Azazel sat in the small booth at a family owned yakiniku restaurant. The sound of sizzling meat filled the air, and the scent of pig’s tongues, which sizzled on his personal grill, were tantalizing enough to water the mouth.
Japan really did have some of the greatest food. Really, who ever had thought of cooking pig’s tongues must have been a genius.
The building itself was quite basic. There were no chairs. People who came here to eat sat on the floor with a low-rise table; that was how old-fashioned this place was. Old walls were slightly stained from age, and the grill, which sat in a tub in the center of the table, also seemed quite ancient.
His reason for being there wasn’t for something altruistic like, say, helping the company regain its former glory. He was waiting there for someone.
It had only been a day since Jacob had defeated Gabriel in combat. Their battle had been quite the sight to see. Even now, Azazel could still recall how Jacob had fought Gabriel and won. It was a major feat, regardless of the fact that Gabriel had been holding back a great deal. It wasn’t like Jacob hadn’t done the same. Neither of them had wanted to kill the other.
A battle where the two of them were really fighting at full strength would be frightening.
Gabriel. A warrior whose swordsmanship was said to be the best among Heaven. Jacob. Nephalem. A being of such incredible power that even gods had reason to fear him. If a battle broke out between those two and they used their full power, it would be catastrophic.
Speaking of the gods, I’m going to need to speak with the Shinto Triage.
Thanks to his recent battles against Belial and Gabriel, Jacob was now a known entity, and not just to Christianity. It would be foolish to think that the Shinto pantheon hadn’t noticed him by now.
The Shinto Pantheon of gods was currently being ruled by the triage Amaterasu, Susano, and Tsukuyomi. They were a pretty chill group. He’d never met a group of gods who were so relaxed. The last time he had gone to speak with them, they had thrown him a party just because they could, and they didn’t care that he and the Grigori had made Japan their current home.
That might change once they learn about the Nephalem, once they learn about Jacob.
'I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.'
As he took a pig’s tongue off the grill and put it onto his plate, a figure walked in through the restaurant’s front door. His long, blond hair made him look effeminate. Blue eyes had bags under them, and his shoulders were slumped, revealing the weight of his burden. He wasn’t wearing a toga. Instead, he had donned a white business suit that made him look more than a little out of place in this dingy restaurant.
“Michael!” Azazel caught the man’s attention, waving him over. “Come on! Over here!”
Michael looked over at him, sighed, and then trudged over and sat down opposite him. His shoulders slumped the moment he sat down.
“You look pretty exhausted,” Azazel said. “Being the de facto leader of Heaven isn’t all it’s cracked out to be, is it?”
“I have you to partly thank for that.” Michael’s glare was filled with annoyance, but the stern disapproval gleaming in his eyes only served to make Azazel chuckle.
“Don’t look at me like that. I’ll admit, it was kinda my fault for creating the Grigori in the first place, but it’s not like my creation of the Grigori is the reason angels fall from Father’s grace.”
“That is true.” Michael closed his eyes and sighed, shoulders slumping with weariness. “With Father’s grace waning every year, more and more of my brethren are falling. It is… hard to remain faithful when so many of my brothers and sisters believe we have been abandoned by Father.”
Five centuries ago, the many chieftain gods and goddesses from the various pantheons disappeared, including the God of Christianity. This left a huge power vacuum within every religion. While the gods who were left over had tried to fill that vacuum, all of the pantheons were weakened by the disappearance of their strongest religious figures.
What this meant for Heaven was grave. No other pantheon had such a strict adherence to principles. Angels needed to remain good—perfect beings who always showed compassion. However, without God, without their father, more and more angels became disillusioned because the light they had long since basked in was now gone.
“Why did you call me out here?” Michael finally asked. “I can take a guess, but I would like to hear the words from your own mouth.”
“All right, then.” Azazel leaned forward. “I would like Heaven to stop attacking Jacob.”
Michael breathed a deep sigh. “I assumed that was what you wanted. Fortunately for you, Heaven no longer has the strength necessary to chase him.”
Azazel didn’t know what Michael by that; there were plenty of angels besides Gabriel who could be called upon to slay Jacob. Still, Azazel wasn’t going to point that out.
“Glad to hear that.” Azazel grinned, raised a saucer of sake, and took a sip.
“Speaking of the Nephalem, where is he?” asked Michael.
“Him?” Chuckling, Azazel said, “he has an important school event today.”