'Thought / Scott Speaking'
"Well, Scott? What do we think?"
Standing before a set of open, wrought-iron gates, Issei Hyoudou looked at his school of the past year. It was built in the western style, its ground-floor windows tall and arched, the second through third simple squares, and with another line of windows protruding from the sloped, tiled roof. Done in shades of brown and cream, the whole thing was quietly peaceful; that was a large part of what gave it such a great reputation.
Kuoh Academy had, until only recently, been a girls-only school. However, with a change of management had come its co-ed status, and the Hyoudou family had immediately leapt on the chance for their son to attend a local highschool of good repute.
The brunet hadn't complained; the place did have a good reputation, and good success figures too. Sure, his grades might not be the best ever, but he did well enough to get by – and from the articles he'd read online, this was the kind of school that could take that level of competence and accelerate it into the world of employment.
'Of course, it helps that there are so many girls around, doesn't it?' The voice, baritone and smooth, was definitely tinged with wry amusement as it flowed through Issei's mind. The teen himself chuckled, turning a bit red as he scratched his cheek, brown eyes downcast momentarily.
"You know me too well Scott..."
'Of course I know you well, lad. We've been together forever; Red would know you this well too, but he wouldn't know what to do with a girl if one fell on him!'
Both human voices shared a chuckle, even as a third one, which sounded more like two mountains crashing into one another, let out a displeased breath that may have been called a humph were the progenitor human.
'What need have I to understand your race's mating habits? All your females are so scrawny, so fleshy.'
Even as he began moving forward again, satchel held over his shoulder and standard Kuoh Academy uniform glowing slightly in the morning sun, Issei snorted. "You're still moping over Tiamat dumping you, huh?"
'I AM MOST CERTAINLY NOT!' The Red Dragon Emperor roared, prompting his host to wince slightly, and a moan of pain from the elder male voice. 'I CARE NOT FOR THAT MISLEADING WENCH!'
'Yeah yeah, you keep telling yourself that Red...' Scott muttered, glaring at the massive scaled creature from his place inside the Boosted Gear. Standing tall at six and a half feet, the man himself was built like a brick outhouse. His hair was an orangey-red mirrored by his close-cropped beard, and his almost inhumanly muscled torso was left bare, while his lower half was concealed to the knees by a wrap of tartan fabric.
One incredibly large emerald eye fixed the human with a glare, which he just shrugged off. They'd been stuck together for seventeen years; even a Dragon's irritation became somewhat diluted over time. 'But laddie, I'd say things'll be getting started this year. They've given us time to settle in, now's their time to start moving in.'
Issei, who by now had just about made it to his homeroom, grunted an affirmative. "Yeah, I was thinking that too..." He muttered under his breath. Not being able to communicate mentally with his tenants was a disadvantage he'd been forced to live with – apparently, neither entity was privy to his thoughts; they could predict him based on their knowledge of him, but other communication was limited to the verbal on his part.
'Let them come.' Ddraig dismissed. 'My Partner is more than powerful enough to teach them their place.'
As the teacher walked in, the students rising to meet them, Scott watched pensively through his charge's eyes. 'I suppose he'll have to be.'
When recess rolled around, the one teen who was actually three beings wandered out into the sunlight, finding himself a spot to lay down on the grass. As he let the sun and wind wash over him, the brunet sighed contentedly. "I love Summer..."
The young man in question groaned. Those two again...
Opening his eyes, he found part of his field of vision obscured by two heads. One was shaved clean, revealing a mostly average face that held an oddly monk-like appearance that was incredibly deceiving.
The other had a mop of dark-ish brown hair, and eyes that were concealed by a pair of glasses currently reflecting the sun's rays.
These were Matsuda 'The Perverted Paparazzi' and Motohama 'The Three-Sizes Scouter', also known as the Perverted Duo. And, somehow, the closest thing that Issei had to friends at this school.
"What're you doing lying around?" Matsuda demanded, the former jock's face glowing with righteous purpose. "It's Summer! The first day back at school!" Issei stared blankly back at him. "The first meeting of the Kendo club!"
Ah. That was it.
"Haven't I told you before?" Issei groaned. "I'm not interested in peeking on girls."
Motohama chimed in, standing to his full (and not particularly significant) height. "BUT WHY?!" He cried, attracting attention from all over the quad. "You're a virile young man, in the prime of your youth, surrounded by beautiful, bouncy, buxom women! It's your duty to appreciate them as much as possible!"
Issei just stared at him with a mix of pity and mild irritation. "You really don't get it..." He muttered, and a grunt of affirmation from Scott told him that the man agreed. Ddraig was just leaving them to it – the Dragon cared little for this part of his life, leaving it to the teen's human tenant.
Standing up himself, the rather well-built brunet folded his arms and channeled just a hint of the Draconic nature that Ddraig had gifted him with. "My duty as a man, you say?" The force of his glare and the mild pressure exerted by his aura seemed to shrink the two perverts, both of them stepping back as they found themselves the focus of Issei's irritation.
"Do not compare me to you," he continued, "you who have forgotten the true nature of a man's duty." Setting his feet apart, the brunet extended a fist to the sky as his voice rose and an infernal light seemed to shine from his eyes. "I, am a man! A defender of women everywhere, no matter their age or appearance! I am the elder brother, the helpful grandson, the gentleman who escorts his date home!"
He looked back down at the perverts, who seemed to have lost the facility to do anything but kneel before him and stare. "To be a man is to understand the responsibility we have to care for women! To make them comfortable, to let them move in their own time, to come to us if they wish!"
He pointed one finger at the duo, and it might as well have been the judgement of God himself. "That is my duty as a man! And if you cannot understand that, then you are not men!"
With that final proclamation, Issei allowed the power he'd been feeding to his aura to die away, prompting the two other teens to fall over backwards. "Did I over-do it...?" The brunet muttered to himself, and two low chuckles echoed in his mind.
'No, Partner.' Ddraig told him. 'You chose the right amount of power; they simply have less of a defense against your aura than normal humans.'
'Probably comes from being beaten down so often,' Scott chimed in. 'The girls around here hit hard enough to bend even the human spirit, it would seem.'
Scratching the back of his head, Issei looked up and around. A large portion of the quad were staring at him. Some of the girls were blushing a little, others were glaring at him; most of the men were glaring daggers at him, though a couple were nodding to themselves or at him.
"Tough crowd..." Turning to leave, the self-proclaimed 'Draconic Gentleman' paused for a moment when a slight tingle of energy ran over him. Looking back over his shoulder, his gaze focussed on two figures standing on the roof of the academy.
Both were female, and both were almost ridiculously busty for teenagers. The differences began there; the figure on the left had hair which flowed freely in the breeze, long enough for her to sit on if she tried, its colour almost identical to the scales of Ddraig himself. Even from here, he could feel her teal eyes on him, almost glowing against the milk-white of her skin.
The girl on the right had hair as black as a crow's wing, kept in a long ponytail which swayed in the breeze. Her eyes were mostly closed, as per usual, but Issei knew a sliver of their amethyst could have been seen up close, set in porcelain features.
The 'Two Great Onee-samas' of Kuoh Academy, Rias Gremory and Akeno Himejima. Lusted after by men and worshiped by women...and occasionally, vice-versa.
They were also both Not Human.
Brown eyes met lightest blue for a long moment, despite the massive distance separating them, and then Issei offered a nod. He was a gentleman, after all.
Acknowledgment offered, he turned and wandered off, hands in his pockets as he left two shivering perverts behind him. "And by now, the Kendo Club will have finished changing."
'Nicely done, lad. Nicely done.'
From her position on the academy's roof, the red-haired teenager watched Issei disappear around the corner of a building.
There was no mistake. It was incredibly faint, normally undetectable, but between now and a couple of other times in the past year...
"Ara ara, so Koneko-chan was right..." The young woman beside her, christened by the school as the 'Yamato Nadeshiko' for her almost flawless appearance, had opened her eyes now, a twisted grin on her lips as light danced in amethyst.
"It looks like it." Rias confirmed, a smile pulling at her own lips. "A Dragon, right here in my reach... It must be fate!"
A low chuckle from beside her drew teal eyes to Rias' oldest friend, who was now supporting one of her cheeks with a hand. "Ara, ara...so little Rias has found her fated one already? So sudden~"
The Gremory quickly turned as red as her hair. "Akeno!"
"Well, we know for sure now." Issei was talking, seemingly to himself, as he walked home from school. His satchel was carelessly slung over his shoulder while his other hand was in his jacket pocket, his face turned heavenwards even while his gaze darted to the path to ensure he didn't hit anyone.
Two affirmative grunts. 'She was looking right at you laddie, straight into your eyes. No 20/20 vision's gonna cut it at that kind of distance.'
'She was also sensing us,' Ddraig expanded. 'You might contain our power well, Partner, but you used just enough back there to let her detect it. Likely, the same holds true for all the other scoldings you've given over the past year.'
The brunet sighed. "Well what am I supposed to do? Most of the school are misogynistic bastards, I can't just sit back and watch it happen..."
The emotional equivalent of a pat on the shoulder rolled in from Scott. 'And you don't have to, lad. Neither the Occult Research Club nor the Student Council have made a move just yet. If they wanted to harm you, they'd likely have done so already, before people knew you well enough to notice if you disappeared. They're watching, but they don't seem malign.
'They know about you, you know about them. We've not lost any advantage.'
Ddraig grunted. 'That isn't necessarily true. A Dragon's power is highly distinctive, even in small amounts. They likely know what we are, but we can only guess.'
"You covered this before," Issei recalled. "The only major influences in Japan right now are the Three Factions and the Youkai, right?"
'That's right, Partner. The Angels, the Fallen Angels and the Devils are still prevalent. The Youkai keep to themselves though, and the majority never leave their hidden capital in Kyoto.'
"So they're likely Angels, Devils or Fallen Angels..." The brunet sighed. "So two chances out of three they're evil, huh? Man, that sucks..."
At that moment, the young man turned onto a bridge, and found himself facing a girl around his age.
Her hair was a glossy black, and hung down to her mid-back. She had eyes of a dark violet, set in unblemished features with a healthy pink tinge to them. She was dressed in a maroon jacket over a white blouse, tied at the neck with a scarlet ribbon. A golden shield with a 'P' on it was sown over her heart, and the same colour was applied to her jacket's buttons.
A green skirt ended well above her knees, and white socks began just below the joint to lead into ordinary brown school shoes.
All in all, she looked like a perfectly ordinary high-school student – one either his age, or perhaps a year below.
But the aura of disquieting energy mixed with a sort of...resigned malicious intent she was giving off kinda ruined the whole 'innocent schoolgirl' act.
"A...ano..." She was a great actress, he had to admit. She shuffled from foot to foot, poked her fingers together, her eyes flickered between the ground and his own eyes before turning bashfully away. She was even blushing.
"Y...you're Issei Hyoudou, right?" Her voice was quiet, a bit shaky, and it held a tone that was resonating with his 'kawaii' sense.
"That's me." He confirmed easily; it didn't particularly matter at this point. This creature had obviously looked somewhat into his background, but that wasn't a big deal. His parents were out of the country, as per usual, and trying to find them would probably be a nightmare. He had no siblings, and no real friends or valuable possessions. In other words, the most valuable information she could gain from that was his address and his school.
Since one of those was trapped as best he could manage, and the other seemed like a den for other supernatural entities, he wasn't too worried about her making use of that information.
"W...would you..." More shuffling, more bashful glances. Then she clasped her hands together and leaned forward, face red as she rushed the words. "Would you please go on a date with me?" She even managed to give him a good window into her cleavage as she moved. This woman was good.
Unfortunately for her, she was dealing with a Gentleman – and one who knew far more than she was giving him credit for.
Both Scott and Ddraig knew what he was thinking; all of them were well-acquainted with the others' thought processes by now. Twin feelings of confirmation set their course.
"When it's such a beautiful girl as yourself asking me?" He inquired, smiling just as he practiced in front of the mirror and stepping forward, extending one hand. "How could I ever refuse?"
He gently took one of the woman's hands in his own, pressing a soft kiss to the back of it. "You have me at a disadvantage, miss; you know I am Issei Hyoudou, but you have yet to give me your name?"
The woman seemed a touch nonplussed, but she recovered quickly and gave him a shy smile. "I-I'm Yuuma. Yuuma Amano."
"A beautiful name for a beautiful girl," the brunet mused. "So Yuuma-chan, how about we meet in the town square on Friday afternoon? Don't worry about anything – I'll take care of the whole thing." Another smile, one which had managed to get him out of a lot of trouble over the years. "It'll be a date to remember!"
'A date to remember indeed, lad.'
It had been a pretty good day, all things considered. Though 'Yuuma' had been a bit late, Issei had got himself a bit more evidence in his information war with his school's supernaturals when a woman who looked like a cosplayer handed him a pamphlet inscribed with a magic circle.
According to Ddraig, the circle belonged to a Devil. So, there were definitely Devils in Kuoh, and neither the ORC or the Council were Fallen Angels because the energy he'd managed to detect from them on rare occasions was vastly different from that of 'Yuuma'. Thus, he was finally sure that he attended a highschool with a decently high population of Devils.
Par for the course, really.
The date had been fun. They'd been to a restaurant and the arcade, along with walking around and talking about various things. For a lot of it, Issei's date appeared to be lying through her teeth – but when the conversation ended up at the Church, he'd been surprised. The anger she'd displayed for an instant – it hadn't been hatred, the ugly emotion he'd expect from a Fallen Angel. It had been a pure rage, a righteous anger, that he himself had known several times.
But that was a mystery for another time, because when they'd ended up in the park, the girl had revealed her true colours.
It seemed that she'd actually gained a few inches in height, though that might just have been her posture changing. Her figure was still slight, a direct contradiction to her massive chest, and he could most definitely tell.
Her legs up to mid-thigh, and her arms up to mid-bicep were clad in leather boots and gloves respectively, with plated guards at her knees. Pauldrons extended from her shoulders, seemingly attached to the corset-like leather wrapped just below her chest, supporting her bust. A strip of leather preserved her modesty there, seemingly attached to the choker around her neck by an arrangement of leather straps.
Her ensemble was completed by a pair of bottoms that had less material than even a bikini, its material covering her absolute territory down and around to the curve of her rear, but not bothering with her cheeks at all. One half of its supporting arch was composed of three thin strips, while the other was a single, thicker band.
It was modesty inverted; covering just about everything that could normally be left bare, and emphasising what should be private. Yes, this was what he'd expect from a Fallen Angel – well, that and the two massive crow's wings sprouting from her back.
"I actually had fun today..." The woman told him, a rush of power preceding the formation of a weapon in her hand. It was jagged, like a shard of broken glass that had been extended into a fair facsimile of a spear. It was almost the same colour as her eyes, a darkened violet like twilight, and the young man was quite well assured that it was deadly.
"I didn't expect it, but you were a good date. For that, I'll tell you – my name is Raynare. Now go to your rest, cursing the God who placed a Sacred Gear within you!" Then she threw, the air screaming around the point of the weapon that now sought Issei's heart.
Instead, it met dirt as he side-stepped neatly.
"W-what?!" Raynare seemed honestly shocked, and he knew why. That attack was too fast for a normal human to see coming, let alone dodge.
There was a rush of crimson light around Issei's left arm, rising from his skin and rotating like a drill as he called for his weapon. It formed quickly, metal the colour of fresh blood running up his limb to the elbow and taking shape.
The fingers were talons, bladed and pointed to form deadly weapons. The back of the hand held a glowing emerald orb, currently radiating power and luminscence like a small sun. The metal leading up to his elbow was ridged, like overlapping scales, and extended out the sides like thorns. It terminated in an arrow-head shape that protruded a good few inches beyond his elbow, two golden spikes sweeping back to either side of it like horns.
As it settled in place, Issei clenched his hand with the sound of metal on metal. "Ddraig, start the countdown."
'Already done, Partner.'
The brunet stared down his opponent, who was currently running through a train of thought. "You...you knew, didn't you?"
"That you were a Fallen? That you planned to kill me?" The young man grinned. "Yep – knew it from the start. Your intent was clear from the beginning, and you didn't even bother suppressing your power."
The raven-haired woman recoiled, a hint of fear entering her gaze. "But...why...?"
"A couple of reasons," the teen informed her. "One, you knew who I was and where I'd be. That means this was pre-mediated, and I'd like to know who wants me dead and why." He tilted his head sideways. "Though you seem to have answered that second part already."
"The second reason, is that I haven't gone on a date in ages, and I really wanted to get back in practice." That was depressingly true; since Matsuda and Motohama had started clinging on him, girls tended to avoid him like the plague. It wasn't fair; he'd dedicated his life to the cause of the Gentleman, and his unwilling association with two perverts ruined all his hard work!
Still, a Gentleman never rushed, never hurried, never pushed. They waited patiently, and if the women came to them, they accepted it as being worth the effort.
Raynare's eye twitched, and Issei felt her power beginning to gather again. He took a stance, right foot back, fist drawn as if ready to punch. "And the third reason..."
[16 Times: EXPLOSION!]
"I want to know what you're protecting!"
Raynare's features froze in shock, her grip on her power fell apart along with her light spear, and she was completely unable to dodge as Issei's figure sprang forward like a bullet, his right hand glowing with red light as the heel of his palm rested gently on her collarbone. "Ryushinchi no Jutsu: Anmin!"
There was a flare of scarlet, a massive rush of built-up power running through the teen's hand and into the woman he was touching. The magic invaded her system, running along the conduits of her power and suffusing just about every inch of her. Then it contracted, wrapping softly around her mind and torso, imposing its wielder's will on Raynare's body.
A second later, her own magic was overwhelmed, and the Fallen Angel toppled over onto her target's shoulder as the power of a Dragon willed her gently to sleep.
Issei let out a breath as she fell, adjusting his stance to support her properly. "Man – a gentleman shouldn't talk about a lady's weight, but good lord how does she not have back pains?"
'She's a Fallen Angel, lad.' Scott reminded him. 'She's between five to ten times as powerful as a human, even if she's basically a grunt. Her spine is more than capable of dealing with the strain.'
"Right, right...Not Human..." The brunet muttered to himself, grunting as he dismissed the Boosted Gear. A forward push of his shoulder set the woman to crumpling backwards, and he got an arm under her upper back. "But still, these wings weigh a ton!"
From the treeline, a petite figure with white hair, cut in a bob and held in place by two black hairclips like a cat's face, watched with amber eyes as the teen she'd been assigned to watch hefted the Fallen Angel in his arms and started off toward the other side of the clearing.
"...Buchou needs to know about this..."
"So he beat her?"
Rias Gremory sipped from the tea Akeno had just brewed, sitting back in her wood and velvet chair as she contemplated the report Koneko Toujou had just given her. They were in the Occult Research Club's meeting room, housed inside the old school building on the Kuoh campus.
It was shadowy and wood-panelled, lit by gas lamps in the Victorian style. That same style applied to most of the room; all the furniture was aged, wooden and cushioned with velvet. It was largely lined up against one wall, the other side of the room having been converted to serve as a bath. Engraved on the floor was a large, highly complex circle containing several geometric shapes, phrases in strange languages, and odd symbols.
The red-haired Devil set her tea down, caressing her temples with her fingers. "And after he knocked her out, using some technique you didn't recognise in conjunction with the Boosted Gear, he then took her home with him?"
The white-haired girl nodded.
From her standing position beside Rias, Akeno giggled. "Ara ara, to think that a self-proclaimed Gentleman would do such a thing..."
Across the room, a throat was cleared. "Actually, senpai, I don't think it's what you're thinking of."
Three pairs of eyes turned to Yuuto Kiba, 'Kuoh's Prince', whose blond locks and steel-gray eyes had combined with his known physicality and aristocratic features to earn him a female following within the school unmatched by any other. As a gentleman himself, he was the most likely to understand.
"A part of the Gentleman's Code is 'never leave a woman in distress'. Koneko-chan, you said he told her he was curious?" A nod from the petite girl. "Then most likely, he decided that the best course of action was to take her to a place where he can question her while both their safeties are ensured."
Rias raised an eyebrow. "And he believes his home to be this place?"
The blond swordsman shrugged. "Well, considering what happened when you tried to teleport in, Buchou..."
The redhead blushed a little at that. When she had become interested in the underclassman, she had attempted to infiltrate his home in order to gain a better understanding of him. Instead, she had found herself bouncing right off some kind of anti-teleportation barrier, and had discovered later that the phrase 'It is polite to knock before entering' had appeared emblazoned across her forehead.
It had vanished twenty-four hours later, but her Peerage still liked to remind her of it.
"Alright, so his home is protected." She took another sip of tea. "The question now is, what do we do about this?"
"What the Hell am I going to do about this?"
Issei was sitting in his kitchen, a cup of tea in hand as he conferred with his tenants. Raynare was asleep in a bed upstairs, currently surrounded by several magic circles. One would alert him when she woke, another would drain magic from the area around her and thereby stop her forming any light spears, while another would form an air-permeable barrier all over her like a second skin. It should be strong enough to prevent her moving from her position.
'Well lad, I can't say I've got much experience with interrogations,' Scott admitted. 'But if I was in your place, I'd suggest setting her at ease. You put her down with no issue, so she knows she can't beat you. If you can get her over her fear, then she might start to think well of you.'
"Alright, that's one option." Issei muttered, at the same time knowing that he liked the sound of that one. It was the gentlemanly thing to do, after all. "Ddraig, you have any thoughts on this?"
A chuckle like an avalanche rumbled. 'Diplomacy among Dragons is very simple, Partner. One demands, and the other either surrenders or fights. It's the same for everything; territory, food, treasure, mating-'
"Right, right, I get the point!" The brunet told him quickly, steering his mind away from thoughts of the Red Dragon Emperor and mating. "I had enough of that conversation after you and Tiamat's seven hundredth anniversary."
Issei and Scott shuddered as one. Apparently, Ddraig got talkative when he got melancholic; and being part of the same soul meant there was absolutely no way to tune him out.
"I don't think Ddraig's approach will work," Issei sighed. "I've beaten her once already, and using that fear to get what I want is just...ungentlemanly."
The Dragon grumbled, but relented. He knew his host had some odd ideas about interacting with the females of his species, largely brought about by the large human that had shared the Boosted Gear's city-scape ever since the child's birth.
'So, we do this our way then lad?'
The brunet grinned. "Yep. We do what we were born to do – charm a beautiful woman."
When Raynare awoke, the first thing she noticed was that she was still alive.
That was both good and bad; good, because she didn't particularly want to die. Bad, because there were some things in life far worse than death.
She opened her eyes, trying to look around. However, she found that she couldn't turn her head. Attempts to move other parts of her body met with equal failure, and she felt a rising panic as the possible implications of her paralysis set in.
"Ah, you're awake then? Good morning!"
The sudden voice would have caused her to jump if she could; instead, her eyes immediately shot in the direction of the sound. Standing within her field of view, but out of arm's reach, was the brunet she'd tried to kill. He was smiling at her, an honest expression of joy, and he appeared to be carrying a tray.
Her imagination kicked into overdrive, wondering what could possibly be on it. Drugs to make her talk? Torture implements?
"I brought breakfast. I'm afraid I don't know what you like, so I made do with something Western."
Apparently, the tray held sausages, beans, eggs and several slices of toast. A mug of tea steamed beside it where the metal service platter was set down somewhere beside her. "Ah, you can't move your head can you? Sorry about that, let me just..."
There was a rustle of cloth, a brief whisper of the same power that had overcome her the previous night, and she found that she could move her head. "There we go; that ought to do it."
She immediately began scanning the room with her wider range of vision. It was fairly standard; the walls were a light blue, unadorned save for a window which showed a morning sun and an open door leading into a hallway. There was a wardrobe standing in a corner, and she appeared to be lying on a fairly standard double bed.
"You're in my house," the brunet informed her. "One of the guest rooms. You slept through the night, though I have to say that I thought I'd have to find a hammock or something until your wings folded themselves away."
Ah, that was right. Her wings had retracted...but if they'd disappeared, then-!
Apparently knowing what she was thinking, Issei turned a bit red. "Yeah...I hadn't realised that your outfit wasn't...well, you know, real. While the whole 'magical clothes' thing is kinda cool, it seems a bit impractical if it falls apart overnight." He gestured to the sheets covering her. "I'm afraid I don't have any female clothing around besides the stuff my mum left, and she's not as...well, she has different sizes. So, I guess I can only apologise."
The raven haired Fallen stared at the teen beside her for a long moment, before speaking slowly. "It's...fine..." It was hardly the first time someone had seen her naked; indeed, it was far from the first night she'd spent unclothed in someone else's bed. But all the same, waking up naked after being defeated in battle was rather unsettling. "Why..." She coughed, and brown eyes widened slightly.
"Damn, I actually forgot didn't I? Breakfast first, talk later." Issei reached up to seemingly empty air, and a glowing red Magic Circle manifested there. His fingers danced over it, switching out symbols, replacing phrases, rearranging the shapes. After about twenty seconds, he stopped, letting the circle disappear. "Right – you should be able to sit up now, and move your arms. You can't move beyond the bed yet, but apart from that you should be fine."
Cautiously, the Fallen Angel started moving. One hand was moved to hold the bedsheets in place, while the other helped push her into an upright sitting position. The brunet watching her frowned. "You can't eat breakfast with only one hand..." He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "Right, give me a minute."
With that, he left the room.
Sitting on the bed, Raynare leaned back against the headboard and tried to understand what was going on. She had, well, she thought she had successfully found her way inside the teen's guard, knowing that he possessed a powerful Sacred Gear of some kind. She'd gone through the motions on the date...though she had to admit, at some point she'd come to enjoy it. The pleasant conversation, the lack of lustful glances, the genuine kindness he'd shown her... It had all been...nice.
Then had come the evening and the park, and she'd put herself in the frame of mind to do what she needed to. She'd released her transformation...and looking back, that's where it had gone wrong. He hadn't been scared, hadn't been surprised, hadn't even blinked as her wings unfurled and she summoned her battle outfit.
She should have known, but all her focus was on getting through the act without backing out. She had to kill him – there was no other choice. And she'd thrown her spear...only for him to dodge it easily, as if he'd known it was coming for minutes beforehand.
What were the reasons he had given her? He wanted to know the reason behind her attempt, the person who ordered it... The raven-haired woman's eye twitched again. Apparently he had really wanted a date – enough to take out a murderous Fallen Angel, even. Just what the Hell kind of man was he?! - but he'd had one more reason.
What she was protecting...
Telling him would be a risk – a massive risk. So far, the Emperor seemed benevolent; she was unharmed, her restraints were no more invasive than necessary, and her modesty had been protected...for the most part. But there was always the chance that it was an act; that he was waiting to show his true colours.
But if he wasn't; if he was a good person, as he appeared to be; then, just maybe...
She jerked her head to the doorway as the teen entered, grinning and carrying a garment of some kind. "It's my old man's dressing gown. It's the biggest thing we've got around here, I'm afraid – you wouldn't be able to close mine or my mum's, so..." He shrugged. "Watcha gonna do."
Brown eyes closed for a moment, then both his hands began to glow a dull crimson. Raynare tensed, but Issei simply passed the dressing gown through the suddenly visible curve of the barrier with a few sparks of energy, placing it on the bed before following it with the breakfast tray.
"Right," he gestured to the food and clothing. "Get that on, and get some food in you. I'll be back in about fifteen minutes, once I've cleaned up downstairs. At that point, we'll talk, okay?"
Not waiting for her to say anything, he tossed a wave over his shoulder and left the room, pulling the door closed. There was no click of an extra lock, no wave of power to indicate an alarm spell or similar. It was to give her privacy, rather than to constrain her further.
The Fallen stared at the now-closed door for a long moment, before looking down to the cotton garment and the steaming food set across her knees. Well, odds were he didn't wait this long just to poison her...
Fifteen minutes later, true to his word, Issei knocked on the bedroom door. "Raynare?" He called. "Can I come in?"
There was a moment of silence, before a mostly collected female voice called back. "Yes."
Pushing open the portal, he crossed to the seat beside the bed, settling down so that his head was level with his guest's. She had donned the dressing gown, and the brunet found himself thankful that his old man was built so similarly to Scott; if he'd been any thinner, she would never have been able to wear it.
"How was breakfast?" He asked, trying to keep things light. He wanted her to feel at ease, after all, not pressured.
The Fallen's cheeks took on a rosy hue, and she looked to the tray on her lap. It had been picked clean; nothing remained but some traces of egg yolk and the tomato sauce from the beans. "It was...good." She finally told him, and he took her compliment as a good sign – of both his cooking, and of her comfort level.
"I'm glad to hear it." He smiled at her, before rubbing his hands together. "Now, we can talk."
Raynare tensed up immediately, her eyes darting back and forth while her arms raised slightly in defense. Right – not that comfortable yet. Issei chuckled, hoping to defuse her anxiety with good humour. "Don't worry – I'd just like the answers to a couple of questions, and we'll decide what's going to happen afterwards."
Dark amethyst eyes appraised him, scrutinising his features for deceit they would not find. "What questions?"
Ah, that was a good sign – she was willing to consider answering him. "Well, it's not much," he told her. "I already know my Sacred Gear is why you were going to kill me; but from how reluctant you seemed, it probably wasn't your idea. So, I was just wondering – who set you on me?"
The woman stared at him for a long moment, then down to her lap, where her fingers started playing with one another. "...No one. No one ordered me to kill you; I acted on my own." She glanced up at him again. "I didn't really want to; but I was going to anyway."
'Interesting...I believe she is being truthful.' Ddraig's tone was curious, and his comment was supported by a grunt from Scott.
"That's interesting..." Issei echoed, tapping his chin. "And I bet that the answer to my other question will tell me why." The Fallen tensed up again, obviously aware of what he was going to ask next.
"Tell me, Raynare, you Fallen Angel who was willing to push through with a murder you didn't wish to commit; what was your reason? What did you wish to protect so badly?"
The woman shifted uncomfortably on the bed, and Issei leaned back in his chair to make sure she had enough space. He remained quiet, letting her decide whether or not she wanted to talk to him about this. For a creature of sin, he'd found her to be quite reasonable, and apparently she had at least some qualms with murder; that told him she wasn't a lost cause. She was a woman in distress, and it was his job to look after her if she'd let him.
"...There's a girl," She spoke finally, her gaze burning into his own as she looked for any sign of malice or ill intent. "A former nun, by the name of Asia Argento. The Church excommunicated her, and my...superior 'recruited' her. She's coming here, soon..." Raynare took a deep, shuddering breath. "She's an innocent. She was kicked out for healing a Devil she didn't know was a Devil, despite not having a single other sin to her name, despite being hailed for years as a Holy Maiden and a miracle healer."
The woman clenched her fists. "When she arrived, we are...we were to carry out a ritual on the next full moon, and extract her Sacred Gear, so that his faction can make use of its power." The way she spat the word 'his', Issei didn't need his ability to read people to understand that Raynare had a deep-seated, soul-rooted hatred of him.
"It would kill her," she whispered. "That bastard wanted me to kill an innocent girl, just so he could get his hands on her power." She looked down at her hands. "I thought...I thought, if I could get you instead, bring you to the edge of death and hold you there until the day, I could placate him. Maybe I could at least buy more time for her...so I could plan to get her away."
Her head hung low, face shrouded by raven hair, the Fallen let her hands relax and fall to the covers. "That's it. I couldn't bear the thought of killing that girl, so I was going to kill you in her place."
There was silence in the bedroom. Issei sat back, fingers steepled, thinking and muttering under his breath as he conversed with his tenants. On the bed, Raynare simply waited for judgement to be passed. This was an incredible risk she was taking – but this was the current generation's Red Dragon Emperor, he who possessed the soul of the Great Welsh Dragon in the form of the Boosted Gear, one of the Thirteen Longinus which had the potential to slay a God.
If anyone could stand up to...that man, it would be this person. She could only hope he truly was the person he appeared to be, or otherwise she had likely just damned herself and Asia both.
Finally, after several minutes, the brunet stopped sub-vocalising and refocussed his attention on the Fallen. "Fallen Angel Raynare," he began, and she felt compelled to listen.
"You willingly, and in full knowledge of your actions, planned and attempted to execute the deception and murder of a seventeen year old unaware of the supernatural world. This is a fact that cannot be ignored."
Her hands clenching again, the woman started cursing herself for ever thinking that telling him the truth was a good idea. She should have known, should never have placed her trust in someone like this... "However."
Her head shot back up, her gaze meeting brown. They were sombre, but there was a glint of something there that may well have been humour – or was it, perhaps, compassion?
"Your reasons for doing so were pure and true, worthy of any true Angel. You acted in defense of an innocent, at great personal risk to yourself. This also cannot be ignored." Issei stood up. "In a just world, these facts would balance one another."
Just as her rising hopes seemed fit to burn, Raynare saw the roguish grin on her host's face. "Fortunately for you, this is not a just world – and I'm about as biased as they come."
The Magic Circle flared into life again, and Issei pressed his left hand to its surface. There was another flash, and then the various lines and symbols which composed scattered across the air like shattered glass. Briefly, a scarlet dome shimmered into view around the bed, formed of countless interlocking characters – then, it dimmed and vanished, its quiet hum of power disappearing too.
A touch shakily, Raynare looked to the brunet beside her, who was extending a hand to her. Slowly, carefully, she placed her own hand in his, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Pressing down on his arm, she rose too; without her boots, she found she was actually about an inch shorter than him. "Shall we start over?"
He took the hand that he was holding, pressing his lips gently to its back. "I'm Issei Hyoudou, the Red Dragon Emperor."
Staring back at him for a long moment, a hopeful and delicate smile spread across the Fallen Angel's face. "I'm Raynare, former Guardian Angel."
A genuine smile made its way across Issei's features. "It's good to meet you, Raynare. I think this is going to be the start of something great."
His eyes took on a determined shine. "Now, tell me about this girl who needs protecting."
"So it's decided?"
Rias nodded, looking out the window of her club room, Akeno standing behind her. "Yes. I'll approach him."
The dark haired girl behind her frowned slightly. "And if he isn't receptive to your advances?"
The red-headed Devil pressed her fingers to the cool glass before her, a familiar set of troubled features looking back at her from the crystalline surface. "Then...I suppose my last chance will be gone."
A supportive hand landed on her shoulder, and the young woman held it tight. She just had to hope that he'd be willing to listen to her. Otherwise...the results didn't bear thinking about.
'Issei Hyoudou...please, be the kind of person you seem to be...'
Onee-sama: A respectful term for an older sister.
Youkai: Catch-all term for native Japanese supernatural species, ranging from Nekomata (cat demons) to Kitsune (fox spirits) and everything in between. Largely humanoid with animal traits, or vice versa.
Ano: Similar to 'Alors' in French, or 'Um' in English. Doesn't really have a meaning, just a sound that you make while thinking or trying to get attention.
Ryushinchi no Jutsu: Art of the Gentleman Dragon, a precursor phrase to a branch of Issei's personal techniques in this fic.
Anmin: Restful Sleep or Good Night's Sleep, a technique of Issei's creation which uses his Draconic Aspect of Dominion to invade the target's body with magic, overwhelming their will and putting them to sleep for between twelve to twenty four hours according to their strength relative to Issei. Doesn't work on targets with a powerful will, or greater strength than the user. (Trivia: Issei invented this technique for dealing with excitable children, overworked parents and for getting out of sticky situations with law enforcement.)
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Manners Maketh Dragon! This is my first foray into Highschool DxD, though I have some experience writing in other fandoms in other places, so if anyone spots glaring errors please let me know – that's what reviews are for, after all.
So, the point of divergence here is, obviously, the OC – Scott. There's a whole story behind him, but it will be revealed in due time. However, what is obvious has already been stated; his influence awakened Issei's connection to Ddraig early, and he also guided his personality somewhat. Issei's character has always revolved around women (he's the goddamn Oppai Dragon, people!) but here it's in a different way.
He'll be a fair bit more powerful and diverse than in canon, having been living a different kind of life, but I'm aiming to include that same core of a fiercely loyal young man with the drive to achieve his ambitions – in this case, to become the greatest Gentleman he can, instead of to build himself a harem.
Which will probably happen anyway, to be honest, but that's all in the future.
So, canon's already off the rails. Raynare's way out of character, she didn't kill Issei and he's decided to work with her. Meanwhile, Rias is faced with a Longinus class human who may or may not be aligned with the Fallen, who might be the key to all her dreams or the torch that burns them. And I'm just getting started.
It's only going to diverge more, and at high speed too, so you have been warned.
I hope you enjoyed this first chapter. If you have suggestions, something you liked or something you didn't, drop a review and I'll try and include more of it or fix the issue. I do this for enjoyment, both mine and that of my audience; if you aren't happy reading it, I'm not happy writing it.
Hope to see you next time – ja ne!