Chapter 1 – The Red-Winged Angel

Cardinal Michael, protector of the holy city of Light and angelic champion of Fortitude, woke in absolute pain. It was unsurprising, given what they had gone through, and their pain quickly morphed into an immense, burning rage that sent their skin alight and the flowing essence of their healing bath boiling over.

The rage and pain warred with each other in that golden bath, sending out a scream of utter agony and fury that echoed through the Celestial Plane of Paasa, the Heaven of Light, and brought the angel’s holy Father right to their side. He embraced them then, held them tight and spoke in soothing tones, insisting their pain was no fault of their own, and that they were blameless in the loss suffered in the mortal realm.

Michael believed He thought that, believed it with all their heart, but that didn’t quiet the voice in their mind that insisted they had failed.

And they had, or so that voice insisted even hours later, as Michael laid back on a cloudstone bed, resting as though they were a helpless invalid. Their wings were not manifested, so there was nothing between the firm softness of the bed and their own marble skin.

They laid flat, with one arm at their side, and the other extended out, resting on a fractal table as their sibling worked. The hand at their side, their left hand, was fine; the hand of their right arm was gone. A consequence of a drastic underestimation.

But how could they have known Goldforge would be such a genuine threat? Julius Goldforge was a former “hero”, yes. A mortal champion, set to slay demon lords and other such threats to the Light Lands. But he wasn’t even the chosen hero, just a companion to the previous one and then the mentor of the current one! By all rights, the blasted idiot should’ve been no issue at all!

But no, instead he had to fall in love with the newest Demon Lord and then go galavanting to her side! It was ridiculous! And then the two lovestruck morons put together some peace conference, of all things, and actually convinced the mortal leaders of the Light Lands that they meant no harm! It was inane!

So of course Michael tried to kill Valondrac! She was a Demon Lord! She was a threat to all mortal life, even the damned darklanders! Creatures like her encouraged those demon-blooded beings to become monsters, to seek conquest, to cause harm! She should’ve been killed on the spot, not treated like a diplomat, and Goldforge should’ve never tried to stop–

“Michael, please keep calm,” Sariel requested as they continued their work, ignoring the searing flames flaring from their sibling’s nostrils, “You may warp the steel.”

Michael growled, but settled back regardless, letting out an irritable huff. After a few quiet seconds, they glanced at their youngest sibling, watching them work slowly and methodically. 

Where Michael was the eldest of the Cardinals, Sariel was the youngest, and not quite a Cardinal. They couldn’t be; Cardinal meant “four directions”, or something like that, and there wasn’t exactly an extra direction in there. North, south, east, west…what would a fifth even be? Up? Zenith? No, that implies higher power. Which would be Father, if anyone…

Regardless, Sariel wasn’t a fighter like their four older siblings, and their looks reflected it. Yes, they had the same marble skin as all Angels of Judgement, but they wore no armor; instead the “Cardinal of Kindness”, as they were unofficially known, wore the robes of a worker, simple and gray, to match the color of their eyes, wings, and halo. A flat metalworker’s mask covered their face, affixed with multiple lenses for magnification that could be adjusted with a thought; a thick apron was affixed over their robes, to avoid any damage; and they wore gray gloves, which did not hamper their ability to use small tools in the slightest.

And they used those small tools to great effect as they connected a prosthetic replacement to Michael’s ruined wrist. 

It laid there, fingers splayed and palm raised, with a pure, silver shine to it. A holy metal indeed, though it felt cold at the moment. Their chest itched, and they resisted the urge to scratch at the ugly, stitched scar crossing from shoulder to hip.

“Can’t you work faster?” Michael asked, not quite frustrated. Patience was a virtue, one they could hold too, when they were less itching.

“I could, yes, but I’m worried that would leave your hand incapable of proper functioning. Sorry, but hurrying would be detrimental at this stage. Would you like me to call Uriel? They could get you something.”

“No.”

“Ah, of course, sorry.”

Michael sighed in another burst of fire. That damnable itching wasn’t going away. It was an aching reminder of the tension that would leave their muscles, a fury that they knew wouldn’t be quenched until they could finally release it on that mortal traitor…

There was the sound of a door opening, though that was merely a courtesy. Paasa was a realm of light, and Light wasn’t often noisy. Still, Michael looked to their opposite side, and frowned the instant they saw their sister.

Gabriel was apparently their sister now. Or at least she had admitted such things. To be an angel was to be an instrument of the gods; pithy mortal expressions like “gender” were inconsequential, yet Gabriel seemed fine with being “feminine”, whatever that meant.

It didn’t seem to change her in any noticeable way. The second-oldest of their family, Michael’s direct junior, was still wearing the armored robes of the Cardinals, though she’d foregone the helm at the moment, allowing all to see the marble countenance of the Cardinal of Prudence. 

She still had the same firm features, and the same sapphire eyes and sapphire lips. Perhaps her hair was longer? It grew to a “pixie cut”, rather than being shaved close, though it still shimmered with a sapphire-blue watery quality.

“My apologies for interrupting, Sariel, but I have come to inform you both that Father requires our presence,” Gabriel began, noticeably omitting Michael from the apologies there, as though they wouldn’t notice… “It appears a meeting of the court has been called.”

“Right now?” Sariel didn’t pause in their work, only a curiosity in their voice betraying their interest, “Do we all need to be there?”

“It appears so. It seems that it was requested that all the gods bring an angel with them, and Father, being who He is, wishes for all of us to be there.” 

“Well, I’m afraid that we may be a tad late. Sorry, but Michael’s hand takes priority for now.”

“No it doesn’t,” Michael disagreed, frowning, “If a meeting of the gods has been called and we are requested, I need to be there.”

Their chest itched again as Gabriel looked at their stitched wound, a flash of unease or discomfort crossing her face. “…I could ask Father–

“I. Am. Going.” They would not be kept here when their Holy Father requested their presence. They had already failed Him once, they would not do so again. 

“…Shall I prepare an outfit, or do you wish to arrive as you are?”

Michael nearly lurched up at the sudden flash of fury that set their head alight, but a steadying hand on their chest kept them down. Which really didn’t help the anger, though Sariel’s calm voice did. “Please, remain calm. I’ll finish your hand quickly, to the best of my ability.”

Their youngest sibling glanced at their oldest, the frown obvious even through their mask. “I’m sorry, but please, do not provoke my patient. I understand if you feel sarcasm is beneficial to your own handling of the situation, and I understand you responded to Michael’s own aggression. Please do not escalate this issue.”

Michael snorted outright as they settled back, not bothering to hide their irritation at Gabriel’s inability to handle herself properly. Their “dear sister” didn’t even have the decency to fake remorse, just sighing.

“My apologies, that was unbecoming of me. I’ll leave you two to finish.” She paused for a moment before she turned, looking at Michael. “…I am…I hope you feel better.” 

Then she left in a flash of watery light, and Michael was left with that unpleasant itching, accompanied by more thoughts of what they had done wrong, and how poorly they had–But I didn’t act poorly! Valondrac was arrogant, calculating, exactly like every other deceptive schemer who thinks themselves untouchable! That type of smug assurance deserves violence in return, it’s the only way to handle such beasts! Burn out the rot, and the rest may live.

Their thoughts continued in such a vein, recrimination mixing with justification until there was a final click and Sariel clapped their hands together. “All done! Michael, if you would?”

They nodded and sat up, moving their right arm in front of their chest and staring at the celestial-steel hand now present on what was once a bleeding stump. They could see the affixed metal, where it mixed into their flesh, and they took a slow breath as they pushed the natural heat of their body into the new appendage. And Michael couldn’t help but smile as they watched it light with their natural flam, the metal gleaming a healthy orange.

“Perfect.”

Sariel’s giddy clapping snapped them out of their revelry, a laugh bubbling up from their youngest sibling’s throat. “Eee hee~! Oh, I’m so glad you love it! Ah, it feels alright, yes? There are no issues with it?”

Michael stared at Sariel for a moment, then slowly flexed the hand, checking for any tightness or creaking. None were present. “No, you performed admirably. Good work.” Then they stood from their bed and snapped their newly connected fingers, nearly smirking at the sight of a mirror forming right in front of them. 

Then that smile shifted to a deep frown as they stared at their own imperfect, damaged body. They still had their basic shape, the marble flesh of their body sculpted into a muscular, bipedal form, similar to the commonfolk of the mortal realms. The humans, the elves, the drakes, the dwarves; all those known simply as “folk”, the bipedal mortals capable of thinking and acting of their own free will, with two eyes, one nose, two ears, and hair atop their head. Or feathers or frills, in a drake’s case, so the standard elvish body was slightly closer for the angelic. They shared the feature of pointed ears, after all. It was a body Michael naturally had, not a shape they took, and so it was theirs.

As such, it rankled to see the ugly scar across their chest and the cracks formed across their skin. The faint glow of crimson flame under them was a reminder that Michael still lived and breathed, but the coloration under their ruby eyes, the “bags”, made them look tired, haggard. It was at odds with what they should be, and that made them scowl. Even the gleam of their halo seemed less bright, as though wounded.

But that didn’t matter. They had a meeting to attend, and as such, they formed the armored robes of their station over their body, and placed a winged half-helm over their head. It would cover their eyes, so all they had to do was keep their mouth steady.

“Come along, Sariel,” they commanded as they turned and walked, the cloudstone walls of the bare room shifting and opening so they may leave with their sibling in tow.

Distance was another mortal failing, an issue of a world too set in itself. When one wanted to travel from one place to another, they did. As nature intended. Yet mortal nature insisted there be things in between, meaningless distractions to prevent one from arriving as needed.

That is to say, Michael stepped from “their room” into the grand, ivory meeting hall of the Daybreak Court without issue. Their siblings were already there, aside from Sariel, who came with them: Gabriel, clad in blue; Raphael, the middle child, clad in green and unharmed from their excursion; and Uriel, the second-youngest–yet somehow the tallest–clad in yellow.

Aside from their divergences in color and differences in heights, the four cardinals were identical, as was proper. And standing far above them all was Father, whom Michael bowed directly to, as was equally proper. Father was a being above them all. A god where they were angels, and His appearance and bearing showed as such. 

Broad, fierce, and immense, His grandeur was shone through the brilliant white armor he wore, platemail carved of commitment and bound by oath. A great helm covered His head, as was proper for the most martial of the Triarchy, and yet, Michael could still feel the warmth of His bronze eyes upon them.

“My apologies for our tardiness, Father. Sariel was finishing up their work.”

“Oh hey Michael! Are you sure you should be up already? You looked pretty bad when Raphi rescued you.” It took everything they had not to glare at Uriel once they heard those grating, cheerful words from the Cardinal of Justice. The implication that they were weak, that they needed rest, that there was something still wrong with them–They would do their duty. They were a Cardinal and they would keep to that standard.

“Now Uriel, this meeting will not take long and they have already been cooped up for so long. Some fresh air will do Michael good.” A small victorious smile appeared on Michael’s face, happy that Father took their side. They were fine. Everything was fine.

“Of course, Father.” With that, the siblings formed up behind their father, Michael taking their place in the middle as the leader, and stood upright and ready, not wishing to appear disrespectful to the other gods.

And with a quick flash, the six of them appeared in the court of the gods, Father on his rightful throne, and the five Cardinals awaiting at his right side, for when they would be needed. 

“Now then, since we have all arrived, I do believe we can start.” As the great Elder Goddess of Light, Lucere, shining with a radiant light through her masked face and robed body, spoke, Michael’s eyes glanced around the room, noting that every other god had arrived before their group. A flash of displeasure hit them then, as tardiness was next to heresy, and yet they had cost their Father a proper arrival. I need to be better than this.

But their thoughts were drawn from such recrimination by the words of the other deities present, who were not nearly as impressive as their Father.

“Finally,” Lady Chlora groaned, slumping in her chair like the feckless layabout she was, “Come on Yudi, do you always have to make a dramatic entrance?” As the middle child of Elder Lucere’s divine children, one would expect the Goddess of Plants to be a responsible, wise, and virtuous being, rather than a promiscuous “free spirit” who dared to form her own faction within her own mother’s court. One would be wrong.

Suffice to say, Michael was not fond of the giant green goddess, who seemed insistent on wearing backless dresses–in shades of deep green and patterned with vines and leaves–with far too low of necklines for deities of her bust size. Michael could, perhaps, allow the excuse that the quincloptic goddess needed the space for her six arms, but then Chlora just had to let her leafy bangs hang over her five eyes and the “excuse” just fell apart under the simple explanation that she was just naturally sloppy.

“I arrive when I am able, Chlora,” Father responded to her slanderous words, “I have responsibilities to take care of, unlike certain deities who prefer to indulge themselves with mortal excess.”

“Before we begin arguing,” Lord Innominatum, their Father’s older brother, interjected, bringing attention to him. The golden-haired god was somewhat attention-grabbing in general, as his manner of dress was more modest than his sloppy sister, but striking; as typical, he wore a black jacket and hakama patterned with white clouds and with a golden undershirt underneath, his long hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, and kept a yellow eyepatch on over his presumably empty left eye-socket. “There was a reason I called for this meeting.” 

That wasn’t normal. The lightning god did not call meetings. That was the domain of the Triarchs, so this was an overstep of his authority. Wasn’t it?

They glanced at Father, but he seemed unsurprised by the news. It was odd. They had expected a meeting about the mortal matters, the deception of the Demon Lord and the betrayal of the heroes. What was this then?

“Yes, and I would like to know why you wished for us to bring an angel along with us.” Bringing all attention to Her, Elder Lucere calmly waited for Lord Innominatum to explain himself. And for the briefest moment, Michael felt a slight shudder as they saw the angel attending to the Elder of Light. It wasn’t one of the light angels normally attending the great Elder, no. Instead, it was one of Michael’s cousins; the Pure Angel of Faith, Metatron.

Clad in a yellow-gilded armor–with a visored bascinet for a helm and sacred sigils scribed across the pauldrons and breastplate–rather than their typical robes and mask, Metatron stood as a silent, unmoving attendant to the Elder. Yet, for the barest moment, Michael felt their cousin’s single eye regard them, and they knew they were found wanting.

“Yes, well, one of my angels brought something to my attention that I believe is of utmost importance. Amitiel, if you would please?” Innominatum looked to his side, at the angel he brought with him, seemingly a seraph. Michael probably met her once, but such memories weren’t important, even as they shook themself from their sudden stupor.

“Of course.” With a slight bow, the angel stepped forward to the table. She, like all angels of Innominatum, was composed of pure electricity, shaped into resembling the mortal races; in this case, she looked like a human female with long, straight hair. Curiously, she wasn’t wearing the typical armor of Lord Innominatum’s angels. Instead, she wore a yellow sweater under a black dress, along with spectacles, for some reason. “Thank you for allowing me to speak. I shall strive to be quick in my speaking, but first there is something that I must admit.” Taking in a deep breath, she seemed to steady herself. “I, Amitiel Goldenrose, Seraphim of Lord Innominatum, have been living on Estus for the past five years.”

Michael’s eyes went wide as they stared at the lawbreaker that dared to stand in the presence of the gods whose edicts she had defied– “With my permission.”

Their gaze snapped to Lord Innominatum, who looked unimpressed with the obvious shock in the air.

“And why did you allow that, my son?” Elder Lucere intoned, Her light shining through the hall in an undeservedly comforting gesture for the blatant violators of Her most holy of laws.

Lord Innominatum, unsatisfied with merely flouting the laws of the heavens, had the audacity to roll his single eye. “Amitiel was explaining that.”

“…” Elder Lucere’s gaze turned to the angel, who bowed.

“Eight years ago, under the instruction of my Holy Father–” It rankled to hear another god described with such a term, irrational though that may be. “–I had been partnered with a mortal outworlder. They had slipped from their world into the Estian realms, and my Holy Father saw an opportunity made available to create a secondary in the event the Chosen Hero had ever failed. He sought to make a Champion of Thunder, and brought this mortal to his realm to be educated and trained.” Amitiel straightened. Her face was…oddly gold, shining through the lightning. “During that time, I fell in love with my now spouse.”

…What did that have to do with anything?

Lord Purus let out an odd, amused noise, playfully covering his round, white mask where his mouth would be. The god of Purity, much like Elder Lucere, always covered himself fully, with a blank, three-eyed mask covering his face and long, white robes covering his body. Any exposed skin was also fully covered and wrapped in bandages. “Really now? A holy seraph of the Rakuli, not only acting in defiance of our laws at the order of her creator, now proclaims to have ‘fallen in love’ with a mortal outworlder?”

Oh. Gross. Amitiel nodded, as though that was not the most…Michael wasn’t sure what it was, but it wasn’t right and they didn’t like it and they felt it entirely inappropriate to bring up in the presence of their most holy creators. “I did. We are married, and have a child.”

There was an odd noise, and it took Michael a second to realize it came from themself, aided by the fact that some of the gods were glancing at them with amusement. They remained still though, unaffected by the grins, and kept straight, even-…even as the golden eye of Metatron, in attendance to Elder Lucere, glanced at them with visible disdain.

Michael took a breath, steadying themself, and stared straight ahead, ignoring the eyes of their siblings on their back and focusing on Amitiel once more as she continued to speak on her many crimes. “-and have been living in the mortal town of Surton for two years now, where they have elected me their mayor.”

“So not only did you go behind all of our backs to raise up your own champion, Innominatum,” their Father spoke, immediately commanding attention, “You’ve sent your angel to live among mortals, and even seize power within the territory of the Light Lands?”

“No, because Surton is a bordertown.” Lord Innominatum had no right to be smiling so casually. “It’s not under Light Land dominion, but neither is it a darklander settlement. It’s a little miniature limbo, and technically its own territory, so my daughter hasn’t infringed on any sovereignty. Quite unlike what we chose to do months ago.” And there it was. The issues of the mortal world.

“You agreed to the decision to exile Goldforge. You were more than happy to allow it.” And Michael had carried out that exile personally. They carried the former hero all the way to the furthest reaches of the Dark Lands’ most dismal and horrid landscape, and yet he still returned.

“Yes, because I assumed one of you would actually bother to tell the poor bastard what kind of conditions he was under!” he snapped, a crack of thunder sounding out that made Michael shudder and, worse, their Father to glance at them with concern, “How could he know what actions would condemn him if none of you ‘Triarchs’ even bothered to tell him he was under threat of exile?! An exile that I will point out, did actually overstep our boundaries!”

“We are gods, we don’t have boundaries,” Lord Purus explained, reclining on his throne, “And besides, if the matter was of such a concern to you, why did your angels not inform him of the matter?”

“Because I didn’t even know he hadn’t been informed until after the fact! Which was awfully convenient for you, wasn’t it?”

Lord Purus spread his hands in a helpless gesture. “My apologies, but it seems we’ve all made a number of assumptions here, haven’t we? Why, if you can blame us for failing to inform the mortal of those ‘conditions’, why not blame the ‘matrons’ for their own failure? Is it unreasonable for us to assume those pushing for conditions to be added would be the ones to handle-”

“Hey! Don’t blame this on us!” Lady Chlora interrupted, scowling alongside her red and blue cohorts, “You wanted to punish him in the first place, we had to argue you down from outright killing-”

“Never mind!” Lord Innominatum suddenly shouted, then sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, “I swear, we’ll never get anywhere…Look. Amitiel has a point to make. Listen to her first.”

And the violator in question looked entirely unphased by the divine argument, merely bowing again in apology. “While I agree that I have, in some ways, committed transgressions against the Accords that bind both the angelic and the divine, I believe my experiences have been invaluable. Because of my time on Estus, I have gained an appreciation for mortals and their ways. I have met people of many types, I have lived among them in times of joy and times of sorrow, and I have made a number of friends. I enjoy every moment I’m there, even if it gets difficult at times. By living among the mortals, I now understand, better than ever, why it is important to protect their peace, particularly as they have just now found a genuine harmony with their Eastern neighbors.

She looked to Michael, and had the audacity to smile with what looked like genuine kindness. “I am sure the angelic protectors of Divica can support my claims. They’ve been at it for much longer than I have, after all.”

Which was entirely false and Michael was more than willing to explain why exactly every single last mortal they had ever interacted with was a pathetic, short-lived wretch focused more on their own greed and lusts than any sort of virtuous being, even if they were audacious enough to pretend at being an honorable combatant who disguised his inability to truly finish a fight as mercy, but they did not have leave from their Father and so they did not speak.

Perhaps they should have, because now the other gods were making noises of thoughtful agreement.

“I did get a lot of nice things from the Ebkaians,” Lady Foco, one of Chlora’s fellow “Matrons”, mused, “And Ithuriel’s been getting along with them a lot better…” The two-eyed goddess of flame was even wearing some of those “nice things” instead of proper robes; instead her scarlet skin was covered by a cream-colored sweater and blue jeans, which were weird and certainly not right.

“I suppose an angelic presence would steer Orindaco in a better direction,” Lady Mesic considered. The last member of the “Matrons”, the three-eyed, blue-skinned, and four-armed goddess of water at least still bothered with proper, hooded robes, though the neckline was still far too low…

“Well, it’s not like I haven’t been sending my own little ones out every so often anyways,” Lord Kataba admitted with an airy shrug. Michael didn’t like Kataba. He was careless and flighty, and even now the four-eyed, grey-skinned god was lounging improperly on his throne, his legs hanging off one of the arm rests as he slouched back against the other. One of his four hands was even absentmindedly petting the wings of the angel he had perched on his knee, which…Michael decidedly did not look at, because they were not jealous.

“Hm…perhaps that collaboration with the Rosians would go better if I allowed my engineers the chance to aid them?” Lord Augant wondered as well, his head tilted in thought. The metal god barely merited description, but Michael could be brief: he was bald, bronze-bearded, steel-skinned, distressingly bare-chested, four-armed, four-eyed and the son of a traitor. Not one worth dwelling on.

“We have these laws in place for a reason,” Father rightfully reminded all the musing deities, “If we start sending our angels to actively interfere in the mortal world, then it won’t be long until the Ouza find an excuse to let their demonic hordes loose on the world!” Michael nodded firmly along with their Father, because His word was, as always, entirely correct.

“They already do that without us giving any excuses,” Lord Innominatum denied, spitting in the face of all logic, “Besides, we’re not suggesting we send every single angel we have out to Estus. Mother’s ‘army’ alone would likely get the mortals panicking over a holy invasion.”

“Amusing.” Elder Lucere did not sound amused. “What is your proposal, my son?”

“It’s Ami’s proposal, mother. Ami?”

Amitiel nodded, then looked straight to the Elder Lucere, as though she was not a miniscule speck in front of the almighty grace of an Elder God. “Elder Lucere, Divine Mother of the Light, I, Amitiel, Seraphim of Innominatum, come before your holy grace to request that you allow all of the gods of the Daybreak Court to send a representative to the Mortal Realm of Estus, so they can tell their divine creators about the mortal world and how it has changed under the newfound peace that has been established.”

Lucere stared at the seraph, then, to Michael’s shock, slowly nodded. “I see. You propose a tour of sorts with the angelic representatives we have selected.”

“Yes, your divine radiance. I believe it would aid this grand court in forming deeper connections with the mortals of Estus.”

Lord Purus chuckled wryly. “Really now? You believe angels need a tour to understand the mortal world? Then should we ask the mortals to be their guides? Perhaps as an adorable partnership like your petty little spouse?”

“I thank you for your excellent proposal, Lord Purus,” Amitiel promptly responded, bowing to him before looking to Elder Lucere again, “Is his suggestion acceptable, your divine radiance?”

Elder Lucere seemed to glance at her youngest son for a moment, who was rigid and staring at Amitiel, before she nodded once more. “I do accept this proposal from my sons. As they have both suggested, the members of the Daybreak Court shall now be sending one angelic representative each to the mortal realm of Estus, where they will have a mortal partner to act as a guide in their exploration of this changed world.”

“My thanks, your divine grace. If I may, however, I do have an idea to further support the unity of our court. As such, I would like to add one condition,” Amitiel continued, as though her requests weren’t already overstepping her boundaries, “The mortal representative may not share the same god as the angelic representative. Essentially, they must follow another faith of our court. An angel of light has little to learn from a cleric of light, but a cleric of wind or water or even metal may be of great educational benefit.”

“And what exactly would a cleric from another faith be able to teach one of my angels?” Purus asked as he continued staring at Amitiel. Presumably unblinking. Michael couldn’t tell, his eyes were indiscernible due to the mask. 

“How followers of other gods show their faith, for one. Despite the people of all of our lands being so close to one another, they all have different ways of showing their faith. The followers on Koshima, the island holding the Lightning Temple, for example, have a week-long celebration of music and merriment where they celebrate in my father’s name, whereas your followers have a day of silence do they not?”

“Oh yes, how lovely. I’m sure my angels would love to learn about Chlora and her rather open followers.” His mocking tone was well earned, though the Elder Lucere appeared more pensive than dismissive…

“Oh? Does that mean you’re volunteering to have one of my clerics guide your angel?” Lady Chlora asked, as though the question wasn’t ridiculous.

“No. But, for that matter, I would also like to say that you three ‘matrons’ shouldn’t partner up with one another. With how close you three are, I’m sure your angels won’t learn much from any of your clerics.” With the loosely veiled insult thrown, Lord Purus leaned back in his chair once more, and the only thing that stopped Lady Chlora from retorting was Elder Lucere speaking again.

“Yes, if that were the case, then the Triachs must also refrain from doing the same, as our followers are even closer. My son, am I correct to assume that the reason you asked us to bring an angel would be so they would be our representative?”

“Ah, yes but…” Trailing off, Lord Innominatum glanced at Metatron, and then at Michael and their siblings. “It seems there was some miscommunication.” Hmph. Well of course Father would bring all of them to such a meeting. As for Metatron, while they weren’t an angel of light–instead being an angel of purity, essentially gifted to the Elder at times by Lord Purus–they were still an important angel of great authority. So, really, Lord Innominatum was just being stupid again…

“It appears so.” Elder Lucere turned her gaze to Father. “My son, if you would choose one of your angels to be your representative, we shall be able to finish everything up afterwards.”

“Of course,” Father promptly responded, though when he looked at Michael and their fellow cardinals, he quite visibly hesitated. Was he unwilling to select one of them to be important over the others? Well that was ridiculous, the choice was obvious.

“…I w-” 

“Father, I humbly volunteer to be your representative.” Cutting off Gabriel almost instinctively, Michael stood tall and proud, not showing any weakness even as Metatron stared at them. Even as everyone stared at them. They stood strong. They would not falter.

“Well now that that’s settled, I do have one thing to say.” Leaning forward, Lord Purus looked at Lord Innominatum. “Isn’t it a tad unfair that your angel has already gone on a tour? For all we know, couldn’t she simply choose to avoid this new tour and just give you information she already knows? Perhaps while galavanting off on some other task?” 

“Hm…” Elder Lucere hummed, a melodious sound that echoed with a pleasant brightness. “Indeed, while I would not wish to accuse you of such, it is odd that you would use an angel who is several steps ahead of the others for this proposition.”

“Amitiel, if you would,” Lord Innominatum requested.

“Of course, Father,” Amitiel acquiesced with another bow, “While I will admit that I have already traveled across some of the Light Lands, I cannot say that I have truly seen it all. As it stands, of the three years my spouse and I spent traveling, most of it was spent in Gorokiva. We only briefly passed through Luceneva and Tramontava, before settling down in Naloriva.”

“Really? You spent so long in Estus, yet you saw so little. How odd.”

“Truth be told, that was partially because of my spouse. As they were to be a backup should something happen to the chosen hero, they wished to see what they could of the Dark Lands. And though we never ventured far into said lands, it has been enlightening encountering those residing so close.

“Even so, I feel it only right that I be the one to go as my father’s representative. As this was my plan, the responsibility falls upon me, even if it means being away from my beloved for however long this task takes.” Michael felt their jaw clench as Amitiel spoke, as though her spouse, married in direct defiance of their laws, could compare to a task that Lucere herself has ordained. At that moment, Michael vowed to themself to surpass Amitiel in this journey. Not only would they finish their quest in less than five years, they would complete it before she did!

Though their vow was an internal one. They wouldn’t interrupt as the gods continued their discussion, that was just good manners.

Which Lady Chlora entirely lacked. “So do we decide how to split up our representatives now, or are we putting this off at all? Actually, when is this whole thing going to go down anyways? Because I’m pretty sure the mortals are doing a lot of restructuring at the moment with the whole ‘newfound peace’ and ‘sudden new nation’ thing.” That last part was new to Michael, and though they were curious, they weren’t going to say anything.

“You make a good point, daughter,” Elder Lucere stated, “We can all see the sudden turmoil the Light Lands are still in. Pushing forward with this plan too soon may disrupt the delicate balance that the continent now finds itself within. As such, I acquiesce to your suggestion, daughter, and agree that we shall delay the start of this tour to a month from this day.”

“…Yeah, uh, I didn’t really…say all that, but okay.”

“A month is fine, though I have a question of my own,” Lady Mesic began, “Will this be a direct, one-to-one swap? For instance, if an angel of water were to partner with a cleric of metal, then would an angel of metal go to partner with a cleric of water, or would we select a separate partner for that second group?”

Lord Innominatum appeared to consider the question. “Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that it will be a one-to-one kind of deal. The plan is to have them be touring anyways, so they’ll be exploring around no matter what happens, and hey, it might be fun to pair up for this. Form better bonds between us and such.”

“Oh? But if we’re pairing up, would that not leave one of us out in the dust?” Lord Purus queried, his voice light with amusement, “Though, I suppose if it’s a choice between participating and not, someone like me, who only has three angels of his own, truly doesn’t have much to contribute, now do I?”

“What are you talking about? We’ve got ten.” Lord Innominatum inclined his head to the side, where–… “Rose is one of us, remember? Or is your mind slipping already, little brother?”

Michael stared at the tall, slim figure standing along one of the walls, at even height with a natural god. They wore the armor of a classical knight, composed of white celestial steel and decorated with roses in the distinctive pink glow of orichalcum, a loose pink cape draped over one shoulder. Who had been there the entire time, and whom they had most certainly noticed. They did not overlook a god, that would be stupid.

“If that would work,” Saint Rose responded, their careless shrug echoed in a smooth rustle of petals, “I hope my child will be safe in your care, Purus.”

Lord Purus did not respond for a moment. “You really should address your seniors more respectfully.” Then he reclined back in his seat, finished. Which meant at least one of Michael’s cousins would also be participating in this excursion. They didn’t know how to feel about that.

Regardless, the discussion continued as plans were made and partners were selected. It wasn’t too long until the gods all came to their decisions, and the selections were as follows: an angel of Light would be paired with a cleric of Thunder and vice versa, a cleric of Purity would travel with a Rose angel and one of Michael’s cousins would accompany Rose cleric, Fire would travel with Wind and Water with Metal, and Michael would be traveling with a druid of Chlora. 

That also meant a cleric or paladin of Judgement would be traveling with a Plant angel but Michael didn’t care about that nearly as much as their own circumstances, which they were divided on. Yes, they had volunteered and fully intended to not only succeed to the best of their abilities, but also completely surpass all other angels on the excursion. However, they were paired with a druid, someone who was almost guaranteed to be a filthy tree-worshipping nudist.

They tried not to sigh as the gods continued their discussions, now shifting to planning the routes and how involved their other faithfuls would be in the journey. Yet they would not sigh, because they could handle this mission. They would stand as firm as ever, and keep their faith in their Holy Father. Whatever would stand in their way, they would overcome. Even if they had to wait a month to actually get to it.

At least one month should be an easy wait. In the eyes of an angel, such a time is nothing.

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