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Dealmaker

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He saw a bright white flash of energy from the other side of the block and he knew he'd found the Morning Star.

Earlier he'd been warned about a new demon in town, suddenly appearing and staying pretty much where they'd first manifested, that the others had cleared out pretty fast when they realised just how powerful this newcomer was, even though he seemed uninterested in expanding his territory or even in keeping others out of his own - there'd just been unfortunate incidents with demons whose actions had been interpreted as an attack on him or an attempt to bring the messy politics of the Bel Crown into his domain. These waves of energy, calculated by the COMP to have the destructive power of a nuclear bomb, enough to lay waste to Shibuya if there weren't so many protective wards woven into the barriers cordoning the place off from the rest of the world, had spread across the district in ripples powerful enough to split the ground and knock over buildings. Any demons in its path had disappeared instantly from the radar, their physical shells annihilated and their essence disseminated back into the spiritual-digital amalgamation of a realm they had been summoned from.
The scanners on the COMP told him that the attack was 'Almighty' element in nature, albeit a form not yet listed, probably some stronger variation of the standard Megido-Megidola-Megidolaon range. It had been classified as the first recorded instance of a theoretical 'Megidoladyne'.

"The Light Bringer," Black Frost told him for the tenth time today, "The Morning Star. It's got to be him. The other kids are too young to know about him or too caught up in their own business but I'd know his style anywhere."

"I know what Lucifer looks like. You don't need to remind me," Naoya replied with an irritated sigh. His brother didn't think he looked all that confident any more, though, not compared to the arrogant way he usually screwed around with everyone's head, leaving half-clues and smirking at their ignorance compared to him. To show even a hint of weakness in front of his now equally dangerous younger brother... Something was spooking him about this whole thing. This alleged Devil himself was no joke.

"We should just leave," insisted Black Frost, "He's not noticed us. I don't think he's interested in us insignificant mortals."

"Oh, he's interested, or he wouldn't turn up," said Naoya, "He's just not interested enough to directly intervene yet. Waiting to see if anyone's particularly likely to win, no doubt, and if this makes them a rival to him."

"Is that what I become, as the next true Bel King?" asked his brother, "A devil, like Lucifer himself?"

"Right now, Lucifer's on a whole different power level. But you'll have a whole horde of strong demons under you once you take up the mantle, and between you? Who knows..."

"Would you follow me, brother, if I did that? Took an army against Lucifer to win the ultimate throne of chaos?"

"If you demonstrated that you had even a hope of winning, perhaps," Naoya put his hands in the pockets of his traditional green silk robes and casually levitated from the ground, sash and hem flapping in the breeze. He looked over the ruined walls at the dust clouds and staccato flashes of light, then frowned, "We've been noticed."

"Oh great, he probably heard us talking about threatening him!" Black Frost pulled the tassles on his jester's hat.

"Perhaps," the young man known to most demons as Abel shrugged, "I would like to have a talk with him, in any case."

"You wouldn't get near him!" the demon insisted.

"I've analysed his attack patterns. It'll be a tough fight with some sacrifices but we can do this at our power level if we use sound tactics."

"He's bluffing. If it's the same Lucifer - and I'm almost certain it is - he's capable of a lot more."

"No, he'a holding back alright, but there's a reason for it," said Naoya, "He doesn't need all this messing around if he just wants to kill off rivals and he's... he's the Old Dealmaker. He'll want to try and rope you into at least one bargain. It's what he does. Of course, it'll probably go badly on your end of the deal."

"Still, I'm intrigued. This is a rare opportunity and... not the first of its kind I've made."

"I suppose so. Well, if it can't be helped, and you understand what you're getting yourself into, your older brother is here to keep an eye on you as usual."

Ignoring him, Abel put his hands in his pockets and continued walking.

_____

The attacks had been most concentrated here but had now temporarily abated, leaving a surreal valley of twisted rubble for Abel to casually stroll through, complete with small streams of molten slag. Naoya floated behind him, trying his best to look indifferent. Black Frost warily took up the rear, glancing around at all Lucifer's followers. The Demon King himself was as tall, powerful and imposing as Abel had imagined, although more human - he looked like a well muscled, leonine man, with a shock of yellow hair. He was mostly naked except for a strategically placed floating strip of white cloth. He also had leathery blue skin and three pairs of bat wings. As Abel walked towards him, feeling the sheer overpowering pressure and tangible heat generated by the mystical energy at his command, he heard a commanding, booming voice reverberate inside his skull.

"I can read your thoughts from your movements. You're wondering if I realised you were thinking of challenging me," he said, "You're wondering why I don't seem to care, if I actually see you as a threat, as the most likely heir to Babel. Well, I don't see the Bel wars as my fight - my authority is something older and quite different - but if you wish to challenge me, I currently see you as powerful enough to at least undergo a test."

"What kind of test?"

"This physical shell, and its honour guard, is something you can at least conceptually attack and realistically defeat."

"But you're saying its not the real you."

Lucifer laughed, "You know, one of you decided to straight up challenge the Almighty Himself to a fight, once. He defeated a body that did represent Him - but do you think it's even possible to destroy the Holy Spirit? No, people have defeated me in the past... I remember them all... I still hold vague recollections of what it felt like to see their faces in a mirror."

"So you're telling me its ultimately futile."

"It depends on what you want to achieve, really, doesn't it? As I said, your fight isn't my fight, but this option is now open and will always be. If you want to do battle right now, I'll let you assemble your squad over there, by the dividing line of the district, while I organise mine."

"How remarkably fair of you," muttered Abel.

He briefly considered talking it over with Naoya first, but then decided it was time to show his dear brother that he dudn't actually have any hold over Abel. Already running the summoning software on his COMP, he teleported to the dividing line.