It had become an aerial battle. I understood after fighting with her for the past several minutes that Gabriel was simply better than me. She didn’t have my inexhaustible power, but it didn’t really matter. I couldn’t use my powers very well. On the other hand, she knew exactly how to use her powers, and she played to her strengths.
Gabriel was a close-range fighter, creating swords out of her angelic powers and using them to slice up her opponents. She excelled at using two blades. I could barely keep track of her swords as she came in and attacked from both sides at different angles, different times, and different patterns.
Of course, she didn’t just have her swords. She could create anything from swords, spears, and flails, to bows and arrows. She simply had a preference for swords. It was what she used the most in their battle.
We soared through the air. I was faster than her, keeping ahead by several meters. I’d spin around in midair without warning and fire off several blasts of energy, both angelic and demonic. These blasts, which took the shape of massive beams, were either dodged or sliced in half. Sometimes I would launch crescent waves, too, but those were also destroyed by Gabriel, who picked out the weakest points in my attacks and cut them apart like they were grated cheese.
Every attack was created via magic circles. They were the keys to all of our powers, both angels and demons. The circle was like a language that told our powers what shape our attacks should be in.
I didn’t know much about magic circles, which was part of the reason I could only use basic beam and wave attacks. The other part was simply that I couldn’t control my power. To me, trying to control my power was like trying to wrestle a 450 pounds sumo wrestler when I only weighed 90 pounds.
Gabriel was different.
After I finished trying to blast her, Gabriel held out her hand, and a magic circle formed in front of her. From the circle came angelic energy, a golden power filled with the divine might of those blessed by God. It took shape, growing from two ends and curving to form the beginning of a bow.
Gabriel held out her other hand and, as though she were grabbing something, she pulled her arm back. Another magic circle appeared. It took the shape of an arrow.
Gabriel let the arrow fly seconds later. I flew out of the way. The arrow whizzed by me, a loud boom echoed all around me, and the shockwave it released slammed into me and nearly made me fall. With my teeth grit hard enough to draw blood, I flapped my wings and forced myself out of my uncontrolled spin.
Once I had regained control of my flight, I looked around, searching for Gabriel. She wasn’t behind me. Nor was she in front of me. I also couldn’t see her on my left, or my right, or down below me, which meant…
I looked up.
Gabriel was right on top of me.
She was descending fast!
I barely had a split second to realize our relative positions before, like a scythe cutting through wheat, Gabriel’s blade pierced my flesh. A gasp escaped my mouth. The coppery taste of blood stung my tongue.
The wind hit my back as we fell to the ground. I would’ve screamed as I was slammed back first into the hard blacktop, but I couldn’t because I had swallowed my tongue. It didn’t just hurt. Getting stabbed hurt. Breaking an arm hurt. This… something like I was hurt couldn’t begin to describe how it felt.
This was agonic and asphyxiating. Gabriel’s blade was piercing my shoulder all the way through my body, and the ground underneath me, which had broken apart and created sharp fragments, was poking into my back. I couldn’t breathe, my thoughts were scattered, and I’m pretty sure I was growing delirious from a loss of blood.
Something wet fell onto my face. I blinked. Blood? No. Tears. They were tears.
Gabriel stood over me, her hands shaking as she gripped the hilt of her sword. Her face had finally broken and contorted into a pained grimace. Tears gathered in her eyes, streaming down her cheeks and chin, and dripping onto my face.
“Please…” Gabriel begged. “Please stop. Don’t make me do this anymore. Don’t make me hurt you anymore. I don’t want… I don’t want to keep fighting you. This is tearing me apart.”
I looked at the woman above me, something not all that dissimilar to shock racing through me like electricity after shoving my finger into an electric socket—only stronger. It had been my assumption that Gabriel had gotten close to me specifically so she could kill me. Looking at her now, I wondered if that was the case. It seemed like this was hurting her as much as it was hurting me.
“You… don’t want to do this, do you?” I asked.
“How could I actually want to kill you?” asked Gabriel in response. “You haven’t done anything to deserve this. You’re a good person, but I have to kill you if I’m to help the world maintain balance. I have to do this.”
My face was getting pretty wet as Gabriel continued with her water works. My shoulder had also grown numb, and my head was feeling kinda fuzzy. I didn’t think that was a good thing. It probably meant I was close to passing out from bloodloss.
Even so, I thought about Gabriel’s words. The world would supposedly be thrown out of balance so long as I lived. I inferred from her words that someone above her was calling the shots, God, I guess. He was the one who controlled the angels. If she didn’t do this, she’d probably be reprimanded, though I didn’t think God would kill her. Even Azazel had said that God was merciful.
Beyond her words, it was her expression that made me seriously consider letting Gabriel end my life. It was twisted with pain. Her face, set in an agony-laced grimace, made me think she was the one being stabbed instead of me.
“Please… just let me finish this,” Gabriel murmured.
For just a moment, I was truly tempted to let her kill me, despite the promise I had made to Alicia.
“Don’t listen to her, Jacob!”
The scream was what stopped me from giving in. Gabriel and I looked toward the barrier containing Alicia.
Astonishment rippled through my body.
The redheaded devil was gritting her teeth, all but snarling at Gabriel, as she dug her fingers into the golden-hued barrier. The angels around her were shouting. However, they didn’t look like they knew what to do. Their shouts were filled with panic.
All the while, Alicia continued screaming. “Don’t you dare listen to a single word that woman says! If you let yourself be killed by her, I’ll never forgive you!”
“Don’t touch that barrier!” Gabriel shouted. “It’s only going to hurt you!”
“Shut up!!” Her shout echoed across the street. “I refuse to let myself be caged in like this!”
Alicia poured all of her energy into the barrier. Dark red miasma wafted from her hands like wisps of smoke, thick streams that reminded me of streamers blowing in the wind.
“I refuse to let you kill my friend!”
Cracks appeared in the barrier. They spread quickly, moving across the golden surface, dark red light emitting from them as if Alicia’s energy was pouring out through them.
“Hurt my friend anymore, and I’ll show you the Power of the King! Don’t underestimate me!!”
With a shout, Alicia poured even more energy into her hands, and then, like a window being shattered, the space in front of Alicia broke apart, allowing the devil princess to step into the open.