Chapter 2: In Another Life

I was falling. At least, that's what it felt like. But with my eyes screwed shut and the roaring marching band in my eardrums, I couldn't really tell if I was actually plummeting to my inevitable demise, or soaring to my own perfected paradise. Whichever way I was going, though, there was one thing of which I was completely certain. It hurt like hell!

The harsh, cold wind blasted me in the face with a terrible tempest, razor blades made of air slashing away at my head, shoulders, arms, chest, back, and legs. A burning, stinging sensation, as strong as the bitter cold of the wind, erupted all over my body, as though I had been thrown straight into a roaring bonfire. And then there was the constant pounding, pounding, pounding at the back of my head, like someone was taking a battering ram to the back of my head, to get inside. And with each passing second, the wind tore more wildly, the fire burned more fiercely, the hammering pounded more heavily. I felt like screaming, I was feeling so much pain. I just wanted it all to be over. I just wanted it all to be done.

And then, suddenly, it was.

Literally, one second I was feeling more pain and anguish than I had ever felt in my entire short life, and the next, it was all gone. All the fiery, fierce stings and welts that had covered my body and bruised my skin, gone. All the cruel, chilling shafts in the whirlwind, the razorblades from the roaring, raging wing, gone. All the rancorous, rumbling pounding and hammering that had blown a blunt hole in the back of my head, gone. In its absence, an oddly calming, peaceful feeling welled up inside me, resting my racing heart. Frowning awkwardly, I lowered my arms from my face, a defensive stance I hadn't even realized I'd been taking, and slowly opened my eyes to…nothing.

It wasn't the 'nothing' you see when you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, when the blackness of the night is like a heavy blanket that smothers you back to sleep. Instead, all that surrounded me was a blank, pure white space of emptiness, with swirls of gold and silver weaving around and throughout the emptiness. I stared blankly around at the whiteness, and watched a pulsing, golden swirl dip, dive, and spin by me, before returning to the blankness, and frowned to myself.

"Okay," I muttered softly, my voice breaking the still silence, "what's going on here?"

"So you've finally awakened."

My heart leapt in my chest at the strange, sudden, ethereal voice that had seemed to come from all points and filled the emptiness. I spun around quickly, but could only see more of the blank, whiteness of my surroundings. "Wha…who?" I asked in confusion, looking around feverishly, my heart pounding in my ears and in my chest. Suddenly, a low chuckling surrounded me, and the swirls of silver and gold began to pulsate with the chuckling.

"My, Shiki, eighteen years of living on Earth, and you somehow managed to remain the serious, stubborn, reproachful youth I taught and knew you to be in the past life." The voice made a soft 'heh' sound, and continued. "Though, considering what our Father, Elohim, has planned for both you and your friends from here on out, that was probably for the best."

"What?!" I exclaimed, turning around again, and once more only seeing the white blankness that surrounded me, and the swirling spirals that continued to lightly pulsate. "What are you talking about? Past life?Elohim?Plans?! Who are you, and what do you mean by all of this?!" The swirls pulsated brighter still as the voice made a 'tsk'-ing sound.

"I apologize, my dear friend and comrade, but I have been asked to refrain from telling you anything further of the secrets of your past. Another has been given that privilege, the duty of revealing everything you wish to know to you." Suddenly, a bright, golden glow began to rise around me, and I could feel it tugging at me, causing the voice to chuckle again. "Speak of the Devil. It appears as though the time has come for you to leave this world and return to the one you belong in, Shiki. I am certain, however, that we shall see each other again very shortly."

"Wait!" I shouted, looking around at the glow frantically. "Wait! What do you mean? You can't leave me hanging like this! Give me at least some answers, man!" The glow grew even more massive and heavy, and instantly I was surrounded in a bright, blinding flash of light, drowning out the rest of my voice as I continued to shout abuse at the voice.

And in another fiery blast of light, I was gone.

"Answer me, damn it!" I exclaimed, sitting up suddenly, my head flying off my pillow.

Wait…my pillow?

I blinked my eyes in confusion, quickly looking around at my surroundings. Sure enough, I was tucked into a large bed, wrapped up in sheets and blankets, quite literally, like I always do every single morning. Sighing with relief, I fell back onto my pillow and stared happily up at the ceiling above. It had all just been one big, crazy dream. The biggest, most insane dream I'd ever had. It made sense, after all. I couldn't have really seen an angel, and fought off dozens of monstrous creatures, without breaking sweat, right? That would be insane! And impossible! I laughed and shook my head. I'd just been here, asleep the whole time, in my—

This wasn't my room.

Slowly I sat up again, frowning. I hadn't noticed it at first, but now, a few minutes later, it all registered. I noticed all the small differences, the small signs. The walls and ceiling of the room, instead of being the pale cream color that I have grown to loathe, were a dark grey, with paler grey baseboards along the edge of the floor. The floor, instead of being a bespeckled beige carpet, was a deep red-orange, with black, grey, and white speckles mixed into the carpeting. The dresser and closet were in different places than in my room, as was the door, and all three of them were painted black instead of just being plain wood. The bedside table was also black, and instead of my always-failing alarm clock that I hated with a fiery passion, there was a silver writing lamp, with a small notebook set next to it. And the bed I was still sitting in was made of black pillows and blankets, instead of dull navy blue, and red-orange sheets, instead of bland white. All in all, it all just cemented the fact that I was not in my bedroom, though it did offer one question.

"Where am I?" I wondered aloud, frowning to myself.

"Still at The Fiery Paradise, Shiki."

My eyes snapped to the bedroom door, which had silently slid open to reveal a certain tall, thin, albino friend of mine. Frowning, I slid out of the bed and stood slowly to face Reigin.

"The Fiery Paradise?" I asked, the wheels still only slowly turning in my head. "Why are we—"

"After all the craziness that happened last night," Reigin said, interrupting me with a sigh, "'parently we all fainted stone-cold on the road, nowhere to go. Hayate, being the kind and generous man he is, couldn't just leave us all out there, lying in the streets, so he took us into the back of The Fiery Paradise, where he and Naomi live. I just woke up 'bout a half hour ago, the others are up as well by now, too. Everyone's just downstairs, waiting for you to finally get up."

"Oh," I said, sighing as a small smile meandered onto my face. "That's good to kn—"

My voice caught in my throat as my mind was going a million miles an hour. What he'd just told me—if what Reigin had just said was true, then that would mean that everything that I had thought I'd just thought up, just dreamed up, was real, and it had all happened yesterday. Everything, from Yuzuki punishing me for being late again, to the angel appearing to me and the other guys, twice, to the battle I still only vaguely remember, against those strange, bug-like monsters. Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind, and I felt myself mentally stagger at its presence. If that was real, then what about the dream, the voice, that I had seen and heard just moments ago? Was that real, too? My head was starting to swim from all the thoughts bouncing around in my head with nowhere to go, and I reached out to Reigin, leaning my hand on his shoulder as I struggled to steady myself.

"Wait, so," I muttered, gripping my forehead, "does that mean…that everything…that everything from yesterday…it was all real?"

"That's why everyone is waiting for us downstairs," Reigin replied, frowning, "once everyone is up and able, Hayate's going to try and explain everything we need to know for us." Smirking, Reigin stepped back and turned to the door again. "Probably should head down ourselves, then."

"You think?" I asked sarcastically, pushing past Reigin and out the door. The sooner Hayate got around to explaining this whole thing to us, the sooner this headache would be out of my way.

Just as Reigin had said, by the time he and I stepped off the stairs and into Hayate's kitchen and dining room, everyone else had already been up. Naomi was in the kitchen, working on breakfast for everyone, while her father and my three other friends sat around the dining table, the old bartender lazily reading the newspaper while drinking from his coffee cup filled with black coffee. As Reigin and I began to sit down in two of the three open seats around the dining table, he looked up from over the top of his papers and smiled a bright, 'good morning' grin at us.

"Ah, Shiki, Reigin," he said, folding up the newspaper and setting it beside him, "how good of the two o you to come join us. Naomi," he called over his shoulder, "don't forget to add Shiki's plate into the mix for this morning."

"Already on it, Dad," the blonde girl said, smiling over her popping eggs. "Hope you guys like pancakes and omelets, because that's what I'm making today." I nodded back and settled down in my chair.

"That's great, thanks Naomi-san."

Smiling, Naomi returned to her cooking, and Hayate leaned towards me with a small smile upon his face. "So, Shiki my boy, how did you sleep last night? Get all the rest that you're going to need for today?" Slowly I nodded back to him, though my scowl pushed through as I looked the old bartender in the eyes.

"Yeah, I slept just fine, Hayate. That is, if you ignore the unbelievably realistic, insane dream I'd just had." Hayate frowned as I said this, and I saw a glimmer of knowledge and understanding shine in the back of his eyes, so I continued. "I was falling like crazy through space and felt like I was going through more pain that was physically possible, when all of a sudden, it all ended. I found myself floating around in some endlessly white room, with swirls of silver and gold floating around me, while some other-worldly voice spoke to me."

"We all had dreams like that, Shiki," Hiroto commented, giving me a small frown, "So what?"

"So what?" I asked back, looking at him like he was mental…well, more-so than usual. "Dude, no one just 'has' the same dream as someone else, and I'm certain that it can't happen between five people all at the exact same time! There's something else here, a connection that we can't see, something important." As I said this, I looked over at Hayate and gave the man a sharp scowl. "And I have a feeling that you know the truth, Hayate-san."

The kitchen became eerily silent as everyone's gazes turned from me to the brightly-haired man at the end of the table who was casually sipping from his coffee mug. The only one not staring at him was his daughter, who was still busying herself with the sizzling and popping food in the kitchen. Finally, after another minute had passed in near-silence, Hayate sighed and placed his coffee mug back on the table.

"Fine, boys," he said with a faint huff, "it's too late for me to ease you into it, like I had been planning to, so I'll tell you what you want and need to know. But," he said, giving the five of us a quick, sharp scowl as we all started to open our mouths to speak, "in order for me to tell you everything, you need to stay silent until the end, keep your questions to yourselves. Understood?"

"Sure," I said, nodding with the others in agreement. Hayate smiled faintly at this, and sighed, rolling back into his chair.

"Very well then. Now, in order for me to tell you truthfully what happened yesterday, and what those odd dreams you had last night were all about, you must understand that, before any of you were born, before any living being on earth was born, we all lived another life, in a realm we have come to call Heaven."

I frowned at Hayate's words, and looked over at the others around me. We had heard about Heaven before, and about the premortal existence. Most of us had been raised Catholic, or Christian of some sort. So why was Hayate talking about Heaven now? Ignoring our expressions, the bartender continued on.

"Before any of us were born, we were all beings composed only of souls and spirits. We had no tangible bodies, no meat or bones upon us at all. We simply appeared as spirit versions of ourselves. There was only one being in Heaven who had a body of flesh and blood, and he was our literal father, the Father, Elohim. Because he had an immortal, incorruptible body, he was able to work great wonders and marvels, creating enormous universes and impressive worlds. We were all impressed by his skills and powers, and as all children do, we yearned to be like him. And our Father, who wanted only what was best for us, was willing to show us how to become like him. If, of course, we passed his test."

"The test, while seeming fairly straight forward, was actually very intricate and detailed. It called for every spirit within Heaven to fall to Earth, and be born within a mortal body of flesh and blood. We would have no memory of our lives in Heaven, and would have to struggle to keep the commandments which he gave us in the premortal existence. To help lead and teach us, he would send down his mightiest of spirits—those we have come to know as prophets, and even Angels—who would be able to interpret the Father's plan for us. We would have to struggle to do as well as we could, to abide by his precepts. If we failed to abide by him, we would fail. To save us from wrong-doings, and sins, the Father would send a Savior, his eldest son, to take all the sins of the Earth upon himself, and save us from our wrongs. Then, we would be judged, at the end of our mortal lives, upon the intents of our hearts, and if they were just and good, then we would finally pass the test. If they were not, then we would fail, never to have god-like powers liken unto the Father's."

"There were many that supported the plan our Father set before us. It was tough, but just, and definitely worth the struggle. But there were some in Heaven who saw the plan as being corrupt, and faulty. Leading these beings was Lucifer, the second strongest Angel in Heaven. He and his followers believed that the other spirits would be too foolish, and would make too many mistakes on Earth to be saved. He proposed that all spirits be forced to do good, so that they would definitely make it back to Heaven." Hayate's face twisted into a scowl, and he clenched his fists tightly. "He was opposed, of course, and he and his followers tempted fate further, by waging war on God and his Angels. When he finally fell, he and his followers were banished from Heaven and tossed down into Hell, the darkest of all the realms in the universe. Upon his fall, the plan began, and—"

"Uh, Hayate-san?"Reigin interrupted, raising his hand slowly. "I know you didn't want us to interrupt and all, but…we all already know this story. We've been taught it since we were old enough to understand basic Japanese."

"Yeah," I said, frowning, "so what's different with your version?"

Hayate frowned at all of us, perhaps for interrupting him as he had asked us not to, but finally sighed and nodded. "Yes," he replied slowly, rapping his knuckles against the armrests of his chair, "yes, I know you all know this story already. What you don't know, is how you all play into it."

"The Angels in Heaven wanted to mourn the falling of Lucifer, as well as all of their brothers and sisters. They were great beings, and would have done well on Earth, had they not fallen, and become Fallen Angels. But the mourning was cut short, as the Angel Metatron, the being in charge of recording all of the dealings in the Father's council, received a terrible vision of a future yet to come. Fallen Angels would dwell amongst men and women upon the Earth, summoning the vilest of Demons to trick the men and women to fall, like they had. The gates of Hell would be opened wide, and the Kings of the Demons would be unleashed to wreck havoc upon the Earth. And, finally, Lucifer himself would break free of Hell, in the seventh millennium after his fall, and would wage war once more on God. He, of course, was looking into our days, and the nearing Apocalypse."

Hayate frowned, and took another long sip from his slowly cooling coffee. "When the Father heard of this vision, he found himself in quite the dilemma. Not only was his prodigal son continuing to fight against him, but the way in which he would wage war against him would send even more of his children to their deaths. God needed a way to save his children, and he needed one fast. And that was when the Savior, our eldest brother, came forward."

"Wait, the Savior had a solution, and not God?" Hiroto asked, frowning. Hayate sighed and nodded slowly.

"He was our eldest brother, his glory even in premortal existence almost parallel to the Father's. He proposed that half of the beings in Heaven become prison guards of Hell, to ensure that Lucifer and his most trusted followers would not escape—you know them as 'Devils'. They were promised that they would receive the Father's glory, though they would not take his test, so long as they continued in their duties as protectors of Hell. The other half of Heaven would go to Earth and continue living out the plan, as previously designed—all except for the Archangels, the seven strongest Angels in Heaven, who would go to Earth once every thousand years to hold off Lucifer's followers. In the seventh and final millennium, the last of the Archangels would face Lucifer himself, and hold off the Apocalypse. With him would be the four Angels he trusted more than even himself, they who are called the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Together, they would protect both Heaven and Earth from damnation."

There was a slight pause in the air as he said this, and I could tell by the way he was looking at each of us that he was waiting for it to hit us. When it did, we all made a sound I could only call a very emphatic 'oh', and I stared straight at the orange-haired man as shock began to come over me.

"You mean…us?" I asked, as both my eyes and the eyes of my friends slowly widened as the full effect of his words reached us. "We're…Archangels?"

Hayate nodded solemnly. "You are the four Archangels chosen to prepare humanity for the Apocalypse, and the Archangel chosen to send Lucifer down to his permanent damnation." Slowly, he looked around at each of us, a confident smile upon his face.

"Shirayumi Hiroto," he said, looking to the blonde first, "formerly Castiel, the Archangel of Conquest."

"Akaiken Katsuo," he continued, turning to the red-head, "formerly Balthazar, the Archangel of Warfare."

"Kokugen Takuma," he shifted his gaze to the indigo-haired youth, "formerly Alastair, the Archangel of Pestilences."

"Awaikama Reigin," he added, turning towards the lanky albino, "formerly Sephiroth, Archangel of Death."

"And Kinikkō Shiki," he finished, resting his gaze on mine, "formerly Nathaniel, Archangel of the Glorious Day. Together, you are the Brotherhood Archangel, the five Archangels chosen to protect the Earth from Lucifer and his fellow Fallen Angels as he attempts to rip the world apart through the Apocalypse."

There was an awkward silence after he had said these words. Then, after a minute, Takuma broke the silence by asking the one question that all of us had been wondering ever since he began his explanation. "Hayate-san…how do you know all of this to begin with?" Hayate sighed and shook his head.

"I was wondering when one of you five were going to finally come out with that question," he muttered with a small chuckle, his face, which had been serious the whole time through, now looking more like he normally did—amused, and slightly buzzed. "Well, do you all remember what that Angel from yesterday was saying about me before you guys came in and killed those buggers?"

"Yeah," Katsuo said, leaping forward, as the lights started to turn on inside his head, "he called you…the Gatekeeper of Fire, right? One of the Gatekeepers of Hell? But," he paused, and the lights finally came on, his eyes widening with understanding, "didn't you say that Devils watch over and protect Hell, Hayate-san?"

"Yes I did," he said, smiling softly and giving the over-excitable red-head a firm nod. My mind reeled, and I shook my head in an attempt to make everything that was in my head now make sense.

"So, hang on," I said, frowning, "you're…a Devil?"

"We both are," Naomi said, suddenly appearing at the table with seven plates of food, "as is Satomi-san, back at your high school."

"You're a Devil too, Naomi?!" Hiroto exclaimed, his eyes wide. "And, and so is Satomi-sensei?!"

"Well, that would explain the insidious aura that she exudes," Reigin said, seeming oddly at ease with everything that was going on. Hayate smirked at Reigin's words and nodded.

"Yeah, she can be a bit frosty every once in a while, but that's to be expected. After all, the three of us have been watching over Earth for nearly six-thousand years now as the Gatekeepers of Hell. We've been really struggling, trying to protect it from every hellish creature and infernal device that Lucifer's Angels have tried throwing at us." Sighing, he shook his head, and started to dig into his omelet. "And what really takes the cake is that, with the seventh millennium drawing near, we're finding that more and more Demons and Fallen Angels are appearing in the Mortal World, and the numbers are too much for just the three of us to handle." Frowning, he turned back to the five of us. "The time of the Brotherhood Archangel is drawing near, and very fast."

"You mean us, right? So," Takuma frowned, "what exactly are we supposed to do, Hayate-san?"

"Fight Demons and Fallen Angels, of course!" he said with a broad grin. "The Awakening Process has already started, thanks to Gabriel lifting the veil from each of you yesterday, and awakening the beings within each of you, who the Archangel Michael bonded within you so that you can learn how to use your powers while in mortal life. The game has begun. All you five need to do is keep up with it."

With that, Hayate grabbed his coffee mug again and took another deep sip of the dark drink. Across from him, though, my mind was reeling, even more than earlier today. Sure, he'd answered some of my questions, but there were some he didn't answer, and the answers he did give were so out there…they were just impossible. Groaning, I stood up, and turned away.

"I'm sorry, Hayate-san…but I can't."

There was a silence in the room as I said this, the room so still, you could hear the last of the grease sizzling on the still-hot frying pans in the kitchen. Hayate frowned over at me, I could feel it in my back. Sighing, he set his coffee mug down again and slowly leaned back in his seat, the chair making a tight, creaking sound as he did so.

"Mind explaining why you can't, Shiki?" he challenged, his voice soft, but I could feel a deadly edge hidden within it. I grimaced, but I turned back to the orange-haired man, the bartender that I saw as a father, and continued.

"Hayate-san…I'm just a teenager! I'm barely making it through school right now, what with all of this math and history stuff that the teachers are throwing my way. I can never make it on time, I'm struggling with managing the band, my band, enough as it is already, and helping take care of my diabetic mom controls the rest of my life anyways. Life always manages to find a way to kick me in the ass, time and time again!" I paused, taking a minute to breath, and continued. "What you're asking of me, it's just too much to add to my already over-flowing plate. I mean, seriously?! Hunting Demons? Fighting Fallen Angels?! I didn't sign up for it!"

"B-but Shiki-san, you did!" Naomi exclaimed, jumping up from her seat at the table. "You went to the Christ himself when he was searching for a replacement for Lucifer, and volunteered to take up the powers of an Archangel during your mortal existence! That was your mission!"

"That was another time, another life, Naomi-san!" I replied with an intense frown. "That was Nathaniel's decision. I'm Kinikkō Shiki, not Nathaniel. I'm not an Archangel, and I'm not going to do this, okay?!"

"B-but—!" Naomi began, but the hand of her father cut her off. Hayate frowned over at the platinum blonde girl, and motioned for her to sit back down. Naomi opened her mouth to protest, but sighed, and sat back in her seat. Frowning, the orange-haired bartender-and-Devil turned his gaze back to me and leaned forward, his elbows on the table, and knuckles under his chin.

"Is that what you really feel, Shiki?" he asked solemnly, giving me a hard, firm stare. I paused, his words surprising me. He didn't sound as vindictive, enraged, that I thought he would be. Sighing, I nodded.

"Yeah, it is. I don't want to spend my life fighting Demons and Fallen Angels. I just want to be myself. I just want to be Shiki."

Hayate frowned as I said this, but the older man shrugged and leaned back in his seat. "I understand, Shiki. It's your life to live, and I can't force you to join the Brotherhood Archangel if you don't want to." Slowly, he turned his gaze over to the others. "I can assume that all of you have similar feelings?"

The others didn't answer, but by the way they were standing, shoulders slumped, heads hung slightly, and pained grimaces on their faces, you could tell easily that they were all against the plan that had been shoved upon them in the spur of the moment. Hayate groaned slightly, and placed his hand atop his coffee mug, clicking his nails against the ceramic.

"Well, if that's how you all feel, then I can't stop you. You have your own freedoms, after all." Sighing, he turned to the front door and nodded. "You can all head out now, then. If this is what you decide, then you can leave for now. But I expect you all back here tomorrow night for another performance, you hear?" he added, with a cockeyed grin.

I nodded back to him with a sad smiled, and stepped towards the door, the others following behind me. "Got it, Hayate-san. Be seeing you around."

Without another word, we slipped out of the room, and away from the bar. All hoping that what had happened the last two days would just disappear, as if it never happened to begin with.

As if hoping could stop the universe from screwing with us.

Hayate sighed somberly to himself as the last of the boys walked out of the living room, out of the bar-area of The Fiery Paradise, and back out onto the street. He should have known that Shiki and the boys would make that decision. After he had thrown a whole new world into their laps, without any warning, what else could they do but deny it? Sighing again, the old bartender rose from his seat and stepped towards his secret stash of whiskey that he kept in the kitchen, pouring himself a tall, amber glass of the liquid.

"Damn you, Gabriel," he muttered bitterly, taking a shot of the fiery draught, "couldn't you have given me more time to ease the boys into it? Bah…" He grumbled on, pouring another shot.

"I can't believe you said that to them!"

Hayate's hand paused, the glass half-way raised towards his lips, and slowly turned back towards the bristling blonde-haired twenty-one year-old behind him, who was giving the most shocking glare, it could have struck fear into a thuggish biker. Hayate, however, who had taught the girl how to glare like that, shrugged and turned back to his glass of whiskey.

"Why's that, Naomi?" he asked casually, relishing the burn of the alcohol down his throat. Naomi glared at her lazy father and snapped her hand out. Instantly a bolt of electricity flicked off of her fingertips and shattered the glass in his hands.

"If you would stop drinking like a washed-up drunk, Dad," she shouted angrily, "you might remember that Shiki-san and his friends need to live up to their missions as the Brotherhood Archangels! There're no other Angels in Heaven that can finish the jobs that they have signed up for! You can't just tell them that they are free to do whatever they want! This is their job! They accepted it six-thousand years ago, and now they have to finish it!"

Hayate scowled down at his glassless hand, glass shards sticking out at odd angles, with alcohol running down his arm. "Damn it, Naomi," he muttered, clenching his eyes shut. Slowly, an orange glow covered his arm, from his tattoos, and in a flash, the glass and blood was gone. Sighing, he reached back into the kitchen cupboard and grabbed another glass. "We only have so many of these, you know. You can't shatter them all every time!"

"ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?!" Naomi screamed, her arms snapped to her sides and hands balled into two fists in pure rage. "We need to get those guys back here, now, and explain to them again why they have to—"


Naomi's complaints fell to silence instantly. Her father only ever called her by her true, Devil name, when he was extremely tired and annoyed—when he had a plan, and she was messing with it. The last time she'd heard him call her that name…had been when he'd let the Hindenburg blow up, against her better wishes.

"Christiana," Hayate began again, "I know that you doubt the logicality of my plan. After all, we just let the five strongest beings in both Heaven and Earth go free to do whatever they want. But, in case you forgot," he growled, scowling down at his daughter, "God's Will has always been fulfilled on Earth, as it was done in Heaven. Whether they follow it now, or much later, they will follow the Father's wishes, and return to the Brotherhood Archangel. They can't run from who they are. They'll be back, sooner or later."

"B-but Dad!" Naomi exclaimed, "They seemed so adamant about not becoming Archangels. How are we going to change their minds?"

"We aren't going to do anything," the old bartender said with a smile. "I have a feeling our enemies are going to do it for us."

Laughing, Hayate picked up his glass of whiskey and slipped past his dumb-struck daughter into the living room. Naomi could hear him listening to an old action movie in the other room, but she couldn't move to join. Fear had clutched her heart. Just what was her father planning now? She suddenly felt very worried about Shiki and the boys.

Sighing the fear away, Naomi picked up her wash cloth, and began work on the hastily-abandoned breakfast.

I groaned softly as I walked along the sidewalk to my house. It was later out than Hayate and Naomi had been letting on, the sun starting to set off in the distant west. Hiroto and the others had already split up, heading off to their own houses to go rest and relax. I, myself, was worried about how my mom would react to my coming home at so late a time today. That is, I would be worried, if it weren't for the fact that my mind was still buzzing from earlier.

Everything that Hayate had said had thrown my mind for a curve. It didn't make any sense at all…and yet, somewhere inside me, it had all seemed completely logical. It had all just seemed right. And that scared me the most. I mean, it just didn't make any sense to me! Being an Archangel…it was completely impossible, but at the same time seemed completely true, and right. Groaning, I threw my head back and shouted up at the approaching moon.

"GRAAAH!What the hell is happening to me?!"

Perhaps now you would like to listen to me.

My heart stopped for possibly the third time today. That voice! It was back! And this time, I was certain I was awake. Frowning, I clenched my fists, and kept walking down the sidewalk.

"Shut up, whoever you are!" There was that 'tsk'-ing sound again, from inside my head, and the voice chuckled lowly at me.

Word to the wise, want to keep any conversation with me 'internal'. That way, it doesn't seem like you're completely insane, walking down the street while talking to me.

Gee, thanks, I thought bitterly, making the voice laugh again. I scowled up at him—it—whatever—and continued down the road. So, what exactly do you want to tell me, insane voice in my head?

My, you're a sarcastic one, aren't you? Well, you were in Heaven, too, so I'm not that surprised, really. Chuckling, the voice continued. So, I believe you know who I am, don't you? I growled back and nodded slowly.

Yeah, you're the being that the Archangel decided to fuse to my soul so that I could have the powers of an Archangel even though I'm just another simple mortal. Well, listen up, whoever you are! I'm not going to suddenly take up a life of a Demon Hunter, or whatever, just because some stupid Archangel bastard decided to fuse you to my soul! I'm my own person, got it?!

Well, the voice said slowly, speaking as the 'stupid Archangel bastard' that decided to fuse himself to you, I can tell you that you don't really have much choice in the matter, Shiki.

My eyes widened, and I stumbled to a stop on the sidewalk. You…you're Michael? Though I couldn't see it, I could bet the voice, now known as Michael, was nodding his head solemnly.

I thought it would be better for you, being the leader of the Brotherhood Archangel, should receive access to your powers directly through the only being in the High Council of Archangels who was stronger than you. The voice paused, sighing. Shiki, I know that you don't like the job that you've been given. When I came to Earth as Adam, I didn't even know what I was supposed to do. The Father told me that Eve and I were to populate the world, but we couldn't do that in the Garden. And we couldn't leave the Garden unless we ate the Forbidden Fruit. But we had also been commanded of God to never eat the Forbidden Fruit! It was deciding one commandment over another, and to know the whole of Heaven was waiting to see what I was going to do, that scared the hell out of me.

Whoa, I muttered, sounds crazy.

It was, Michael replied, nodding, but, in the end, I made the right decision. Now, you have to do the same.

But, fighting Demons? Ending the Apocalypse? Can I even do that? I asked, grimacing.

I know it sounds insane, Shiki, it did when Metatron first told us the vision, and the Christ told us his plan. But, one way or another, this mission you've been sent here for will find you. Lucifer's Demon, who possessed a snake to tempt Eve, was the way the decision was finally made for me. Trust me, they'll find a way for you to make a final decision, sooner or later.

What can they do? I asked, frowning. This wasn't sounding good. And the way that Michael was pausing, and sighing, definitely wasn't helping the feeling welling up inside me.

Just know that if they want something, they will do anything to get it. If they want you gone, they will stop at nothing to do so. They will go after you, your friends…and your family. Michael paused, and a cold chill ran down my back. In fact, they've already succeeded in the third.

What?! I exclaimed, looking over to my house, which I now found myself standing in front of. Michael fell silent, so I continued on towards the house. My eyes widened as I stepped up towards the front door. Large claw marks surrounded the door, burnt into the wood. I reached to the handled, and instantly jerked my hand back, the metal scorching hot to the touch. Grimacing, I stepped back, and kicked the door open.

The inside of the house was even worse for wear. The couch was torn to shreds, cotton and fluff flying around the room in an early indoor snowstorm. The kitchen table and chairs were busted and broken, with singed claw marks etched into the wood. Mom's potted plants were shattered, the soil spilled along the floor. Books and movies were scattered across the room, some in the walls, with large burns covering the pages.

"What the hell happened here?" I muttered to myself, crouching down to examine a picture of me and my mom that lay shattered on the ground. The sound of something moving inside caught my attention, and quickly snapped me up to my feet. Could it be that the things that did this were still here? Or, could was it—

"Shiki? Is that you?"

My heart soared as my mom slowly stepped out of the door down the hallway. Her dress was torn, there was blood on her shirt and forehead, and her hair was wild and unkempt. Other than that, she looked fine. Gasping with relief, and stepped towards her.

"Mom! Thank God! I was getting worried—"

That's not your mom, Shiki! Michael suddenly warned, his voice sharp. I froze, and scowled up at him.

What? What do you mean? I can see her, it's her, for sure!

It's her body, and her soul's in there, certainly, Michael replied, but that is not her talking to you now! Look closely, Shiki, and tell me…is that really your mother?

Frowning, I lifted my gaze back to my mom, and stared closely. She looked just like herself. What was there to—suddenly, my eyes caught sight of them. How had I not noticed them before?! Crouching on her back, claws digging into her shoulders, arms, back, head, and legs, were five or six of the monsters from last night.

Demons, Michael muttered, and I could hear the scowl in his voice, Vile creatures. They can literally tear a person's agency, their freedom to make decisions for themselves, away from them. Your mother must be strong, Shiki, for there to be six needed to control her. But the fact remains that they control her, and are now going after you!

Well, what do I do?! I asked, panicked.

Simple, Michael replied, run!

Not pausing to think about what he was saying, I did just that. I turned around as fast as I could and shot back out the front door and down the road. Behind me, the Demons shrieked in rage, and the buzzing of wings suddenly filled the air. I turned around slightly, and saw, much to my horror, all six of them flying after me, while still holding onto my mom tightly. Grimacing, I turned back to the road. What was I going to do?

Lately, I've been, I've been losing sleep, Dreaming 'bout—

My eyes widened. My cellphone! I snapped my hand down to my pocket and pulled the phone out, catching the caller right on time. "Hello?" I asked, quickly jumping over a fence as the Demons bore down on me again.

"Shiki! Is that you, man?!"

"Hiroto!" I shouted, relief flooding over me. "Thank God you called! Listen, I need some help—"

"Yeah, well, you ain't the only one, Shiki!"Katsuo shouted, suddenly cutting in.

"Katsuo?" I asked, frowning. "What, are you guys on speaker? What's going on?"

"We were heading over to Hiroto's," Takuma replied, speaking up now, "but when we got there, we found all of our parents and siblings being controlled by those same creatures as the ones that had been attacking Hayate-san last night. When the voices in our heads explained what was going on, we ran out as fast as we could, with them in hot pursuit."

"So, Shiki," Reigin concluded, "What are we going to do now?"

"I-I don't know!" I exclaimed, looking back as Demon-Mom swooped down at me. Grimacing, I ducked away, and looked around feverishly. My eyes caught sight of the park that was just across the street from all our neighborhoods. "Okay, guys! We'll regroup at park across the street, and face these Demons, just like we did last night!"

"Can we do that?" Hiroto asked, frowning. "Shiki, that seemed like it was a onetime thing!"

"Guys, just trust me with this!" I shouted, ending the connection and rising back to my feet.

You do realize, Shiki, that if you accept this power, and use it to save your mother, you will need to use it to save everyone else, too, as an Archangel. I nodded, frowning, and leapt out into the street.

I understand, Michael. And if that's what it takes, then I'll do it! Somewhere inside me, I felt Michael smile at my words.

Frowning, I dashed across the road, the sound of demonic wings buzzing behind me loudly. I grimaced back at the Demons, and dodged around them as they tried to attack me again, before sprinting back across the field into the park. The Demons shriek again, louder still, as I ran as fast as I could, and dropped like a rock down towards me. I stared up in shock, my mind racing, and struggled to focus.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a volley of arrows cut through the air, hitting several of the Demons in their backs. A blast of purple mist slammed into them, making them break out in enormous, leprous sores and welts, and a bright green swirl of mist broke through the ground, sending an enormous skeletal arm up, slamming into the Demon-Mom, and sending all six tumbling off of my mom's body. I stared up at her, and began to rush towards her, arms out to catch her, when suddenly,seven silver axes appeared under her, flat ends up, catching her. The shields lowered slowly to the ground, and disappeared into red mist once she was settled on the ground. Shocked, I stepped towards her.


Freezing in place, I turned around to see Hiroto and Katsuo running up towards me, the blonde carrying an enormous white bow, with white gauntlets on his arms, and the red-head carrying two enormous battle axes in red armored hands. In another direction, Takuma came running towards me, carrying a large black staff in black gauntlet covered arms, and Reigin followed close behind, with a skeletal scythe in his green gauntlet's hands. Smirking, I waved them over, running towards them.

"Guys! How'd you do that?"

Hiroto smirked and notched another arrow in his bow. "The voices in our heads explained it to us. It's just all instinct. You just focus on what you want to do, and you can do it!"

Allow me to guide a bit here, Shiki, Michael said quickly, cutting in, just focus on your desires, your will to protect and fight, as Gabriel said before, and you will be able to use the powers of the Archangels.

"Really?" I asked, frowning as I struggled to clear my mind, to focus on my desires. "Then…"

In a flash, both of my arms were covered in shining, golden gauntlets, white and silver armor supporting the armors. In my hands, there was a six foot-long sword made of golden light, and the blade glowed with a white energy swirling around it. I couldn't help but smirk at the sudden change, the feeling of power in my body. The smirk left my face, replaced with a scowl, as I turned back to the Demons rising around us. There were fifty in total, forty-four of which were still gripping onto members of the other guys' families and buzzing angrily down at us. Sighing, I turned to the others and whipped my sword back.

You can do this, Shiki.

"Ready, guys?" I asked, frowning. The others gave me a quick nod, and together, we leapt forward.

My blade arced through the air swiftly as I charged forward, leading the others on. The Demons hissed and shrieked down at me, bobbing and weaving around my blade, or exposing their hosts they so feverishly held onto, and forcing me to fall back. Frowning, I slashed back again, clipping a few on the wings, and sending them tumbling down, but still the entire group held up in the air.

"Guys, I need something to slow these things down!" I shouted back.

Takuma looked over at me, swinging his staff wildly at the Demons, and raising large barriers of pale purple mist around him that held the beasts off. The indigo-haired boy nodded to me and aimed his locust-capped staff towards the Demons surrounding me. "I think I can handle that for you, Shiki!" he replied, swinging his staff down.

A cascade of purple energy flew off of his staff, swirling around the Demons in vicious speed. The beasts hissed in rage, and tried to fly out of the range of the mist, but they were too late. First one twitched in its wings, and then the others around it shuddered, before quickly falling to the ground, a sudden state of paralysis coming over them. Smirking, I leapt forward again, spinning my claymore rapidly about them. I made certain not to hit the host, Reigin'solder brother, focusing only on the stunned insectoids holding him up. With a furious slash, I snapped the blade out, and a current of white light descended on the Demons, hungrily tearing them apart.

"That move!" I muttered, remembering vaguely the attack that I'd used the night before.

That is the Halo Slash. Michael explained, his smile probing me from inside my soul. It is a simple Archangel ability used by those who wield swords of light, such as your own!

"That could be useful," I replied, smiling. "Thanks!" Grinning, I turned back to the fight and gripped my sword tightly, my eyes looking over to the others. Katsuo caught my attention, the red-haired boy looking very much like some weapon monster from the Abyss, with a swarm of sword and axes spinning around him wildly, cutting down the Demons left and right. Grinning with the grin of a berserker, Katsuo charged up after the Demons holding onto his parents, and sent a spinning flurry of blades up at them.

"You freaks get off my parents!" he shouted angrily, his violent, blood-thirsting grin remaining upon his face as he swung his two axes left and right, sending the swords spinning around him in some incredible storm, cutting down every last one of the Demons. Grinning as the creatures fell, he snapped his blades again, crossing them in front of his chest.

"Shield of Blades!" he cried, creating a cradle of weapons much like the ones he had used earlier on my mom. The ax heads and flattened sword blades gently lowered his parents to the ground, resting them on the dry evening grass. Sighing, he turned to me and nodded, swinging his axes quickly.

"How many does that make?" he asked, frowning. I shrugged, and turned to the others.

"Doesn't matter, just keep fighting, until all the Demons are gone!"

Katsuo nodded back to me and leapt back in, his fleet of blades trailing behind him. Grinning, I looked over to see how Hiroto and Reigin were doing. The youngest member of our gang stood with his back up against the oldest member's back, his arms pulled back on his bow as he fired shot after shot of white arrows of light into the on-coming Demons. Beasts left and right fell to the ground and turned into smoking piles of ash as his arrows each sailed perfectly into their heads, backs, and chests, each arrow bringing with it quick death. Behind him, Reigin swung his scythe quickly, sending enormous skeletal arms up out of the ground, which grabbed the Demons and pulled them back down into the earth. Any Demon that evaded the necromorphic arms that grappled away at them quickly found them cut short of success, as the albino's scythe slashed them down quick as could be.

"How you handling, Hiroto?" he shouted back over his shoulder.

"All right, for now," the blonde muttered, notched three arrows and sending them sailing into the swarm, "but, I don't feel like I can keep this up forever!"

"Need a hand, guys?" I asked, running forward with both hands on my sword. A bright golden light began to grow along its edge, and I could feel the power rising up within me again. Grinning, I swung the sword out sharply, sending a glowing slash of light up at the Demons that surrounded the duo. "Halo Slash!"

"Nice!" Hiroto said, sliding out of the chaos and up to me. Smiling, I nodded as Takuma and Katsuo moved their fights closer towards us, the two of them panting slightly from the work. Sighing, I raised my sword again and looked up into the masses swarming over us. If we just kept this up, it would all work out just fine. We'd make it out of this.

Hayate sighed behind the bar, cleaning his shot glasses again with a spare rag. He needed something to do to rest his mind. He had just heard the news of the fight from yesterday evening. Just as he had reasoned, they would return to the path they were asked to live. Shiki had been the one to tell him the group's official decision, as well as the news that they were definitely going to keep performing. They were going to be the Brotherhood Archangel, both on the battlefield and up on stage, and Hayate had never been gladder.


Hayate frowned at the sound of his bar's doors opening, and called over his shoulder to the customer walking in. "Sorry, sir, but we're closed right now. Could you come back later?"

"Funny. I was hoping to talk to my old friend, Zacharias."

Hayate froze, and quickly spun around, smirking at the copper-haired man that was strolling into the room, dressed casually in a jean jacket and black denim pants. "Gabe!" he exclaimed, smirking as the Archangel gripped his hand in a hearty handshake.

"Zack! So good to see you again! Just coming in to say hello, check up on you, you know, the usual." Hayate nodded with a smirk, and gestured over to a seat at the bar, before turning around and grabbing a bottle of beer and two large glasses.

"Well, be my guest, Gabriel!" the bartender said with a grin, handing him a glass. "Haven't seen you here in a while, my old friend. Must say, I've gotten to miss having you around, coming in every once in a while for a drink. What's the special occasion?"

"The Brotherhood Archangel," Gabriel said with a small frown.

"The actual thing, or the band Shiki's started up?" Hayate toyed.

"The actual Brotherhood, Zack." Frowning, Gabriel leaned back in his seat. "As happy as I am that they finally progressed into accepting their powers, I must warn you that the hard part has only just begun. The Fallen Angels are going to keep a stricter eye on them, now. And it's only a matter of time before the signs Metatron warned us of come to pass." The copper-haired Archangel closed his eyes as he recalled the words spoken long ago. "'The five to beat the Fallen Son shall come upon the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month, in the year before the seventh millennium. And, upon their awakenings, the Anarchists shall rise as well, in the sixth hour of the sixth day of the sixth month, in the first year of the seventh millennium. And then the gates of Hell shall open, and all damnation shall be raised.' Those signs are coming, and coming fast."

"I know, Gabe," Hayate frowned, tipping his glass towards himself, "Elohim knows I know. But I have faith that they will succeed."

"Let's hope so," Gabriel grumbled, raising his glass to his old friend. "Here's to the Brotherhood."

"I'll drink to that," Hayate agreed, clinking his drink against the glass and taking a deep drink.