Another day went by. Somewhere in the human lands were the official representatives of its various countries, all gathered in a single room by the summon of Ceal, one of the Angels of the Seven Stars. There wasn’t a single one among them who was free of bewilderment.
“Just why would Lady Ceal call us all together like this…?”
“I heard that Lord Uriel went to challenge the High King, only to be defeated. He’s been killed, they say…”
“What?! That can’t be true, surely!”
“You don’t think she means to have us take responsibility for that, do you…?!”
“Ridiculous! Why should we be held accountable for Lord Uriel’s passing?!”
“Though it pains me to say it, there is some truth in that whoever requested that Lord Uriel defeat the High King shares some of the blame. If I recall, it was you who called for his aid.”
“Are you saying I’m at fault?! I’ll have you know that it was Lord Uriel himself who came to me with the suggestion! In no way did I seek him out first! If you’re so willing to split hairs, then why don’t we blame you for not even trying to get in Lord Uriel’s way?!”
“How dare you, good sir! If you mean to say that we are all to blame for something so insignificant, then spare me the jests!”
While the ministers tore into each other, seeking who deserved the blame, the door swung open, and Ceal walked into the room. The ministers ceased their altercations, rushing from their seats to kneel on the floor.
“Lady Ceal. We thank you for taking the long trip from the Heavenly Sanctuary to –”
“No need for pointless formalities. Back to your seats, all of you.”
All those present obeyed her words, clumsily hoisting themselves back into their seats.
“S-So is it true that you’ve called us here to discuss the matter of Lord Uriel…?”
Ceal replied to the minister’s fearful query with a shake of the head.
“Tragic though his death was, there is little that reminiscence will bring. Especially now. No, I have called you here to discuss another matter.”
The ministers gave a collective look of relief.
“I assure you that this shall be of the utmost importance to you. You would do well to listen closely.”
Complete silence dominated the room. Once she had allowed the quiet to reign for a bit, Ceal opened her mouth.
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“We, the Seven Angels of the Stars, will soon commence hunting for human souls.”
Ceal’s words sent shivers through the assembled officials.
“H-Hunting for human souls… what does that mean, exactly…?”
“Precisely what it sounds like. I shall, however, keep the explanation short. The Seven Angels of the stars shall, by our own hands, extract the souls of human beings. We shall gather them, compile them. We plan to gather a bare minimum of a thousand souls.”
“Y-You can’t be serious!”
As one, all of the ministers started from their seats with wide eyes.
“If we truly wish to defeat the High King, then we have little option but to release the seal to the Gate of the Legendary Beast. I believe some among you are already aware, but doing so requires a sacrifice of about a thousand souls.”
“Y-You must forgive my impudence, but Lady Cael, please! Seven Angels or not, we can’t possibly turn a blind eye to this…!”
Ceal’s brow creased, and the officials’ shoulders began to shake.
“Just who is it, I ask you, by whose virtue you humans have lived in peace for such a long time? If we angels had not been there to support you, frail as your kind is, the first wave of demons would have eradicated you. Would you not agree?”
“T-That may be true, but…!”
“Let me remind you that even should your kind fall prey to the High King; we angels would not be worse off for it. Let me remind you that we have the choice of leaving you to fend for yourselves. Heed me well when I say that we are offering to save your species, though it will take a relatively small sacrifice to do so. I will not ask you to thank us for this, but is there really reason for you to be against this?”
The ministers remained silent. None of them knew how they could respond to that.
“I must, of course, ask that you cooperate. That is why I have called you all here.”
“W-We’re to cooperate…?”
“You must, firstly, allow the hunt to proceed. Additionally, you are to do everything in your power to keep this matter from the public. These are but the two things I wish you to do.”
The ministers exchanged perplexed glances.
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“You hold significant authority in the realms of men, do you not? This should not be beyond you. It will help our collection proceed smoothly.”
“…We, we understand.”
Only one of them had spoken up. The others nodded, though there was little life to their movements.
“Very well. Then allow me to take my leave.”
With them all convinced and on her side, Ceal exited the room with a gallant flair.
Upon having finished her trip from the human lands to the Heavenly Sanctuary, she wasted no time and made her way to the Luminous Fort. There, she called for the renewed assembly of Gabri, Micha, and Raphae.
“That went way quicker than I thought it would, Ceal. So? How’d it go, huh?”
“Negotiations proved successful. We will soon depart to the lands of men and commence our hunt for souls.”
“Now that’s what I call a damn fine leader! Kukuh, I ain’t had this much fun in ages…!”
Gabri’s body was shaking with the same anticipation a child might have in the face of an excursion.
“Gabri. I will say this as often as I must, but keep in mind that this is no game. Do not forget that you are an Angel of the Seven Stars.”
“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya! ’Sides, it’s not like we’re doin’ this ‘cause we got a choice, right? We just hafta do this to defeat the High King, right? I’m tellin’ ya; my heart’s gonna be achin’ once I get to work!”
“…I will take your word for it, then.”
Ceal’s eyes wander to Micha, who was still preoccupied with munching on her candy.
“Micha. You will have to join us.”
Micha rose from her seat, treats still in hand. Her eyes were glinting like stars.
“There are tons of great sweets down in the human lands. I’m looking forward to those.”
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“…Did you even hear a word I said? We are not going down there to play about.”
“I know. I’ll do my job, I promise.”
Ceal let out an aggrieved sigh, then turned her attention to Raphae, who hadn’t looked up from the floor.
“Raphae. You will keep watch here.”
Raphae’s head shot up in surprise.
“Collecting a thousand souls will take some time, I believe. We cannot leave the Luminous Fort completely deprived of us Seven Angels. That would spell trouble. Also, you have too gentle a heart to rob a thousand men of their souls.”
Raphae’s voice left him frail and tiny.
“You need not feel sorry. That kindness of yours is a point in your favor.”
“Kindness, for real? You sure ya didn’t mean ta say ‘weakness’?”
“Hold your tongue, Gabri.”
“Kukuh. You sure love spoilin’ that kid, Ceal. But ya know what, forget about that. When are ya gonna use that special spell ‘a yours on us, huh?”
“No need to remind me. I already know what must be done. Gabri, Micha. Stand in front of me.”
Both Gabri and Micha moved to stand in front of her. Ceal stretched her right hand forward and closed her eyes.
“Incantation: Shared Power.”
Instantly, a shell formed around Micha and Gabri, purple in colour. Once it was gone, Ceal opened her eyes once more.
“…This should allow both of you to use my Soul Absorption spell. You can use it on humans to reap their souls. But I warn you, Gabri; do not use this spell where many can see.”
“Oh, c’mon! Why’d ya zoom in on me?! Tell that to Micha too!”
“You are the least trustworthy one here. The ministers have offered their help and will do what they can to keep the matter secret, but if, on the off chance, word does spread of our practice, things would escalate far too much.”
“Tch. I got it, okay?”
Gabri’s tongue clicked, a display of his dissatisfaction.