The Angel of Death
Hel sits alone in a dark room lit only by candles that melt away in the mouths of painted skulls. Despite being built for her, the ceiling is too low and the walls are too close. Hel spends this night like any other, cleaning her rifle and listening to music. On occasion, she stops polishing her weapon to think about what her comrades are up to. To think about what Thanatos, in particular, is up to.
Music never helps. Because there’s often a stray lyric or a melody that reminds her of him. Or both of them. Together. Sometimes it hurts. It always does. But she listens anyway. It’s like peeling a scab.
“He looked so worried about her,” Hel says to no one while remembering the face Thanatos made when he found out Nemain was hurt.
Sometimes Hel pretends it’s all in her head. The way they look at each other, the passing touches from Nemain to Thanatos. She’s clingy, but that’s how she’s always been. That’s how Nemain is with everyone. Thanatos just accepts it because it isn’t his nature to fight back. But would he accept Hel if she were to try touching him that way? Hel shakes her head. It’s stupid to think stupid things, so why does she do it all the time?
“Nemain loves Azrael, so there’s no way.” Hel turns up the volume.
Even with the music blaring in her ears she can hear, or rather, feel the gentle knock on her door. As she stands she takes out her earbuds, but can still hear the loud music. Hel yanks the door open.
“What do you want?” Hel regrets her harsh tone. “S-Supay? Sir!?”
Hel drops to her knees before the grizzled killer. Even on her knees, she’s still much taller than Supay.
“What can I do for you, sir?”
Supay’s eyes peer out from the mass of wrinkles that comprise his face as his jaw works itself from side to side for a moment, punctuated in time by the light tapping of his pickaxe against the ground.
“It’s Azrael.” As expected of a master he wastes no time mincing words. “Try as he might he can’t hide how excited he is for this upcoming job. This isn’t about money, it’s something else. Something that can cost him. And considering who he was, and what he knows, that could cost us.”
“Figures,” Hel scoffs her reply. “He could barely contain himself the other night. My guess is he has some history with the target.”
“Possibly.” Supay sighs and Hel can almost hear the coal bounce around in his lungs. “I’m going as insurance. My bones are aching, means I’ll need to clean up after him. I want you to come as well. Your talents may prove necessary.”
“R-really? You mean that?” Hel fights back the urge to blush. “I’d be honored to follow you out into the field.”
“Excellent.” Supay nods and turns his body at the same time. “We leave at dawn.”
He makes it maybe one or two steps before stopping and speaking again.
“Oh, and could you keep this between the two of us? Not even that little ‘girlfriend’ of his should know...understand?” A cough carries several chuckles before Supay continues. “Desperation brings out the truth in men. It’s about time we learn how committed our little cadet really is.”
Ashen hair shifts along the back of Supay’s wrinkled neck, and Hel catches sight of his sideways crooked grin.
“Regardless, he’ll be the honey to lure the bear.”
Hel sits hidden away in her perch at one end of a crumbling city. Comfortable atop a partially collapsed skyscraper; her black cloak serving to mask her presence in the failing light of the evening.
She’s been there ready for hours now and found herself wondering if Azrael’s intel was wrong.
She shoulders her rifle, bringing the scope to her eye and training her gaze on the opposite side of the street. Crumpled structures littered the overgrown road beneath her; it was flanked on both sides by buildings like the one she sits in, forming a man-made gorge, strangled at both exits by debris and the rusted wrecks of abandoned vehicles. Even she has to admit it isn’t a bad spot for an ambush.
Hel zeroes in on what she’s been looking for. Blink and you’d miss it, a glint of crimson in the darkness; twin drops of freshly spilled blood glinting in the shadowed window of a building across the street and several floors lower. Hel focuses some of her divinity into her scope, allowing her to see through the darkness. There he is.
Azrael stands unmoving. Seems he’s focused on the job at hand. Makes sense, he and Nemain weren’t attached to the hip like usual, so he has nothing to distract him. She sweeps her rifle across the skyline, but can’t find any traces of Supay.
Another hour passes before Azrael’s gaze flits towards the street below, his posture stiffens as his eyes narrow and he brings his own hood forward before fading back into the shadows. Hel brings her rifle up and sweeps it in the direction Azrael was focused on, and that’s when she hears it. The low, mechanical growl of an engine rumbling in the distance, rolling off the dead space in between their perches as it draws closer. Hel catches the sheen of rusted steel as the car clears the horizon. An acrid, grungy odor fills the air and scorches Hel’s nostrils, causing her to wrinkle her nose. Showtime.
“Alright.” Hel rolls her neck. “Might as well see what we’re working with.”
She leans forward onto her stomach as she trains her scope onto the car, bouncing between its occupants as she sizes up each and every one, making note of key characteristics. The largest of them is the driver, lounging back in his seat as he drums his fingers along the steering wheel, grizzled face cracked in a smirk as he nudges the sleeping passenger seated next to him. She pans over and settles on occupant number two. Pale, skinny, pointed ears and white hair. When he snores can see a pair of long fangs protruding from his mouth. He’s likely the targets vampiric accomplice.
A quick shift and number three fills her vision. A stony face under a head of messy brown hair. Unimpressive as he seems, he’s their man.
Every Psychopomp had heard of Cain, one couldn’t get into the art of dealing death without learning about the first murderer himself; although, now that Hel is getting a good look at him, she really can’t say that he’s all that much to look at. Kind of a letdown, really.
Which just leaves the passenger next to the target. A young woman with soft features and black hair, smiling as she cradles a bundle of blankets at her chest. Hel’s eye narrows as she adjusts her sight ever so slightly as the car slows to navigate the cluttered road.
Hel can swear she hears a gentle twang over the sound of the car’s engine. The vehicle slides apart, bisected down the middle. The occupants shout in surprise as the two halves keep traveling forward, carried onward by the car’s momentum.
The largest of them looks around in a panic and reaches over to the other half of the vehicle, grabbing at the frame, muscles flexing, in a futile effort to hold it together, before he and the others dive out of the car and roll, springing to their feet as the vehicle continues along, careening into a fallen building.
Hel pans over to Cain, where she waits for Azrael to deliver the killing blow. It’s best he does it while they’re all disoriented. In and out, nice and clean.
So she’s justifiably confused when Cain’s head doesn’t fall from his shoulders, but instead, the party has time to dust themselves off and lick their wounds before turning their attention to someone or something.
’No,” she says, swinging her rifle to follow their line of sight. “That idiot isn’t going to-”
“End of the line,” Azrael says, both arms held out.
Azrael’s black cloak fills her scope, and she lets out a groan of disbelief.
What the hell was this moron doing? Azrael’s skeletal mask gleams as he stands there, trying his damnedest to seem menacing.
“Azrael, you owe me for this one.” Hel pulls back on the trigger, firing off a silent shot from her sniper rifle. A tiny, almost invisible bullet rushes through the air. It hits the ground behind Azrael.
On contact, the bullet shatters, and from it erupts an invisible aura that surrounds the area. Hel takes out another similarly shaped bullet from the pouch at her side. She keeps it pinched between her thumb and pointer finger, and with a hushed, “There-” she erects a domain around the entire city.
Now she can see and hear everything as though she were standing down there herself. She feels the world in her heartbeat. Each presence, from the target to Azrael’s many wires, are in Hel.
“What the hell did you do to my car!?” The large man jabs a finger in Azrael’s direction. There’s still a safe amount of distance between them; the guy’s not an idiot.
“I hope you’re insured, pal. Cause that was my baby. And someone’s gonna have to replace her.”
The skinny one steps around him, holding up both hands as if to keep some kind of imagined peace between them.
“Okay, he’s kidding. We’re sure you had nothing to do with this, and even if you did, we aren’t even insured.”
“Are you kidding me?” The big guy glares down at the scrawny guy. “Our car, no, my car just got diced up and the only other person here besides us is the freaky guy in the middle of the road. Who just stands in the street like that? All ominous and shit.”
“Ominous? Dude, if only you could see what he looks like. He’s wearing a skeleton mask and a dress. Like some sort of medieval gimp” The scrawny guy shrugs his shoulders, spins and starts in the direction of their destroyed car.
Hel’s lips quiver. For the time being, Hel’s actually happy that these other guys aren’t on Azrael’s hitlist. No, that coveted spot belongs to Cain.
Hel’s focus shifts to the first murderer. Instead of worrying about Azrael, Cain focuses on the woman. There’s concern in his eyes as he helps her to her feet.
“You okay,” Cain asks in the briefest of ways. He reaches for her but stops at her arm. His hand clenches to a fist and falls to his side.
“He’s fine,” The woman says, looking at him with a smile. “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t ask, but I figured you’d want to know.”
So there’s another person present. Someone Hel hasn’t even taken note of.
“Wait a minute.” Hel closes her eyes and squeezes the bullet in her free hand. After rolling the bullet back and forth between her gloved digits, she picks up on it, faint and tiny as it is. There’s Azrael’s beat a minute pulse, but there’s another smaller heartbeat coming from between Cain and the woman.
“Oh, that’s what it is?” Hel’s eyes widen. There’s a baby down there. There’s no real protocol on killing godlings but this is an infant. That much distinction alone is enough to have Hel’s finger trembling at the trigger.
Hel hopes Azrael can wrap this up as cleanly as possible and without having such a young casualty.
Hel refocuses on the scene before her, mostly because she has no choice, given every word and move blares in her mind so long as her domain stands.
“What about you? Are you okay?” As the woman speaks she eliminates more of the space between Cain and herself. She goes to touch his cheek, where a small cut closes up and heals over. “Oh right, you heal really fast. Sorry, I’ll get used to that eventually, I promise.”
Cain doesn’t have a chance to respond as Azrael springs in front of him, delivering a kick that sends him flying. Hel can hear the crack of Cain’s jaw as his head snaps back, the sound echoing off the walls of the derelict buildings surrounding them.
“When did you become the compassionate type?” Azrael stalks towards Cain, much like a predator does prey.
As Azrael comes closer Cain pushes himself up. Droplets of blood spatter against the sand beneath him as they flood from his shattered nose. Before Cain gets to his feet he tastes another kick. This one causes his body to spin before hitting the ground. Hel catches a glimpse of loose teeth flying from Cain’s mouth. Azrael’s looming over him again, looking down.
“Oh right, you heal really fast. Sorry, I’ll get used to that eventually, I promise," Azrael says.
Azrael raises his foot, then drops it down over Cain. Cain rolls out of the way. The ground fractures beneath Azrael’s heel. By the time Azrael looks over Cain is up, standing with a handgun aimed at Azrael.
“Smooth move there Azrael.” Hel might as well enjoy the show.
Feeling the quickened footsteps running up behind Azrael, Hel shakes her head. “Hope he sees that coming.”
“Cain!” The large man’s shout stops Azrael, but not Cain. Azrael looks over as the large man tries to grab him.“My dibs!”
The large man stops then floats upwards, suspended by wires they can’t see.
A careless wave of his hand lets Azrael send the man flying. The skinny man leaps and catches his friend midair, and they both go hurtling towards the other half of the car.
There’s a series of loud rattles that Hel knows too well. Every round from Cain’s gun would be a headshot if not for Azrael’s web of wires. Any bullet that would so much as graze him is instead sliced into tiny pieces that whizz by. His arms are limp at his sides, and it’s clear he’s just letting Cain empty his clip.
Cain peeks over at his woman then glares at Azrael and continues firing.
“Mary, get out of here!” As Cain yells he starts towards Azrael.
“She isn’t the one you should be worried about,” Azrael says, letting his thread fall to the side.
What the hell, now he’s wide open.
Azrael and Cain lock eyes as Cain pulls the trigger. Intel says Cain’s bullets can go through demons now, so Hel isn’t taking any chances. She fires a shot of her own and it ricochets off of Cain’s. The men lunge through the hot sparks left over from the exchange of bullets.
Cain takes several more shots and while Hel can deflect some of them, two get through. One to crack Azrael’s mask and another to shatter it. Great, now they’ve seen Azrael’s face. Seems like an intentional move. He wanted Cain to see him, but given Cain’s expression, he has no idea who Azrael is.
The woman, Mary, squints her eyes and turns her head. She peers in at Azrael.
“Azrael?” She speaks in a voice Hel thinks is overly familiar.
Well, now they know his face and name, so it looks like he has to kill both of them at the very least. Seems Azrael recognizes this as well. He stares hard at the woman, his expression neutral and his shoulders low. Azrael spins and gets around Cain. Kicking off his back foot, Azrael rushes Mary.
“Should’ve stayed quiet,” Azrael whispers as he delivers a kick to Mary’s side, earning a scream from the woman as she goes careening back.
This Mary woman knows how to fall. The way she tucks and rolls her body should protect her baby and minimize their injuries. She stays down. Smart.
“This isn’t your first rodeo, huh?” Hel focuses her crosshairs on Mary. She only breaks from Mary when she hears a guttural snarl from Cain, carried along with more gunfire.
Cain charges Azrael, firing a shot with every step he takes. Azrael’s trudges towards Cain in return, bullets falling prey to his wires.
Azrael throws up an arm and a wire plucks the gun from Cain and dismantles it. Though he grunts, Cain keeps up his pursuit, drawing another gun from beneath his jacket as he sprints.
Azrael stops and clenches his fist. Cain’s body stiffens then he sprawls out, each limb constricted by Azrael’s thread. Azrael turns his fist, and Cain spins with it.
“Feeling helpless yet,” Azrael asks as he pulls his hand, and Cain by extension, towards him.
“Who the hell are you?” Cain spits at Azrael. “One of the Syndicate’s lapdogs? Or did someone finally spring for a Psychopomp?”
“Who better to try their hand at killing the unkillable man than a god of death?” Azrael presses his forehead against Cain’s. “This has been a long time coming, so let’s just sit here for a while and enjoy this.”
Azrael closes his eyes and smiles. His fingers tremble and Cain shakes along with them.
“Fire in the hole!”
The large man’s voice catches Hel off guard just as much as Azrael. She’d lost herself in the almost tender moment between predator and his prey. When she looks away from Azrael she sees a spear hurtling towards him.
Hel pulls the trigger, hoping she could knock it off course, but her bullets just fizzle out against it.
Azrael turns, throws out an arm and tries to snare it with his wires. Every wire that touches the spear fizzles out with a gold flash.
There’s a meaty thud and the spear rips through Azrael’s cloak, shatters his armor and pierces his flesh. The Psychopomp gasps, pales and skids back. The wires around Cain and surrounding Azrael fade away and the demon hunter lands behind his assassin.
The large man runs up and grabs a hold of the spear inside of Azrael. He lifts his weapon and Azrael. Azrael grits his teeth and reaches for the man, who just smiles at him.
“Blood of Christ is somthin’ else, ain’t it?” The large man boots Azrael in the chest, sending him back and dislodging his spear.
“Dammit, Azrael,” Hel whispers and aims for the large man’s head.
Bats flood Hel’s vision, circling the three. Hel can still see and feel everywhere they are, but now she has to shoot through the bats to get to them.
“Thanks, Judas,” the large man says. “keep this up and he shouldn’t be able to spread those spider webs of his out too far.”
Some of the bats come together and form a shorter version of the skinny man from earlier. He fires a blood-covered arrow from his arm-mounted crossbow. The arrow stabs right into the same wound from earlier.
This doesn’t slow down Azrael and he barrels towards the big guy.
“Spread em,” says the skinny guy causing Azrael to stop and do just that. He throws out his arm and parts his legs.
“W-what? I can’t...,” Azrael says, grunting as he tries to move.
The big guy approaches him and shakes his head.
“Look, I’d love to kick your ass myself, but you hit Marebare,” The large man says while patting Azrael’s shoulder. “So I hereby relinquish my dibs. Cain! He’s all yours.”
The scrawny guy spins his finger and Azrael turns around to face Cain.
Cain stares at the helpless Azrael for a second or two before pointing his gun at Azrael’s forehead. Another second goes by, Cain tosses the gun aside. He throws his shoulder into a full punch aimed at Azrael’s jaw. It’s to no avail, all Cain ended up doing was breaking his own hand. He and the large man watch his digits pop back into place and heal themselves.
“So what’s it lookin’ like Cay,” asks the large man. “Demon? God?”
“Nothing I can’t deal with.” Cain clenches his healed hand into a tight fist. Cain reaches up and traces his fingers along the edge of his jacket’s collar, igniting one of the runes his dossier mentioned.
“Judas,” Cain says as a bright red aura coats his body. “Let him loose.”
The scrawny guy, Judas Hel guesses, gives the big guy a look and he nods.
Azrael’s limbs fall forward and he clenches his fist while grimacing at Cain. They rush one another.
Azrael swings with his right, Cain with his left. Thanks to his longer reach, Azrael connects first, but it isn’t much for slowing down Cain, who falls only to jump back up.
Fifty bats have died, but there’s still so many.
Cain kicks Azrael in the side, but Azrael braces and goes nowhere so Cain slugs him, knocking his jaw. Azrael retaliates with a punch of his own, but Cain catches his fist, pulls Azrael off balance and towards his second fist which strikes the spear wound. Two consecutive punches hit the wound before Azrael throws his weight forward, and flips out of Cain’s grip.
One hundred and twenty bats have died, but there’s still so many.
Blow after blow connects with one another. Fist, forearms, elbows. Neither men slow down as their bodies collide again and again.
Azrael sends a hook around that crashes into Cain’s shoulder. Cain blocks several attacks like this and doesn’t swing back. Azrael’s face twists further with every attack landed.
Two hundred bats have died, but there’s still so many.
Cain pivots and grabs ahold of Azrael’s fist when it would’ve smacked his shoulder again. With a forceful tug, Cain pulls Azrael forward and locks forearms with the assassin. Both men twist and turn as one tries to pry away from the other’s vice grip.
They glare at each other, sweat running down their faces and spit sputtering past their lips. Muscles tighten one last time to brace for the loud, dull crack that follows. Hel hears Azrael yell as he and Cain hit the ground. Azrael tries to clutch at his broken arm but the would-be target plants his knee on Azrael’s chest, pinning him.
The bats recede back into the scrawny guy, giving him a bit more height. He and the older guy look on at Cain and Azrael as if it’s over. Like they’ve won.
“Don’t,” Cain snarls as his knuckles crack against Azrael’s face. “You.” Bones splinter Cain’s skin. “Ever.” Azrael’s teeth shatter. “Touch Her!” Cain returns the favor from earlier and breaks Azrael’s nose.
“Alright Cain,” the big man calls out. “That’s enough. Dice em up with Ichor so we can add knitting to your magical repertoire.”
Azrael tries to outstretch his other hand but Cain’s too fast. Using a combat knife he pulls from a pouch on his leg, Cain stabs Azrael’s hand, pinning it to the ground.
That’s it. She’s just gonna kill Cain and hopes Azrael will appreciate the gesture.
Snug as Hel is on that trigger she never gets to squeeze it as that Mary woman runs right into her line of fire. Hel pulls away, not wanting to shoot at a baby, but from the looks of it, Mary didn’t have the kid with her anymore.
“Cain,” Mary shouts.“Stop, you have to stop! You’re killing him!”
“That’s kinda the point,” Cain yells.
“Please, Cain just take a minute. Breathe. Think. Look at him.”
“Not the time Mary. Not. The. Time.”
“N-no, please. He isn’t a demon or anything like that. Look at him.”
Cain does and it looks like it takes everything in him to not punch Azrael again.
“What about him,” Cain asks.
“He’s like you- so please,” Mary says, reaching for Cain.
“Like me,” Cain whispers. “All the more reason then.”
Cain tightens his broken fist over Azrael. He drives it down as it heals. Hel takes aim, but once again doesn’t need to shoot. Mary throws herself onto Cain. She wraps her arms around him and Hel knows Cain’s got more than enough strength to throw her off, but he doesn’t.
“Mary,” Cain says, but Mary cuts him off.
“No!” Mary cries. “Don’t kill him. You can’t kill Azrael!”
Cain lowers his fist, looks at the tears in Mary’s eyes, then to Azrael and his eyes widen.
“Oh.” Cain nods. “That’s who this is.”
The aura around Cain dissipates. Before he can say or do anything else both he and Mary go flying off in different directions. Each propelled by a number of wires tied around their midsections. Both slam down into the pavement with enough force to crack the ground. Mary squeals in pain and Cain grunts.
The large man and bat boy motion to attack but both end up entangled in wires as well. Then with one slam, much harder than the one he’d done to Cain or Mary, both men go limp.
“Mary,” Cain says as he gets to his feet.
“Cain,” Mary whispers back as she too stands.
Both look at one another then once again rocket into the air and come right back down, this time cracking the ground even more.
Cain coughs up blood and Mary shrieks while clutching her abdomen. They look at one another and try to get back up. Again, up then down. Two craters form.
“M...ar-” Cain tries to speak but he ends up spitting up blood and teeth and can’t quite finish his obvious thought.
He looks across the way to see Mary hanging on to her consciousness. She reaches out to him, and he tries to stand, but falls. The tendons in his heel cut.
“You,” Cain says and looks over at Azrael who’s still laid out in the very same spot.
“Me.” Only now with the attention on him does Azrael rise. He stands up, dusts himself off and exhales.
“I got caught up,” Azrael says. “That’s just the effect you have on me.”
Azrael grips his fist tight and Cain yells as wires tighten around his legs. Azrael approaches. As he walks some of his thin red cables dig into his broken arm, piercing the flesh. Seconds later the arm pops back into place- good as new, well not quite but close enough.
“That was funny what you did back there, with the runes. I didn’t expect them to make that much of a difference.” Azrael cracks his nose and snorts out some ichor. “But fuck me am I right?”
Hel’s scope bounces between Cain and Mary and she’s wondering when Azrael’s gonna finish them off. At the same time, she can’t help but wonder about the baby that’s somewhere on the battlefield.
As though he couldn’t hear a word of what Azrael’s saying, Cain crawls towards Mary.
“I expected you to summon that big ass sword of yours,” Azrael says, waving a hand. Cain skids away from Mary. “Do you not hate me enough to want to add me to your little collection?”
Gritting his teeth, Cain digs his fingers into the ground and pulls himself towards Mary.
“Hey.” Azrael throws his arm out and again pulls Cain back. “Listen to me.”
Kill them. Why won’t he just kill them?
“You hate me like I hate you,” Azrael says flexing his fingers. The wires gnash around Cain’s leg. “Say. It.”
His jeans are red, and he’s drooling like mad but still, he pulls himself in Mary’s direction. He reaches his right hand out towards her, but it falls apart, his whole arm does. Diced all over by a quick flurry of thread.
“Fine.” Azrael turns his sight on Mary. “If that’s what it takes.”
When Azrael brings his hand up, Mary rises, suspended by a set of red wires around her neck.
“Azz-” The wires constrict Mary’s throat.
“I can’t let her go now, y’know.” Azrael sighs. “She’s seen my face. That’s your fault.”
“Mary!” Cain groans. “Mary!” Cain shouts. “Mary!” Cain cries.
Cain motions towards his face. From his right eye, Cain pulls a horrible looking claymore. Eyes open all over the red weapon and focus in on Azrael.
“There it is.” Azrael grins. “Now I’m feeling nostalgic.”
Crying, panicking, and everything in between, Cain tries to reach Mary. He stabs Ichor into the ground for leverage against Azrael’s wires.
Azrael just kill him.
“Mary,” Cain groans again as Ichor glows.
A steady stream of wind builds up around the weapon then blasts out in the opposite direction of Mary.
Azrael holds tight against Cain, but the winds seem to be doing their job. Azrael narrows his eyes, then pulls back. Cain’s legs shred further.
“This is my scythe you know,” Azrael says. “A cut from this won’t heal.”
Azrael just kill him.
“Mary,” Cain shouts and Ichor brightens again. Sharp razors extend out from the sides of the weapon, lashing around wildly before stabbing into the ground, providing Cain with even more leverage.
“Your legs won’t hold up much longer,” Azrael says.
Azrael. Just. Kill. Him.
“Mary!” Cain yells one last time, then there’s that familiar twang followed by a meaty sounding tear.
Legless, Cain pants and squirms to Mary.
“Is she all that matters to you now,” Azrael says, looking at Mary. “Fine. If she’s worth more than your life then I’ll just take her instead.”
Wires entangle each of Mary’s limbs and tug them in different directions. The sudden force seems to wake her up. She looks down and locks eyes with Cain as he crawls.
“Cain.” In spite of the cuts forming along her arms and legs, and blood messing her clothes, Mary smiles. “Just have faith.”
Cain reaches for her.
“For you. I’ll make it painless,” Azrael says as he tightens both of his hands into fists.
There are no groans or screams, or all the things that usually follow a kill. Instead, there’s just laughter, rumbling throughout the domain.
Now, standing in front of Azrael is a new individual, one Hel hadn’t felt come into her domain, but the presence isn’t unfamiliar. His clothing is clerical in nature and he uses his gloved fingers to adjusts his glasses. Sure Hel remembers his aura, and his laugh, and that outfit, but that isn’t what shakes her. No, it’s the smile that runs across his face. This man is the hunter.
“Who?” Cain wonders aloud.
“Zad,” Mary asks, as she looks to the man holding her bridal style, free from Azrael’s wires.
“Azrael, You’ve gotten sloppy,” The Hunter says. “That or you’ve gotten insanely confident. So which is it? Sloppy or confident?”
There’s no answer, and Hel doesn’t blame him. She’s shaking, but trying her best to keep focus.
“But you’re not the only one Azrael.” The Hunter looks down at Mary. “You. What’s your excuse?”
Instead of answering The Hunter, she climbs out of his arms and rushes over to Cain, who is still alive for some reason.
“Why would you fight so recklessly in another god’s domain? That’s how I know Azrael is cocky. This guy doesn’t have the backbone to fight people on equal footing. A fair fight is a fun fight and Azrael hates fun. Don’t chu?” The hunter steps up and gives Azrael’s cheek a gentle slap.
“Okay. I’m in your face,” The Hunter says. “In your little friend’s domain”
The Hunter stops, looks up and Hel can feel his eyes on her.
“Hey there by the way.” Now he’s back on Azrael. “And you’ve got your little spiderwebs all over. Why haven’t you made a move? Come on. Balls in your court. You’ve got the advantage. Win.”
Wires tug The Hunter’s hand away from Azrael. They’re tightening, tearing into his flesh. The Hunter looks over just as Azrael yanks back and slices his arm off. The Hunter stares at the fountain of ichor rocketing from his stump. Azrael got him from the elbow down, and while it’s messier than his usual work it seems like it does the job given how The Hunter backs away and screams.
“DAMMIT! I can’t believe it! Damn you! Damn you Azrael!” The Hunter rears back, shouting and howling.
Hel acts, cocking her rifle before taking a shot at Zad’s head. He’s flailing around due to Azrael’s attack so she isn’t surprised when she misses and instead pierces his shoulder. Her next shot hits his chest, and another goes through his thigh.
Azrael grins, Hel feels it and she starts smiling herself; this was Supay’s plan. The Hunter has a connection with Mary, Mary has a connection with Cain. Cain is the target, Azrael hunts him, The Hunter shows up to prevent Mary from being collateral. Lead the Hunter out then have Azrael fight him up close while Hel picks him off from afar.
“Damn you,” The hunter says, gripping at what’s left of his arm. He looks up at Azrael, his expression chillingly calm. “You actually did something.”
The hunter grips his stump. A large pair of grotesque, blackened teeth sprout from his hand and rip off whatever Azrael left behind. He tosses the limb towards Azrael, dirtying the front of his cloak with stray ichor.
“I was really looking forward to calling you a pussy.”
The Hunter’s arm doesn’t stay gone for long, as black ooze and sinew come together to form a new one.
“But I guess I can settle for calling you a dumbass instead.” As The Hunter flexes his new black arm, the dark fangs on the opposite limb sink back into his forearm.
Somehow, Azrael seems less shaken than Hel does, and makes another move. She doesn’t chalk it up to courage or ability, but idiocy.
Azrael whips his arms up and contorts his hands. Hel can see his wires whipping about, surrounding The Hunter. Whenever they lash at him, they go for his neck, but something, dark like black ink, appears just in time to stop them. An intangible darkness surrounds The Hunter and Azrael won’t let his wires touch it.
Hel would’ve forgotten Mary and the others, if not for The Hunter looking over in her direction.
“The domain goes on for another 15 miles, but after that, you should be fine. The sniper won’t bother you, trust me.”
“Thank you,” Mary says as she stands up. She holds Cain up over her shoulder. “I really appreciate this Zad.”
“Don’t. Because sooner or later, I’m coming for him too.” The Hunter jabs his finger towards Cain.
“You weren’t always like this Zad.” Mary carries Cain over to the wreckage that was their car. Once he’s on the side of the road, she reveals she’d hidden the baby behind the vehicle. “Don’t you remember? Not every shot is meant to kill.”
“Heh, that isn’t how I operate anymore. Now I only shoot to kill. I only take aim at the wicked, so it’s a win-win.” The Hunter skips towards Azrael. Each and every hop causes the blackness swirling about him to darken. “But my shot, sure as it is, can be shaky, and if people start giving mercy where it isn’t due, they might be caught in the crossfire.”
“It’s funny that you say that,” Mary places the baby under Cain’s remaining arm. The baby cries for a bit but settles down once Mary kisses its forehead. “That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”
When Mary tries to stand Cain grabs her wrist. He’s still very much alive but at this point, Hel doesn’t even care.
“M-m-mary,” Cain pants through pale lips. He’s trembling, no doubt as a result of his blood loss.
“Cain,” Mary whispers, taking Cain’s hand. “Just worry about Adam right now. Hold on for him.”
Mary circles Cain and crouches down near his legs. She exhales and whispers,“It’s going to hurt for a bit. Focus on Adam, and stay with me.”
Mary darts over to the car and grabs a small duffle bag that somehow survived the assault. She sets it by Cain’s ruined legs and opens it. Seconds later Mary pulls out a small canteen. She pours out the contents over Cain’s wound. He lurches back, yelling the whole time.
“It’s alright, it’s alright. It’ll only burn for a second, I promise.” Mary presses down on the wound while emptying her bag. She sets the injuries with metal rods as well as gauzes that seem to glow the moment they come in contact with Cain’s flesh.
“Thank you, Gabriel,” she says with a smile. She repeats the process on the gaping wound that was Cain’s right arm.
“Mary, I-I...I’m sorry,” Cain says, his eyelids sinking.
“Don’t worry,” Mary says as she slides over to him. She cups his cheek. “The Archangels use this stuff in the field all the time. It’s just a sign that it’s working. You can sleep now, Cain. Don’t worry about anything, I’ve got you.”
“Arch...angel...” Cain passes out.
Mary rushes over to her comrades and drags the two unconscious men next to Cain. Mary looks to The Hunter and Azrael, so naturally, Hel’s gaze follows.
Over time Hel steadies her breathing. She tries to calm herself. Whether it be the thought of Nemain and the good times back at base, or the black butterflies that seem to come in and out of her vision, her hands stop trembling and she gets a finger back on the trigger. Her eyes narrow, crosshairs take aim and she waits for the next move because Supay wouldn’t send them out without contingencies.
Her eyes are on The Hunter now. Her scent, her vision, her hearing, her scope, everything focuses on that man. She can feel the air break against his lips as he speaks.
“Alright, Azrael now’s a better time than any. Repent.”
A gun cocks and The Hunter turns to see Mary approaching. She’s brandishing a white pistol with gold trim. Her aim flitters between The Hunter and Azrael.
“WHOO! That I didn’t see coming. You’re the real deal. I like that. You’re the exact opposite of this guy.” The Hunter points in Azrael’s direction.
“Neither of you move a muscle,” Mary says, coming to a stop beside both men. “You’re both under arrest.
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