m stronger now than I was before. Trust me, Ryou.”
Ryou smiled, his headwings still quivering.
“You have to fight back, give him payback for what he did to me. You can still protect me, but I think I can stand now — I’ll use my wings for balance. If I’m in trouble, I’ll let you know.”
Ryou blinked away his tears and nodded. “Alright. If you say so.”
The next moment Ryou whirled in place faster than a blink, and sent a beam of light of his own in Michael’s direction, his wings still shielding Akira.
Akira managed to stand, and using his wings, followed closely behind Ryou as he moved to dodge and send blasts. Unfortunately none of them seemed to leave more than a scratch on Michael, his armor deflecting most of the ones that had managed to land.
Akira spied the demon troops, and remembered his plan.
Masami, he sent telepathically, send in the devilman troops. Tell them to target the enemy’s weak spots while they’re preoccupied fighting us and the demons.
Yes, sir, Masami replied evenly.
Suddenly Akira began to feel a strange sensation where his leg had been.
“Ah-!” he let out, and Ryou turned to him instantly.
A beam of light flashed. Ryou stood frozen in shock.
If he had been mere millimeters closer, it would have been over for him.
His right headwing was gone, ichor trickling from where it had been.
Right then, Akira became a creature of pure instinct.
He surged forward, between Ryou and Michael, and spread his leathery wings out wide. Without thinking, he began to summon a power that he had never known before.
A blinding circular sphere surrounded the both of them painlessly. From it, beams of light shot out, back at Heaven’s army. Akira could hear them scrambling in confusion and terror, before the sphere sealed itself.
“Akira,” he heard Ryou say in the stillness, and it brought him back to his senses. His vision cleared, and he saw Ryou under him, staring up at him in awe. His headwing had healed in an instant.
Akira smiled in relief. “You’re okay.”
“Akira, your leg!”
Akira looked down, and his eyes widened.
His leg was there again, unscathed.
“You regenerated! Without any assistance!” Ryou said, beaming. “Akira… I think you’ve gained angel powers!”
Akira blinked. “Really? But how-” He remembered how he came back to this world, and felt his face heat up. “I guess… that’s possible…”
“We were one once — I guess some of my power rubbed off on you,” Ryou smiled. “Do you know what this means?”
Akira blinked. “What?”
“You’re our secret weapon. You’re something that has never existed before — a being with the powers of a demon and an angel, but with a human heart! Michael has no way of knowing if this sphere of light came from you or me, and even if he does suspect it was you, he has no way to estimate how powerful you are now. We can take advantage of that.”
“I'm not even sure how much power I have now…” Akira said. He hadn’t felt quite the same after he came back to Earth, but he had no idea it had anything to do with latent angel powers until now.
“That’s okay. I’ll back you up.” Ryou sat up. “We can win this, Akira. Now I know it without a doubt.”
Ryou reached out his hand.
Akira smiled. “If you say so.”
He took his hand, and shook it firmly.
Akira focused, and the wall of light around them came down. They turned to Michael, who stood atop his steed pridefully.
“Having fun with your light show, Lucifer?”
“Yes,” Ryou smirked, straightening. “But it’s all over now.” He pointed at Michael. “I’m giving you one last chance, Michael! Surrender now, or your fate is at your own peril!”
“Oh really? Then show me what you’ve got,” Michael smirked back.
You heard him, Ryou said to Akira telepathically. Akira nodded.
Ryou sent beams and blasts in Michael’s direction, Michael reading his movements and dodging them easily. He returned fire in Ryou’s direction at first, then without notice he shifted his aim, sending blasts in Akira’s direction, now that he knew that it would give Ryou’s morale a fatal blow.
Akira was ready.
He dodged and deflected the blasts, and, Michael having left himself open, Akira gathered his newfound energy between his palms, and lobbed a light bomb at Michael.
Michael’s eyes widened in alarm, dodging aside nearly a second too late — the bomb taking out one of his wings. He stared back at his missing wing in disbelief, then back down at Akira.
“Wh-where… did that power come from??” Michael said, shaken, his mouth agape.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Ryou said slyly. He turned to Akira. “Akira. Let’s end this.”
Akira grinned a pointy-toothed grin. “With pleasure.”
They both leapt up at once, readying fire and aiming straight at Michael.
It was over.
Their war was finally over.
Humans had perished, but now, the new world could begin — a world that had only before existed as myth, where every kind of creature could exist.
And now that the false god had been overthrown… Ryou and Akira would be in charge of this new Earth.
Ryou had explained it to Akira, that he had the same powers that the false god did, and Akira himself may have some of those same powers, so they were more than capable of taking over.
This gave Akira pause, however.
They floated in midair, observing the planet they would now oversee. Watched the sun rise on what was once their home country, currently torn asunder. Ryou had been talking at length, Akira listening as he observed and thought.
“I know it doesn’t look like much now, but in time, this world will be beautiful again — even more beautiful than it was before. And life will live as it’s meant to, free and able to choose its own path.”
Akira spoke up at last. “...Should we really be gods, though?”
Ryou looked at him in surprise, though a smile was still on his face. “What do you mean?”
“I mean… when you think about it, who is qualified enough to be God? Who gets to decide that? Is it just who’s strongest? Or whoever gets there first? Who’s to say if we’re right for the job?”
Ryou’s smile faded slightly. “That’s some deep thinking.”
Akira looked down. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about things.”
Ryou nodded solemnly.
“Seriously though,” Akira continued, “what if us running things is a mistake? What if we screw up? We were both human once… and we know the terrible things humans with too much power can do.”
“We’re not exactly human anymore, though,” Ryou pointed out. “You’re more human than I am… but, you’re other things now, too.”
“A devilman with angel powers…” Akira mused. “An immortal.”
“Yes,” Ryou nodded. “That alone makes you god-like.”
“Hmm…” Akira thought more. “Then, there’s the opposite problem — what if there comes a day where we’ve been immortal gods for so long, we can’t relate to mortals anymore? Where their struggles and suffering seem miniscule and fleeting to us, who cannot die. What if… what if that’s what happened to the false god? He became arrogant and saw living beings as tools for his gratification. Maybe he wasn’t always like that — maybe he became that.”
Ryou thought. “Maybe… I can’t say for sure. But you have a point. It may not seem possible now, but in millions of years, who’s to say?”
“But… as things stand now, we’re the most qualified ones to fill the role of overseer of this planet.” Ryou crossed his arms. “What should we do…”
Akira crossed his arms as well, and pondered.
“Ryou,” Akira spoke up.
Ryou looked at him. “Yes?”
“You can split yourself into two people, right?”
“Of course, you know that.”
Jun and Ran — the two halves of Ryou Akira had come to know, and the reason he was here now.
“What if…” Akira mused, “you could split off a smaller part of yourself, and the rest of you would still be, you?”
“Hmm…” Ryou thought. “I think I could do that.”
“Would you be connected with that other part somehow, feel what they’re feeling?”
“I’m not sure about that,” Ryou said. “But if that part were to fuse back with me, all the memories it had would come with it.”
“I see… that could work,” Akira said thoughtfully.
Ryou tilted his head slightly as he looked back at him. “What are you thinking?”
“What if you sent a part of yourself to live on Earth, as a mortal? Then when they would die, that part would come back to you… then it could be reborn again. That way, you’d always keep in touch with what mortals feel and what they go through.”
“That’s… a brilliant idea,” Ryou smiled.
Akira smiled back. “I’m glad you think so.”
“Ah, this is exciting… what form shall I choose? A dinosaur, a giant, a dragon…” Ryou thought aloud, his headwings fluttering slightly.
Akira smiled, finding it cute.
“...Or, maybe a human, again.”
Akira raised his brows, then lowered them. “I don’t know if humans can survive on this new Earth,” he said, sadly.
“I think they could,” Ryou said, undaunted. “Like how the early mammals survived by walking between the footsteps of dinosaurs.”
“I suppose humans are stubborn enough…” Akira looked up. “But will they even want to live on Earth again, after everything they’ve been through? I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to rest in peace..."
“Well let’s ask,” Ryou said, then sent a telepathic message that Akira could pick up on.
Michael. Michael. Come in, Michael.
EARTH TO MICHAEL.
Speak down, Akira can’t hear you.
Sorry. Not used to accounting for demon frequencies. Anyway, I was resting.
In the end, Michael, feeling the fear of death for the first time in his existence, surrendered, offering to help assist Ryou’s cause — in the process, he began to see that his brother had been right, and fought with renewed purpose and fury, using his knowledge of the false god’s Heaven to expedite their journey, conserving their energy for the final fight.
Though he had switched sides, he was as haughty as ever, his opinion of demons having yet to improve. But, thanks to Ryou, he had switched to a live-and-let-live policy regarding them, so he did well enough at tolerating demons when he had to.
Which wasn’t often — they had all agreed to let Michael reside in Heaven, while Ryou and Akira looked after Earth during its renewal. Michael had his work cut out for him, cleaning up the damage the war had wrought and making it habitable for the human souls that resided there, but he never complained — he viewed it as wholesome work, an atonement of sorts. Now and then, he would venture down into Hell to rescue the souls who had unjustly been sentenced there, cleanse them, and take them back to reside in Heaven, which was beginning to look more like a paradise.
Uh huh. Listen, there’s something Akira and I would like to know.
Would the humans in Heaven ever be interested in living on Earth again?
Ah! That topic has come up, actually! Michael replied eagerly. I told them that Earth was being remade, under better management, and a good number of humans showed interest in living again! I told them I would let them know if such an opportunity arose.
Ryou nodded. I see. That’s good to know. Thanks. You can go back to resting or whatever now.
Nay, I should get back to work. Thank you for checking in, though.
Thanks, Michael, Akira said, if only to let Michael know that he’d indeed been listening.
Ryou closed the telepathic channel. “So that’s that. When the right time comes, a part of us will reside on Earth as humans again.”
Akira paused. “Us?”
Ryou smiled warmly. “It wouldn’t be right without you.”
Akira looked at his hands. “You think… I could split off a part of myself too?” He could barely imagine it — or how he would pull it off.
“It’s definitely possible,” Ryou said without a trace of doubt. “We’ll just have to try.”
Akira smirked. “Alright. I’m game.”
“Excellent,” Ryou smirked back.
They stared back down at Earth again. “I might do a test run of a non-human incarnation or two though…” Ryou added.
“You just want to be a dragon, don’t you,” Akira quipped.
“You got me,” Ryou said, and they laughed.
Day faded into night in the land once known as Japan below, the pair of god-like beings following it with Earth’s rotation as they pondered.
“Do you think… we’ll be able to find each other, when we incarnate on Earth?” Akira said, breaking the stillness.
“I have little doubt.” Ryou looked to him, a soft smile on his face. “We’ll find a way. We always do, don’t we?”
Akira’s human heart lifted, pulling his lips into a smile with it. “Yeah. We do.”
He reached out his hand, and Ryou took it. They simply held one another’s hand for a moment. Then, they both had the same thought, each leaning in for a tender kiss.
“Look, it’s that new kid!”
“Hey, new kid!”
A young blond-haired boy cringed, wanting nothing more than to avoid his heckling schoolmates, silently cursing the loudly crunching snow beneath his feet as he tried to walk away. He wouldn’t be so lucky, as they came up to him in a group.
“So, you’re a girl, right?” the tallest boy in the group drawled.
“Looks like a girl,” one of that boy’s friends concurred.
“I’m a boy,” the blond boy said lowly.
“What’s that? Can’t hear ya.”
The blond boy looked up at them, his blue eyes livid. “I’m a boy.”
The tallest boy smirked. “Oh really? You don’t look it.”
“He doesn’t look Japanese, either,” one of the other boys muttered.
The blond boy leered at them. “Leave me alone.”
He tried to stalk away, but the tallest boy grabbed him by the arm.
“Prove it then. Prove you’re a boy.”
“Let me go,” the blond boy said, trying to pull away.
“C’mon, prove it! It should be easy, right??”
“Let me go!”
The blond boy looked up, and saw another boy striding up to them — and he looked angry.
“What do you want? We’re busy,” the tallest boy said to him.
“Let him go,” the dark-haired boy who had approached said.
“We’re trying to prove if this kid’s a boy or not.”
“Let him go!” The dark-haired boy moved in fast, prying the other boy’s hand off of the blond boy’s arm, then moved to stand between him and the bullies. The blond boy hid behind him, unable to keep from smiling in relief.
“What gives?” one of the bullies whined.
“If he says he’s a boy, he’s a boy!” The dark-haired boy balled his fists. “Now leave him alone!”
The bullies looked them over, then shrugged. “Tch. Fine, whatever. Let’s go.”
They walked away at last, having lost interest.
The dark-haired boy turned to the blond boy. “Are you okay?”
The blond boy nodded. “Yeah. Thank you,” he said, looking up at the other boy with a soft smile.
The boy smiled back. “What’s your name?”
“R-Ryo. Ryo Asuka.”
The other boy held out a hand. “I’m Akira! Akira Fudo!”
Ryo took the offered hand and shook it.
And somehow, though he had never met this boy before, it felt right.