Author's Note: Azreal Azrael A.K.A. AA belongs to my friend Twilidramon. She also created Loaño.
Here it is. The end of Season 1.
"Little One, I am so sorry I could not help you," said a voice. Loaño recognized it instantly, for it had been haunting her dreams for years. "I tried to get in touch with you, but my magic was weak. It seems that tonight my powers have been amplified by the night's magic, and now I can finally talk to you."
Lights flooded the darkness. Loaño had to shield her eyes for a moment, taking time to adjust to the brightness. A hazy silhouette came into focus, revealing the last thing she ever expected to see that night.
He looked mostly human, like a young boy with light skin, but his ears were wolf-like, silver furred with black tips. A bushy silver tail stuck out behind him, swaying as he walked. He wore pants and gloves, but no shirt, and instead let two cape like cloths wrap around his chest, forming an X as they wrapped around to trail behind him.
"Who are you?" Loaño demanded. She took a step back. She sensed no hostility from him, but after everything that had happened tonight, she was on edge. Adrenaline flooded her body, pumping through her system. She was ready to run, or, if cornered, fight. She didn't think she could win, but she was prepared to go down kicking and screaming. "And why have you been in my dreams for years?"
"My name is Azreal Azrael. But you may call me AA for short. He/him.
"I am one of the many deities that long ago ruled over the world. I was one of the original deities who rejected the bloodshed of ancient times. I helped to implement the rules that now govern and guide magical beings. When that proved ineffective I was one of those who helped divide the many realms."
He moved around the empty world silently, almost like a shadow. His twin capes danced through the air behind him with every step he took. "We Gods lived in our own realm- Heaven is one of the names the mortals came up with, though it had others. And all would have been well until the devil started his rebellion. For that he was locked away.
"I was caught in the crossfire. I tried to stop his wicked schemes, but he defeated me. I was cast down from Heaven long ago and left without a body. It was one of your ancestors who saved me. Ever since then I have travelled down your bloodline, knowing that one day I might need to help. I hoped I was wrong."
AA took a deep breath. "You've all done your best but the devil has broken free. And he isn't the only problem you'll have to deal with. If you all want a chance at fighting back and winning, you'll need to get stronger. You, Nayuta, and Naota have all made your own cards in the past, but they're mild support at best. The enemies you'll face from now have much stronger cards at their disposal. You'll need something strong if you want to fight back."
"Are you saying you have a way to help us make stronger cards?" Loaño asked.
AA slumped his shoulders, his ears drooped like a dog's. "If I were stronger I might be able to do this directly. But as it stands I am not. I do, however, know of another God who might be willing to help. I must warn you though, he is dangerous. To ask his favor would mean submitting to his whims. He will likely want something in return. And if you cannot meet his requests, I cannot guarantee your safety. But I would not bring this up if I did not believe there was a chance of success."
Loaño made a fist. "The devil just broke out of Hell, I think we're ready to try anything."
Donovan's head shot up when he saw Loaño stir. "You're awake!" he said. "You're the first one." He offered Loaño a hand getting up as she tried to stand. "Everyone else is still unconscious, but they're alive, I checked."
Loaño brushed some dirt and gravel off her suit, but couldn't manage the worst of it. It would have to go to the dry cleaner's in the morning. She suspected all their clothes would. Looking at everyone in the grass, she couldn't decide if she was horrified they had been beaten, or grateful they survived. "Wow, I half expected the world to be up in flames by now. You won and the devil broke free."
Donovan frowned. "I'm sorry, but he made me fight for him. He'd know if I held back, so I couldn't. For a second I was hopeful Fletcher could win, but I guess he didn't have it in him. He's got potential, but he is still just a beginner compared to the best of us." He looked over Fletcher's body, sleeping peacefully in the grass. "I wonder what he's dreaming about."
Loaño bent down and felt Fletcher's forehead. "I thought he looked like he was sweating earlier. He's burning up! I hope he'll be okay." Frowning, she tried to shake the young boy awake.
"Don't worry, he isn't sick. He's just tapping into his potential. All humans have that in them, a tiny spark of magic. Not enough for the rules to affect you the way it affects a God or anything. But it is there to guide you and help push you forward. When you push yourself to your limits, your body might have trouble adjusting at first, though the more you do it- the more natural it becomes.
"Still, I'm surprised. I never figured he's go through this again. I heard he'd done this once before with Maxwell. I figured it was a one and done sort of deal."
"Ugh, my head," said another voice. Both Donovan and Loaño turned, seeing Erica push herself up. Gravel crunched beneath her feet as he rose, rubbing her aching head with one hand. "I recall Nayuta mentioning something similar when Fletcher and I first joined. Fletcher got so sweaty battling Maxwell that he needed to take a shower and change his clothes." Erica's legs wobbled but she managed to walk toward the broken pavilion.
It had caved in completely, the roof collapsed and the table that Donovan and Fletcher played on was now in pieces. She kicked a rather large one away with her foot so she could examine the black scorch marks beneath. "God it smells like sulfur in here. Guess we got that one right."
Donovan stepped toward Erica, holding something out. "These are Fletcher's cards. I gathered them up so they wouldn't fly away. I think that should be everything but he should double check just to make sure." He slumped back down, sitting at one of the pavilion's other tables. "You know, this night hasn't been a complete loss for your team."
"It sure feels like it," said Loaño. "In essence we won seven times, all was well, and then we lost once. Now the devil is free and all that hard work was for nothing."
Donovan shook his head. "Algol, Courtney, Miranda, Eloise, and Logan are all alive thanks to you and your friends. They'll now get to live happy peaceful lives too. Part of the arrangement tonight was that if the devil broke free, they'd all be released from his service. Sadly that doesn't apply to me-
"But thanks to your friends and you, five of the devil's victims will now be allowed to live freely. So your hard work wasn't for nothing. Don't ever forget that."
Leaves crunched as another body stirred awake. "Ugh, is everybody okay?" Nayuta struggled to get up, but managed it on her own.
"And so the leader finally awakens. Very bad form," Donovan teased. "Aren't you supposed to be looking out for your teammates?"
"Where's my dad?" Nayuta dashed toward the pavilion. Both Richter and Kyle were missing, but Nayuta only had enough energy to focus on her dad for now. "What did you do with him, Donovan‽" She reached out and yanked him by the shirt collar.
"I'm sorry," said Donovan, pulling away. "I didn't think you'd still care after he tried to kill you. I suppose that he is still your father and that can lead to some complex emotions for some people." He pulled out his cellphone and dialed a number. "The devil said it would be bad to leave two dead bodies hanging around, so he ordered Sonya to get rid of them.
"She's taking Kyle to his family for them to deal with. I'm not sure about your father." Donovan's phone rang, but nobody answered and it went to voicemail. "I'm sorry, but it doesn't look like she's answering."
Nayuta let out a wail as she sank to her knees, pounding the ground.
The group stood in silence for what felt like hours. It wasn't until Alicia and Thuy stirred that they finally spoke again. "How long have we been out," Thuy asked, looking around. She remembered her phone and quickly checked it. "It's not even 9:30 yet?" she rubbed her aching head. "I feel like with everything that went down it should be midnight. That's more dramatic."
Alicia looked up at the sky. "It's still pink."
Erica looked up too. "I'm so pissed! The pink sky was supposed to be a good thing. But the devil had to go and fuck that up. Why can't we have anything nice‽" She crouched into a squat, warm tears flowing down her face. "I had a date with a cute boy. Why couldn't I just get the chance to enjoy that?"
Alicia crouched down and have her a hug, letting Erica cry into her shoulders.
Nayuta turned to Thuy. "I suppose we should let the Blade of the Nephilim know what happened. God Fang is going to be so incorrigible when she hears, isn't she?" Just the thought of it was starting to give her a headache. Nayuta balled her hand into a fist and let out a sigh. "Look, no offense Thuy, but I really don't like the Nephilim as an organization. Your methods are too callous. But it seems now more than ever, we'll need to work together." She cast her gaze toward Maxwell, who was still sleeping in the grass. "I just hope he can understand."
Thuy bent over, examining Maxwell's calm and peaceful face. "If Erica is right, he'll be able to wake his brother up. And all the Nephilim he attacked will be safe as well. Do you think that will calm him down?"
"We can only hope." Erica let out a long drawn out sigh. "Of course, if I'm wrong, he might go on a worse rampage than ever before. Who knows what he could do? I suppose without Imperial Onslaught there is a chance he'd at least stop attacking people. Unless he started using physical violence."
Arc woke up soon after, taking a look around. He wasn't sure what to say, so he just smiled as Erica ran to give him a hug. "To think, I once thought that guy from the mall was being weird using card games for revenge. And here are a whole bunch of people using it for demonic rituals," he forced a chuckle.
Maxwell let out a loud grunt as he woke from his slumber. "Did someone mention my name?" He asked, sitting up. He removed his glasses, they'd cracked when he fell. "Guess I'll be needing a new pair of these." His eyes adjusted as he looked around.
Erica stood up straight. "I have a theory on how to save your brother. But I'm worried that if we're wrong, we'd be in a worse position than before. And I'm worried about how you'll react to false hope if things don't go well."
Maxwell crossed his arms as he examined himself for bruises and other damage. He seemed fine, other than a dirty and wrinkled suit. He mulled everything over a moment, not sure how to respond. "What's your theory?"
"That Imperial Onslaught is keeping him in a coma. It's a magical card and we know the coma is magic. We think the magic is sustained by the card. So tear the card, destroy the magic, and poof, coma is over. I also believe that's how you're able to put people into comas in the first place."
"So if I tear this card," Maxwell held up Imperial Onslaught, "You believe my brother will wake up? His soul will heal itself?"
"That's the possibility I am putting most of my faith in," said Erica. "It's also possible I am completely wrong and you'll just be out of a good card. It's also possible I am half right. Your brother will stay in a coma, your card will be gone, and you'll be left with no way to get re-"
Maxwell tore the card before Erica could even finish speaking. "I'm sick of not having any ideas. Even if it's only for a moment of false hope, I'll take this shot at getting my brother back." He watched the card dissolve into thin air. "I guess now we wait." He slumped over, unable to stand.
Donovan crossed his arms. "If it's any consolation, Erica's theories sound solid based on my knowledge of how the devil works. Not that I'm a real expert or anything. That bastard keeps us in the dark."
"What even is a soul anyway?" Erica asked. "And what does it mean to be shattered?"
"Far as I can tell, it just has to do with your sense of self and what comprises you. Without it, you're just left like a vegetable, unable to think or feel. I guess what happens next all depends on if Maxwell's brother can heal himself."
Hikaru got up next, bending her back like she was doing a sit up, only to collapse back to the ground. "Tell me I had a nightmare. Tell me we didn't fuck up and set the devil free."
"I'm sorry," said Donovan. "But I did warn you."
"Is everybody okay?" Hikaru sat up again. "Naota, Fletcher, Justin, they're all breathing right?"
Donovan nodded. "Yes, they are."
"That's good." A cool evening breeze blew by and Hikaru listened in silence as she reflected on her life. "When Naota and Fletcher told me about you, Donovan, you sounded like a creep. But I honestly bet you could have been our friend if things worked out differently."
"Yeah well, I'm feeling emotional right now. Don't expect me to go all soft for you all next time we meet. Because we're still enemies and the next time our paths cross I'm going back to being the annoying troll."
"Oh? I was under the impression Sonya usurped that role from you," Erica teased.
"Oh she thinks she's usurped the role but she has no idea what I'm capable of," said Donovan. He almost smiled.
Justin woke up next, frowning when he saw his white tuxedo covered in brown dirt stains. "Awww man, mom's gonna ground me so bad for this. What am I going to say to her?" He stretched his limbs as he stood up, his body cracking as he bent over at odd angles. He tried to maintain a cheery façade, but couldn't keep it up. "So what now guys?"
"We recover and wait, I guess," said Nayuta. "There's nothing we can do until we know the devil's next move."
Loaño shifted where she stood, but nobody noticed. 'Are you going to tell them?' Asked a voice in her head.
'Oh shit, you're in my head now? Okay let's try to work with this. Can you hear me? Or is this a one way thing?'
'Yes, Little One, I can hear you.'
'Okay, glad that's settled.' Loaño tried to relax her body, to look as nonchalant and unsuspicious as possible, but she overcompensated a bit and instead her arms hung loosely at her side, making her look like she was about to break into a comedy routine. All heads turned toward her. "Sorry, my arms are just sore," she lied with a sheepish grin. 'I will tell them eventually, but not while Donovan is around. I don't want to give our secrets away.'
Justin looked toward his friends, Fletcher and Naota. "They're the last two. I hope Fletcher is okay emotionally. I can't imagine what he's going through right now." He walked over to his buddy and tried shaking him awake.
Fletcher's eyes fluttered open. He looked around and felt adrenaline flood his body as he recalled what happened. "No!" he jumped to his feet. "No, no, no!" He ran to the pavilion, stumbling on a wooden beam. "This can't be real. The devil can't be free." He saw the scorch marks and remembered the fire, and the shadow within, boasting about its freedom. "No," he sank to his knees, unable to process it.
"The good news is the world isn't over," said Donovan. "The devil's plans will take some time. So if you want to fix the fucking mess you made, you better get stronger, Fletcher. Because that was pathetic."
"Hey," shouted Erica. "Back off. We already established that you're at fault for serving the devil. And don't act like Fletcher was a bad player. You just got lucky. One more move and he would have beaten you. You won because of chance, not skill, so don't act like you're some great and amazing player."
Donovan held his hand out, calling forth a swirling vortex of darkness. "I'm just saying, if you don't get better soon, then the world is dead. Bye." He stepped into the portal and vanished.
Naota was the last one to awaken. "What happened everyone?" she asked, rising up to her feet. "Where are Sonya and Donovan? Did they leave already?"
Erica nodded. "Sonya vanished a while ago, but Donovan just left. Like literally a second before you woke up. He said that the devil needs time for his plans, so we need to find a way to get better." She stepped toward Fletcher, holding out his cards. "He also gathered these up for you. Better make sure nothing's missing."
Fletcher fanned the cards out, double checking to make sure nothing was stolen or missing. "What the? This isn't one of my cards. Did he give it to me by accident, or did he want to apologize?" He stared at it a bit longer. "Preyviary Dark Adoraborb."
Loaño clapped her hands together, getting everyone's attention. "Okay good, you're all awake. I have some big news." She paced around, hands behind her back. "I'm really not sure how to begin, so I'll just say it.
"I've been having these weird dreams for a while now. A voice tries to speak to me but I can never quite make it out. But tonight, after we got our asses kicked by the devil, the owner of that voice finally appeared to me. He said his name is AA, short for Azreal Azrael.
"I don't know if we can trust him just yet, but I figure he might be our only hope. He claims to be a deity, just like the devil, only his powers have been weakened. He'll do his best to cloak us from the devil's radar. He can't guarantee it will work, but if it works we'll have some form of privacy and that bastard won't be spying on our every action. But mostly he wants to help us improve our skills. He knows a ritual we can perform to contact another deity. It's risky, but with luck we'll become a lot more powerful. If we can get that deity to agree to help."
"We've already been risking our lives this much, so I'm in," said Maxwell.
"The devil will pay for what he did to my family," Nayuta made a fist as she gritted her teeth.
"I'm not about to back down now," Alicia decided.
"I know I'm not actually part of the team, but I'll be there to support you all the way," said Erica.
"I don't think I can turn my head away from this now," Arc decided.
"Me neither," Justin admitted.
Thuy nodded. "I want to help, if I can."
"This isn't what I imagined playing super hero would be like as a kid," Hikaru said with a chuckle. "But I'm not giving in now."
"Neither am I. Not when Yuu is counting on me. And not when my friends are in trouble."
Fletcher grinned. "I won't just leave everyone else to clean up my mistakes."
It was at that moment Maxwell's phone rang. "It's the hospital," he said as he held the phone up, clicking accept. His mouth opened in awe as he listened to the nurse on the other end. "They said my brother's awake."
Dark Messenger Arc
Author's Notes: This is the end of "Season" 1. The Dark Messenger Arc. Wow the plans sure have changed a lot. I'll probably mention that in an omake. Anyway now that this is over I think I might need a decent sized break.