Chapter 18: ...But My Life is a Race, just A Wild Goose Chase...

Early AN: First of all, I am alive and wow does time pass when you're not having fun. Life has been weird and looking back at this abomination, I find there are many, many, many, things I could have done or can do better. The title is form a song I listened to while writing this chapter and by no means reflects my attitude towards my readers since, well especially the saltier ones, are quick to point out my flaws and very slow to sing my praises.


Your criticisms, while sometimes just crude descent, more often than not give me insight into what I'm doing right sometimes (some parts of Chapter 7) and the rest of the fic. I shall admit that I have my fair share of shit, and honestly I forgot quite a few of the plot points I started along the way, and nothing has been the same since I was let go by my first Beta(All my love to the ALPHA, Soundboard, and all around awesome, Vhostym)

So here's what I propose, to the brave souls who deem it fit to consume this trash and are inevitably disappointed with my subpar quality.

I plan to leave this up no matter what but go to the poll in my profile decide what I do next XD

EDIT: This was supposed to be much longer, but you know what happens when idiots fail to save their work. Anywho, please just be satisfied with this for the moment. I can promise the next chapter before year's end at worst, best case I'll be posting 3 next month. Enjoy the hot mess of a shitshow this is turning out to be, if you're into that XD

And on to the chapter.

"I chose you, Riser." She said, with absolute confidence and a smile so warm that it could have thawed the deepest depths of Cocytus.

A silence hung in the air, just as oppressive as the Majesty of the Infinite, but much much more awkward.

Really, the only way this could actually get worse was if Issei was the one uttered those words.

Like that would ever happen.

"I'm sorry-"

A finger was on my lips before I could ever utter her name. She didn't need to speak, the expectant look she wore told me everything I needed to know. Her upturned brows, large sparkling eyes, and trembling lips taken in conjunction with one another served as a reminder of sorts, that look, a testament to what I have done and just how far I tried to reach. The bed had been made and now I had no choice but to lay in it.

I took a hold of her wrist, and rolled my eyes as I removed the obstruction. "Onee-sama-"

"That's better." Serafall, in all her Magical Girl Glory, sat back down in the place she claimed for herself on my bed and began behaving like a blushing schoolgirl in the middle of a sleepover. Let's just ignore the fact that she was one of the most powerful devils who, for the second time, snuck into my room without permission. "I have to admit that it's different from when my cute little Sona calls me that, but I can't say I dislike it."

"Onee-sama." I stressed, trying to get her to focus on the now rather than... well whatever occupied her mind right now. I didn't feel like my engagement was in jeopardy, but then again, Serafall was a big fan of Yuri Incest. "What do you mean by you chose me?"

"What else could I mean, little Rye?" The grip I had on her wrist was shaken lose before she took my hand and closed her fingers around mine. It would have been an intimate gesture, not unlike what I grant Rhodalis when she wanted to hold her uncle's hand, but the ominous chill that blossomed between her fingers said otherwise. "I chose you. You are mine now, like my champion. How much simpler do you want me to make it?"

"I need details S-" I could feel some of my bones cracking as the warmth of my own magic rushed forth to heal my creaking hand. "-Onee-sama. Something I could use."

"Oh, little Rye thinks he's ready for Big Boy Talk?" Her smile was... well I would say seductive, but it was more playful that sexual and more... shall we say sparkling rather than ardent. "Okay, if you're really sure about that, but don't say I didn't warn you~"

Again, this was not first time I shared a bed with the Leviathan, and thank whatever powers that be that she was clothed this time, but the last time she had been different.

She thanked me for the successful date with my brother, threatened me for appearing to court her sister, and vanished like the mist before dawn, but that was it. We did not dance with words, nor was she playing coy when she pondered on whether to crush me then and there; she was as direct and unforgiving as an avalanche with all the warmth of the ocean's deepest caverns. Now, it was like she wanted to chat rather than just finish her business as soon as possible. The cold she had was still present, but a new warmth was there, not forgiveness or trust, but a tentative ceasefire.

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought she was trying to act as an older sister to me now that she was engaged to Revive.

Well... they weren't exactly engaged yet, but anyone with half a brain could tell that they had it bad for one another.

Anyway, even if she was being genuine, I was starting to understand why Sona couldn't stand such behavior.

"First, I need a representative for a little... gathering we have among the Satans. You'll be my representative of course." Serafall Leviathan seemed perfectly calm before giving my hand a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry, I know you'll do fine, and it's not like you could hurt my reputation even if you tried. During the meeting, we'll give you Sirzechs' promised—"

A deafening crash drowned out everything else she had to say as she found herself forced against the wall by the hand she did not hold.

Enchantments made to weather sieges were destroyed and the walls of the fortress barely stood against the churning of our magics. In a rare showing it was fire that over came frost, and though I tended to know my place as, for now, the weaker of us, sheer wrath pushed me to the brink. I could understand the callousness of Lucifer, her never really approved of the arranged marriage in Canon, but Serafall, especially as she was here, was a lance through my own heart.

Of all the Satans, she had the least reason to betray our family, and to my surprise, it hurt more than I thought it would.

Even against the cold she brought to bear, I could feel her skin start to crack beneath the heat, and the sweet scent of cooking flesh wafted in the air. After all, cold is nothing but the absence of heat; it stood to reason that just as the ruin that was once my room gave itself to glacial permafrost, the fire that slowly, torturously, charred her skin began to spread down and threaten to engulf her.

To her credit, her surprise slowly shifted into an appreciative smile, even as her hand and throat continued to burn.

Or maybe not; she knew me well enough to know that I rarely grand the mercy of a painless death.

"Does he know?"

She could nod, not due to my lack of trying. "This was his test as much as it was yours."

I glanced at the hand that hung limply at her side, and forced my eyes shut.

The wall that was barely holding on gave way to a magic circle and in a fit of rage, I threw the Satan into the waiting wilderness.

A shuddering breath escaped my lips, no doubt I would have to redo the many wards I scattered throughout my room but that was a secondary concern. Revive's ring was still on her finger, and no doubt the reason she only used one hand to try and restrain me. She still had his love then, which meant, for whatever reason, he managed to get through to him despite putting our niece in the cross hairs.

"You're much stronger than I anticipated." Her cheer eared a glare as she lounged on a throne of ice, a measure of relief to the burns I inflicted on her. "Holding back may be a luxury I can't afford against you."

How those same burns slowly began to heal was a testament to her strength as a Satan as well as my brother's skill as an enchanter. The promise ring, for even now they were yet to be engaged, radiated opalescent light that washed over her like a soothing spring, boosting her already prodigious vitality to the point that Fire that melted Dragon Scale couldn't even reach her bones. Or maybe they did, but that would only make my brother's ability in the healing arts that much more impressive.

"Good. He hasn't told you everything." Her smile faltered just a bit. It was only fair; if she wanted to poke at me, I would respond in kind. "Does Ruval know, at the very least?"

"The entire time. In no shape or form was Rhodalis in any real danger." Serafall had the look of an older sister, something I doubt even Sona saw much of anymore, as I seemed to crumple with relief. "This was strictly a test for both Revive and Riser Phenex, conducted with the consent of Ruval and Theodosia Phenex."

I had to take a moment to sigh, and then mentally prepare myself for the inevitable follow up question.

"Did I pass?"

Serafall laughed.

"Don't worry, you exceeded all expectations." Her hand, a supposedly the end of a charred remnant of a limb, ruffled my hair before tantalizingly supple palm cupped my cheek. There was a laugh in her eyes, I couldn't help but notice that the burn was completely gone. "But whether or not that is a good thing will be for you to decide."

It's very hard to expect the unexpected.

By definition, it should be impossible but as one grows, especially in a world such as this one, he learns that there are certain situations that may arise and there are steps he can take to prevent being caught off guard. Of course, it is easier said that done, but when you have the power to think at several degrees of magnitude higher than normal that it gets a little easier. Still, to think requires framework, and sometimes that framework rests on erroneous foundations. This error in framework results in the unnecessary, and often dangerous, narrowing of the mind and may prove fatal when such a mistake finally comes to light.

In simple terms, even if assuming something is unavoidable.

Assuming something wrong more often than not leads to mistakes.

Mistakes lead to consequences.

Case in point, the moment I entered the meeting room and saw a Cat and the Darkness seated at a table, I called upon my magic.

Never mind that Serafall was behind me, and that I could feel the muted presences of Lucifer, Beelzebulb, and Asmodeus within the room as well. Never mind that there were three people at the table and I couldn't recognize the third. Never mind that I was promised an explanation, that all would be revealed in time if only I was patient and waited a few more minutes.

That didn't change that fact that the Cat who threatened my sister was in the room and the Darkness... well he now wore a face and that only made him a more viable target.

It took me a tenth of a second to recognize my targets after I opened the door. Filling the room with the hottest fire I could muster, hotter even than the flames I used to burn Serafall, took even less time. I was more that ready to bring the entire building down on the two, regardless of who else was caught in the crossfire, when several things happened simultaneously.

Absolute Destruction.

A third of the magic I funneled into the room simply ceased to be. In its place was the churning void, so ravenous in its hunger that it felt like the very essence of the fire was torn apart and devoured. It was space itself being crushed by the sheer magnitude of the spell's magical density, but at the same time it was a controlled destruction, limited to the confines of the room. It was a void I could not yet overcome, one that rent apart the fabric of the spell I weaved, but only a third of the flames were consumed, a consequence of will and deliberate intent rather than a lack of power.

Elegant Persuasion.

While the first was violently denied of its existence, another third was elegantly allowed to die. The flames, I commanded them to burn, and burn they did. Except instead of devouring the contents of the room, from the physical matter to the magical energies within, the flames decided to devour itself. It was an act of undeniable skill, to take such power, and it was an enormous amount if I do say so myself, and snuff it out, not only by diverting the effects of the spell away but by denying the catalysts, the first cause itself. This was not the destruction of my flames, this was counter command, a sudden change of purpose, and one third of the spell collapsed on itself.

Simple Reversal.

If the first was a power that caused a portion to be erased from existence, and the second was a command that instructed the flame to consume itself, the third was a simple matter of redirection. The flames, my flames, were suddenly hurled back into my face and empowered to be at least three times as powerful as the original spell. Of course, that simply meant that it was as if my original spell was reflected back at me, and it was a simple matter for me to put out those flames, but to be countered so directly, when the Satans themselves were known to be particularly cunning in battle, was a surprise.

It wasn't unpleasant, but I didn't like to make it a habbit.

Anyway, while I couldn't help but frown when the fires faded, or rather were snuffed out by the three most powerful Devils this side of the underworld, I had to take time to enjoy their reactions.

"So you have grown stronger." I couldn't tell if Sirzechs was simply considering my new power or was actually worried, but at the very least I knew he wasn't happy. The wisps of black still danced around his form signifying that his Power of Destruction was, even if it was just a moment, brought to bear in its entirety. Frankly I was flattered that he thought I was enough of a threat to don his full armor, but that also meant I had to be careful not to push him too far too quickly. "Though understandable, please don't make it a habit

After all, I still needed a bit more time before everything was ready.

"Impressive." The most inquisitive of the Satans, Ajuka Beelzebulb himself, leaned back into his high backed chair as he inspected his hand. Within his grasp were the flames I threw at them, an instance of frozen time in the palm of his hand, and he allowed a curious smile to tug slightly at his lips. It might have been a trick of the light, but it looked like, for just a moment, that some of the fire reached him. "Just a little bit more, and the flames would have been perfect, but thankfully you have a bit more to go before then."

The backhanded compliment was strange from who was supposed to be the kindest of the Satans, but he did give me a hint; the spell was supposed to do to them what he did to it.

"What the hell was that?" The question was spoken with barely a whisper, but as he leaned forward from his seat wearing surprise plain on his face, Falbium Asmodeus might as well have been shouting. He was the second weakest of the four, followed only by Serafall, but his defenses were famed as the best, that only fellow Satans and not simply Satan level combatants, could pierce them. The fact that I forced him awake was enough of a testament to my newfound power. "Oi, you three, you didn't need to be so rough, you know?"

"That was him, Asmodeus-sama." Ironically, it was the only one in the room I didn't know about who spoke. "I have to say, I'm sorry I doubted you. This is going to be an interesting project."

She, for it was definitely a female despite the short hair and the somewhat deep voice, was the best dressed in the room by a large margin. An ornate garment suited for royalty and all the finery that one could be expected such a noble to possess decorated her shapely form. Her suit made the coronation regalia of the finest emperors look like rags in comparison and her bearing was one of subtle superiority. Still, If I had to guess, I'd say she was dressed like that because her family would not debase themselves to anything less in front of the Satans, and like her patron, she was just much to lazy to argue otherwise.

"You're much stronger than the last time we fought, Riser-san. I'd be helpless against something like this, even with my Shadows." The bastard who dared raise a hand against my niece, the being who controlled the body of shadows supposedly sent to assassinate little Lys, Diodora Astaroth graced us with his trademark smirk, beautifully kind, devilishly innocent, and undeniably fake. "A fire directed to burn along the structure of a spell to strike at the caster; I must say it's a stroke of genius."

"Ara, ara, I have to say, you look much more delicious when you're serious, Riser~" The last, clad in a wonderful black kimono and a sultry smile, was the person I should have seen coming all things considered. Kuroka didn't as much stand from her chair as she flowed from pose to pose, putting herself on display while she glided from her high chair to the table. She didn't lie down, a wise choice, but her blatant flaunting of even just her thighs would have made lesser men squirm. "I just couldn't wait to see you again."

She would got no reaction from me, Xuelan and Isabela had more tantalizing curves.

"I have no words. This..." I gestured to the gathering of devils and traitors as a whole. Of course, I made it clear that Kuroka wasn't having any effect on me while putting on my most even expression. "I definitely wasn't expecting something like this. Then I again, I've learned that trying to predict the next move of the Leaders of any Faction was a practice in futility. I mean no disrespect, of course but—"

"Yes, yes, I understand your frustrations." It was Ajuka who began to address my concerns, though all things considered, he carried most of the blame. I could only hope that, as the smartest of the Satans, he had an explanation I could at the very least, stomach. I would be very disappointed if it comes to pass that Sirzechs was the best at what passed of as subtle manipulation. "Please take a seat, both you and Serafall, and we can begin the session."

Even without Ajuka and Serafall guiding me to the place between them, I knew where to sit given that it was the only seat with a document before it.

A quick glance told me it supposed to be written proof of Ruval's agreement, that Rhodalis was never in any danger and it was in fact, just a test for me myself and Revive. It said other things, like how I had proved my strength time and time again again and how the had further use of my strength, but I didn't care. Those who wrote it were right before me, if I needed to know anything, I could have it straight from their mouths. And, presumed future in law or not, I wasn't about to let them pressure me into doing something without a fight.

"I have many questions, but I think I will begin with just one before hearing you out." I leaned back and examined those at the table, my visage one of respectful tranquility. I resolved myself to let them talk at me for a while, if only to get a few hints about their current plans. There was no reason to tip my hand this early in the game, but that could easily change. "Why did I need to be tested?"

"Read the paper, boy." Falbium, the one I had least reason to suspect, demanded with a yawn. "Or do you really harbor so much doubt for us."

"It's just that you, Asmodeus-sama, are the last one I have a reason to respect." I admitted with a chuckle, it wasn't like they would believe otherwise anyway. "Lucifer-sama has tried to kill me, once I am sure of and once more I suspect. Test or not, Diodora raised his hand to take the life of my niece, and Kuroka held my sister hostage."

"Oh, Me! Me! Do me next!" I didn't even need to say anything about Serafall when she could do it herself.

"I see your point." Falbium nodded, before gesturing to his side. "And my companion?"

"I was never introduced to the Scion of Glasya-Labolas," I shrugged, looking at the tallest girl in the room with an appraising eye. I didn't glance at Diodora but the though crossed my mind; these two were just the same age as the Rookie Four, though of the latter, only Sairaorg could stand a chance against them now. Especially considering... "I have to ask though, why—"

"Let me stop you right there, Bird Boy." The blue haired girl snapped, something particularly uncharacteristic of the lazy Glasya-Labolas. "If I have to explain why I'm not included in the Rookie four ONE MORE TIME, I'M GOING TO FUCKING LOSE IT!" She started mockingly once the famous started was mentioned before screaming the rest of her declaration at me.

To most people, it should have been something intimidating, something absolutely terrifying to be threatened by what I assumed to be an Ultimate Class Devil at least, but the way she crossed her arms, looked away and pouted, almost shattered my composure. The most I could manage was blinking a few times at her before nodding placatingly with both my hands raised. Of course there were chuckles all around as well, since the Four Satans were effectively our chaperones to the meeting, while the other three didn't really care.

"You just have to really train, Caaciniko." Diodora openly laughed, and the ensuing growl of the heiress did very little to stop him. "Don't do that~ Maybe if you actually got up and did something instead just standing there and taking it—"

"EXCUSE ME?" Caaciniko glared, and strangely enough, it looked like her presence, the magical power she excluded, began rapidly shrinking as she got angrier. "Mr. I'm-Too-Scared-To-Take-A-Hit is lecturing ME?"

It was adorable, in a weird way, how a boy who was roughly Asia's size was arguing with a girl who was closing in on my height, but this wasn't what I came for. With a thought, I flexed a bit of my power, no longer as fire or heat, but as pressure against the two arguing children. It wasn't supposed to do much, maybe just arrest their movement and stop their breathing for a few seconds, but that was a standard tactic when it came to dealing with weaker beings pioneered by the four other adults in the room. Well, I guess I had to add Kuroka in there, if she was confident enough to go toe to toe with me at my best.

I definitely didn't expect the pressure against Caaciniko to simply vanish, and a dark amber barrier to suddenly envelop her.

"I'm sure the children know better now, Riser. Let us get back on track." Sirzechs spoke before I could shatter the barrier, a product of the Glasya-Labolas Family Magic. "Simply put, you were tested see if you were worthy of being promoted to Ultimate Class. We were pleasantly surprised to find that you have more than enough power to join their ranks, maybe even enough to outstrip the rest of your family."

"That was in the letter, but you know our Family's stance on that." I countered, not too pointedly, but not gently either. "Ruval had the qualifications a long time ago, and father can straight up destroy some of the weaker ones if he really tries."

The House of Phenex was a weird house when it came to that, considering the fact that we were much more powerful than what our rank implies us to be. Father, Philemon Phenex was but a Marquis, but only to serve as a gateway to Ultimate Class. He willingly took that position so that those that dare take the higher rank must at least be more powerful than him. But of course, he would rarely put his true power on display, and that muddied up the divide even more. It was also possible, like in Ruval's case, simply not to take the test to increase in rank, making him one of the only ones at the top of the Rating Game Rankings to be a High-Class Devil.

Now, it was true that I needed a bit more political capital to throw around, but even I wouldn't officially take the rank before my father, or at the very least, my eldest brother accepted theirs.

That couldn't be the end of it, since Serafall knew that, if she hadn't already told the rest of the Satans.

Which brought us back to the first theory.

"If you want me to join whatever secret task force you have going on here, just say so."

Ajuka whistled.

"When did you find out?" Sirzechs, despite being caught red handed, smiled appreciatively as the inevitable question came out.

It was easy enough to answer; a quick glance at his second bishop told him everything he needed to know. Quite frankly, I was surprised that it took so long for anyone to find out, especially since it should have been obvious to anyone to tried to fight her that her magic was definitely infernal. Though maybe her exclusive use of Senjutsu in combat helped her elude the less observant opponents, while ensuring that those who were skilled enough to ascertain her true heritage were dealt with in a more permanent fashion.

Of all the supposed representatives in the room, Kuroka was the only one strong enough to give me a run for my money.

"I'm glad to see you're not as good as we thought you were." Serafall spoke from my side with a hint of mirth but surprising poise. "There were assigned individual missions, though for one reason or another, those were considered completed or no longer of importance. A quick Report."

"The Old Satan Faction is so boring and dumb that even the Old Lucifers think so. I don't think they would have ever figured out that the info I was giving them came straight from your mouths." Caaciniko sighed, sinking into her chair before closing her eyes in thought. "They plan to strike when we're beginning the Young Devil's Rating Games, but no matter which match they select, I don't think they'll manage much. Diodora, Sairaorg, and I could handily destroy whatever force they send, bar the Lucifers, and the rest of the rookies should be fine considering the added scrutiny brought about by the unfortunate engagement incident." She sent me a look, and in a rare moment of surprise, I couldn't tell if it was frustration or contrition. "Congratulations, by the way. I was supposed to represent our House and extend our regards, but I slept through the party."

...Okay, at the very least I can see why the Old Satan Faction thought she was harmless.

"The campaign against the Church was successful until recently, and though I failed in poaching Asia Argento, she still managed to make her way to our side. Of course, any further attacks against Heaven are held until the Alliance inevitably fails in the next few millennia." Diadora reported with a proud smile, though this one was more genuine then any I had ever seen on the demented boy. "On the subject of researching the effects of lingering Holy Light on converted Devils, I'd say it bears an uncanny resemblance to what Riser-san has reported with his experiment on his own peerage. The Holy Water confiscated from the Red Dragon Emperor had surprisingly little effect on any of them, despite their status as Devils. Of course, we have not yet tested more powerful sources of Holy Light."

I didn't know if he was trying to cover for me or put me under a bigger magnifying glass, but we was still on my shitlist.

"Vali's faction has dropped into inactivity after the battle. Most of them are questioning themselves after what Riser did to them during the attack and for good reason. We had no reason to believe that the youngest son of Marquis could force Juggernaut Drive, and the appearance of Ddraig, no matter how brief, has shaken him." Kuroka's tone was serious, but I didn't like the way she was looking at me. It wasn't just lustful, there was something else, there, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. "They won't be doing much after Vali himself submitted to Ophis. Last I saw, he would not accept her power directly, but she would teach both him and Albion in the ways of power. As for the Chaos Brigade as a whole, only one group remains a true threat to the Alliance, but as of now, their whereabouts are unknown."

"And there you have it. We need Ultimate Class Devils, especially those not known by the Houses, to undertake these missions and hopefully prevent open war. We would send no less, for the enemies we have are powerful and we can't risk revealing ourselves to the public for fear of enemy intervention." Ajuka summarized. "At the same time, we need Devils we can trust implicitly, and like my brother, Sirzechs' Bishop, and Falbium's niece, you have proven yourself, even as a future brother-in-law."

I looked at Kuroka once more and understood what was bothering me. This was the next logical step now that, as of the moment, only one faction threatened the world. A faction that could still overpower me as I was now, and had tremendous potential to grow even stronger as long as they were left to their own devices. It was only natural that the Devils send us against the mad traitor, and that Ophis would send the cat and me against the one man who dared to try and unseat her.

"We need you four, the strongest group of Devils that we can quietly muster, to go against the single most powerful threat to us right now." The fact that Falbium was speaking, that the Minister of Defense was requesting our aid, underlined the gravity of the situation, and the scale of the undertaking.

"By any means necessary, find Rizevim Lucifer."

Pronunciation guide, just in case.

Caaciniko = Ka-a-si-ni-ko