Life 16. Balance Break X True Form: What Lies at the End of Power

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There are some grammatical errors. The chapter will be updated later on. Sorry.

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Roygun clawed her way out from the sea of unknown faces. She took a long breath and exhaled gently. Her choice of disguise worked like a charm. Of course, no plan wasn't devoid of flaws, the pink-haired could feel she dragged a few confused glances in her direction, but she only needed to increase her pace to escape from their field of vision by camouflaging on the crowd.

Speaking of the crowd, It was suffocating. The people around them didn't share a sense of personal space. The stadium was filled to the brim that someone could cop a feel and get away with it.

Luckily, no perverted hands reached out to cup a feel.

But she wasn't here to complain about the lack of management from the staff, Roygun had another objective in mind.

She reached her point of destination. The Bael Stadium.

Where the clash between two strong you Devils was destined to happen—hence the place being overcrowded.

One of the most anticipated fights of the entire tournament.

Roygun could've stayed in the house and watch it on the television with Ingvild, but it wasn't the same. It felt different watching the Rating Games through the screen.

Plus, Ingvild needed privacy. Roygun tried to give her space and make herself available if she just needed someone with which to talk.

If Ingvild wanted attention, comfort, or someone to talk with, Calcabrina could handle that—better than her in fact.

Being a mother of two children had some benefits down the road.

Feeling her lungs recharged, Roygun was about to proceed until a hand grabbed her by the shoulder.

"Are you honestly trying?" the voice asked as she was freed from his grip, "at least try to look a lot less suspicious, Roy."

The former ranking game elite lifted her sunglasses, eyes slightly widened, "Color me surprised. You saw through my disguise, Ruval."

"Disguise? You call that a disguise?"

Mildly offended by his remark, Roygun glanced down to her attire. She furrowed her brows playfully, "What's wrong with it? Does it not match with my eyes?"

"You didn't even hide your horns!" Ruval gestured at the two pointed projections on her head, "You thought a beach hat, your famous red dress, and some sunglasses will make you look incognito?"

"Well, I avoided causing a ruckus by sneaking past my way through the public eye, so maaaybe my cover is working as intended," Roygun let the sunglasses fall back to the bridge of her nose, "I'm surprised to see you here."

"Right back at you," Ruval punched her arm playfully, "crashing to the party at the Bael Castle was already stupid, but going to one of the Rating Game Stadium? Now that's a death wish! You get off getting caught doing trouble or what?"

"None of that. I'm just here to see the match through the front row seats just to be as close as possible to the action, to be as close as possible to the game." Roygun explained longingly, "to see the clouds of dirt cover the battlefield, feel the and hear the impact of the attacks."

"Well said!" It almost slipped from Ruval's head but a look behind his shoulder was all he needed, "Hey, hey. Don't just stand there, Hummingbird. Go and introduce yourself properly."

Roygun arched an eyebrow just as a beautiful young girl with blonde hair tied into drill-like twin tails and blue eyes stepped out from Ruval's legs. She was wearing an elegant purple dress with matching gloves and black boots.

The pink-haired noted how the dress accentuated her body, mostly the chest area.

Roygun could tell that was the purpose of the garb.

The girl finally made a curtsy, "We actually met way before, but maybe you don't recognize me as I was younger. Allow me to reintroduce myself," she said with a tone of elegance, "Daughter of the Phenex Clan Ravel at your service, Lady Roygun!"

"Oh my! Just look at you! I remember when you were as tall as my knee," Roygun resisted the urge to bend down and pull her cheeks, "I love what you did with your hair too, it suits you."

Ravel was surprised, "You still remember me?"

"Why wouldn't I? You were a cute, little cinnamon roll." Roygun eyed the little girl from head to toes before nodding in approval, "It only took four years for you to become a feast to the eyes."

All rehearsals of noble lady practiced in front of the mirror ruined in a matter of seconds as Ravel felt a blush spread across her face. "F-Feast to the eyes?!"

"Absolutely," Roygun smirked, "Puberty is hitting you hard, dear. Danhauser will love what I'm seeing."

Ravel felt her cheeks redden, "A-Ah! I s-see…" she looked away, trying desperately not to smile, "t-that's, um…"

"Okay, you had your daily dose of fun Roy," the Strongest Heir finally intervened, "my sister is off your prey list. No way I'm letting you turn my Hummingbird into your chewing toy while I'm here."

"C-Chewing toy?!"

"I just need you to look away just a second, Ruval~!"

"Don't think so," he pointed to his eyes with a backward V-sign and then pointed to her, "I'll be watching you like a damn hawk if I have to."

She chuckled in return, "What brings you here, Blue Phoenix? You wouldn't happen to be here just to spy on Danhauser and the Strongest Youth? Someone from the Top Five wouldn't go that low."

"You know me, Roy, I'm just doing homework; always digging any info to spot loopholes and weaknesses that could turn useful in the long run," he shrugged, "all I want is a quick match against potential threats, nothing more. I'm aiming to not throw any sweat during the Rating Game."

"Is that so?" Roygun folded her arms, "the smell of fear reeking off of you makes it hard to believe that."

"Nuh-uh. It's called playing smart."

"Hmph. Fine, I'll give you the benefit of doubt," another giggle before darting her attention to the younger girl, "And what about you? Unlike your big brother, I trust you'll be honest with your feelings?"

They ignored the scoff of Ruval, "To cheer for Lord Danhauser throughout his match," she answered rather boldly, "A-And to finally talk face to face after so many years of being uncommunicated with him. This is one of these rare instances where I can speak to him without getting in trouble. This is an opportunity I cannot miss."

"We could still get in trouble," Ruval retorted, "Belial could get in trouble with Bael. Phenex could get in trouble with Gamigin. You know, politics."

"Then why gamble it?" Roygun asked.

"Because she's a hopeless, spoiled brat."

Ravel gasped in his direction, "That's not true!"

"Do you have what she did after I returned from the party of the Bael Castle?" Ruval wasn't expecting Roygun to answer, "Ravel has only talked about him for hours when I came back from the party at the Bael Castle,"

Ravel blushed, "T-That's not true either!" she twiddled her thumbs, "I-I just wondered if he participated a-and if he asked anything about me…"

"Followed by pestering me and our parents about escorting to one of his matches," the Phenex Heir rolled his eyes, "I was against, both the fossils insisted. Two to one vote. Damn, I hate democracy so much."

It took a while, but after processing his choice of words, Roygun realized something, "And you voted against it?" After he confirmed it with a hum, her brows furrowed, "You didn't mind back then, you even trained her these four years. Why the sudden change of mind? Unless you are playing the Devil's advocate that is…"

"I don't mind Ravel joining his peerage and whatever, but…" he could feel the intense look of his little sister trying to burn a hole through his skull, "it's complex than you imagine. I'll explain it to you on another occasion," he met her glare with one of his own, "Privately."

Ravel looked away with arms folded and cheeks puffed. "Idiot…"

"Probably one of the few people that can get away with calling the Strongest Heir an idiot," Roygun thought idly.

"You can come over with Dan to the Phenex Estate and I'll give you the answers you're looking for. Hell, you can even talk with Bedeze too, maybe wipe out that scowl that always scares our guests."

Roygun laughed at that one, "Oh, believe me, I'd tried my hardest back then—I even bought him a few lap dances to get him to smile."

"He's just an ice statue," Ruval nodded to the grandstands as people sat down, "Anyway, we should hurry up. Let's grab some seats before the game starts."

Ravel nor Roygun opposed the idea. After going downstairs and making brief stops for Ruval to sign autographs, taking pictures with his fans—and Roygun tilting her large hat down to appear incognito—they proceeded.

Suddenly Ravel stopped to squint her eyes, looking far away, "Big Brother, is that Lady Gremory?"

Ruval followed the direction his sister signaled to, shading his eyes with a hand. He caught sight of a familiar redhead, "Nice catch, Hummingbird! And looks like some of her servants and Latia are with them as well!" he smirked at both of them, "good news! We found our seats."

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Amid her conversation with Latia, Rias saw her Rook Piece sniffing the air with closed eyes.

Her rook rarely relied on her feline instincts—let alone in public.

No one aside from her and Akeno knew about her Youkai nature.

Rias flashed the Astaroth Heiress an apological smile before facing properly Koneko, "Koneko? Is something wrong?"

The Nekoshou reopened her golden orbs open to meet her blue ones, "President," she took a few sniffs more just to be sure, "it smells like grilled chicken."

Rias blinked owlishly in return.

"Rias! Latia!" she turned just in time to see the familiar face of Ruval and Ravel being accompanied by a woman wearing a beach hat and sunglasses.

By the famous color of her hair, she realized who that was.

Roygun Belphegor.

The pink-haired placed a finger between her own lips, hushing her.

Rias zipped her mouth in return.

"Wait, I remember her!" Rias watched her Pawn pointing at Ravel—the latter twitching an eyebrow, "She's the sister of that yakitori bastard!"

Rias kneaded her temple just as Akeno giggled, "Ise…"

"How dare you!" Ravel immediately snapped at the Reincarnated Devil, "show some respect! His name is Raiser Phenex! Why low-class devils are always so disagreeable and impolite!"

Issei recoiled at the clear harsh tone of her voice, "What a sharp tongue…"

Rias scowled and was about to interfere until Ruval did the honors, "We are about to start with the wrong foot. That's not a great way to start a conversation, you two."

"I-I guess you are right," Issei gave a sheepish grin, "Sorry, sorry. Let's start over then! I am Hyoudou Issei, the only Pawn of President! We met during that match against your brother."

"Hmph!" Ravel looked away with her nose in the air, "You know who I am."

"Ravel…" Ruval warned her, "You may not be the heiress, but you're still part of the family. Introduce yourself."

His sister looked at his brother incredulously, "B-But Ruval!"

"Act accordingly."

The blonde struggled physically but then resigned. She raised the hem of her dress and did a curtsy, "Ravel Phenex," she said flatly, "Please never again put silly nicknames such as yakitori and grilled chicken to my family name. Thank you in advance."

"Uhh, s-sure!" Issei rubbed the back of his head nervously.

"You must be the Sekiryuutei!" Ruval gave the brunet a strong pat on the shoulder, almost dislocating a bone, "You heard my name, but let me introduce myself. I am Ruval Phenex, the older brother of Raiser and Ravel, the future head of Clan Phenex and one of the Top Ten in Rating Games. Nice to meet you."

Issei took a step back in surprise, "Top Ten?! He's one of the few people that President has to defeat!" he spoke mostly to himself, "h-he's the real deal…!"

"What you two Dukes have been up to?" Ruval questioned both Rias and Latia, "I didn't expect to run into either of you in this stacked place."

Latia teleported right in front of him, surprising everyone present, "And miss out on this fight? No way! This is one of the few fights I've been looking forward to! To witness the potential of Danhauser's True Form!"

"L-Lady Latia?" Ravel gulped the lump stuck on her throat, "A-Are you here to see Lord Danhauser too?"

"But of course!" Ravel made a desperate little gasp which was completely ignored by the Astaroth heiress, "While Danhauser's Malebranche Form is an exact copy of Malacoda Malebranche, I'm curious if they have different traits! So many questions can be answered from this match alone!"

Rias sighed heavily, "She got excited once again…"

"You should listen more to your Queen Piece," Akeno smiled mischievously, "I told you it was a lost cause to calm her down, President~!"

"But my deepest desire is to see his Belial Form in person," fanned herself with her elegant folding fan, "I know he can't use it on the tournament because it would affect the Rating Game System, but to witness a new level of strength and/or new aspects of Worthlessness when in its base nature were previously not possible."

"I-I see…" Ravel trailed off softly, "Then… there is no p-point in… no. I understand he's a Pure Devil and… and it's completely normal for strong Devils to find interest in other women and…"

Latia watched the younger girl mumbling to herself with a look of confusion, "Is she… alright?"

"Don't worry about Hummingbird, she's facing an existential crisis right now. She'll recover eventually," Ruval waved her off, "Where's Sona and Seekvaira? They're going to be late."

Rias briefly looked over Roygun who was leaning on the railing, "I can't speak on behalf of Seekvaira, but Sona decided to skip this one," she answered, "since her next match was confirmed to be against Seekvaira, she decided to spend the day being surrounded by books."

"My cousin as well," Latia supplied, tapping her fan on an open palm, "last time I talked with Seekvaira she was instructing her peerage for her upcoming game."

"Bah! What a shame!" Ruval smirked, "I wanted to see the sparks fly with the glasses girls sitting together."

[Everyone, welcome back from the next Rating Game match of this week!] the moment everyone heard the voice of Naud all over the stadium, they dropped on their seats with different degrees of excitement. [The match will be established on the Bael Stadium built by the House of Astaroth and housed Great King Faction with the latter being the ones running this tournament!]

Two large and transparent screens are displayed at the center of the stadium, illustrating a profile picture and the statistics of each player.

[Our competitors of today are characters that stand atop of the young generation of Devils because of their immense skill and strength! And regarded as one of the strongest of this tournament along with The Blue Phoenix!]

Try as she might, Rias couldn't stop the crack she felt inside her. The pictures of Danhauser and his Pawn revived unpleasant memories of her first duel against the gray-haired and his servants. The way each of her servants was defeated against his was something that will remain scarred on her mind.

How they didn't even succeed in leaving a horrendous wound that could affect them for the rest of the game. The match didn't even last long.

One by one, they fell—like domino pieces.

"We have to forfeit," her head recalled the words of her Queen, causing a weak headache.

Akeno had warned her before the curtains went up, but Rias didn't listen and pressed forward. They paid the consequences afterward.

"We were unlucky on the coin flip, Rias."

Even her servants were struggling internally.

By looking at their frowns, Akeno and Koneko were holding grudges against the people they fought to.

Yuuto had a stoic expression, but it was a better outcome compared to the one full of hatred. It progressed.

Gasper was the least affected by her peerage. In fact, the moment the picture of his childhood friend appeared, her Mutated Bishop started to cheer even louder despite the one-sided fight he had against the Pawn of Belial.

Perhaps the only one that mirrored her feelings was her first and last Pawn Piece.

"Ise…"

He had that look mixed with anger and disappointment. He felt powerless. It was rare to see him without that perverted gaze, rarer when he was having an internal brawl with his emotions.

Should have she listened to her best friend and surrender?

Or Rias did the right move by not giving up despite the obvious outcome?

Can she still become the next Rating Game Champion after a humiliating defeat?

Or was that game a signal that she should step away and look elsewhere?

[The Rating Game of tonight is held under Dice Figures rules. All of the participants are assigned a value between one and twelve based on the Evil Piece system and respective powers. Each side is given a dice to roll to decide who is going to go next with all fights being held inside various battlefields! Knight Pieces and Bishops have the value of three! Rooks five and Pawns one per piece! However, The Heir of Rating Games, The Strongest Youth, and the Mutated Knight of Belialhave the value of twelve!]

"Wait, what?" Ruval had to clean his ear to hear better, "Did I heard right? Dan's Knight has the value of twelve pieces?" he glanced over the pink-haired, "Just who's that kid?"

Roygun answered with a nonchalant shrug, "My lips are sealed."

"Come on now…"

"… He's my second cousin."

Everyone looked in the direction of the Gremory Queen to see her eyes shadowed by the bangs of her black hair.

Rias observed with worry as Akeno clenched her fists for a moment before releasing them.

[Tonight is the big night,] the voice of the broadcaster yanked the redhead back to the matter at hand. [… of the big fight! Brutal Devils in about to the end! Are… you… ready?!]

The audience applauded and cheered. The participants were already at the center of the stadium, each one of them standing on a platform and waiting for the game to begin.

[Very well then! Let this match—now what?!] they could hear a door getting shut in Naud's studio host. The people on the stadium stands could only hear the self-noise produced by the microphone and muffled voices.

A minute passed, then two. The tension continue to grow on each seat as they started to mumble to themselves.

Roygun was affected as well, tapping her foot impatiently on the ground. She just wanted the game to start already.

Ruval cocked his head back in confusion, "Uh… the hell is happening?"

"I-I don't know…" Ravel glanced up at him, "has this happened before?"

"Not at all," Latia replied.

Suddenly, the broadcaster returned. [Eh, yes. I apologize for the abrupt interruption,] Naud harrumphed, [I just received a report from the staff of the stadium, written and approved by Lord Bael himself!]

"Uh, oh," The Strongest Heir pursed his lips, "That's not a good sign."

[There will be a… slight adjustment to the game,] more whispers from the spectators, [It has been decided that all servants—with some exceptions—of each King will be sent simultaneously to different battlefields! So, without any further ado, LET'S GET THIS SHOW STARTED!]

The stadium stirred with that announcement.

Latia felt her jaw drop.

"What?!" Everyone around Roygun was startled by her outburst, "What are they doing?! They can't just carelessly do what they please at the last minute!"

Ruval cringed, "Yeah, Diehauser is gonna be so pissed," he facepalmed with a groan, "ah fuck me… this will be a long night."

"But… what's wrong with it?" Rias drawled, looking everywhere to see other Devils shouting, cheering, and chanting, "everyone loves it."

"You can't just make that type of decision without consulting the Rating Game Committee first," Latia explained to her, "this is just an insult to all the Top Ten."

Ravel looked over her brother, "But why? Why would Lord Bael do this?"

Ruval watched as both peerages were transferred to different battlefields, "Because daddy Bael doesn't want anybody to interfere between Dan and Sairaorg."

"That's right," After calming down, Roygun dropped back to her seat with a huff, "… You can smell the propaganda from here."

"If it displeases The Emperor, then shouldn't he cancel the game?" Rias asked genuinely, "As the President of the Rating Game Committee, he has the power to do it, right?"

"He can, but Diehauser isn't a wet towel," Ruval gestured around them, "You just said it, everyone loves it and people were waiting long weeks for this match to begin. Diehauser will allow the match to continue, but I have a feeling that something big is gonna happen to Lord Bael and the tournament…"

The gigantic screens floating at the center of the stadium are divided into smaller versions in which show different perspectives of players.

[So, my opponent is the man that defeated the Priestess of Thunder,] all the stadium glanced over a screen that had a young woman with blonde hair tied into a ponytail, [Ikuse Tobio, correct?]

Their location was a simple neighborhood. They stood in the middle of the streets with houses lined up left and right.

[A pleasure,] the brunet gave a short nod before summoning the same scythe he used against Akeno, [but enough about introductions—we're here to fight.]

Kuisha said nothing in return but channeled a large quantity of demonic energy to form warps in the atmosphere. Multiple holes appeared in the air and with a swift movement of her hands, she manipulated them until they surrounded her.

Tobio could barely see Kuisha with her new barrier floating around her. [So, that's your Clan Trait, right? You hail from the House of Abaddon after all.]

He took a stance and she followed suit. Neither of them took the initiative to engage. They stuck to the same plan—waiting for their opponent to make the first move or suffocate them in the intense silence.

But Tobio finally acted by rushing forward with his scythe ready to reap—a gust of wind chasing from behind. He swung his weapon at the unmoving woman and the moment the tip of his scythe made contact with the orb, he saw as it was absorbed and reflected at him through a different hole.

Tobio had to immediately back off with a backflip the moment his neck was at risk. He looked up to see his opponent remain still and went for a second attack. As expected for a Mutated Knight, his speed was top-notch. He was confident that she wasn't even able to predict his next set of moves. He appeared behind her and even saw her back is protected by the same warps invoked by her.

Nonetheless, he gave it another shot only to receive the same results. He almost getting chopped in half by his own scythe. The orbs didn't even distort or shown any fight of cracking or weakening, they looked the same despite being slashed apart.

He returned to his spot. The corners of his mouth turned downward, his eyes gazing far away, as though impressed and astonished at the same time, [… Not bad,] Tobio praised her, taking a few steps back, [I can't detect any flaws in your posture nor any weak spot that I can exploit. It's amazing how the Abaddon Clan Trait works.]

Kuisha kept her comments for herself, not willing to risk her defense loosening just because she opened her mouth to brag.

[Something we can agree is that if I keep hitting at you with this,] He tapped the scythe on his shoulder, [I won't be able to achieve anything at this pace other than sweat some bullets.]

[… I know who you really are, Ikuse,] Kuisha started once Tobio was back to his spot, [Everyone in the Bael Peerage knows about the card that you keep under your sleeve.]

[Oh?]

[You have a Longinus,] Kuisha exposed his secret, [Canis Lykaon.]

"… Another Longinus?" Rias breathed out, "I thought Danhauser only had the Sephiroth Graal recruited in his peerage… but a second Longinus User…? This is too much!"

"Could that be why he has the value of twelve? Or it's because he's so ridiculously strong?" Ruval tsked, still mauling over the fresh information, "Interesting…"

Tobio—on the other hand—didn't seem surprised getting caught, [… Regulus Nemea told you, isn't it?] he clicked his tongue, [… Yeah, that makes sense. If Lycaon smelled the Nemean Lion in the Bael Castle, then what stopped the latter from detecting the scent of the King of Wolves?]

Kuisha said and did nothing.

[Alright then. No use hiding my Sacred Gear anymore,] the short male then whistled, [Jin.]

Everything was quick. She and all the audience barely had time to react to what elapsed.

"What?" Akeno remembered glimpses. A black wolf leaped out from Tobio's shadow and rushed at Kuisha with an ominous-looking sword in its canine teeth.

Time slowed down from Kuisha's perspective. The strike was something else, she didn't react quick enough to teleport away with her Clan Trait and was punished because of it.

The sound of flesh getting torn apart was heard by everyone nearby, the terrified and surprised gasps coming from the audience.

But the damage still hasn't registered as Kuisha watched wide-eyed how the Clan Trait she was proud of was easily splinted messily, the remnants fading away like sparkles.

[I-Impossible!] Naud's shout voiced everyone's bewilderment, [The Knight of Belial slashed in half the Clan Trait of Abaddon like it was butter! The only time someone worked around the Hole was The Emperor against the former third-ranked Bedeze Abaddon with Worthlessness!]

Kuisha coughed blood and hopelessly covered the fresh gash on her side. Even if her eyesight was growing blurry, she glared behind her shoulder.

The large wolf stood there warily. The blade dripping droplets of blood to the ground still firm on its fangs, ready to go for a second attack if it's necessary.

Jin was fast, its footwork on equal ground to its owner, [R-Regulus was right…] Kuisha's knees gave out. [That black blade can cut through anything…]

[That's right. No matter what defense you have, I'll just pierce through.]

Before Kuisha fell limp on the floor. Kuisha's body gets covered in light as she disappeared from the field.

[Prince Sairaorg Bael's Queen, retires.]

Then came the heartless announcement as the stadium roared at the short fight.

"And just like that, one of Sairaorg's strongest servants is out. That's insane," Ruval slipped a chuckle of disbelief, "And another Queen Piece on that brat's list! If he keeps that performance, he'll be called Queen Slayer later on!"

Roygun closed her eyes and sighed, "You should be here Bedeze, and support her…"

Yuuto focused on another screen that aired another battlefield, a certain blonde was briefly the center of attention before the camera flickered to her opponent. "This will be just another slaughter."

Akeno noticed the same light that engulfed Kuisha was covering her cousin as well. She asked, "Where are they taking him?"

"I… don't know," Latia tried to think despite the yelling around her, "I'd imagine that he will be teleported randomly to another battlefield to help his team, but I don't think that's the case here…"

"Yeah," Ruval returned to the screens once Tobio was engulfed in light, "Call it a gut feeling, but that's the last fight we'll see from him."

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Tobio blinked owlishly once the light around him faded away. His confusion further inflated once he saw the location he ended up in.

"That was fast," Tobio heard the familiar voice of his master, "Welcome back."

"Wait, what?" Slash Dog searched all over the place and stopped on the grey eyes of Danhauser, "The match isn't over yet! Did I… did I accidentally broke one of the rules?"

"You didn't. Just Lord Bael being fucking distrustful as usual," the gray-haired rolled his eyes, "I guess that Lord Bael thought I'd send someone from my peerage to entertain Sairaorg and caused this at the last second. I should cash Grigori a big favor to find out from what circus he escaped from."

"Hah… This is all messed up, isn't it?" The Longinus User commented, "And not in a funny way. I mean, I don't know stuff about the Rating Game—but you do boss. You come from a family that produced the Rating Game Champion after all," he paused to bit his lip, "When Naud read the report through the mic, I had a feeling that everything went downhill somehow. I'm still trying to piece everything together."

Danhauser didn't answer back, but Tobio knew he was listening.

That didn't stop the brunet from asking more questions, "What are they going to do about it? Let it slide?"

"I was expecting Tiamat barging in the middle of the Rating Game," Danhauser frowned, "but doesn't look like it, either my brother told her to not get in the way and instead stay put or she isn't here which I doubt."

"Can she do that? Interfere I mean."

"She's the Honorary President of the Rating Game Committee. It's her role to keep an eye out in case something off happens," the gray-haired clicked his tongue, "this is like boxing—two or three matches before the main event."

"But the case here, this is not boxing," Tobio stated the obvious, "You and Sairaorg won't go out until everyone from their respective fights."

"That seems to be the case," he folded his arms with an indignant scoff, "we'll just have to wait and see how it goes."

"Can't even talk with them, huh?" Tobio watched Danhauser shake his head. "Any idea how you're going to fight against your childhood crush?"

"I have a few things in mind," Danhauser confirmed cryptically, tapping his foot on the floor idly, "things I want to test out. I've learned a bit during our training."

"Good to know," Tobio nodded in agreement, "even if we had defeated all of his servants if you somehow lose, then that's game over to us—that's how chess works. The King piece is the most important after all."

"I won't lose," the gray-haired promised, "I know what I have to do."

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On another battlefield, Jeanne, Siegfried, and Bova were facing off against Gandoma, Coriana, and Ladora respectively. Was a spacious grassy field with mountains and an everlasting sunset lying in the background. Jeanne was confronting Gandoma while Siegfried was stuck with Coriana and at a point that was some distance away from them, Bova clashed in the skies with Ladora in his dragon form.

"I greet you," Siegfried nodded with respect, "I am Siegfried—descendant of the dragon slayer himself and Knight of Clan Belial. My companions call me Sieg. What you choose to call me is up to you."

"Hmm. Very well, Sieg," the woman winked at him, "I am Coriana of the House of Andrealphus that ranks as Lesser Marquis. I am the Bishop Piece that fights for Lord Sairaorg."

"Good. Now that introductions are begone," he invoked a magic circle, and from it appeared the handle of his trustworthy sword. He grabbed it and pulled Gram into clean view. He nodded at her, "Equip anything you have with you. I will wait."

"Oh my. You'll raise a weapon against a woman?" Coriana's remark was a tease than anything else. "Not even a hint of hesitation?"

"It doesn't matter if you're a woman or even a child," Siegfried retorted, "I only seek a single combat between our skill with our swords."

"Ooh. The honor and pride of a knight," Siegfried scowled at her relaxed posture and dropped guard, "You also live by that code. I heard about this from different mouths before, Liban and Beluga to be precise. It's funny how those reincarnated by Knight Pieces are the ones striving for that ethic."

"I see," he readied his demonic sword, "Summon your weapon."

"I have something better," Coriana reached for the buttons of her clothing. Her gaze became half-lidded, "two things that you may like."

"You dual wield?"

She laughed, "No! I don't have a sword or spear with me."

The silver-haired stared, "What?"

"You heard me," she tossed her business suit out of the way, leaving her on her button-down shirt. She reached for the first button to start her show until she saw her expression, "Aw, what's with the face? It makes me want to pamper you more~!"

"Let me get this straight. You are not carrying a weapon?" Siegfried asked for confirmation, Gram cackling with red lightning, "Nothing at all?"

"I'm weaponless, handsome. But—!" Coriana stopped and paled as a large beam of crimson lightning rushed straight at her.

She didn't have time to dodge as she was consumed by the blood-like radiance of Gram—her scream of pain overpowered by the violent and furious sounds of the energy attack. Despite devouring its intended target, the beam continued moving on a straight line until it reached the end of the world, destroying anything on its path.

[Prince Sairaorg Bael's Bishop, retires.]

He pierced the tip of his weapon on the grass with a sigh, "Very disappointing, extremely unlucky to yet find someone worthy," he rested his hand on the butt of the Strongest Demonic Sword, unfazed as the lights of the Rating Game System also surrounded him, "Breasts are overrated anyway."

As Siegfried disappeared, he ignored the loud insults coming from the public.

Bova and Ladora met midway. The shockwave produced by their clash shook Jeanne to her very core as she was nearly blown out from her feet. Instead, she stabbed firmly a sword to the ground and waited for the powerful wind to stabilize once more.

"Block THIS!"

She quickly recovered her balance to cross her arms in an X position and block the powerful punch of the enemy Rook Piece, losing her weapon in the process. Despite avoiding any potential damage, the shockwave behind the attack succeeded in launching Jeanne away like a lightning bolt.

Still hurled in the air, Jeanne created a pair of holy swords and stabbed them to the ground. She didn't have time to catch her breath as the three-meter tall man shortened their distance. She immediately took the offensive, forcing Gandoma on the defensive now. She was surprised how little damage her swords were inflicting on the body of Gandoma, especially when her Sacred Gear forged holy weapons. In fact, every time her sword made contact with any of his limbs, her blades chipped in return.

"Could it be his Clan Trait?" Jeanne observed how Gandoma gritted his teeth and smashed both fists on the ground to produce a small quiver, making her stumble a little. She jumped out of the way the moment the golem-looking man went for another powerful strike and delivered rapid thrusts all over the titan. She circled him and struck whatever seemed a weak point as he tried to match her speed and whack her out of his space.

Only sparks and small pieces of her weaponry flew out. No progress.

She now stood behind him, her muscles screamed at her to attack his exposed back, but a look at the state of her two swords made her stop on her onslaught. Her gears chugging in her head as she tried to decipher the situation, absentmindedly realizing that Gandoma calmly spun to face her. Meanwhile, Bova and Ladora kept fighting furiously on the sky, tooth and claw tearing each other's scales as their flames churred the battlefield itself.

Her eyes widened in realization, "I got it!" she tossed her two worn-out weapons aside and fabricated a new one. On her grip was now a gigantic two-handed holy sword that's about two meters long that releases a grey aura.

Not wasting more time, Jeanne rushed after him with her sword raised above her head. She leaped into the air and aimed at his face—fist-pumping inwardly as Gandoma brought his hand up to grab the blade midair. The moment her sword touched his palm, Gandoma released a scream of pain and shock that carried on to the heavens. Aside from blood, his hand seemed to crumble down like a cookie.

Jeanne took a step back, watching the consequences of her attack engraved on his limb. Underneath that layer of stone was a thinner hand.

"AHA!" Jeanne noted how Gandoma's exposed hand was covered in demonic energy before settling back to its original rock-like appearance. "An exoskeleton! That's his Clan Trait!"

"You did it," Gandoma clenched hard his damaged fist, the poison of her holy weaponry already traveling in his veins, but he endured the unpleasant feeling as much as he could. He glared daggers at her, "You penetrated through my defenses."

"That I did!" She struck a pose, her legs spread wide, her left arm behind him with palm upturned, and her right arm in front of her face, opened. She warned her opponent, "Hang up the gloves! It's gonna get real nasty from here on!"

His war cry was enough for an answer. She ran at him, this time Gandora didn't block any of her swings, but instead dodged them as much as he could. His reaction speed was sloppy at best and couldn't keep up against her, he never dodged anything throughout his life, only letting his own Clan Trait do the talking. Throughout her assault, she succeeded in landing a lot of hits and rarely miss her target—the fact that Gandora was taller than Vasco made her aim truer.

No matter how much he regenerated his outer skeleton, Jeanne heard his ragged breaths as the holy aspect of her Sacred Gear kept poisoning him from the inside out. Afterward, the giant fell to a knee to catch some air but his body had different plans for him. He shakily stood up and took a step toward her. A second one and he fell with a loud thud.

The Rating Game System immediately evacuated him from the battle.

[Prince Sairaorg Bael's Rook, retires.]

Once the announcement confirmed Gandora's retirement, Jeanne brought to eye level her sword and grinned, "I knew making a sword with a weaker version of the Belial Clan Trait would be the key!" she gave the blade a proud kiss, "Mwah! I'm a genius!"

A painful roar pierced Jeanne's eardrums as she saw Ladora threw his head back, he tried to overcome the Son of Tannin, but Bova wouldn't let him. He bit on Ladora's neck and threw him below. Ladora's landing caused a cloud of dust and the wind surged up chaotically, enough force to knock the blonde off her feet and shake the heavy, firm trees like a typhoon.

Once the dust cleared up, she saw an unconscious Ladora lying on the grass, his wounded body subconsciously shifting back to his human form.

Bova promptly joined her just as the servant of Sairaorg joined the rest of his teammates at the medical bay.

[AMAZING display by the Belial Peerage!] the broadcaster cried out, [Little by little, the servants of The Strongest Youth are falling like domino pieces! How will they respond to this?!]

"Yes, Bobo!" Jeanne leaped for joy, "Woohoo! Another win in the bag! And you had your fight against a dragon too!"

"Yeah," Bova studied the injuries over his body—but refused to lick them, "I guess I did. Not the greatest thing in the world, but it was a good stretch."

Within that brief exchange, they passed through the identical process as Siegfried and vanished on a shower of lights.

.


.

"You can win this Valerie!" It was a rare occurrence to see Gasper screaming at the top of his lungs, it made the redhead wonder and worry if the sky was about to fall on them. She could see the red face of her Mutated Bishop as he waved his arms frantically, "I believe! I'm a believeeeeer!"

Rias strained a chuckle at his enthusiasm. Even if she understood his emotions, she didn't share them at all. On the contrary, a crawl on her back reminded her of their latest Rating Game.

The redhead could only feel pity for those who are against Valerie.

"This should be an interesting match," Ravel commented, "three against one."

"I'd usually agree," Roygun muttered aloud, "but they were teleported on different locations of the arena and Valerie hasn't shown up yet."

"And the theme of the battlefield is a jungle to top it off," Ruval supplied. "Perfect for sneak takedowns."

"Surprisingly, no one is out of the match, the referee hasn't announced anyone's retirement yet," Latia observed the gigantic screen to see a timid Misteeta walking through the tangled vegetation, "they also stopped focusing the cameras on the others as well..."

[Liban! Beruka! Can you copy?] Misteeta tried to reach her teammates through the device on her ear. No answer yet, [G-Guys, c'mon! We need to—]

The green-haired girl narrowly dodged a blunt object falling from upwards. She carefully inspected what almost knocked her out of the cold.

It was a silver lance typically used by soldiers that fought on horseback.

She only knew someone who would charge on the battlefield with that weapon.

Misteeta swallowed hard and looked up just to have her heart drop to her stomach. Above her was a spider web made out of shadows and carrying three large cocoons—one of them had the horse of Beruka. They were still conscious, given how sometimes they shifted around.

[I never imagined that tying people would be so mildly entertaining,] A voice whispered behind Misteeta and she launched herself five meters in the air, [Seeing your allies trying to break free from my bindings is just the icing on the cake.]

Misteeta never had the chance to act as a shadow wrapped around her neck and pulled her forcefully to her companions. The moment she was tossed to her new prison, she tried to pull her hands off the spider web and summon her Sacred Gear, but couldn't do move an inch.

The shadowed slick began working around her body, starting from her feet and working its way up to her neck. Her survival instincts triggered as she tried to break free, but Misteeta could only look back to the Dhampir who was beneath them.

She noted that the Pawn of Belial wasn't even on her Metamorphosis, [As much as I enjoy seeing you squirm, this has to come to an end.]

Valerie produced a myriad of stakes from the shadows, ready to impale them from different angles.

Misteeta could only whimper as Valerie finally wrapped her head on dark silk.

[It's over.]

Before any of Sairaorg's servants could get stabbed from all directions, they get covered in a familiar light and left the field without a trace.

All the stakes still hit the empty cocoons, deforming them.

[Prince Sairaorg Bael's Bishop and Two Knights, retires.]

"Hang on a moment," Rias had to rub her eyes to see if she wasn't hallucinating, "Did Sairaorg…?"

"Sairaorg forcefully retired all of them," Ruval intoned, "I guess he couldn't stomach what followed next."

"It was for the best," Latia used her hand fan to wave at her sweaty face, "it… it was going to end in bloodshed."

"That was a smart move from Valerie," Roygun praised her, "not knocking out neither Liban nor Beruka to avoid triggering the announcement retirement—giving Misteeta the illusion that her companions were still around... which technically they were."

"Something tells me she knew deep down though," Ruval pointed out.

[And the Pawn of Belial stands victorious after that amazing one-sided fight! In the beginning, the Bael Peerage had the advantage of numbers, but now it seems that it doesn't matter anymore!]

"Yeeeesss!" Gasper stood on his seat to jump with pride and joy, "I knew you could do it, Valerie! You're the only one who could impale anyone and make it look cool…!"

Unaware of the crossdresser Dhampir, most of the crowd around him and his friends slid slightly away from them.

[But the game is far from over yet!] Naud continued, [And now, ladies and gentlemen live around the Underworld on the zone from historic Bael Stadium in the capital of the Great King Faction! The moment we've all waiting for has arrived!]

All the stands roared in return.

"Finally!" Latia disappeared from her fan to pull a notebook and a pencil that was hidden from her cleavage. She twirled her writing tool eagerly, "Gimme! Gimme!"

"Maybe it's my head playing games but… did Miss Latia just pulled a book from her chest?" Yuuto laughed awkwardly.

"She did!" Issei's lecherous gaze darted away from the stellar occurrence, "Amazing…! I didn't notice before, but they're just the same size as President! Perhaps they're as soft as Senior Akeno too!"

Koneko glared daggers at the back of his head, "Hopeless Pervert."

"Isn't… Isn't less uncomfortable to store in on dimensional storage?" An advanced technique, but nothing that Latia should struggle with—Rias imagined. "Or leave it in your room and summon it in times of need?"

"Items of sentimental value should always be close to the heart," Roygun joked, "Rule of thumb."

[This. Is. THE MAIN EVENT OF THE NIGHT!] the life of the crowd only filled Naud with pride, [The judges are ready, the fighters are ready! Millions of Rating Games fans around the Underworld are ready! Everyone, let's give a big round of applause to the Strongest Youth and the Heir of the Rating Games! Great King and Lesser King! Sairaorg Bael and Danhauser Belial!]

"You can do it, Danhauser!" Roygun brought two fingers to her mouth and whistled, "Show everyone what you're made of!"

The moment Issei heard the familiar name, his eyesight relocated to the arena. The beating of his heart became louder than the deafening cries around him. His mind recapitulated the fight he and Koneko had against the gray-haired and how it turned out by the end.

His stomach clenched. He felt a knot tight in his throat. The brunet never realized he was on his feet as he grabbed the safety rail to lean as much as possible to the soon-to-be fight.

The Red Dragon saw them. Danhauser, Sairaorg, and Regulus were on an open area and the platform was vast white.

"… Who will win?" Issei's eyes flickered between the gray Devil and the muscular one, "Senior Akeno said that Vice-Principal is on par with President's cousin! But Sairaorg looks huge and muscular too! And he has his pawn with him as well! But that cute woman… Valerie isn't it? She won against three of Sairaorg's servants by herself!"

[Hey, hey. Sairaorg,] Danhauser waved in his opponent's direction. [Listen… you have any idea what's happening right now? Call me slowpoke, but I'm still trying to get my head around the 'innovative' idea of your dear old dad.]

[Your guess is as good as mine,] Sairaorg responded, not a hint of untruth in his voice, [I promise you I have nothing to do with this.]

[Crazy stuff, huh?]

After the brief exchange of words, the hologram of a referee materialized between them. He looked at Sairaorg keenly. Then at Regulus. And finally at Danhauser.

The arbiter raised his hand high as both fighters dropped into stances, [Both combatants in your positions!] the referee's voice blared all across the venue. [The last match…! BEGIN!]

But before they could clash in the center—

[Danhauser, a second?]

.


.

Both of Danhauser's eyebrows rose as he regained his footing. It was strange for Sairaorg to engage in a conversation in the middle of a fight. Not counting small jokes in between, he let his fists do the talking.

Whatever the Strongest Youth had to reveal, it was important, "Yeah?"

After seconds of hesitation, Sairaorg opened his mouth, but nothing came out of it. He lowered his head down with a scowl, but eventually lifted his chin up seconds later for another try—again nothing. "Hmm. I didn't expect this to be hard," folding his arms, the Heir of Bael grumbled in frustration, "Did I not practice my speech enough?"

"Practice your speech?" Danhauser parroted slowly, "Sairaorg, what are you on about?"

"…Hah," Sairaorg chuckled gently, "You're going to make me even explain it? Very well, maybe I'll grow a backbone that way," He harrumphed, "what you just did for me, there are no words to express how thankful I am. I always thought that I had to wait years to see her back on her feet, but then you two appeared and turned my dream into a reality. If miracles truly exist... then this may as well be one."

"I… I never imagined that one day I'll be to expressing my gratitude to anyone but my peerage and my mother," a short pause as Sairaorg inhaled deeply, "… Thank you. That's what I'm trying to say. I'm well aware that words may mean nothing to you, but thank you for this—you're a good friend."

"… I think my heart just skipped a beat."

"Hahaha!" The Bael Heir guffawed, "I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't swing that way."

"Harsh! I wasn't ready to be rejected in front of an audience," the gray-haired feigned to be hurt, by clenching his heart, "now feels like something died inside me."

"My apologies. It wasn't my intention to hurt you emotionally. Let me make up for it," Sairaorg became serious, "Regulus!"

[My King!] His Pawn dropped in four as bulging muscles animalistic characteristics began to take over his small body. His limbs became thicker, his canine surfaced and a mane grew around his neck. A majestic roar pierced the air and his clothes finally shredded in pieces.

Danhauser watched the four-meter tall lion stand majestically. His body along the jewel in his forehead looked like they were bathed in pure gold.

[OOOH! The identity of the Pawn of The Strongest Youth is finally out of the bag!]

But Sairaorg wasn't done. He brought a fist to the sky and chanted, "My lion! King of Nemea! You, who has been called the King of Lions! Answer my howl and turn into my armor!"

The Longinus turned into a golden orb and dashed into Sairaorg like a bolt of lightning. The moment master and servant fused, the whole field shook and an explosion came.

[Balancer Breaker!]

"Balance Breaker!"

An intense light illuminated the whole place, forcing Danhauser to shield his squinted eyes with an arm.

Once the light dimmed, Danhauser lowered his arm and saw a man wearing golden armor. His helmet without a visor sported a regal mane that reached his lower back and the chest area had carved the face of a roaring lion with glowing eyes.

They could hear the public shrieking in ecstasy but paid them no mind.

"… I thought your creed was to never use your Balance Breaker unless the Underworld was in danger," Danhauser played the Devil's advocate, "did you just lied this whole time?"

"And you fell for it! Hook, line, and sinker!" The Strongest Youth flashed a soft smile, "My first and last lie. To tell you the truth, I had no intentions to use it on this tournament… I was still adamant to keep my promise until that time came… but I had no other way to show you my appreciation than fighting you with everything I got."

"Yeah, but two against one? How's that fair to me?"

"That sounds like you problem," Sairaorg countered with a grin, "Why did you just stand there and watch when you know I'll upgrade my power?"

"Point. If I was against a mere Devil, I'd stop them way before they power-up, " the Belial Heir agreed, "but you're not a mere Devil—you're more than that. You're special."

Danhauser said nothing as a black ooze-like liquid dripped from his mouth. The black liquid then enveloped his body entirely. He could feel the boost of strength washing all over him as the transformation finalized.

"That looks unhygienic," Sairaorg had his nose wrinkled this whole time, "I pity the woman that kisses you."

His mind changed course to that of a certain Dhampir and laughed, "She dug her own grave."

"Danhauser. Are you ready?"

"Are you?"

"Be ready for it this time. I won't be pulling any punches!"

.


.

Issei could not only feel it but see it as well. The wind suddenly surged up. The floor below Danhauser and Sairaorg cracked by the pressure they were emitting. Ripples and shockwaves appeared—as if a hurricane is stepped up. The image from the monitor shook and there were times they almost lost signal.

Whatever was going to happen, he was glad he was in the grandstands and not there.

"W-What's happening?!" Ravel stuttered, her eyes as wide as dinner plates.

"Touki," Koneko swallowed hard, "A clash of Touki."

With his gaze, the Red Dragon followed where Koneko was signaling to. He couldn't believe he didn't spot it before, but they have enveloped an immensely dense aura of Touki—as if their empowered bodies were expelling the excess of power or life force. A clash of gray and purple. A clash of Balance Breaker and True Form.

The brunet couldn't help but be astonished by their new appearances too. Sairaorg resembled a god of war and victory whilst Danhauser looked what a Devil should look like—demonic and without humanlike features.

"Amazing," he heard President whispered out, "I can even feel it from here, it's really suffocating. To imagine Danhauser was our first opponent… just how much strength my cousin and Danhauser truly have?"

Issei swallowed hard as he peeked down to his left hand, "Even if I sacrificed my arm… would it be enough to compete against these two?" he clenched his fist afterward, "Would it be…"

[They are on a different level, Partner,] Issei felt his shoulders slump by his words, [But you have potential, you hold a Longinus—a Heavenly Dragon. Watch, study, and learn from this match.]

And the fight began.

Sairaorg punched the air hard enough a shockwave was generated and launched straight to Danhauser like a speeding bullet.

Danhauser already expecting his foe to make the first move was ready to dodge his attack by jumping aside. Sairaorg took advantage of that with his newfound, powered speed that made the wind act chaotic from his dash alone. It's as if he vanished from sight.

But Danhauser seemed to follow his movement as he reacted quickly to Sairaorg's movement and narrowly avoided any damage, but the aftershock produced by thelion King's attack made his elastic body wobble. This time he moved his torse as Sairaorg sent a jab, his body reacting the same way. Danhauser stayed on the defensive as Sairaorg kept swinging hooks from left and right.

The brunet heard the loud grumbling coming from the Astaroth Heiress, "Usually, someone shouldn't be able to come back unscathed even if they avoided the blows of Sairaorg but given how Malebranche Form gives the user Shock Absorption by absorbing the shocks produced by them, Danhauser is safe in the meantime."

"But there's a limit," Ruval commented, intrigued.

"Exactly," Latia nodded, "It absorbs, not completely nullify blows, meaning there is a limit to how much punishment Danhauser can withstand. Let's keep in mind that Sairaorg hasn't struck Danhauser too, who knows if his Shock Absorption will be able to even handle it."

"Malacoda could," the Phenex Heir intoned.

"Lord Danhauser can as well!" Ravel stated confidently, "he just needs time to adapt with his True Form, that's all. Lord Danhauser still has room for growth."

"While it may not look like, Danhauser is actually fighting two people simultaneously," Roygun drawled, watching how the gray-haired tried to keep distance from Sairaorg and Regulus, but his two opponents kept on pushing. "Sairaorg's fists coated in Touki and the earth-breaking powers of Regulus… it must be a terrific combination."

Ruval spared a glance at the mesmerized Roygun, "You know, Sairaorg's fighting style while he's on his golden armor reminds me of yours. You both are destructive as hell in the battlefield."

Roygun rolled her eyes, "Uh, hush."

Danhauser sent his body backward and quickly distanced himself again. Before Sairaorg could give chase, the gray-haired produced twin cannons at the top of his shoulders and fired cannonballs made of Pitch Resin straight to the Lion King.

The armor of Sairaorg emitted a golden glow and before the projectiles could land on him, their trajectory changed and crashed elsewhere.

"That's his Longinus doing magic, I suppose," The Blue Phoenix leaned forward, "Aside from creating fissures, it also protects the possessor from projectiles even if Sairaorg can't see them. Any thrown-type attacks, 'bounce away' per se. Curious how Dan will respond to this."

Danhauser fell on a knee to plant his hand on the floor. Seconds later, he covered the whole area around him into Pitch Resin and expanded it until passed through Sairaorg.

The Bael Heir studied the now pitch-black field before smiling at Danhauser, [You are a man with interesting—!] He never got to finish his sentence when something struck him under his chin, making him walk backward at the impact. He instantly recovered and massaged his chin to find anything fatal.

Undamaged—mostly his Touki parrying whatever that was. Sairaorg looked at Danhauser who hasn't moved a muscle yet, [How?]

His answer came in the shape of another strike but this time it came at the back of his neck, his lion armor, and Touki absorbing most of the force. A third punch on his left cheek. Another hook aimed after his right cheek. Sairaorg brought his arms up to shield his face as the speed of the barrage intensified each second.

The Lion King noticed where the attacks came from. From the new ground created by Danhauser, sprouted a dozen fists of Pitch Resin that were unleashed at him with relentless fury. North. East. South. West. The bombardment came from everywhere and didn't give him any chance to take a breather. Destroying them was fruitless, Danhauser kept replacing them with newer versions.

He just realized the fists were glazed with Touki as well, adding some serious force to their already deadly firepower.

He tried to get out of harm's way, but it was too late. A pair of two-meter tall Pitch Resin grew from his sides and notice from afar Danhauser clap. The viscous arms copied his movements and trapped Sairaorg between the two hands.

"I-I thought thrown attacks were useless against President's cousin!" Issei blurted out.

"None of that was a projectile," Ruval slipped a chuckle, "at least on my book they're not. That mostly falls under the category of wide range attack type or a direct attack that simply has a long reach."

"Good. Danhauser did his homework," Roygun took note of how far they were from the other, "the best approach as well. He's controlling all those limbs from a safe distance while Sairaorg is trying to ward them off. Sairaorg can't do anything unless he's close to Danhauser—he relies too much on hand-to-hand combat."

"Danhauser was also aiming only at his face," Rias found out, "is he looking for a knockout?"

"If you were to fight against Lord Achilles, would you go after his body, or after his heel?" Ravel sagely said.

"… President's cousin is still unharmed," Koneko told them, "the Touki around him acts as another armor. Vice-Principal needs to shatter it first."

"I suppose by punching it until it cracks," Yuuto theorized, "but is there an efficient way to bypass Touki?"

"Light, because of his Devil nature," The Nekoshou answered, her expression turning grim as she saw the large limbs containing Sairaorg being ignited by familiar light-blue flames.

Koneko looked the other way with a shaky breath. "… and Senjutsu."

Still caged with no window to escape, Sairaorg could feel his Touki flickering countless times as a warning before slowly depleting after being exposed by Senjutsu for too long—the purple particles flying off his body was proof of that. Even if the Bael Heir was being scorched by Senjutsu, there was no change in his expression, but he was passing through extreme pain as he tried to carve his way out of the Pitch Resin.

[M-My King!] the Nemean Lion mewled out, [T-These flames…! I can even feel them!]

He gritted his teeth, [Hang in there…!] Suddenly, unexpectedly, the Strongest Youth brought his powerful hands together in a mind staggering thunderclap.

The loud clap empowered by the earth-shattering powers of Regulus Nemea released a high-pressure wave of air that knocked away all the Pitch Resin invading his personal space and extinguished the light-blue flames like a candle.

"He did it!" Rias exclaimed with a wide smile, "He's free! He got all that Pitch Resin out of the way!"

"Not all of it," her Queen countered. "Vice-Principal's side is still covered with the Malebranche Clan Trait. And besides, there's nothing that could stop him from covering the floor with Pitch Resin again."

The Lion King with a mighty roar stomped the ground hard enough to cause cracks and make the ground itself bubble over like somebody flipped a carpet. While the action did not knock Danhauser off his feet, it did make the gray-haired stumble a bit.

[Not what I was looking for, but I'll take it!]Sairaorg charged and cocked his arm back and lunged it forward once he was close to his opponent. Danhauser split his head in half just in time for Sairaorg's fist to pass freely, but the aura of his Touki and Regulus also packed a punch. He shuddered as the waves traveled across his body. His legs trembled and he almost thought he had a brief concussion. It was far too late to escape from Sairaorg as the latter quickly went for a second strike toward his chest. Danhauser saw it and dissolved that spot of his body and allowed it passed through him, trying to take as little harm as possible.

In just seconds Danhauser was able to dunk back to the resin and reappear behind the Lion King, but the latter saw it coming. Sairaorg elbowed him for the eyes, the crash blew Danhauser's head off.

But something was off, Sairaorg saw how the rest of his foe's body melted down until it became a puddle.

[A clone!] A bulk of Pitch Resin substance wrapped himself all over the back of Sairaorg, almost making him trip face-first to the floor.

Danhauser began expanding across the armor. Sairaorg tried to pull the viscosity out of him but every time he grabbed a chunk and threw it away, Danhauser quickly healed it up and continued his conquest. It was a matter of time before Danhauser took over the lion armor and replaced the glowing color of gold with pitch black.

He didn't have time to appreciate his new look. In a blur, Sairaorg punched himself straight to the face. A clear sound echoed across the arena—one that everyone felt given by the hisses and winces coming from the stadium.

The Lion King backpaddled and tried to stay still, but another hook of his own fist disrupted his stance. His Touki shattered like glass.

[WHAT'S HAPPENING?!] Naud shrieked on his microphone, holding the device close to his chest, [The Strongest Youth is punching himself on the face! The Heir of Rating Games is using Prince Sairaorg's greatest weapon against him—his own body!]

Another strike and Sairaorg fell on a knee. He almost lost consciousness the moment his eyes rolled at the back of his head, but his ludicrous durability and resolve kept him awake. He barely caught his right wrist before it blew his teeth off. The veins on his forehead popped as he struggled to keep his shaky fist down, his left arm began to turn against him as well.

But in return, his whole body was set aflame by Senjutsu. The pain took over a significant portion of his brain as if dealing with it was energy expenditure enough, without the effort of new thoughts. He couldn't think straight and only act on pure instinct. Every time he tried to cover himself with Touki, it was hacked halfway from the light-blue flames. Given the roars, his Longinus was passing through an agonizing phase as well.

Sairaorg again sacrificed his life force to coat himself in Touki, but rather than using it on his body, he used it on his voice. He released an imposing shout enhanced with Touki that dispersed all the Pitch Resin from his armor—returning to its golden glory.

But he wasn't donehe wanted more. He saw Danhauser regenerating and saw his chance. He was waiting for this moment. He ran at him and sent his fist toward Danhauser who wasn't done recovering from his previous attack.

And it registered.

His first. His purple Touki. Regulus' powers… simultaneously left a horrendous mark on Danhauser's abdomen. He watched as the glowing white eyes of Danhauser widened like dishes.

"Yes!" Rias left her seat with a cheer, "Sairaorg did it! He finally got him!"

Ravel was also on her feet but contrasted Rias' excitement.

They expected that Danhauser will be sent flying across the field—to tumble on the ground several times until he stopped moving.

What happened next alarmed all the viewers. His body inflated itself until he looked like a balloon and exploded—spreading Pitch Resin all over the place. It started with a pitch-black droplet. A second droplet. A third one. And then the rain came. Each drop sat on Sairaorg's armor like a small puddle that will never leave—perfectly formed. He paid it no mind and pulled grabbed his Phoenix Tear, flipped the bottlecap with his thumb, and chugged on it.

The field slowly getting soiled by Pitch Resin.

[DOWN! THE HEIR OF RATING GAMES IS DOWN!]

Even the audience made the loudest noise of the day. Rias was cheering and her peerage shared her sentiment. Issei was moved and felt tears threaten his eyes.

Ravel just stared in silent shock.

"NOOOO!" Gasper shrieked to the heavens, "L-Lord Danhauuuseeer!"

The Red Dragon glanced at Gasper incredulously, "W-What are you doing?! Why are you feeling sad?! He's the one that crushed all of us!"

"I-I don't care!" Issei jumped back when his junior snapped back at him, "I-I became strong because of him! He taught me anything he could even if he shouldn't have… a-and more importantly," he clenched a fist to his chest, tears threatening to fall from the corner of his eyes. He took a deep breath, "m-more importantly…! H-He's the man that makes Valerie happy! I-It's thanks to him that she's smiling more often now! I will be forever indebted with him!"

"Search for Dan the Man," the words of Valerie echoed in his head, "You will learn everything you must know from him."

"I will do it, Valerie!" the crossdresser vowed, tears falling freely from his eyes, "I will b-become a man! Just like him!"

"It's not over yet," Roygun told them.

Rias looked over the pink-haired, aghast, "What?"

"Far from it," Latia agreed.

[I hate it when this happens.]The rain ceased a while ago and all the blobs moved like worms and met in the middle of the battlefield. They started to intermix and build the familiar shape of an eldritch monstrosity. Danhauser was on his feet once again.

Ravel and Gasper released a sigh that they'd been holding for a minute now.

Ruval just snickered.

"Despite that clean hit… Vice-Principal is still able to stand on his feet?!" Issei exclaimed, resisting the urge to yank his hair out, "what kind of stupid joke is this?!"

"Shock Absorption. Regeneration. Malleability. Elasticity. These are some of the powers Malebranche Form grants," Latia explained, "In my opinion, in terms of destructive power, it pales in comparison with his Belial Form, but makes up for it using his versatile techniques and the fact it gets along with Senjutsu and Touki."

"And Worthlessness?" Rias just realized that Danhauser hadn't used his main Clan Trait since the start of the duel. "Can he combine his Malebranche Form with Worthlessness?"

"He can't use Worthlessness while in Malebranche Form," Latia shook her head, "and vice versa. To use True Form, one must transform all his demonic power into one of his Clan Traits, in this case, Pitch Resin."

"How about fusing them?" Ruval asked her, "use both True Forms in tandem if you know what I mean?"

Latia opened her mouth to answer, but nothing. Her eyes narrowed as she twirled her pen in her hand, "… Good question."

[You did me a favor today,] Sairaorg wiped his nosebleed with a confident smile, [It had crossed my mind quite a few times about punching my own face with my fist. With the many allegations of the power behind my hooks… I wanted to try it at least once in a lifetime.]

[And? What do you think?] Danhauser asked whilst surrounding himself with Senjutsu to reduce his exhaustion.

Sairaorg threw the empty flask away just as the wounds across his face healed, [I think people overreact too much.]

A chuckle came from Danhauser.

"I have to say, it's fucking ridiculous how Sairaorg is still on his feet," Ruval commended, "Son of a bitch is built differently. I can buy it from someone like Tannin, but…"

"That's because Sairaorg's body 'rewired' since birth."

Everyone faced Latia who was fixated on the spectacle. Rias voiced everyone's confusion, "What?"

"Sairaorg's body 'rewired'," Latia repeated, still mesmerized on both fighters, "Take as an example those born blind. Their brains make new connections in the absence of visual information, resulting in enhanced, compensatory abilities such as a heightened sense of hearing, smell, and touch—as well as cognitive functions such as memory and language," she shifted her attention to her notebook and began taking notes, "In Sairaorg's case, the tradeoff for his complete lack of demonic energy is his immense physical prowess."

The fight resumed with Sairaorg vanishing from sights and teleporting behind Danhauser—but could only succeed hitting the air as Danhauser submerged on the Pitch Resin pool under his feet. The attack the Belial Heir just dodged opened the ground below and battered the black resin in the process.

Sairaorg observed as the black substance expanded its territory across the field. Danhauser reappeared from a different point of the battleground and Sairaorg gave chase only for the latter to immediately submerge back. Each time that Danhauser resurfaced, he summoned a dozen of vicious fists in Sairaorg's location to keep him distracted and deal as much damage as possible.

But Sairaorg wasn't going to fall from the same trick twice. Whenever any limbs neared, he clapped and the shockwave handled the rest. Danhauser instead created multiple tendrils beneath Sairaorg and wrapped them all over his arms, the Lion King wasn't fast enough to aver them away with a thunderous clap—they were already clung to him. One of further stretched to gag his mouth.

The gray-haired then snapped his fingers and the tentacles were caught on fire.

"That's got to be the third time Dan uses Sage Arts," Ruval noted, "I think it's crystal clear that it won't cut against Sairaorg."

"Unless…" Roygun frowned and tapped a finger under her chin, "… he is using it for a different purpose."

Ravel gasped once realization dawned upon her, "Lord Danhauser was targeting Lord Regulus this whole time!" she kneaded her temple, putting the gears on her mind to whirl, "Now it all makes sense! All that boost of power comes precisely from the lion armor! If Lord Danhauser retires the Longinus, then he will have the upper hand!"

Rias seemed trouble at the prospect, "But how?"

"With Senjutsu," Koneko recalled the days when her sister homeschooled her, "Vice-Principal's fists are hitting the armor, but the Senjutsu surrounding his hands is hitting directly the spirit of Regulus that is inside the Longinus Regulus Nemea. His spirit will shatter if this keeps up," that brought Roygun's attention, "which could result in Regulus being badly incapacitated and unable to use his abilities."

"The power to create fissures. The protection over projectiles. The Balance Break," Ruval counted them off with his fingers, "… all of it will be gone once Regulus gets his spirit torn apart?"

"Yes."

The pink-haired remembered how Danhauser and his peerage fought Kokabiel after the latter invaded Kuoh. While his narration wasn't quite detailed or graphic for her and Cleria, it brought the point across in some parts of the tale.

Somewhere in his storytelling, he mentioned how he left cracks on the spirit of Kokabiel with Senjutsu alone and how quickly it happened. That Kokabiel winced in pain whenever he tried to summon his holy powers, only to fail miserably. The Cadre was weaponless.

"Of course! We Devils grab demonic energy from our spirit," Latia spoke aloud, "which in return we mold it to cast our Clan Traits, elemental magic, or any custom techniques. My question is… how much would it take to break Regulus' spirit?"

"Not much," Koneko replied, "Senjutsu nonusers have a frail soul compared to those who mastered that dangerous technique, but the Touki of President's cousin is making him last longer."

"Dangerous?" Ravel repeated, "How is it dangerous?"

"Senjutsu corrupts the user," Koneko shuddered, "… Vice-Principal is an idiot, he's putting himself and everybody else at risk by taking the malice and corruption that flows in this world."

"He's not an idiot!" Ravel rested her hands over her hips, "he knows what he has gotten to and has avoided and overcome all those weaknesses!"

Koneko glared at the blonde girl, "You don't understand. He will lose his sanity and will obliterate everything in his surrounding, leaving very little to no trace. The only way to put an end to this rampage is when the user will eventually and inevitably destroy themselves."

"… This attitude of yours is typical between low-class Devils," Ravel spat out, "seriously, your people sometimes get on my nerves. Do not mock Lord Danhauser's major feats and achievements just because someone you know wasn't able to accomplish what he did."

"Whoa, whoa, okay! Time out!" Ravel squawked just as her older brother lifted her like a stray puppy and sat her beside him, "that's enough of you. No one paid to see a second fight in the stadium led by two brats."

But despite how far they were, Ravel and Koneko locked gazes the intensity of their shared enmity manifested as lighting arcing back and forth between their eyes.

Koneko mouthed, "Grilled Chicken."

"Why you…!" The twin-tailed refused to fall on her level and held her tongue, focusing on the monitors with a pout just in time to see Sairaorg tearing off the tendrils hanging on his arm with a strong yank, but the tentacles quickly assembled back and restrained him. The flames hadn't been blown away yet. He couldn't use his thunderclap and he couldn't fuse his shout with Touki with a tendril gagging his mouth. Instead, he slammed his feet strong enough to cause an earthquake, the shockwaves destroyed all the Pitch Resin in his vicinity.

While Sairaorg tried to recover, Danhauser created a puddle of resin underneath his opponents' feet and produced a dozen of multiple blunt-ended resin tendrils. Danhauser made sure they kept growing upwards at once until they resembled like pillars covered in Senjutsu. The tendrils eventually peak in the air and start making the trajectory down, descending fast akin to a literal downpour.

The Lion King only managed to dodge the first three that crashed down with a great force that they produced a cloud, he forced the trajectory of the fourth one with a punch but wasn't capable enough to evade the rest as they pummeled him repeatedly. The cloud of dust further grew as the tendrils kept drumming Sairaorg and Regulus on the ground. Danhauser identified a silhouette leaping through the smoke and launched straight at him like a missile. Danhauser responded by dissolving the upper part of his body for Sairaorg to pass over.

As Danhauser regenerated the missing half of his body, he also grew multiple arms coming from his back and combined them with Senjutsu. He stretched all of his arms back and threw for devastating, long-range punches. Sairaorg could only block the restless barrage by crossing his arms over his body. His Touki fading after being exposed by Senjutsu.

Time slowed down. Everyone witnessed the golden armor showing its first cracks of the game before crumbling completely. Rias felt a pull on her heartstrings once she saw the shocked expression of her cousin for a moment—a reaction she thought she'd never see on his face until now.

With the confidence he always radiated whenever they met, it didn't suit him.

[My King… forgive… me…]

[Prince Sairaorg Bael's Pawn, retires!]

After his final words, Regulus was taken out from the Rating Game.

[HE'S GONE!] Naud cried out, [REGULUS IS GONE! The Strongest Youth is all by himself now! Prince Sairaorg lost that boost of power! Prince Danhauser turned the tables now! All this time that he stayed away from the dangerous punches of Prince Sairaorg is in the past now!]

The broadcaster wasn't lying, Danhauser went full on the offensive now. He was right in front of the defenseless Sairaorg and took advantage of the situation by beating him mercilessly.

[Prince Sairaorg doesn't back down! He keeps fighting back but his body can't keep up against the True Form of Prince Danhauser! He just can't keep up!]

But Sairaorg never turned tail. He clenched his jaw and returned the punches in kind, but they were all ineffective. Sometimes he struck his body, but fatigue weakened his attacks, the shockwave behind his strikes was absorbed by the True Form of Danhauser with the latter not displaying any signs of discomfort.

It's all Sairaorg could do—to punch anything that got in his way and carve his destiny through his ugly knuckles. For someone who was born without the Power of Destruction, this was the only path set to him. It's his way of facing upcoming challenges and when he hit a wall—he hit it hard and moved on.

Today, it didn't work out. No matter how much strength he added behind his hooks, the wall before him would not crack—let alone crumble.

He knew deep inside what would happen behind the scenes. The political consequences he could face if he lost to Danhauser. A 'Great King' losing against a 'Lesser King' was enough to make the upper echelon revolt at the thought.

Doors will open for Danhauser, doors will close for Sairaorg.

He smiled. He didn't care. If he was going to ever face his first defeat against someone—it had to be by his hand. No one else's.

Sairaorg already found his place—to be cast down, so he could rise once more.

To become a Maou.

But had Danhauser found his place?

Sairaorg could feel his body growing weak each second, his eyes starting to weigh, he experienced labored breathing. Each time Danhauser landed a good hit, he almost blacked out as the impact behind Danhauser's touch traveled all across his body. Danhauser punched his abdomen and his body bent ninety degrees forward. He then kneed Sairaorg's face without any regret. Sairaorg refused to fall on the floor and just backpaddled a bit.

The Strongest Youth regained his balance and searched for his foe through his blurry vision. Danhauser had sprouted a pair of Pitch Resin cannons glued on each shoulder—both aimed directly at him.

[It's over.]

From the twin, cannons came a powerful blast of Touki that struck Sairaorg head-on, and an explosion came.

No one made a single sound—the stadium was in complete silence. They were waiting for the curtain of dust to scatter with anticipation.

Once the cloud dispersed, Danhauser saw the bloodied and bruised Sairaorg still on his feet, he neither stumbled nor backed off after the spell reached him. His eyes were overshadowed by his sweaty hair. He stood like a morbid statue.

He was unconscious. His fingers were twitching a bit until they stopped completely. And yet, Sairaorg didn't fall, his muscles refused to accept defeat and strived for victory when its driving will have been extinguished a while ago.

[Prince Sairaorg Bael loses. He retires! This is the end of the game! Victory goes to the team of Prince Danhauser Belial!]

When the victory came the cheers would have taken the roof off any building large or small—some emotions needed their freedom.

"YES!" Roygun did a fist pump and quickly regained her composure, but the grin never left her face.

"… An amazing fight between two Kings," Rias breathed out while everyone in the viewing area was sending rounds of applause to both teams, "That was such an amazing fight. Thanks to that, the bond between them deepened."

"But President," Issei caught her attention, "your cousin… he lost. Is that okay with you? Are you not mad?"

"No… it's alright," she flashed a smile that made his heart skip a beat, "Sairaorg went down with a smile. That's all that matters. I'm glad we had the honor to watch it in person, or else I wouldn't realize something."

"What's that, President?" Akeno asked.

"I will still push to be the Rating Game Champion," Rias intoned, "Even if must face Danhauser and his incomplete peerage full of monsters again, I won't back down. Even if I lost again, I will chin up. If Sairaorg isn't a bit perturbed about losing his win streak, then I shouldn't let my defeat warp up all my head as well. We learn from failure, not from success after all."

Akeno grabbed the shoulder of her King, squeezing it gently, "You are not alone, President. If you will still follow this path, then I will stand beside you as your Queen."

"That's right!" Issei shouted clenching his fist emotionally, "I know I'm not as good with magic as my Senior Akeno! Or fast as Yuuto! Or strong as Koneko! Hell, I'm not an ace of all trades like Gasper! But I won't let that stop me! I will become the Strongest Pawn for you, President!"

Gasper sobbed, "I-I will still grow stronger! You just wait, President!"

Koneko and Yuuto nodded simultaneously.

Rias blinked a few times before beaming at them, "I'm lucky to have you in my family."

Latia closed her notebook, "Well, I can't say I found anything new. Same stuff, but with small additions. A pity Valerie didn't use her Metamorphosis… I'd love to see how the True Form of Vampires works…"

"That's a wrap," Ruval watched humorously his sister squirming with happiness on her seat. "Not something I would call a Rating Game though, neither Diehauser will. The Emperor won't be amused by this at all."

"I'm not surprised," Roygun adjusted her sunglasses with pursed lips, "but I understand. Diehauser rarely gets angry, but when he does… he doesn't forgive."

"Something's cooking, Roy, and it's not smelling any good," the Heir of Phenex agreed. "The fight was cool overall. Enough to keep the fans happy for the rest of the weekend and enough to get skinned alive by the professionals."

"But… isn't Lord Bael the one managing this tournament?" Rias spoke up. "No offense to The Emperor, but what role he plays on this?"

"You are right, Lord Bael runs the show," Latia answered her friend, "but the Rating Game Committee runs the Rating Game System itself."

Ruval patted Roygun's shoulder, "I'll be on my way now. Think about the offer, alright? About you and Dan visiting us I mean."

Roygun nodded at him, "I'll keep that in mind."

"Good," Ruval then turned over her sister, "If you want to meet him the time is now," he thumbed behind his shoulder, "As we talk, Dan should be getting interviewed somewhere in the stadium."

"Then we should get going!" Ravel reached to grab his sleeve and pull him up his feet, "hurry! Before he leaves!"

"I'm moving! Stop pulling over my sleeve damn it!"

[What a fantastic game played by both teams, surely it will be written for the history books!] Naud spoke through his microphone, [With this epic fight concluded, the Strongest Youth finished his win streak by facing his first defeat! Now it's only the Blue Phoenix and the Heir of Rating Games who have yet to face a single loss in the tournament! Will Prince Ruval Phenex still be amongst the Top Ten, or will he lose his title at the hands of Prince Danhauser Belial?]

.


.

"And that's game!" Satanael whistled before shutting off the television, "Mah, mah. First the Gremory Heiress and then the Lion King. Who's next? If he keeps this up, son of a bitch will become the pussy slayer in no time!" he turned to the Stray Magician with a grin, "Geddit?"

Walburga was lying on the sofa with a book in her hand and many others floating around her. She switched to the next page, "Yeah, I get it. Good one," she replied without pausing her reading, "laughing my ass off right now."

He rolled his eyes before shifting his attention at the Evil Dragon waiting in the background and leaning on a wall, "So? What do you think, CC?" he wiggled his eyebrows, "Anything you wanna share with the class?"

"…"

"Really? Again making me talk to the hand? The least you could do is give me your professional input about the game! Weren't you the one insisting that you wanted to see it? Well, there you have it!" Satanael then added, "And what's with you and the damn walls? Leaning on them for the nth time doesn't make you an interesting person."

"Was that the Devil that defeated both Heavenly Dragons of the same era?" Crom Cruach ignored his rambling.

"Yeah, that's him," Satanael nodded in confirmation, "Keep in mind that the Red One is weak as fuck whilst Vali was young and inexperienced back then… the brat brims with potential with that fucking lineage he has."

"What's his name?"

"Danhauser Belial, next Head of Clan Belial and the loyal dog of the Great King Bael," That's when Satanael realized something and grinned, "Just like you when Balor pulled you by the chain!"

"… Disappointing. He did not defeat any Heavenly Dragon," The Evil Dragon pushed himself off the wall and leave, "his master did."

Satanael watched with amusement, "Well, look at that. I thought he could handle a jab or two, but it seems our big man is just too emotional."

"You are so lucky to be his banana provider," she flipped for the next page, "or else, you'd be kicking the bucket right now, and another in the afterlife."

"Yeah, yeah," he searched everywhere for his sword and frowned. Once it dawned on him, he clapped twice. "Servants~!"

From the same corridor Crom Cruach had left, two young adults of different gender walked toward Satanael. Natsume Minagawa and Kouki Samejima.

The young woman was carrying the sword he was seeking for, "There it is!" Satanael yanked the holy sword from her grasp. "My baby girl. What you two were doing with my girl?"

They didn't answer, their empty eyes looking at nothing but the void.

He swung the holy sword a few times before lifting Natsume's chin with the tip of his katana—the Kusanagi. Her blank brown eyes met his silver ones "Mah, mah. You know, you are not bad-looking… by human standards. A slim figure and voluptuous body and those puppies are shaping up nicely. I bet half your school thirsted to get under your panties—teachers included."

"Why don't you use her body if you are THAT pent-up?" Walburga wondered, "It's not like she can fight back while being in limbo."

"Don't make me throw up," Satanael spat venom, "I wouldn't stand that low to breed with fucking humans of all things—even less a pseudo-sex doll. You, humans, don't make any sense. You do stupid shit for nothing. And the only thing keeping your kin relevant on this world are the Sacred Gears… why the Old Bastard even cares about you all…?"

He saw the snakes made of holy energy coil across the blade—ready to sink its venomous fangs on Natsume's face.

He sheathed his sword at the last second. Satanael then beamed a smile at the deadpan Stray Magician, "No offense, Walburga~!"

Walburga just rolled her eyes and returned to her reading. "Why are you still keeping them then?" she asked him, "I believe they're your last two, Utsusemi. You could just kill them and throw them under a bridge. No one will weep for them."

"But I will! Who else is gonna clean this whole place?" he glared at his Utsusemis, "By the way, you two get back doing your chores, this place ain't gonna dust itself!" just as they spun around, he gave a spank to Natsume's curvy rear, "And you two better make that damn toilet sparkle!"

Walburga swapped her book with another floating midair, "Got something anything about the cock-sleeve?"

"Euclid?" Satanael clicked his tongue, "Nothing, unfortunately. After Sirzechs one-shotted the Old Satan Faction, the crybaby went to his room and threw a fuss about it."

"Good thing we don't sleep on their quarters," Walburga sounded relieved by that, "I don't need to hear that Vampire sobbing in his sleep every night. He's such a bitch."

"That's nothing," Satanael scoffed, "Whenever Euclid mentions his sister it sounds like he unzipped his pants and took a couple of strokes."

"Ugh, great. I didn't need to imagine that."

Satanael laughed, "They told me to steal that piece of the holy grail from the Arthurian legends and grab the files holding information of Siegfried—I suppose confidential one," he shrugged, "I guess that they're trying to replicate Sephiroth Graal, but that's almost impossible. It's impossible to replicate all the abilities of an Arma Christi."

"So, I guess there can't be a double Incinerate Anthem?" Walburga asked.

"Pretty much," Satanael nodded, "they can imitate the holy aspect… but there's more than that with your Longinus… stuff they can't just copy."

"Anyway!" As he stood up front in front of the Stray Magician, he stole her book and tossed it aside.

He parried her glare with a wink, "Break is over, back to work."

"Asshole," she muttered whilst making all the books floating around her lose to gravity. She invoked a few magic circles afterward and cleared her throat, "Hello? Is anyone there? World of Oz, can you copy? If anyone can hear this we need your help. Repeat we need help urgently. Respond."

Walburga waited for another voice to come through the comms. Silence. She resisted the urge to pull her hair out. "Hello? Is anyone there? World of Oz, can you—!"

[Walburga,] the Stray Magician almost tripped from the sofa, [Don't get any absurd ideas. Do not try to be in touch with the World of Oz. It's for your own good.]

The Longinus User floated away from her magic circles, "H-How?" she hissed out, biting on her thumb, "I-I made sure to…!"

[You have been getting better with magic, Walburga,] it was the voice of a woman that praised her—oddly familiar as well, [to be able to communicate from one world to another… is nothing to be looked down. Augusta would be proud.]

Her eyes expanded in recognition, "It's you…"

"Making new friends, Walburga?" Satanael returned to the room, likely hearing the newcomer as well, "About damn time someone answered. I hope this is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then again, I don't remember him to sound hot."

[I'm not Oz,] the woman said, [And you should stop seeking help from the World of Oz—that's a line you do not want to cross.]

"Alright, then you must be his right-hand," Satanael suspected, "his secretary. Look, just put Oz on the call—play the whistleblower for another day."

[Oz never existed, Satanael,] the woman revealed, [Oz was nothing but a made-up name to hide the true identity the one behind all.]

"Okay, cool. How the fuck do you know my name?" Satanael demanded, "I don't remember talking to you like, ever."

[Satanael, or would you be called under your other name instead?]

His eyes widened for a brief second before he stuck with a cold glare, "Watch your tongue, bitch."

[You provided both Utsusemi Agency and the Wizards of Oz Independent Avatar-Sacred Gears,] his insult unfazed her, [You were the one that gave the Wizards of Oz blueprints for the Three Demonic Beasts, even leading the project itself, remember?]

The traitor of Grigori tapped the holy sword on his shoulder, looking at the magic circle cautiously, "From what I recall, yeah. We only managed to finish PROJECT: Cowardly Leo, though—getting discontinued after Utsusemi Agency disbanded and the loss of Augusta."

Walburga snarled but said nothing.

"Cowardly Leo was a pile shit disguised as a lion, by the way," he groaned out, "easily crushed by Danny-boy back then. If I were to build it from scratch again… I wouldn't repeat the same mistakes as my past self did."

There was a long pause that the Fallen Angel thought she hung the call, but the Magician spoke once again, [What would it take for you to revive this project?]

"Woah, Woah! Back up a little bit," Satanael brought a hand up, "You suck at this. You just don't pop out of the blue and ask someone to team up for a school project! One step at a time! Let's start from the beginning: Who the fuck is you?"

"You don't know her?" Walburga looked at him incredulously, "Augusta never told you about her?"

"Uh, no?" Satanael scratched behind his ear, "Is this her superior or something?"

"She is," Walburga confirmed it with a hiss, "She is—!"

[Glindaformer Chairman of Wizards of Oz,] the Good Witch of the South introduced herself, [And Walburga? I'm sorry for your loss. I know Augusta meant a lot to you.]

.


.

"No! That doesn't work!" Ravel looked away from the mirror to scold herself, "I can do better than that!"

Ravel closed her eyes and took steady breaths. She fluttered them afterward and turned back at her own reflection. She flashed a ladylike smile, "Lord Danhauser, it's been a while. How do you do? My pleasure to make your acquaintance after years," she did a curtsy, "I watched your match against the Strongest Youth and I must say, it was a superb fight. Congratulations on your victory, it was well-earned."

Her reflection nodded back from the mirror, "Better," she then assumed a pose, "Did I choose the right dress? Mom says it looks great on me," her hands awkwardly reach to cup her breasts, "a-and I guess it accentuates down there… even if mom says that I'm still growing…"

"What are you doing?"

With a cry of surprise, Ravel launched five meters into the air. "R-Ruval?!" she almost had whiplash as she whirled around to face the intruder, "W-What are you doing here?!"

"You took years and decided to check if you were OK," her brother answered simply.

"But you can't be here!" she tried to push him to where he came from, "this is the bathroom for women you big pervert!"

"Okay, first of all, it's a ghost town down here. Second. Me? A Pervert?" Ruval scoffed and didn't move an inch despite the efforts of his sister, "Says the girl groping herself in a public bathroom."

"S-Shut up! I-I wasn't groping myself!" Ravel stuttered, eyes cast to her feet, "I-I was making sure if my size was the right one."

He folded his arms and looked at her in silence.

She felt uncomfortable under his deadpan gaze, "W-What?"

He kept looking at her for a few seconds. And then spoke, "Danhauser prefers thighs."

Ravel felt her jaw drop like an anvil to the ground, "Y-You're just making that up!"

"I'm not. Malacoda told me about it. Dan also digs thigh-high socks."

"B-But…! Raiser told me men like breasts! Big ones!"

"And who the hell he think he is to speak on behalf of all the male population?" Ruval scoffed and pointed himself with a thumb, "I prefer a heart-shaped butt— the perfect replacement for a pillow."

"W-Why are you telling me that?" Ravel glared at her older brother with a blush," P-Pervert."

"Ah, but if Danhauser ever said that, you'd be squatting day and night," he turned around and went for the exit, "keep up hummingbird! Danhauser isn't as far as you think!"

Just as her brother left, Ravel froze once she heard a familiar voice muffled by the walls of the bathroom.

Ravel frantically left the public bathroom and located her target right away. She already saw how much he changed after being on national television—the effect of surprise was out of the window by this point.

And yet, she still couldn't help but stare in awe. Ravel could feel the beating of her heart echoing in her eardrums. It's not the same feeling to see someone behind a screen that in-person—especially after four long years.

Only four years and left a notable impact on his appearance.

He was taller and it wasn't hard to guess that he had a muscular and toned build under his clothes. Because of his age, he also started to develop masculine features all over his face and gained attractive looks—nothing surprising given that Pure Devils also share that trait as well.

Their stares met and Ravel immediately had to look at the other whilst fiddling with her dress.

He caught his smile through the corner of her eye, it faltered a bit as one of the reporters cleared their throat.

He faced them, the smile wiped off from his face. "Yes?"

"As I previously mentioned, congratulations once again for another swift victory! It looked like you and your peerage had the upper hand from the very beginning. All of you had the skills and strength to pull off some great victories. How does it feel winning a Rating Game against the Strongest Youth?"

"I wouldn't call this a Rating Game," Danhauser answered bluntly once the microphone was close to his mouth, "Seriously, what they were thinking? Not counting my duel against Sairaorg, I didn't do anything from start to finish. I was irrelevant for half the match. I never got the chance to choose who will fight who and the Dice Roll game mode served for nothing. The Rating Games… they're not as they used to be, huh?"

Ravel waited and listened from the background, not noticing her brother approaching Danhauser. From the way the gray-haired answered, she could feel the bitter words traveling toward her spot. There was a disturbing lack of passion in his voice while getting interviewed. It was completely different from his older brother who fondly spoke about the Rating Games and the aftermath of his matches.

Does he…?

No, her mind was just playing hallucinations on her—maybe the adrenaline wore off and drained from the aftermath. He doesn't dislike the Rating Games.

He was a Belial—a Household praised to be the only one capable of inheriting the mantle of 'Champion of the Rating Games'.

And in front of her was the next Champion. And she will do everything to make sure he left a footprint in the Underworld and climbed through the ranks.

"The fight against Prince Sairaorg was pretty good," Danhauser continued, "it ended on a good note, I was satisfied knowing that I scored my victory. But again, to call it a Rating Game seems farfetched."

"Oh, look! The Blue Phoenix himself! Fancy you're joining us," the reporter greeted the tall blond that stood beside Danhauser, "Quick! Same question as to the Heir of Rating Games. What are your thoughts on today's game?"

"Same answer as him," Ruval easily responded, "What I enjoyed the most was seeing him use a third-rate copy of my blue flames, albeit weaker. That was a cute tribute to my Clan Trait."

"Rule number one: there is no rule that says an imitation cannot defeat the original," Danhauser retorted jokingly.

"Ha!" Ruval gave him a harmless shove, "We will see about that you brat!" he nodded the reporters to another area, "how about you pamper the Strongest Heir with attention instead? I got better answers than him anyway."

"Of course!" the reporters nodded to Danhauser, "Heir of Rating Games, thank you for your answers. Please enjoy your victory."

Just as Ruval took his leave, he flashed her an encouraging thumbs-up before retreating with all the reporters to a different location.

Ravel waved him a farewell just as her shoulders jumped once a hand ruffled her hair from behind, "I guess your brother and my uncle share something in common—they just love attention."

Her breath hitched a little. Ravel whirled around to face the gray-haired properly, "L-Lord Danhauser!"

"Hey there," he pulled his hand off her head with a smile, "Long time without seeing you, Ravel."

"L-Likewise," She then shut her eyes and controlled her breath, "Just as I practiced in the bathroom!" She reopened them and shot him a smile, "L-Lord Danhauser! I w-watched your match against the Strongest Youth and I must say, it was a superb fight. C-Congratulations on your victory, it w-was well-earned."

No use starting with a greeting when he already did.

Only if she could stop stuttering…

Danhauser raised an eyebrow, "You watched my game?" he placed a hand on his hip, "You liked it?"

"I did!" Ravel answered enthusiastically, "I was on the edge the whole time and cheering for you. Y-You became so strong."

"Yeah…" his face took a shapeshift—it looked as if he was embarrassed than anything else, "Hey, Ravel? Sorry I couldn't leave a message these four years. An apology can't cut it, but that's all I have on me."

"…. I-It's alright," Ravel fiddled, "I couldn't contact you either anyway. M-my parents neither allowed me to call you or even visit you… but they didn't discourage my training."

It could be that since they served from different Great Houses, they were technically enemies.

But why now the change of heart coming from her parents? Shouldn't they get in trouble with Clan Gamigin?

Unless he's missing something.

He saw how she became quiet all of the sudden, spaced out. He quickly acted, "Hey, wanna see something?"

Danhauser never waited for an answer, he simply summoned something from his palm.

Ravel felt something warm glow on her chest, "A-Ah… that's… that's the first Phoenix Tear I made."

"That's right, it became my lucky charm," Danhauser gently shook the vial in his fingers, "the one you gave me four years ago as a gift when you visited us, ring any bells?"

"Yes, I do…" She could feel a timid smile grow on her lips, "four years you say? Time surely flies… i-it makes me happy that you still have it around. Thank you for reinforcing the purpose of why I spent training day and night these four years."

Silence.

"… I trained hard these four years," the blonde crossed her arms behind her back, "I really did. I swear! Since you're slowly becoming a threat to the Top Ten, I needed to not become a deadweight to you. I've seen some of your servants in action… and while they're leagues above me, I promise you I won't be looked down!"

"All this time… and you still want to be part of my peerage, huh?" Danhauser tilted his head to the side as a thought passed his mind. "Help me jog my memory a bit, but I don't recall giving you anything in exchange for the Phoenix Tear, did I?"

"I-It's fine!" the blonde assured him, "You didn't have to! It'd be rude for me to expect a gift when I was just visiting you!"

"Hmm," the gray-haired mauled on her words, "Yeah, it doesn't sit well with me," he winked at her, "how about we fix that right now?"

Ravel watched as the Phoenix Tear submerged through a magic circle, being swapped by a familiar item she'd seen in the hands of multiple Devils—including her siblings and parents.

Ravel gasped behind her hands as she saw the object, "T-that's your—!"

"My Bishop," He finished for her, "the Evil Piece that I swore to use on you," he lent it to her, "I want you to keep it for me."

Her eyes grew wide in shock.

"I can't have you on my peerage yet, I have to convince your parents first and foremost, and that may take a while given the circumstances my family and I are experiencing right now," he explained to her, "It will be hard, but I'm not running away. I'll eventually make them melt with my puppy eyes."

He grabbed her hand to lie the Bishop on her palm, "Meanwhile, I'll leave this chess piece with you. It's dear to me. Take good care of it!"

Despite her hair shadowing her eyes, Ravel shakily nodded.

"I'll come back and bring you with me someday," he gave her a playful tap on her forehead, "And when I do, I'll use that piece on you. That's my promise, Ravel."

Her fingers wrapped around the Bishop tightly, "T-This wasn't meant to happen," with a sob, she wiped her wet eyes with her free hand, "I-I wasn't supposed to be crying—n-not anymore! I'm a grown-up wo-woman! A-And yet… I-I am making an f-fool of myself before y-you…"

The heir felt a weight on his shoulder, "First you beat the living crap of my brother, and now you make my sister cry?" Ruval tsked behind him, "Tsk, tsk. You're making it too hard not to kick your ass right now, Dan."

"I-It's my fault," Ravel sniffed.

"Kidding, kidding~!" Ruval snapped his fingers, "Hey! How about a picture?" he suggested, already pulling his phone "this can be your memory of a lifetime, hummingbird! A picture before he joins the Top Ten!"

She sniffed and looked up to Danhauser, pleadingly.

How could he say no to those big, tearful eyes, "Fine, fine. But you better flash the biggest smile to the camera!"

Danhauser bent down a little and wrapped an arm around her. She leaned on his shoulder—and made sure the Evil Piece appeared don the picture.

"Smile~!" Once Ruval took it, he looked over the picture before flashing them a thumbs up, "Looks good! Now, how about you hurry to the bathroom and dry your eyes and nose," he pocketed his device, "You're a total mess right now, hummingbird—good thing you don't wear makeup."

"O-Okay…" she turned to Danhauser, raised the hem of her dress, curtsied, and shot him an affectionate look before leaving.

"Well, that was hard to hear," Ruval joked once his sister was gone. "All that corny crap made me almost puke."

"So you eavesdropped," Danhauser intoned. "Honestly? I never thought she'd cry."

"Obviously she was going to cry," Ruval exclaimed, "it's like when that famous baseball player gifts their autographed bats or shirts to their fans during a game—few of them break into smiles, others in tears."

"Keyword on famous. I just played two official games so far. There's no way you can become famous after two games."

"Two games against the hot little sister of Satan Lucifer AND the Strongest Youth, those are people with huge names in Ars Goetia," Ruval counted them off, "and you crushed them."

"The Strongest Heir is next on my list," Danhauser quipped.

"Ha! Your bark is worse than your bite," Ruval shot back with a fearless grin, "I'll make you regret those words, brat."

Danhauser chuckled at him before focusing on the bathroom's entrance. He spoke once again, "What's her favorite comic genre?"

"Military fiction is her poison," Ruval answered easily, "She's been into that genre way before you two met—she can't stop gushing about it. Especially if it's military science fiction according to mom."

Danhauser blinked twice, "Lady Phenex knows what her daughter reads?"

Ruval gave a comical shrug, "What can I say? It rubbed off from somewhere, right?" he patted the gray-haired on the back, "Your peerage must be waiting for you, I'll stay here and make sure Ravel didn't faint inside the bathroom. Roygun is here, by the way, you should look out for her too."

"Wait, she's here? But why?" He shook his head, "Forget it, I'll ask her myself once I find her. Any clues to where she's hiding?"

Ruval stroked his chin and winced a bit, "I may… have something."

.


.

Kuisha gently closed the door of the infirmary room and laid her back on it with a sigh. Being the first to be taken out had its merits such as having the medical attention solely on you. They were quick and efficient to patch her wounds. The Phoenix Tears was the cherry on top.

It was only when the clash between her King and Prince Danhauser concluded that she was notified that she was getting discharged from her room. She took the opportunity to visit all her teammates one by one to observe their current status. Like a Queen and friend, it was her responsibility to make sure nothing wrong happened to them.

Her last visit was her King and he was the one carrying most of the wounds by the surprise of nobody. His first knockout—when it's usually the other way around. She imagined he would feel mixed feelings after tasting defeat for the first time, but by the smile, he sported while on the bed—her worries immediately went out to the window.

"How is he doing?"

The other person lied back on the wall was a woman wearing a beach hand and sunglasses. The pink hair, the horns, and that famous red dress were all the clues Kuisha needed to realize who it was.

Roygun Belphegor.

The blonde stared blankly at the woman, "You came."

Roygun wore a gentle smile, "That I did," she answered, taking off her sunglasses, "this isn't a Rating Game that I could watch through a screen—only in person. It's a pity that Lord Bael couldn't resist keeping his hands away from the match, but I can't say I'm not satisfied by the results."

Kuisha continued staring.

"It's such a shame that you were against Tobio," the woman continued carrying the conversation, "I was looking forward to how strong you became, but I guess today wasn't the day for you to shine."

"Are we done here?"

Roygun blinked in surprise, "Excuse me?"

"Are we done here?" Kuisha repeated, louder, "I'm not interested in talking with you."

"Kuisha, I—!"

"Save it," the blonde cut her off harshly, "I don't want to hear any of your stupid excuses. I'm still trying to get on my head what made you think returning to the Underworld was a good idea. Are you even ashamed in the slightest of what you caused?"

"…"

"The Emperor. Prince Ruval. Malacoda. Tannin. Rudiger… they valiantly stood their ground and tried to fix everything for years—no matter how much hostility they were getting from the population," Kuisha balled her fists, "And what did you do? What did my uncle do? What did the other cheaters do? Escape like the cowards you really are! Showing your true colors when the King Piece got snatched from your fingers! You couldn't even look at your greatest admirers in the face and apologize, could you…? Hey, have you asked him yet?"

"A-Ask him about what?" Roygun's voice cracked a bit, "Ask who?"

"Why Prince Danhauser gave you a second chance?" The Queen of Bael responded, "not only is it your fault that the Rating Games is in a bad spotlight, but also my Master, Prince Danhauser, and his family are getting harassed by Ars Goetia while you sleep like a baby. Why is the bearing with the likes of you?"

"…"

"… You were an inspiration, Roygun," Kuisha croaked out, "a good example to look up, before falling from grace. You only exist now to leech from Prince Danhauser without giving anything in return."

"Roygun! Kuisha!"

Roygun froze in horror at the familiar voice.

"Prince Danhauser!" Her personality did a one-eighty as Kuisha walked past her to stand in front of the newcomer. "It's good to see you, is there anything I could help you with? Or are you here to visit Master Sairaorg?"

Roygun refused to move—let alone look behind her. She could only listen and hug herself in her perplexed state.

"Honestly? I was here to pick up Roygun and go back to Kuoh. But since I'm already at the medical wing, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone."

"How kind of you, but I'm afraid he hasn't awakened yet. He pushed past his limits for this match you see."

"Damn, I should have known. Unlucky."

"If you have any message for him you can leave that with me, I'll make sure he gets it once he awakens."

"That would be great. Tell him that our fight was the easiest one of my life, and staying awake was the hardest part."

"Ha!" Kuisha laughed, Roygun always thought she had a beautiful laugh, "Very well! I'll be sure he gets the memo. I warn you, this is a declaration of war to my master."

"I'm ready to face the consequences."

The world suddenly paused from her perspective. Her thoughts distracted her from reality. All the sharp words of Kuisha puncturing her heart through different angles. They all stung like a sharp slap to the face as they echoed in her mind. Roygun thought she was prepared to receive any verbal beating no matter from what mouth it came from.

How delusional Roygun was to think she was emotionally strong to handle it a verbal slap.

It was a stupid idea to come here. She wanted the earth to swallow her.

"Roygun?" she cast her eyes to the hand grabbing her shoulder, "Are you alright? You spaced out on me for a second."

"Wha—?" the pink-haired escaped from her stupor and kneaded her eyes, "sorry, I was just thinking. Where's Kuisha?"

"She already left," Danhauser nodded to the corridor, "She went to grab a snack."

"Ah," she massaged her forehead, "I see…"

"Are you alright?" he repeated, concerned, "you're acting weird. And your eyes… they seem to be—!"

"I'm fine, thanks for asking," she quickly wore her sunglasses and forced her trademark, playful smile. She grabbed one of his cheeks to pat it, "Look at you, acting like a handsome man worried about his wife. Keep this up and at this rate, I may have to steal you from Valerie~! I wouldn't mind sharing too~!"

"Please change from subject. Please."

"… just letting you know, you can tell me or Cleria anything, alright?" He told her before gently taking her hand away from his cheek, "We're going after my peerage and then go back to Kuoh."

"I won't oppose to that," she felt relief wash over her, "Are you taking Ingvild with you as well?"

"I have to," Danhauser combed his slicked hair, "keeping her in Ars Goetia is only putting her life in danger. The Remaining Pillars want all those with Satan heritage six feet underground no matter what. My family could get in trouble as well for 'harboring a fugitive' or whatever stupid terminology they use in the Underworld."

"Isn't Kuoh Town owned by the Great King?"

"Lord Bael nor Zekram care about a little town," he grunted, "we've been there for four years and Lord Bael never took a step on the Human World. I could use my Senjutsu too in case we were getting spied from the shadows, but the coast was clear every time."

"Point," she dropped the discussion by thumbing over her shoulder, "might as well hurry then. If it's nighttime here then the Human World is as well."

"We'll be leaving either tomorrow or the day after that," Danhauser started walking with Roygun lazily lagging from behind, "we still have to make our suitcases and I have to say goodbye to mom and Diehauser."

.


.

"I will miss you so much dear," Calcabrina wrapped her arms around Danhauser, "time really flies when you are with your love ones."

"I won't stay away for too long mom," Danhauser hugged her back, "just going back to help Cleria with the school trip to Kyoto. After that, I'll come back for the usual."

"Be sure to message us when made it safe and sound," Diehauser told him, "Congratulations on your victory against Sairaorg by the way."

"So, I guess you liked the game?"

"I'd be lying if I say I did," Diehauser admitted with narrowed his eyes, "hardly a Rating Game too. But I can't look down on how much you progressed in terms of strength."

"Thanks. What will you do then?"

"… I already told Lord Bael to come over our headquarters, to Lilith Estate," Diehauser explained, "I want to hear his part of the story first before making a decision."

"Please don't be harsh on him. He means the world to me."

The Emperor chuckled, "I'll try not let my emotions blind my judgment," he paused a little, "take care out there, with the Khaos Brigade coming out of the shadows, things are starting to look nasty."

"Don't worry," Danhauser pulled back from his mother, "I have my peerage with me, everything will be fine."

"Then I'll leave my little brother under your care," the Rating Game Champion nodded to the silent, Reincarnated Devils, "Please bear with him a little more."

Tobio gave a salute, "We'll make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."

"Thank you," Diehauser briefly looked over Roygun who found her feet alluring. He held back a scoff before walking away, "I'll get going. I need to be ready for work now. Gilles, be sure to escort them safely to the train station."

"Absolutely," Gilles bowed to his retreating master.

"Good luck!" Danhauser waved at his brother as he disappeared into a room.

Calcabrina bent down a little to look at Ingvild, "You have everything, right?"

The Leviathan nodded quietly and brought her back closer to her chest, "t-thank you."

"Of course dear. It should be enough to last for a whole week, you can expand your wardrobe in the Human World," Calcabrina smiled sweetly at her, "Please listen to Danhauser, okay?"

"O-Okay…"

"We're going now mom," the heir smiled sadly, "we don't want our ride to ditch us. In case something happens, I'll send you a text."

"You better!" she stood on her tiptoes to peck her son on the forehead, "Be safe!"

Next stop, Kuoh Town.

.


.

"Sairaorg looked so cool in that armor! I loved the lion theme around him! And that long hair… so majestic! And! And…!" Jeanne clasped both hands and sighed dreamily, "Man… I'd die to wear that armor one day…"

"And what about me?" Danhauser asked her, "Did I look cool too?"

"Umm…" Jeanne looked at everything but him. She tapped her forefingers together, "You weren't wearing an armor though…"

"But did I look cool?" the Heir insisted with a knowing smile, "yea or nay?"

"… cool is subjective!"

"Harsh."

"Kidding, kidding~!" Jeanne giggled, "You look cool too, I just have a shameless bias for armors. I just… love them so much."

After hours of jumping from train to train, the Belial Peerage, Roygun, and Ingvild finally returned to Japan. It was nighttime as they walked on the streets of Kuoh Town, stars filled the sky.

"Hey, everyone. How about we celebrate for another swift victory on my bar?" Tobio suggested, looking at the time on his phone, "Sae is on her nightshift right now and she knows we're back to Japan, we can drop by and drink and eat something—all in the house."

"I want to go home first," Danhauser stated, "I already told Cleria that I was on my way there and that I need to show Ingvild around as well."

"Yeah sure," the brunet nodded, "we're halfway there anyway, do whatever you have to do. We'll be waiting in the main room."

Truth to be told, they reached the entrance of Cleria's house in less than ten minutes. Danhauser pulled the key from his pocket and stepped inside.

"It looks nice…" Ingvild analyzed her new home carefully, "it feels homely too."

"And smells good too," Roygun took a sniff in the air, "Is Cleria cooking? I thought she was horrible."

"Cleria! We're back!" Danhauser shouted.

"In the kitchen!" they heard her voice come at the end of the corridor. "And welcome back!"

Danhauser didn't waste time walking into the kitchen. He saw Cleria leaning down on the oven and pulling a hot tray full of freshly baked cookies with her gloves. She was also wearing a slightly dirty apron.

"Cleria, when did you—!" Danhauser stopped halfway once he saw another familiar figure joining his cousin.

"Are the cookies done, Cleria?" the woman asked, her melodic voice pleasant to the ears.

"They are!" His cousin exclaimed while moving the tray on the table. She wiped the sweat on her brow, "Phew! It was hard to make, but they smell really good! You're good at this!"

"It was teamwork, Cleria," the guest retorted, coughing a little, "You also helped me a lot!"

Danhauser couldn't tear his eyes from the unexpected guest. Her voluptuous body was wrapped around an apron that was tight enough to squeeze her large chest.

Her blonde and green eyes were as beautiful as he saw her from the first time.

But what stood out more was the halo above her head.

"N-No way..." Jeanne took a step back.

The Seraph Gabriel was in his house.

And she finally saw them, "Ah, Daniel and friends! Welcome back! You caught me with… um… with… what was it again?" Gabriel looked down to her feet, eyebrows furrowed in contemplation until she met his glare once again. "Oh! You caught me with my pants down, Daniel!"

The Angel looked at Cleria over her shoulder, "Did I say it right?" she asked, hopeful.

Cleria flashed her a thumbs-up through her oven gloves.

"Yes!" she clapped enthusiastically before facing the gray-haired with a big smile, "Cleria told me you were coming back and invited me to give you a warm welcome. And I decided to bake some cookies for you and your friends!"

"And they're good!" Cleria tried to grab one, but almost burned her fingers off, "she poured her heart to make these, trust me!"

Danhauser never realized that the smile on his face was gone by now.

.


.

To make something clear, Glinda is a canon character. Moving on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I hate writing fighting scenes.

Why am I writing a DxD fanfic? I have no idea.

The next chapter is the start of the School Trip which will be like the start of Tobio, Lavinia, and Yasaka's arc as well as focus on the Kyoto Youkai... and some distinguished clans of Japan.

I honestly like what I have in mind, but usually, when I like something, it's shit. But let's see if I break that curse.

One thing for certain, the Kyoto Trip will be completely different. Pinky promise.

Oh, and Gabriel is back.

Later.

.


Next Life: School Trip of the Strongest Yellow Dragon in History