A/N: What's up readers! As promised I have delivered a chapter progressing with where the story left off. Now, during my time writing this, I've come up with a few points to rant about again, but I'll do that at the bottom. For now, let's move onto the comments- oh, and also check out my other stories and leave reviews for too, that'll be very much appreciated.
fpinheiro96: Great chapter! I can't wait for the next one!
Me: Me too! But these take a lot of work.
rufus264: Awesome chapter man enjoyed it
Me: Thank you Rufus! I would especially like to shout you out because you've been commenting probably the longest.
JCarrasco: Keep it up I love this story, please.
Me: Not gonna stop till it's over.
keybladelight: I just hope you don' his version of erza and Mira get lemon with Natsu but I hope you make the Levy x Gajeel be romance and hope you make the Erza and Jellal be romance but also make her and Rias be friends Natsu Earthland universe of course but I forgot that you could make lucy appear she his the girl number one in Natsu heart I mean how many time did Natsu get excited when she saw lucy naked I hope you could make Ophis be in Natsu harem hey there are both dragon so I think would be cool to see them be in a one date.
Me: Okay... don't understand all of what you said but you'll see what happens when we get there.
thehappy: I was wondering when you would post your portion. And im...not bipolar with my writing...not at all
Me: Yup finally got it. And here's another one.
"Bold"= Magic/Person or item of Magic/Giant Mythical Beings/Strong title held like Dragon King
'Italics'= Thoughts/Reading from text/Call from item
Underline=Only happens when Bold text says Magic or a Person or object of Magic
36. Welcome to my Home Part III
It was a beautiful summer day. The birds were chirping, the children playing, and the cicadas being as loud as ever. Issei couldn't think of a better way to wake up. Or rather, that's what he wished for, deep down in his heart of hearts.
On the contrary, it was dark- but not just the "let me open my curtains 'cause it's dark" kind of dark, but the one where it's classified as a total absence of light. Issei couldn't see a thing, only black in his surroundings. However, that's when things got interesting. Despite him not being able to see anything around him, he was able to see himself, as in his own body. And that's when it hit him: he's been here before.
Previously, Issei was sitting cross-legged in the uninterrupted darkness, but now he stood tall with an inquiry about his whereabouts. Yes, he knows he's been here before, a vague deja vu plaguing his thoughts, but he couldn't pinpoint where his memory was dragging him to- in fact, he couldn't remember anything!
'Okay, calm down, Issei. There's no need to exaggerate an already terrifying problem. I do recall being on Rias' train, then a flash of light and strong wind… and nothing. I got nothing.' Issei sighed with a strong resentment toward his lack of information. If remembering was his problem then really, it was his brain's fault for being so unreliable. Really, how can you count on your mind for the important stuff when it's just going to screw you over like this-
"Wait! I know where I am!" He cried out to no one in particular. His cries of jubilee echoed in this strange dimension which he finally recognized as his disappointingly empty mindscape. Now, he had one piece of the puzzle and one more to go: what happened on that train? Issei went back to thinking on his own, hoping that one of his divergent internal conversations would lead him to the answer as it did before. But with no luck, he found nothing to lead himself toward a dependable answer, but he did find another way to get confirmation.
"Hey! Hey, Ddraig! Ddraig, where are you!? Can you come out please!?" Issei yelled at the top of his lungs as he called out to the legendary beast living inside of him. Throughout his time thinking to himself, he did remember that he had the ability to talk face to face with Ddraig in this mindscape. Although he didn't know if there was a proper way, he decided to try and called out to him, hoping for an answer.
No matter how desperate Issei may have seen, Ddraig had no business appearing in a dramatic scene. Sparking streaks of orange light flickered in his vision before they combusted into a ball of flames and heat. He covered his exposed face with his arms and peaked between his forearms to witness a giant green orb being formed by the fire. Then, once the fire subsided to a tolerable amount, Issei squinted his eyes to get a better look at the transparent gem, or rather what he perceived as see-through. Suddenly, causing him to jerk back, a huge ethereal eye twitched in the green orb, showing a dilated black pupil and a rough wrinkled eyelid.
"What do you want?" Ddraig's voice reverberated through the orb, "I was sleeping just fine until you came."
"Well, that's what I wanna know!" Issei retaliated, "What exactly happened to me!? Where are my friends!?"
Ddraig sighed briefly but heavily in his deep exhausted tone. He told Issei to touch the orb if he wants to know what happened- Ddraig had no clue that Issei would get hit so hard it would affect his memories… What a shame. Questionably, he trotted over to the still burning gem but felt no immediate danger; the power this orb was emitting was very familiar and comforting, swaying him to then touch it without hesitation.
And all of it- everything single detail flooded back. The pain, the sorrow, the guilt of losing his friends crashed over him in a frenzy of emotions, and the last image he saw was purple and black.
The brief trauma shocked his consciousness back into his body, flexing his abdominal muscles and flailing his arms as he quickly jolted into an upright position in… a bed? And a comfy one at that. 'What the hell happened while I was passed out?'
Immediately he examined his body, noting the strikingly obvious presence of no pain- not even headache! Next, he looked around in the room and saw one person, one maid, standing by the closed door. Before anything else, he thought she looked pretty hot- which she was admittedly- then realized she had been staring at him all this time. Feeling a small shiver go up to his spine, he exited the tightly stuffed covers and slipped on the sandals resting near the nightstand.
Warily walking to the creepy hot babe (his thoughts, not mine) he thought an icebreaker would be a nice place to start, "Huh, hi! I'm Issei, a pawn in Rias Gremory's peerage. You don't happen to know anything that happened in the time I was passed out do you?" After receiving no verbal reply, he did see her hands unfold behind her back and reveal his set of clothes. That's when he looked down and saw his body dressed in pajamas.
"Please, Issei-sama, put these on and I will explain on the way." The maid said with a caring voice despite no change in her attitude.
'Damn! Issei-sama! I could get used to this!' Graciously taking the clothes, he awkwardly got dressed in front of the madam and excused himself for not asking about where to change. Dismissing his lack of forward-thinking, the maid opened the door into a hallway bowed before raising her hand, inviting him to follow, "Oh yeah, of course."
Walking leisurely down the intricately designed carpet, Issei got his wish granted once the sexy maid began to speak. Just as promised, she began talking about what had happened, although leaving out a few parts for him to discover himself. She explained that he was taken in and cared for here in one of the Gremory villas as were his friends and they were waiting for him in the front yard.
Excited by the aspect of seeing his friends again, Issei asked if they could move faster to their destination, to which she calmly replied, "No. You're going to want to take it easy for as long as you can."
Slightly disheartened and confused, he followed her instructions and strode behind her. Soon their walk was punctuated by what seemed to be an entryway pronounced by two glamorous doors leading to what Issei could only assume was the front yard. Having the maid open one of the doors, Issei walked through what looked like another dimension because of what was on the other side. A wonderful bed of flowers covered the side of the porch with a large water fountain in the middle of each garden. And along the stretched pathway were multiple gazebos shaded by thick and tall trees with a dense flurry of leaves.
In one of them, he saw his friends, his Nakama, sitting down eating what seemed to be little sandwiches with Azazel standing by. Filled with absolute glee, Issei left the maid behind and sprinted toward the open shelter with joy and relief expressed on his face.
"Guys! Rias! Asia! Kiba! Everyone's okay!" With his loud squealing, they turned their attention to the dragon wielder running with all his might- it appeared as though he would soon leap into somebody's arms at this point. Seeing their perverted comrade up and active carved deep smiles on their faces as well, waving jauntily back at Issei. However, the group became quite curious once he suddenly skidded on his heels to a stop and equipped his Sacred Gear, "What the Hell! What is that thing doing here!?" He stood apprehensively away from the gazebo after his view became clear; hidden slightly behind the giant trees rested the same purple and black Dragon that had attacked them before- the reason they were in that mess!
Rias, after gathering her thoughts, walked to where he kept his guard up and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, "What's happening? Why aren't we attacking!?"
"Issei... " She sighed and looked briefly toward the ground with a hint of grief escaping her tone, "I'm the one who brought him here. That battle you went through… it was a test so we could measure your current capabilities."
Dumbfounded and feeling cheated, Issei questioned softly, "What do you mean?"
Rias explained that it had started promptly on the train ride here. When she left with Azazel, they had a talk with her brother to finalize the plan being used to estimate their strengths and weaknesses, and the utility was the Dragon, Tanin, "That was a 'warm-up' to see how far we've come as a group. I'm sorry for what I put you through, Issei- everyone."
"Aw! Rias, stop babying them! It's because of your hesitation and softness that's holding back your team," Azazel remarked with a wave of his hand, now addressing the rest of the peerage, "Listen, I arranged that little farce because I wanted to see for myself how you all would handle a surprise attack- now I know exactly what to improve for each and every one of you."
"You did all of that to gauge our abilities? That's dastardly." Kiba groaned, cracking his neck with a sore memory of being knocked around.
"Haha, you're exceptionally right, Kiba, but it was absolutely necessary, believe it or not," Then after hearing- and feeling- a huff of hot air, Azazel went right back to business, "Oh that's right! I almost forgot to introduce our guest to Issei!"
Fixing himself up from his previous resting position, the purple Dragon nodded down at Issei while he mildly waved his right hand which began to light up with the rest of his gauntlet. 'What's going on now!?' Issei panicked trying to control his Sacred Gear.
"You see, this awesome guy towering over us is named Tanin, The Blaze Meteor Dragon- a previous Dragon King turned Devil due to… let's say an external locus," Azazel explained watching Issei experience a double-take at the new information.
"I was summoned at the request of Sirzechs-dono, Lady Rias' brother. The Fallen Angel Governor here owes me a favor though for what he's asking me to do next," The intimidating entity now introduced as Tanin explained his reasons for being here with the group but suddenly turned his attention to Issei's glowing gauntlet. After staring intently for an uncomfortable amount of time, he addressed him, "It sure has been a while Ddraig. A couple of hundred years if I counted correctly."
"You're right, Tanin. You sure are a sight for sore eyes." Ddraig responded solemnly.
"Wait you can see him!?" Issei, slightly unnerved by all of this asked again, "Hey, if you knew the guy why didn't you say something before?"
"It wouldn't have made a difference if I told you he was friend or foe- you would've gotten your ass kicked anyway. Tanin didn't even use a hundredth of his firepower." Ddraig responded nonchalantly causing the teens who did face off against the Dragon to cringe in fright for a split second.
"Well, it's only right to assume that Tanin is still here to train us, right? That's probably what Azael owes him." Xenovia deduced while staring up at the Dragon. With a small yelp of excitement, she grinned at the aspect of training to fight Natsu once he comes back.
"Woo, it looks like we got another smart cookie. To give part of the answer, yes he'll be a mentor, but not yours." Azazel elaborated, giving Rias a quick look signaling her of something.
"Hey, what does-" Gasper was promptly cut off after Rias clapped her hands while turning to face the rest of her peerage.
"Alright everybody, we can continue these questions once we get somewhere more comfortable, specifically my house- or I should say our main house." Not bothering to address their befuddlement, Rias put two fingers in her mouth and whistled loud enough to cause a small echo in the area. Not too long after, a rumbling noise could be heard approaching them at alarming speeds coming from the back of the villa. Appearing out of the dust from the dirt road came a pair of pitch-black steed carrying behind them a large carriage comparable to a compact trailer, slowly coming to a stop once they entered the stoned pathway adjacent to the gazebos. Issei and Gasper blinked repeatedly seeing the devilish horses close and personal.
From far away the first aspect you notice is the remarkably clean and silky black hair covering their body, but the most emphasis came upon the red and black flames produced by the mane and hooves, which follows with a realization as to how large the beasts were; with rough estimates Issei imagined them being able to carry at least 4 people!
Instructing them to get on the hellish carriage, Rias invited herself in last and jokingly excused Tanin for not being able to fit in the ride. Snorting at the remark, he replied by flying away in the direction of their current destination. 'Good. He's sticking to the plan.' Signaling the black steeds of their departure, the majestic fiends galloped at impressive yet moderate speeds heading for Rias' home. The stone path led to a clearing in a forest where the trail turned to dirt again and the smooth travel became a bit less comfortable. They rode through the deep and exotic forest that seemed to go on forever while she explained her family's tendency to completely leave the wildlife alone unless needed for further development. She also had to warn Issei and Xenovia not to touch the passing trees as the majority of lifeforms- even the flora- were considered hostile and lethal, leading to the story her father told her over communications of the time Natsu traveled through them to get to the Southern territory.
With the thick trees blocking the bulk of the unorthodox colored sky, it became a slight relief once more clearings started to appear and the dense woods and weeds started to lighten up. Soon, another marble-paved road came into sight and Rias whistled for the horses to accelerate, leading them to exit the trees and behold a marvelous piece of architecture.
Despite speeding to the mansion, the size stayed the same in view as the details slowly revealed themselves and could only be described as a modern palace. The front of the construction was basically a massive box of stone, glass, and other glamorous material while being accented by two other attached wings to its side. Of course, they couldn't see the back or sides of the house yet but it was assumed, then confirmed by Rias, that it continued to an excessive amount. The distance they had to cover panned out to be over a mile long after exiting the dangerous woods and during that time they crossed a multitude of accessories and furnishings that just seemed to be added to fill in the large gaps of space.
Asia, Issei, and Xenovia who were openly baffled and astonished by their president's inheritance and asked how her family managed to amass such wealth and power. She answered- with some interruptions from Azazel- by swiftly elaborating their family history, explaining that after the falling out of the original Great Satans, their family was one the many who took advantage of the chaos and established a working-class system by influencing others with their above-average magical prowess. Then, over the years, the bloodline was expanded and made more powerful by merging with more powerful Devil families, creating what is now the Gremory legacy.
Luckily, the story bought enough time that the group arrived at the doors of the mansion with a dramatic entrance of thumping hooves and neighing horses. Kiba and Azazel left first and stayed near the exit step to help the others get off safely, ya know, as gentlemen do. As the remainder of people got off, the fierce carriage horses left with a breathy huff while Rias and Akeno walked to the stylized wooden entrance leaving the others to watch.
Azazel, pointing out that he saw Tanin, excused himself abruptly while simultaneously the large doors were opened by a single person. A tall woman with long silver hair and a blue maid outfit stepped out of the doorway and bowed gently toward the group of teens, "Good evening, Rias-sama, Akeno-sama. And hello again, Asia-sama." The maid lady said fixing her posture upright and nodding her head.
"I'm finally back, Grayfia," Rias answered with a large smile while Akeno bowed in response as well.
"Please, come in. This house welcomes the heiress and her peerage." Grayfia pushed the door further to accommodate the large number of people while the adolescent Devils awkwardly entered following the maid, Rias, and Akeno. The first thing you notice walking through is the sheer spaciousness provided by just the one hallway and next you see the fabulous couture. But what takes you away from all that are the greetings you get from the attending house service.
'Oh my goodness' Issei paused in his spot just to take in the majesty that entered his sight. A row of maids on either side of him going as far as the hallway ends greeted them with wonderful smiles on their faces. Now, Issei wasn't one to swing but even the men were just as beautiful, "This is amazing! Where do you find these people!?" He shouted zealously. Rias giggled at his remark and called for him to continue with the group.
"I-I'm s-s-so nervous! So m-many eyes..." Gasper exclaimed, automatically clinging to Koneko while she petted him on his head retaining her emotionless face.
"Wow, it really feels like we don't belong here." Xenovia added scouting her surroundings.
"Hey, Asia, didn't you get to stay here for a couple of days, back when Rias got hurt?" Kiba recalled turning to face the Bishop. Issei looked at her as well wanting to know exactly what she experienced.
"Well… um, I mostly stayed in the same part of the house most of the time so I could be close to Rias in case of an emergency. I-I never knew it was this large." Asia commented, circling her digits together hoping they were satisfied with her answer.
"Alright, everyone, calm down. There's no need to be so uneasy. If Natsu could live here, I think anyone can." Akeno replied jokingly while they all laughed at her statement being partially true, "Oh and if you're interested in a tour just ask me, Rias or one of the service members for help. This house is really big- it takes ten minutes just to find the bathroom."
"Hahaha, you're joking, right? There's no way-" Issei's sentence was cut prematurely once he saw the glance she gave, telling him she was dead serious, "Yup, I'm keeping a maid with me at all times."
By the time they walked past the largest portion of butlers and maids heading for the first split in the hall, a small body could be seen speeding towards them, however, their worries turned dull once they identified the small body as a child… with crimson hair. 'Wait a second...'
Just as the little boy came clearly into view, he launched himself at Rias screaming, "Rias-neesama! You're home!" Catching the boy mid-flight and spinning him around, she gleefully placed him back on the floor and lovingly rubbed his neck.
"By Satan, Millicas! Look at you! One year and you've already grown so much!" She exclaimed happily, measuring his height with her hand.
"Nee… Sama? Rias, is this your little brother?" Issei curiously asked, scratching his noggin as he has never heard from either Sirzechs or herself if they had another sibling.
"Oh, no, Millicas isn't my brother, he's my nephew, and such a cute one too!" Rias grabbed his hand and nudged him forward, "He's my actual brother's son; he's been away in Boarding school for almost a year but he gets to come home during summer break. Come on, introduce yourself."
Walking out in front, he stood hands crossed and back straight looking at her friends, "It's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, I'm Millicas Gremory."
"Aw, he's so cute!" Asia squealed.
"He's definitely a bonafide prince." Xenovia put a hand on her chin remarking his superb manners.
And that's when it hit Issei, "Then who's Sirzech's wife?"
"Watch the personal questions, Issei. If you want to know you'll have to ask him yourself." Rias said, her words carrying an undertone of admonition.
Feeling slightly intimidated, he backed off, "Nah, I'll just leave him be. He's a busy man after all." The group laughed at his response, understanding his fear. With a man as powerful as Sirzechs he was bound to be intimidating no matter how nice he is. The group continued on with the addition of Millicas to wherever Grayfia was taking them. What seemed like forever luckily ended the minute hey made a second turn down the hall leading them to a pair of purple doors as Grayfia opened them to the guests.
As they entered the room, they saw it was bathed by sunlight showing one small table and multiple little sofas with armrests in between each seat. Then in the middle of the room, sat a beautiful woman with light brown hair in a white dress drinking tea. Once the doors were opened, however, she put the warm drink down and braced for the impact that came when Millicas ran up to hug her, happily acknowledging that his big sister was here. Issei couldn't stop himself from letting his imagination run the possibilities of who the lady was with the theories most commonly leading to her being Rias' older sister- another sibling hidden in the shadows.
"You know Issei, staring at my mother won't answer any questions you have." Rias rhetorically warned, smiling at seeing his face once again meltdown.
"Rias, both of your parents are gorgeous and young! How do you cope with the fact that their faces never change!?"
"Well, we're Devils after all- we don't age quickly. And the same will happen to you too, now that you're part of our race." She answered notifying him of his fate. With a pondering look on his face, Issei didn't observe how his group had started to bow in front of the family matriarch. Being pulled down by Kiba, Issei finally read his surroundings and properly greeted her.
Giggling to herself at his odd behavior, Venelana spoke up still wrapping her arm around Millicas, "It's so nice to meet the rest of Rias' friends. I've known Akeno for a long time and only recently met Asia. Oh, I almost forgot, I'm the mother of your pretty little club president!"
Blushing at how her mother introduced herself, Rias pretended not to hear the previous statement while Akeno and Asia smiled and bowed again when acknowledged by the kind lady, "It's nice to see you again too, Venelana-sama." Akeno replied. Asia followed up with a small greeting as well.
Walking closer to the tightly-packed group, Venelana put a finger on her chin and scanned the teens until her eyes landed back on Issei "You know, I've heard a lot about you Issei, but this isn't how I expected you to be. I thought you would act more brash and loud."
"Uh-huh, what do you mean? How do you know me?"
"Don't be silly, my daughter told me everything about all of you! Especially how you and Natsu are always a pain in her side. Plus, I saw you fight with all your heart in the rating game against that pusillanimous fellow Raiser," Sighing with much apprehension she continued, "I told my dense husband to talk to Rias before it even started but he insisted with going through. I'm just glad my darling has found good pieces for her peerage."
Feeling a great deal of pride after her praise Issei chuckled and laughed it off, trying his best to come off as modest, "Oooh, you know, it's nothing Mrs. Gremory! Haha, just doing the best I can do! Your compliments are too much!" He exclaimed scratching the back of his neck.
And Rias, becoming even more embarrassed, begged her mother to stop, complaining, "Why do you feel compelled to share intimate knowledge with my peers!?"
"Alright, Rias, dinner will start soon so show your friends their rooms and get them cleaned up, will you?" Venelana ordered in an all too polite voice with Rias knowing her mother all too well to disobey.
"Y-yes, of course," she turned around, "Come along everyone, you'll love the rooms I picked out for you."
40 minutes later:
Doing as she was told, Rias took her peerage around the mansion and showed them the guest hallway: a specific corridor for holding visitors and tenants. In that one hall alone resided fourteen separate bedrooms each with individual bathrooms and closets. The seven guests got their rooms picked out and designed already by Rias, accommodating the style to each of her friends. Ignoring the enormously spacious room, everything was the way each person would have tailored it- Gasper's bedroom even had a lone cardboard box in the corner- which begged the question of how she knew all of this. Rias replied by saying she has profiles on all of her members causing Akeno to laugh at the startled faces of Asia, Issei, Gasper, and Xenovia.
The group went to their separate dorms and took a shower with new suits and gowns waiting for them outside the bathroom door. Once they were pampered and stylized to Rias' standards, she led her friends to the dining hall where her parents were waiting. As they entered, they saw butlers and maids lined up against the wall and some holding out chairs for them to sit. Each occupied space had multiple small plates covered with a metal dish while more food sat in the middle for them to take. After the father welcomed them, he assured them that this meal shouldn't be made awkward by their place of authority.
Although Issei highly doubted that, he took the advice to heart and sat down, however, he didn't start to eat as soon as everyone else. He saw the proper manners shown by Akeno, Kiba, Rias and her parents and watched the rest struggle to keep up. Issei, though, wanted to devour the meal in front of him.
'Gah! It feels like I haven't eaten in days! But if I pig out Rias might punish me...' He thought solemnly. Then, once he took a look at Gasper, he didn't feel so out of place, 'The little guy didn't even touch his plate.' "Hey, Gasper, what's going on?" He talked quietly across the table.
"My stomach feels queasy eating in such a large room… and this food is too fancy for me. I don't think it was a good idea to come." He truthfully told, having a fear that his presence was somehow detrimental to the atmosphere.
"Hahaha, nonsense! If you want, I can give you your own private room with a variety of snacks to choose from, huh?" Zoticus compromised while adding a piece of cut meat to his mouth. Gasper, very pleased by the proposition, hurriedly jumped from his seat and left to where he thought he could be alone, "Wow, Rias, I always wonder where you get your pieces from. Such interesting characteristics."
"If you like Gasper so much then I'm sure you'll enjoy the rest of my friends' company." Rias implied, not bothering to entertain the conversation. If he really wanted to know her friends so badly he'll have to talk to them himself, is what she thought.
"By the way, Issei, how are your parents. It was wonderful meeting them last time." Zoticus asked, placing his utensils down.
Startled by his injection into the dialogue, he turned his full attention to Rias' father, "Oh, um, they're doing great sir. They talk about wanting to meet with you again all the time."
"Fantastic! Oh, and how are they liking the new house? I previously wanted to give them a castle off the shore but-"
"Uhg, father, how many times do I have to tell you- we can't force our culture onto others!" Rias commanded, dropping her fork and picking up her attention toward Zoticus.
"H-hold on Rias, I think I might like this new culture." Issei butted in but his voice fell to deaf ears.
"I, at the very least, wanted to give you fifty young maids to help with the house, but like before my daughter turned down the proposal." Zoticus sighed while Rias frowned at her father's stubbornness.
"I told you before that those ladies would only distract him from his more important duties."
"Hehe, yeah, the president knows me well enough to make perfect future decisions." Issei lunged his head down in disappointment while a small tear fell down his lap. 'All those beautiful babes… all those glorious assets… gone.'
"Oh, and Issei," Venelana interrupted, "Next time I see you, I can't wait to see how much stronger you'll get. The same goes for all you cuties too."
"Wait, what do you mean, 'next time'?" Ignoring Issei's question, the Gremory family went on to other conversations completely side railing on certain topics when a thought came to mind. In all of this craziness, Kiba sat next to Koneko and noticed something off with her attitude. Yes, she was quiet. Yes, she didn't interact with anyone. And yes, her face showed no emotion. But she was his friend for the longest time, and he knows when something is bothering her.
Once the meal was finished, Zoticus dismissed the party to go relax in their rooms or roam their palace if they wanted. Decided to go with the former, Issei, with a maid accompanying him, walked back to his room tired as can be. He never knew the entirety of the Gremory family was as eccentric as Rias. Somehow they balanced their quirks with absolute proper mannerism which scared him to no end, like watching a self-contained performer. During his walk, however, he was impeded by Kiba who grasped his shoulder to signify his presence. Stopping and turning around, to meet his gaze, Issei was surprised by his attitude, deducing something was off by the way he looked at him.
"We need to talk, really quick," Kiba pulled Issei aside leaving the maid standing in wait. He leaned in close and whispered, "I… I think there's something going on with Koneko."
"What? On what basis?" He asked skeptically, although, he continued to listen knowing Kiba's continued streak of trusting his gut.
"She's not acting the way she usually does. I can't describe it perfectly but sometimes she seems too distant from the group." He informed, looking strangely toward the maid who never stopped her gaze.
Thinking back, Issei did recall moments when she had a chance to reprimand him with a stinging remark, as per usual, but rather stayed silent staring off into space, "Okay… let's say something is off, what are we gonna do? She definitely won't talk to us."
"Don't worry, tomorrow I plan on bringing this up to the president. I decided to tell you this too because I believe you would be the only other person here to catch her strange behavior." Kiba pulled away from Issei and patted him on the back, walking away in the direction of his room, "Thanks for taking a listen, I appreciate it."
"Yeah, no problem," He replied, his voice drifting off in thought.
"Issei-sama, are you ready to continue?" The maid announced, calling him back from his mind.
"Yup, uh, let's go. This day has been exhausting."
The Next Morning:
Dawn broke through the skyline indicating the early morning the Gremory's had succeeded in taking. While everyone else was still asleep, Rias sat down on a chair with her parents on a large balcony watching the sunrise above their land. Drinking tea to calm her nerves for the upcoming day, she placed her cup down on the glass table and addressed her parents, "Papa, where is my brother? I'd have thought he'd want to see us off?"
"Oh yes, well about that, he's on a business trip picking up an important visitor. As you might guess it's for the upcoming conference." Zoticus answered, standing up and walking toward the ledge.
"Hmm, he's always so swamped. I know he has his responsibilities but I would like to see him relax once in a while." Rias sighed, taking another sip of tea.
"And what of Azazel? Has he been treating you justly?" He detailed his question hoping to get a similar response, but the answer he was met with was, "He's an odd person, but it seems his intentions are fair." Rias replied with a smirk.
"To think, a governor of the Fallen Angels taking care of my child- I never would have dreamt it until recently," Venelana explained, staring at her daughter.
"Well, he gets some things right. Other times..." Rias bowed her head to hide her irritated expression, but knowing their daughter inside and out, both parents erupted in laughter.
"Just keep steady, dear. I'm sure things will pan out accordingly." Zoticus' consoling words did close to nothing for Rias' aggravation for the man but it did bring a little hope.
"I guess you're onto something, seeing things that I don't seems."
Later that morning:
Once all the members of the peerage were awake, each person was told by their personal maid to meet their President in the back quarters of the mansion. It was a large clearing cemented by smooth marble with a garden surrounding the sides. When the group first walked in the "backyard", the first thing they noticed was the large fountain near the pool house all the way off to the side. Rias called for her team from the adjacent end of where they exited, in the shade of the towering walls of the castle. There presently were both Azazel and Tanin standing with their arms crossed.
As they gathered, Azazel took note of their attitudes; some were nervous, others were excited, but overall everyone was jittery, after all, who knows what to expect from this man.
"Fantastic! Looks like nobody flaked on us… Issei." Azazel said snarkily, his comment being topped with a "Hey" from the accused, "Let's get down to business. I made a training regimen that'll last for all of you a total of 25 days, exactly 5 days before the actual convention so all your fatigue should be gone by then."
"What the hell are we gonna be doing for twenty-five days!?" Issei bellowed, his voice becoming exasperated when he saw Azazel's eyes trail toward him.
"And Issei, let's start with you. My good ol' buddy Tanin here will be your mentor." He informed, watching his face contort drastically.
"This Dragon can single-handedly kill me by accident- how am I supposed to get stronger when I have to fight for my life!?" Issei argued with no intention of wanting to die.
"Exactly." Azazel retorted.
"This will be my first time training one who wields Ddraig. Don't disappoint me, boy." Tanin warned, forming what looked like a draconic smile.
"Listen Issei, your only objective for this training is to fully unlock your Balance Breaker. If you can do that, you'll be able to stand up to Vali." Azazel dragged him away from the crowd and easily tossed him up to Tanin to catch in between his sharp fingers, "Now take it easy, but work hard not to get killed. That would be unfortunate."
Being lobbed in the air by the Dragon's fingertips, Issei literally started begging for his life, "President! Rias! Please don't let this madman do what he wants! There have to be other ways!?"
Looking up with warm eyes, Rias opened her mouth and said as sweetly as she could, "Suck it up buttercup. Don't be a bitch."
'Frick, that's right! She becomes a tyrant when it comes to physical torture.' Then, with a strong gust of wind and a powerful flap of his wings, Tanin was off to the skies dragging a wiggling Issei in his hand. The rest of the group watched in pity and sympathy toward their comrade while thinking a similar experience was prepared for them as well.
For the rest of the meeting, Azazel talked to each of the teens individually, only gathering everyone to witness Issei getting taken away. His first appointment was with Akeno, sending her off to a desolate mountain range to practice her magic with an ambiguous teacher, telling her, "Make amends with the past and stop letting prior mistakes dictate current circumstances." Begrudgingly, she knew exactly what he was talking about and set off to confront the man who would train her.
Next on the counseling list was Kiba, by first praising him on being able to deliberately use his Balance Breaker on command. But being the man that he is, Azazel demanded more from Kiba than what was initially expected. Azazel told him, "Hone your technique and hold it for as long as possible. I don't want you to randomly form swords, have a picture in your mind, and focus on it, that will increase your potential. And don't worry, you won't be doing this alone, I assigned a senior to assist you."
After sending Kiba away to a plentiful(super threatening) forest he moved on to the next Knight, Xenovia. Sending her to the same location on opposite ends, he congratulated her first on her excellent swordsmanship, exclaiming that her skills will get her by tremendously as Rias' Knight. But he warned her, "Tame the Holy Sword Durandal. It's a fickle sword that's picky about who wields it. If you can master this sword by sheer force of will, I'm sure you'll be able to cut down anything."
Moving onto the Bishops, he started with Asia, the person he saw the most potential in. Azazel encouraged her by saying her skills would be detrimental to the success of her peerage's reputation. He detailed how crucial a healer was in a party saying, "The power of Twight Healing greatly varies based on the user's skill and abilities. If you are able to excrete the aura that heals others around your body, then you'll be able to heal someone from a far greater distance and at a faster rate."
After positioning Asia in a dimly lit cavern to practice her technique, Azazel met with Gasper next. The little man confronted him in a large box, sizable enough to fit him in and "comfy" enough to live in. Having to pull the child out to speak to him directly, Azazel informed him of his task, "To say it in terms you'll understand, your stats are already maxed out, but your greatest hindrance is your overbearing fear of… well everything honestly," Azazel noted, moving on to his next point, "Step one: stop being a neet. To accomplish step one follow step two: go out and see people- hey! Without any cover mind you." He challenged him to a game he was already losing as Gasper was making and putting on a make-shift face mask.
Progressing to the other "tiny child", he met with Koneko who as usual wasn't very open to his presence. Not bothering to force her to look him in the eye, Azazel started speaking, already finished gathering his intel and details about the loli, "I know despite your cold appeal, you're as sweet as the snacks you eat, but heed my warning, if you're not willing to accept the power that's gifted to you, the friends you care so passionately about will die- plain and simple." After hearing that, he witnessed a little startled jump as her body tensed up before returning back to its stoic language, "Koneko… you can't let the existence of someone else determine how you live your life."
Finally, advancing to the last piece on the board, Azazel had a quick and simple talk with Rias, determining her skills and adaptability to be far beyond the rest, "You have the basic knowledge, in fact, it's been drilled in your head since childhood," he started, looking sterning into Rias' eyes, "But now it's time to developed and build upon those foundations. Take what you already know about your peerage and implement strategies that'll bring out their fullest potential as a group." Nodding with speedy understanding, Rias turned and left to attend the rest of her day, until Azazel added one more piece of advice, "Oh, I almost forgot! Stop being such a worry wart- believe in what your family can do on their own from time to time."
"Yes, I appreciate your tutelage… Azazel-sensei."
3 Days later-Near the Caverns, Outside a Forest:
"No no no no no no no!"
It's been three days since the group departed on their journey to fulfill their master's wish of becoming stronger, and in those three days, many of them had made a quiet relevant perception: this training was beyond difficult- by their own standards, of course, but none so fearful that they would consider giving up- that reward belongs only to Issei. He was never told how exactly to awaken his Balance Breaker, and he was never informed what training it would be to develop it. So slap him and call him an ass when he learned for the first time that he had to run for his life… repeatedly. Three days, and still he was going at it, surviving for the sake of his friends and not wanting to die a virgin.
So here he was, sitting in a large crater, barely surviving the previous blast from the Demonic Dragon named Tanin and heaving as many breaths as he could before he would sprint and scurry away.
"Heh, I'm impressed you haven't been burnt to a crisp already." Tanin chuckled, eliciting a response from the out of breath Dragon wielder.
"Watch yourself! Once I get this Sacred Gear working I'm coming for your ass!"
"Then I guess I should raise the heat..." Tanin soared in the air and hovered above Issei, deciding to give him a head start before raining hellfire on his puny body. Realizing the mistake he's made in his choice of words, Issei took the opportunity to duck for cover as another huge fireball hurled towards him faster than he could react, blowing him against a rock.
Hearing multiple cracks and creaks and not being sure whether it was his bones or the rock he collided against, he decided to take care of the injury later once he felt a wave of hot air hit the back of his neck. Rolling to the side just in time, he landed on his back staring dazed at the evening sky wondering, 'Would my life be so hard if I had those fifty maids…?'
Time and Location Unknown, "Dark" Dimension:
Somewhere in the vast universe and the emptiness in-between laid a tall woman on a floating rock, licking her own hands and forearms. She lazily looked around at her surroundings trying to relax while she waited for her partner to show up. He was late. Despite being here many times, she noted the black and dark purple spirals and smears that rotated on an undesignated path. With barely any light, she was still able to make out her surroundings with her bright yellow eyes and black slits as her pupils. Rolling around the hard rocky surface, the woman sprawled out her body, boredom practically taking over her thoughts until her ears perked up and the hair on her skin raised with each passing second.
From an indistinguishable space, a bright white flash appeared harboring a (not much) younger man gripping a long staff and a golden belt around his waist. Sitting up near the edge of the floating boulder and swinging her legs in the air, she waited patiently for the apology so deserved.
"Okay, I made it. The plan is in progress." The man said, placing his hands on his hips.
"So? I waited here for hours, practically contemplating killing myself out of nothing to do besides licking myself. You know what I want, and I won't cooperate until I get it." The woman pouted, staring ominously at her partner.
"Seriously, Kuroka… Fine, I'm sorry I took so long, but I was finalizing the plan with Vali." The woman named Kuroka smirked and waved her hands, dismissing the tense atmosphere.
"Oh Bikou, now was that so hard? Plus, I don't care about any silly plan you have dealing with Loki. The guy's impertinent." Kuroka replied, frowning again at the prospect of working with the Norse god of Mischief.
"Whatever do, don't say that in front of Vali- this is work… don't forget that." Bikou turned around getting ready to leave.
"Hm, you're right. But I joined this team to get my sister back. I only do what's best for me. Tell that to Vali, huh?"
"Fine, your funeral." Bikou left permanently in a flash of white while Kuroka stood up and started making her own Magic Circle.
A/N: Welcome to the Bikini Bottom where I discuss things that I like and don't like. First off, here's my peeve for Issei's power. By definition, he should be the strongest character in the show, hands down, because he's able to double is power every time he boosts, so you can write his growth with the expression f(x)= z2^(x) where z= his base strength. Just by boosting 50 times, Issei's power increases by a quadrillion times, which makes training absolutely useless, but I'm gonna let it slide- I'm sure the author didn't think that hard about the ability of logarithmic growth.
Next, is the milestone. My lovely, loyal readers, I can't believe it but we are so close to making to 1000 followers! I mean, a couple of years ago when I started this story it was supposed to be a joke that was slowly becoming real, but now the goal is right here! Finally, as we approach that marker, I swear that we can make it to 1,500 because the only direction right now is up!
Third, as promised, the next chapter will feature Natsu in Hell as I want to finish up that arc but it's taking me far too long. In reality that was supposed to be three chapters at best, but then it suddenly evolved into another story entirely. So once I finish that up, I'm going to move the chapters around to that the Hell arc will be continuous without the strange breaks in between.
Fourth, from now on, at the top, I won't be responding to all reviews that are posted, only the ones that have questions about the story if that's okay with you all.
Anywho, Anyhow, Anyway, read, review, share, or do whatever! Have a nice time reading and talk to you next time.