Holy ****! Still over a hundred reviews per chapter, more than eighteen hundred favourite, well over TWO THOUSAND follows, and more than a hundred thousand hits! And how do I repy you guys…

I'm not going to pretend that saying "sorry" is enough, or that I can even try to ask for your forgiveness after making you all wait for so long. We've already established that my update schedule is horrible to say the least. So let's just all agree that I am the Worst, and hope that you'll enjoy this chapter all the same.

Really, I cannot thank you all enough for your constant support for this story in spite of me being the Worst. It truly is what keeps me going.

Also, props to Call0013 for predicting what Archer would do for Issei's resurrection.

And finally I wish to thank Hin247 for having wished me a merry Christmas as well as a happy new year despite my horrendous lack of updates. I know it's late, but you too.

The following is a fan-based story. High School DxD is owned by Fujimi Shobo, TNK, Madman Entertainment, Manga Entertainment, Funimation, Hiroji Mishima, Miyama-Zero, and Ichei Ishibumi, while Fate/Stay Night is owned by Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyopop, Hanabee, Aniplex of America, MVM Films, Ufotable, and Type-Moon. Please support the official release.

Chapter 4: New Life, Old Regrets

Archer cocked a brow as he watched Issei collapse to his knees and slump forward, utterly dejected.

'Seems to me that the kid isn't too excited about the role you plan to have him fulfill in your peerage, Master.'

Rias found herself sighing at Issei's rather over-the-top reaction to the revelation that he was going to be her Pawn. 'I see that, Archer,' she mentally replied before speaking to the boy in front of her. "Are you… alright, Hyoudou-san?"

Issei raised his head to look at the pair before him, showing that he had tears streaming down his face in a manner that was, to put it bluntly, comical.

"Come on Senpai! Can't you make me something else? I'm never gonna get a harem if I have to spend my whole life stuck as a lame ass Pawn!"

"I'm sorry to hear that you're not thrilled about the position you'll be filling for my Master," Archer stated, his voice devoid of any real sympathy. "But frankly, we have more important concerns than whatever fantasies you have."

"Besides," Rias spoke up, "despite what you seems to think, Hyoudou-san, Pawns are an extremely valuable part of any Devil's peerage."

"Oh yeah?" Issei muttered, still on his knees with a cloud of depression hanging over his head. "How so, aren't pawns just the guys that you're supposed to use as a decoy or something?"

"No Hyoudou-san," Rias gently but firmly corrected. "Since you're at least somewhat familiar with chess, can I assume that you know about the promotion mechanic?" Rias asked. When Issei looked at her with confusion written all over his face, she supressed a sigh and explained.

"When a pawn reaches the other side of the board, they have the ability to be reborn as any other type of piece that the player has lost, aside from the king of course. The Pawns in a Devil's peerage have a similar power; when they advance deep enough into enemy territory or gain permission from their King, Pawns can promote into whatever other piece best suites the situation that they face. This makes the Pawn arguably the most versatile and adaptable member of the team. And I will tell you right now Hyoudou-san, I will never, for as long as live, throw away the lives of those in service to me or treat them callously. To become part of my peerage is to become part of my family. That is how I treat all of my other Devil servants, and that is how I will treat you, Hyoudou-san."

Issei felt a bit better after hearing his senpai say that. Maybe being a Pawn wouldn't be so bad after all?

Hell, it's gotta be cooler than how I am right now. he figured, finally getting to his feet.

"Okay then, so… how does this resurrection thing work?"

"Just stand still as I place my Pawn inside your body." Rias instructed, to which Issei nodded. As Rias moved to do what she had said though, Archer spoke up.

"Master, if you don't mind, there is something I wish to try out."

Curious, Rias glanced at her Servant. "Hmm? What is it Archer?"

"I was thinking about what you told me of Evil Pieces and the resurrection process for Devils last night over supper, and I had an idea," the Servant explained. "So to that end, could you hold out that Pawn piece in your hand toward me before placing it inside the boy?" Curious as to what Archer was planning to do, Rias did as he requested.

Archer stared intently at the Pawn piece for a full second before closing his eyes and reaching out to seize the top part of the Evil Piece between the tips of his fingers.

"Trace, on."

Rias watched her Servant's actions, curiosity in her eyes, which quickly turned to wonder as she felt raw power flood into the Evil Piece.

"Archer," the heiress whispered. "What did you do?"

"You told me the other day that when a Devil resurrects someone, multiple Evil Pieces may be required to do so. As I recall, there are two factors that influence this: the amount of power that is wielded by the Devil overseeing the resurrection, and the power of the one they wish to resurrect. What I did here was take advantage of my Magecraft Skill and used it to enhance your Pawn piece." Archer explained. "The boy himself may not be anything particularly special," Issei yelped in protest at that, "but the thing dwelling inside him seems to be another story altogether. There is a good chance that multiple Pawns will be required to resurrect him. So naturally, it's in our best interests to take measures that will limit the cost."

Rias found herself agreeing; Issei's Sacred Gear most likely wouldn't let him be turned into a Devil with just one Pawn piece. But with Archer enhancing the power of her Evil Pieces, Rias could already tell that her Pawn was approximately half again as powerful as it had been before!

"Archer I… I don't know what to say."

"If you wish to thank me, Master, do so by putting it to use," the Heroic Spirit replied. "The boost I gave that Evil Piece is only temporary; already the prana is starting to leak out."

"Right," Rias said, turning back to the reason she was here in the first place. "Alright Hyoudou-san. Hold still…"

Rias let out a breath she felt like she'd been holding for hours as the light from her teleportation circle faded, and she began to strip down before getting into bed.

Six Pawns.

Even with Archer boosting the power of her Evil Pieces, it had taken six Pawns to resurrect Issei Hyoudou as a Devil in her peerage.

That was… beyond anything she could have predicted!

Not only was Issei completely ignorant of the supernatural prior to this night, but he was also incapable of even the most basic forms of magic. So it wasn't even a stretch to say that Rias could've smashed a Pawn piece and then used one of the fragments to turn him into a Devil. Though it was worth pointing out that something like that wasn't even possible to begin with.

Which meant… virtually all of the power needed for the resurrection had to have been because of his Sacred Gear.

There was no doubt in Rias' mind that if Archer hadn't been there to enhance her Pawns the way he did, she would've been forced to spend all of her Pawns on Issei, or his body would have rejected them due to their power being insufficient.

Not that she would've minded having to place all her eggs in one basket – at least as far as her Pawns went – after all, it just went to show how powerful whatever Sacred Gear Issei Hyoudou possessed was. But it was certainly nice to still have two Pawns remaining that could be put to use elsewhere.

As for which Sacred Gear Issei had, Rias still didn't know for sure. But the number that would require as much power as Issei's was so small that a six-year-old could count that high.

And most of them were Longinus-class.

As Archer, Rias, and Koneko all sat at the table to enjoy breakfast together, the Gremory heiress decided that now was as good a time as any to bring up a small matter she'd been meaning to address.

"Archer, we need to go do some shopping today."

"I take it we need more food, Master?" Archer guessed with a glance at Koneko, who was busy munching on her fifth omelette.

"Not just yet; we can last at least a couple more days on that front," Rias replied. "Now as I'm sure you recall, as of last night my family finished putting together a backstory for you – or rather, for Kaname Toujou – and all the necessary documentation has arrived as well. So now that that's taken care of, our main focus today is going to be buying clothes for you, my loyal Servant."

Archer quirked a brow. "And why exactly would you feel the need to do that in the first place, Master?"

"Because if you're going to live in this world, then obviously you're going to need clothes to wear during the parts of the day where you're pretending to be an ordinary human." Rias replied.

"I can use my magic to create such clothes whenever the need arises," Archer shrugged, and as he spoke his current outfit vanished the same way his body did whenever he took spirit form. In its place was a black long-sleeved dress shirt with matching pants, proving his point. "So there's no reason for you to go spending money on my behalf, Master."

"Perhaps, but I want to," his Master replied. "And besides, if I let you do that you'd probably just create the same outfit every time you needed to go out in public. You need some variety in your wardrobe, Archer."

Sighing at what he personally saw as an unnecessary expense by his Master merely for the sake of his own sense of comfort, Archer acquiesced to Rias' will. He figured it would be best to just get it over with, lest he desired to waste time and energy arguing with her. His Master had proven to be rather stubborn when it came to caring for those in service to her. Apparently it was a trait shared by all in her family.

"Fine then. When do you wish to leave?"

Brightening up, Rias smiled "Once we're done with breakfast and everything is put away we'll head out."

"I'm coming too."

Both Master and Servant turned to look at Koneko, having finished her omelette, and was fixing the Heroic Spirit with an adorably intense stare.

"I want to help pick out good clothes for you, Kana-nii."

Feeling his lip twitch at the way his new little sister had addressed him, Archer was again reminded of how Koneko had taken to attaching the 'nii' suffix one would often use when addressing their older brother to the name his Master had given to him. Apparently despite "Kaname" not being the Servant's true name, Koneko found it to be a more personal form of address for her new big brother since "Archer" wasn't really his name either.

The Servant of the Bow felt a smirk make its way onto his face, though this one spoke of an innate desire to let someone special to him indulge in what they wanted.

"I'd be grateful for the assistance, Imouto." he said, giving no indication he saw the way Koneko's eyes sparkled when he called her that.

Meanwhile Rias just kept silent and did her best to stay in the background and enjoy the show. The two "siblings" were honestly just too precious when they were like this!

Ever since he'd gotten back home the other night, Issei had spent the entirety of the night and morning lying awake on his bed staring up at the ceiling, thinking about what had happened. He then fell asleep a bit before noon, only to awaken a short while ago and go right back to contemplating the sudden change in direction his life had taken.

He was a Devil.

After making him her Pawn, the girl he'd always thought of as just his senpai had told him to take the rest of the weekend getting used to the changes to his body, and that she would speak with him more after school ended on Monday, and then he would officially begin his new life as a Devil in her peerage.

As for said changes…

"The first thing I should point out about your new body is something that you're probably already noticing, namely your heightened senses," Archer explained. "You'll now be able to see farther and more clearly, and have much greater night vision; in fact I think you'll have some trouble determining when you're even in the dark at first. You'll also gain a more sensitive sense of smell, and will be able to pick up conversations taking place half a city block away as though they were being discussed right next to you.

"Additionally, you will quickly notice an increase in your physical attributes. Strength, durability, agility, stamina – all of these will be greatly improved from where they were before. Of course, since Devils are creatures of darkness, you'll only be able to experience the full boost that comes with being a Devil during night, or if you're in a place that's virtually untouched by sunlight. You'll also find yourself feeling more energetic during the night, and vice versa in daytime, and even then you'll find that your body is stronger than it used to be, even if you're standing in an open field on summer solstice. You won't need as much sleep as you used to either – at most half of however long you used to rest, probably less.

"Finally, you will now be able to speak and understand any language ever spoken on Earth, even if it's been extinct for millennia. You will not, however, be able to read or write anything beyond that which you already know."

"There's actually one other thing that I neglected to tell you about Devils, Archer," Rias spoke up. "You see Issei, all Devils also have a small healing factor. It's not powerful enough to allow recovering from wounds in the midst of battle or anything of that nature; but it does ensure that, given time, we can recover from virtually any injury or illness. And as a neat little side note, it also means that despite our aversion to light, you never have to worry about being sunburned!"

It was just as they'd said. When he'd gone into his room and turned off the lights, at first he'd thought that something was wrong with the switch, as his room looked almost as bright as it had before. And even now, he could easily hear his mom and dad having a conversation downstairs the latter's office job while the former prepared dinner.

Said conversation consisting largely of his old man griping about how his new manager seemed to have a habit of dumping all his work on him, then complaining whenever it wasn't done in time because his dad had been busy with his own work.

Also the meal his mom was making smelled delicious.

No, focus Issei! he scolded himself.

From what he could tell so far about being a Devil… he had to say, so far he was really only seeing the upsides. His body was better in pretty much every way compared to before, and his new… master – man that was going to take some getting used to – seemed to be really nice. Not to mention hot as hell, no pun intended.

As for that Archer guy… Issei didn't like him that much. The man was a Damn Handsome and in his opinion, kind of a dick. But hey, he'd still saved Issei's life from that Fallen Angel chick, so that was obviously a point in his favour.

…Even though the guy had pretty much admitted to Issei's face that he'd only saved him because Gremory-senpai ordered him to. Okay yeah he was dick.

Senpai though…

Hell now that Issei thought about it, he recalled his senpai telling him that the Devil-resurrection thing worked even if the person being turned into a Devil was already dead, meaning that she could've just let Yu- Raynare he reminded himself with a mental slap to the face, kill him and then done what she wanted with his body. But no, instead she had sent Archer out to protect him and then once the danger has passed, offered him a choice to either basically strike out on his own and hope for the best, or become her Pawn. Admittedly only one of those options were in any way reasonable, but it wasn't like the circumstances Issei had been placed in were Rias' fault; hell, she'd been the only one to even offer him a way out of that situation!

…Even if her help did come with a price.

And besides, being Rias Gremory's Pawn/servant/slave/whatever was worth it to the (self-proclaimed) future Harem King if it meant he had a better chance to ogle that sweet rack of hers!

And now here he was, processing everything that had happened to him with the promise from his new master that she'd explain everything else to him once he'd gotten a bit more used to being a Devil.

She was really being a lot nicer to him than she probably needed to, now that Issei thought about it.

"Alright honey, why don't you have some food now. It should help take your mind off things. I'll just call Issei, assuming he isn't busy up in his room." his mom said from the kitchen, completely unaware that her son could now hear everything that happened in this house – and the next two houses over – before calling out "Issei, dinner's ready!"

"Coming!" he replied, getting to his feet.

I wonder if being a Devil now means my taste buds are enhanced as well!

After a very successful clothes-shopping trip, Rias, Archer, and Koneko made their way home together with the Servant carrying about ten bags of clothes the two girls had been rather insistent about buying for him, while his Master carried six more such bags.

As for the Heroic Spirit's little sister, she was holding only two bags, the contents of which she had apparently bought while the Master-Servant duo were busy getting everything sorted before going to make the big purchase, meaning that they were unknown to all but the small girl herself. Koneko held the two bags tightly to her chest, glancing at Archer every few seconds as though she was worried he would try to sneak a peak.

Archer quickly got the message and made a point of not looking directly at Koneko or what she was holding for the rest of the walk. Instead he shared a glance with his Master, both of them silently expressing their amusement at the Rook's adorable behaviour.

After arriving home, the three supernatural beings began the process of putting away Archer's new clothes, the colours of which were mostly a mixture of black, white, grey, and the occasional bit of red.

"Alright Koneko, would you like to show us what you've been keeping secret now?" Rias asked her Rook teasingly.

Koneko kept her gaze focused on the floor, but despite her obvious apprehension, held out the two bags to Archer.

"For you, Kana-nii."

Archer gently reached out and allowed the small Devil to place the bags' handholds in his fingers. He then reached into the bags, revealing a jacket made from red leather in one, and a black trench coat accompanied by a crimson scarf in the other.

"I thought they'd look cool on you." Koneko explained, carefully watching her big brother's reaction. "…Do you like them?"

Archer's eyes softened as he placed the clothes on top of the pile with the others and turned his gaze from Koneko's gift to the girl herself. "You spent your own money on these, didn't you?"

Koneko shyly nodded her head, clearly worried as to whether the Heroic Spirit thought her gift was good enough, only to freeze when she felt one of the Servant's calloused hands gently press her head against his chest, the other slowly stroking her back, creating a tender embrace for the girl to bask in.

"Your choice of gift was an excellent one, Imoutou," Archer said to her. "Thank you."

Koneko's response was to wrap her arms around her brother tightly enough that, had he been a human, there would have been a very real risk of Archer being crippled for life. Being a Servant however, the girl's bone-crushing hug was more than bearable for her brother.

"I must admit though," Archer stated. "I now feel somewhat awkward for not having prepared my own gift for you. So to make it up to you, I'll prepare whatever you want for dessert tonight."

Koneko twitched in response, even as she continued to press her face into the Servant's body. After spending the next fifteen seconds processing what he'd offered her though, she raised her head to look him in the eye.

"…Do you know how to make a quadruple-layered devil's food cake topped and filled with vanilla buttercream icing?"

Under a blue sky, with the sun's edge shining on the horizon, he strode toward the hill – the one thing that stood out within this barren landscape. As he began to make his way up its slope, a blade appeared in his hands, beautiful and ornate, and immediately he plunged it into the earth-

-re dead, all of them. The men, women, and all the children. Struck down without mercy or hesitation, every last-

-and continued on. Three steps later another sword was in his grip, different from the last, but no less exquisite, and he did the same-

-hese men were killers and rapists, the lowest of scum. They would have committed countless atrocities with a smile on their faces given the chance. This premature end to their lives was no true loss, and in fact prevented a far greater tragedy… So wh-

-as he had with the last and left it there, not once looking back. Again and again this happened, where he would drive a sword into the earth-

-…how many people had to die this ti-

-until he stood at the peak of the hill. He rested his eyes briefly, having finally reached the end of his journey, and opened them to see what his life had wrought.

He was now skewered with weapons of every variety. Swords, spears, daggers, arrows… at least three of each were embedded into his flesh.

The man was in unspeakable pain. But those wounds were not the cause of it.

Blades. Everywhere he looked the land was covered in blades embedded point-first in the soil. Each and every one of these weapons was peerless in their quality. The finest and most beautiful armaments any mind could have ever conceived. They were unlimited in number. And each had their own story to tell.

The same beginning, middle, and end for each of them when held by his hands.

Only the characters and the setting were different.

In each of these tales, he saw hell.

This sight was what twisted his face into one of pure anguish.

The sky became clouded, the sun vanishing forever. Impossibly large gears now dominated the sky.

His heart shattered.

And he screamed.

Rias' eyes snapped open, her whole body wrapped up in a cold sweat. The first thing she did was attempt to get her breathing back under control.

"Are you alright, Master?" Still shaken, Rias lifted her head to meet the concerned gaze of her Servant.

"Archer, I… I don't-"

"You had a dream about my past, didn't you." the Servant stated more than asked.

When Rias gave a shaky nod in response, the Heroic Spirit took her into his arms and embraced her tightly, with one of his hands rubbing her naked back in a soothing manner.

"I don't know what exactly you dreamed of, Master, but I'm sure it… wasn't pleasant." he murmured softly into her ear. "I'm sorry you had to see that."

"Please, Archer," the young Devil cried into the crook of her Servant's neck, wrapping her own arms around him and holding on as though he were her last lifeline. "Just… hold me."

"For as long as you need me to, Master." he promised.

For breakfast that day, Koneko had gotten up early just so she could request that Archer make buttermilk Belgium waffles for her. Seeing that there was enough time to do so and lacking anything better to do, the Servant of the Bow complied with her request. The morning began with the Servant preparing the meal with his little sister eagerly helping with mundane tasks such as setting the table and fetching/putting away ingredients, and watching him with enraptured eyes as he worked. And once her brother was finished, she happily set about devouring the tasty fruits of his labour.

When Rias came down though, Koneko sensed a shift in mood. Her Buchou's eyes seemed… haunted by something. And when she looked at Archer, the heiress' eyes were filled to the brim with sorrow.

That instantly put the Rook on alert. "Buchou, what's wrong?"

Rias shifted her eyes from Archer to Koneko, yet would drift back toward the Servant every few seconds with a worried look. "Last night I… dreamed about Archer's past for the first time."

Koneko blinked in curiosity. "What did you see? Were you able to find out who Kana-nii is?"

"No, I…" Rias shook her head and clenched her jaw as the memory of that dream swept through her again. "Archer, please help me understand what happened in that dream. I don't know how to make sense of it."

Archer stopped his work and just stood there in the middle of the kitchen, but eventually he set the utensils he was using down and turned to face his Master. "I'll do what I can, but first you'll have to tell me what you saw, Master."

With shaky breath, Rias spoke of what she had seen in her sleep, while Archer and Koneko silently listened to what she had to say. The former with grim acceptance, the latter with worry as well as confusion in equal measure.

Once the heiress finished the telling of her nightmare, Archer let out a long held sigh. "What you saw each time I plunged a sword into the earth, Master, was the deeds I committed while wielding that particular sword."

Rias found herself unable to do anything other than stare at her Servant in horrified bewilderment. "But, Archer I… you told me you were a hero. One who saved countless people over the course of your life… How could you call yourself that after killing all of those people?!" she screamed at him.

By the time the dream had concluded, the swords had been beyond counting! She'd already suspected what those flashes were supposed to represent, but to hear from Archer's own mouth that they were all battles or massacres he had taken part in? Rias couldn't make sense of it.

"When I was just a child," Archer slowly answered, speaking in a soft yet intense manner that ensured every word that came from him would be clearly heard. "I had a single wish that drove me throughout the course of my entire life. That wish, was to become a hero of justice. One whose sole purpose is to help others." As he spoke, the Heroic Spirit stared at his hands, seeing something that only he could see.

"So then why-" Rias began, but stopped as soon as the Servant opened his mouth again.

"Because I wanted to forge a world in which no one had cause to cry, I spent my life doing everything in my power to save everyone. But no matter what I did, every time I attempted to help someone in peril, there were those I had to kill in order to save them. This is because the simple truth of the matter is, saving one person means choosing not to save someone else. And if your goal is to save as many people as possible, then naturally there are always the few who must be tossed to the side in order for all those people to have been saved in the first place. And so, throughout my existence… I killed, in order to save countless more. It's as simple as that.

"In other words, it's utterly impossible to save everyone, no matter how hard one might wish otherwise. As much as I tried to deny this fact, the truth of the matter was demonstrated to me again… and again… and again. Until eventually I had no choice other than to finally realise that my lifelong dream of being a hero who would save everyone before him was nothing more than shallow idealism; a foolish aspiration that does nothing to actually make the world a better place. And so it was that in becoming the hero of justice I had always desired to be with all my heart, that I finally came to understand a second truth: there's no such thing as hero of justice.

"That is what you saw, Master: the result of a lifetime of efforts to help as many people as was possible, and all the lives that were tossed to the side and trampled over to make that possible."

His piece said, the Servant retrieved his Master's breakfast and placed it in front of her spot at the table before he returned to the kitchen to finish her and Koneko's bentos. As he did so, Rias and her Rook simply watched him dumbstruck with tears brimming at the edge of their eyes.

Eventually he muttered "If that's all for now, Master, I suggest you prepare yourself for school. You do still have to introduce that boy to his new life as a Devil, after all. You best get yourself ready as well, Koneko."

And then he went into his spirit form, ending the conversation.

As the bell rang signalling the end of school for the day, Issei went about packing up his school supplies. He'd barely paid any attention to his classes, and he'd even been distracted during his chill-time with Matsuda and Motohama through lunch break.

His mind had been far too preoccupied with the impending meeting with Gremory-senpai, where this bizarre new chapter to his life would officially begin. And it didn't exactly help that when he spotted her before classes had started in the morning and went to go have a quick word with her, it became clear that she was focussed on something else entirely as her only words to Issei had been her quickly saying that she'd send someone to fetch him later and that they'd speak then.

Issei was suddenly pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of a dozen of his female classmates squealing uncontrollably as the Damn Handsome known as Yuuto Kiba entered the room.

"Hello ladies," the bastard said with his usual charming gentleman's smile. "You're all looking lovely today. I hope I'm not intruding?"

"Oh of course not Kiba-kun!"

"Please come right in!"

"Sorry the room isn't cleaner."

"Thank you," Yuuto said before, to everyone's surprise, he made his way over to Issei's desk.

"I don't think we've ever been introduced. You're Issei Hyoudou, correct?"

Issei stared up at the other boy blankly. "Yeah, that's me. What do you want?"

Yuuto just smiled again. "Wonderful. In that case, could you please come with me? I'm here on behalf of Rias Gremory-senpai."

Issei's eyes widened. "Wait, does that mean-" he stopped when he noticed Kiba's eyes narrow just the slightest bit and his smile suddenly seemed forced.

"Oh my gosh, Kiba-kun is going out with the Perverted Creep?" One of Issei's classmates jumped to the wrong conclusion, and it quickly spread amongst the other girls.

"You can't, Kiba-kun! His pervy habits will rub off on you and you'll smell like dirty old socks forever!"

"I won't accept this pairing! Never!"

"Will you dumb bimbos just shut your mouths!" Issei roared. He was about to go off on a rant about how he would never have that kind of relationship with a guy, and how his one true passion in life was big boobies, but stopped when Yuuto held out a hand in a halting gesture.

"Please, everyone, calm down. Now ladies, if you'll kindly excuse us, Hyoudou-san and I have to go speak with Gremory-senpai, and I'd prefer not to keep her waiting."

"Oh, um o-of course Kiba-kun," Moriyama, a girl from the kendo club said while bowing apologetically.

Her best friend and fellow club member Katase copied the gesture. "Please forgive our poor manners."

"No, don't worry, it's all fine." Kiba said with his usual Damn Handsome smile back on. "I'm the one who came in and caused a commotion. But in any event, we really should be going now."

"Of course. Bye Kiba-kun!"

"Come back soon!"

Finally the door shut, cutting the two boys off from the horde of teenage girls on the other side.

"Sorry about that," Yuuto apologized to Issei. "Hopefully I won't have to drag you into that kind of nonsense too often going forward."

In other words, the Damn Handsome's admitting to my face that he gets swarmed by hot chicks that wanna grind all over his D all the damn time! Issei fumed. Not that he didn't already know that, having personally witnessed more instances of it than he cared to count during his time at Kuoh Academy. But it was something else to hear it straight from the dude's own mouth.

It wasn't fair! Just because Yuuto Kiba was hot, sexy, nice to everyone, really smart and athletic, and overall the coolest guy in the whole damn school all the girls wanted to sex him up, leaving nothing for Issei and his pals!

As soon as classes ended, Rias had gone to the clubroom to take advantage of the time it would take Yuuto to find and bring Issei to them and spend it taking a shower. Odd as some people may find it, having the water stream down her body helped her to relax. As she did so, her mind drifted back to the conversation that had taken place on the rooftop during lunch.

Rias and Koneko awkwardly stepped onto the roof where they would have their lunch today, the former locking the door leading to the roof with magic to ensure that they would not be disturbed. Neither made any move to open the bentos that the Servant of the Bow had prepared for them. With both Devils wearing a tense expression, Archer manifested and cast an expectant look at his Master.

"I assume the two of you wish to continue our conversation from this morning?" the Heroic Spirit guessed.

"Yes Archer, I…" Rias stopped, having no idea on what to say next. Even after he'd told her about what she'd seen in her dream, the things he'd done in his past, and why he'd done it all, there was still one thing that bothered her greatly.

"At the end of my dream… when you reached the top of that hill and looked around at what your life had wrought… that field of blades… you were in such despair that…" Dammit, what was she even asking? How in the Seventh Layer of Hell was she supposed to talk to her Servant about something like this?

"Are you asking if I have regrets, Master?" Archer grunted. "If what you saw somehow wasn't clear enough then let me make it so: Of course I do."

"Kana-nii," Both Master and Servant shifted their gaze over to Koneko. "When you had to kill people..." she paused, trying to find the right way to phrase her words. "How did it make you feel?"

Archer sighed. "I told you before that what I wanted was to find a way save everyone. So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that every time I took a life, I despaired that I had not been able to find some way to save them. Instead I gave them the next best thing I could given the circumstances: a hero's mercy. Because is that not what a hero does? Even now though, when circumstances dictate that I end a life, doing so brings me misery because of how it goes directly against the wish I held onto for so long. And yet… after killing as much as I have… I've long since stopped caring about the actual lives that I take. Strange, isn't it?"

Archer sounded like he was utterly disgusted with himself. "My ideals drove me to strive for a world in which sorrow did not exist. But all I got in return was a lifetime of regrets, and the realization that my efforts to help others had in fact caused far more than my fair share of suffering." As he spoke, the Servant's fists clenched so tight that he would have bled if not for his superhuman durability.

Koneko however couldn't bear to see her brother treat himself like this, and so dashed forward in order to give him the biggest hug she could. She was so focused on this single act, she hadn't even cared about the holy shroud he was wearing, and it was only thanks to Archer's quick reaction enabling him to dispel the shroud before the Rook was able to wrap her arms around his midsection, that she was spared the painful burns that would've resulted otherwise.

"Koneko, what are you-" Archer started, but stopped when he felt the girl tremble against his body.

"Kana-nii…" the girl whimpered as she cried into her big brother's chest. "Kana-nii!"

"Ko… Imouto." Archer breathed as he gently stroked her hair.

"Archer, I…" Rias said only a few feet away from the pair. As much as she hated interrupting their embrace in any way, she felt she had an obligation to speak, as she was Archer's Master. "I, don't know what to say… I'm so sorry."

"No, I'm the one who should be sorry, Master," Archer replied, earning him a look of shocked disbelief from the heiress. "I tried to distance myself from my past so I could be the Servant you deserved. But because of our pact, you must now suffer the events that define my wretched existence. I truly wish there was some way I could-"

"Would you stop blaming everything on yourself, Archer?!" Rias screamed, shutting him up.

Archer halted his attempts to console Koneko, staring at his Master while she looked back at him with furious, tear-filled eyes.


"If what you really wanted was to stop other people from crying, then why can't you see that beating yourself up like this is only making Koneko and me do just that?" she demanded. Koneko's arms tightened even further around her big brother, and she nodded slightly to signify her agreement with Rias' words.

Archer clenched his teeth in frustration, forced to acknowledge the truth of what his Master had said, and what his words just now had caused for the two girls here.

"All you ever wanted to do was help other people," Rias continued. "You shouldn't have to spend all of eternity thinking that your entire life was a mistake because of that."

"…It's not as simple as you seem to think, Master." Archer sighed.

"Maybe not," she admitted. Even with everything she had learned about Archer this day, he had still made sure to tell the story in as vague terms as possible, and so it wasn't at all hard to imagine that she still had a very incomplete picture of the life her Servant had once led. "But what I do know is that you're someone who I care for deeply, and I'm not the only one. So when you suffer, we suffer as well."

Finally Rias couldn't hold herself back any longer and joined the two in their embrace. "So please Archer, don't try to torture yourself out of some misplaced sense of guilt. For our sakes if nothing else."

For a moment, the Heroic Spirit was silent as he stood in place with the arms of two Devils wrapped around him.

"As much as I would love to do just that, casting off the scars of my past is not so easily done, especially once they are revealed, my Master. And nothing either of you can do will alleviate the regrets that haunt me in the slightest. That which plagues my conscience is now ancient history from a different plane of existence. So I'm afraid that there's little the two of you will be able to do that can relieve it."

"We'll still do whatever we can for you," Koneko said firmly, stepping back in order to look her big brother dead in the eye. "We're here for you, Kana-nii."

"The both of us," declared Rias. "No matter what."

"Just my luck that both my Master and my little sister would turn out to be hopeless fools," Archer softly muttered as he closed his eyes.

"You two really are a perfect match for me…"

Rias didn't think for a second that this matter was even close to being resolved, and had no idea what the next step to helping Archer might be. But everything had to begin somewhere.

The knowledge that a small step had in fact been taken, along with the relaxing shower served to calm Rias' nerves as she waited for Issei Hyoudou to arrive.

Yuuto opened he door leading into room where the meeting with Rias would take place to allow him and Issei inside, the latter of whom looked around at the candlelit room in slight confusion.

"Wait, where are we?"

"Hmm, didn't you see where we were walking?" Yuuto asked in slight surprise. Unknown to the Knight, Issei had continued his mental rant regarding Yuuto Kiba's popularity with the ladies and his own lack thereof all the way up until that very moment, and had merely been following his schoolmate somewhat mindlessly.

"Well to answer your question, this the room where the Occult Research Club meets, inside the old school building." Yuuto said.

Taking a look around, Issei's head froze in place when his eyes fell upon a chick who transcended the word "cute" but wasn't quite "hot" either.

She was a perfect union between the two, and all the sexier for it.

"I, think I recognize that girl there," "Issei said, prompting the white-haired girl to glance over at him.

"That's Koneko Toujou-san, a first-year and a fellow member of the ORC," Yuuto replied before making eye contact with the younger girl, "Hyoudou-san here says he knows you." Koneko merely sent Issei a light glare before returning to her previous position on the couch.

I'm gonna kill him! Issei silently grumbled, Who in our school doesn't know that perfect slender little bod? All the girls hate her because even though she's tiny and flat as a board, all the guys wanna bang her! Even Issei himself, who believed with all his heart that big boobs were the greatest thing in the entire universe, totally dug that adorable loli figure of hers.

"Oh my, I didn't realize that you'd already come," Issei's thought process hit a brick wall as an absolute bombshell of a girl was suddenly approaching him. Despite his daze, his perfect memory of all things perverted instantly recognized her figure as that of Akeno Himejima, one of Kuoh Academy's two great Onee-samas.

Issei couldn't help but be a bit intimidated by her, and took a step back, earning a giggle from Akeno. "There's no need to be nervous; I promise that I don't bite. As for introducing myself, I'm Akeno, the club's vice president."

"Uh, hi, I'm Issei Hyoudou, and I promise that I'm not always this awkward." Issei managed after a bit of fumbling with his tongue.

Because I'm not always this close to a chick who looks like she's about to bust out her top!

"Ah, so the two of you are here now. Good," Issei's admiration and subsequent fantasizing of Akeno came to a sudden close though, as the voice of the one dude he'd met in his life who (he suspected) was just as much of a Damn Handsome as Kiba rang in his ears. And indeed, he looked over to see Archer stepping out from another room off to the right. The guy who was apparently a ghost or something like that wore the same clothes as he had the last time they'd met minus the red parts of his outfit, causing Issei to wonder if the dude wasn't just intentionally showing off those muscular arms of his. Regardless, he was currently carrying a tray holding several cups and a teapot as well as a large slice of chocolate cake.

Archer turned his head to speak to someone else, and when Issei followed his gaze he had to stop and blink to confirm what he was seeing. A shower? Inside the club? Get out! The Harem King Wannabe's eyes widened as he began to make out a figure on the other side of the curtains. Holy shit, someone's in there! Don't tell me that's-

"Master, the last two have arrived, meaning everyone's waiting on you now. Hime- Apologies," he said with a nod towards Akeno, who merely smiled in response. "Akeno-san, laid out your clothes for you, and I will have the tea prepared by the time you're out."

"Thank you Archer," Issei's King replied. "I'll be out in a minute."


His outburst earned Issei looks from all the others in the room. An awkward smile in Yuuto's case, an amused one from Akeno, and from both Archer and Koneko he received looks of disgust and contempt alike in equal measure.

"Might I suggest you do your best to keep quiet unless someone speaks to you directly, boy. If only to keep yourself from looking like an even bigger idiot than you just did." Archer said as he laid out and poured five cups of tea as well as handing the slice of cake to Koneko, which was accompanied by a glass of milk.

"Hey screw you asshole! I'll say whatever I wanna say!"

Archer didn't even bother replying; his expression already indicated to Issei that all his words had done was make him drop even further down on the dude's scale of respect.

"Now now, everyone," Rias said in a motherly tone as she stepped out from the shower fully dressed and using a towel to dry off her hair. "Don't you all go getting into a squabble over something so small." She then turned her attention to Issei, that smile of hers immediately wiping away his sour mood. "I'm terribly sorry to keep you waiting after I called you here, Issei,"

She called me by my first name! Does this mean she wants us to get closer to each other or something? Issei wondered.

"Oh no please, you're hot. Er, fine, I mean… All good."

"Now then," Rias continued, thankfully taking Issei's stuttering in stride. "Let's all sit down and enjoy the tea Archer made so we can get comfortable." She said this while gesturing to the two couches for everyone.

Issei took a seat to the couch across from Koneko, and was quickly joined by Akeno and Yuuto. Archer meanwhile sat next to Koneko across from them, and Issei watched in disbelief as Koneko immediately scooched over to be closer to him. Hell she even leaned her head against the guy's bicep! And when Archer proceeded to shift his position in order to wrap the arm Koneko had been leaning against around her and gently rub her shoulder, the adorable little mascot of a girl paused in eating her cake so that she could smile up at him!

Damn Handsome status – confirmed

Issei tried to distract himself by having a bit of the tea, only for his mood to sour again when he remembered that Archer had made it. And despite not exactly being a tea connoisseur, even he could tell that this was some good shit.

Having just enjoyed a sip of her own, Rias spoke up. "Issei, now that you're here I would like to officially welcome you to as a Pawn in my peerage, as well as the newest member of the Occult Research Club."

"Uh, okay." was Issei's reply. "So what exactly does all that mean, Senpai?"

"Ah-ah-ah," Rias wagged a finger in disapproval. "Since you are now a member of this club, you must refer to me as 'Buchou,' just as everyone else does. Understood?"

"Okay… Buchou."

Rias smiled. "Now, as for your question, Issei: You may have already guessed this, but the club is nothing more than a front to cast off any possible suspicion. In reality this is no mere hobby, Issei. We do not study the occult, we are the occult."

Issei took a moment to look around at his fellow students of Kuoh Academy, each of whom were looking back at him calmly while he processed things.

"So does that mean… everyone here's a Devil? Aside from him of course," Issei said with a nod in Archer's direction.

"Indeed. You catch on quickly," Rias said with audible approval.

Akeno giggled. "Isn't this exciting? You're one of us now!"

Issei sighed to himself as he made his way home. After finishing his "orientation" with Rias and the rest of the Devils that made up her peerage, she'd tried to get him to awaken that power he supposedly had that had made him a target for Raynare. Unfortunately he had found it difficult to focus on the mental exercises she'd been trying to get him to perform, as his new Buchou's decision to sit on the edge of her desk had inadvertently given the Harem King Wannabe a nice look at her thong.

The perverted grin Issei wore as he blatantly stared at what was under Rias' skirt had quickly earned him a rather harsh flick to his temple courtesy of Archer, knocking him over. And when he'd yelled at the guy for doing so, the ghost dude had proceeded to give Issei that damn glare that sliced clean through his bravado like a blade, before advising Rias that they call it a day in regards to her new Pawn. And Rias appeared to hold Archer's opinion in high regard as she then informed Issei that they would continue to try to awaken his magical abilities upon the next club meeting tomorrow, which was also when he would begin his duties as one of her personal Devil servants.

He'd spent the rest of the day over at his buddy, Matsuda's house to hang out with him and Motohama, and together they'd watched a new hentai series that had just come out. His buddies had helped to take Issei's mind off all the craziness that had seemingly taken over his life, for a while at least. Now the sun was setting, and Issei was making his way back home. Along the way, Issei stopped as he caught sight of the fountain where his very first date had come to nightmarish end and his whole life changed.

Next thing the boy knew, he was standing right next to the fountain and looking at his reflection in the water.


The name came to his lips inadvertently. Even if it all been a façade… the feelings Issei had had for her were real.

As much as he admired the female form, he was all too aware of how his habits had earned him the disgust of literal droves of women. So to have a girl actually express interest in him, call him handsome and say he looked nice, it had been a dream come true for Issei. One that he'd been willing to do anything to hang onto.

For once he'd actually put all his usual posturing and perving aside and did everything he could to just try to be a good boyfriend to the beautiful young girl who had been brave enough to confess to a guy like him, and do his damn best to put a smile on her face.

…And all along it had been nothing more than something the Fallen Angel called Raynare had been forcing herself to stomach so she could determine whether or not a teenage boy was worth killing.

He was snapped out of his miserable thoughts, however, when a sudden feeling of dread washed over him.

"What the hell…?" he wondered as he looked behind him to see a strange man dressed in a long grey trench coat and a black fedora.

"Well, isn't this unfortunate… Me running into you, that is." the man muttered ominously.

Issei took a quick look around him, and to his shock saw that the sky was now a twisting purple colour. He quickly realized that whatever was going on had something to do with magic, and the man in front of him was responsible.

I have to run! Issei decided, having no way to fight back against someone like this, and started sprinting in the opposite direction. His physical abilities as a Devil were made apparent, as he sped through the park at speeds faster than any human was capable of. But as a few black feathers drifted in front of Issei's face, it became clear that his newfound seed wasn't enough to outrun his assailant; who was now standing directly in front of him with his wings spread.

"A Fallen Angel!" Issei gasped.

"Such cowardice. I simply can't abide such a lowly being." the Fallen spat before taking a moment to carefully observe the Devil before him.

"I see no sign of any comrades you might have, nor are you attempting to contact them. Furthermore you have failed to identify yourself, leaving me with no reason so assume that you are anything but a mere stray. In which case…" His hand stretched out, and with a flash of light a blue spear was formed. "Killing you will not be a problem!"

His intentions made clear, the Fallen Angel threw the spear of light at Issei. But it seemed that once again someone was watching over the boy as the twisting pattern that had replaced the sky shattered like glass. As this happened, numerous arrows descended to intercept the Fallen's attack while also forming a strict line directly between the Fallen Angel and Issei, and a second later a certain Heroic Spirit landed on his feet right beside the boy.

"I'm afraid you're very much mistaken on that front, Fallen Angel," the Servant declared. "My Master will be most upset if you harm so much as a hair on this boy's head."

"A human?!" the Fallen Angel blinked, bewildered by the new arrival. "What business does one of your kind have here?"

"Such matters do not concern you or your kind in the least, Fallen One," Archer retorted. "But before we get sidetracked – boy, show him your hand."

"Huh?" was Issei's reply as he merely stared at Archer.

"Our mutual Master put a mark on your hand right before you left, remember?" Archer said to jog his memory. "Now show it to him."

"Oh, right, I completely forgot about that," Issei admitted before following the instructions given to him."

"…That's the crest of House Gremory!" the Fallen Angel muttered as he beheld the magic sigil that had been placed on the boy's left palm.

"Forgive the boy's lack of conduct; he is freshly reincarnated." Archer offered as an explanation. "But in case you were previously unaware, this entire city is the official territory of House Gremory, meaning you are trespassing."

"I see. In that case I must offer my apologies; both for attacking one of House Gremory's servants as well as intruding on their domain. Might I advise though that your master not allow their servants to wander around so carelessly in the future. The next time this boy goes out for a late night stroll he may run into someone less cordial than myself."

"I'll pass the word along if you want, but don't concern yourself with my Master's affairs," Archer replied. "Also note that it is only because of said cordialness on your part, along with the fact that due to a lack of communication you honestly appeared to think that you were disposing of a stray Devil, and the fact that the boy himself remains unscathed, will I overlook your attempt to kill him. That said, I must now offer my own bit of advice: Tell the rest of your kind who this city now belongs to. And know that if they appear within the bounds of my Master's territory again without gaining her express permission for such, they will not enjoy the welcome that my Master will bestow upon them. Furthermore, should any of my Master's subordinates suffer some manner of injury as the result of an encounter with one of you, I can assure you that she will do everything in her power to bring the full might of her noble house down upon the perpetrators."

The Fallen Angel pressed his lips together as he processed the information.

"Hmm, duly noted. However your master should keep in mind that she also has boundaries that must be respected." His piece said, the Fallen Angel spread his wings and took to the sky.

"My name is Dohnaseek. And I pray that we never cross paths again, human."

Once the Fallen Angel was out of Archer's keen eyesight, he turned his gaze back to Issei. "How are you holding up?"

"Uh… I'm okay. Really," Issei replied. "…How'd you find me anyway?"

"Our Master is all too aware that when it comes to magic, you don't even qualify as a novice." was Archer's response, making Issei look at his feet in embarrassment.

"There's no need to feel ashamed for not having a magical background, boy." Archer stated. "It is what it is, and the life you have as a human is a good one. However now that you are a Devil, this does unfortunately pose a problem, as it means you currently have no way of defending yourself. Which is why our Master placed a tracking spell on the sigil you have on your hand. When she was no longer able to sense where you were due to Dohnaseek's Bounded Field, I rushed to your last known location. Luckily I managed to arrive just in the nick of time."

"…That's twice you've saved my life now," Issei sheepishly realized. "Thanks for that."

"I am only serving my Master to the best of my ability. As should you, Hyoudou." Archer said, shrugging off his thanks. "In any event, I'll make sure you at least get back to your home safely before returning to my Master's side. In the meantime though I recommend that you focus your energy on learning to use that dormant power dwelling inside you." And having said what he wanted to say, the Heroic Spirit faded away into nothing.

Now with no one but himself to talk to, Issei resumed the walk back to his house. But the Pawn knew that Archer was still hanging around somewhere, ready to jump to his defense at a moment's notice if another Fallen Angel or even some random street thug tried to accost the high schooler.

Issei's opinion of Archer hadn't really changed. The guy remained a Damn Handsome and was definitely still a dick.

He had to admit though… Archer was also reliable.

Well that's it for now. As always, please tell me what you think. I always enjoy reading your reviews. The more detailed the better.

Regarding the dream, I apologize if it was hard to follow exactly what was happening there. I attempted to recreate a similar scene from Ufotable's Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, but things from a show don't always translate so well to a written format. Then again, I suppose that it's the nature of dreams that they don't really make sense at first, and often require a lot of in-depth thinking/discussion in order for one to truly understand what the dream was about.

Truth be told, I felt a bit uneasy about the dialogue between Rias, Archer, and Koneko after the dream. Part of me felt that it was too soon in the story for this kind of conversation. But Archer has been Rias' Servant for several days now, so it's to be expected that the Dream Cycle would kick in. Remember that the average timeframe for a Holy Grail War was typically just two weeks. Just to get a little peace of mind though, I had a friend read through it so I could get a second opinion, and he assured me it was good. But what do you all think?

Oh, and for anyone who's curious about the math involved in Issei being reincarnated with six Reinforced Pawns as opposed to eight normal ones, here it is. For the sake of argument, let's assume that all eight Pawns is the minimum required amount of energy to turn Issei Hyoudou into a Devil. Now if each Pawn if now worth roughly 1.5 times what it was before, then 6 x 1.5 = 9, whereas 5 x 1.5 = 7.5 which falls just short of the goal in this particular scenario.

Oh, and if you want to read something else in the meantime, maybe consider taking a look at my new story "Steel Eyed Hero," a crossover between Fate/Stay Night and Akame Ga Kill, once again featuring Archer.

Well, guess I'm off to (slowly) write the next chapter. Once again, I will freely admit to being the Worst, but rest assured that someday it will come.

Please continue to show your support for this story with Favourites, Follows, and Reviews. It means the world to me.

Until next time!

By the way, does anyone happen to know the name of Archer's holy shroud, or what it actually does/what abilities it has? I think I might have an idea on the latter, but I want to be certain. I'm also fairly certain that it's not the Shroud of Martin – that's what Shirou received from Kotomine in the Heavens's Feel Route for the express purpose of keeping Archer's arm suppressed after it was transplanted onto his body. Archer never needed anything like that.