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Eva was tending to her wounds after she and a few others returned from their failed mission to retrieve Leoni. She personally was not bugged by his refusal, but the captain wanted him there more than anything. After they gave their report, she decided to relax.
"So...how strong was he?" A voice asked.
A man walked in, with blue, semi-spiked hair extending only to his shoulders, and a lab coat. He wore cargo pants and a plain, black t-shirt. He leaned against the dresser in her room.
"Very." Eva responded, sounding almost annoyed that he was there. "He seemed very loyal to his house, and kicked the crap out of me like it was nothing. Just goes to show that you didn't do your research on him, Ken."
Ken laughed. "Hey, if there was nothing to research, how can you get mad at me? I didn't do anything wrong."
"You didn't do anything at all." She shot back at him.
"Ugh. Fine. Be angry if you want, Eva. Doesn't change the fact that we can't underestimate him or his house again. Especially if the captain wants him to join this badly. I mean, he's borderline obsessed."
"Leoni is the first Exemption Piece in years. Of course he's obsessed. The question is, when is, and what is, our next move?" She said, rolling her eyes.
"For now, we wait. The captain said we have to many other things to worry about now." He informed her.
"Bummer...I wanted to see him again." She spoke to herself, staring out the window.
Leoni was woken up by the sound of someone going through a bag, or some form of luggage in the room next to him. Akeno was downstairs, preparing morning tea for him. But who was in the other room? Groggily, he got up, and changed. He walked into the other room to find Issei going through boxes he hadn't bothered to unpack yet.
"Issei, what in the hell do you think you're doing?" He asked, still trying to wake up.
"I'm helping you get packed!" He said, extremely happy.
"Packed for what…? Come on, it's 9 in the morning…"
"Remember? We leave for Hell today!" He explained.
Leoni blinked a couple of times, running the information through his head again. Suddenly, he was as awake as he could possibly be. He started to rush around, getting clothes, fighting gloves and other needed things.
"Dammit! I forgot!" He exclaimed, panicking.
"Tea is ready!" Akeno yelled up at the two. "Better get it before Rias comes to pick us up!"
Issei rushed down for his tea, and Akeno smiled before turning to the stairs again, and repeating what she said.
"Leoni! Are you alright? Your tea will get cold if you don't come get it!" She informed him.
"I'm fine! I forgot to pack!" He yelled back.
Akeno giggled, and walked upstairs to help Leoni. She brought his tea with her.
"Here." She said, setting the tea beside him. "Is there any way I can help?"
"No, I've pretty much got it. I just panicked because I forgot…" He sighed.
"It's not that big of a deal." She told him, smiling.
"Yeah, it is! We're training for a while, then we're going to some big party? I've only been a devil for a month and a half! I need to make an impression because I'll be the only Exemption Piece there!"
"That's a fair point, but you have the order mixed up. We'll be going to the party tonight first." She explained.
"That's even worse! Now I'll be worried about my appearance all day!" He said, panicking even more.
Soon enough, Rias arrived with the others. They looked like they were going to a beach resort the way they were dressed. Then again, it was summer. Leoni felt underdressed in a t-shirt and cargo shorts.
"You don't look that good, Leoni...did you just wake up?" Kiba asked.
"I forgot we were leaving today…" He admitted in front of the rest of the group.
Rias laughed a little. "No problem. Just so long as you have clothes for tonight ready. All the devil houses will be there, and even some gods."
"R-Right...don't remind me." He said.
Leoni gathered his things, and the gang headed to the train that would take them to her brother's home for the duration of the trip. Supposedly, Rias' siblings were very kind and understood that Leoni was still new to everything, but he was still very nervous. After all, considering the trouble that Nova caused, how would Rias' brother react to him being an Exemption Piece?
The train ride was a relatively quiet one. Rias was talking and being a little flirty with Issei, while the others were joking about times gone by. Leoni sat listening to music on his phone. He preferred listening to electronic and eurobeat, even though it was cheesy and a little odd. Irina noticed he was by himself, and decided to strike up a conversation with him. She tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hey! What are you doing all the way over here by yourself?" She said, sitting in the chair across from him.
Leoni looked up from his phone, and took his earbuds out. "Oh! Sorry 'bout that. Well, you guys are talking about times from these last few years, so I couldn't really join in."
"Oh...right...So, why don't you tell me when and why you took up martial arts? I was always curious." It was obvious she wouldn't let the question go easy.
"Hmmm...I guess it started when I decided I couldn't just sit around at home by myself while my parents were at work, which was almost always. So, I went to a nearby martial arts school nearly every day after I finished my school work. I practiced hard, to keep myself active. But obviously, I stopped when I moved. Boxing on the other hand, I took up when I was 10 years old. I can't explain why, I just enjoyed it."
Irina smiled. "That's cool! Any specific type of martial arts?"
"Well, I took Taekwondo, because it doesn't focus on punches. Mainly kicks. Because I already boxed, it balanced out." He explained.
Irina sat back in her chair. "Interesting. I wish I could've done something like that."
"You use swords, though. It's quite a bit different." Leoni laughed.
"So are Angels and Devils. Yet, here we are…" she replied.
The train soon slowed and came to a stop at it's destination. As they disembarked, Leoni took in his surroundings. He imagined Hell to be uninhabitable, a fiery wasteland. But this Hell looked just like a scene from a fantasy book. The villages and towns in the distance, all looking at a red sky. The group was picked up by a servant of Rias' family, and drove the rest of the way to her brother's home. They were greeted by several servants at the front door. One of them opened the car door for everyone, and they got out, letting the other servants collect their things. One servant approached them, with beautiful silver hair.
"Welcome. It is wonderful to see you all again. And, it is wonderful to meet you, Mr. Schmitt." she spoke politely.
"Um...a pleasure as well, miss…?" He responded, trying not to sound rude.
"My name is Grayfia. I am Sirzechs' queen." She answered, smiling a little.
"Right. Nice to meet you." He smiled back.
The group, including Grayfia, walked into the massive house. Upon entering the house, Leoni was absolutely astounded. This place was fantastic! Spacious, well furnished, and well designed. He couldn't say he wasn't jealous. He prided himself on his own home, yet this place blew it out of the water. The group walked until they found a single room. Grayfia opened the door, and let them in. Standing in the room was a man with red hair, just like Rias'.
He turned and gave a surprisingly calm smile. "Welcome, everyone. It is good to have you here. I just hope the experience isn't as treacherous as the last."
They all laughed a little. Leoni just kind of stood there, in awkward silence. The man noticed, and walked up to him.
"I apologize. You must be the new Exemption Piece I keep hearing about from my sister. My name is Sirzechs Lucifer. Your name is Leoni, yes?"
Leoni was a bit surprised. "Y-Yes sir. It's a pleasure to meet you."
The two exchanged a handshake, and he felt at ease. Sirzechs walked with them, to go meet Rias' parents for lunch. The party wasn't for about 5 hours, and the group arrived shortly after 1 in the afternoon. So, leaving early in the morning, the group had to be hungry. They found their way to the dining room, where her parents were patiently waiting.
"Rias!" the woman who Leoni assumed to be her mother, said excitedly. She and Rias exchanged a hug, and so did Rias and her father.
"It's good to see everyone again." Her father said.
Rias' mother turned to see Leoni looking at the paintings on the wall.
"Oh! I think introductions are in order. We haven't met this boy yet." She laughed.
Leoni looked at them, after being noticed, and felt a little embarrassed he didn't pay attention. Her father approached him first.
"You're the Exemption Piece, right? I hear you've been training hard for Rias' and everyone' sakes. My name is Zeoticus." He said, looking proud. He extended his arm for a handshake.
"Yeah. I-I mean, yes. My name is Leoni." He said, nervous. He shook Zeoticus' hand, and Zeoticus nearly broke his from the mere grip strength.
"No need to be formal. It's a pleasure." He smiled.
"Th-Thank you." He said, trying not to look like he was in pain.
Rias' mother walked up and smiled. "I am Rias' mother, Venelana."
Leoni smiled back. "A pleasure to meet you."
The group, now all settled, sat down to eat. The main course was a wonderful roast duck, with herbs and spices, coupled with tomato soup. Leoni thought he had died and gone to heaven. Ironically, this was the exact opposite place.
"So, Leoni," Sirzechs began. "You live on your own from what Rias tells me. What do you do for a living?"
He smiled. "Well, I don't do a whole lot right now, because I have my school fees waived due to my situation. But, I'm a musician on the side. Even more so now, because of my Forgotten Gear."
Venelana smiled. "That's wonderful. Do you play an instrument? Or do you sing?"
Leoni laughed. "A little of both."
Issei chimed in. "But the way he fights, you'd think he'd be a professional MMA fighter!"
Kiba agreed. "I've experienced that truth first hand."
"Is that so?" Zeoticus laughed.
Rias nodded. "He's pushed himself to the brink of death twice for us already. I'm very impressed with the progress he's made."
At that statement, Sirzechs gave Rias a look of concern. And she knew exactly why. Nova.
"But that's not to say he's gotten to the point of being overconfident!" She added.
"Sirzechs, don't worry." Leoni said.
The family stopped eating for a second.
"I know about Nova, and what he's done. And I never want to get to that point. As I've said so many times before, Rias, and everyone here have given me another shot at life, whether it was planned in advance or not. I'll control my gear, and do my best to protect them. You can be damn sure of that." He explained, looking confident all the while.
It took the group a minute, but Sirzechs smiled. "Good man. I look forward to seeing your progress as a devil."
Leoni nodded confidently. "Understood."
The rest of dinner was pretty lively, with Leoni becoming increasingly comfortable around the Gremory family. They exchanged stories about years past, though he didn't have many.
Zeoticus laughed. "So, to summarize, Issei took out the trash when you first met?"
Leoni laughed as well. "Of course! I couldn't do anything to him. I got maybe one solid hit in."
"So, what is your Forgotten Gear then, Leoni?" Venelana asked.
"Rias, is it okay to show them?" He asked.
"Yes. Just lay off of the lasers and whatnot." She said, laughing a little.
Leoni stood up, and summoned his gear with his signature green flash. Sirzechs took immediate interest in the weapons. Leoni turned them around, and showed them off a little.
"They operate like equalizers, is what Rias told me." He said.
Akeno chimed in. "Leoni can change how he fights by using aspects of music. Like Tempo, Bass, Melody, and even some of his attacks are based off of musical terms. So, he can control the flow of battle by adapting, and mixing up his attacks, just like a piece of music."
Venelana smiled. "Then I guess it's good you're a musician!"
"I'd say so. I'd like to see it in action if at all possible." Sirzechs commented.
Asia piped up. "We have the party tonight, so I don't know if that's a good idea…"
Sirzechs smiled. "Ah. Quite right. We will see it when training time comes."
The group helped with dishes, so the servants wouldn't be working for hours. After which, they began to prepare themselves for the party. Leoni pulled a nice suit out of his bag. It was black, with jacket and everything, but a grey vest, and tie. He made sure his tie didn't look too long, and left the room, tapping his dress shoes on the floor, to make sure they fit well. He walked down the hall to the party area. The room was a lavish ballroom, with plenty of space for thousands of people. Akeno walked in soon after, wearing a beautiful purple dress. One by one, everyone trickled in, until guests began to arrive. Rias and her family greeted everyone, once again, Leoni not knowing anyone. He simply said hello to the passing guest every now and then, while minding his own business. After a while, a young blonde girl approached him.
"Your name is Leoni, right? Issei was telling me about you." She asked,
Leoni didn't expect anyone would talk to him, so he was a little surprised. He gave her his full attention.
"Oh! Yes, that's me. And you are…?" He asked in return.
"I'm Ravel Phenex. I'm told you're an Exemption Piece?" She introduced herself.
Leoni would've rolled his eyes if he weren't talking to someone he knew was part of a big devil family.
"Well, yes." He answered simply.
"Huh. Interesting...So, are you dating anyone?" She questioned, as if it were common to ask.
Leoni nearly had a heart attack. "E-Excuse me? Am I dating anyone?"
"Yeah. Not that I care, though…" She looked away.
"Well, no...I've only been a devil for about a month and a half, and have only really been social for that long…"
"Ah, that's right. Rias found you a few months ago when you were by yourself, and wouldn't talk to anyone. When they asked Rias to be the one to take you on, I have to admit, I was a little jealous. I would've loved to have you in my ranks." She said, looking proud.
"U-Uh...thanks…" Leoni didn't have to be a genius, to put two and two together from her conversation.
Ravel leaned against the wall, looking at the ground.
"It's odd really. I mean, Nova was violent right from the beginning, and we saw how he turned out. But you seem nice. Even protective from how Rias and Issei described you." She said, sounding like she was being honest.
Leoni took notice of this, and relaxed a little.
"Well, it's a little overwhelming, being the first Exemption Piece in this long...I'm just afraid the day will come, where I go berserk, and hurt someone." He admitted.
Ravel looked at him. "Well, I would know first hand, that you won't end up like him."
"Why do you say that?" Leoni asked.
"Because Nova was an early member of the Phenex ranks."
Leoni paused. This girl had direct contact with Nova. She knew very well how he acted, and how he came to be the way he was in the end.
"Wait...what do you mean? You knew Nova?"
"Remember," she started, looking proud. "Devils live longer than humans. So I'm older than I look."
Her look of pride faded as she remembered. "But yes...I knew Nova. He seemed very quiet when I met him as a younger girl. I tried to get to know him, but he wouldn't have it. As we got older, I noticed he tended to defy Riser, and even abuse the women in the peerage. He had no fear of it, nor Riser, as Riser wouldn't do anything to his most powerful piece, nor anything besides treat us poorly. Nova became aggressive, isolating himself from us as much as possible, until he made himself go insane from power lust and loneliness. He even tried to kill a couple of us on multiple occasions."
"That's...that's awful…" Leoni said, quite surprised from what he had heard.
"When the day came to kill him after he broken out of the seal, I wanted to fight. I had a personal grudge with him making attempts at my life. But Riser made me stay. Now I know that if I had gone, I would've most likely died. But when they made the decree to release all Exemption Pieces, I felt sad for all the pieces that worked so hard to become useful to their houses. We even considered erasing their memories...but we figured that would be even more painful for the household heads to do. So, we simply removed them from our ranks, and let them do as they pleased, but forbidding them from having anything to do with devil affairs unless formally put into a house."
"I see…" leoni said, looking at the ground.
"But the others tell me you're different. You protected them, and have struggled with them, and even argued. Just like a house should from time to time." She smiled.
"...If I could ask, do you remember his Forgotten Gear?"
"Yes. it was called...Mors Aurorae. It was latin for Death of the Dawn. They were twin blades that could equip him in black and purple armor when he needed."
Leoni stared at his hands, wondering if the ZweiNacht could become that chaotic. Ravel seemed to notice.
"Leoni, your gear won't betray you like Nova's did. Lyra has always been a kind spirit with a heart of gold. The only one who could become aggressive is you, if you chose to."
"Thanks…" He said, not quite believing her. "But I have to make sure I learn to control this on my own."
Zeoticus tapped a glass in the middle of the ballroom, to get everyone's attention. Both Leoni and Ravel straightened up, paying full attention.
"Thank you all, for coming to our home. We have much to celebrate! First of all, Issei successfully saved my daughter, Rias, from Loki. Furthermore, the war between Angels, Devils, and Fallen Angels is still over! We have had nearly no backlash!"
Everyone cheered, excited for the success of the past year. Zeoticus laughed, then settled them down.
"We also have exciting news, regarding the...sensitive subject of the Exemption Piece."
Now, as a teacher would hear talking during a lecture, people were still talking during Zeoticus' announcements. However, when the topic of the Exemption Piece arose, all talking stopped. It was as if the room froze. Leoni went sheet white, seeing all these people stop everything for something involving the Exemption Piece.
"As many of you are aware, we decided to allow Rias to use an Exemption Piece, to see if we could start the idea again. Well, Rias has found an Exemption Piece. His name is Leoni Schmitt. Leoni, could you come here, please?"
Leoni froze for a second, as he felt all eyes fall on him. He hesitantly walked up, and stood beside Zeoticus. He felt the most nervous he had ever been in his life.
"Now, introduce yourself." Zeoticus encouraged him.
"R-Right...My name is Leoni Schmitt...I'm 18 years old, and moved near where Rias lives about a month and a half ago."
"And there you have it. Leoni has already proved to me he will protect my daughter and her friends, so until proven otherwise, I will have faith in him. I'm excited to see the Exemption Piece come into play again." He said.
The group seemed half and half on the idea of bringing Exemption Pieces back, and Zeoticus could see that Leoni wasn't in a spot where he would be applauded. But after a while, a few people began to clap, and congratulate him. Soon enough, the entire room was excited for Leoni, clapping and cheering. Leoni began to smile, and even laugh a little bit.
The remainder of the party went well. Leoni got the chance to meet many members from various houses, and actually had a fantastic time. The event was starting to die down a little, and he decided to take a little break, and go say hello to Akeno. He walked over to the table she was seated at, and sat down with her.
"Quite the party, right?" he asked.
"It always is. I love doing this every year." She responded, smiling. "It always takes the stress of our daily lives, and tosses it out the window. Last year, we had some issues, but, you know about that already."
"Right. I suppose that's why Rias is so protective of him now. You had your eyes on him for a while, didn't you?" He laughed.
"Absolutely. He was funny, kind when he wanted to be, and despite being a pervert, knew what was right and wrong." She admitted.
She looked over at Rias, flirting with Issei yet again, and gave a slight giggle.
"But, when it comes down to it, those two belong together. After all they've been through together, how could they not?"
"Well, I'm sure someone is waiting out there, just for you." He reassured her.
To that, she smiled, sitting up a little. "No offense, but it's surprising to hear that from you. After all, you were alone most of your life, yes?""
he laughed again. "You're right. I guess you guys really have changed me then. But I genuinely know that there's someone out there for everyone. Maybe it'll be a short time until you find them, maybe the rest of your life. But I have hope, and so should you!" he encouraged her.
Akeno smiled, then started laughing. Leoni was confused.
"That sounded like a line from a romance novel." She giggled.
Leoni turned a little red. "W-What? I'm just being honest!"
She stood up, and started walking away, Leoni thinking he messed up big time. She stopped, and leaned down by his ear.
"Thank you." She said quietly.
And what Leoni got next, he never expected. She kissed him on the cheek, and retired to her room for the night. He was absolutely beet red by that point, wondering why she would do something like that. Guests began to leave, almost as quickly as they came. Finally, the servants began to clean up, and Leoni left, alone again with his thoughts. He changed into casual clothes, and sat on his bed. He thought about everything that had happened.
He spent most of his life away from others, with parents who couldn't care less where he was, or what he was doing. They were never there, so why should they? As a result, Leoni had to grow up faster than most kids. He didn't know how to make friends, or how to talk to others. After a while, he used martial arts and boxing as a way to vent the anger, and loneliness. This was the norm for years. Eventually, his parents decided it would be best to send him on his own. He assumed that was something to do with Rias now. He moved to Kuoh Academy, where his life seemed to change right from day one. Next thing he knew, he saw his classmates using weapons, talking about Devils, Angels, Fallen Angels, Dragon Emperors, and so on. Something changed that day. It was almost as if the desire to know someone, the desire to feel like he truly existed, pushed him farther than he thought he would go. He became a Devil, and unlocked a power to protect those whom he cared about. Because, strangely enough, he now had more people around him than he ever that he would in his lifetime. He learned how to laugh, how to cry, how to get angry, and how to be courageous, all for the first time this year. He learned of Nova, Rias' plan to bring Exemption Pieces back using Leoni, and all the fear that came because of it. And now, he had a girl kiss him, even if it was on the cheek, for the first time.
Only about one month had gone by for Leoni. One month. But the memories he had would be more than most get in a lifetime.
Akeno knocked on the door. "Leoni…? Are you still awake?"
Leoni snapped out of his trance, and answered. "Yeah. Come on in."
Akeno stepped in, in her casual clothes as well. She sat on the bed beside him, carrying her usual smile.
"I'm surprised. Why are you still up?" She asked.
"Just...thinking about everything. I mean, we start training tomorrow. And already so much has happened."
"We went over this before Leoni. You aren't al-"
"No, I don't mean that. I just think it's….odd. How my life changed so much in so little time." He interrupted.
"Oh. I see. Well, I can see why you're taking time tonight to think. This is the only true relaxation time we've had. Everything else was interrupted by other things."
"But you know what? It's pretty nice to have that happen. Having a lot happen to you, is better than having nothing at all."
I've been gone for a long time, and i'm sorry about that. Sorry if this chapter is a little odd. It kind of ended in a brain dump...but I had fun writing it! Seriously, message me with ideas! Thanks guys!