the hellfire barrier scalds seungwan on the way down but with olivia's speed, one moment her flesh is threatening to melt at the touch of hellfire and the next it meets with the cooling air of the first circle.
the usually bustling streets turn deadly silent at the sight of an outcasted seraph holding on to seungwan. the angel barely takes a step and suddenly, demons swarm around them with sharpened blades and vengeful snarls. alone, any demon would be terrified of azrael, but in hell, they have strength in numbers.
her reputation is infamous amongst the chthonic residents, the title of the angel of death was given to her by the demons rather than god. unlike the perception that humanity has of her, she does not guide the souls to the afterlife, that is not the definition of death to these otherworldly beings. to die is to no longer exist, and azrael was created to erase demons from existence.
olivia releases her grip on the devil and a spear of light materializes in her hand. poising to defend herself, the celestial is expressionless despite the growing horde surrounding them. she has no concept of emotions, hence her lack of fear. a harbinger of death she is, and rightfully, death is the last thing she fears.
much to everyone's disappointment, seungwan has no plans on letting anyone die today.
"stand down, she's not here to hurt anyone," she orders while rushing to push olivia's spear towards the ground. some demons lower their weapons with caution tinted in their eyes, but most do not. the angel of death's presence unnerves them all and words aren't enough to reassure them. given how much death olivia has brought on them as a realm, many would love a chance to give her what she deserves.
they should get out before the situation turns nasty and the realms come to blows once again. seungwan grabs the angel by the arm and warps them to her office, away from resentful demons and a potential war.
olivia looks out of place in her office, then again, all angels struggle to blend in in the underworld. except for leliel, she's not as stiff as the others. the seraph tilts her head at the mural of lucifer on the wall, vaguely recalling that very same person wreaking havoc in the throne room of god. she'd just been a fledgling back then, one with barely any control over her wings, let alone powers.
"the folks at the archive could've sent someone less threatening y'know," seungwan mutters while crossing to her desk, "or a letter would've been nice."
olivia ignores her words, not one for small talk, or conversations beyond her duty. she eyes the devil with an icy glare. "it was stated in the letter that the seraphim sent, you were given a month to return the file. yves was being gracious by giving you another month." she replies coldly.
ing hell, she should've really read that damn letter till the end. yves is also another angel she wants to avoid getting on the bad side of, the caretakers of the archive consist of angels of various ranks and yves happens to be the cherubim in charge of overseeing everything. sending olivia here is an act of showing mercy, yves could send an army of angels if she wants.
seungwan grimaces at the thought while pulling out the black file from her drawer. a thin layer of dust has settled on it and the devil sets it down on her desk gingerly, dusting it off with a few quick swipes.
a loose piece of paper pokes out from the side and seungwan manages to catch the words 'fear of fire' before she finds herself with a spear of light pressed to her chest. two times in a year, must be a new record, the angels really need to loosen up a little. seungwan pulls her eyes away from the documents while shoving the paper back in with a nervous smile.
"i swear i didn't read it." the devil slides the folder towards the angel, "here."
"pick it up." olivia commands and seungwan meekly obliges. the angel grabs her by the collar of her leather jacket and begins ascending, instead of the mortal realm, they're headed to the far shore, presumably, so she can apologize to the angels for her thievery.
the far shore is dreary, much like the atmosphere at the styx, a heavy fog hangs around the entire realm, never dissipating. the lack of vision always makes seungwan uneasy, she's seen bits of what lurks beyond and while she's not easily fazed, the entirety of hell can agree that purgatory gives them the creeps. this realm belongs to the fates and unlike god, their creations are less humanoid, experimental. she's walked into a couple of odd entities in previous visits and they've all tried to kill her, which isn't all that different from heaven.
a low growling touches her ears and for once, she's glad to have olivia with her.
the angel has no qualms about dragging her by the collar all the way to the archives, a massive colonial building that sits in the middle of barren land. thanks to the fog, it's impossible to actually take in the entire height of the building. the interior is filled with shelves upon shelves of files, and stairs wind haphazardly around the place, leading to various floors above. angels are scattered all around the place, tending to the files and whatnot.
organized chaos, as the fates like to call it.
olivia shoves her towards the front desk where two low-ranking angels are currently locked in an arm wrestle. one of them can clearly win with ease but the other seems to be struggling with her entire body. the angel of death clears and the struggling one turns to them with an overly cheery smile.
"hyejoo! you're back!" jiwoo beams at the angel before turning to seungwan, "and lucifer! how unpleasant, are you finally returning the file you stole?"
the devil grimaces and raises the redacted file, "it's all here, jiwoo."
"one sec!" the angel grunts in response while she does her best to fight against her fellow receptionist, "yah! heejin! this isn't fair!"
heejin gently pushes jiwoo's hand against the wooden desk and the latter exhales in frustration. "how many wins am i at?" heejin asks with a small smirk and adds a tally mark on the chalkboard behind the front desk. the board is split into halves and while heejin's half is covered with tally marks, jiwoo has one measly mark under her name.
the seraphim send those on the verge of falling from grace to the far shore, hoping that serving another power would keep them away from hell. it works for some, but others break their halos because of the repetitive nature of being an archive angel. meanwhile, the angel of death got sent here to prevent her from destroying the peace between heaven and hell. things aren't perfect between the two realms but another war would break out if olivia is left to her own devices.
"right, so how can we help today?" heejin swivels to the two seraphic beings.
seungwan slides the file across the counter with a light pat, "here's bae joohyun's redacted file, i didn't read it."
heejin eyes her suspiciously while jiwoo reaches for the file, the two angels flick through the contents, checking that everything is in order. jiwoo hums with a satisfied nod but she pushes the file back to seungwan. "you need to return it to yves yourself, good luck, lucifer."
"why?" seungwan groans, "everything is there, isn't it?"
the angel shrugs, "she said she wants a word with you, you know where to find her, or hyejoo can take you."
before olivia can grab her by the collar again, seungwan swiftly dodges her hand. she quickly picks up the black file and nods, "i know where to find her, no need to me."
but the angel of death doesn't care, her job is to deliver lucifer to the cherubim and it will be done. olivia grabs her by the collar once again and with a fierce flap of her wings, they take off into the upper floors where yves' office is located.
the devil is thrown before large double doors and olivia raps her knuckles against the wooden doors. an audible come in is heard and the angel pushes the door apart to shove lucifer in before swiftly making herself scarce.
seungwan stumbles into the large office to find an intimidating cherub staring at her from behind a large desk. something about yves just strikes fear into the hearts of demons, or perhaps it's the fact that the angels in the far shore obey her every order. her entire office is littered with documents, hopefully, none of any importance because seungwan might have stepped on a sheet or two.
"got your file right here," seungwan says as she straightens herself up, "sorry it's a little late, i might have skimmed through the letter."
the angel glances at her unimpressively and beckons for the devil to approach. seungwan strides towards the cherub and sets the file on her desk with a smile. if she knew that this stupid file would land her in so much trouble, she wouldn't have got yerim to investigate in the first place. and the worst part is it was all for nothing, she didn't even get to learn joohyun's deepest secrets.
yves eyes the file before her gaze flits to the devil, "the fates have allowed you to read the contents, even encouraged it, but the choice is yours."
seungwan quirks a brow at her words, if there's anything those crones love more than drama, it would be tormenting her. given her little peek from earlier, it's safe to say that joohyun's secrets should come from her lips, not from a redacted file that seungwan had no access to in the first place.
"so what will it be, lucifer?" yves probes, "there's probably something they want you to know."
consider her curiosity reignited, but yerim's words echo in her head, trauma is an ugly little thing. information about something that hurt joohyun lies in those papers, knowing that something horrible has been allowed to happen to joohyun angers her, but if she learns the entirety of the truth, she might end up challenging the fates.
she shakes her head slowly, deciding that she has had enough of fighting higher powers for now. if there's something the fates want her to know, she thinks she'll be better off not knowing. things have been going well with joohyun, and even if she failed to protect her in the past, seungwan will do everything to protect her now.
"i'll pass. give my regards to those hags, tell them i said they smell like fart."
"it was worth a shot," seungwan shrugs, "drop a letter if you need anything else from me, i don't need olivia appearing in front of my charge again."
yves ticks an eyebrow up slightly, "even with a change of name, she still scares you." she states with a hint of amusement in her tone.
"changing her name doesn't erase the fact that she killed thousands of demons in a single night." the devil sighs, remembering the slaughter vividly. a whole field scattered with ashes of her fellow demons, azrael reducing them to dust without so much as batting an eyelid.
"the same could be said of you and god, seungwan."
seungwan stiffens at her name escaping an angel's mouth, she grinds her teeth slightly at the provocation, fully understanding what yves is saying — she too, is still a monster in the eyes of the angels.
"steal from us again and you know what will happen."
and there it is, the warning she had been expecting, yves is letting her off easy. most angels avoid killing, many of them unable to handle the weight of murder, but if going after seungwan is justified by the fact that she's a horrible demon then they would have no problems.
"see you at the annual meeting, yves." she mutters her farewell and departs for the mortal realm.
joohyun is zoning out on her bed when seungwan pops into her room, giving her a slight scare that breaks her out of her trance. worry is creased into her brows and the mortal welcomes her demon back with extended arms. seungwan wastes no time in diving into her warmth, resting her chin on her charge's shoulder.
"are you okay?" joohyun asks quietly while scanning the devil for any traces of injury, which to her relief, she finds none.
"i'm okay, nothing happened, it's all taken care of."
she wants to believe seungwan, she really does, but the words bae joohyun's redacted file has been echoing in her head for the past hour. a nagging turmoil has been weighing on her since seungwan left and she's been driving herself nuts trying to figure out what this supposed file contains. questions have been whirling through her mind, like what would've happened if seungwan had said yes to reading its contents? why is it a redacted file?
and perhaps, her biggest question of all, just how much does seungwan know about her?
joohyun breaks the silence they've settled into with a soft question, "what is in that file?"
seungwan only ever hides things from joohyun when she fears the outcome. with this, she fears that the truth will change things between them, so the devil tries to barter for one more night of peace with a promise.
"i will explain everything tomorrow, okay?" seungwan pulls away slightly, reaching to thumb joohyun's cheek gently, "it's just... it can be a little much and i don't want to overwhelm you."
it's half a lie. it's more for her than it is for joohyun, she can't deny that she's afraid to lose what they have and she will do everything in her power to prevent it from falling apart. thankfully, joohyun bobs her head slowly in agreement, they can save these otherworldly matters for tomorrow.
the mortal allows seungwan to tuck her into bed, it's been a long day and she won't fight sleep tonight. with seungwan watching over her, joohyun drifts off into a deep slumber, feeling safe and loved.
i think this is the longest i've gone without updating, mb, i've been really distracted all week (thanks maplestory). feels a little rough but i wanted to update anyway because i have a busy weekend ahead so i don't think i'll be able to write for the next few days. i've gone too long without thinking about these idiots u_u anyway, we're a lot closer to the end than it feels, won't be long till i can mark this as complete, so enjoy the rest of it i guess ^_^
also, a little shameless plug but i wrote a crack hanahaki au a few days ago, feel free to check it out.
thanks for sticking around, see you in the next chapter~