Azrael was invisible to human eyes, but Michael sure could see and hear her. “Michael”, Azrael said catching up with him. “If you stay this time, all the archangels will be together. Urial is in London as well. We need to regroup the armies; the demons are already aware of the gathering”. Azrael half expected him to stay, half knew that wasn’t likely.

“I’m here aren’t I?” Michael said leisurely, yet kept walking at a swift pace. He should have flown, then no one would have been able to keep up and he wouldn’t be stuck having this conversation. What more did they want from him? He sighed, clasping his hands behind his back and looking up at the sky. “It seems you have everything under control. I did my part and brought you together… Now you can leave me alone…”

Azrael frowned. She never showed her emotions nor ever her face seemed to change her expression, but this time her night sky eyes darkened as her thin black eyebrows drew together. Her voice however, was grave and cold as ever. “We need you. You are the leader of the armies, and to lead the armies of Heaven is teamwork. I’ve descended to the land of Mortals because the Time is about to come; but we need all the archangels to gather the armies and fight against the rising evil. You’ve had your vacations, Michael. Now it’s time to work. Many innocent will perish, more than inevitable, if we don’t team up. I’ve foreseen this.”

“People will die if we avoid the war, people will die if we start the war… I doubt it makes a difference which we choose, people will die.” Michael couldn’t help but be a little cynical as he brooded. He didn’t want to be their damn leader. He never asked for it. Any of the others would have been more suited for the job than he. If they could just understand that… “But… As I said…” He sighed, not bothering to look in Azrael’s direction. “I’m here, not that I want to be… I’m not going anywhere.”

Raphael walked out of the manor house and coldly replied, “The demons will go on slaying the innocents if we do not move. It will certainly go on. However if we start a war and stop them, the number of innocent people dying would be reduced because the killing stopped.”
He paused for a moment as he stared at Michael, “Are you going to let those people die for your silly hesitance and scaping habit?”

Azrael’s face went back to her cold and calm expression. The archangel of Death and Destruction gazed at Raphael as he spoke. It certainly amazed Azrael to see Raphael’s sudden sense of responsibility. She didn’t say anything, nor her expression changed but her eyes narrowed slightly.
“Raphael speaks truth”, she simply said after an instant. “It’s good to know however, that you’re not leaving”. Azrael rested Filos on her armored shoulder.

“If you don’t back off, I might still…” He stared directly at Raphael, as if the comment were aimed at him personally. Michael crossed his arms over his chest and puffed himself up with a deep breath. “I don’t intend to let any innocent die… That doesn’t mean I have to lead you around like puppies. You have minds of your own.” He was being more harsh than he would have liked to be, but he was starting to feel trapped… they were ganging up on him like an angry angel lynch mob.

“Really? I didn’t know we are puppies with a neck collar.” Raphael scoffed, his eyes blazing dark blue, “We need you because you have what it takes to be the leader. You are simply here to discipline, train, raise morale and all. We didn’t ask you to brainwash us or what have you.” He cocked his head to one side and replied sarcastically, “And a mob? There’s only Azrael and me here, pardon. I didn’t know two angels can be considered as a mob too. You ought to better learn your Math.”

The puppy thing was weird in Azrael’s concept. She guessed the argument was falling in the emotions field, which wasn’t her best area. Azrael watched the two archangels and wondered which one would ever take anything seriously. Raphael seemed to be doing so at the moment, which was good. He hadn’t been like this when he pinched her cheek when she was in child form.
Azrael’s cold gaze remained unaltered. “May I remind you, the archangels are here to support you and team up with you to lead effectively the armies into victory. It’s the troops you need to discipline, train and raise morale… We will help you in this. We trust you.”

Michael’s face flushed, but it was the only sign that Raphael’s reply hit home. He reminded himself to guard his thoughts a little more closely next time. “If you consider me a leader, then you are all more daft than I thought.”
He sighed again at Azrael’s comments, but kept his focus on Raphael. “Allow me to raise your morale, then… You fine angels, your capacities are well beyond my skill! I am so impressed with your sheer brilliance, I must bow down and allow you to take the rightful place as leader!” He equally matched Raphael’s biting sarcasm, and waved his hands in an over exaggerated display. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and write up a delightful lesson on how not to storm human’s homes and give your identities away to all creation.” In his anger, Michael forgot the whole reason he was arguing was to avoid slipping into his role… He didn’t catch himself however… “What exactly were you thinking, the lot of you showing up here having Hell’s battle over something so easily contained?!”

Raphael’s eyes blazed as Michael ‘raised his morale’ before rattling away on how they shouldn’t reveal their identities. He stepped ahead and gave Michael a rough and impulsive shove. “Get lost, scapist.” Raphael said coldly, “You have no right to reprimand me and any of us anymore now that you are not our leader. Get lost if you want more lives to be lost, and for the demons to rule for eternity. You will be condemned forever for your escapist acts.”

Azrael watched them entirely as she were out of the question. When the other angels got like this, she’d hardly feel like interfering. This time however, she didn’t want them to get into an inconvenient fight, nor give Michael an excuse to disappear.
Azrael advanced towards them and put her spear’s pole between them before they started to fight.
“Hold it right there. It’s not the time to have an argument over leadership. Michael is the Leader of the armies and Raphael is the Head General; you’re supposed to work together, not to attack each other”. Azrael’s eyes were cold but calm.

Michael was surprised at Raphael to say the least, but he masked it with an arrogant sneer. He had moved to call his sword, but Azrael slipped her pole in between them before he could advance any further. He stepped back, shrugging off his anger and attempting to calm himself… “I’m not the one who started it.” Michael crossed his arms once again and stood his ground. Now was the best time to take off and leave them behind, but he couldn’t help himself to stay. He seemed to take on the appearance of a chided teenager, shuffling his feet back and forth, but still giving off the air as if he did nothing wrong.
“You don’t have to be a leader to know what you did today could have been dangerous… You could have drawn attention to yourselves from something more dangerous and put those people in danger… But, hey… you want to be so damned eager to fight, be my guest!”

Azrael still didn’t retrieve her spear, holding it firmly between the two. She gave a slight, absent nod.
“What we did was risky. We know that. But it’s done and written already. What we must focus in is the Gathering… Once again, we trust you, Michael. I believe we all want the demons to be defeated, including you. It is time to do something about that.” She looked at Raphael.

Raphael took a step back and folded his arms as he said in a huff, “I have no problems with that as long as he is serious in taking up his responsibilities because if he doesn’t, he would not be enthusiastic in his job and we would surely lose in the war.”

“I will not let innocent people die.” He closed his eyes tightly, a grim look on his face. He meant every word, with the most true of intentions. Maybe even more deeply than all of the others… But he couldn’t… wouldn’t… take the role of leader, and risk the fate of everyone being solely on his shoulders.
Michael took a deep breath, opening his eyes again, giving a lighter more devious smile, in hopes of lightening the mood. Everything that needed to be said, was said… He couldn’t stand all of the brooding. “I hope you are up to the challenge, Raphael… You look as if you’ve been slacking…”

Raziel drifted silently out of the mansion, invisible and using one of his ‘I am not here don’t notice me’ spells as an unobtrusive cloak. He stood a short distance from the quarreling archangels, still sorting and collecting others’ memories into a coherent entry. It was a shame. Unless all of the archangels could finally band together, take advantage of the Gathering’s opportunities, all would assuredly be lost to the demons. After all, they must be having their own equivalent of a Gathering as well. Raziel definitely would not survive; neither would Rishta, as only a hybrid, and Urial was so weak… But the others would not long survive if they continued to bicker. The only chance for light was for them to cooperate… It wasn’t necessary to like one another, as long as they could trust and work.
Raziel shook his invisible head and pondered his nonexistent influence. He had been respected at one point; obviously that was long lost.
Are we going to work together… Or will we doom ourselves with petty differences to die as ineffectively as a human? I for one do not care to sample our brethren’s tender mercies… Nor would I care to be twisted and tainted into the Fall.

Satisfied with getting them back into cooperative talk mode, Azrael retrieved her spear. She noticed Raziel had joined them, but as usual she respected his space as he wrote on Sapientia. Azrael clasped her hand on her spear. She’d need to call Adriel to get her out of the house and bring Rishta along; for the moment she didn’t want to let them inside that place of the Dark. Dark was one of the Elements of Azrael herself, and she could strongly perceive the perverted form of this Darkness.
Azrael nodded. “I see there’s space for plans now. We do need to train the armies and get everyone back in battle conditions”. She didn’t look at Raphael when saying this but she guessed he wouldn’t give himself for alluded. “In my Book I have the names of the angels who have taken human shapes. There are others we must call and recruit. Rishta is one of them, Michael. She’s an hybrid, but her angel father watches over her after death. I’ll tell you about that later, for I’ve allowed him to.”

“Rishta?” Michael gave an odd ‘you’re kidding’ kind of look. “That is what? A french cookie? That’s really what you need… a french cookie on the side of good…” He rolled his eyes. The lot of them were a mess, it was going to be hard trying to stay uninvolved.

Rishta walked out, just in time to hear Michael’s comment. She was this close to snapping, due to sleep deprivation, and she was irritated. FRENCH COOKIE? Has the man lost it? Head of the angels saying that another is a cookie. Just you wait… you may be head, but NO ONE insults me with something as petty as my name. And so Rishta walked right up to him, looking ready to kill and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hello, I assume you are Michael. I am Rishta… the so called French Cookie, nice to meet you.”

Michael turned around to give the little french cookie a smug grin, but his smirk quickly dropped to a more stupefied expression. She was clearly angry with him, no doubt rather to swing a fist, or a sword, or something worst… But all he could do was stand there staring blankly.
She was enchanting! “Uh.. I.. uh.. heh…”
You idiot! It’s just a girl! Snap out of it! Michael quickly cleared his throat and plastered on a strained looking frown. “Rishta. Yes, sorry… yes… very sorry…”

Sorry, eh? Well – obviously easily intimidated… and he is the leader? Please. He needs discipline. And a lot of it. Rishta then smiled, a sweet false smile. “I am sure you are sorry. But would you have been if I wasn’t here? Or would you have carried on, talking about a cookie? If this is how you treat your allies, I would LOVE to see how you treat your enemies.”

Raziel stopped his eternal pen and looked up, dropping his magical shield to be easily seen by angelic eyes.
“Stop this. You are all bickering like small children. There is no excuse for this… Do you want to die? I don’t. So either get along and work together, or at least cooperate… Rishta, I know you’re younger than us but you’ve lived long enough to learn some manners, haven’t you? And you, Michael…” He gave him a disgusted look. “And Azrael. You are not assisting in alleviating the situation either, and Raphael, you’re behaving worse than Rishta and Michael combined. Act your ages and your parts.”
He recloaked himself and switched positions. This had gone on for far too long.

Raphael snickered when he heard Michael saying that Rishta was a french cookie. He could have laughed if his conscience permitted him to. But he was in too much anguish to laugh. He didn’t want to. Raziel’s words irritated him though. “I wish you would show me some respect though, Raziel.” Raphael said, trying to sound as calm as possible, “It isn’t kind that you are insulting me.”

Raziel masked the source of his voice, making it echo softly on the wind.
“I do not bother myself with petty insults… I only tell the truth… the truth… I do not care to be twisted and tainted into the second Fall… Would you? you…

“Eh…” Michael scowled in Raziel’s direction, not being appreciative of being scolded along with the rest of them. After all, he wasn’t the one that started the whole mess. However he could understand the ‘old man’s’ feelings.
“He’s right after all… Why insult when we should be doing something more constructive?” he smirked at Raphael daring for him to retort. If anyone noticed his sudden eagerness to be a part of the ‘team’ he didn’t care. He had a sudden urge to look responsible for the interesting little angel cookie.

Rishta heard Raziel and smiled – he knew how to stop things. Then Raphael said something about scolding. Then Michael. She waved her hand impatiently, dismissing all the problems. “Raziel is right, we should not waste time on arguing. I am sorry for my indignation – unfortunately I didn’t sleep enough last night and I am a bit off track.” She then backed away a bit from Michael, since she had been a bit in his face and looked at everyone. “How about everyone comes to my place for dinner tonight? We could rest up before and then make plans. My house is mainly secure, so there should be no problem there… what do you all think?”

“That sounds like and excellent idea.” Alone in the house with the lady? Definitely a good idea. Although, they wouldn’t technically be alone… He quickly scolded himself in his mind. It was no way to be thinking. Infact, didn’t want to escape this whole scene in the first place? The girl shows up, and his whole routine was blew to hell. Oh well. He never promised he’d join them, and definitely didn’t promised he’d fight. It was just an excuse to learn a little more about the lady. That was it. Really.

Raphael smiled sweetly at Michael which made him seem rather sinister, “Only if you care to, Mike.”
Shrugging, Raphael added, “Looks like I’m not needed around here. I will leave if you people want me to.”

Rishta smiled at the two of them, totally ignoring the fact that they hated each others guts – either ignoring it or too tired to see it. She then turned to Raphael. “You have to come Raphael! I insist! How could we make plans without the head general?” Rishta then turned to Michael and smiled, a true one this time. “I am glad you can make it. I look forward to knowing you better… Azrael, will you come? I will have to see about Adriel, Urial and Gabriel… hopefully they too will make it.”

“Raziel and Michael don’t seem to welcome me, so why should I go and make their eyes sore by seeing me around?” Raphael replied to Rishta, taunting the lurking Raziel and Michael. “And don’t order me about, Rishta.” Raphael said, cocking his head aside, “I know what to do and you don’t have the right.”

When Raphael started chiding her about commanding him, Rishta became stunned, she had not meant to do that! Not at all! She could just look at him, her eyes wide – showing that she was taken aback, just like when Raziel had scolded her – she was still upset about that. Slowly her eyes filled with tears, but she closed her eyes and turned away from all of them, hoping they would not notice them.
“I… uh… I am sorry… very sorry… hope to see you all tonight… especially you Raphael. I… um… I better go… someone tell the others for me please… bye…”
Rishta then spread her wings and left them, flying quickly and smoothing, so in mere moments she had gone. I’m so sorry Raphael… why do I always do this? No wonder I can’t make friends… She thought to herself, a few tears spilling onto her cheeks, gracing them while demeaning them. Rishta then flew home, determined to sleep, and forget this – otherwise she would probably fall into depression.

Raphael was startled to see Rishta’s tears. After Rishta left, he mumbled, “Erm… I will get going too…” Raphael opened his wings and flew away towards the direction Rishta had gone. He wished he had not snapped at her just now. Maybe he should go now and see if she’s well…

Azrael raised an eyebrow when Rishta left, promptly followed by Raphael. Azrael did not have any need to eat or sleep, for she had not descended to Earth but in her original self, taking appearances to be recognizable. In her angelic nature, she found the invitation strange, but if the others were to follow, she’d go. Rishta’s tears called for her attention. Why she cried? The others had simply expressed their minds. Maybe the girls’ will was weaker than Azrael had judged. All she needed was to learn to deal with the angelic host, Azrael guessed.
But again, feelings were not her field and Rishta was half-human.
Azrael frowned slightly, but Raziel had disappeared as well. Too fast to let him know her own assessment of the situation. Distant and unmoving, she had been surprised to be scolded along for a behavior related to feelings. Now that was surprising… but in a way, in some odd way, it was comforting. Like if she was more into the group than she really was. Adriel came out of the house just on time to the others fly away.
“Report”, Azrael briefly addressed her.

Adriel stood before Azrael.
“We’ll take the Baroness to an Inn”, she explained. “The man named Johnathon wanted to exorcise the house and she told him not to”. Adriel tilted her head and waited for the archangel’s order.
She looked at Michael and smiled like if he were someone to trust, and swept a look around.
“Where did the others go to?”, she asked.

“Left.” Michael grumbled rather gruffly. She left in tears, and with Raphael chasing after her. It struck a none too happy cord with him. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to comfort Rishta first, or rip off Raphael’s arms. Then he wondered if Raphael was comforting her at the moment, and his scowl only deepened. “I’m going to the Lady’s manor. I suppose we will meet again there…” he turned abruptly, and walked off. Not choosing to fly away in his angelic form like the others, but to remain human as it was more comfortable to him. It would give him time to think along the way as well…
I am not jealous of that smart alec idiot. Why should I be. I don’t have any interest in her, or this stupid war. I’m just going to have a little free dinner, and go back about my business… Right.

Azrael eyed Michael. He’d probably get the chance to run away – again – most likely. The archangel of Death and Destruction turned to Adriel.
“You may carry on with that plan. I’ll follow Michael and the others, but we’ll keep in contact. Do not get into futile fights, Adriel; we still need to make plans.” Azrael nodded at her and left after Michael.

She blinked. He was simply walking… He did not even take his angelic form to fly an travel faster; what a waste of time. Azrael shape shifted in to a 6 year-old child form and caught up with him, pulling her little coat over her black velvet dress.
“You could fly”, the child sternly suggested.

Michael looked down at the little girl with a curious cock of the eyebrow. He could barely tell it was Azrael, and found it unusual for her to take such a form. He then just returned to looking straight ahead and walking down the streets. “I choose not to fly. Sometimes it’s good to have a few simple moments of just walking and thinking.” he used a pleasant tone with her now, as if she really were a child. He could never be cruel to children, even if it were just a disguise.

Azrael tilted her head at that.
“You need to walk to think?” She was rather surprised. “That’s an interesting concept”.
Azrael looked up at him. She was in a permanent meditative, almost contemplative state. Azrael watched and analyzed everything, always silent till the course of events called her onto the stage. The rest of the time, she was an immutable director, writing and erasing in the Book of Life and Death and directing the angels of death and destruction. All these notions about feelings and human-like attitudes were a surprise to her, and she watched and analyzed expecting to learn something useful. “What are you thinking about?”

Michael had an amused smiled at her logical commentary, then gave a small sigh. “More things than I want to think about.” He took a small detour to a bench along side the street and took a seat.
“As much as I would like to eliminate every last one of you from my thoughts, you seem to squeeze your way back in.” he brooded then, resting his elbows on the back of the bench.

Azrael climbed onto the bench and sat on it, then smoothed out her skirt. She seemed to be thinking about his words. Finally, she spoke again.
“I have been watching you”, she said. “All of you. This time in a human shell was supposed to strengthen and heal your souls wounds; to make you have a better understanding of humans and then go back to Heaven. The seals weakening and the demons darting about has changed many things. However, it seems in the end this time in a human shell has done but little good for the angelic host. Many angels would rather be humans now than accept their true self”.
Azrael blinked. “I’ll never leave, if it’s in my power to survive and continue my work. From the dawn of Time I’ve kept my Book and led my angelic legions. I see you and you make me wonder what am I missing. Perhaps I can’t crave what I don’t perceive. Humans are to be protected, and the world must be protected against Evil. That’s all I know, but maybe it’s too simple”.
Azrael nodded.
“Lucifer had different ideas. Even before he changed. He always was different. But again, I am different, too”. Azrael’s night sky gaze fell on him, cold and serene.
“You make me wonder…”

“I think you make me wonder too…” Michael smiled rather grimly, then sighed. “It’s look late to disturbed the Lady now…” He stood, taking a glance up at the night sky. “Let’s go then, kiddo…”

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